Story elements – you’ve been over it briefly already, and the kids have “covered” it in previous years. So do you really need to teach story elements in detail? Sometimes it’s hard to decide. Sometimes it seems as if the class as a whole has got it, when the reality is that some kids do understand the concept and some don’t – and the last thing you want to do is any extra testing to find out!
It might be possible to get much of the information you need from a class discussion – note who volunteers answers, who is always correct, and who just likes to answer but maybe doesn’t come up with the correct answer without prompting. You may see that there are some concepts that the class can discuss easily, and others that they don’t have much to say about.
If the concepts under question are story elements, the questions below might be helpful to work into a class discussion for a quick, informal check on whether students are ready to move on. First read a fiction story together, or read it to the class, and then follow up with a discussion including questions such as these:
- Which is your favorite character, and why?
- How do you know that (character’s name) is the main character?
- How do each of these characters relate to the main character? (Name a few minor characters.)
- Do you share any character traits with (name a character)?
- How would this story be different if it were set in (name a different place)?
- How would this story be different if it were set in (name a different time period)?
- How might your own life be different if you were living in (the time and place of the story)?
- What do you think will happen next? What evidence from the story points you in that direction?
- Describe a similar situation that you have been in yourself or have read about in another story or article.
- What do you think the author wanted us to learn from this story?
- What did the story tell us about (the general topic of the story)?
- What did the story teach us about (theme)?
- In one word (or one phrase) what would you say this story was about?
- Have you ever read another story with a similar theme?
- Who had the main problem in this story? What was the problem?
- What type of problem was it?
- How was the problem resolved?
- In what other stories have you heard of a similar type of conflict?
Depending on what your kids have covered in previous years (and how good they are at remembering it!), you may want your list of questions to look different from this one. Just add more detailed questions for kids who already have the basics, or ask questions in another way for those who need more prompting.
Whatever questions you decide to use, it should be a fun activity since kids always like to talk and tell what they know. Sure, you’ll still need more direct testing somewhere along the way, but at least for now you have a good start at knowing where you’re kids are with their reading skills – probably enough, in fact, to jump right into reading a favorite novel or story!