Thursday, March 27, 2014

Informational Text Features and Graphic Organizers

Informational text is a difficult area for our students. No matter who the teacher matter which state they live in...informational text is a tough concept for elementary students. 

We all use graphic organizers - whether it be the simple "web" or a Venn diagram, I am sure you would all raise your hand if I were to ask who has used one or more in their classroom. However, have we really ever taught the difference between the graphic organizers? Or have we explained how they can be used to a benefit our ability to dissect informational text? If you follow along with this blog post, I will go through an entire reading lesson that will dive deep into graphic organizers and their uses for ANY text (not just informational).

Text patterns help students become more comfortable with the ways informational text is presented to them...which is not always the simplest way. They will also help create scaffold (the graphic organizers) to assist students in organizing the information they are reading - in a MEANINGFUL way! Last, the lead to "framed paragraphs" which is a strategy I will touch on later that helps students recall what they learned from a specific piece of text.

These text patterns can be used to give meaning/purpose to the text. My favorite way to use them is to have them act as an active reading strategy - having students organize their information into their graphic organizer while reading or after reading makes them a more active reader. They also develop your students into a worker - forcing them to gather important information while they are reading.

This is the list we make in class that allows students to understand how our text patterns and graphic organizers are helpful to us for reading:
1 - help you preview what you are about to read and how you are going to read it critically
2 - help you organize your thoughts while reading
3 - help make information text less confusing and "wordy"
4 - help you learn how to take notes
5 - help you write a response to your reading

Our graphic organizers:

1. Compare and Contrast (aka the Venn Diagram):
I sometimes like to give my students the option of using the H Chart. We use this when we don't have enough room to write in the circles of a Venn Diagram. Each side is a topic, and the middle (horizontal section) is the "both" area.
 2. Cause and Effect Webs:
 3. Attribute Web (aka Characteristic Web):
 4. Sequence Chart (aka Timeline):

For this lesson with the students, I always find a piece of writing from one of our textbooks (usually Social Studies works the best!) that allows me to create a question for each of these graphic organizers. Your questions should use the "neon light words" that I have listed in the Graphic Organizer Pack available in my store. These neon light words allow students to figure out which graphic organizer will best help them organize their information and write their response. Here are some question stems that may help you generate your questions:

1. Compare and contrast.....____ and ____
2. Describe the characteristics of ____________
3. What might have caused the author to ..... ?
4. What was the sequence of events that led to .... ?

See!? You can pick out which graphic organizer to use because of my neon light words! (more listed in the pack)

I love love love this lesson and it has proven useful for me time and time again. I have done many different lessons that later stem from this lesson, as well. This is only the start to your students fully understanding information text. It also allows them to see the importance of having a purpose when we are reading and taking notes...otherwise, why take notes? 

If there is no purpose to it, 
students will not retain it.

 Working together!

 Group presentations
This is the star system I use to monitor group work - they earn stars while they work and they know how to get stars (as discussed prior to group work)

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