Test I Reading and Language Arts Study Guide for the GACE
About half of the entire GACE test I (number 001) is composed of questions about reading and language arts. These questions are mostly multiple-choice, with a few multiple-answer multiple-choice and fill in the blank questions thrown in. It seems that there is a great emphasis on the areas of vocabulary-building and grammar in these questions.
You will definitely need to know the content of the subject, but also be able to identify teaching strategies for the various skills you would teach in that area. We have tried to list all the content covered in this section of the test. You are encouraged to think of strategies you have learned to use when teaching the content in this study guide, as well as additional things you know about the content. Good resources would be your class books and notes and the Georgia Standards of Excellence.
Reading for Information and Literature
Reading is such a critical skill, but not all reading is created equal. The subarea of Reading and Language Arts is designed to assess not only your ability to understand how elementary students develop their reading skills but to apply that understanding to support students in both reading literature and reading for information.
At its core, reading is useless without comprehension. Comprehension is a student’s ability to both understand and interpret what he or she reads. Beyond identifying individual words, comprehension requires students to be able to connect what they are reading to what they already know and to make associations using their prior experiences. They must also be able to integrate the new information to effectively make meaning of it and apply it beyond the text. To be able to understand and make meaning of what they are reading, not just identify the words they see, is the basic idea of comprehension.
Comprehension of Various Genres
Reading comes in many forms, or genres. A genre is a category of writing and, in the case of elementary students, they encounter a variety of reading genres on a daily basis. Although book reading is the most commonly considered form of reading, students must be able to understand and make meaning from non-book reading experiences as well. These reading experiences might include reading signs as they ride in the car, reading a recipe when they cook with grandma, or reading the instructions on a card when they play a board game. Comprehension of what they are reading is just as important as the comprehension they apply when reading a book.
There are also multiple types of reading opportunities within a book. Beyond the paragraphs themselves, textbooks that include graphics or pictures will often have captions for students to read to be able to comprehend the graphic’s message. Supplemental information to a text may be provided in a sidebar or call-out box. The headings that are often used to organize an informational text are another genre of reading that students need to be able to navigate and comprehend to help them understand the overall text.
Higher Order Thinking Skills
Reading both literature and informational texts requires the application of some higher order thinking skills (think back to Bloom’s Taxonomy). Although students won’t be able to build their comprehension without the most basic understanding of word forms, which requires Level 1: remembering, comprehension grows as students are able to do more with the text and to move beyond what it says to an understanding and application of what it means. As students build their comprehension capacity, they are able to do things like identify the main idea, summarize the author’s message, follow directions (in the case of a how-to text), apply ideas to experiences, understand the big picture, question the text, and make inferences. These skills build on one another, however, so students must move through the process and cannot jump from basic recall to analysis straight away. Being able to identify where students are in the comprehension skill sequence will help you know where to support them and challenge them to achieve the next level. Just be sure not to neglect these higher-level questions when assessing comprehension.
Appropriate Reading Level
Students learn best when they are engaged and challenged but not frustrated. Understanding a student’s reading level and making appropriate choices for text within that level or a slightly more challenging one will support student learning. Reading level goes beyond length of text and includes factors such as vocabulary and sentence structure. Students should be able to understand a text, but if it is too easy they may lose interest and will not be improving their skills. If a text is too hard, they may become frustrated and give up. Identifying not only a student’s reading level but being able to match that reading level with appropriate reading experiences is key to literacy development.
Types of Texts
Generally speaking, texts can be split into two main categories: fiction and nonfiction. Effective elementary educators are able to identify reading-level-appropriate texts for their students in both of these genres. Evaluating a text to determine its level of difficulty and level of interest for students is critical to helping students select appropriate texts that will keep them engaged and expand their literacy skills. It is also important to make sure that students are exposed to a wide variety of text types and genres so they can practice their reading and comprehension skills in multiple genres.
Informational texts are texts that inform or explain. They fall under the category of nonfiction. The writing in informational text tends to be straightforward and direct. There are no made-up characters and there is no plot. Although some authors may use figurative language in their writing to help the reader make connections, you won’t find the same level of figurative language used in informational texts as you will in literary works of fiction. Informational texts might include biographies or autobiographies, textbooks, and magazine or newspaper articles—texts that are written to inform or explain something to the reader.
Arguably a larger and usually more enjoyable type of text to read is literature. Literature generally encompasses fictional stories that have characters, involve a plot, and use lots of figurative language to help the reader create a mental picture of the story in the text. Examples of literature would include fictional books, fictional short stories, poetry, and drama.
Components of Literature
There are certain elements of literature that set it apart from nonfiction texts. Although the number of “key” elements of literature vary, below are some of the more commonly agreed upon elements that distinguish literature (or fiction) from informational (or nonfiction).
Characters—Characters are the people, animals, or beings to which the events of a story happen. While Hansel and Gretel are human characters from a fairy tale, Frog and Toad are animal characters from short stories. The Little Engine That Could brings trains to life and makes one the main character of a story. Thus, it is important to remember that characters are not just people, but can be other beings as well. Literature often includes a protagonist character and an antagonist character. The protagonist is usually the main character and the one the reader is cheering for to be successful or to live happily ever after. The antagonist is generally a character who is portrayed as a villain and causes problems for the protagonist.
Setting—The setting is both the time and place where a story takes place. It is important to include both the location and the time frame of a story because a story set in Philadelphia, PA, in 1776 is going to be much different from a story set in Philadelphia, PA, in 2076. Being aware of the when and where of a story can help a reader better understand its message. There are examples of literature wherein the setting is not entirely clear. This is usually done by authors who want the message of their story to feel relatable to readers regardless of when they read it.
Plot—Plot refers to the action of a story. It is the series of events that moves the reader from the beginning to the middle to the end of the story. There are a number of parts in a plot and they usually happen in a certain order. Generally, a fictional text begins with the exposition, where the reader is “exposed” or introduced to the characters and the setting. Then the rising action has characters face some struggles or conflict. The climax is the turning moment where a character must make a decision or choice that will affect the outcome. Once the decision has been made, the story moves into the falling action, which shows the consequences (good or bad) of the choice the character made. The resolution wraps everything up and leaves the reader with either a sense of a happy ending or a tragic one. Although some literature may start in medias res, or “in the middle,” the author usually takes the reader back to the “beginning” and fills them in on what happened previously.
Point of View—The lens through which a story is told is called the point of view. Authors may create a narrator to tell the story from an outsider’s perspective or the point of view may be from the main character. Point of view is important, as it may limit or restrict the information the reader has to work from. If an author uses a narrator to tell the story, someone outside the action, then the reader may see a bigger picture of what is happening. However, if the point of view is from a character within the action, then the reader only “sees” things from that character’s perspective, which can be limiting.
Theme—Stories are told for a purpose. When authors create literature, they do so to entertain, but also are often trying to teach a lesson or share a perspective. The theme is the main idea or author’s message in a text.
Drama takes many of the same elements of literature (characters, setting, plot, theme) and portrays the story using actors in front of an audience. Drama is meant to be spoken and performed, though the texts of dramas are often read by students in school. The structure of drama is different from most literature in that there are stage directions and characters’ lines are set apart from one another so it doesn’t read as smoothly as a story. Dramas are often organized into acts and scenes, sections of the play that are focused around a particular event. The dialogue of the characters is what keeps the action of a drama moving and information like the setting or the conflict is often discovered by what the characters say or how they behave.
Whereas prose is generally used for storytelling, poetry is generally used to express feelings or emotions. Formatted with a distinct style and often incorporating a rhyme scheme, poetry relies heavily on the aesthetic qualities of language. Poems may be of any length, from a three line Japanese haiku to the 1.8 million word Mahabharata. There are a variety of different types of poems, from free verse to narrative to epic, but all tend to incorporate similar poetic qualities.
Most people recognize poetry when they hear it because of the rhyme that poets often use to create a beat or rhythm in their writings. Rhyme is the repetition of word sounds, usually occurring at the ends of lines of poetry (end rhyme) but also sometimes within a line of poetry (internal rhyme). Rhyme is what gives poetry its musicality and rhythm. The pattern of rhyme within a poem is its rhyme scheme.
While rhyme helps to create a beat in poetry, meter is what actually creates the rhythm. It is what creates the musicality of poetry. Words are made up of syllables, stressed and unstressed. Poets use language, words and their syllables, to create a “song” called poetry. The number and pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables is what creates the meter in a poem. Meter refers to a unit of poetry, also called a foot. The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables within that foot, how many feet the poet uses in a line, and what order the feet are put in creates the rhythmic nature of a poem and is referred to as the meter.
Stanzas or Groups of Lines
As prose organizes itself into paragraphs, so poetry organizes itself into stanzas. If you are musical, think of a stanza like a verse of a song. It’s a section or group of lines in a poem that work together as a cohesive whole. Poems may be one stanza or multiple stanzas. Different types of stanzas have different numbers of lines and different meters. Their names refer to the number of lines: couplet = two rhyming lines; tercet = three lines that may (or may not) rhyme; quatrain = four-line chunk of poetry, etc.
Words and Phrases
Authors and poets use words and phrases to get their message across to their audience. Thoughtful consideration takes place in terms of selecting the “right” words for the task, and writers will often write and rewrite until just the right words and phrases are in place to send the message they wish to convey to the audience. However, authors don’t always directly state their intended message to the reader. Sometimes the reader must interpret and infer from what they read to draw a logical conclusion.
In their language development, young students move from understanding individual words to being able to string together and make meaning from phrases. These connections become more complex and developed as students practice language. Listening to language through classroom conversation and engaging in questions and answers helps students grow in their understanding of words and phrases. Reading a wide variety of text types and genres also helps build students’ understanding and engagement with language.
Understanding Greek and Latin roots, the role of prefixes and suffixes to word meanings, and being able to identify those word parts in a text also help students to navigate and comprehend a text. Using their decoding strategies, students can infer meaning from unfamiliar words and grow their vocabulary.
Readers must be able to interpret both the language and the images writers are likely to use in their writing. They must draw on their prior experiences and understanding to apply new meaning to things they read or see. Visual elements in a text, like a graph, chart, or image, must be interpreted so that the reader can understand how it relates to and supports the claims made in the text. Unfamiliar words must be interpreted using decoding strategies like looking at etymology or context clues to help students make meaning.
Words and phrases, their organization and pattern within a text, help to create the overall structure. Poetry, for example, generally has an easily identifiable structure, as the words often rhyme and the lines of text are organized into stanzas. The language in a drama is also easily recognizable, organized into acts and scenes with dialogue switching back and forth between different characters and stage directions being given to help the reader create a mental picture of what the playwright intends them to “see.” As students begin to learn how to analyze a text and understand the different formats, they will begin to recognize these structural patterns.
The structure of literature (not including poetry or drama) and the structure of informational texts may not appear as unique as that of poetry and drama, but there is an organized structure used in both genres. The plot mountain structure is used in most literature and any number of organizational approaches may be found in informational texts.
Types of Structure
Text structure refers to the way in which a writer organizes his or her text. Words, phrases, and ideas are not haphazardly thrown together; they are artfully and thoughtfully connected in any number of ways. Below are some of the more common types of structure students are likely to encounter in a text.
Sequential—Information that is presented sequentially is presented in logical order, one following the other. An example of this would be instructions on how to perform a task. Step one must be completed before step two can happen and so on.
Cause and Effect—In a cause and effect text, a cause or catalyst is presented first, then the effects or outcomes are given. This may happen over the whole text (i.e., the first part of the reading presents the cause and then all of the reactions or effects are listed in the second part) or cause and effect may be explained paragraph by paragraph (i.e., in each paragraph a cause is presented and then the logical effect[s] explained directly after).
Description—As the name suggests, texts that are structured by description work to describe or explain in great detail an issue, topic, character, or setting to help the reader create a mental picture. The details are given in a logical order; for example, describing your kitchen. You wouldn’t note the placement of the fridge and then jump to the color of the dishes in the cupboard. You would probably describe the general layout of the space and then get into more details as needed to help the audience “see” the kitchen you are describing.
Problem and Solution—This structure is similar to cause and effect in that a problem is usually presented first and then potential solutions are offered. Sometimes the solutions may be ordered from good to better to best and sometimes writers prefer to start with their strongest solution first and then offer other potential ways to solve the problem.
Compare and Contrast—When a writer compares and contrasts, they show the similarities and differences between things. The most common compare and contrast situations generally juxtapose two or three items against one another, but compare and contrast can highlight the similarities and differences between any number of different things.
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