Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tackling Informational Text

November 2013, EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIPTackling Informational Text

I love the holiday breaks. It is a great time to be with family and friends, eat lots of amazing foods and finally put a dent into my ever growing reading pile. The challenge becomes deciding what to read first. I know there is no way I will get to all of it so I try to prioritize the content according to what will enrich and extend my own thinking and learning the most. The November issue of Educational Leadership turned out to be a gold mind of resources on how to enrich teaching and learning with informational text. With the Common Core rollout upon all of us, and its emphasis on the importance of reading more informational text, many articles clarified what will need to change in order to prepare our students for college and/or the workforce. Here are summaries of my favorite articles:

You Want Me to Read What? by Timothy Shanahan. The new standards are rigorous and encourage more reading of informational text. In elementary school, 50% the time should be spent on informational text and increase to 70 percent by middle school.  In order for students to do this successfully, the level and type of instruction needed (eliminate?) will need to change. Informational text is organized differently and is read for different purposes, which makes us vary our reading approaches.  The outcome goal is for students to build their background knowledge in the social and natural world. “What matters is that kids get a varied diet of text.” This requires a balanced diet of reading a variety of more of both literature and informational text.

Unlocking the Secrets of Complex Text, by Mary Ehnrenworth.  This was my personal favorite and one I am using to share with staff in our next meeting. The big ideas I came away with to support implementation of the Common Core State Standard and defining what it means to read are:

“Close reading is an outcome, not a technique.”
“When we teach most text are about more than one thing, we lead them to read more closely.”
“Our job is to teach readers to expect to do this thinking work. The book’s job is to make it rewarding.”
Best practices still apply, “I Do, We Do, Ya’ll Do, You Do.
Reading work required identifies the book’s central ideas. “Chances are that this book, like so many, teaches more than one thing, and some of those things may not be obvious at first. The question readers ask themselves is, what else does this text teach?”
Analyzing the craft of reading requires the reader to ask questions. “Choosing text that make the writer’s craft visible will help students see how informational text works.”
Supporting student learning by explicitly teaching them how to develop critical stances and how to construct arguments.
“After all, the goal of reading non-fiction is to learn, and the best way to do that is to read a lot.”
“Transforming reading practices in a school requires all of us to transform our ideas about what it means to read.”

The Dazzling World of Nonfiction, by Donalyn Miller.  There is more to nonfiction than just dead presidents and whales. How to look for meaningful ways to incorporate nonfiction text into our daily instruction if we want students to read more of it.

Why Content is King, by E.D. Hirsch Jr. & Lisa Hansel.  “Simple or dense, fictional or informational, what matters most for comprehension of a particular text is whether the reader has knowledge relevant to the text.” “There really is no such thing as a general level of comprehension. The single score that a student receives after taking a reading comprehension test masks the fact that the test had a variety of passages on a variety of topics, and the average student read the passages with familiar content well, yet read those with unfamiliar content poorly.”

Starting Out: Practices to Use in K-3, by Nell K. Duke.  “Look for these seen features in primary classrooms that teach beginning reading and writing with an emphasis on informational text.” I am a big fan of writing as a reflection of our thinking while reading and to get this started early in student’s academic careers is very exciting!

What Students Can Do When the Reading Gets Rough, by Sunday Cummins. This article reminded me of the Coding Method, an effective strategy struggling readers can use at they navigate through difficult text to self-monitor their understanding. No matter what strategy you teach your students, it requires a careful teacher think aloud modelng session. This is the step I see most often not included during instruction. It benefits the majority, if not all of our students, and just think of the language it supports.

Finally, Educational Leadership always seems to support an advertisement of another must read for educators. Rigorous Reading 5 Access Points for Comprehending Complex Text by Nancy Frey & Douglas Fischer. “Call it close reading, call it deep reading, call it analytic reading—call it what you like. The point is, it’s a level of understanding that students of any age can achieve with the right kind of instruction.” Oh dear, another book to add to the pile. Can’t wait!

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