Reading Comprehension Strategies: Plot & Characters

This summer, I've been doing a book study on Jennifer Serravallo's book, The Reading Strategies Book, lead by Crystal from Teaching Little Miracles.

If you've missed this book study, you can catch up with these links!
Getting Started
Goals 1 & 2: Emergent Reading and Engagment
Goals 3 & 4: Decoding and Fluency

Today, we are talking about Reading Comprehension....the end goal for our sweet readers!  Let's dive in!!  And read all the way through to catch a FREEBIE!
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Goal 5: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Plot and Setting


At the end of the day, we read as adults because we understand and enjoy what we are reading.  So, we want that for our kiddos too!  For me, comprehension has always been a struggle.  I am that reader who reads and rereads the same paragraph 3-4 times so I can understand it.  And I naturally pick easy fiction reads as an adult that I don't have to "think" too much about.  I know all the skills, but it's just something I didn't completely learn well until I started taking education classes as an adult.

So, that influenced me as a teacher.  I want my own kiddo and my firsties to understand what they are reading!  Here's a look at some of my favorite strategies from the plot and setting section of fiction comprehension.

Strategy 5.3: What's Most Essential

This is one of my go-to comprehension strategies in first grade!  In this strategy, kids tell the characters and setting and then summarize the beginning the middle and the end.  I usually use these graphic organizers from my guided reading packet, but I also love Serravallo's foldable she used too!

What I love most about BME graphic organizers is they are the perfect scaffold for both sides of the spectrum.  I love the ease of differentiation with just one tool!

When I have kids that do not comprehend well, this organizer helps give them focus and order to retelling the story.

And when I have kids that comprehend so well that they want to give me every little detail in the story, this organizer helps them lock down on 3 major events from the story.  It gives them a way to think about the most important parts and filter out the supporting details.

Strategy 5.9: Who's Speaking

In this strategy, readers "try to have a mental picture of the people in the scene to keep track of who is speaking."  After all, if you can't figure out who saying what, you can't understand the story!  I have used this strategy in whole group reading before during our Wizard of Oz reading unit.  You can read about the "Who Said That?" whole group game we play in this blog post.

But I have not used this strategy much in guided reading--I have no idea why!!  In our Wizard of Oz game, we connected it to character traits and inferring.  But in guided reading, Serravallo suggests connecting this to comprehension of the plot--which I LOVE!

I loved the way she color coded the dialogue for the characters!

Goal 6: Supporting Comprehension in Fiction: Characters


Serravallo says,

"Underneath the umbrella of 'fiction comprehension,' I consider plot and setting to be first...and character to be a very close second."

In general, I think first grade teachers do a great job of identifying characters and a not-so-great job of understanding characters. #raisingmyhandtoo  In my mind, it's very easy for me to brush that aside for older grades to take care of.

But we have to work hard to teach both of these aspects of characters along side each other....just like we teach visual and meaning cues together in decoding.  Here are my favorite strategies from this section.

Strategy 6.3: Put On The Character's Face

In this strategy, kids look at the pictures and think about the words to infer the character's feeling as they read.  I loved the real picture chart of kid faces for each emotions!

As I was reading this strategy, I was trying to visualize what this could look like in guided reading.  For my firsties, I think it would be super engaging to have some mirrors (this is the one shown in the picture) at the reading table.  I could have 2-3 pre-determined spots to stop and check on character feeling.  We would have sticky notes in those spots.  Then, at each spot, the readers would stop, think about the text and pictures, infer the character feeling and then put on the character's face with the mirror!  How fun is that??

Strategy 6.1: How's the Character Feeling?

This strategy goes hand in hand with the other strategy, but I love that it extends the concept into text evidence.  In this strategy, students  make sure they "care about how the characters feel, talk, act and think."  They imagine themselves to be "in the same situation and think about how we felt or would feel."

What I love most about this strategy besides the extension is the scaffolds she gives.  She gives our little readers categories and questions to answer about the character and his/her traits during reading time so that they can make a better inference on how the character feels.

I made a character feelings organizer FREEBIE for this strategy to add to the other organizers in my guided reading packet.






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