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teaching nonfiction comprehension

Would a clearer purpose help?

If your students struggle with determining what’s important or they think “it’s all important!” make sure they have a clear purpose for reading. A purpose stated as a question is even better. Questions like “What is the author’s point of view? What are details in the sources that make me think so?” or “How did …Read more

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Helpful Predictions vs. Not

“That’s not enough,” I said. The students’ mouths dropped open. The look on their faces said “Whaaat???” We’d just watched the first dozen seconds of the San Diego Zoo video “Baby Elephants.” I’d paused the video and asked them to make a prediction. “Based on the introduction, what do you think you’ll be learning about …Read more

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3 Steps – Launching Students into Reading Multiple Sources

Kids FALL IN LOVE with reading multiple sources on a topic–once we introduce them to the idea. So how do we get them hooked? In a way that’s manageable for us? Could it be as simple as these three steps and a set of 2-3 books on the same topic? (Attached as a word doc …Read more

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On the power of inquiry charts…my kids surprised me when…

Recently I had the honor of talking with Sara, a teacher in Iowa, whose students have started using inquiry charts. In a nutshell, these charts help students determine what is important and organize their notes as they read-view-listen to multiple sources. (If you’re not familiar with inquiry charts, please check out an article I wrote …Read more

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Our students know so little if…

When our students read just one source on a topic, I would argue they still know almost nothing about that topic or issue. I know you know this. It’s not until they read, view, listen to multiple sources on that topic that their understanding is transformed. This is not a new point. My argument is that students should …Read more

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“I underlined all the words! They’re all important!”

When annotating, do your students underline most of what they’ve read because they think “it’s all important”? Maybe they’ve underlined that much because they don’t know how to determine what is important? Below are a few tips and photos from a demo lesson I gave to tackle this issue. And, yes, I used the pasta …Read more

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Three Phase Lesson – Explaining Supporting Evidence

Do your students ever need help with explaining how key details support a main idea? Here are a few thoughts and artifacts from a three-phase lesson I gave. Phase One – Meet the Source The students read the article entitled “Tortoises battle it out with Marines for the right to stay put.” Suggestion – Before …Read more

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Can your 6-8th grade students explain how two authors present the same info and reveal different points of view?

Here’s a lesson for teaching students to analyze how two authors writing about the same topic may shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of the facts (Common Core Standard 7.9). Go to Science News for Students and locate an article that cites a study. Most of these …Read more

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Writing Authentic Letters as Reading Responses

Are your students tired of writing analytical essays? I’m shaking up how students respond to informational texts. I’m experimenting with letters to real people that still nudge students to think about the big ideas in sources. With small groups of 4th and 5th grade students, I explored what writing letters might look like. Here’s the …Read more

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What about using the language of text structure to help students compare texts?

Teaching the language of text structures can help students compare and contrast texts more easily. I gave a lesson to a 5th/6th grade class a few weeks ago with two current event articles on drones. The first article “How can you get a bird’s eye view?” from Wonderopolis is written in an enumerative (or descriptive) …Read more

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