Students in all grades need to be able to read and comprehend informational text, a twenty-first century skill necessary for college and career readiness. Informational texts can include chapters in a text book, news articles, documentary film clips, biographies, encyclopedia entries and more.
Students can access high-interest informational text using the internet or visiting a library, and the format of sources can include multimedia elements such as image galleries, interactive maps or video clips. Educators must now take these elements into account in addition to teaching traditional nonfiction text features like captions, subheadings and indexes.
The Common Core State Standards place emphasis on informational texts. Anchor Standards for Reading outline general expectations for K-12 readers and detail what students should be able to do by the end of each school year. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 explains that students should be able to look at two or more texts for a specific purpose:
Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
In the social studies classroom, teachers can reach this standard using high-interest articles on current events. They might have students watch a news clip, and then read an online post about the same topic. Students can then think, discuss and write about how these two pieces addressed the same topic but with different perspectives or different approaches to presenting the story. Studying two sources that describe the same news event can initiate discussions on author’s bias, perspective and point of view. The process promotes higher order thinking skills and asks students to evaluate the argument or angle presented in a piece of informational text.
This standard also states that students should gather information to build their knowledge of a topic by examining multiple texts on the same topic. Social studies students can deepen their understanding of historical events by encountering multiple descriptions. This could include excerpts from textbooks by another publisher or from another country, encyclopedia articles, primary source documents that provide firsthand accounts or documentary clips on the subject. Using a variety of sources further frames understanding, builds background and simply extends time spent with the subject matter. In the process, they’re acquiring another Common Core skill related to informational text.
Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.
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