Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 463, Chapter 8: Reading Informational Text

Informational Text

When we read informational text, we need to do close reading so that we learn not only the big ideas but the facts and details that support those big ideas. Informational text has three common text structures – descriptive, sequential, and comparative. Informational text has special feature – maps, photos, charts, graphs, headings, bold words, and others – which require special reading strategies.

When we read informational text we:

  • Call up and connect relevant prior knowledge
  • Predict, question, and wonder about what will be learned
  • Visualize and imagine
  • Monitor and use fix-up strategies
  • Summarize the most important ideas
  • Draw conclusions and make inferences
  • Evaluate and make judgments

Guess Yes or No

Focuses your student’s attention on important details in informational text by having them predict, before they read, which statements are true and which are false. First, you will read and construct 10 statements, some of which are true and some are false. Write the false statements so that they can be turned into true statements by changing one or two words. Include some statements that require students to make logic inferences to decide whether they are true or false. Also, include in the statements key vocabulary words students need to be able to pronounce and understand in order to fluently read the text.

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Use the “gradual release of responsibility model” when teaching comprehension lessons. The class will watch and listen as you model how to figure out whether the first two statements are true or false. They will help figure out the next two. Then the students will work together in trios to complete the final six statements. The assigned trios should include one good reader and one struggling reader.

Find It or Figure It Out

Your brain puts information you read together with information you know and figure out many things that are not directly stated. Find It or Figure It Out can be used to teach students how to use the information in the text and their prior knowledge to figure things out. Read the text and construct questions for each two-page spread. Make sure that the answers to the “find it” questions are quite literal and can be found “right there” in a sentence or two. Construct the “figure it out” questions so that they require the students to make logical inferences. The answers are not right there but there are clues that let you figure out what the answers are.

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Different Text Structures

Comprehending informational text requires all the strategies required for comprehending stories. In addition, readers must be able to follow the three different text structures commonly found in informational text and use the special features of informational text. These include:

  • Descriptive text: describes one thing
  • Compare and Contrast: tells the differences and similarities between two things
  • Sequence: organizes ideas or events according to the sequence in which they occur

Main Idea Trees

A tree can help children visualize and organize information. The topic you are learning about is the trunk of the tree. The main ideas about that topic are the large main branches and the details that relate to each main idea are the small branches that go off the large branches.

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Time Lines

Time lines help us organize information in which the sequence of events is what is important.

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Compare/Contrast Bubbles

Also known as Venn diagrams

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This teaches students to use the visuals in an informational text to build vocabulary and to predict what they will read. The lesson begins with students seated in trios and talking about 10-15 visuals from the text they are about to read. Students have 20 seconds to look at each visual, talk about it, and try to predict words they will read connected to the visual. . Next students have 8 minutes to write as many words as they can think will occur. At the end of 8 minutes, students look at their words and choose one word they think all the other groups will also have, one word they think is unique to their group, and one word they are most interested in. Next, the trios read the text together. They put a check on each word they listed that actually occurred and add five words they wish they had thought of. The class reconvenes and shares their discoveries. At the end of the lesson, students write a short paragraph using as man of their words as they can to tell what they have learned. IMG_E1247 (1)IMG_E1248 (1)

Text Feature Scavenger Hunt

Learning how to read visuals – pictures, maps, charts, and graphs – and how headings, highlighted words, and other informational text features help us is not something most elementary students get excited about. You can make it fun and engaging by organizing your class into teams and sending them on a scavenger hunt.

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Classroom Application

I would love to use all of the strategies listed above. My favorite was the scavenger hunt as a fun way to have students use the text to find their answers. I also really liked the Main Ideas Tree. I am a very visual learner and this was a great visual as well as a great organizational tool to organize ideas. Comprehension is so important that having all of these methods to help with informational texts will be so helpful in the classroom some day.

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