Common Core has become the new language of education, and while 45 states and the District of Columbia have currently adopted the standards, how to best implement them in your classroom is still a work in progress for many teachers like me.
I hope to help you out by sharing ways in which I’m helping my students meet the Common Core State Standard benchmarks for these three anchor standards:
When we teach fiction to our students, the focus is on story elements. With informational reading, however, students need to be aware of text features. I help my students become familiar with the text features so they are able to meet the following grade specific standards when the time comes:
Because scaffolding is an integral part of the Common Core, with each grade level building upon knowledge gained from the previous one, I like to make sure my students have a very solid foundation in identifying and understanding the importance of each feature. To do this, I use the three activities described below.
I haven’t been a big book user since I taught 1st grade. That changed this year when I discovered Introduction to Nonfiction Write-on/Wipe-off Flip Chart. We went through the book page by page during our mini-lessons. I found this sturdy, spiral-bound book was not only a wonderful resource for introducing the text features, but also a frequent reference book for my students whenever they wanted more information about a particular text feature.
Once my students gained a rudimentary understanding of text features, I wanted them to practice what they learned with informational text. Using old copies of Scholastic News we had saved, students scoured the pages, looking for as many text features as they could find. They cut out and glued the various text features onto the text feature scavenger hunt pages they had previously glued inside a folded piece of construction folder. When students couldn’t find a particular text structure, they illustrated it themselves! These text feature scavenger hunt papers became our informational reading folders.
When I am really proud of something my students have done, I tend to go around showing it to everyone like I'm a 5-year-old who just got a new bike. That's exactly what I did with the text feature posters my 3rd graders created.
Knowing that an integral part of the Common Core is for students to demonstrate their understanding with integrated technology, I provided my students with the tools and my abiding confidence to create text feature posters that were Pinterest-worthy! Here’s exactly what they did:
You can see a few of my 3rd graders' posters below. I’ve also included the template they used if you would like your students to create their own text feature posters. My students were thrilled when I told them that other teachers at our school saw their posters and wanted copies. My kids love knowing their work is being displayed in several rooms around our building and in the school library as well! If you would like to show my students' posters to your class, just click any of the images below to download a copy.
The more terms a student knows about a specific subject, the easier it will be for him to understand text related to that subject. Making complex text easier to read and understand is definitely one of the tenets of the Common Core and a good enough reason for me to make vocabulary work an important component of my informational and content area reading.
The Common Core expectation for grades 3, 4, and 5 is the same: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a (grade specific) topic or subject area.
In order to meet this standard, I find following Dr. Robert Marzano’s "Six Steps to Effective Vocabulary Instruction" from his book, Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement, very helpful when my students are working with content-area words. Marzano’s six steps are paraphrased here:
My students keep their vocabulary work in their interactive science and word study notebooks. When we introduce new words, students are challenged to make them a part of their everyday language. While this is tricky with some very content specific language, my students enjoy trying to fit their new vocabulary into everyday conversations.
Resources from The Teacher Store I use to help with vocabulary work:
Next week, I will be back with more of what I’ve been doing with informational text in my classroom, including a look at close reading and how I use graphic organizers to help my students go back to the text to provide evidence for their reading claims.
I hope these interactive ideas help you on your journey to improve your students' understanding of informational text. Please leave any comments or questions you have below. I'd love to hear from you!