The world is changing every day. One thing I see changing is how people get their “news.” No longer is it through newspapers or even the nightly news, most get their news stories through social media and the internet. Our students will not use newspapers or think of the evening news as the place to go for information. This really hit home for me the other day when I asked my students if they saw something on the news. None of them had, but most of them had read about it or watched videos from Twitter or Facebook. This is why Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have such a huge focus on informational texts.
Teachers have had a lot of training on strategies to use for informational text, but what is often left out is the what and why. What texts should they be using for this? Reading passages from a workbook? Probably not the most authentic activity for a student. While those can be great for practice, you are forgetting the research skills they need to develop no matter what age or grade. Informational text is important because it is part of everyday life. So give students real world reading from where they would normally find this.
Here are a few suggestions of places to start:
- Have them look for current events each week. Teach them how to use news.google.com to find news stories that are popular and trending, even in their community.
- Use websites as often as possible. If you are printing out the article, leave the page the way it looks online. Students need to know how to skip ads as well as the placement of articles in the center of Web pages.
- Have them find articles on their reading level. After searching on Google, right under the search box is the option for “Search Tools.” If you click it, there is a drop down menu that says “All Results.” If you click it there is an option to search results based on reading level. Have students find articles they can read and understand.
- Letting them find their own passages helps them learn how to distinguish between quality sites and sites that could be false or based on bias. Common Sense Media and All About Explorers have great lessons for teaching students what to look for in sites they choose.
- Magazines are still “in.” National Geographic Explorer offers wonderful monthly magazines tailored to different grade levels.
- Bookmarking is key. Students need to learn how to bookmark quality sites. If not through a site like Diigo, they can use Edmodo and store links in their “backpack.”
- Have students follow RSS feeds for information they are interested in. Most adults are lost to the benefits of RSS feeds and how to use feeders. Teach kids how to do this now, it is the way they will be getting and sharing information in the future.
Once you have meaningful texts for your students, use those strategies you hear about in literacy professional development. Using the strategies will be more natural if students are getting information in a format they are used to reading. Worksheets feel too much like work, where a website feels like reading they do everyday as well as the way they will be reading in the future.
Amanda Dykes is a Science and Tech Ed/STEM teacher in Birmingham, AL. She has degrees in technology integration and speaks often on being a connected educator was well as using technology and PBL in the classroom.