As I started planning the move of my grade elevens from a unit focusing on narrative nonfiction into a reading unit on informational text, I debated on how to start. I had done a soft introduction the week before with Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week, but I hadn’t talked to my students about specific strategies when approaching informational text. I had simply told them to read the articles, annotate the text, and to write a one-page response to the articles.
The Article of the Week is a great resource. The topics are current and give my international students an opportunity to pay attention to the news. The task is straight-forward and the text provides a challenge, but it’s not overwhelming because the length of the articles is manageable. The articles are thought-provoking and I look forward to some deep discussion as we get further along in this unit. Also, it’s a great resource for busy teachers, and for that I am quite thankful!
I started a small book club at my school recently. We are reading Notice and Note, by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, and are discovering the power in the signposts for fiction. (There are only three of us in our book club, and we meet only every eight days, but because of that, it’s not difficult to keep up with. I think all teachers should be in this practice with professional publication book clubs!) While I knew that the fiction signposts aren’t exactly what I needed to share with my students, my book club led me to thinking about the Reading Nonfiction signposts.
The five nonfiction signposts are:
Contrasts and Contradictions
Extreme or Absolute Language
Numbers and Stats
These are the signposts my grade eleven students need to know and understand, I realized. Soon they are starting book clubs of their own with some informational texts, and these signposts will be perfect for discussion starters, and to keep the conversation going as they work on their sustained, deliberate talk.
I decided to introduce the signposts using children’s books. It’s National Picture Book Month, so why not? The text is accessible, and because students are learning new strategies, I don’t need to complicate things further. So I went to our fantastic learning commons, and pulled lots and lots of books from the shelves.
My students sit in small table groups, so I gave a few books to each group, a handout with the signposts listed with short decsriptions to each student, and provided some sticky notes for them to use.
I had put posters around the room with individual signposts as titles, and instructed my students to find examples of signposts in their picture books and then put the sticky notes on the charts. They got right to it.
They worked together, had fun reading the books – both text and pictures are important – and discovered the signposts in the different books.
Thankfully, there weren’t too many word gaps for students in these elementary level picture books!
This activity took about thirty minutes. My students had some fun and learned a new strategy in a way that was pretty low-risk. They helped each other, worked together, and indicated that they will be able to apply these strategies when they read the next Article of the Week and even when they get into their longer texts in book clubs.
In addition, one beautiful book that I noticed to be especially helpful with a few of the signposts is Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh. I’ll share some pictures with the signpost in the caption below.
Most school libraries will have plenty of nonfiction picture books to pull from the shelves, so the resources necessary for this quick introduction are easily accessible and quite flexible. I’d love to hear how others introduce these nonfiction signposts, and how the students respond!
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