Friday, September 5, 2014

The Low-Down on Informational Text

The Common Core puts a big emphasis on teaching informational text. That's because most of what we read as adults is informational text. In fact, much of what kids read is informational text too! Informational text is much more difficult than literature to teach, and to read.  It's got a lot of  "meat" to it.  It's important to follow some simple tips for making informational text easier for kids to read.

What does that look like in a guided reading group?

It only works if students learn how to read informational text.

1. Before reading the text set a purpose, preview the text features, predict which text structures will be used in the text. Discuss what the author wants to answer, explain or describe.

2. Informational text often has text features, such as headings, graphs, charts, italicized words, table of contents, captions, maps, illustrations, labels, glossary and index. Be sure to do a text-walk before reading the article or book to look for some of these text features. Discuss why they are important to this particular text

3. Informational text uses five different text structures to give information. They are:
          a. description
          b. sequence
          c. problem/solution
          d. cause/effect
          e. compare/contrast
    While reading an informational book, stop to talk about and identify the text structure the author is using and discus why it is used.

4. Information texts are written to inform, persuade, or entertain. The author's purpose in writing the book or article often determines the text structure. For example, if the book is about the Civil War, it will have a lot of sequence as it talks about events throughout the war. It would also include cause and effect to explain why certain battles took place when they did. Discuss which text structure is being used in the book and why.

Would you like to see what this looks like? This video is an especially good one!


Tips to make Information Text make sense

1. Allow students to choose the area they want to learn more about. This is especially true when first learning how informational text is different from fiction. Students usually have a number of things they are passionate to learn more about. Use this passion!

2.  Students read better when they feel like they are improving. Use the standards with your students. Ask them to choose one area they have mastered, and one they are working on. This gives them a strategy to work on as they read, rather than working on everything at once.

3. When students read a page and answer 9 or 10 questions, reading becomes about work, not reading. Asking students to think about what they have read allows them to spend more time actually reading. Areas to think about (and even jot down) are questions they still have, or areas of confusion. The more kids read, the better readers they become.

4. When students read informational text to get information to make or do something, the reading becomes more fun. Students can use the information for a classroom TV program, poster, puppet show, and the list goes on. This makes a student's learning authentic.

5. Use technology. This is where our kids live now and in the future. It makes learning fun and teaches them the skills they will need as they grow up.

6. Read informational text to students in class. This helps students become familiar with its conventions. Listing to this type of text is also useful for building knowledge and vocabulary. Research suggests that kids are more likely to read informational text independently if their teacher has read it aloud to them (Dreher & Dromsky, 2000).

Why focus on Informational Text?

Theres more reasons to focus on information text than just to meet the Common Core. Informational text is highlighted for a reason:

1. As students progress in school, they will be reading more and more informational text. Learning how it works, and how to read it now puts them on better footing to handle the reading demands as they go through school. A person's ability to read and comprehend information text will determine their success in school, the workplace, and society.

2. Real life reading is mostly nonfiction. It's everywhere. Magazines, Web-based reading, directions for games, newspaper and even signs along the road use informational text.  It's how people understand the world around them.

3. Learning the strategies needed to read informational text help students improve reading comprehension across all reading.

Do you have a good idea for teaching informational text? Be sure to add it in the comments below!

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