Remembering What We Read
Laura Lansdon
Reading to Learn

Rationale:  The end goal of reading is comprehension.  Students who are excellent decoders but who cannot remember or comprehend what they have read will never be fully successful readers.  Teaching story grammar is a proven way to help students better comprehend what they have read.

Materials: a familiar story to read students (Cinderella used as an example), pencil and paper for each student, enough copies of Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday (Judith Voirst, published by Scholastic Printing) for each student

1. Begin the lesson by telling students that there is more to reading than just decoding the words.  In this lesson they will learn a strategy to help them better understand the stories they read.

2. Write these questions on the board: "Who is the main character? What is the problem in the story? When or where does the story take place? What happens at the end of the story? How does the main character feel at the end of the story?"  Say to students, "We are going to use a familiar story to answer all of these questions and then you are going to read your own story and answer the same questions."

3. Read whichever familiar storybook you have chosen to students (Cinderella will be used as an example for this lesson).  Model how to answer the questions on the board. For example, say to students, "First we need to know who is the main character.  Well let's see, we have Cinderella, her stepmother and stepsisters, her fairy godmother, and the prince.  One of those has to be the main character.  I think it is Cinderella because the story follows her all the way through. Now we need to know the problem.  I guess the main problem is that her stepmother would not let her go to the ball.  Okay, now I want you all to help me answer the rest of the questions." Have students discuss the answers and write them on the board.  Try to give each student a chance to contribute his/her ideas to be sure they are getting the main point.

4. Tell students that they are now going to get to practice this on their own.  Have them take out a sheet of paper and write the questions from the board down, leaving room for answers.  Give each student a copy of Alexander, Who Use to Be Rich Last Sunday and review silent reading with them.  Tell them to read the book silently to themselves and then answer the questions on their paper.  Monitor the students' work during this time.

5. When students are finished with their work, have them pair up.  Tell them to discuss the story together and see how much they can remember about what happened using their answers to the questions.  If they remember any other details, have them write those down on their paper. The teacher may ask open-ended questions to help students come up with other details.

6. For evaluation, review the students' answers to the questions.  You may also want to do another story with the group, giving the students a chance to model how they get their answers.


Pressley, M., Johnson, C.J., Symons, S., McGoldrick, J.A., & Kurity, J.A. (1989).  Strategies that improve children's memory and comprehension of text. The  Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32.

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