Mapping Comprehension

Bliss Ramsey
Teaching Comprehension

Rationale:  To improve comprehension, students need to know and understand the story structure.  Students must learn to ask themselves questions to help remember important ideas about the stories.  When readers learn to use story grammar automatically in facilitating comprehension, they are able to become skilled readers.  This lesson will help students understand and be able to apply the story structure to improve comprehension.  The students will practice by training themselves to ask questions during silent reading, and then implement their story knowledge by making story maps.

Materials:  Whole class: copies of The Little Pink Rose and The Cloud, Story map guideline sheets, question cards, paper and pencils
Story map guidelines written on board:
The Setting:
The Problem:
The Goal:
The Action Taken:
The Outcome:

1) Introduce the lesson by explaining how important it is to understand the basic story structure.  To students: "When we learn about the story structure, our ability to remember and comprehend will improve.  Today we are going to improve our comprehension skills by using story grammar.  We are going to read two short stories and do activities to go with each story."
2) To students: "Now, we are going to review the story structures.  Remember that stories have a beginning, that usually introduce the information about the time of the story, where it takes place, and who the main characters are.  A story also includes on event that sets the stage for a goal or problem, which is followed by several attempts to reach the goal or solve the problem.  Last, the story concludes with the goal or problem being resolved.  This is the story structure."
3) To students: "Now, that we have reviewed the story structure, I am going to pass out cards that will be helpful for you in remembering specific aspects of the story. (Pass out cards)  The questions, on the cards, that you should think about as you silent read are: 1) Where and when does the story take place?,  2) Who are the main characters?, 3) What is the problem?, 4) What do the characters do to help solve the problem?, 5) How does the story end?.  Now, read the story, The Little Pink Rose, silently, for practice, so that we can all get our minds and memories ready to comprehend."
4) After the students have finished reading, The Little Pink Rose, I will model how to answer the 5 questions (above) that are crucial to understanding the story.  "Now, I will go through each question and we will answer them together before you do this on your own with another story." For example: the answer to number one is: the story takes place in a dark house under the ground.  Number two, the main characters are Rosebud, Rain and the Sunshine.  Number three the problem is that Rosebud doesn't want to let the Rain and Sunshine in.  In number four, the solution is that Rosebud finally does let them in.  The story ends when Rosebud is taken by the Sun and Rain through the darkness and into the light, which ends up being a beautiful garden where she is the prettiest flower.
5) Have a discussion with the whole class.  Let students raise their hands and give their answers to the five questions.
6) To students: "Now, we are going to create a story map of The Little Pink Rose. A story map consists of recording the setting, problem, goal, action and outcome information of the story."  Have story map guidelines written on the board.  Read The Little Pink Rose, and model how to make the story map.  "Now remember to use your knowledge of the story and information from the story structure to help make the map. First I am going to go through how to complete a story map with the story we already read.  Watch how I answer the story map because you will be responsible for doing this on your own for another story."  Go through each part of the map and record the answers on the board.  Tell the students why and how these are the answers.

Assessment:  I will distribute a story map and short story, to every student and they will each read, The Cloud.  "Please read The Cloud silently and write a story map about the story. I will collect your story map answers to make sure you all comprehended the story."

Pressley, M. Johnson, C.J., Symoms, S., McGoldrick, J.A. & Kurity, J.A. (1989).  Strategies that Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text.  The Elementary School Journal, 90, 13.
Short Stories: Adapted from the German of Robert Reinick's Mäarchen, Lieder- und Geschichtenbuch (Velhagen und Klasing, Bielefeld and Leipsic).  At Website:
Ideas adapted from Mary Rouse at:


     Once there was a little pink Rosebud, and she lived down in a little dark house under the ground. One day she was sitting there, all by herself, and it was very still. Suddenly, she heard a little tap, tap, tap, at the door.
     ``Who is that?'' she said.
     ``It's the Rain, and I want to come in;'' said a soft, sad, little voice.
     ``No, you can't come in,'' the little Rosebud said.
     By and by she heard another little tap, tap, tap on the window pane.
     ``Who is there?'' she said.
     The same soft little voice answered, ``It's the Rain, and I want to come in!''
     ``No, you can't come in,'' said the little Rosebud.
     Then it was very still for a long time. At last, there came a little rustling, whispering sound, all round the window: rustle, whisper, whisper.
     ``Who is there?'' said the little Rosebud.
     ``It's the Sunshine,'' said a little, soft, cheery voice, ``and I want to come in!''
     ``N -- no,'' said the little pink rose, ``you can't come in.'' And she sat still again.
     Pretty soon she heard the sweet little rustling noise at the key-hole.
     ``Who is there?'' she said.
     ``It's the Sunshine,'' said the cheery little voice, ``and I want to come in, I want to come in!''
     ``No, no,'' said the little pink rose, ``you cannot come in.''
     By and by, as she sat so still, she heard tap, tap, tap, and rustle, whisper, rustle, all up and down the window pane, and on the door, and at the key-hole.
     ``Who is there?'' she said.
     ``It's the Rain and the Sun, the Rain and the Sun,'' said two little voices, together, ``and we want to come in! We want to come in! We want to come in!''
     ``Dear, dear!'' said the little Rosebud, ``if there are two of you, I s'pose I shall have to let you in.''
     So she opened the door a little wee crack, and in they came. And one took one of her little hands, and the other took her other little hand, and they ran, ran, ran with her, right up to the top of the ground. Then they said, --
     ``Poke your head through!''
     So she poked her head through; and she was in the midst of a beautiful garden. It was springtime, and all the other flowers had their heads poked through; and she was the prettiest little pink rose in the whole garden!


    One hot summer morning a little Cloud rose out of the sea and floated lightly and happily across the blue sky. Far below lay the earth, brown, dry, and desolate, from drouth. The little Cloud could see the poor people of the earth working and suffering in the hot fields, while she herself floated on the morning breeze, hither and thither, without a care.
``Oh, if I could only help the poor people down there!'' she thought. ``If I could but make their work easier, or give the hungry ones food, or the thirsty a drink!''
     And as the day passed, and the Cloud became larger, this wish to do something for the people of earth was ever greater in her heart.
On earth it grew hotter and hotter; the sun burned down so fiercely that the people were fainting in its rays; it seemed as if they must die of heat, and yet they were obliged to go on with their work, for they were very poor. Sometimes they stood and looked up at the Cloud, as if they were praying, and saying, ``Ah, if you could help us!''
     ``I will help you; I will!'' said the Cloud. And she began to sink softly down toward the earth.
     But suddenly, as she floated down, she remembered something which had been told her when she was a tiny Cloud-child, in the lap of Mother Ocean: it had been whispered that if the Clouds go too near the earth they die. When she remembered this she held herself from sinking, and swayed here and there on the breeze, thinking, -- thinking. But at last she stood quite still, and spoke boldly and proudly. She said, ``Men of earth, I will help you, come what may!''
    The thought made her suddenly marvelously big and strong and powerful. Never had she dreamed that she could be so big. Like a mighty angel of blessing she stood above the earth, and lifted her head and spread her wings far over the fields and woods. She was so great, so majestic, that men and animals were awe-struck at the sight; the trees and the grasses bowed before her; yet all the earth-creatures felt that she meant them well.
     ``Yes, I will help you,'' cried the Cloud once more. ``Take me to yourselves; I will give my life for you!''
     As she said the words a wonderful light glowed from her heart, the sound of thunder rolled through the sky, and a love greater than words can tell filled the Cloud; down, down, close to the earth she swept, and gave up her life in a blessed, healing shower of rain.

 That rain was the Cloud's great deed; it was her death, too; but it was also her glory. Over the whole country-side, as far as the rain fell, a lovely rainbow sprang its arch, and all the brightest rays of heaven made its colors; it was the last greeting of a love so great that it sacrificed itself.
     Soon that, too, was gone, but long, long afterward the men and animals who were saved by the Cloud kept her blessing in their hearts.

[2] Adapted from the German of Robert Reinick's Mäarchen, Lieder-und Geschichtenbuch (Velhagen und Klasing, Bielefeld and Leipsic).

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