Elementary Reading Help: Exploring Graphic Organizers and Other Written Reading Assignments

Elementary students often do not understand what is required in by their reading homework. Parents need to explain these assignments, especially when they make use of the latest teaching techniques, like graphic organizers.

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Teachers are using new teaching techniques and learning tools that can enhance a child's education. Parents need to understand the methods being used and explain them to their children. This article can help parents comprehend modern graphic organizers and other recent advancements in literacy education.

A graphic organizer is a chart that breaks down the various aspects of a story or other text. These worksheets have very simple graphics and sections, but often have little in the way of directions. When a child has a firm grasp of the important components of a book such as character, setting, problem, rising action, climax and resolution, the organizer becomes much easier to understand. Understanding how to work with an organizer as you gather the information about a story is the key.

Most plot organizers look similar. Usually the chart looks like a pyramid of boxes and lines. To start, your student will need to assign each of the aspects of the story its own box. Here are some of the aspects your child will be working with and roughly where they are entered on most graphic organizers:

  • Character: Students should list and describe the main characters of the given story. This should be written on the bottom of the diagram to the left.
  • Setting: Next to the character section, your student should describe the setting of the story, including location and the time the action took place.
  • Conflict: Elementary reading teachers want to ensure their students to identify the primary conflict or problem of the story. Your student should describe this problem next to the setting where an angled line rises upward.
  • Rising action: Along that rising line your student should describe the rising action or the events that move the story along and cause the story to develop.
  • Climax: When your child notes the critical action and turning point of the novel has occurred, he should describe this event at the peak of the diagram.
  • Resolution: This is how the story ends and the point at which all of the problems are or have been resolved. Elementary school teachers expect third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders to describe the resolving of events at the bottom line of the diagram all the way to the right.

Another graphic organizer, the Character Map, is designed with a circle or box in the middle. This circle represents the main character. The circles or boxes that surround it represent different characteristics of the main character. Elementary students are expected to describe the various aspects of the character in each box or circle. Sometimes teachers will assign a similar worksheet but for a different aspect of a story such as the setting or plot; either way, the middle usually holds the main, general component and the outlying graphics hold the details.

The SSR (Symbolic Story Representation) is designed to help students express their creativity. SSR assignments encourage a student to look at the meaning and symbolism in a story and then create or find an object to represent this symbolism. In order to be successful, an elementary schooler must fully comprehend the events in a story and be able to analyze the deeper meaning. If your student is given a SSR assignment, don't worry about not having the 'right' craft supplies. These assignments don't need to be extravagant. Many students use pictures from magazines or create pictures or posters of their own. The point is that your child think about what he's read and respond to it with a symbolic gesture.

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