I am starting to see the fruit of doing the reading comprehension model I described last month. We have applied the ideas I described for about three weeks. I will briefly recap each step. I place every sticky note on the appropriate spot in the Go! Chart! as we work. Sometimes, we break up this process over lunch, but she can do it all in one sitting (it helps that I let her choose where she wants to work):
(1) Study the title and picture. Predict what might happen in the story. I record her ideas on a sticky note.
(2) Read the word list found after the table of contents. Predict what might happen in the story. I record her ideas on a sticky note.
(3) Tell me what words support her predictions. I record these words on a sticky note.
(4) Read the story aloud.
(5) Read a question and answer script I wrote to maintain already mastered syntax because the primer's syntax is too simple. First, I read the questions, and she reads the answers. Next, we swap roles. Then, I ask the questions and she answers them without peeking at anything.
(6) We break up the story into beginning, middle, and end. We figure out one big picture idea for the beginning, middle, and end. I write her ideas on three separate sticky notes.
(7) Orally narrate the story while I film. While she does other things, I write the story on sticky notes, putting literal understanding on one note and interpretation on another. Some day, I will have her help me do this.
(8) She does her copywork, written narration, and dictation plus worksheet activities that belonging practice, comparative sentences, looking at a picture and writing her own questions and answers, syntax-focused questions, and sequencing pictures.
(9) We go back to her predictions. I read them and she tells me if they are true or false.
(10) She makes connections between the story and her life or other stories. I record them on a sticky note. The syntax is "__________ reminds me of __________ because . . ."
(11) While she works, I type up the original narration in Excel, one sentence per cell. I print it and cut it up into strips. I add blanks in sentences to "improve" them: adjectives, objects, prepositional phrases, etc. She sorts the strips by beginning, middle, and end. Then, she fills in the blanks and fixes any syntax mistakes. Finally, we make changes based upon order, such as using "a/an/some" when something is first mentioned and then going to "the" for all other references to it. Another improvement is we replace the subject with pronouns to avoid too much repetition. Basically, I model for her how to read your own writing and improve it. She has not internalized all of this as you will see, but I do see better narrations.
(12) Usually, I film her doing one final narration. This time I had her write her narration and here it is:
I asked Pamela to read her written narration aloud to me and you can bet I spotlighted it through the big smiles on my face, a cheery congratulations, and a hug. Later, her dad read the story aloud to her, while she watched him carefully. When he looked up at her and smiled as he read, Pamela's smile got wider and prouder. She clearly knew what a wonderful accomplishment this was.
Let me give you some comparisons. Pamela's narration contained sixteen sentences, and made only three minor syntax errors. All of her facts, sequencing, and inferences are accurate. Pamela wrote the following narration last month, the day before I left for the Charlotte Mason conference. While Pamela made no syntax errors, the sequencing in her narration did not match the actual story and the animals had been drinking water, not eating.
Back in 2004/2005, the children wrote in journals. Pamela did many "backdated" entries for fun. We had not worked on any verbs except for has/wants/sees/is/are. You can see how unsure she is about verbs and has some odd syntax. Her paragraphs are very short. Another sample entry to narrate one day in her life was, "Mommy is dropped of the dogs in Monks Corner. Mommy can picked up Daddy."