We have created this informational text reading unit of study to help guide students through reading informational text. It will hopefully help them to view informational texts in a much different way than the way they do literature. They need to realize that reading an informational text is much different than reading a story and should be tackled in other ways to get the most out of what the text offers.
Current reading standards emphasize the importance of students learning how to pull important information from informational text. This unit actually mirrors our Writing Informational Text Unit of Study in some ways and you will see similarities.
You can download most of the resources described below in one presentation which you will find here: Reading Informational Text Unit of Study
Immersion – A great way to begin this unit is to compile a large collection of nonfiction books. Put students in pairs or small groups and give them one or two books and a small stack of Post-It notes. Tell students to begin looking through their book(s) to see what they notice about them. Tell them that they are to take the post-it notes and record their observations about the text features of these nonfiction books. Our resources include an Informational Text Anchor Chart which includes many of the noticings you might want your kids to point out. You can use this as a reference in your classroom. We have also included a blank chart in case you would prefer to write specifically what your students share.
Author’s Purpose – We want students to recognize the purpose that authors have for writing informational text. Again, we suggest pairs of student look at nonfiction books to try to determine specifically why the author wrote the book. We have created a simple Author’s Purpose half sheet page for students to write their thoughts to share with the rest of the class. We have also created an Author’s Purpose Anchor Chart you can use during your lesson or to display in your classroom to serve as a visual reminder for your students.
Text Structures (Close Reading)- We are learning more and more how Close Reading techniques help our students to delve more deeply into informational texts. One Close Reading notion that we want our students to grasp is the idea that informational texts can have a text structure. Knowing and understanding that text structure can help them to understand the deeper meaning behind the text. To this end we have created several Text Structure Resources for you to use in your instruction. They address the following text structures: cause/effect, problem/solution, compare/contrast, description, sequence (includes one for steps in a procedure and one for a timeline).
You will find two anchor charts and a visual to help your students understand informational text structures and then eight additional graphic organizers your students can use with in their practice with identifying text structures. Depending on the needs and levels in your classroom you may need to spend several days delving into these structures, but you may also consider using them in your small groups for students who need added support once initial instruction has been presented.
Additional resources can be found here: Close Reading Focus on Text Structures
Text Features – We also want our students to understand that much can be learned from informational texts even if the text isn’t read from beginning to end (as they would a piece of literature). We want to draw their attention to the various Text Features that informational texts might include – tables of contents, headings, bold words, photographs, maps, diagrams, time lines, labels, captions, fast facts, glossaries and indexes. All of these features provide an avenue for learning more about the topic.
We suggest spending some time looking through informational text books and having discussions about the features that can be found and their purposes. After that students can practice finding and thinking about these features in other informational texts. We have provided an Informational Text Features Search which can be used as a center, and we have also included a Text Features Checklist that has students using their iPads to take pictures of these features. (Using these student pictures in a visual display is also a great visual reminder about them!) In addition, we have included three more graphic organizers you may find useful in helping students to become familiar with the various text features that informational texts might have.
If you would like the set of posters we created that describe various text features. It can be found here: Text Features Posters
We also have a text features card sort to coordinate with the posters which can be found here: Text Features Card Sort
You will find even more additional resources for identifying text features (including a file folder game and bookmarks for a feature hunt) here: More Informational Text Features.
Previewing Text – Teach students that previewing a text or book and making some predictions is always a great way to begin their reading of a new informational text. There are many ways to do this – from using Post-Its to partner shares to one-on-one conferencing conversations. If you prefer that students write down their thinking we have also provided I CAN read informational text! as a place where they can record their thoughts.
Building Background Knowledge – As with many of our lessons, we want students to access their background knowledge about a topic before beginning a study. In this day and age of information technology, many students already have a significant knowledge base about many topics. This graphic organizer provides a place where kids share what they already know on the topic. It is designed to be used alongside a class discussion or after allowing children to talk with each other to help build their knowledge base
Main Idea & Details – Teaching students how to determine a main idea can be difficult in some instances, but at the same time it can be much easier in informational texts in many instances. Though that may be the case, you will always want to model how to figure out the main idea and pull important details from their reading. Use these graphic organizers first in your mini-lessons and then allow students to use them to show their thinking and learning.
You will find additional main idea resources here: Teaching Main Idea During Small Group Instruction
Taking Notes – Beginning note-taking can be difficult. We have created a When Do I Stop and Take Notes? anchor chart you can share with your students that will give them some beginning guidance as to when & where to stop and take notes as they read. We also included a set of bookmarks that students can use to mark spots in their reading where they feel they may need to take notes. During reading conferences, you can check these and discuss the decisions students are making with regards to note-taking BEFORE they actually write things down. This set of bookmarks includes five specific bookmarks and three that say “I marked this page because… ” for students to write on with Vis-a-vis markers.
You might also find some other helpful note-taking organizers in our post Graphic Organizers for Informational Texts. This post includes 45 graphic organizers that may also support all of your teaching of informational text.
Biographies – We created a Reading Biographies graphic organizer for students to record their learning from that genre of informational text as well, but we also have so much more to address biographies here: Biographies Unit of Study for Reading.
You might also be interested in our Famous People Research Graphic Organizers
Reading Magazine Articles – If you want to include magazine articles in your study of informational texts, you will find graphic three graphic organizers designed to help students pull important facts out of magazine articles here: Graphic Organizers for Magazine Articles. These are designed to make it easy for you to differentiate for your students.
Student Sharing – Having students share their learning in some way – whether it be through reading conferences or a project of some kind – is a good way to evaluate whether or not they are doing a good job of determining importance in the texts they are reading as well as pulling pertinent and appropriate information from their reading. You might want your students to create end products like posters, tri-fold boards, PowerPoints or other technology. If you would like something a little more guided, you can also use our “All About” Brochure templates as another option.
For even more resources that can help you address informational texts in your small guided reading groups, check out our Informational Text for Small Groups post!