In my previous post, "Nonfiction Text Features With National Geographic," I wrote about the National Geographic Kids Little Kids First Big Book of Animals by Catherine D. Hughes. The first lesson I used with this book focused on the nonfiction text features, because the book clearly defines and shows nonfiction text features in a way that makes sense to students.
For this post, I want to share how I was able to use this same book as a learning resource for students to demonstrate their comprehension of informational material. The organization and structure of this book allows students to focus on one habitat at a time, as well as the animals that reside within that habitat. The words are a reasonable size for student eyes, and the terminology can be comprehended at a second- and third -grade level.
The strategy I use is called the 3-2-1 strategy. The 3-2-1- strategy is a reading comprehension strategy where students read a piece of nonfiction text and gather chunks of information. The chunks are separated by three things that were discovered while reading, two things the reader found interesting while reading, and one question the reader still has after reading. I found this strategy on the ReadWriteThink website. I took the idea from there and adapted it to my students' needs. Here is what we did:
I first modeled the strategy with the whole group. We then chose one habitat. In our case this was the first habitat from the beginning of the book, the grassland. I asked, “What do we know about the grassland habitat?” On our whiteboard, under the heading Grassland, I wrote down a few facts that students shared out loud, “Grasslands don’t have very many trees. Grasslands are where cheetahs live.
I then explained to students what our next step would be. “We are going to work together to learn a little bit more about the grassland habitat. Our task will be to first find three things, then two things, then one thing. (I write the numbers 3,2, and 1 on the board.) The three things we need to find are things that we have discovered about the grasslands or animals in the grassland region (I write "Things discovered" next to the number 3). The next thing we will look for are two things we’ve found interesting (I write "Interesting Things" next to the number 2). The last thing we will write down is one question that we still have about the animal we’ve read about (I write "Question I still have" next to number 1).”
As a class, we read only the first few pages of the book, which contain a short definition of "grassland" and a description of the cheetah. As we read together, students raised their hands to share interesting things about the grassland habitat and the cheetah information we read.
One thing I tried to focus on was to get students to paraphrase instead of sharing exactly what was written in the book. To help with this, I asked students to read the information they wanted to share from the book, and then look away from the book when they were ready to share it. For example the text said, "Grasses are the main plants that grow in the grasslands:" I asked students to share with me how they could say the same information without repeating what has already been said and without looking in the book. The response I got was, "Grasslands are mostly covered with grass because that is what grows there." This helped students formulate their own understanding from the book without reading directly from the page.
On the board I modeled how to write down their notes while they read. We had a number three with six line spaces available for a place to write, a number two with four line spaces, and a number one with two line spaces. We set up our documents so everyone was ready to do the same.
Students were then divided into different habitat groups to conduct their research. Each habitat had at least four students. Students worked together and decided which animal they’d like to read more about within their habitat. Students then filled out their 3-2-1 strategy outline as they read about a certain animal from the habitat they are working in.
Using the information gathered, students shared with their group what they learned with their habitat group. Students in the group took turns listening, and collaborated to come up with a working definition of the conditions in the region they were covering. For example, the grassland group came to understand that the grassland habitat is an area with mammals located in parts of Africa, Asia, and a small part of India. It is home to many animals like lions, cheetahs, giraffes, and zebras.
The National Geographic book easily divides the many habitats and offers a great deal of information written with students in mind. I can always find the book in the hands of one of the kids because they cannot get enough of the beautiful images and easy-to-read engaging facts.
The 3-2-1 strategy offers set expectations that can be clearly defined for students. Outlining the number of things students are looking for while they are reading helps create a sense of direction for the informational text task. This strategy not only helps students outline the text, it gives them practice with paraphrasing and summarizing information.
Do you have a strategy that works best when reading informational texts? Please share in the comment section below.
Thank you for reading.
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