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Provide the Plot

April 29, 2009

“Teaching students to read beyond the basic understanding of the storyline has always been a difficult task; however, one way which may improve students' analytical literacy skills is to give the students the storyline on a timeline or plot diagram before they read. Tell them the basic plot, complete with the climax and resolution. After introducing the storyline, tell them that they will not be reading this story to find out what happens to ‘Gatsby’ but will be reading to recognize clues which point to Gatsby's death and the deaths of others in the story as well as symbolism and other literary elements.
Given a purpose, reading comprehension goes up. Providing the plot line and a basic understanding of the action helps to push the student on to the next level of understanding in literature. They know what will happen; now they can concentrate on watching for the foreshadowing clues and other elements which may occur in the reading.
After students get comfortable looking for these elements with the support of the knowledge of the storyline, teachers may begin to pull back a little on the support piece. Step one might be to give them the plotline without the resolution. In step two, the teacher may eliminate the climax. Eventually, the students are able to read a piece of literature with the awareness that they are not just trying to comprehend the plot, but they are to dissect the piece, looking for the same elements that have been introduced prior to this point.”

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