Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Reading Strategies Book: Goal 5~ Supporting Comprehension in Fiction with Plot and Setting

My turn is up to discuss The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo focusing on Goal 5 which is supporting comprehension in fiction with plot and setting.

 I really enjoyed reading these strategies outlined in Goal 5 because they range from the basic beginning-middle-end strategy to flashback on a timeline to the FQR graphic organizer and finally to analyzing by historical context.  As a K-12 reading specialist, I work with teachers implementing these focus strategies into universal and differentiated texts; I feel that this is one of the most useful resources I have found to enhance student comprehension.

The introduction on pages 130-132 focus on four main areas of mastery when understanding plot and setting.

First, the emphasis on visualization made me "woot!" out loud.  If a student cannot make a mental movie in their minds of what they are reading, the understanding and sequence of plot will not occur.

Second, the focus on problems and conflict was outlined as essential. Identify the problem.  Then you discuss characters and conflicts relating to the problem.  Finally focus on solutions/resolutions as formula for outlining plot.  I focus quite a bit on conflict when helping teachers with focus metacognitive strategies.

This leads us to the third area to support, synthesizing cause and effect.  Whenever focusing on problem and conflict, there is often cause and effect text structure.  Jennifer Serravallo stated to synthesize cause and effect, "so that the reader is clear on what causes certain events to take place, and how all of the events in a story take place." (page 131).  I have added the cause and effect anchor chart that we use when reading a universal text in grade 5, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

Finally, with focusing on problem/solution and then cause and effect text structure, we naturally lead into the fourth focus area, which  is retelling or summarizing.  Students need to state "essential" information without telling too much or leaving out important events while telling ideas in the proper sequence.  We often see teachers utilize the somebody-wanted-but-so-then strategy and this is fine.  I like to also ask the students, "Who... did what... and when?"  This also helps keep sequencing temporal.

My Big 3 strategies from this chapter are:
5.14:  Chapter-End Stop Signs:  This strategy utilizes sticky notes where students stop and jot the big idea from each chapter after reading.  When students have finished the book, a complete summary is written.  This reminds me of a "chapter check-up" form that I used MANY years ago when I was teaching Learning Disabilties IEP classes.  I really like the idea of incorporating think marks for fiction and nonfiction into this strategy.  It is clear, useful and structured enough that the gradual release of responsibility would be seamless for universal and guided reading focus groups.

5.24:  FQR (Facts/Questions/Response) Sheets for Filling in Gaps:  I am going to be sharing this strategy with our Middle School Reading Interventionist TOMORROW!  We are always looking for graphic organizers and systems to help students with metacognition and self-monitoring their breakdown in learning as well as questions and connections.  The FQR sheet incorporates ALL of these key areas. Students stop and jot a questions as you read.  Fill in the facts you already know.  Continue reading until you find your response or have a new question.  This graphic organizer or metacognitive strategy lends itself to comprehension discussions that will definitely deepen understanding of text.

F: What are the facts I know already?
Q:  What question(s) do I have about this section of reading?  What is my confusion?
Response:  Write the page number and evidence that answered my question.  What new questions do I now have?

5.27:  Analyzing Historical Contexts:  My first question when reading this strategy was, "Why didn't I think of this?"  My second thought was to start a list of books that we need to incorporate this strategy into this year and certainly into next year.  Our literacy program K-8 uses universal texts and literature circles/guided reading.  I can see this especially useful when studying Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool in grade 6, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis in grade 7 and Night  by Elie Weisel in Grade 8 (not fiction, but this strategy could easily apply to nonfiction as well).  The lesson language was so very powerful when I read on page 160, "When you read historical fiction, it's so important to really understand the historical environment...consider the social environment-think about the economic environment...what did being in different social classes mean?...Think about the politics of the time and who was in power,  beliefs...laws."  READ the entire lesson language.  I intend to highlight this and share ASAP.   The graphic organizer is very simple.  Students use sticky notes to write down when they encounter social, economic or political conditions as they read.   Sticky notes are placed on a group anchor chart allowing for rich discussion and dialogue.

Let me know your thoughts.  What was new to you?  What strategies do you already use that are effective with your students?  What do you want to try in the future?

Thanks for visiting Goal 5.  If you haven't had the chance, Goals 1-4 are linked below.  Hop on over to their blogs and leave a kind note or two.  These bloggers have worked hard for our literacy community. :)

Happy Reading!

Getting Started
Goal 1
Goal 2
Goal 3
Goal 4


  1. This is the goal I need the most help with. Reading has always been easy for me, so it's hard for me to figure out how to make it work for someone who is struggling. There are so many good ideas here!

  2. I think breaking down strategies to the basic parts is hard. Focusing on the teacher talk in these strategies is truly helpful and makes a great anchor chart. I can't wait to dig further into these strategies with grade level teams. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Grade level team meetings would be a good place to discuss some of these strategies. I think children always benefit when their teachers use the same language year to year too.

    1. Agreed and then we move on to vertical alignment... for sure!

  4. This section made me think long and hard about how I need to help my readers in a better way. If that even makes sense :) I LOVE your ideas about strategy #5.27 and hooking books to the strategy. I really like this strategy especially because you can use sticky notes with it. Can't go wrong with sticky notes :) I am excited to get started on this one.

    How did the sharing of strategy 5.24: FQR go with the middle school teachers? Wish I could have been there to listen in!

    Within the next couple days, I need to work with a few students on visualizing for plot and setting. I plan on starting with 5.9 - Who's Speaking? and having them do exactly what the chart at the bottom of the page does.

    Thanks for your post. It really gave me a lot to think about!

    Crofts' Classroom

    1. FQR was introduced yesterday and we are going to use this strategy with two fifth grade WIN groups this final WIN Cycle. WIN is "What I Need" and part of our RTI structure. What was really cute is a different teacher already made a stop and jot template and is integrating this strategy into her next universal text. I work with amazing teachers!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on chapter 5. We are currently at the tail end of our historical fiction book clubs, but at the beginning of a new round of clubs. The "analyzing historical contexts" strategy lesson seems like a good one to do in the next day or two. Thanks for highlighting it for us in your post.

  6. Thanks so much. This is very helpful and I look forward to sharing it with others!!