Let's face it, informational text is not as engaging as literature.
Many English teachers are frustrated, worried, disappointed, and some downright angry at the shift the Common Core Learning Standards demands to increase the amount of informational text students read. Some teachers are throwing articles in here or there just to say they are doing it. Others are trading novels for extended pieces of informational text, whether they are interesting or not.
In her article Igniting a Sense of Wonder: Helping Students Find Joy in Informational Texts, which is in the Spring 2013 Heinemann catalogue, Linda Hoyt reminds us of what excites our youngest readers. If we watch young students look for books during a trip to the library, they often walk away with book on snakes, insects, cars, ballerinas, butterflies, football, etc. My own kindergartener will only bring books home about horses, puppies, or weather! These books allow young children to learn about their world, and they seek this information out. Unfortunately, this interest often wanes as students get older.
In an effort to help teachers keep that interest level high, Hoyt compiled a list of tips for success with informational literacy:
- Share your own interest in informational text. Let students see your own excitement about investigating and learning.
- Read-alouds using informational text engage and inspire students by extending content understanding and building interest in inquiry. They also show language and text patterns unique to informational text.
- Use only the best of the best informational texts, by choosing books with great visuals, interesting diagrams, well-labeled illustrations, beautifully crafted language, etc.
- Think aloud and model how to generate questions, challenge the authenticity of the text, analyze the author's perspective, and compare two books on the same topic.
- Model how to take notes, use sticky notes to mark important ideas, create diagrams to retain information, record key words, and merge content from various sources.
- Demonstrate the power of rereading. This is a key piece to conducting close readings of complex text. Show students that rereading is essential to deeply comprehend a text.
- Share the images you conjure up as you read an informational text. This shows your students how you process and retain key ideas.
- When investigating something, use various modes of information, including digital texts, video, writing, speaking, presenting, etc.
- Provide students time to read broadly on a topic so they can develop a solid base of knowledge and content-specific vocabulary.
- Encourage collaboration in order to think deeply.
- Scaffold discussion and analysis of informational texts by using well-written text-dependent questions.
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