The implementation of Common Core standards has meant, among many other things, that I have had to think about how to enable my students to approach informational text independently, and with the same confidence that they approach stories. In the past, I tended to read aloud informational selections, often ignoring the labels or notes on the pages. When my students "read' their science or social studies textbooks, they seemed intimidated by the unknown words and seemed to focus only on the pictures and labels. I am determined to change this and ensure that my students read any kind of text with the same confidence, while understanding the difference between fictional and informational selections. Just as I have always expected them to retell stories and answer questions about them; I have to teach them to retell main idea and key details from informational selections and make sure they can ask and answer questions about them.
To do this I need to begin by teaching them the differences between each kind of text, and how to approach the different components.
Before starting the lesson, we talked about the differences between informational and narrative text. We agreed that stories were to entertain and non fiction books helped us learn.
I showed them a selection on early Australia. We first had a short discussion about things they noticed on this book that they didn't see in other stories we had read. I explained that features such as photographs, labels and captions were very common in informational text and that we had to pay attention.
I read the book and then we talked about the map, picture and labels. Then I asked them to tell me what they had learned. As I asked questions, I had the child who answered come to mark with a post it note where they had learned that from. You can see the colorful result in the resource section. Then we created the chart shown in the picture. My favorite part of that chart is in the last sentence: "I never knew that. " It gave me a perfect opportunity to emphasize that we can learn all kinds of interesting things from books; and to review the features (text, maps, labels, photographs and diagrams that help us learn).
I sent most of my class to their desks to read a non-fiction selection from their Anthologies (part of the adopted ELA program). Their task was to read the selection, paying attention not only to the text, but to the photographs, labels and captions as well. I told them they should read it as many times as they needed in order to learn some things about animals; then they were to write some of the things they had learned.
I took my lowest readers to a kidney table, so that I could support them while they read. They couldn't read the selection independently, but I didn't want them to just listen to me read; so I helped them with unknown words and vocabulary. (RI 10. With prompting and support, read informational texts appropriately complex for grade. a. Activate prior knowledge related to the information and events in a text.)
Publishing their work gives children a real reason for writing and motivates them to do their best. I gave them simple booklets and showed them how to put the title and author on the first page, and then explained that in the other three pages they had to write a fact they had learned and illustrate it. The video in the resource section shows you how easy it is to make the booklets we used.
As a ticket out the door, each child had to tell me one thing they had learned. We did this as they lined up to go to lunch. When I do an exit ticket like this, I don't ask all my 29 students, because it would be tedious. I sample in random ways: perhaps the first part of the line, or the end of it, sometimes I do every 3 or four kids. I try to make sure I check on students I am concerned about.