The Forum for Dialogic Storybook Discussions

Guidance from the experts

This website is designed to support K-5 teachers in their preparation for storybook reading for dialogic discussion. I’ve gathered the wisdom of researchers and experts who have adapted close reading and philosophy-based discussions to elementary classroom practices. The focus of this information is on learning how to have a discussion based on reasoning. According to Vygotskian principles of sociocognitive development, dialogue among children acts as externalized thinking which can support development of internalized thinking when it is facilitated by wise adults (Murris, 2008).

Choose a storybook that:

  • is short enough for multiple readings.
  • is of high interest to your students and complex enough for multiple readings.
  • is NOT within all students’ decoding levels  (Brown & Kappes, 2014) Choose a book that will ???
  • serves your purpose for instruction.


  • Make yourself very familiar the book and prepare for reading it in a captivating way (Wartenberg, 2014)
  • Discuss the book with colleagues (Brown & Kappes, 2012) and consult this site and other sources for ideas
  • Prepare a list of potential questions related to the text including questions that don’t have a “right” answer (Boyles, 2012). More about questions
  • Identify vocabulary that is necessary for understanding and difficult for some or all students to infer from context.  More about vocabulary
  • Consider providing additional support to English learners or students who have weaker language skills prior to first reading
  • Agree upon your “rules” for dialogic discussion. Suggested “Rules

Tips for first reading

  • Have students sit in a circle. The ideal group size is six to twelve students (Wartenberg, 2014)
  • Read the book to the students for at least the first reading. This allows all students to focus on comprehension rather than decoding, and it makes more complex text available to all students. Limiting students to text they are able to decode leaves them further behind their peers in comprehension (Brown & Kappes, 2012; Fisher & Frey, 2014)
  • Minimize front loading activities such as picture walks, activating prior knowledge, unnecessary vocabulary instruction, and telling them what they will learn. These activities can detract from the actual text and prevent students from learning the desired skills (Brown & Kappes, 2012; Fisher & Frey, 2014)
  • Minimize interuptions during the first reading to support comprehension (Lonigan et al., 1999).
  • Have students work together to retell the story in small groups (Fisher & Frey, 2014). This is particularly important for English learners and students who have weaker language skills.
  • Have students respond to story and discussion in the form of writing or drawing (Brown & Kappes, 2012).

Tips for subsequent readings

  • Continue to provide support to students who need it.
  • Read multiple times but vary the purpose for reading and the focus of discussion (Brown & Kappe, 20

Go to recommended books list 

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