Last week, we discussed the importance of reading aloud with children of all ages, not just children of elementary school age. Many parents have expressed to me that they are very interested in discussing literature with their middle school children at home, but they do not know which strategies to use in order to help them to increase their comprehension.
For the next few weeks, I will be discussing ways that you all can engage your children in book talks using focused strategies aimed at helping you assess your child’s understanding of what is going on in the text. You do not have to worry if you do not speak English or if English is a second language for you because these strategies are universal and can be used in any language to improve fluency, engagement, and reading comprehension.
When your child is reading a fictional text, it is important that he or she is able to identify the elements of the story. A fictional text is defined as a text that is not factual and cannot be proven to be true. Fictional texts include fairy tales, myths, historical fiction, folk tales, poetry, and realistic fiction. In order for children to exhibit a clear understanding of a fictional text, they must be able to identify the 5 elements of the story, which are as follows:
*Characters: The characters are the people or animals in the story. Who was the story about?
*Plot: The plot is the problem and the solution in the story. What happened in the story?
*Change: Nothing in the story stays the same. The characters, plot, time, setting are constantly changing. How did these items change from the beginning of the text to the end of the text?
*Movement Through Time: Time never stands still in the text, it is constantly moving. What happened first, second, third, etc. in the text? When did the story take place?
*Setting: The setting is the location where the story takes place. Where did the story take place?
You can use the guiding questions in italics above to discuss all fictional texts with your child. If your child cannot identify all five elements of the text, it is a good indicator that he or she did not completely comprehend what took place in the text. It is very important that they be able to answer all of the guiding questions by providing supporting evidence or details from the text. Providing textual support is a very important skill for them to practice as the State ELA Exam assesses them on their ability to recall details.
Next week, I will share how to discuss a non-fiction text with your child and ways to assess for understanding. Practicing these skills at home with your middle-schooler will reinforce the strategies that they will be implementing in school and allow you to be more proactive in contributing to your child’s academic progress.
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