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Interrupted Conversation


In this activity, students read aloud in pairs and take turns interrupting the reading to have a conversation with a text. The paired oral reading format scaffolds students’ efforts to “talk with” a text by creating a more naturalistic conversational setting.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Metacognition
Metacognition, Interacting with the Text, Point of View, Inner Voice

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Speaking

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Metacognition
  • Text-Based Answers


Identify a text or texts. Assign student pairs

Activity Steps 
  1. Students divide into pairs, with each pair reading the same text.

    Carefully consider student pairings. It may make sense to pair similar readers, or to pair weak with strong readers.

  2. One student in each pair reads aloud from the text for a defined period of time or chunk of text. As this student reads, the other student interrupts the reading whenever she or he has a comment or question for the author or narrator of the text. The read

    Before this activity, you should model conversing with a text, including a wide variety of reactions: questions, arguments, connections, comments, or elaborations. It may be helpful to have a list of sentence starters posted during this activity to prompt talking to the text. Consider providing texts to which students are likely to have a strong personal reaction.

  3. The pair switches, with the first reader now interrupting and conversing, and the other student reading.

    As students read and react, you should circulate among the groups, taking time to sit with each group, listening to what they say, and pushing them to refine their reactions.

  4. Each group should synthesize and reflect on their main reactions to the text, through sharing out in an oral presentation to the whole group, writing a written synthesis or reflection, or talking in combined small groups.

    Students can share out in a large group, on paper, or in paired pairs (groups of four).

Adaptation for the Math Classroom 

Frequently students read math text without any internal dialogue occurring. The process of "interrupting" forces students to slow down and monitor their understanding of the dense vocabulary, symbols, and steps so common to math writing. Encouraging moments where the reader pauses to assess understanding would help when reading traditional math textbooks, word problems, explanations of mathematical properties, or worked problems.

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