With the transition to Common Core standards, there is more emphasis on expository text. It is important to give our students a variety of tools to help them access expository text. Just the change from the format of illustrations and text in the story books they are more used to, to pages with diagrams, labels, captions, etc. can be intimidating and discouraging for them. It is important to give them a variety of tools to approach expository material with confidence (R.I. 1. 10 with prompting and support, read informational texts appropriately complex for grade 1.) I decided that one step to accomplish this was to explain the purpose of the different features of the genre, and to model how to gain information from them.
I showed the class a college textbook (their reaction was fun to watch) and explained that I didn't have to read the whole thing. I showed them that it had chapters and told them that the professor had assigned only some of them. I read a few sentences and said that by the time they were in high school and college they would be able to understand books like that, and that today I wanted to show them some strategies that would help them be able to learn from textbooks.
We examined the Science Textbook, and I went over table of contents ("To help you find which chapter or story you want to read"), glossary ("You can look for the meanings of words you don't know"), photographs ("They are clearer than any description"), diagrams ("pictures of things they are talking about, with words to help you understand them), labels ("To tell you names of parts or things"), captions ("They tell you what the picture or diagram is about") and text. I showed different examples of the last four features and we talked about things they noticed and information they could gain from them. My hope was that with this introduction, they would begin to explore more Science and Social Studies books, and that when they did so, with a bit of help, they could start accessing information from the different features. I also wanted to start laying the foundation for Standards: RI. 1. 9 Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures); and WS. 1. 7 Participate in shared research and writing projects.
I told the students that I wanted them to create a poster showing the different features of expository books, so that they would remember how to locate information, find interesting chapters, and find the meanings of new words. I gave each one a packet of copies from their Science book. We identified the page ( I copied one page of each only, and half a page would have been enough) that corresponded to the glossary, table of contents, one with text, some photographs with captions, a diagram with labels, and a paragraph with solid text. I also gave them a page with the labels for each feature. Their job was to cut and paste the features and label them.
I kept one of the posters, to display as a resource on our language arts wall. I make reference to it when we are reading non-fiction or reading our Science book.
This lesson could have been from any textbook, or children's encyclopedia, but had just started a science unit. Later I will review the lesson with their Social Studies textbook, and I will ask our librarian, to use a non fiction book in one of her weekly readings, and to review the features.
When most were done, we cleaned up and I asked some of them to tell me what they had learned about one of the features in expository text.