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Provide the Plot

Found in: language arts and literature; reading comprehension

Teaching students to read beyond the basic understanding of the storyline has always been a difficult task; however, one way that 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. Knowing what will happen, students can concentrate on identifying clues like foreshadowing and other elements that occur in the narrative.

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, students are able to read a piece of literature with the awareness that they are not just trying to comprehend the plot, but are dissecting it, looking for the same elements that have been introduced prior to this point.

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