Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Students have not had the experience learning the text features of informative text like they have with narrative writing. It is for this reason that I spend the time to discuss the major aspects of informative/explanatory text.
The Powerpoint serves as a guide for writing the informative text portion of this project. This Powerpoint will be completed over the course of a few days as it is interactive and lengthy. Today we start with the first two slides. Instead of having students copy the notes down I put the presentation on my web-site and allowed students to access it through iPads or their own devices. This helps eliminates unnecessary time for notes and get to focus on what is important. Students are more engaged in a lesson when they are able to use technology. It's important to find those moments when giving notes is not necessary. This lesson is one of those moments.
The first step is to review the first two slides. This gives me them a general understanding of informative texts using wording and phrasing they have already been exposed to throughout the years at middle school. Before I go into detail with each text feature of informative texts I want to a general understanding of their ability to work with this type of writing and these two slides helps form the foundation of that. I read each slide to the students and they follow along. I also ask students to clarify the meaning of certain words. Students also offer examples of what they've read. This helps keeps them engaged.
The slides we review are brief. Too many slides causes too many students to lose interest. I keep it brief so we can get right into the major work of the lesson.
It is important to see these text features in context so students can have a clear understanding of how they are used. It is for this reason that I spend time reading an article with them and highlighting important features.
This article we will use, The End Of America's Car Culture (this is only the first page) comes from The New York Times Upfront which is published through Scholastic. (This video on Scholastic Resources explains the magazine.) This is a great article to use. It's very straight forward and the graphics really engage the students. Students are still on their iPads as they read this article that I scanned and made available on my web-site. Once students download the article I have them read it once. This gives them a general understanding of what the article is about. It is hard for students to make meaning of what they read and start reading it closely at the same time. Students read on their own because it gives them a way to internalize the article more. When they follow along they are not as engaged.
After students read the article, we review the third slide from the Informative/Explanatory Texts Powerpoint that looks for informative text features in action, specifically introductions, organization, conclusions, and graphics. Even though these are a few different topics I get to use this as an informal preassessment to see where their understanding of informal texts is.
I have them work in groups, based on seating locations, to see exactly how the author uses this features. Students move their desks to face those sitting by them. I ask them the following questions to guide their thinking:
Students answer these questions in their notebook with their group members. Each student must write down the answers their groups come to an agreement on. These may be difficult for students to answer and I anticipate that. Students have not had experience analyzing informative text as much as they have literary pieces. This gives me the opportunity to see how I will need to proceed with this unit to help them internalize the skill of analyzing informative text pieces.
Even though this article is not related to the topic for the project, it helps students to see how the features they will be required to use and implement in their own writing is done in other pieces.