Strategies for Teaching Informational Text Articles
Teaching nonfiction is (surprisingly) one of my favorite things to do! There is so much to do with informational articles, including using nonfiction to tie back and relate to fiction stories, to develop an argumentative stance, give historical context for novels, and much more. However, many teachers avoid nonfiction, preferring to focus their time on more "exciting" texts.
But teaching nonfiction doesn't have to be dry, boring, or rigid. Here are some fun, "out-of-the-box" ways to teach nonfiction texts to help break the monotony:
Divide students into small groups according to the number of paragraphs in the article. Have students read their assigned section, summarize, and become an "expert" on their paragraph in their groups. Then, redistribute the groups to have one member from each original group in each new group. Students then present their section to their group and answer any questions the other members may have about their assigned paragraph.
Reading in Color
Students select three different colored markers, highlighters, etc. As they read the article, students highlight 1) things they already knew in one color, 2) things they didn't already know in another color and 3) things they have more questions about in the third color. Students then partner up for Pair Share, during which they discuss their highlighted items and possibly help each other answer questions.
Students can complete this activity in pairs, groups, or independently. As they read the article, have students place the information into a visual organizer. They can choose to use a table, cluster web, or another type of organizer that will allow them to classify the information. You can either have different graphic organizers on-hand for them to choose from, or have them create their graphic organizer from scratch, either created by hand or on a computer.
Human Timeline (works well with an Author Biography)
Depending on class size, give students (or each pair of students) a significant event from the article before reading. The event should be written on a large index card or paper. Direct students to the hallway or a large classroom area where they will have room to work. Give students ten minutes (time limit may vary depending on the ability level) to each take turns placing their significant event in the order they think the events occurred. Each student or pair will read their event and explain why they put it where they did. The class can then agree or disagree and move the event as necessary. Once students have completed their timeline, you can have students read the article, then make any adjustments to the timeline.
This activity tasks students with creating text features for their articles, including charts, pictures, glossary, Table of Contents, maps, graphs, captions, etc. This activity works best when it is done individually or with a partner. To begin, give each student a very basic version of an article. You may have to recreate the article or text in a Word document, removing any headlines, graphs, images, etc. Try as best as possible to give students just the basic text. Students can then use colored markers, highlighters, and other tools to decide what they should look like and where their text features should go. Students should be able to explain their reasoning. This allows the teacher to quickly check for understanding.
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