Comprehension

  MUSICIANS AND VAMPIRES
  by De Shealey

Rationale:  Reading comprehension is the goal of reading.  Understanding the parts of a story can help a student know what to look for and help them to remember what they have read.  This lesson seeks to teach the elements of a story and how to find them first in a paragraph and then in a book.

Materials: One copy of Great Children's Stories, the Classic Volland Edition, The Bremen Town Musicians, pages 104-112; a copy of story map for each student; and a copy for each student of Bunnicula, a Rabbit-Tale of Mystery.

Procedure: Teacher speaks all caps and other print is instructive.

1. READING DOESN'T DO US ANY GOOD IF WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT WE READ.  IN SCHOOL, WE NEED TO COMPREHEND AND REMEMBER THE PRINT IN OUR TEXTBOOKS.  AROUND THE HOUSE, WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS IN THE NEWSPAPER AND THE DIRECTIONS ON THE BACK OF THE BOX OF CAKE MIX.  WITHOUT COMPREHENSION, WE CANNOT LEARN FROM OUR READING.  WHEN WE LEARN, WE GROW.  THERE ARE STRATEGIES TO HELP US GET WHAT WE NEED FROM BOOKS AND HOLD ON TO IT.  THE ONE WE WILL WORK WITH IS CALLED THE STORY GRAMMAR STRATEGY.   ALL STORIES HAVE A BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND AN END.  EACH PART TELLS US SOMETHING ABOUT THE STORY.  WHAT CAN WE LEARN IN THE FIRST PART OF A STORY?  Desired responses are: a) the locale where story took place; b) the time period the story took place in; and c) description of the main characters.   THE BEGINNING SETS US UP FOR THE ACTION PART OF THE STORY.  THIS SECOND SECTION INTRODUCES A PROBLEM OR GOAL.  IT THEN PROCEDES THROUGH THE WHY AND HOW THE MAIN CHARACTERS WILL GET THE SITUATION RESOLVED.  THERE ARE USUALLY SEVERAL SMALLER PROBLEMS (OR ROADBLOCKS) ALONG THE WAY.  WHAT DO YOU THINK THE THIRD PART WILL BE?  Desired response is resolution.  IN THE LAST SECTION, THE PROBLEM IS SOLVED, OR THE GOAL IS ATTAINED.  THERE IS ALSO SOMETHING SAID ABOUT HOW THE MAIN CHARACTERS FEEL ABOUT THE OUTCOME.  RECOGNIZING THESE PARTS CAN HELP YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT IS HAPPENING AND REMEMBER THE STORY LATER.  THIS SKILL IS HELPFUL WHEN YOU READ FOR CLASS, FOR FUN, AND ESPECIALLY FOR MATH, WHERE YOU HAVE TO FIND THE PARTS IN ORDER TO SOLVE A WORD PROBLEM.

2. FIRST, LET'S TRY THIS STRATEGY ON A SHORT STORY.  WE WILL USE OUR NEW STRATEGY ON THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS.   AS I READ, YOU MUST TRY TO ANSWER FIVE QUESTIONS.  Write the questions on the board and have students read each one.  1) WHO ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?  2)  WHEN AND WHERE DID THE STORY HAPPEN?;  3)  WHAT DID THE MAIN CHARACTERS DO?;  4)  HOW DID THE STORY END?;  AND 5)  HOW DID THE MAIN CHARACTERS FEEL?   SOMETHING CALLED A STORY MAP GIVES US A PLACE TO RECORD THE IMPORTANT INFORMATION.  Pass out a copy of story map to each student.

3. NOW, I WILL READ A SHORT STORY TO YOU AND WE WILL FILL IN THE BLANKS ON THE STORY MAP.  THE NAME OF THE STORY IS THE BREMEN TOWN MUSICIANS.  Read first two pages.  LET'S SEE, WHEN DID THE STORY HAPPEN?  If students volunteer information, all the better; otherwise, teacher talks the way through.   IT DOESN'T SAY.  WHERE DID THE STORY HAPPEN?  IT MUST BE SOMEWHERE NEAR A PLACE CALLED BREMEN TOWN. FABLES DON'T ALWAYS GIVE A PLACE AND TIME.  WHO ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?  Give students time to answer.  THERE SEEM TO BE PLENTY OF THOSE.  LET'S SEE, THERE'S A DONKEY, A DOG, AND A CAT.  WHAT ABOUT THE MAN?  HE WAS ONLY MENTIONED IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH, SO HE IS NOT REALLY A MAIN CHARACTER.  DO WE KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS YET?  IT SEEMS TO BE THAT NEITHER OF THE FIRST TWO ANIMALS IS WANTED ANYMORE.  LET'S READ ON AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.  Read next three pages.  WE NOW HAVE ANOTHER MAIN CHARACTER, THE COCK OR ROOSTER.  IT IS NOW CLEAR THAT NONE OF THE ANIMALS ARE WANTED AND THEY DECIDE TO RUN AWAY.  THEIR GOAL IS TO GET TO BREMEN TOWN AND BE MUSICIANS.  NOW, FOR THE ROADBLOCKS.  THEY TRAVEL A LONG WAY.  THEY ARE TIRED AND HUNGRY.  THEY FIND A HOUSE.  LET'S READ ON.  Read next two pages and top third of next page where the animals have gone to sleep.  WELL, THE ANIMALS RAN THE ROBBERS OFF, THEY'RE NOT HUNGRY ANYMORE AND THEY HAVE A NICE PLACE TO SLEEP.  THEY STILL HAVEN'T MADE IT TO BREMEN TOWN.  WHAT DO YOU THINK MIGHT HAPPEN NEXT?  Give students time to respond.  I'LL READ TO THE END AND WE WILL SEE.  Read to end of story.   IN THE ACTION BOX, WE CAN ADD THAT THE ROBBERS CAME BACK AND WERE RUN OFF A SECOND TIME.  THE LAST PARAGRAPH IS WHERE ALL THE LOOSE ENDS GET WRAPPED UP.  THE ROBBERS ARE NOT COMING BACK AND THE ANIMALS ARE STAYING IN THE HOUSE.  THIS IS A CASE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS CHANGING THEIR GOAL.  THEY FOUND A HOME AND PREFFERRED THAT TO CAREERS IN MUSIC.  QUITE OFTEN, STORIES HAVE A SURPRISE AT THE END. THE WORD FOR THE FEELINGS OF THE ANIMALS AT THE END IS SATISFACTION.  THEY FOUND WHAT THEY NEEDED: FRIENDS AND A HOME.

4. LET'S TRY OUR NEW STRATEGY ON A BOOK.  YOU WILL READ BUNNICULA, A RABBIT-TALE OF MYSTERY.  IT WAS WRITTEN FROM A DOG'S POINT OF VIEW.  THIS DOG, HAROLD, LIVES WITH A FAMILY AND A CAT NAMED CHESTER.  THE CAT IS UNUSUAL, TOO, HE READS EDGAR ALLEN POE AND OTHER CLASSICS.  ONE NIGHT, THE FAMILY GOES OUT TO THE MOVIES AND BRINGS BACK A BUNNY.  CHESTER IS CONVINCED THAT THIS BUNNY IS NO ORDINARY BALL OF FUR.  STRANGE THINGS BEGIN TO HAPPEN TO VEGETABLES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.  NOW IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO START READING SILENTLY.  YOU CAN DRAW A STORY MAP LIKE THE ONE I GAVE YOU EARLIER, IF YOU LIKE.  Give appropriate amount of time to read the book, in class and out.

5. NOW, WE NEED TO SEE HOW MUCH THE STRATEGY HELPED YOU REMEMBER.  For assessment purposes, give the five questions for students to answer in oral or written form.
q Main characters: Harold, the dog; Chester, the cat; Bunnicula, the rabbit; Mr. Monroe, the father; Mrs. Monroe, the mother; Toby, the younger son; and Pete, the older son.
q Place and time: Doesn't really say, a good guess would be modern-day America.
q What did the main characters do?  Chester became convinced that Bunnicula was a vampire, Harold tried to calm Chester, and the family was oblivious to Chester's clues.
q How did the story end?  With Bunnicula on a liquid diet and Chester on the psychiatrist's couch. The question of whether the bunny was a vampire or was never settled, leaving the door open to sequels.
q How did the main characters feel?  The rabbit like his new diet, Chester was still suspicious, and Harold had a new friend.

6. Another avenue of assessment would be to determine how much of the word play was understood by the students.  For example, Chester read that one way to get rid of a vampire is to pound a stake through his heart.  So, Chester put a beefsteak on top of the bunny and hit the steak with his paws.

References:
Strategies That Improve Children's Memory and Comprehension of Text by Michael Pressley, Carla Johnson, Sonya Symons, Jacqueline McGoldrick, and Janice Kurita; from The Elementary School Journal, volume 90 number 1, The University of Chicago, 1989.
Great Children's Stories, the Classic Volland Edition (1923), Rand McNally Corp, NY, 1972.
Bunnicula, a Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, Deborah and James Howe, 1979, Avon Books, NY.
 

STORY MAP
 

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