Give Students Choice to Increase Active Engagement with Informational Texts

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SWBAT select from a menu of independent activities to practice skills and strategies with informational texts.

Big Idea

What is the best way to share your thinking about a nonfiction topic?

My Lens

Over the last couple of weeks, my students have been reading in their fiction books, informational books, and reading lots of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade articles.  Today, I wanted to revisit how to write post-its to capture the main idea and supporting details from a book they have chosen.  I used the The Life Cycle of Sea Horses as my mentor text.

After this week, the students will be moving into a historical fiction unit.  In a couple of days I will ask students to reflect on their reading response notebooks and select two of their best post-its that demonstrate their understanding of main idea and supporting ideas.

As a class, we will return to reading informational texts to continue to study different kinds of text structures in January/February.  But for now I want to make sure all students are successful with stating what the author's main ideas and how they are supported with details.

In the days to follow, students will then teach their partner what they have learned from their books using their post-its, pointing to parts of the book and summarizing main ideas across the text.


10 minutes

I brought students to the rug to demonstrate again how to capture main ideas and supporting details from an informational text on post-its in their reading response notebook.  I used my reading response notebook and the text The LifeCycle of the Sea Horse.

First, I read the heading on page 5 " Sea horse homes.  Then I read the paragraph quickly- running all the sentences together and ignoring punctuation demonstrating that when a reader reads that way they are not really learning or understanding from the text. 

 I then contrasted this way of reading with reading closely and carefully- reading in phrases and reading the punctuation.

"Students I want you to listen to how I now reread this paragraph.  I'm thinking the main idea and the details will stand out when I read the passage carefully- looking for what the author wants me to learn.

Read the paragraph aloud to the students.  "Students turn and talk with your partner about what you think is the main idea of the paragraph."  Listen in.  Call on a couple of students to share  the main idea sentence.  Ask, "Are there any other ideas for the main idea sentence?"  Ask for a student to defend their thinking as to which sentence is the main idea sentence. Say, "I agree with your thinking.   

Next, demonstrate how to write the main idea sentence on a post-it.  Then say, " Now turn and talk about the details that support the main idea that sea horses live in all oceans but the polar oceans.

Call on students to tell you supporting details and jot them down in your reading resonse notebook next to the post-it with the main idea sentence written on it.


Independent Reading

35 minutes

Before sending students off to read and work independently, I gave them several choices to capture their thinking. I offer structured choice to students as much as possible. This technique allows for the students to self select an activity at the correct level of difficulty and to engage in a learning activity that is interesting to them. Option 1 has the least amount of scaffolding because the students are reading a self-selected 4/5th grade informational text and identifying main ideas and details. This is my preferred activity for all students to choose.  This is what CCSS is asking students at this grade level to be able to do.  Currently, I have about 6 students who are reading at grade level and have repeatedly meet and exceeded this standard. The rest of my students are approaching standard as they engage in various activities that support their comprehension of 3-5th grade texts. 

1. They could read and write main ideas and supporting details post-its.

2.  They could work on answering questions to articles such as Outstanding ostriches, or Tornadoes.

3.  They could find words in their books that have a root and derivations and write them on paint chips.

4.  They could work on a  vocabulary worksheet that goes with Animals in Crisis- Are Humans to Blame?

Providing students with choice of learning activities enhances the teaching of main idea and supporting details.  All of the choice activities are focused on reading comprehension. The students differentiate their own learning by choosing from a list of ways to capture their thinking. Advanced students can be synthesizing across texts or across several pages, and grade level or below students can be working within a paragraph, or at the level of one sentence.  The point is all students are in charge of their learning and are learning to take responsibility for it.  


Strategy Group

10 minutes

During independent reading I called up 5 students and passed out paint chips from the Animals in Crisis lesson and had them first read the words to themselves and think of a sentence using one of the words.

I did this to offer support in reading multi-syllabic words, and sentence generation. The students in this group all can benefit from a strategy group focused on word work and language development.  This strategy group provides another opportunity for exposure and repetition of tier two root words and derivations from a grade level informational text.  Students are learning to generalize phonics rules about prefixes and suffixes which will help them decode words quickly in the act of reading.  They are also working on sentence generation.  The students in this group are building their speaking and reading vocabularies.