Friday, March 25, 2016

Novels: Making Connections and 4-1-1 Comprehension Checks

Reading novels is a staple in every level in our World Language department. Below are two new approaches I used with reading a novel. 

1. Connecting to the character in the story. 
This year is the first time my students are reading the TPRS Publishing novel, Frida Kahlo, by Kristy Placido.  Before we started reading, I gave them the paper below.  They read the statements and responded to the scenarios on another paper that had 15 blank squares.  

The students did NOT know that these statements were events that happened in Frida Kahlo's life or were similar experiences (such as #9 & #10), that we were soon going to read in the novel. 

I created similar events (#9 & #10)
in order to provide examples that are plausible for my students.  (Ex: Frida called Diego out on his relationship with an art model when he was painting at her school. The possibility of our school commissioning an artist to paint a mural on our school wall is very unlikely so my example is the student's boss, who is married, has a romantic relationship with another person.)

After each chapter that mentioned one, or more, of the examples in the chart, we discussed the students' answers and compared them to Frida Kahlo's actions.  If what the student had written was similar to Frida's actions, they circled the square. If it was different than Frida's actions, they drew a bold "X" over the square.  After discussing all 15 examples, we were quickly able to identify which students could relate to events in Frida's life.  

2. Checking comprehension with Higher Order Thinking 
There are (a few) times that I assign homework for my students to read a chapter or two from the novel we are reading together in class.  A twist on checking their comprehension of the chapter (and also to see if they read the chapter), is to give them the 4-1-1 Comprehension Check.

To create a 4-1-1 Comprehension Check, you will need to choose 4 sentences from the chapter(s) that the students read for homework (or that they read in class). Then add a sentence of something that DIDN'T happen in the text, but is something that could have happened.  Write another sentence of something that DIDN'T happen and IS NOT a logical option of what could have happened in the chapter.  

4-1-1 Comprehension Check - ch6 of Frida Kahlo
Type the sentences in random order.  The students have to find the 4 sentences with information that occurred in the text they read. (If they are sentences with a clear chronological order, ask students to put them in order.)  For the remaining two sentences, students determine which one didn't happen but could have, and which sentence is not a logical choice of a possible event in the book and then they must DEFEND their reason for their choices with information in that particular chapter or previous chapters.  

The above example is from chapter 6 of "Frida Kahlo".  The two sentences that are NOT from the novel are B and E.  The book does not mention that Frida told her sister about the rats, but since Frida was closest to her younger sister and they spent a lot of time together, it would be a logical possibility that Frida would tell her sister about the rats.

The sentence that is not a logical possibility is E because if students read the chapter they know that Frida was hiding the rats from her mother. Frida would not want to give the rats to her mother as a gift because her mother would not agree to permit Frida to continue caring for them. 

Another chapter in Frida Kahlo that is perfect for a 4-1-1 Comprehension Check is chapter 7 that lists the mischievous acts of Frida and her friends at la Escuela Nacional Preparatoria.

This 4-1-1 Comprehension Check is beneficial in that students have to separate fact from fiction. If they read the chapter and understood what they were reading, it should be a fairly simple task for them to find the two sentences that are not from the text.  The higher order thinking skills are needed to determine which sentence is/is not a possibility, and then defend the answer using information already known about the character or the plot.

The 4-1-1 Comprehension Check can be used as a formative or summative assessment.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I really struggle with ideas to take their reading to the next level. I love that I found your blog. I will be stalking and commenting as I go! Thank you for sharing and helping me and my students out!

  2. Gracias Señora Hitz! Me gusta la forma en que relaciona los hechos de la lectura con la vida de los alumnos.

  3. This 4-1-1 business with IDing the four TRUES, the one FALSE, yet logical, and the one FALSE, but illogical, is SLICK! I was just thinking about how I could keep the flow, and keep my kiddos plugged in. Voila! Here it is! Thank you! And the 15 scenarios for What would you do? Terrific writing prompts! Freewrites? Like an early Christmas gift!

  4. I am just starting to discover TPRS and these are such great ideas! Thanks for sharing! :)

  5. Muchas gracias :) De las mejores ideas que encontrado con este tema.

  6. Thank you, I will use it in my class.