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When reading, my son focuses mostly on plot. How can I help him understand deeper...

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bklerner | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 14, 2010 at 4:06 PM via web

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When reading, my son focuses mostly on plot. How can I help him understand deeper meanings and write more insightful essays?

He's in 9th grade & because of this he is not doing well in his English class. Where do I begin?

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 14, 2010 at 4:15 PM (Answer #2)

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I would recommend helping him find some poignant quotes. After you have together selected them, ask him some of these questions:

  • Why is this statement important?
  • What does is demonstrate or show about the time? characters?
  • What does this mean for us today?

Then, after he's answered a question ask why again. And keep following that with similar questions, "Why is that important?" "What does that show us?"

After having selected good quotes that illustrate some of the main themes and points of a text (you'll have to help him the first time), getting him to give answer to these questions will help him write. I have students select the most important quotes in a book and then write answers to these question with at least five different reasons.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 14, 2010 at 4:22 PM (Answer #3)

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This isn't really all that out of the ordinary for a ninth grade boy--or girl, for that matter.  Some of this surely should be part of what's happening in his English class at school, so I'm wondering if you've talked first with his teacher.  If not, I would certainly start there.  Ask what they're doing in class to develop this skill as well as what's coming up as far as reading material.  Perhaps you can get a copy of the next selection, short story, or novel and read along with him, guiding him in subtle ways toward more in-depth insights.

Once you've exhausted that resource, you might want to consider reading something very allegorical and kind of obvious with him.  I'm thinking of the Chronicles of Narnia (where the character of Aslan is not too far from a saving God) or the Lord of the Rings trilogy (where good and evil are clearly delineated).  If not these, find something similar in which he is likely to be interested.   If he's a sports fanatic, for example, there are many sports writers writing good allegory in editorials and feature articles.

Figuring out out how to write with more depth is another kind of problem; however, in general terms this is a matter of understanding the text and having something to say.  If you can find something which sparks a passion in him, he will have something to say.  I admire you for caring enough to help.  It's best to approach any new reading as a pleasure, as something you really think he'll enjoy, or he may just end up seeing your efforts as a "piling on" rather than an opportunity to grow. Best wishes on this journey.

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted October 15, 2010 at 11:57 AM (Answer #4)

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One of the best questions that a parent (or teacher) can ask a student about what he is reading is, "Does this remind you of anything else you have read/heard/viewed?" The answer does not need to be limited to "classic" novels. If your son can identify songs, movies, TV shows, etc., that the reading reminds him of, he is on the way to learning how to trace a theme.

It might also be that a character reminds him of another character. Whatever the connection, if he can identify something it reminds him of, then you can ask, "Why?" and "How?" As he offers responses, ask the next best question that you can ask a reader: "How do you know this is true?" (Another way to ask is, "What evidence is there in the reading to support what you just said?")

 

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:13 PM (Answer #5)

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One of the best questions that a parent (or teacher) can ask a student about what he is reading is, "Does this remind you of anything else you have read/heard/viewed?" The answer does not need to be limited to "classic" novels. If your son can identify songs, movies, TV shows, etc., that the reading reminds him of, he is on the way to learning how to trace a theme.

It might also be that a character reminds him of another character. Whatever the connection, if he can identify something it reminds him of, then you can ask, "Why?" and "How?" As he offers responses, ask the next best question that you can ask a reader: "How do you know this is true?" (Another way to ask is, "What evidence is there in the reading to support what you just said?")

 

This is exactly what I was going to say.  Try to get him to connect what he is reading to anything else.

Also, encourage personal connections whenever possible.  It is a little bit difficult to get a teenager (a male, especially) to talk about personal connections to books, and not sound horribly forced and cheesy, especially coming from his mother.  But I always encourage interested parents to read the texts along with their students.  If something strikes you, talk about it.  Then ask how he felt.

I think about the way kids talk about and quote really good movies or TV shows (sometimes endlessly).  I try to get a similar interest out of them for books.  Sometimes this just means finding the right book.  Sometimes it means cultivating the right atmosphere.

Don't worry too much, like Auntlori said, a focus on plot is pretty standard for his grade.  The main thing you should focus on is his interest in reading.  If you can help him find something he really likes, perhaps you can help him grow into a life-long reader.  The critical thinking will then come, with time.

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mazzzz | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted October 21, 2010 at 8:44 AM (Answer #6)

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give him a book he enjoyed to write an essay on..... chances are hell actually focus... -.-

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted October 22, 2010 at 1:44 PM (Answer #7)

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Oh my gosh. You have a 9th grade boy, and he reads without being forced to. I'd be very careful with this situation. It's possible that as a voluntary reader he will grow and mature into a reader who thinks more deeply about what he is reading. However, pushing to hard or making him feel as if he's reading wrong because he's just reading for plot and enjoyment might squelch his desire to read, and that is an abosolute no-no.

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