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teaching with nonfiction

Writing with Mentor Texts – App Reviews in Grades 6-8

Is anybody else sick of the five-paragraph essay? The book Writing with Mentors (Marchetti & O’Dell, 2015) was so refreshing to read as I ponder how to keep students excited about reading and writing analytically. The authors provide insight into how we can engage students in writing for authentic purposes in a variety of non-five-paragraph …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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Types of Context Clues in Info Texts

Ugh! Unfamiliar vocabulary in informational texts can be a huge stumbling block for our students. Below are several types of clues you can teach students based on the work of Baumann and colleagues. I’m not sure I’d give students this list. Instead I made a bookmark like the one below for a lesson with fourth …Read more

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The Coding Strategy – Helping Students Monitor for Meaning

Have you ever conferred with a student who had difficulty recalling what they’d read? Or who seemed to recall the “easy to understand” parts of a text but not the harder parts? These students may need instruction on monitoring for meaning. I use the Coding Strategy (Hoyt, 2008) to reinforce self-monitoring. After each sentence or …Read more

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The Pasta Analogy-Helping Students Determine What’s Important

Do your students struggle with determining what is important when reading informational texts? Are they unsure of what to underline and annotate? I remember one fifth grade student saying, “Well, I underlined the whole text because it was all important!” Two suggestions. 1. Make sure there’s a VERY CLEAR PURPOSE for reading & determining what …Read more

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Teaching Main Idea and Details with Photos: Sample Lesson

A simple way to start talking with students about “main ideas” and “supporting details” is to use a photo as a “text.” When you use a photo as a text, you take away the cognitive load of reading and provide more mental space for students to grapple with concepts like “main idea” and “supporting details.” …Read more

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Complex sources? Give students a head start with THIEVES

Teaching students to use the mnemonic THIEVES (Manz, 2002) to preview a text is an easy way to nurture students’ sense of agency as they tackle feature-dense nonfiction sources. The poster below (created by a colleague!) reveals the details of this strategy–students preview, predict & then summarize their predictions. A FEW TIPS Create THIEVES bookmarks …Read more

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Quick way to review text & content before close reading

I tried something new–I provided a list of “key details” from a section of text as a way for students to review content before engaging in close reading of a more difficult section of the text. During a previous lesson, the 3rd grade students had read an article about Dolores Huerta (in the McGraw-Hill Wonders …Read more

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Analysis of Responses to 8th Grade Text Set & Prompt, Part 2

In the last blog entry, I shared a rigorous text set and prompt developed by an middle school ELA team. The team and I met (via Webinex) to discuss the students’ written responses. First we look at the strengths of each student’s analytic essay; then we discuss the students’ needs as writers. Integrated into this …Read more

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