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Reader Response Strategies

An overview of strategies that encourage children to respond to texts or deepen their understandings of the meanings found in texts.





Put a big sheet of paper on the table or floor.  Each group member takes a corner of the paper and writes and sketches their thoughts about the book in a graffiti fashion.  The responses, comments, sketches, quotes, and connections are not organized.  The major focus is on recording initial responses during or immediately after reading a book, often works best with young children to respond during the second reading of the book.  When the group is ready to discuss, group members share their graffiti.



Two people share the reading of a short story. The first person reads aloud a chunk of text (several paragraphs or a page) to the other person.  When the reader stops, both "say something" by making a prediction, sharing personal connections, asking questions, or commenting on the story.  The second reader then reads aloud a chunk of text and again stops and both "say something."  The two readers continue alternating the reading of the story, commenting after each reading, until the story is completed.


With young children, the teacher reads aloud, stopping periodically to have students “say something.”  This may initially be done whole group with a few children saying something each time.  Once students understand the strategy, they can share as pairs each time the teacher stops and says “say something.”



As students read, they note passages or quotes that catch their attention because they are interesting, powerful, confusing, or contradictory and put the quote on a 3 x 5 card.  On the back of the card, they write their response or why they found that passage noteworthy. In the group, one person shares a quote and the group briefly discusses their thinking about that quote.  When the discussion dies down, the person who chose the quote tells why he/she chose it.  That person has the last word and the group then moves on to another person who shares a quote.


Young children use post-its to mark an illustration that they consider significant in the book. They show a page from the book and others share their responses, letting the child who chose that page have the last word.



After reading a book, ask readers to make a sketch (a quick graphic/symbolic drawing) of what the story meant to them (not an illustration of the story), but the child’s connections to the book.  In the group, show each sketch, letting others comment on the meanings they see in the sketch before the reader shares his/her meaning.  Talk about the sketches and discuss the different ideas raised by the sketches.


After reading aloud a book, set a timer for 5-10 minutes.  During that time, children are asked to write or sketch continuously without raising their pencils about their thoughts related to the book.  If they run out of things to write or sketch, they are asked to write "I don't know what to write" or sketch lines until something comes to mind.  In the group, the free writes or sketches are shared and discussed.


Stop periodically as a book is being read aloud or as a child is reading a picture book, and ask students to write or draw what they are thinking in response to the book.  In the group, begin by having one child read or share an entry.  The ideas are discussed by the group until the conversation dies down and then someone shares another entry.  Children can also use post-its to mark a connection or something that surprises or confuses them in the book to share in the group.



Have a silent conversation by talking on paper.  Two people share a piece of paper and a pencil and talk about a book by writing back and forth to each other.  No talking is allowed except with young children who often need to read what they have written to each other. Young children may need to write and then read their comment to the other child if they are writing in invented spelling or in scribbles.



Each person receives a 3 foot long narrow strip of paper.  On the ray, a visual essence of the books is created using colors, images, and a few words with various art media and little or no white space.  The rays are then assembled on a large mural or wall to reflect the interpretations of the book.


After sharing initial responses to a book, the group brainstorms a web of issues, themes, and questions that they could discuss from the book or text set.   Using the web, the group decides on the one issue that is most interesting or causes the most tension to begin discussion.  They continue their discussions by choosing from other ideas on their web.  New ideas are added as they come up in the discussion.



A board is created with a circle in the middle and 4 sections.  The circle contains the title of the book or a key theme from the book.  In the individual sections, each person writes or draws personal connections to that theme or book.   The group shares these individual connections and then comes to consensus on the tensions, issues, or big ideas they want to explore further.  These are written in the middle of the board.



Read and discuss a text set of books and talk about similarities and differences across the books.  From these discussions, develop broad categories to use on a comparison chart--What is about this set of books that you want to look at more closely to compare the books? The books are written on the side and the categories across the top of the chart.  Both pictures and words are used in the boxes.  A Venn diagram (two circles that overlap in the center) focus the comparison on one major issue at a time.


After an initial discussion of the book, the group chooses a character or a group of characters that they would like to think about further. On a big piece of paper the group maps that character’s heart. The group discusses values and beliefs held by the character and what people or events are important to the character’s life. These are mapped into a heart shape, using spatial relationships, color, and size to show the relative importance of each idea and the relationships between ideas.


See Creating Classrooms for Authors and Inquirers, Kathy G. Short & Jerome Harste, Heinemann, 1996.

Short, 2011

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