Nonfiction Text Sets

Last month, Beth had the opportunity to attend the Teachers College Reading Writing Project (TCRWP) Winter Coaching Institute, and was overwhelmed by the myriad resources available for teachers. A virtual gold mine can be found in the form of Digital Nonfiction Text Sets compiled by TCRWP staff. Text sets range from Pop-Culture, to Social Studies, and Health and Science. Within those broad categories, topics such as Green Energies, Japanese Internment Camps, Child Labor, and Competitive Sports in School are covered.

Every title included has been screened for appropriateness and authenticity, a time saver for sure! In about 30 minutes, we were able to run portions of about eight articles through the Lexile Analyzer, which identified a range between 900L-1400L or roughly upper middle-high school levels. Still, with appropriate levels of scaffolding, vocabulary support, and some reading aloud, students can achieve success.

Embedded in these sets are several video clips, political cartoons, and other “texts” for which students will need to develop skills to read and analyze. In a blog post a few weeks ago on this very site, we provided an activity from Carol Jago on close reading with non-traditional texts such as photographs and YouTube videos. Often times a simple provocative question can get the get the gears turning.

At the institute, the Middle School Cohort Beth was a part of discussed the difference between providing opportunities for students to read vs. teaching them reading strategies. Providing an opportunity means selecting text, assigning students to read and perhaps answer some questions about it. There’s definitely a place for that in independent work, but as we’re charged with helping students become college and career ready (which in part means students are able to read at more sophisticated levels) we need to fill their toolboxes with strategies for accessing challenging texts. Teaching such reading strategies can be done across content areas. We found this cool resource: Charts to Support Nonfiction Reading, also from TCRWP, which provides some ideas for actually digging into this kind of reading.

Featuring one chart today, here’s a way to break down summarizing or retelling information, providing frames for student thinking, speaking, and writing:

Nonfiction Retell

Depending on your audience, you can recreate this chart for whatever level you’re teaching. You may also choose to provide an exemplar, (an example of a proficient response, which could be past student work) for your reading/writing purpose, so students understand what reaches the standard.

We’ll take a closer look at some of the other charts in future posts. If you want support in your classroom as you move forward, you can leave a comment, or email us for assistance. Keep Calm and Read On!

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