Reading to Learn

Read and Remember!
by Jacque Mills

Rationale:  When reading fluency has been achieved, a reader can focus more effort on reading comprehension and learning.  Strategies can be learned to improve comprehension.  The goal of this lesson is to improve comprehension by teaching students to use the Story Grammar strategy.  With this strategy students make a map or outline of the main elements of the story which will help them with free recall and cued recall.

Materials:  a copy of Atlanta and Hippomenes by Margaret Evans Price for each student, list of questions written on the board, 2 sheets of lined paper and a pencil for each student
*Note:  You may choose to substitute a short story from your school’s basal reader rather than the story listed above.  This story can be found in pp 397-400 of Open Court Reading and Writing: Over the Moon, edited by Zena Sutherland and Marilyn Cunningham (1989).
        1. Who is/are the main character(s) in the story?
        2. Where and when did the story take place?
        3. What did the main characters do?
        4.  How did the story end?
        5. How did the main character feel?

1. Introduce the lesson by praising the class for the work they’ve done learning how to read.  You’ve learned so much about reading!  Think about when you started learning to read.  You learned your alphabet letters and the sounds they represent.  You learned how to blend the sounds together to read words.  Then you learned to read fast and smoothly by practicing reading the same thing over and over until it sounded like the way we speak.  Today we’re going to begin learning strategies that will help you understand and remember what you read.  We’ll begin with a strategy called Story Grammar or making a kind of map of the story.  That means, to answer the questions who, what, when, where, and how about the story.  Making a map or an outline of the main parts of a story makes it a lot easier to remember the story.
2. First, we’ll practice with a story that everybody knows.  Do you remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?  Good!  I'll show you how to map out the story by answering these questions. (Teacher writes the answers to the first 2 questions as related to the story of Goldilocks, reasoning out loud for the students to follow.) Let’s work together to answer the rest of the questions about that story.  (Ask the remaining questions listed and write the student’s answers on the board.  Discuss the reasoning behind their answers.  Leave the questions and answers on the board as an example for the following exercise.)
3.  (Teacher hands out copies of  Atlanta and Hippomenes.)  On a clean sheet of paper, copy the 5 questions I have written on the board.  Leave 3 or 4 blank lines between the questions.  Then, read the story I’ve given you. I want you to read the story silently.  Remember the benefits of silent reading.  When you read silently, you can stop and look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary and you can take time to reread sections of the story that may not make sense the first time you read them.  After you read the story, write the answers to the questions about what you read.  When you finish, lay your paper and the story sheets on my desk quietly so you won't disturb the rest of the class.  Then you may read your library books silently.
4.  When all students have completed the assignment, allow them to read their library books silently for a few more minutes.  Then have them get out another sheet of paper and ask them to write everything they can remember, in story form,  of Atlanta and Hippomenes.  Tell them to include the information they had used to answer the questions but they must also include at least 2 other events from the story and at least one detail about each main character.  (Assess students’ work by comparing this assignment to the previous assignment.  Check to see if they included the additional information you requested.)

*Note:  Thoroughly teaching this strategy will require approximately 10 hours of instruction time in order for it to become an effective reading tool for students to remember and use on their own.

References Pressley, Michael, et al. "Strategies That Improve Children’s  Memory and Comprehension of Text." The Elementary School Journal 90 (1989): 13.

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