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Save the Last Word for Me with Young Children

Exploring how different students construct meaning from text

Save the Last Word for Me with Young Children


Reading is an active process in which readers construct meaning from a text. Each reader brings differing experiences and knowledge to a reading event and so will always construct a unique interpretation of a text. When readers interact with other readers and discuss their differing tensions and understandings, they come to recognize that there is no one “right” interpretation to a text and that:

  • reading is an active process of constructing meaning
  • every text has a range of possible interpretations
  • multiple interpretations are created as readers relate their life experiences to a text
  • discussions with other readers changes each person’s interpretation of a text
  • interpretation of a text is ongoing as readers respond and talk with others



Picture Books that are challenging and invite multiple interpretations

3-5 small index cards or slips of paper per student


  1. Each student individually reads the picture book or the story is read to them.
  2. As the students read, they each select 2-3 segments of the text (words, phrases or sentences) that particularly catch their attention and write these on the front side of each card. Each quotation relates to ideas that they believe are significant, interesting, or confusing from the book.
  3. On the other side of the cards, students individually reflect on why they chose a particular quotation and what they want to say about it in their small group discussion.
  4. Younger children often mark the 2-3 illustration they consider significant with a post-it note to share.
  5. Students gather in small groups to share their cards or their post-it notes.
  6. Students first individually go through their cards to select the one quotation or their post-its to choose the illustration that they each want to share with the group. During the sharing, if someone uses the same quotation or illustration, the person who has not shared chooses a different quote from their cards or illustration from their post-its.
  7. Each student gives the page number and reads aloud a quotation to the group or turns to the page and shows the illustration.
  8. The other students respond by talking about what they see as interesting or significant about that particular quotation or illustration. The student who made the selection must remain silent during this discussion but has the last word. Once the others have shared, the student shares why he or she selected the quotation or illustration
  9. After each person in the group has shared one quotation or illustration, the group continues in their discussion, often informally sharing their other quotations with the group.


Kathy G. Short, 2011

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