High school English curriculums are filled with novels. They are fun to read and fun to teach. But if you have struggling readers in your class, teaching a novel can really be difficult...for the teacher and the child. A struggling reader may fall behind in the reading. May not catch the point of the novel. May become disinterested and defeated.
One thing that helps me and my students are what I call STOPS!
Here is how they work:
I assign reading- Let’s say Chapter 1.
I give the students an accompanying list of STOPS. We look them over before they set off to their reading. This just helps them remember, a little, that on page 5 there is a STOP.
What is a STOP?
It is just a question that helps the student know what to focus on. It is not usually a comprehension question. I usually do not ask questions that have right answers.
“Page 5, paragraph 2. STOP-- what do you notice about the setting?”
"Page 6-end of page STOP-- what does this town's name make you think of?"
"Page 10- when narrator says 'enter quote here' is this in line with what we know to be true?"
They write their answer on a post it note and stick it in the book. These post its are in addition to the regular annotations they make-- questions, connections and inferences.
The STOPS teach them is what good readers do. We interact and engage with the text. We look for clues the author left us. STOPS are also setting students up to be able to answer text dependent questions. They are using the text to help them form opinions, inferences and ideas about the text.
These STOPS are amazing for teaching character development, foreshadowing, symbolism and those other beautiful techniques authors use to engage us- the reasons we teach novels. STOPS allow students to pick up little clues along the way so when the character, foreshadowing, symbol...comes to fruition they can have a hand in helping unfold and uncover it with you. It is much more fun than at the end of the book you telling them it happened and showing them via notes!
These STOPS help struggling readers by pointing out to them what is important. STOPS help them know what to focus on. If they fall behind, they can at least skim and focus on the STOPS. It gives them a reasonable way to catch up while staying engaged and focused on the important aspects of the novel.
STOPS help all burgeoning readers, not just the struggling ones. Even a student who has great reading fluency and comprehension is new to the literary devices we are teaching them to recognize, understand and analyze.
STOPS are also awesome to help set up class discussions, small group discussions and lit circles. You can have a far more robust discussion if all the students were all thinking about the same aspect of the book rather than what they thought was important or interesting.
As good readers we take for granted the skills we have. Discerning what is important vs what is not is a skill. We must impart it to our students. STOPS (or whatever you'd like to call them) help us do that.
do not make too many STOPS. It will prevent kids from having a flow to their reading, and that is annoying
do not use STOPS for pleasure reading