Creating the Prompts

Creating prompts for dialogic reading involves going through the book and developing a set of strategies that correspond to specific parts of the book. These prompts are written on sticky notes and attached to the pages in which you plan to use them. The sticky notes serve as reminders to use the prompts you’ve created at various points throughout storybook reading.

You can use CROWD to create the specific prompts. CROWD stands for Completion, Recall, Open-ended, Wh- questions, Distancing—a specific set of prompts used during dialogic reading.  You can use all of the CROWD prompts during storybook reading or select one or two to find out which ones work best for young children. You can also create specific prompts to match the developmental needs of young children. As discussed by Dr. Lonigan in Video 6.4., if you have a group of children who are not able to express themselves well verbally, you can think of the prompts in terms of levels and begin with more basic prompts such as Wh-questions and later move on to more advanced prompts such as open-ended and recall questions or distancing prompts.

Following the instructions on Activity 6.5a, first listen to Dr. Christopher Lonigan in Video 6.4, then watch videos 6.5 and 6.6 to learn how to prepare a book with CROWD prompts.  Lastly, use Handout 6.3 to prepare a book for dialogic reading.

Video 6.4: Dr.Christopher Lonigan: Using CROWD prompts

Dr. Christopher Lonigan, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, talks about how you can use the CROWD prompts depending on the developmental needs of the children. (running time: 4 min. 37 sec.)

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Dr. Lonigan:

The main, unique feature about dialogic reading is really not about reading. It’s really about having a conversation. So, there are lots of different ways you can think about it. One of the ways that I like to think about it is that there are different levels of dialogic reading. So anybody who has ever read a book with a young child knows that children like to be read the same book over and over again. They get favorite books, and often times they’ll bring that book to you continuously to read over. So children are getting more and more familiar with books the more times that the book is read to them.

Dialogic reading takes advantage of that in a sense that as children learn more about the book or have more conversations about the book, they’re developing a vocabulary and a way of talking about the book.

So the first phase of dialogic reading is really just these simple “w-h” type questions: What is this? What’s it called? What’s it made of? What is he doing? So, it’s about the big things in the pictures, the big actions in the pictures, and then what we like to do is have adults or teachers follow up correct answers with follow up questions. So like I said, if the child answers that it’s a bicycle, maybe asking about parts of the bicycle like the pedals or the wheels or the handle bars.

In the second phase, or what I like to call Level 2, it’s moving a little bit beyond the vocabulary. So the first phase in a book is really using Level 1 where the teacher or the adult is making sure that the child knows the words of the things that are pictured in the book. In the second phase, it’s using that language in a way to really tell the story. So the types of question changes from the simple “w-h” type question to a more open ended question, like maybe turning to a page and just letting a child pick something to talk about. You know, “What do you see here?” The adult or teacher may ask, “Tell me about this page.” Or, “What’s happening?” So it really doesn’t specify that you have to talk about the bicycle or anything like that. So it really gives a child ownership of what it is that they’re going to tell about the book or what they’re going to tell about the story.

And then in the final phase of dialogic reading is a phase where, maybe teachers will connect what’s going on in the book—either the things in the book or something about the story—to something in the child’s own life, or maybe connecting the end part of the book with the beginning part of the book. So really, building up a narrative about the book. So asking questions like, “Well, do you remember what happened at the beginning of the story and why is he doing this?” So that has the child talking about the story, but talking about it sort of distant from the page of the book you’re on right now. Or say maybe the book is about going to the zoo or seeing different animals at the zoo, and maybe the class had done a field trip to the zoo. Or they had done some other activity about zoo animals. So maybe the teacher would ask a question that related that experience or that field trip to what’s going on in the story. “Do you remember when we went to the zoo, and what was that like? Which animals did you see?”

We picked this book, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, because it hadgood pictures for Level 1 and Level 2. On this page, where it had the picture of the mop and the pail, the Level 1 questions might be, “What’s this a picture of?” “It’s a pail.” “What color is it?” “It’s yellow.” “What do you use a pail for?” “To carry water or to wash things.”

On Level 2, you might turn to this page and say, “Well, what’s going on here? What do you see here?” And the child who has already gone through Level 1 would say, “Well, I see a pail.” And the teacher might say, “I see a yellow pail. And what else do you see?” The teacher would ask and the child might say, “There’s a mop there.” And the teacher would say, “Yeah, there’s a mop and a pail of water.”

And then moving on to Level 3, the teacher might ask the child something that follows up on that sort of conversation. So, “You use a mop and a pail to clean things. Have you ever cleaned things? Who uses a mop at your house?” Level 3 type question is something that extends beyond the pages of the book to something in a child’s own life, or, “Do you remember yesterday when it rained outside and the rain came in through the window and the man had to come in with the mop and the pail? What was he doing with the mop and the pail?”

Video 6.5: Preparing a book for dialogic reading

A teacher shows how to prepare a book for dialogic reading using the CROWD prompts and sticky notes. (running time: 1 min. 48 sec.)

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In this video a teacher prepares her book selection for a read-aloud that will include using dialogic reading strategies.

The teacher first previewed and read the book so that she could identify opportunities to engage children in the dialogic reading experience using specific prompts. As we’ve learned, these prompts have a specific purpose: to provide opportunities for children to practice new oral language skills, AND for adults to elaborate children’s responses and provide rich language models.

After the teacher generates prompts of various types using the CROWD Strategy Planning Sheet, she transfers them to sticky notes to place in the book.

Because this is a new strategy for her, she includes the letter (C-R-O-W-or D) associated with the prompt. This helps her identify the expected responses so that she is ready to scaffold and elaborate language when children respond.

Once all of the prompts have been transferred to the sticky notes, the teacher previews the book again and places the prompts on the appropriate pages. This helps her know when she will pose a question in the context of the text.

Now when she reads this book to her children, she is ready to engage them in dialogic reading and maximize their oral language experience.

Video 6.6: Demonstration of how to use CROWD prompts

An instructor shows a class how to read a book to a group of children using the CROWD prompts and dialogic reading practices. (running time 3 min. 6 sec.)

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A Girl and her Gator. “This is the story of a girl named Claire who discovered a gator on top of her hair.” A girl named Claire had a gator…?


On top of her hair.


On top of her hair. So that was a multi-word completion prompt. “Excuse me, she said, I usually share, but I’m not sure I want you staying up there. Oh just let me hang out, said the gator, Pierre, these views are amazing and I love the fresh air. But my friends will all whisper and gossip and stare, I can’t go outside with a gator up there.” What do you think “gossip and stare” means? So I stop to prompt. However your children respond to that, you want to scaffold and build on their language. If a child gives you an answer, a response that’s way off base, you want to quickly model an appropriate one for them and acknowledge that they responded but just provide support for that vocabulary. “The gator just smiled and said au contraire; you can do anything with a gator up there. You could go to the fair with a gator up there, or give your brother a scare with a gator up there, you could be a zillionaire with a gator up there.” Alright, so now I have my R prompt. I’m going to pause. I’m going to say: “What were some the things that the gator was trying to convince Claire to do?” So that’s a recall, so I want children to respond. We’re building short term memory and also building oral language and so I would want children to respond and recall some of the things that he was trying to convince her to do. “Or even eat an éclair, as long as you share, with that snippity snappity gator up there. I see what you mean, we could be quite the pair, said the girl named Claire to the gator Pierre. But I do have a question, there’s one little snare,” Now that’s another vocabulary opportunity. Embedded vocabulary support would just be inserting something like: “that means” or doing a quick synonym substitution. “’So there’s one little snare” – oh, that means problem, and just move on. “What should a girl wear, with a gator up there?” so that was her problem. Why was Claire worried about having a gator on top of her hair? My open-ended question prompt.