Session: Using Informational Text to Teach Literature
Presenters: Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle
The session started with a TED Talk about collaboration (I wanted to link it here but can’t find it at the moment. Will keep looking). I liked how the video set the context of how important collaboration is to get things done. The speaker in the TED Talk referenced the idea of “not enough” and how collaboration helps overcome obstacles.
My favorite line from the video is “Leggo my ego.” When you collaborate, you have to put your ego aside. It takes a certain amount of humility to get comfortable with the fact that not all your ideas are the only ones that matter. Remember that everyone at the table has a voice.
The session then moved on to talking about what informational texts are and how we use them. People use info texts in different ways:
*history: primary sources
*science/English: articles to give background on certain topics (example: using articles about leadership to teach Lord of the Flies
Using informational text is more important that PARCC and CCSS…it’s what we want to do! This is an opportunity to make connections among subjects. Engaging informational texts give us a chance to make our content relevant to today’s student.
(I just realized this might sound disjointed. Please keep in mind that I’m writing as the session goes; I’m not focusing too much on transitions and all that for this particular post.) 🙂
Point from a participant (history teacher): So many teachers don’t want to get rid of the content (so many details to know in history), so it’s hard to teach the literacy skills. How do you get teachers to understand what reading informational text is? It doesn’t mean just reading a chapter in a textbook!
Audrey Fisch noted that the need for content is relevant in all subject areas, but we can use literacy instruction (info text in particular) to enhance instruction of content.
Awesome comment from participant: We have to rememember, historians don’t become historians because of reading a chapter in a textbook. They were inspired by discovering things from reading and uncovering real historical documents. If we focus only on textbooks, we might lose the magic of falling in love with the content!
Another great point from the crowd: There is a big gap, particularly with secondary teachers, in literacy instruction. Would love something like a 5-class high school literacy cert for teachers. It’s not that teachers don’t WANT to teach literacy. However, they weren’t trained on how to do so. We need more resource to help teachers support students with the skills needed for CCSS, PARCC, and beyond.
Resource to use: NY Times Learning Network Blog (My kids know I love me some New York Times!
To keep in mind: It’s not ok to just give the kids an informational text and say “ok read this and make the connections!” This is something that is hard, and we need to have a structure/framework to help use info texts in engaging and relevant ways.
Steps for using informational texts
(sorry I’m not using real bullets/numbering; I don’t know how to do that in the WordPress app):
1- Find something interesting (that relates to what you’re already teaching).
2- Use excerpts. You do not have to use every single word in every article. Think about what will be distracting to students; what is outside your particular focus?
3- Design some fun vocab activities to pre-load unfamiliar words and ideas in the info text. This way the text will not become an impediment. Remember, every kid in the class doesn’t have to complete every single exercise. (Vocab skits are great because they hear the word being used 20-30 times in 10 minutes. That will get them walking out of the room using the words.)
4- Create questions to help kids notice important concepts and textual features.
5- Create PARCC-style multiple-choice questions to check for understanding (little bits of practice along the way so they won’t be intimidated by PARCC when it comes to the test).
6- Create follow-up writing and discussion activities that ask students to articulate key ideas and textual evidence.
I’m so thankful that Audrey and Susan gave us a packet of goodies to help put together lessons like this; I will definitely use the templates and guides for writing these types of questions! Can’t wait to share them with Sarah and Kelly back at home!
So when should you use informational texts?
*When your students are having trouble engaging with content
*When you want your students to have greater background knowledge, but you don’t want to lecture them
*When you want your students to be better readers and thinkers (when, as the presentation slides said, is always!)
Had a bit of a segue (but it was totally relevant!). We talked a bit about how challenging using a dictionary can be for students. To be honest, I never really thought of that; I guess I just assume that everyone can use a dictionary. People made great points that we want kids to be in the habit of looking up words when they read (I try to reinforce this with my students every day). Electronic tools are great to help build this habit because they always have their devices on them. Teach them to use them!
Love this idea!!
Set up a Google news alert for articles about your topic (the example from Susan Chenelle was an alert on the American Dream for when she teaches Gatsby). This way Google will do the work for her and email her once a week with current events related to themes she’s working on. Love this idea!
Remember! Lots of articles come with videos; start with showing the video to get them thinking about the topic. Do whatever it takes to connect with an idea!
I wanted to embed a few pictures, but the wifi isn’t cooperating, so this is about it! Thanks for reading; I think live blogging will be my new obsession. Now I don’t have to go home and do it later! Woot!
PS- We ran over time a bit, so I’m not proofreading yet. If you catch a typo, I’ll go back and fix it tonight or tomorrow! 🙂
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