CHARACTERISTICS CHART Following is an overview of some (text-types) that are often read by students and the task-specific processes a reader uses to read them. As you introduce a genre to kids, develop such lists of characteristics with your students. Through think-alouds and other lessons, model how you pay attention to these features to help you read and enjoy the text.

• Main who is a detective who Mystery sets out to solve a mystery. The Basic Definition • Suspects and their motives; these must • A subgenre of ; often be weighed and evaluated. thought of as a detective story. • Overt Clues about the crime are • Usually involves a mysterious death or presented. a crime to be solved. In a closed circle • Hidden Evidence is presented, i.e., of suspects, each suspect must have a essential details are offered in such a credible motive and a reasonable oppor- way that they seem unimportant. tunity for committing the crime. The • Inference Gaps—mysteries, by their central character must be a detective very nature, do not tell the whole story. who eventually solves the mystery by It is up to readers to notice the gaps in logical deduction from facts fairly pre- the story and try to fill these gaps by sented to the reader. This classic struc- using and connecting the information ture is the basis for hundreds of varia- that is presented. tions on the form. • —having to hold various possi- Purpose ble conclusions at bay as you wait to To engage in and enjoy solving a puzzle. see what happens; reader is expected to Explore satisfaction (or dissatisfac- enjoy the suspense, and to read to find tion) at resolution. Consider human con- out what will happen. dition and how to solve or avoid human • —clues left by the author problems. as to possible outcomes. Tip-Offs (also known as rules of notice) • —a kind of foreshadowing • Mystery, crime, or another puzzle to be clue that leads the reader to false solved. conclusions.

142 Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies • Scholastic Professional What a Mystery Requires of a Reader Tip-Offs The reader’s job is to put the puzzle pieces • Often starts with birth or early life and offered by the author together to figure often covers birth-to-death. out the mystery, to appreciate the detec- • Often delves in to a person's formative tive’s craft, and to take moral satisfaction years, exploring early influences on a from the solution to the mystery. To do subject's later life. this, readers must notice and make mean- • Situates person’s life in historical terms ing with the codes offered above, i.e., they and a cultural context. must notice the various forms of evidence • Uses direct quotes from person and and evaluate them; they must notice infer- those who knew her. ence gaps and try to fill them. • Sometimes uses fictionalized scenes/dia- logues but always based on what is known about the person and the events Biography described. The Basic Definition • Often uses pictures, maps, photo- • A subgenre of narrative nonfiction/his- graphs, or other historically available torical nonfiction. documents. • Presents the facts about an individual's • Biographer possesses a point of view, a life and makes an attempt to interpret larger agenda, and a purpose in report- those facts, explaining the person's ing on the person’s life. feelings and motivations. Good biogra- What a Biography Requires of a Reader phers use many research tools to gather Reader should consider author’s purpose and synthesize information about their in presenting the biography. Is it idealized? subject, including the person’s words, fair? Why or why not? Is bio a hatchet actions, journals, reactions, related job? Why? Who is the biographer? When books, interviews with friends, rela- was this biography written? How does this tives, associates and enemies, historical affect my reading of it? How does this context, psychology, primary source help me to understand the influence of documents. this person on , and history and Purpose ’s effect on her? How might this Often to understand the person and the person be a model for things to do or not events and history affected by that person. do in my own life?

Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies • Scholastic Professional Books 143 Tall Tales The Basic Definition The Basic Definition A subgenre of narrative fiction/folktales. A short tale used to teach a moral lesson, One of four categories of folktales gener- often with animals as characters. ally recognized by folklorists. (Others are Purpose the variants of European folktales, such To instruct, to teach humans a lesson about as Jack and the Beanstalk, the folktales recognizing and overcoming their foibles; of African Americans that grew out of to critique authority figures in humorous African and European roots; and the tales and anonymous ways; to poke fun. of Native American groups) Tall tales Tip-Offs include “exuberant combinations of fact • The story is very brief. with outrageous fiction.” The tales fea- • Main characters are usually animals ture an “improvement” on actual hap- and are characterized quickly with a penings. The between fact and few broad strokes. fiction is enhanced by giving the story • One animal/character usually displays a realistic framework and by a deadpan the vice or foible being critiqued. This style. foible is what brings embarassment or a Purpose downfall to the character and this con- To entertain, celebrate cleverness of , clusion leads directly to the moral, imagine “What If?” and show resilience which follows the and is stated in of group he represents. one sentence. Tip-Offs What a Fable Requires of a Reader • Realism combined with outrageous The reader must pay attention to the title, exaggeration. which will cue who or what to pay atten- • Often reflects the hardships endured tion to. Then the reader must figure out the by the American settlers. symbolic value of each animal or charac- • Heroes embody courage, brute force, ter—what human trait does each represent? cleverness, as well as the virtues of The reader must recognize introductory sit- thrift, hard work, and perseverance. uation and what causes the complication and consequences. He reads moral and understands how the events of the story,

144 Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies • Scholastic Professional Books particularly the conclusion, lead to and how it is explained or linked to the claim. mirror the instructive statement summa- The reader may want to express reservations rized by the moral. Reader should consider and see if these are or could be responded how the moral might apply to her own life. to. Ultimately, the reader must decide if she is compelled by the and if so, what she should believe and do as a result. The Basic Definition The process of presenting or comprehend- ing a reasoned case. The Basic Definition Purpose A text that uses , sarcasm, and ridicule To inquire into problems and possible to expose and make fun of human folly solutions, to persuade or convince others and vice. to change belief or take , to try and Purpose get one’s way! To critique the status quo, to make fun Tip-Offs of others and the self, and to offer • A need or desire for something new or renewed alternatives and possibilities for for something to change is expressed. being different. • This assertion is supported through the Tip-Offs use of evidence and warrants explaining • Something is being made fun of, irony how the evidence leads to this claim. is being used, there is a of mockery • Something is being promoted. or derision, perhaps the author seems to (Advertisements almost always contain be supporting a point of view that you an argument. Argument is incorporated cannot expect her to seriously support. into many forms of propaganda and What a Requires of a Reader persuasion.) The reader must discern what is being What an Argument Requires of a Reader made fun of and what possible alternatives The reader must first understand what is are being offered. The reader must decide being claimed and what is at stake. What what is not under dispute in the text, will happen or follow if we agree with or what is under dispute, and how to recon- reject the argument? If others agree with or struct the real implied meaning behind reject the argument? Then the reader must the false satiric meanings being literally recognize and evaluate the evidence and presented by the author.

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