Question: What is highly interesting to elementary kids, but highly feared by teachers because of the rigor and many moving parts??
Answer: Nonfiction Texts, of course!
Almost every child in my third grade class has a favorite nonfiction topic in which he/she is an expert. They have read about the topic, watched videos on it and would love to talk to you for hours about it... if you let them!
Teachers understand the challenge of reading nonfiction texts - the domain-specific vocabulary, the text features, and that pesky main idea concept. But if you can capitalize on a child's interest and break down the parts into small instructional bites, nonfiction texts can be a powerful addition to your reading program.
Here are some nonfiction strategies and ideas that I have used in my classroom:
Traffic Light Reading -the use of Traffic Light Reading can help students to monitor comprehension of informational text systematically and eventually independently. I usually introduce this method by describing the difference between driving in a familiar place (reading fiction) vs driving somewhere at night, in the rain- in a place that I've never been to before (reading nonfiction). I continue with this analogy, describing how I will need to review the route before starting out(preview the text), going slower than normal (slow down your reading pace) and looking for all of the road signs along the way( use text features). I may also need to go back and retrace my path if I get lost (rereading). Then, I distribute the traffic light signal cards. These are great for elementary kids to physically move the traffic light to the red, yellow and green lights as they move the stages of reading informational text. Each color corresponds to a step of reading informational text.
RED-Stop- Before Reading:
What do I already know about this topic?
Did I look at the pictures and bold-face words?
Get your post-it notes ready!
YELLOW- Slow Down- During Reading:
Can I tell myself the important facts so far?
Do I need anything clarified?
GREEN- GO- After Reading:
What did I learn?
What was the BIG idea?
What do I need to remember?
Record these ideas on your post it notes.
2. Find the WHAT and the So What? This is a strategy from Jennifer Serravallo's book Reading Strategies. She explains that most children are pretty good at naming the "what" of the main idea. They find this in the title... and usually go no further. The next step is the critical one- prompting kids to describe the "so what". This causes them to look deeper into the text to see what the "what" is mainly about. This takes a lot of practice, but I have my kids do it with an informational text that is always at their instructional level with little text on each page.
See photo below taken from The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo.
3. Include a nonfiction text with each library checkout each week: This is a new practice that I have started this year. My students are allowed to checkout a maximum of 4 books/week from our school library. I ask them to make one of their choices a nonfiction book from several leveled collections that we have in our library. ( I love the leveled DK Readers) They keep these at school in their book bins, which is helpful so that I can work in small groups on all kinds of nonfiction skills at any time. And... they are practicing reading informational texts at their instructional level.
These are just a few practical suggestions for making informational texts a standard part of your reading plans each week. Read more about these strategies from the experts below:
prezi.com/rvdjgxvctvtv/traffic-light-reading/ Traffic Light Reading Strategy
www.orange.k12.nj.us/cms/lib7/NJ01000601/Centricity/Domain/1297/Main%20idea%20Strategies%20Gr.%205.pdf- Main Idea Strategies by Jennifer Serravallo
I sometimes joke with my class that I wish their noses would light up like Rudolph when they are struggling with a passage! We all laugh, but I sort of mean it.... The problem with reading comprehension is that we often do not realize that a child hasn't understood what he/she has read until we are grading the tests or asking questions after we've finished a story. We are left wondering- when and where did the comprehension break down and was the child even aware that they weren't comprehending the text?
Awareness and recognition of a problem is the first step to solving it. With reading comprehension, getting kids to see that they aren't thinking about their reading is key. I usually spend the first few months of school helping to get kids to that point. Once they realize that reading is thinking, they are on their way!
Here are some strategies and tricks that I use to help make reading comprehension more visible to the child and the teacher:
1. Real and Fake Reading Charts: These are charts that we make at the start of the school year. We list the visible behaviors that are indicators that someone is really reading. The students help brainstorm this list with the teacher. Behaviors may include: reading at a reasonable pace, being able to tell someone what you've read, liking or not liking a story for real reasons, being focused on the text, etc. Fake reading also has behavioral clues. These include: reading too fast, reading too slow, looking around while reading, not being able to summarize the story, not liking reading, being unable to answer questions about reading. I hang these charts in the reading center and refer to them all year. My students are very familiar with my question..."Are you "fake reading" or "real reading". That phrase has help them to understand that reading is thinking!
1. Click and Clunk Cards- These are simple red and green cue cards that kids use to signal their understanding or confusion about the text they are reading. The goal is to help students to self monitor their comprehension ..... to think about their thinking. Depending on the comprehension level of the student, he/she might need to stop and check comprehension after each page, paragraph or maybe after every sentence. I use these simple cards with whole group instruction while they are reading silently, I walk around looking for students that are displaying their red card. I will quietly sit next to them to help clarify the confusion until they are back on track...clicking away! This is a great strategy for small groups, as well. Also helpful is this Reader's Check Sheet to help students identify why they are clunking.
This CheckSheet is from www.intervention.org. I have used it with students as young as second grade. We keep these in our Reading Notebooks and refer to them every time we read.
Check out this resource from the expert on making reading comprehension more visible!
bit.ly/2PElK79 Click and Clunk Strategy