Informational text is set up so differently than narrative text. The text is meant to teach you a lot of information so it breaks it up and presents it in different ways with various features. Each text feature helps you locate facts quickly and digest them in different ways. Good readers understand the purpose of each text feature, which helps them utilize them in the most effective way. It is important to teach these features explicitly because you cannot assume that students know what they are and understand their value. I believe in providing students with time for exploration and discovery. Therefore, before teaching this unit, I spend one week looking at a variety of informational text with students during our Read Aloud time and simply ask the question, “What do you notice?” We chart their observations and keep track of similarities and differences between the books. At the end of the week, the students come to their own (guided) conclusions about Informational Text and its features. The conclusion should be that Informational Text teaches you information about a real topic and can include features such as table of contents, headings, subheadings, key words, photographs or realistic illustrations, captions, maps, charts, timelines, graphs, glossary, and index.
I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day one of Informational Text Features Week – Introducing the Strategy.
Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since they are still becoming familiar with Informational Text Features, I start by asking them to think back to the things we noticed during Read Aloud the week before. I want them to try and name as many features as they can remember that we found in the informational books we read.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on Informational Text Features, which are the features found in non-fiction text that help you learn and locate information quickly. I tell them that we need to understand the purpose of each feature so we can maximize their use.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them to think about which feature they tend to enjoy most. Do their eyes go straight to the photographs? Do they like to study the maps or charts? Do they enjoy reading the text under a heading that catches their attention? I give them about two minutes of thinking time then I ask them to turn and talk to their partners to share. I would like them to also reflect on why they might enjoy those as well.
Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Informational Text Features, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is to notice how many Informational Text Features there are in one of the non-fiction books in their browsing boxes. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss how many they found and name them. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.
Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get 5 minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading.
Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to share summaries from the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups. Because this portion of Reader’s Workshop is meant to be flexible and student based, it is not beneficial to plan too far ahead of time. Instead, you should gauge which students may need extra support through the mini-lesson, prior assessments, reading levels, overall ability and need for scaffolding. For Informational Text Features support, I will read with specific students, either with their own books or a teacher selected book, and help them identify the features.
At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to identify Informational Text Features in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Informational Text Features. Then I tell them to meet with their reading partner to share what they found. Were they able to name them correctly? Do they understand what each is used for? How do they know for sure that the book they used was Informational? After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Informational Text Features for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.