Why I Wrote This Post
I wrote this post to help parents – help their children – develop their reading comprehension. The simple steps I show you in this post can be done with any novel. Over a relatively short period of time, these simple steps will dramatically increase your child’s reading comprehension.
ChickenSpike is a novel written at a 3rd grade reading level. The story line is exciting and it is written in a format that makes young readers feel successful. The first and most important step in developing a strong reader is time spent in the saddle (reading).
Step 1 – Read
The best way to build reading comprehension is to read. I suggest that you have your child read for an hour each day. I did this with my son when he was in elementary school, and it proved to be one of the best educational choice that I ever made.
Think of reading like you would think of learning a new language. If you are trying to learn how to speak Spanish, and you only speak it for a half an hour each day, you will likely never learn any more than a few key words and phases. On the other hand, if you go to Spain or Mexico, and you immerse yourself in the language, you will be speaking fluently within a year. Learning to read is the same. When you are learning to read, you are learning the written language. The best way to learn the written language is to immerse yourself in novels.
Step 2 – Graffiti Art
I like to use Graffiti Artwork to help children develop their reading comprehension. Graffiti Art is effective because all children feel successful, and the depth of learning is endless. When beginning to use Graffiti Art, children usually start by by drawing pictures of the characters and the setting. I ask questions that require children to make inferences about the characters and their choices. Then I tell them to add the inferences to the Graffiti Art. I explain how this is done in the video below chapter 1.
Daily Reading & Graffiti Art Develops the Following:
- Reading Fluency
- Reading Comprehension
- Comparing & Contrasting
- Drawing Conclusions
- Problem Solving
- Relating to personal experiences
Now, let’s read a chapter from the novel ChickenSpike.
My Adventures with ChickenSpike
The Bully of Sunny Hill Elementary
I knew that I was in trouble when I heard Caesar Slack’s angry voice.
“Harry Hearthstone! You pipsqueak. You little fourth grader! Stop! Bow to your King!”
Caesar Slack caught me with his chubby, fat fist and sent me doubling over into the dirt. I tried to hide my pain, but I couldn’t. My stomach felt as if it had just been tied into a triple looping knot. A tear welled up rolling over my lower lash.
Caesar had always hated his name. He thought that it sounded rather sissy. His mother, on the other hand, loved it. Then one day in social studies, Caesar Slack found out about the Roman Emperor with the same name as him. It wasn’t long before Caesar had all of the younger boys and girls in our school calling him Caesar the Great, and worshipping him as king – or else!
‘Think quickly,’ I said to myself. To Caesar I said, “Why Caesar, what a lovely day in your kingdom. How may I be of service to your majesty?” My voice squeaked a little as my stomach attempted to untangle itself.
Caesar Slack had dirty, brown hair that shot out in all directions from his overly round head, like a loosely wrung mop turned upside down. He was the type of boy who never spoke quietly and right now he was mad – real mad.
Caesar screamed, “I think you was lying to me when you gave me them smartness pills! I still flunked my math test yesterday!”
I looked up from the ground. “Your majesty. May I have permission to speak?”
He kicked dirt into my face with his big, sixth grade foot. “Speak up, peasant!”
“Well your royal-ness, you’ve only been taking those pills for three weeks. Sometimes they take a while to start working. I’ll bet you will be getting smarter real soon.”
“You know what I think?” Caesar was so mad spit started spraying out from between his chapped lips. “I think that them ain’t smartness pills at all. I think that they were rabbit pellets!”
You see, I started giving Caesar my rabbit’s dinner about three weeks ago. He had stopped me on the playground and asked me why I was so smart. He said that he would beat me to a pulp every day if I didn’t help him. I knew that I needed to think quickly. I told him that I took smartness pills. Naturally he just had to have some, so I started giving him my rabbit’s food. At the time I thought it would be a great way to get back at him for picking on all my friends. Now it looked like I was going to have to pay.
I stood up, looked Caesar square in the eyes and said, “See, you’re getting smarter already. I think those pills are starting to work!”
At first Caesar smiled. For an instant he thought that maybe the pills were working. Perhaps he was getting smarter. Then it hit him. He realized that I was making fun of him. He realized that I had fed him rabbit food. His mouth dropped open.
He couldn’t believe that I would ever dare such a stunt. He couldn’t believe that I would stand right in front of him, and make jokes about him getting smarter because of rabbit pellets. His chapped lips cracked as he screamed.
I lost no time. My legs moved in a blur, kicking up a cloud of dust five feet high. Out like a shot I flew. Caesar Slack did his best to get his roly-poly body in motion. But it was no use; I was gone.
Caesar screamed, “I’ll get you Harry Hearthstone!”
I’m sorry. I haven’t even introduced myself. My name is Harry Hearthstone. I’m in Mrs. O’Mara’s fourth grade class at Sunny Hill Elementary School in Santa Rosa, California. Although my parents keep boasting about my IQ, I think I’m an average fourth grader. I’m about the same height as all my classmates. I have brown hair, brown eyes, and I love to climb trees. But my favorite thing in the world to do is play kick ball.
Well, back to my story.
It was recess and the whole class raced from the room. We left our papers cluttered all over our desks, and our chairs scattered this way and that. Mrs. O’Mara yelled, “You look like a herd of wildebeast!” Then she smiled, feeling clever because we had just finished studying the animals of the African Plains. She was always saying funny things to get the class to laugh.
I was laughing, and thinking that everything was just fine, as I headed towards the playground. That’s when Caesar attacked. He came at me like a speeding locomotive. He dove into my stomach and we both went rolling to the ground. We rolled three times before we stopped. Caesar sat heavy upon my chest. Then he stood up, hovering over me like a professional boxer. He was just hoping that I would be stupid enough to get up. I was not that stupid!
The next thing I knew, Caesar Slack, the biggest bully that Sunny Hill Elementary School had ever seen, looked scared. No. He looked more than scared. He looked plumb horrified. I thought that Mrs. O’Mara must be on her way. I stood up, thinking that my teacher was standing behind me. I waited to hear her familiar voice, but she never spoke.
That’s when I met ChickenSpike.
I felt a tug at my shoulders and the funny sensation of running without my feet touching the ground. As I rose higher and higher the kids beneath me stopped playing and looked up in awe. The playground looked small. My mind was whirling like the blades of a helicopter. I wondered what was lifting me so high above the ground. I turned my head and saw bright orange claws with pitch-black tips digging into my jean jacket.
I knew that whatever held me had to be huge, about twelve feet huge. It took me to the roof of the principal’s building and lowered me gently down. I spun around and saw ChickenSpike for the first time.
He was a bird – sort of – and sort of not. His head had tiny white feathers covering his entire face, except along the top. Across the top of his head there were tall fire red feathers that spiked up into a long Mohawk. His eyes were as black as a dark basement closet, and his body hulked out with massive muscles, hidden only by a jean jacket with the sleeves torn off.
The giant bird hovered over me, its long white wings flapping lightly in the warm breeze. A crowd of kids gathered below watching. In the back of my mind I could hear Mrs. O’Mara yelling up at me to stand still. She said that she was coming up. I wondered what she thought she could do.
“Bwaaaauk, Harry!” The bird grumbled out my name.
I was shocked. I had never heard a bird talk before. I stumbled backwards, tripped over the gutter and began to fall. The crowd below shrieked. The huge bird whipped out its long talons and grabbed me, ripping through my jacket. He pulled me back up onto the roof.
A smile came to the bird’s beak and its voice sounded like a speeding train, “Bwaaaauk Harry, I’ve been looking all over for you. My name is ChickenSpike. I’m from the planet Checkmaw. I have come because I need your help. My planet is in trouble and only you can save it. Will you come with me and help save my planet? Bwaaaauk, bwaaaauk.”
Talking about what you read is the fastest way to increase your child’s comprehension.
Have your child sketch the setting, the characters, and the choices they’ve made. Then discuss your child’s Graffiti Art.
- Is the setting a happy place or a sad place – Why???
- Would you want to live there – Why or why not?
- Are the characters nice, happy, sad, mean – Why?
- Would you want to be their friend – Why or why not?
- Why you think they made the choices that they did?
Here are some samples of Graffiti Art that I did with my students.
Novels by McCoy –
I have written a number of books that are available on Amazon. I have nonfiction books on mathematics that link to video tutorials and are designed to help children gain a deeper understanding of the math. Here is a link to the first book in my series on fractions. I have also written a chapter book and a young adult novel. You can have a free preview by clicking on the links below.
MY ADVENTURES WITH CHICKENSPIKE – This is a chapter book that is perfect for children in 3rd and 4th grades. My Adventures with ChickenSpike is a Children’s Fantasy Book. The main character is a young boy who is being bullied. He travels to a distant planet and finds his inner strength. By the time he returns home not only is he no longer a victim, he is a hero!
RED – This is a young adult novel that is especially designed for children in 5th and 6th grades. Red is an action packed adventure with two main characters and a number of supporting characters that add humor and drama to this novel. Bruno Vic and Evelyn Rose attend Sir Francis Drake Middle School. Bruno is big, street-wise, and tough, but he also has high morals and undying loyalty to his friends. Evelyn Rose was born rich, but an unfortunate turn of events has landed her in the heart of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. Bruno, Evelyn, and their friends are desperate to steer clear of the gangs, so the turn to a mysterious man that the gangs seem to fear. His name is Red.
An Educational Fantasy Game
If you’re looking for an educational fantasy game that your child can play on any device – check out TeachersDungeon. I developed it according to Educational standards. It comes with video tutorials created by myself and students who play the game.
Let me know if there is any way I can help!
Until next time…
Have a great day – Brian McCoy