Outside of the classroom, one of the most common reasons for looking for informational text is in order to solve a problem. But too often, students find themselves answering text-dependent questions that do little more than test comprehension. What if we began informational reading with student inquiry?
Strategies to Keep Informational Reading Fun
- In one of my coaching rounds in which the Middle Level teacher was aiming to achieve a student-centered classroom, students had actually begun the process and were effectively running things pretty smoothly. A student brought up her paper with questions she wrote to use with a document camera during Social Studies Inquiry. Students had read a short story containing bias prior to this. Inquiry is student-centered learning.
- Students in 6th grade had Science Work Station Friday during which they utilized reading strategies in each rotation.
- Short Mini Lessons for students that focus on one specific strategy or new concept with enough time for talking among themselves about what they are learning, practicing together and in pairs before trying on their own are especially effective, as stated in Heather Mullins’ article, “The Best Instructional Strategies and Resources”: I, We, Two, You-“This strategy focuses on best practice in that the teacher models a new concept, the class then practices together, the teacher then asks partners to practice together, then each student becomes responsible for his/her own work. This strategy provides low-risk for students and also allows teachers multiple opportunities for teachers to troubleshoot potential questions or difficulties students have. Teaching the students this terminology shares your expectation that they will be responsible for the concept eventually.”
Students in Primary, Elementary, Intermediate and Middle Level grades learn strategies through Literacy Centers, Silent Reading, Fluency Partners, Mini Lessons in Reader’s/Writer’s Workshop, Conferencing and Social Studies as Inquiry to hone their reading/comprehension skills.
WorkStations (Learning Centers) are an easy and effective means to implement comprehension strategies because you can use them for any subject. Using content vocabulary and following explicit directions are examples. Students look forward to small group rotations that have them engaged in activities for individuals and groups that help teach what you want them to learn or review. Whatever your learning goals are, make them a part of WorkStations! In Principles of Instruction by Barak Rosenshine, two principles he highlights are to “require and monitor independent practice (and) engage students in weekly and monthly review.”
Conferencing is one of the most effective ways to not only get to know your kiddos but to hear and see how they’re processing during the reading and writing in any subject. “Although time often prohibits our having an opportunity to conference with students as much as we would like, conferencing provides an opportunity to address specific issues with students regarding their work”, as stated in the article entitled “The Best Instructional Strategies and Resources”, by Heather Mullins. It is also a very powerful way to teach for strategic use of reading behaviors. Students seem to enjoy the one-on- one attention and honing skills with the teacher!