School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 3

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 3. Use elements of narrative texts to facilitate understanding


To show proficiency of the skills stated in this indicator, a reader will demonstrate an understanding of the elements of narrative texts which are the components through which a story is told. Identification of each component and its relationship to all other components in a story assists a reader in comprehension of an entire text. As a text requires more complex thought processes, a reader advances from the identification, recognition, and recall of literal elements to the inference, analysis, and evaluation of more abstract elements. Thinking about all the elements in a story and determining how they fit together allow the reader to understand and evaluate an entire text and its complexity.

In order to comprehend narrative text, a reader must identify and distinguish among types of narrative texts. Narrative text tells a story to make a point, to express a personal opinion, or to provide a reader an enjoyable experience. By recognizing the characteristics of a variety of literary texts which represent diverse perspectives, a reader is better able to construct meaning from a text.

prose writing that tells an imaginary story
prose writing that tells about real people, places, and events
Realistic Fiction
prose writing set in the modern world
Science Fiction
prose writing that explores unexpected possibilities of the past or future by using scientific theories or data and imagination
Historical Fiction
contemporary fiction set in the past, may reference actual people or events
Tall Tales
humorously exaggerated stories about impossible events in which the main characters have extraordinary abilities
stories passed by word of mouth from generation to generation
traditions, customs, and stories passed down within a culture
a traditional story, usually by an unknown author, that answers a basic question about the world
a story handed down from the past about a specific person who usually demonstrates heroic accomplishments
brief tales that teach lessons about human nature
Fairy Tales
stories about imaginary beings possessing magical powers
literature that contains fantastic or unreal elements
story of a person's life written by someone else
nonfiction; a person tells about his or her own life
Personal Narrative
personal story; a shorter form of autobiographical writing
type of autobiography, usually about a significant experience in the author's life
a personal record of experiences or reflections
Short Story
a brief work of fiction, usually readable in one session
a short, cohesive work of nonfiction dealing with a single subject and presenting the writer's viewpoint
literature intended to be performed by actors in front of an audience; includes script with dialogue, a cast of characters, and stage directions
stories, ideas, and feelings expressed in compact, imaginative, often musical language
Lyric Poetry
poetry that presents the thoughts and feelings of a single speaker
Narrative Poetry
poetry that tells a story and includes narrative elements

To identify, explain and analyze the conflict of a narrative and determine its role in advancing the plot, a reader must know the structure of a narrative passage.

  • In the beginning or exposition of a narrative, information is given about the characters, their location, and the situation in which they find themselves. This situation creates a story problem or conflict.
  • A conflict can be created by single or multiple sources, either external (caused by outside forces) or internal (created within the character). Typical types of conflict include person versus person (problem between and among characters), person versus society (problem with the laws/beliefs of a group), person versus nature (problem with natural forces), person versus self (problem within a character regarding decision-making), and person versus fate (problem which seems out of a character's control). In complex texts, there may be multiple conflicts.

    A character experiencing one of these conflicts may act on or speak about the conflict to other characters and be motivated to action by the conflict. In some narratives, a conflict may help clarify character traits for the reader. In other stories, a conflict can also advance the story events, pushing the characters to a critical point of a story.

    A critical reader can identify and determine conflicts, sometimes isolating a common cause for different conflicts.

  • In the rising action, the chronology of events develops and the conflict deepens. At the climax of the narrative, the deepening conflict reaches a critical point and can alter the subsequent events.
  • As the conflict resolves, the narrative moves toward completion in the falling action.
  • Finally, in the resolution the narrative comes to a close. A critical reader should be able to analyze the resolution of the conflict and trace the plot development to determine how each stage of that development advanced the plot.
  • As the level of a text becomes more difficult and the main plot develops, a subplot of lesser importance may be present. The subplot may have all the elements that a main plot does and will tell a story that relates to character development, theme development, or any other story element. The subplot may have an effect on the outcome of the main plot or may simply serve as additional, perhaps interesting, element of the story.

To identify, describe, and analyze details that provide information about setting, mood created by setting, and the role the setting plays in the text, a reader must first know what information to look for in a text. Setting is where and when a story takes place. Clues to setting include any of the following: time, day or dates, month, year, season, historical references, geographical names, landscape details, and weather elements. As the complexity of a text increases, a reader should take note not only of stated setting details but also look at more subtle details.

Setting can relay information about characters to a reader. A character's reaction to an environment, whether familiar or unfamiliar, gives clues to what a character is feeling or how a character will act in certain circumstances. Changes in setting may signal changes in mood and development of a character.

Mood is the feeling a text creates within a reader. Setting can help create mood. For example, a setting in an abandoned house creates an eerie mood. Details of that setting help establish that uncomfortable mood in a reader. An author also creates mood through dialogue and word choice.

A critical reader will be attentive to the details of setting, mood, and character and their integration within a narrative.

Not all narrative texts have theme, but in those that do, there is often more than a single theme. Theme is the author's message to the reader or the underlying idea of a text. Theme is often relayed to a reader through characters—what they say, what they do, or what others say about them-as well as by other narrative elements.

To identify and analyze characterization, a reader must identify a character as a person, animal, or imaginary being in a narrative. Major characters are most involved in the conflict of a narrative and are central to much of the story action. Minor characters are less important and become known to a reader through their interaction with major characters.

Characters may reveal their attitudes and innermost thoughts through their speech and their behavior. For more complicated texts, a reader is privileged to know directly the interior thought processes of a character.This enables a reader to draw conclusions about why a character might behave the way he/she does and to consider reasons for the type of interactions that character has with other major or minor characters. Then these interactions allow other characters to comment about the behavior or speech of that character. One character's comments about another character form a direct link to understanding their behavior.

Character speech, action, thought, motivation, and reaction are interdependent and work together to create well-rounded characters. These elements make a character "real" and lend believability to the narrative. When characters are made "real," they, like real people, change and grow. They are called dynamic characters because of their development. Their opposite, static characters, change not at all or only marginally. The strong, dynamic character shifts or is shifted by the plot, each exerting an equally forceful influence on each other. Character and plot then become linked in a narrative.

To identify, explain, and analyze relationships between and among characters, settings, and events, a reader must discover how each element is linked. Connections between and among characters are established by elements of characterization. Connections between and among situations are established by key events and how these events fit together. A critical reader can determine an organizational pattern, such as cause and effect, between or among situations and then draw conclusions about characters and their speech and behaviors within the context of the situation.

For more complicated texts, a critical reader can isolate characters and determine major from minor characters, the degree to which each is developed, and how they affect each other and the story events. A critical reader can isolate each story event to see its effect upon previous events and those that follow it as well as the effect the event exerts upon a character or characters.

To identify and describe the narrator, a reader must determine the teller of the story. In a first person narrative, the story is told by a character in the story who uses the nominative pronouns I, me, and we. In a third person narrative, the narrator is a voice outside the story action that uses the nominative pronouns he, she, it, and they.

The speaker of a poem is the voice that "talks" to the reader. The speaker of a poem is not necessarily the poet.

To identify, explain, and analyze the actions of the characters that serve to advance the plot, a reader should know that characters cause the plot to happen. Usually a story plot is based on what characters say, do, or believe. Conflicts evolve from interactions between and among characters. In turn, plots develop around conflicts. What a character does affects the development of the plot as well as its resolution.

A critical reader of literary text can

  • isolate characters, determining if they are major or minor characters, noting their actions, speech, and thoughts, and observing the attitudes of other characters toward them
  • detail conflicts created by and among characters and determine the type of conflict that is created
  • follow a plot, judging how that plot is driven by character elements or character conflict
  • determine how character, conflict, and plot function together

To analyze an author's approach to issues of time in a narrative, a reader must first be able to follow the elements of a narrative--exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution--and to identify key events within each of those divisions of a narrative. Some events may be related as flashbacks during which the author relates an event out of sequence at an earlier time. A flashback provides a reader with information that will help him/her understand setting, characters, or conflict. A critical reader is aware of transitional words or text features that signal a flashback.

Foreshadowing is present through hints or clues in a text that suggest what may occur later in the sequence of the narrative's events. Foreshadowing occurs throughout a narrative and helps to create a tension as the reader anticipates what will happen. A critical reader understands that plots are not always chronological and that these two techniques are used to augment a reader's comprehension of and interest in a narrative.

To identify, explain, and analyze point of view and its effect on the meaning of a narrative, a reader must know that point of view is the perspective from which an author tells a story. There are two major points of view-first person and third person. In a first person narrative, the story is told by a character in the story. This narrator is a participant in the story action and tells the story using the pronouns I, me, and we. This type of narration is limited because a reader knows only the narrator's perspective of other characters, the setting, and story events.

In a third person narrative, the story is told by someone who is not a character in the story. This type of story-teller may relate events much like a reporter relaying the news and use the nominative pronouns she, he, and they. More often, though, a third person narrator will relay the thoughts and attitudes of a single character, usually the main character. This is limited omniscient narration. At times a narrator will relay the thoughts and feelings of all characters. This is the omniscient or all-knowing narrator.

A critical reader knows that not all narrators are reliable and that they may present information limited by their own knowledge and observations. This, in turn, may limit a reader's knowledge. To construct meaning of a narrative, a critical reader must acknowledge the scope and the limitations of each type of narration and then using other narrative elements, draw conclusions about meaning.

To analyze the interactions among narrative elements and their contribution to meaning, a reader must have knowledge of all narrative elements and their dependence upon each other. A critical reader must determine the type of narrative being read, the type(s) of conflict in the narrative, the relationship between the setting and the mood of the narrative, the ways that character is developed, the relationship that exists among the characters, the setting, the story events, and the point of view from which a narrative is told. Each of these elements must be analyzed in isolation and then observed as a piece of a whole narrative. Finally, a critical reader makes judgments about the relative importance of each of these elements to a particular text, and then using each element and its contribution, constructs meaning of a whole text.