Monday, July 21, 2014

Get ready for the new school year with Using Informational Text to Teach Literature!

As the summer days tick by, does your pulse accelerate (with both excitement and slight panic) whenever you start counting the weeks/days till the new school year starts? If so, let our resources help ease you into August and start September with success.

​IF YOU ARE TEACHING TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD NEXT YEAR, now is a great time to order the first volume in our series, Using Informational Text to Teach To Kill a Mockingbird, and start thinking about how it can enhance your study of Harper Lee’s classic novel while helping you meet the Common Core standard for informational text. Click here for more details about this book full of classroom-ready units.

IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT REVAMPING YOUR CURRICULUM, check out our website and our blog for strategies for finding great informational texts to use in any unit and then setting your students up for successful engagement with them. We also offer ideas for teaching key vocabulary in meaningful and engaging ways and how to use multimedia with written informational texts in the classroom. Check out our sample units based on TKAM as well as our “Text to Text” feature on A Raisin in the Sun on the New York Times Learning Network, for models.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO COLLABORATE WITH YOUR CONTENT AREA COLLEAGUES in preparation for the Common Core assessments, read our recent blog posts on collaboration and share our strategies for using high-interest informational texts with your cross-disciplinary colleagues. Our materials can provide the basis for rewarding collaboration among members of your PLC and/or grade-level teams.

IF YOU’D LIKE HANDS-ON, INTERACTIVE TRAINING IN OUR APPROACH TO USING INFORMATIONAL TEXT, contact us about scheduling a professional development session at your school or district. We offer a range of hour-long and day-long workshops for both English and content area teachers. If you are in New Jersey, there’s still time to sign up for our 7/29 cross-disciplinary session at NJASCD. Or join us at NCTE and CEL in Washington DC in November.

We hope our resources will be helpful to you in getting ready for the new school year. As always, we welcome your feedback!

Using Informational Text to Teach To Kill a Mockingbird is the resource I’ve been waiting for! Teachers don’t have nearly enough time to research informational texts to go along with every unit they teach; therefore this book is going to be perfect for the teacher who wants to take her lessons to the next level. I can’t wait to use these lessons in my classroom. —Amanda DeAngelo, high school English teacher, Secaucus High School

Propelled by rich, probing questions, this book invites teachers and students to explore a classic text with fresh eyes. The authors’ approach fosters a disposition for deeper reading and will inspire a sense of wonder in your students. —Carol Jago, long time English teacher and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English

This book (and its website) helps teachers to delve deeply into strategic teaching activities aimed at meeting the Common Core State Standards. Chenelle and Fisch use a wide array of readings with differing levels of complexity to provide “pathways” into engaging explorations of one of the most sacred texts of high school literature, To Kill a Mockingbird. Replete with ideas for evidence-based writing, connections to multimedia web resources, and possible rubrics for evaluating student work, this invaluable guide will not only challenge students to read, write, and think more critically, but will also help teachers “reconceptualize” their teaching to meet the rigorous objectives of the CCSS. —Allan A. De Fina, dean of the Deborah Cannon Partridge College of Education and professor of literacy education, New Jersey City University, past president of the New Jersey Reading Association

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It’s summertime, and time to find great informational texts!

Like many English teachers, one of the top reasons I look forward to summer is having TIME TO READ! But while I’ve been blazing through my pile of summer fiction, I’m also basking in the joy of having enough free time to catch up with The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Week, and other great sources of informational texts. Yes! Summer reading is a perfect opportunity to start looking for those high-interest articles that will hook your students into the longer works (both fiction and nonfiction) that you’ll be reading next year.

In addition to catching up with all of my favorite periodicals, I’m scanning my list of tried-and-true informational text sources for anything recent and relevant to the works I’ll be teaching next year and bookmarking anything that looks promising in Evernote (thanks to Sarah Mulhern Gross’s Twitter tip, LeBron James’ Sports Illustrated essay is already tagged for follow-up, though I haven’t figured out how I might use it yet). For Gatsby, I’m looking for new articles on the American Dream (lots has been written about that in recent months). For Othello, I’m looking for new pieces on jealousy and insecurity in relationships.

But, since I do not plan to miss out on summer by spending it all in front of my laptop, I’m letting Google do some of the work for me. After thinking through my curriculum and coming up with a list of topics related to each unit, I created Google alerts for each of them, which is super easy. Right now I have them set to email me the results of Google’s search once a week; as it gets closer to September, I might set some of them to send results daily if I haven’t found what I’m looking for yet. After spending the day in the sun (or lost in the pages of a new YA novel), I look through what Google has found and tag what looks interesting in Evernote. I might read it right then, or wait till I find a few pieces to choose from. I like using Evernote for this purpose because it’s easy to tag things with multiple tags that you can then easily search by later. But you can also use the bookmarking tool in your browser, pin them to a board on Pinterest so others can see them, or just download them to a folder on your desktop. Once I’ve chosen the pieces I want to add to my curriculum, I’ll start writing vocabulary, discussion, and writing questions for them (click here for models) at my leisure, which inevitably gets me excited about the new school year.

So, by all means seize and savor the well-earned relaxation summer affords you, but spending a little of it doing some of the things we often don’t have time for during the school year can set you up for a spectacular start come September.