Rethinking Setting

Slide02To Increase comprehension in early readers (Kindergarteners to around 2nd graders) the setting of the story is simply addressed — often as stated in the graphic above.  What I am beginning to discover about setting is that I cannot stop my teaching here.  Setting becomes increasingly more important for readers to think about as they advance in levels and as a result my teaching needs to support these complexities.

My rethinking of setting was launched after reading Goal 5 – Supporting Comprehension in Fiction in Jennifer Serravallo’s The Reading Strategies Book.  I was surprised that nine of the 28 strategies in this goal addressed setting (the other important story components highlighted were problems and summarizing).

Here is a list of the lessons in Goal 5 that address setting:

  • 5.8 What’s Your Problem? (Levels J and above) – In this strategy readers are asked to ponder if the setting causes the problem (among other questions) to help them understand that problems in advanced stories are complex and multidimensional.
  • 5.15 Where Am I? (Levels L and above) – This strategy addresses how advanced stories have more than one setting.  As a result the reader needs think about how a character got from one setting to the next.  The book states that a setting often changes from one chapter to the next so readers need to be aware of this and notice it.
  • 5.18 Does the Story Have to Be Set There, and Then? (Levels P and above) – Here readers consider if the setting is just background to the story or if it plays an important role?  I recently heard a 5th grade teacher state that in upper levels setting becomes like a another character in the story.
  • 5.22 Vivid Setting Description and Impact on Character (Levels P and above) – In this strategy readers are asked to slow down their reading when an author provides them with a vivid description on the time and place.  Then they are asked to think “How does the setting impact the character?”
  • 5.23 Map It (Levels P and above) – Here readers are asked to keep a map and track the character’s movements when they travel from place to place in a book.  (Being a visual learner this is my FAVORITE)
  • 5.25 Double Plot Mountain (Level R and above) – These help readers keep track of two plots simultaneously.  These plots usually take place in different settings (Home Life vs. School Life).
  • 5.26 Historical Notes Prime Prior Knowledge (R and above) – In this strategy readers are encourage to look for and read the historical notes to get more insight into the setting.
  • 5.27 Analyzing Historical Contexts (R and above) – Here we build on readers knowledge of setting being time and place by asking them to think about the social, economic, and political atmosphere of that time and place.  Then students explore what impact these have on the character.
  • 5.28 Mico-/Meso-/Macroenvironment Systems: Levels of Setting (V and above) – Finally, students are asked to notice and name these aspects of the character’s environment and think about which of these are important to the conflicts the character is experiencing.

Wow, as you can see as readers progress instruction on setting must progress as well!  I feel much more prepared to support my future readers after reading this goal.


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