Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to Find Great Informational Texts

Finding the right informational text can seem daunting, but it is possible and can be very rewarding for both you and your students. Sometimes you’ll find the right piece with your first internet search; other times it can be a very time-­‐consuming hunt. The key is finding pieces that your students will want to read either because they connect with what you’ve been doing in class or because they are topically interesting to them. So, here are some tips and resources. 

  • Get to know the New York Times Learning Network – written and edited by teachers, an
    enormous trove of lesson plans based on articles related to timely issues as well as commonly
    taught novels (be sure to check out their new “Text to Text” feature)
  • Set Google news alert for topic-­‐related key words
  • Ask your school or local librarian for ideas
  • Talk to your content-area colleagues to find out what texts they are using / topics they are teaching
Here are some quality resources that can cut down your search time (the codes next to each source indicate the grade level its content is most appropriate for: E=elementary, M=middle school, H= high school):  

  • NYT Learning Network -- the excellent new "Text to Text" feature pairs a literary text with a NYT article, along with discussion questions (M, H)
  • Newsela -- a service launched in 2013 that offers recent articles from partner media outlets (e.g., Associated Press) in multiple versions aimed at a range of Lexile levels, along with quizzes and discussion questions (E, M, H)
  • PBS NewsHour Extra -- text- and multimedia-based resources on current events (M, H)
  • CoreStand -- free service for teachers offering current events articles for elementary, middle, and high school students, along with templates for students to complete (HT @SEMSLibraryLady)(E, M, H)
  • TweenTribune (M, H) -- a wide array of recent news stories selected and posted by teens and tweens, working in conjunction with their teachers and professional journalists
  • CNN Student News (M, H) -- video news reports produced for middle and high school audiences
  • Time for Kids (E, M) -- current events articles, videos, and activities for elementary and middle school students
  • Kelly Gallagher’s AOW (H) -- links to recent articles and lesson plans used by Gallagher in his high school classes during the current school year
  • EnglishCompanion Wiki (H) -- a collection of articles and resources assembled by members of the English Companion Ning
  • Library of Congress (M, H) -- a vast wealth of primary source documents and teacher -created lesson plans
  • Delancey Place (H) -- this blog posts excerpts from an eclectic range of noteworthy nonfiction books on a daily basis
  • PsychologyToday (M, H) -- a reliable source for engaging articles of manageable length and reading level on a wide range of psychological topics
  • ReadWorks (M) -- a variety of articles, activities, and units, including lesson plans featuring paired texts, aimed at supporting reading comprehension in middle school students
  • ScienceDaily (M, H) -- a great resource for brief news articles on the latest science discoveries and research
  • ScienceNews for Kids (M, H) -- science articles on a range of high-interest topics aimed at middle and high school students, produced by the Society for Science & the Public
  • TeensHealth (M, H) -- student-friendly articles on health issues that affect them
  • Who’s Counting (H) -- current events analyzed from a math professor's point of view
  • Wired (H) -- articles on all things technology-related
  • Wonderopolis (M) -- informational resources focused on a "wonder of the day" featuring a wide range of topics
Please add your own reliable sources for great informational texts in the comments below. In our next post, we'll offer our suggestions for what to do with an informational text in order to set your students up for a rewarding interaction with it. In the meantime, you can download the above list of resources in a handout ready to share with your colleagues.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Great Ideas for Using Informational Text to Teach Literature

Finding and putting great informational texts into rewarding dialogue with the literary works we teach takes a lot of time and effort. But of course that does not stop ELA teachers from doing just that!

We think that work should be celebrated and shared, so here are some of the favorite literary and nonfiction text pairing ideas and strategies we've come across lately:

  • Danielle Clarke pairs articles about the trapped Chilean miners with Lord of the Flies: "I've gathered the stories of the Chilean miners into a word document, and we have wonderful discussions about the different outcomes between the boys on the island and the men stranded in the mine. I also have several other non-fiction articles that I've used to compare/contrast with LOTF. They are located in this document."
If you have created or found other inspired pairings, please share them in the comments!