Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Developing Students' Critical Thinking Skills Through Whole-Class Dialogue

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time One 60-minute session (small class) or three 30-minute sessions (large class)
Lesson Author

Kate Chiliberti

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Students take positions all the time. They defend their love of a television show or character with evidence or support that justifies their position. However, students may struggle to think critically about the books they've read and take a position about events from those books. In this lesson, students either listen to the instructor read a book aloud or read the book silently. (The book used in this lesson is My Freedom Trip by Frances Park and Ginger Park.) After reading, students answer an open-ended question about an issue that could have multiple perspectives. Students take positions, then identify reasons to support their positions. They then evaluate the reasons and draw their own conclusions. The lesson may be followed by additional whole-class discussion sessions that place emphasis on dialogue, eventually transferring more and more responsibility to the students for their learning.

back to top



Commeyras, M. (1993). Promoting critical thinking through dialogical-thinking reading lessons. The Reading Teacher, 46, 486494.

  • Dialogical-Thinking Reading Lessons (D-TRLs), in which students articulate their thoughts in response to literature through dialogue, go beyond the question-and-answer and recitation methods that usually deal only with literal thinking.

  • Students develop critical thinking as they learn to justify their reasons for a certain position on a story-specific issue.

  • The basic format of a D-TRL provides practice with identifying and evaluating reasons as well as drawing conclusions. As more responsibility for the elements of the D-TRL is transferred to students, they receive additional practice in formulating hypotheses and identifying central themes and issues


Commeyras, M., & Sumner, G. (1996). Literature discussions based on student-posed questions. The Reading Teacher, 50, 262265.

  • When students have opportunities to pose questions, they assume more responsibility for determining what needs to be understood and for directing their own learning processes.

  • Literature discussions based on student-posed questions address an array of reading, writing, and oral language core curriculum objectives.

  • When student questioning reigns in literature discussions, students generate many questions, help one another clarify questions, listen carefully to their peers, engage in critical thinking, and appreciate the opportunity to reflect on their own questions.

back to top