Skip links


Using Reflective and Tell Me Questions as a Part of Shared Reading Instruction

A teacher wearing a mask work helps a student who is reading a Readtopia lesson in a classroom, with other students working in the background.

This article was originally published by Beth Poss at 2021.

Shared Reading is much more than just a read aloud. This evidence-based strategy focuses on the interactions between adults and learners as they read with the purpose of building language and literacy skills.  During shared reading, adults explicitly model reading behaviors and engage learners in discussions about the text, including features of the print, illustrations, and the content being read.

Interactions between adults and learners are a critical part of shared reading, including opportunities for questioning, responding, and discussing before, during and after the read aloud. Research on shared reading indicates that it is an effective component of reading instruction supporting the development of emergent literacy and language skills. (Erickson and Koppenhaver, 2021) Shared reading has a positive outcome on vocabulary, language, and phonemic awareness with students with and without disabilities (Davie and Kemp, 2002), (Fisher, Lamp, Frey 2008). This powerful strategy involves reading with (not to) students and connecting content to their personal knowledge and experiences.

But what kind of questions should educators ask? How do we engage learners with significant disabilities or complex communication needs in a meaningful discussion about a text?

To know where to begin, let’s learn how to “Follow the CAR” and “Put the CROWD in the CAR”. These two approaches structure shared reading for dialogic interactions with open-ended questions and comments that promote discussion and participation. (Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium, 2016)

Readtopia, the comprehensive curriculum program from Don Johnston, Inc, provides high-interest leveled chapter books for emergent through conventional readers. Readtopia supports learners at all levels in developing the language skills needed to support comprehension. The Story of Dr. Dolittle, a text from the Upper Elementary Thematic Unit Birds, Mammals and Reptiles, is well suited to using both Follow the CAR and Put the CROWD in the CAR strategies during shared reading of the text.

A page of a book with a cartoon Dr. Dolittle holding a parrot with other animals around him. Text reads: "Chapter 1 Doctor Dolittle of Puddleby. Once upon a time, there was a doctor. His name was Doctor Dolittle. The doctor lived with his sister in England. The sister's name was Sarah."

Follow the CAR reminds educators to:

  1. Begin the discussion with a COMMENT, and then stop and give learners wait time to respond. “Wow, Dr. Dolittle sure has a lot of animals!”
  2. ASK a question, preferably an open-ended question, and then stop and give learners wait time to respond. “What do you see in this picture?”
  3. RESPOND by adding more to the learner’s responses. “Yes, I see a pig, too. I also see a bird.”


Putting the CROWD in the CAR goes even further to emphasize open-ended questions as a part of shared reading.

  • Completion: educators pause and leave a blank at the end of a sentence, students fill it in. This is typically used in books with repetitive phrases or rhymes.
  • Recall: educators ask questions about what just happened during a reading, pausing to give learners an opportunity to respond.
  • Open-Ended: questions that do not have a specific answer, “Tell me what’s happening in this chapter.” “What was your favorite part?”
  • Wh-Questions- these may typically focus on pictures “What do you see here?” These can still be open-ended, as there may be multiple correct answers with which a learner can respond.
  • Distance- Questions that build a bridge between the book and personal experience, “They ate coconuts. What food do you like to eat?”

To help engage learners consistently in strategies such as Follow the CAR and Put the CROWD in the CAR in a manner that is meaningful, educators can utilize a set of open-ended, predictable questions that can be asked and accessed in a fun and game-like manner, using custom printed dice or a digital spinner from LessonPix.

A comic strip of reflective questions with images of cartoons characters expressing different emotions.
A multi colored circular prize wheel with different readings image in each section of the wheel, with a white page over the wheel. On the page is someone one flipping the page of a book and text that reads: "Tell me something you see on the page."
Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium. “Shared Reading.” Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities, 2016, Accessed 12 April 2021.
Davie, Juli & Kemp, Coral.  (2002) A Comparison of the Expressive Language Opportunities Provided by Shared Book Reading and Facilitated Play for Young Children with Mild to Moderate Intellectual Disabilities, Educational Psychology, 22:4, 445-460, DOI: 10.1080/0144341022000003123
Erickson, Karen & Koppenhaver, David. (2020). Comprehensive Literacy for All: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Read and Write.
Fisher, Douglas & Frey, Nancy & Lapp, Diane. (2008). Shared Readings: Modeling Comprehension, Vocabulary, Text Structures, and Text Features for Older Readers. Reading Teacher – READ TEACH. 61. 548-556. 10.1598/RT.61.7.4.
Headshot of Beth poss.

Beth Poss M.A., CCC/SLP, M.S Education, is the Director of Educational Programs at LessonPix. She is an educational and technology consultant and former assistant principal. Areas of special interest include the Use of Technology in Early Childhood, Designing Inclusive Learning Environments, Supporting Social-Emotional Learning to Promote Academic Success and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

Learn more about Readtopia

Visit for curriculum samples


Explore New Heights
Try Building Wings for Free

Explore educational materials from Readtopia to ReadtopiaGO and try them for free with your learners—no credit card required.

Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D.​

Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D. is Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. Her focus is on understanding the best ways to assess and teach reading and writing to children with the most severe disabilities. As a special education teacher, Dr. Erickson has worked to support students with a range of disabilities in a variety of classroom settings, particularly students who do not use speech as their primary means of communication.


Author Profile:,Ph.D.

Try Readtopia for free