While reading levels vary among 8-year-old children, a number of developmental standards exist upon which reading games can be based. An 8-year-old will generally show increasing independence and read for longer periods (10 to 15 minutes), develop greater ability to recall and summarize stories and have increasing awareness of story structure and plot lines, like problems and solutions. They are also better able to predict, compare and contrast basic themes and characters. By using games which focus on these areas, a child will enjoy both enhanced skills and a greater appreciation for reading.
Comparing and Contrasting
In comparing and contrasting, a child identifies similarities and differences between characters, themes and events in a story. One way to reinforce comparing and contrasting is to use a Venn diagram. Draw two large circles on a piece of paper, which overlap to create three roughly equal areas. Ask the child to choose two animals, like a porcupine and an elephant. Invite the child to write the names of the selected animals, one above each outer section, and then draw each animal in the area beneath. Afterwards, discuss the characteristics of the animals, highlighting the differences and similarities between the two. Encourage the child to imagine combining the two and come up with a name for the new animal, like a porcuphant or elepine. Write this name above the middle section of the diagram and invite the child to draw it in the space. This is a particularly effective exercise for visual learners.
Independent Reading and Summarizing
Read a section or chapter of a book with a child for around 10 minutes. Sit alongside the child, looking at the text as the child reads aloud, so that it is clear you are reading together. If you are in a group, the children can take turns to each read a sentence aloud. Afterwards, discuss what has happened in the section that you read. Talk about events and characters and how you both felt about them. Then invite the child to read a similar length section alone. Pay attention as it is read aloud, but don't follow the text as before, so that it is clear the child is reading independently. Afterwards, invite the child to describe what happened. Ask questions to elicit information, but as if you are unaware of events and characters. This exercise encourages analysis and overall comprehension.
In making predictions, a child will take a picture, title or piece of text and form ideas and expectations about what will come next. This could mean what the story is about overall, or simply what event will follow the one just read about. One way of encouraging predictions is to look at the front cover of a book or read the title of a chapter and ask for the child's thoughts on what it will be about and what events are expected to happen. Another way to encourage prediction is to discuss what the child thinks or hopes will happen next in the story. A stimulating game, combining recall with prediction, is to create a storyboard. Divide a piece of paper in to eight or 10 squares and ask the child to fill in the first five to seven squares with drawings of the story so far. Then ask the child to predict and draw the rest of the story in the remaining squares. After the story or chapter has been completed, go back and discuss the child's earlier predictions. What was different and what did the child get right?
Story Structure and Plotlines
An effective game for encouraging a child to think about story structure is to create a story puzzle. Print or write out a short story on to a piece of paper and chop it in to four or five sections. Give the child the sections, which must be assembled in to the correct order. Encourage the child to find the first section, from which the rest of the puzzle can be pieced together. After doing this successfully, the child can read the full story to you aloud. This game can be expanded to include plot lines, by using longer stories and more sections. It can also be developed to encompass making predictions, by providing the child with only the first half of the story. Once this has been assembled, the child can predict what will happen next, before being given the final pieces to complete the story.
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