Friday, July 12, 2013

Engaging Students in Informational Text

Throughout Common Core you'll see an increase in the necessity of engaging students in informational text.  I know informational text (or non-fiction) wasn't MY first choice off the bookshelf, so how do we as educators increase the interest?   According to Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears, an online professional development magazine devoted to preparing teachers to teach science while integrating inquiry-based learning, the key is modeling our own thinking while reading informational text.  It's not something we can breeze through once and expect kids to pick up on it.  It has to be taught explicitly to ensure students are not only exposed to it, but actually implementing the strategies themselves. An engaged classroom, deep in informational text, is discussing the facts, asking questions, making connections, testing sources, and rereading material for further understanding. Gone are the days of reading something informational in silence and be expected to:
A.) enjoy it 
B.) understand it 
C.) select additional reading information on it on my own
 (Flashback to some of my personal learning experiences)
Students must be allowed the opportunity to TALK about their discoveries, as well as inquire about the points they don't understand.  

After reading multiple books and articles on the Common Core classroom, I think I can sum it up with some very simple practices for encouraging students to engage in non-fiction. 
1.) Increase your library with non-fiction material. *Quality non-fiction material
2.) Have multiple sources for your informational text available. (Newspapers, magazines, etc.)
3.) Utilize some websites that contain e books and/or free downloadable articles on informational text.  (There's LOTS of FREE stuff out there!),
http://www.gobookee.net, and  are a few.
4.) Model HOW to read informational text.  Model how to read aloud, pause, think, ask or jot down questions, take notes, read with a friend, highlight, summarize as you go, make connections, etc.  The more kids see you do this, the more natural it will become for them!  *Be sure to grab my FREEBIE "Think Aloud" visual,  It's a great visual tool to use anytime you step outside your teacher role and become a student who is thinking out loud.  Click on the "happy brain" to grab.
5.) Provide many opportunities for Guided Reading practice with informational text.  WALK students through graphic organizers together so they won't be so intimidated by them when they see them on their own.
6.) Allow students time to talk...about what they're reading.  Allow them to share, ask questions, and challenge the information they read.
7.) Be flexible.  If teachers are learning anything about teaching informational text, it's that once students buy into it and become engaged, there's no turning back!  They become like little sponges wanting to learn MORE about a particular topic.  Your perfectly planned 30 minute lesson may turn into a bigger adventure than you bargained for!  
8.) Be creative and allow your students to be creative!  Provide fun and interesting ways to present informational text.  Give students the opportunity to display their knowledge from an informational text through projects, reports, displays.  Allow them to be the teacher or "expert" on the material.  

I recently created some Common Core informational text graphic organizers that can be
used with any informational text.  They're designed with grades 2-4 in mind, as those were the C.C.S.S. I used when creating...  FREE to the first 10 followers who can share an additional website (not mentioned above) and/or link to any informational text FREEBIE that helps the No Monkey Business blog readers further prepare their classrooms for INFORMATION INVASION  ;-) *Don't forget to include your email address!

Bananas for some great non-fiction, grade appropriate websites popping up everywhere, AND a long overdue trip to the beach (which has NOTHING to do with this blog post!)