Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reading comprehension passages, then and now

I. From the website superteacherworksheets.com, Fourth Grade Reading Comprehension Worksheets:

Roly Poly Pill Bugs

Some people are afraid of bugs such as spiders or beetles. But there is one bug that just about everybody likes—pill bugs. If you ever pick one up, you know why its nickname is “roly-poly.” A pill bug rolls up into a tight little ball to protect itself. This bug is scared of you, not the other way around!

These little gray or brown bugs can be found almost everywhere in the United States except the desert. That is because they need to stay moist. But they can live in dry places like California thanks to lawn sprinklers. One of their favorite hang-outs is under damp flower pots.

Did you know that pill bugs have something in common with kangaroos? After her eggs hatch, the mother pill bug carries her young in a pouch under her belly. The little pill bugs stay there until they are big enough to be on their own.

Pill bugs also have something in common with snakes. Just as snakes shed their skin when it gets too small, pill bugs do too. This is called “molting.” A pill bug molts about five times until it is full-grown.

Pill bugs are a little like owls, too. Pill bugs are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. That is when they most like to wander around and look for food.

And just like earthworms, pill bugs help break down plants in the soil. Pill bugs aren’t just nice bugs. They are also interesting ones!

I. From the McGuffey Third Reader, first printed in 1837:
The Beaver

1. The beaver is found chiefly in North America. It is about three and a half feet long, including the flat, paddle-shaped tail, which is about a foot in length.
2. The long, shining hair on the back is chestnut-colored, while the fine, soft fur that lies next to the skin, is grayish brown.
3. Beavers build themselves most curious huts to live in, and quite frequently a great number of these huts are placed close together, like the buildings in a town.
4. They always build their huts on the banks of rivers or lakes, for they swim much more easily than they walk, and prefer moving about in the water.
5. When they build on the bank of a running stream, they make a dam across the stream for the purpose of keeping the water at the height they wish.
6. These dams are made chiefly of mud, and stones, and the branches of trees. They are sometimes six or seven hundred feet in length, and are so constructed that they look more like the work of man than of little dumb beasts.
7. Their huts are made of the same material as the dams, and are round in shape. The walls are very thick, and the roofs are finished off with a layer of mud, sticks, and leaves.
8. They commence building their homes late in the summer, but do not get them finished before the early frosts. The freezing makes them tighter and stronger.
9. They obtain the wood for their dams and huts by gnawing through the branches of trees, and even through the trunks of small ones, with their sharp front teeth. They peel off the bark, and lay it up in store for winter food.
10. The fur of the beaver is highly prized. The men who hunt these animals are called trappers.
11. A gentleman once saw five young beavers playing. They would leap on the trunk of a tree that lay near a beaver dam, and would push one another off into the water.
>12. He crept forward very cautiously, and was about to fire on the little creatures; but their amusing tricks reminded him so much of some little children he knew at home, that he thought it would be inhuman to kill them. So he left them without even disturbing their play.
III. Reading comprehension questions

1. Contrast the strategies used by the authors to make their passages interesting to young readers. Discuss such tactics as:

-making the content familiar (connecting the information to what the reader already knows) vs. making the content new and different (immersing the reader in another world).

-including vivid, interesting details vs. simply telling the reader directly that the topic is interesting.

-exploring a subtopic in depth vs. rapidly changing subtopics.

-use of exclamation points.

2. Contrast the authors' attitudes towards the reader: which author is more respectful of the reader's natural curiosity, and which one seems more worried about losing the reader's attention?

3. Which of the two texts are readers more likely to remember long term?

1 comment:

Keith said...

Wow! Quite a difference in styles! Although we certainly encourage students to write with sentence variety, there's almost too much of it in the first sample, which is on the one hand distracting, and on the other seems to really "dumb down" the passage. The comparison idea is an interesting one, which I'll have to try out with my students.