Student's reading comprehension has to have a frame of reference for processing and storing information. One way we can aid a student with reading comprehension is with the use of elements of a story. According to Dr. Burkey, "elements of a story are an organized structure that includes plot, character, setting, and theme in an orderly time frame." The plot usually revolves around a conflict that is presented at the initiating event of the story and as the story evolves then the conflict is resolved towards the end. According to the book, the ability to identify the elements of a story aids in comprehension, leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of stories, and helps students learn to write stories of their own. Elements of a story also assist students in prewriting and post-reading activities. The organizers are intended to focus on the key elements of character, setting, conflict, and resolution development. Students can become aware of how characters are created and they can analyze them. Once students can become aware of how characters develop in a story then this would help them in preparation for writing their own fiction. Another benefit is that the students can reflect on the characteristics of the protagonist or antagonist which they can create constructive criticism. As the teacher reads the story with the class it is important that the students know the setting of the story, the types of characters, the interactions between characters, cause and effects, conflicts, and themes.
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Figure 1, shows a plot diagram that includes exposition, resolution, conflicts, themes, falling action, climax, and rising action. This chart has a frame reference which allows students to grasp stories and represents the essential information for a child to comprehend a literal work.
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According to the authors of Reading and Learning to Read, it is very important to begin talking with students about story elements as early as preschool, and continue through middle and high school with more in depth analysis. Teachers need to tell students that all stories have the same elements, and identifying these elements can help to increase their understanding of the story. For students new to this strategy, choose stories with clear problems and solutions. For example, often we receive student who have never been taught a topic in a particular class. Therefore we have to select a story which is clear; this will allow the student to understand how to apply the elements of story correct. As students' comprehension increases, introduce more difficult stories to stimulate critical-thinking skills. In this case we can add the different types of character such as static, foil, and round characters, discuss in depth the resolutions or why the characters developed certain characteristics in order to find a resolution at the end of the story. We can also add the two different types of conflicts 1) external conflict which include man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society and 2) internal conflict man vs. self.
Story Structure Awareness: Building a schema
Another great technique is to build a schema. Dr. Vacca, Dr. Burkey, Dr. Lenhart and Dr. McKeon make emphasis that for developing readers, a teacher can read the text aloud to them, stopping at key points to discuss the information and ask and answer questions. Some activities that teachers can do with students are to complete the graphic organizer as a collaborative classroom activity by thinking aloud to help students identify each element. Once students are accustomed with the process then activities can change, for example read the text aloud to them, or have them read on their own. You can reinforce their knowledge with instructional activities. Students may complete the graphic organizer in groups, independently, or as a class. The graphic organizer can be used to make predictions or as a discussion tool. As students become more capable with identifying story elements, increase the complexity of the graphic organizer or add components such as the theme or resolution. Challenge students' ability to define and limit the main events of the story by choosing stories that include multiple characters and events that have varying degrees of importance. You can ask guiding questions related to story elements in addition to specific content questions such as the following;
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Who are the main characters in the story?
What is the setting of the story?
What is conflict of the story and how does the protagonist solved it?
What does the author intend the read to interrupt after the reading?
Guiding and Developing Interactions with texts
As students mature their reading habits they need to develop their skills in recognizing reading structure. It is very important that teachers guide and develop interactions with the use of texts so students can develop better reading comprehension. There a several strategies to develop their recognition on reading comprehension such as Discussion Webs, KWL, DR-TA, Text Connections, and Story Impressions. For this section we will discuss DR-TA and KWL strategies in depth.
The Directed Reading Thinking Activity (DR-TA) is a comprehension strategy that guides students in asking questions about a text, making predictions, and then reading to confirm or refute their predictions. The DRTA process encourages students to be active and thoughtful readers, enhancing their comprehension. As seen in the Reading and Learning to Read textbook there are several reasons for using the DR-TA method which are, 1) It encourages students to be active and thoughtful readers, 2) It activates students' prior knowledge, 3) It teaches students to monitor their understanding of the text as they're reading, 4) It helps students strengthen reading and critical thinking skills.
In Figure 2 which is a figure taken from the Reading and Learning to Read textbook, the DR-TA method is shown in which teachers direct and activate students' thinking prior to reading a passage by scanning the title, chapter headings, illustrations, and other materials. Teachers should use open-ended questions to direct students as they make predictions about the content or perspective of the text. Students read up to the first pre-selected stopping point. The teacher then prompts the students with questions about specific information and asks them to evaluate their predictions and refine them if necessary. This process should be continued until students have read each section of the passage. At the end of each section, students go back through the text and think about their predictions. Students should verify or modify their predictions by finding supporting statements in the text.
KWL chart is a strategy that can be used with any subject. It is a three-part thinking process which asks the learner to respond to: what they already know about that topic, what they want to know about that topic, and what they learned about the topic. The categories, what they already know about that topic, and what they want to know about that topic of the chart are to be filled out prior to the lesson while the last column which is what they learned about the topic are to be filled out after the lesson. A KWL chart can also be a useful assessment instrument because it allows teachers to quickly determine what students already understand about a topic. There are several benefits of using the KWL Chart: organizes information and shows students prior knowledge and provide a summary of what the student has learned.
Figure 3 is an example of a KWL which is applied to a science class.C:\Users\Angela Zarruk\Desktop\KWL_chart.png