“What just happened in the story?” When a student is reading fiction, this is the question I ask first. As they respond, I begin to notice what they are NOT saying OR important details that might have been overlooked.
During a recent conference, a student read the page below to me easily. The title of the book is Jason and the Blind Puppy. Up front the reader knows there is a blind puppy and the main character Jason is deaf. When I asked “What just happened in the story?” they responded with “There’s a blind puppy and he bonked his head!” This reveals understanding of the last part of that page which I affirmed (or hope I did ;). Then I asked, “Is there anything else important that happened in this part of the story?” The student reread and said, “They might start digging up Mrs. Brown’s flowers.”
Think aloud when meaning breaks down or is missing
The student was not recalling that Mrs. Brown said she would have to find homes soon for the puppies. This is an important detail that moves the story forward and creates some tension for the reader because the reader (who already knows there’s a blind puppy) realizes it might be hard to find a home for a blind dog.
At this point in the conference, I thought aloud about what I was noticing as a reader: “I noticed that one of the characters, Mrs. Brown, says something I think is important–that she is going to have to find homes for the puppies. I already know from the title that there’s a blind puppy in the story and I’m thinking OH MY GOSH how are they going to find a home for a blind puppy???? That sounds hard. Do you agree?”
Get in guided practice
We also discussed (guided practice) how in the next paragraph Jason is the one who notices and says aloud that one of the puppies must be blind. Again – a character is saying something that is important to think about. The reader realizes there’s a problem and wants to read on to find out what happens.
Make the teaching point clear
When I closed the conference with the student, I used language the student can use for themselves beyond the lesson: “As we’re reading, it’s important to notice what the characters are saying (doing, thinking) that might be important. And then to ask ourselves, “WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT????”
Position the student as a problem solver
A beautiful moment in this lesson was when I asked the student to share with their peers what they did to problem solve. The student responded emphatically “Well I noticed the character saying something important!”
Hope this helps.