One item we used a lot in my Interpretation Book Club session at TCRWP was the Narrative Writers Aim Towards Goals Such As… sheet (see picture above) found in the Middle School Writing Units of Study. Our instructor recommended using it as early as third grade to help students talk about author’s purpose and intent.
Each of the boxes should have previously been taught in a minilesson so we began our work in partnerships with these directions: “Talk about the ones you know (use the words AND the pictures).” We then watched a digital text and used the cards to finish this sentence: The authors goal is to (State text in one of the boxes)…when…(provide example from text).
The next day we added the above technique cards to deepen our discussion even further. It was recommended to copy these technique cards in a different color and even cut them out so students can stick them in their books when they find evidence.
Here are the prompts used when using both set of cards together:
- The author’s goal is to…(State Goal Square)…(SHOWS student read text)
- The author does this by…(State Technique Card)…(SHOWS student read text)
- For instance…(Refer to text)
- This example illustrates/shows…(provide reason, explain thinking, no right answer, higher level thinking)…(SHOWS student UNDERSTOOD text)
If students were going to write out their thinking before a book talk you might provide this scaffolding:
The author used __(Insert Technique)___ to ___(insert goal) _____. I’m noticing the author seems to have ______________. He/She might have done this by _______________.
The cards were easy to use and the pictures were engaging. They worked well with adults and it will be interesting to try with students!
My reading about teaching characters this week has got me reminiscing about the primary characters I love dearly but do not get to visit with as regularly now that I teach upper elementary students. There is something special about being a 1st or 2nd grade teacher and having the distinct honor of introducing students to series books.
These are my favorite primary series characters:
- Poppleton (Level J)
- Henry & Mudge (Level J)
- Mr. Putter & Tabby (Level J)
- Little Bear (Level J)
- Nate the Great (Level K)
- Frog & Toad (Level K)
- Cam Jansen (Level L)
- Amelia Bedelia (Level L)
- Strega Nona (Level M)
Recently I challenged a group of upper elementary teachers to help me fall in love some NEW characters that they use with their 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. This is what they shared with me:
- Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker (Level O)
- Judy B Jones Series by Barbara Park (Level M)
- Judy Moody by Megan McDonald (Level M)
- Stink Series by Megan McDonald (Level M)
- Time Warp Trio Books by Jon Scieskza
- Kate DiCamillo Books – The Tiger Rising (Level T), Because of Win Dixie (Level R), Flora and Ulysses (Level U), The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Level U), The One and Only Ivan
- Amber Brown (Level N/O)
- Mysteries Series – A to Z Mysteries (Level M/N), Calendar Mysteries (Level M), Encyclopedia Brown (Level P)
- Sophie Books by Lara Bergen (Level M)
- Katie Woo Books by Fran Manushkin (Level J)
- Katie Kazoo Series by Nancy Krulik (Level M)
- Ramona Series by Beverly Clearly (Level O)
- Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey(Level P)
- Geronimo Stilton books (Level O)
- Magic School Bus Series (Mostly Level P)
- Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler
- Magic Tree House Series (Level M/N)
- Dimwood Forest Series by Avi (Level S)
- Squish Series by Jennifer Holm (Level O/P)
- Graphic Novels – Roller Girl by Victoria Jamiesan
- Fantasy Series
- My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian (Level S)
- Dork Diaries by Rachel Russell
- Dear Dumb Diary
- Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (Level W)
- Sarah Weeks Books – The Boyd Series (Level T), The Oggie Cooder Series (Level Q)
- Novels in Verse – Crossover, Brown Girl Dreaming, Inside Out and Back Again (Level U)
- Jack Gantos Books – Dead End in Norvelt (Level Y), Joey Pigza Books (Level T)
Resources to find books:
Don’t Forget GREAT picture book characters to revisit with upper elementary kids like:
- Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
My latest idea is to write a grant to purchase some book sets for each grade level I work with. These sets would be used to form book clubs where students get a CHOICE in which club they want to be a part of. If you have characters you LOVE from your grade level let me know and I will add them to my list!
This week I have been reading Goal 6 in Jennifer Serravallo’s The Reading Strategy Book. This goal has 24 strategies to help readers improve their comprehension in fiction by thinking about characters. The introduction to this goal is so good that I do not want to forget any of the important details.
Here are my big takeaways from Goal 6’s introduction:
Characters are important because they:
- help readers stay engaged.
- become our friends
- help us learn about lives outside our own
- help us think differently about people
- help us better understand others
“Characters are constructed. Readers need to pay attention to the details that the author includes to figure out who the characters is,” p. 162.
Readers are ready to think about characters when they can:
- retell the most important events
- understand why events are happening
- can identify the problem and solution
- can visualizing the setting
“You have to know about the text level to understand what to expect of a reader’s response,” p.164.
Here is what to expect at different text levels:
- Levels E – J: Characters have simple feelings which are shown in the illustrations or stated directly in the text. “He is sad.”
- Levels J – K: Characters feelings change but their traits stay the same. “He was upset, but now he is happy because…”
- Levels N: Characters are multidimensional with good AND bad traits. “Amber is a good friend to Justin but she is sometimes jealous.”
- Level P: Readers should put traits together to name a theory. “Koya is friendly, but when she keeps her feelings in it causes problems.”
- Level Q/R: Secondary characters become more developed and have an impact on the main character. “All the people in India Opal’s new town are important to her…”
The above continuum is SO helpful to me! I hope it is helpful to you as well.
To 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.