Using The 5Ws To Help Your Middle Schooler Comprehend a Non-Fiction Text

 

    Last week we discussed some of the ways that parents can work with their middle school children at home to increase their reading comprehension with regards to fictional texts.  As many of you already know, many of the texts on the State ELA exam are non-fiction texts.  Most students tend to have more difficulty navigating non-fiction texts due to the fact that they are factual.  This week we will discuss some ways that parents can work with their children to help them better understand the elements of a non-fiction text.

    Some of the genres that include non-fiction texts are biographies, autobiographies, articles, newspapers, magazines, and reference books.  The definition of a non-fiction text is that it contains facts that can be proven to be true.  This is exactly what makes these types of texts so difficult for students to understand.  They have trouble categorizing these facts and deciding which points within the text are the most important.

    One of the best strategies for organizing the information within a non-fiction text is using the 5 Ws.  Identifying the who, what, where, when and why within the text is a great way for students to separate the important facts within the text from the less important facts.  Here are some questions around the 5 Ws that parent can ask their children about a non-fiction text in order to increase their comprehension:

*  Who-Who is the text about?  (Look for names of people)

*  What-What is the main idea of the text or what is the story mostly about?  (Look at the first and last sentence of the text)

*  Where-Where did the text take place? (Look for names of places or locations)

*  When/How-When did the text take place?  How did the events happen?  (Look for dates and times)

*  Why-Why did the events in the text take place?  Why was this text written?

    This strategy can also be used to organize notes when students are listening to a non-fiction text being read aloud to them.  Parents can practice using this strategy in conjunction with their read aloud schedule at home.  As they read the text to their child, they can encourage them to take notes using the 5 Ws.  Being able to identify the 5 Ws within a non-fiction text demonstrates that your child comprehended the text and can identify its pertinent details.  This is certainly a skill that they will need not only in English classes but in content area classes such as Science and Social Studies.

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