The Hard Work of Non-Fiction

Happy Dance! I just got notification of a blog post from indent, written by two staff developers for Columbia’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project! My reaction might seem a bit bold to some of you, but when that notification arrives in my inbox, I know something good is going to stimulate my professional brain.

I seriously considered re-posting the entire series I just finished reading on that blog, but it’s a bit long, and I figured if you choose to follow the link or their blog, more power to you. The intention here is to cut to the chase to provide you the strategies and language for beginning to work beyond main idea in non-fiction text. Call this a paraphrase, if you will; I give full credit to Kate and Maggie.

Anchor Standard #6 of the ELA Common Core State Standards states College and Career-Ready students should be able to assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.” Here are some proficient reader practices:

  • Notice the words the author uses to help determine how the author might feel about the topic and then use that feeling to determine a possible point of view.
  • Determine the author’s point of view by imagining which side the author would take in a debate on the topic.
  • Read more than one text on the same topic in order to be able to recognize different viewpoints about the topic.
  • Determine what information is missing from a text. Then readers can wonder why the information may have been left out. That reason for omission can help determine the author’s point of view.
  • Pay attention to numbers, facts or statistics that are used in a text.  By analyzing what the numbers, facts or statistics are showing, a reader can help determine the author’s point of view.

Isolating and explicitly teaching any one of the above practices will better equip students to determine a text’s purpose or author’s point of view. Below are some language frames for helping students begin to articulate their learning about point of view:

  • When the author says ___ it makes me think he/she may believe…
  • The author seems to be making the point that … The sentence or words giving evidence of that point is ___
  • The author doesn’t say anything about ___, so I wonder if he/she thinks…
  • If the author was debating this topic, his or her side might be ___.  I think this because…
  • The visual images in the article (photographs, illustrations, diagrams) are included to maybe make the reader think or feel ___. Therefore, the point of view might be…
  • When the author uses words like ___, ___, and ___, this tells me he/she might feel ___ about the subject.
  • If the central idea of the text is ____, then the author’s point of view might be ___ because….

And finally, this helpful chart might be a visual way to help break down the process of determining point of view with students.

Here’s a Sample of attending to Anchor Standard 6 adapted from a lesson found on Achieve the Core, one of the great CCSS Resources we reviewed here. This is difficult work, and we’re here to help you find your way!

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