Brandi Ferguson

April 18, 2002

Reading to Learn

: As students advance in their reading abilities, they must be aware of the general characteristics of stories and of the questions one should ask  themselves while reading to improve comprehension. This lesson demonstrates how to teach the strategy of asking questions while reading to improve comprehension.

Materials : a copy of Where the Wild Things Are, a class set of Miss Nelson is Missing books, story structure dice, checklist for assessment, and a classroom full of students


1. Explain to the class what they will be doing today. "Ok guys, today we are going to talk about ways we can remember what we read better. We are going to do this by asking ourselves certain questions while we read so that we will remember much more and the story will make more sense to us, which will make us radical readers!"

2. Review the structure of stories with your students.  Be sure to remind them of the following: "We all know that stories have a beginning, which can include information about the time of the story, where it took place (the setting), and the main character(s) of the story.  Then, an event usually sets the goal or problem, which is followed by several attempts to reach the goal or to solve the problem. Finally, and this usually happens at the end, the goal or problem is solved (resolution).  This is what we call story structure."

3. "Today we are going to work on finding the story structure by teaching ourselves to ask questions as we read." "A good way to do this is after each paragraph or so, we ask ourselves: 'now, what did I just read?'" "We can also ask ourselves about each of the story structure items, like:Who is the main character(s)? Where and when did the story take place (setting)? What did the main character(s) do? How did the story end (resolution)?"

4. "Ok, now I am going to show you how we would do this." Model for the class how to question yourself for facts via a 'talk-aloud' during reading  Where the Wild Things Are. "Ok, I know you all know this story, Where the Wild Things Are, but I am going to read it to you aloud and I want you to see how I ask myself the questions we just talked about so that I can remember the story, ok?"

5. Read Where the Wild Things Are for the class via a "talk-aloud." During the "talk-aloud," say things like: "ok, now let's see, who  is my main character? Well… so far the story is about a little boy named Max, so I am going to have to say that he would be my main character." Continue reading aloud. " Now, what would be my setting? The setting is the time and place the story is happening at. Well, it looks like it starts off to be at Max's house, around dinner time." Continue to read. "Well, my next question is what did the main character do ,?and I just read that Max sailed over to an island, he saw some monsters, he became their leader, and they danced and played around."Continue to read until the end. "Now my last question is: 'how did the story end, the resolution?' and let's see……well, Max left the island of monsters and went home, so that would be my resolution."

6. "Ok, now did everyone see what I did? I asked myself the story structure questions while I read and I bet that if you asked me anything about that story that I would be able to tell you, and that is what we are all trying to do today and from now on."

7. "Alright, now I am going to give you another easy book for practice, Miss Nelson is Missing. We are just reading this easy book for practice, but when you read your regular chapter books, you will be doing the same identical thing." "Now, I want you to read silently and as you read, I want you to ask yourself the same questions, just as I did while you read but SILENTLY. If you forgot the questions, I will write them on the board for you." Write the story structure questions on the board.

8. "Let's also try to remember how we read silently, ok: we first read in a whisper, then we move our lips softly, then we read without whispering and without moving our lips, ok?"

9. As the students are reading, walk around the room and observe.

10. "Alright guys, now did anyone have problems? Questions? "Alright, then we will now play a story structure game about what we just did."


Sort the students into groups of four and have them play with the 'story structure' dice (take small cardboard boxes and decorate them and have each side of the die with a different story structure question-have the students roll the die and go around the group discussing their answers as it lands). Walk around the room and observe with a checklist, such as the one below:
Are students cooperating with each other?
Are students engaging in conversation about using the newfound strategy?
Are students participating equally in the game?
Are students discussing the elements of story structure, according to the book?


Pressely M., Johnson, C. J. Symons, S., McGoldrick , J. A. (1989). Strategies that Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text. The Elementary School Journal, 90, 3-32.

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