Where can a child increase their knowledge about natural and manmade topics, focus on personal interests, and make connections of things they experience in their world? Informational Text, of course! These words are too dry for some kids. In fact, when I announce we're taking on informational text assignments, I hear groans. Better to do the activity then define it, sometimes... But the truth is, kids are naturally curious, and love the answers that informational text brings. In the classroom, they don't always have choice with the informational text they read, but they benefit, as long as they can understand it. It takes practice to become proficient with comprehension. Building their literacy skills is the payoff that practice will deliver. Some kids are up for the task naturally, and others will look at it as a chore, of course. This is why I like to incorporate interesting activities using informational text with our current class topics.
At this time, we are studying United States Government. Integrating this ELA informational text assignment is as meaningful as it is relevant. In my classroom, I've split the students into one of four groups- the Three Branches of Government: Executive, Judicial, Legislative House, and Legislative Senate. They navigate through our simulation and perform duties of their assigned branch. Therefore, the perfect supplement is conducting a research project that backs up their bi-weekly experience. Here is the information sheet that I use for this assignment Three Branches of Government Brochure.
I introduce the task, and the connection to our simulation is perfect. It's not that all students cringe at the idea of research, but this assignment got a positive reception.
I explain the task at hand. The kids will be using informational text to determine significant information about their assigned branch of government. Using their Three Branches of Government Brochure information sheet, they will research answers and display their knowledge in brochure format. On the info sheet, they have direction as to what should be placed in each of the six panels.
We head to the library with research sheets and pencils, and the kids are eager to hit the computers So much to discover and to begin exploring. I also enjoy listening to them interact as they to work together at tables when they get started. For many, the internet is the main draw, of course, so after awhile, I need to redirect certain kids to the non-fiction area in the library. Everyone is reminded that one of their resources must be a book/encyclopedia. Here are some students using the encyclopedia I have kids at tables, on the rugs, behind the computers, but all are engaged. It's a very comfortable working environment, and those who have cringed at the thought of reading informational text aren't even thinking about it. There are fabulous websites on the handout Government Websites and Assignment. They are easy to navigate through, and it's nice to hear expressions of surprise when someone discovers something new.
Researching the Supreme Court is fun for one of my Justices.
Now that they have a bulk of information, it's time to head to the computer lab and begin creating the brochures. They bring up the program and determine the template they want to use. Here is a student working on the layout of the brochure. Ahead of time, they've written out the rough draft of a brochure with sketches and information. Using brochure rough draft to create final copy limits the temptation to browse for information at a time when they're supposed to be entering it. Years ago when I assigned a brochure project in a different subject, it didn't occur to me to have them make a rough draft of the brochure beforehand. They only had the written information in hand. Without the organization of information in panels, however, some discovered they didn't have notes that fit, and time was wasted as research resumed.
I give the kids freedom to help one another in the computer lab. A little help from her friend. When we're there at an off-time (computer teacher is not present) they often know more how to fix a problem than I do. The kids work well on their on brochures with fabulous results! Looking Good!
The kids come up in groups to present their brochures. It's fun for them to take turns going down the line, and less time consuming than a one-by-one method. They each read a few panels and show the brochure to the class. A Senator reads his brochure. We give the one clap when the whole group finishes.
Due to the nature of computers working (or not) and the kids not saving material properly, etc. it has taken awhile to come up with the finished product. In the links below this is indicated by the small amount I had gathered after too many weeks. Nevertheless, it was worth the wait! They're proud of the work example of a Singular Brochure and had a great time learning more about government!