Using Basal Readers for a Literature Study

In my combined first and second grade there was a literature study for the first semester, using basal readers.. All second graders took part, and every year a few first graders were included who were beyond the beginning reading programs. People often asked why basal readers were used with the controlled vocabulary that eliminated the style of the author – and call it a literature study. Well, first of all, the fiction, non-fiction, plays, and poems in the basal series that were used were excellent.1 A few, such as poems, did not have a controlled vocabulary. But even those that did were well-written in an interesting manner. We talked about the style of the author in the afternoons when literature was read to them, sometimes comparing a current piece with a story in a basal reader. But the major reason might well be that keeping track of so many different books for a semester might not be manageable. Also, in those beginning years there wasn’t much money for new books, prohibiting the collection of multiple copies of various pieces of literature. The final reason, but not the least important, is that although many children could read various children’s literature comfortably, some could not, usually because of perceptual problems.

The program included questions that combined components of literature with cognitive processes. Children interacted orally with a peer and then a large group, sandwiched between reading and writing at their own ability level. My hope was that the knowledge gained transferred into each child’s own reading in selected books of interest.

1. Early, Margaret, Senior Author. 1979. “The World of Giants and  Monsters”, People and Places, 7-57. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (It has long been out of print but there are used book stores on the web that still carry the series.)

Learn  about using this literature study, in a class or how to design your own, in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where this program and others, plus classroom activities, can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Three Different Story Plots for Young Children

In my combined first and second grade, children really enjoyed learning about three different story plots: A  progressive plot as found in “The House That Jack Built” keeps building up step by step throughout the story until the climax begins to resolve before the ending. Episodic plots are chapter books, and parallel plots such as the two plots proceeding side by side as in Blueberries for Sal. Children learned this very easily and liked to identify it in literature read to them or in stories they read themselves. And sometimes a child would use the progressive plot or the parallel plot in a story she was writing.

Learn more about the programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where described programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

A Literature Study for an Early Childhood Class

A study of literature allows opportunities for children to further enjoy reading on their own – hopefully a lifetime pursuit. The more a child thinks, feels, and understands his reading, the more enjoyment he attains.

For the first year in my combined first and second grade, only top second grade students were involved – which was a mistake. All children, I soon found out, could benefit. From then on the Literature Group, meeting for one semester, included all second graders and a few first graders who were reading and beyond the beginning program. Most of the second graders were very capable, but a few had varying degrees of learning disabilities.

The intent of the program was to allow children opportunities to develop an appreciation and understanding of literature through an integrated language arts curriculum, utilizing various modes of thinking. Offering a collection of literature by itself is not enough. Children’s concepts are constantly being added to, modified, or revised. In addition to being exposed to literature, children also need a variety of thinking strategies. Children were involved with questions that fused components of literature with various cognitive processes. For instance, one question might be, “Name one thing about (character) that is not real. What other characters are there in stories that are like this?” So, these questions involve understanding and analyzing the qualities of the character.

After children had read a selection, they discussed the answers to questions with a partner. Answers were then shared with the whole group, including my thoughts. Answers were written to some of the questions by making a first and second draft plus occasionally engaging in a non-verbal activity such as art. Each child kept her writing in a booklet. All children contributed to discussions. During the reading and writing phase, many children worked independently, some with help in reading while a few would dictate their ideas for writing and receive help in writing their second drafts. But all would create answers to questions with their own ideas. While children were reading, discussing, writing, or artistically involved, they were sharing and creating experiences at their own comprehension level.

Learn more about the literature program and how to design your own program combining components of literature with cognitive processes in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved