In prose -- language written with the grammatical structure of natural speech -- often the author aims to evoke emotions or ideas that require input from readers’ own experiences for comprehension to take place. Because in prose writers may not explicitly state a purpose, understanding prose compels readers to think imaginatively, working to establish a personal connection with what they read. Teachers of prose work to develop the reader as a whole -- helping to shape not only better readers, but better thinkers.
Break It Up
Breaking a longer piece of prose up into smaller sections for multiple close readings allows teachers to ensure that students have the opportunity to involve their own thinking with the text. Repeated reading helps students build comprehension and become more comfortable with an author’s writing style. To help students focus their thinking as they read, provide a list of questions for students to answer about the excerpt. Ask some surface-level questions that explicitly tie back to the reading, but also ask higher-level questions that may be more open-ended. Asking questions that don’t have a single correct answer sparks meaningful discussions, integrating students’ perspectives about their reading.
Facilitating class discussions about prose allows students to share their unique thoughts about the reading. It is easy for students to tune out as the teacher lectures about prose, but a class discussion puts the responsibility for learning back in students’ hands. To ensure all students participate, break the class into small groups to discuss slightly challenging questions. Reconvene as a whole class after several minutes, and have a member from each group report that group’s conclusions, inviting feedback from other groups. The entire class benefits from hearing the multiple perspectives unearthed by a class discussion.
Create Found Poems
Encourage creative thinking while also targeting comprehension skills by having students create "found poems" based on prose they have read. Provide students with a passage of prose, and have them highlight between 50 and 100 words or phrases that are the most interesting or meaningful. Have students list the highlighted words in order on a separate piece of paper, skipping lines between each word. Walk students through the process of rereading their lists several times, eliminating words that do not fit with the poem until there are between 25 and 50 of the most important words remaining. Have students title their poems, and present them to their peers.
The Five-S Strategy
Teach students to analyze prose passages by introducing the Five-S strategy. After giving students a prose passage, offer them a graphic organizer with the headings “speaker,” “situation,” “sentences,” “shifts” and “syntax.” Walk students through the process of recording their observations and interpretations for each heading of the graphic organizer, using evidence from the prose for support. For example, in the “syntax” section, students would record examples from the reading in which the word order seemed interesting or significant. After the example, urge students to comment on how the syntax affected the overall meaning of the passage.
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