Reading Comprehension Strategies: The "Walkie-Talkie" Approach

Beth Orticelli

Editor's note: We are wild about Advisor extraordinaire Beth Orticelli's FUN and EFFECTIVE approach to boosting her second grade students' comprehension. We begged her to share it with all of you. Reasons we love it: 

  • It's a strategy that practices close reading of a text.
  • It provides students a different modality for citing text evidence.
  • It's easy to try and can be used with any text.
  • Students love it!

And the list goes ON!

Give it a try in your classroom with our current issue and share in the comments how it worked for you. 


My second-graders this year have a bad case of the wiggles. You know the type. It’s hard to keep them focused for long periods of time. I find that the more they can move around, purposefully, the longer I can keep them engaged in active learning. 

I’ve been working on something called “Walkie-Talkie,” and it’s basically what it sounds like: walking and talking, but ONLY about what we just read. 

We used the paired texts in the October/November issue of Storyworks Jr. called "Explorers: Then and Now." We spent about 3 full days reading the article. We focused on the vocabulary, we compared and contrasted, and also made inferences while summarizing the story together.

On the final day, my class was ready for “Walkie-Talkie.” I arranged them in pairs, modeled how to line up 2 x 2, and let them know we were going outside for a walk. 

While walking in a very straight, 2 x 2 line, the rules are: 

  • Stay close to the pair in front of you.
  • Share a thought from the text.
  • High five your partner when you are ready to switch and let them share a thought.
  • Most of all, STAY ON TOPIC. 

This can be the hardest part. I told them that if they started talking about what they see outside or what’s in their lunches, the “Walkie-Talkie” would be over. We talked about stamina, and they all thought that they could talk about Explorers for TEN MINUTES. I paced back and forth along the line as we walked the perimeter of our blacktop/playground area, checking for understanding and participation. They met their goal! These kids had amazing thoughts, ideas and connections about "Explorers Then and Now!" Check out a video of them in action below:

It is such a powerful and positive reinforcement for comprehension, to incorporate physical movement, talking to friends (like adults who go to Book Clubs) and sharing thoughts. These are the kinds of lessons that STICK in their mind, so when you want your kids to practice comprehension, fact recall, inferring or summarizing, try a “Walkie-Talkie” day.

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