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What Young Readers Should Know About How Authors Write Narrative Text

To understand narrative text, students must first learn how it is written. Writers of fiction explore issues or topics through the vehicle of the story. But they don’t come right out and tell the reader the deeper meaning about the topics or issues they are exploring. That is left to the reader.

Buried in the narrative beneath purposely planted clues-FACT! CLUES- lies an indirectly stated idea. A character’s action, for instance, tells something about the character. Often traits are revealed thorough behaviors a character repeats again and again. Teach students to NOTICE, for example, a character’s behaviors(actions) to find patterns to name the trait.

We teach students that authors develop characters to have traits, they have a challenge or problem, they are forced to respond to the problem, they change over time. To really understand a character, we ask students to to try their very best to experience what the character is experiencing. Readers pay close attention to what’s going on and how the character is responding. NOTICE  and try to feel what the character is feeling. NOTICE and consider the character’s thoughts and what they show about the character. NOTICE a place in the story where the character is interacting with another character(secondary character). Think about how the secondary character’s actions or dialogue is  making the main character act, feel, or think.

Authors leave behind clues like a trail of bread crumbs. Skilled readers know that the author’s clues swirl around the character. Noticing the actions, interactions, feelings, thoughts, and changes the character experiences is the starting point to understanding the deeper meaning embedded in the text.

Linking the story treads together requires noticing specific details the author has purposely planted in the text.  FACT! is an acronym proven to help young readers notice the details ABOUT character’s actions, feelings. thoughts, interaction with other characters, and changes that the character experiences.

Experienced readers understand that authors don’t come right out and tell the reader about how character traits that help overcome or deal with the problem and obstacles deliberating put in front of the character. Instead, writers offer hints that “show but don’t tell” through the  words and scenes that they have been carefully created. Hiding behind the scenes are ideas and concepts meant to be analyzed by the reader.

To understand a character’s motivation, for instance, we teach students to ask why is the character acting or feeling that way? Why does the character do what they do? Doing such helps the reader understand more about the kind of person the character is. But, we also teach readers not to stop at noticing and asking about these behaviors, we want readers to make more by adding thoughts about why the character does, says, to thinks that.

We teach students to hold on to those thoughts and gather them together to deduce The Big Idea”-the lesson that the author wants students to consider for their own lives. Moreover, collecting these ideas helps the reader understand what effects the setting and problems have on how the character acts earlier and later in the story.

It’s like putting a puzzle together. Meaning making requires that the pieces be connected by the reader.The mind work of meaning-making rapidly flows like a river in the direction the author has crafted. Issues, for example, that confront the character in the beginning of the story may only be a prelude to understanding how the character deals with bigger challenges that come  latter.

In that sense, the writer’s craft is a bit like a puzzle or video game that offers clues that must be analyzed in order to fully understand what the writer wishes to communicate. Some of the clues are abstract and not easily noticed, others are more obvious. The reader must learn how to notice the clues, hold on to them, and connect the clues as they read on.

The think aloud  process is the means and the gateway for guiding students to learn how to notice and think about the important FACT! clues authors plant in narrative text. Noticing the FACT! clues is the first step to understanding, and also fundamental to performing well on the STAAR Reading Test. By thinking aloud a teacher apprentices students to notice and think about the elusive nature of the narrative.

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