Determining the Problem and Solution of Text Read Aloud

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Teaching literacy goes beyond just showing students how to connect words into sentences. In this lesson, we check out the use of reading aloud to teach the problem-solution format of organizing information within a text.

Problem and Solution Text Organization

I'm going to read you the world's shortest children's story. Ready for it? Kevin wanted ice cream, so he went and got some. The end. Nice, wasn't it? Yeah, I put a lot of work into that one. It may be short on plot, but it does follow one of the basic forms of text organization. You see, in education, we want to teach kids to read, but we also need to teach them how to actually extract information from a text. Those are different skills. So, we want to teach them the ways that authors organize information.

My story utilized one of the fundamental forms of organization, problem and solution, in which a problem is presented, and the text revolves around finding a resolution. Kevin wanted ice cream, there's the problem; so he got some, there's the solution. That's my children's story. Just let me know when the Pulitzer arrives.

Goals of Teaching Problem/Solution

Why do we need to teach this? Well, like I said, this is one of the fundamental ways that authors organize information within a text. The idea is that we can teach students how people communicate things through writing and how to identify the most important information within a text.

So, where do we start? Often, we can first introduce this idea by using fictional stories. Narratives tend to follow a strict problem-solution format that students are able to easily comprehend. From there, we can introduce more complex ideas: Can a single problem have multiple solutions? Can a story contain more than one problem? Do nonfiction texts also organize information using problem-solution?

This last one tends to be a bit trickier for students to grasp, but activities to demonstrate that nonfiction texts have a purpose, or a point to prove, can help. Some teachers find basic scientific articles with a clear thesis argument, others introduce this idea by using things students may be more familiar with, like advertisements in a magazine. What is the problem? That you have a cough. The solution? Buy this product to make your cough better! The problem-solution format is everywhere, so use it.

Problem-Solution and Reading Aloud

As students are first starting to learn how to identify the problem and solution within a text, it's often helpful to first model this by reading aloud and working through it as a class. Now, as with many activities, we don't always want to just jump right into it. A warm-up exercise helps get students in the right mindset, thinking about how problems and solutions relate.

Try pairing students off, then have everyone write down a real-life problem that they have. Then, tell the partners to trade problems and come up with two possible solutions for the other person's problem. This is just one example of a warm-up exercise, but activities like this show students how problems and solutions work in the real world to help them identify problems and solutions in text.

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