Fiction Text Structure Mini-Series

By far, the most visited place on my blog for the last couple of weeks has been fiction text features and structure.  I thought I’d take the lead from my readers and post a mini-series of activities on fiction text structure that I’ve used with several students in tutoring.  This is told as if I did all this with one student (to make it easier to read), but actually this is a combination of things I did with several readers-ranging from 2nd through 5th grades.

Here are a few things I observed with my student’s retellings:

  • She got caught up in the small details of the story
  • She left out important information to the story.
  • She would forget the order in which the events took place.
  • She had trouble organizing information to create a main idea of the story.

I decided she needed to take a close look at the typical narrative fiction text structure.  I thought this would help her organize the information in her head to make retelling easier.  She had outgrown the simple story maps of her younger years.  I needed something more robust.

So this reading mama set out, determined to find the “cure” for her retelling woes.  In all the reading textbooks I had lying around the house, I didn’t find much beyond the 1st grade level regarding fiction text structures!  I did come across a chapter in Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm.  In it, he talks about how reading achievement typically falls off as students get into the upper elementary grades.  He speaks directly to narrative texts and says,

“they become more sophisticated…straightforward become less straightforward, with unreliable narrators, implied main ideas and themes, the use of symbolism, flashbacks, and inference gaps….our students become disoriented when they are thrown into reading a new kind of text without assistance.” (pg. 138)

Although my student was only in the 3rd grade, I was already seeing signs of disorientation.  I became even more determined to figure this out!  I searched online and came across one website that had a structure chart for writing fiction and I adapted it to use when reading fiction: Fiction Text Structure .  This gave me a more sophisticated template for plot than the simple ones I had used in K and 1st grade.  I felt it would work for a more complicated storyline…even a chapter book.

I hope this mini-series of reading lessons will be helpful to you as much as they were for my student(s).

PLEASE post any questions or comments you have.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but would love to share and hear from you regarding fiction text structure.


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