Comprehending the Story
Reading to Learn
Meredith Rich

Rationale:  This lesson is designed to increase comprehension with the emphasis on story-grammar. Skilled readers use story-grammar to facilitate comprehension and memory of the story as they have read.  We will have students reach the goal of learning story-grammar through review, direct instruction, story mapping, Venn diagrams, a story pyramid, and the retelling of the story.

Materials:   A book on the students reading level is needed. You will also need a copy of the book That Mean Man, paper, and pencil. You will also need the story pyramid format which is provided below.
                                                                ______
                                                        ______   ______
                                                ______  ______  ______
                                        ______  ______  ______  ______
                                ______  ______  ______  ______  ______
                           ______  ______  ______  ______  ______  ______
                    ______  ______  ______  ______  ______  ______  ______
            ______  ______ ______  _______  ______  ______  ______  ______

Procedure:

1. First review with your students the importance of picking a book that is on their reading level.  Remind them that a good way to test a book is to read a page from the book and if two or more words are missed from that page the book is probably to hard for them. Another book should be chosen.

2. Next explain to them the meaning behind story-grammar and what it is. The following is an example of instruction you may want to use with you students. “When you are reading you may want to ask yourself a few questions to help you grasp all of the important information in the story. You need to ask yourself the following questions as you read. A) Who is the main character? B) Where and when did the story take place? C) What did the main character do? D) How did the story end? E) How did the main character feel?” After you have given them brief instruction you may want to read a story out loud to the students and while you reading, answer these questions out loud. For example read the story That Mean Man to your students orally. Model how to do story-grammer for them, "This story takes place in the mean man's town and in the mean man's house." Continue doing this with your students until you have answered all the story-grammer questions. When you have completed the story go back and see what they have learned. For example, “Well I have learned that the story took place in a garden and the main characters were….” This will model the correct way to use story-grammar.

3. Next have your students do a story map to help them as they begin this process. This will help them learn what to look for when reading a story. Start by having them map out the beginning of the story. Ask them questions like Where did the story take place? When did it take place? Who is the main character? What is ___ like? What is the problem? What did ___ need? Why is __ in trouble? They should map this out on a chart on the board with the whole class or on their paper individually. Next, they should continue reading then answer the following questions. What does _____ decide to do? What does ____ have to attempt to do? What did ___ do about __? What happened to ____? And finally, end the story map with questions like the following.  How did ____ solve the problem? What would you do to solve the problem?  How did ____ feel about the problem?  Why did ____ do ____?  What is the moral of the story?  These are just a few questions that could be asked when first helping students with story mapping.

4. A Venn diagram is a visual tool for students to compare and contrast concepts such as:

You may choose to add to this list of things to compare and contrast. In a Venn Diagram the two circles overlap. Each circle represents a different book, person, or concept. The part not overlapping is how the two are different; the part that is connected is how the two are alike.

5. Have your students retell the story.  This strategy can be taught with whole group, small group, or individually. The teacher should model the process using a think aloud approach before students are required to retell a story of their choice. How to do it. 1. The reader will read a selection orally or silently. 2. He or she will then look back over it answering the question, what did I learn? 3. Next he or she will answer the questions orally until the reader is comfortable with the strategy and then he or she may write his or her response down on paper. 4. They should tell where the story took place and so on. They should also use the steps they have been taught in story-grammar to help them retell the story. A checklist can be provided to make sure they cover all the important story-grammar parts.

6. You may also want to use a comprehension strategy story pyramid with them. Tell the students to listen carefully as a story of your choice is being read orally. Explain that they will be filling in a story pyramid at the end of the story. This is a good thing to use for assessment.  Show them what the pyramid looks like.

             ______
           ______   ______
         ______  ______  ______
            ______  ______  ______  ______
        ______  ______  ______  ______  ______
      ______  ______  ______  ______  ______  ______
          ______  ______  ______  ______  ______  ______  ______
            ______  ______ ______  _______  ______  ______  ______  ______

Ask them the following questions once the story has been read:
Line 1  Write the name of the main character.
Line 2  Two words that describes the character.
Line 3  Three words describing the setting.
Line 4  Four words stating the problem.
Line 5  Five words describing the first event in the story.
Line 6  Six words describing a second event.
Line 7  Seven words describing a third event.
Line 8  Eight words describing the story solution.
*This can be done as a whole class exercise or done individually.*

Reference:

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