Understanding story structure and narrative

Children learn about plot structures and logical sequencing when they listen to stories.  We can teach by pointing out plot structures such as sequence or cause and effect and by giving them the vocabulary to describe these things. Later, when children understand story structures, we can support and extend their understanding by asking them to describe the story sequence, the plot, problems and solutions, characters, settings and so on.

Thinking strategies and meta-cognition

Young children can be exposed to the thinking strategies that help comprehension while you read stories to them. These strategies are very helpful for children to use later in life, when they are trying to understand what they are reading. If you model the strategies for young children they are likely to internalize them and use them on their own when they are reading. Actively thinking about text is called meta-cognition.

Helpful strategies for comprehension are:

  • Rereading the text
  • Summarizing what has been read
  • Identifying the most important information in the text
  • Predicting what will happen

Children need to experience the same sort of things when they are read expository or informational text. This type of text can even more difficult to understand because it is not based on a story-line and the information may not be describing something the children know about.

Good readers actively think about the text as they read.

Good readers ask themselves questions before, during and after they read.

Before Reading

What will the story be about? Who will be in the story? Will I like the story?

During Reading

What is the story about? Does this make sense to me? Is this relating to anything I know?

After Reading

Did I like that story? Was the ending sensible? What did I learn?

These questions and thoughts lead to understanding.

You can help children learn to active think about what they are being read by asking a few questions as you read.

For example, before you read the story you can be looking at the cover of the book and talking about what the story might be about.

By doing this you are activating children’s knowledge about the up-coming story and you are help children understand that very often the picture on the cover gives readers ideas about the story or information that is described inside.