Readers are naturally filled with questions about topics they are interested in and are led to read nonfiction texts to find answers to those questions.
However, informational texts can be overwhelming and a challenge to read. From the different text structures to the content specific vocabulary to the way the content is presented to the amount of content stuffed into one piece of text.
Sometimes readers will only browse informational texts and not actually read them because of the feeling of overwhelm with the content, structure and design of the text.
Sometimes browsing will find an answer for a focus question but without reading the text the reader will miss out on valuable pieces of information that could add to his or her understanding of the content.
Readers need skills, strategies and tools to navigate their way through nonfiction texts.
I find it funny when I encounter people that have told me they don’t ever read. I just want to laugh out loud and say in my most sarcastic voice tone, ’Really…you don’t ever read?’
I know sarcasm is bad but come on…
We are surrounded by nonfiction texts every day with brochures and posters and websites and instructional manuals and recipes and the list goes on…
Informational text is how we get the answers we need to complete just about every task we encounter.
🤔💭👉How many times have you googled how to do something or looked up a topic that you were interested in knowing more about?
🤔💭👉How many times have you been pushed to read an instruction manual, even those illustrated ones? It's important know how to gather information and make meaning from pictures, visual and graphic aides. That’s reading too!
🤔💭👉How many times have you read an email or a text message. I mean most people live with their electronic device permanently attached to their hands. That electronic device leads us to vast amounts of informational text
Which brings me back to...
Readers need strategies, skills and tools specific to navigating a nonfiction text.
Readers need to visit and revisit these 9 key teaching points each year with increasing complexity based on their level.
9 key teaching points for navigating nonfiction text
TEACHING POINT #1
Prereading: Browsing Connecting and Questioning nonfiction
Readers need prereading strategies and skills specific to nonfiction and informational text.
Readers need to know the kinds of things to notice and how to recognize how an author brings key points to the reader’s attention before diving into the information.
When browsing a nonfiction text readers need to notice how the text is structured, the features the author uses to display and share the informational content.
Readers need to be able to notice these features and make a plan for reading the text based on their purpose.
TEACHING POINT #2
Features of nonfiction texts
Readers need to know the different features of nonfiction texts.
This is more than just being able to identify and name the features of a text. It’s more important to know why an author includes an index and how to use it, rather than where the index is found.
Readers must understand the purpose of the different features used within nonfiction texts. Readers need to know WHY authors use the different features to convey their message and key points.
Readers must be able to explore and dive into the different features to discover how to extract meaning from those text features
Readers need to navigate those features as part of the text and how those features add to the text.
Readers need to see how to connect the text written on the page with the features an author uses to bring meaning and develop understanding of the text and the topic.
TEACHING POINT #3
Reading with a question in mind
When readers have a specific question in mind that they want answered by an informational text, they will be more focused on the relevant details they need to answer that question.
Let’s be real…informational texts are filled to the brim with interesting information.
Sometimes we need more than just the interesting, we need the information that will give us the answers we are looking for.
Determining a question before reading will focus the reader’s thinking about the text
When I read a text about certain species of frogs disappearing, my focus question was, Why are so many frogs mysteriously disappearing?
TEACHING POINT #4
Using a coding strategy to annotate the text
Readers need a system for coding to mark up the informational text and extract the information
These codes could be developed together to mark the informational text as they read to show
What they already know. Readers could mark this information with a check mark.
The relevant & new information that answers their focus question could be marked with a plus sign.
Interesting information unrelated to the focus question could be marked with the word WOW or an exclamation point, so the reader will know to come back later.
Information that sparks more questions could be marked with a question mark or simply writing the question.
Nonfiction text can be filled with difficult content so information that is confusing could be marked with the word WHAT or a sad face.
These codes shared and shown here are merely suggestions to give an idea of what you could develop with your students for reading informational text.
TEACHING POINT #5
Determining main ideas of a text
When readers have skills and strategies for determining the main idea of a text, they will be able to gather the main points the author wanted the reader to understand about the topic.
Readers need to know how to gather the big ideas or the very important points and the details to support those points.
Readers need to know how to recognize and extract the main points an author is trying to make from the supporting details.
TEACHING POINT #6
Read, Stop and React
Just like in reading fiction text, readers need to know how to divide the reading into smaller more digestible chunks.
Nonfiction reading is filled with an overwhelming amount of information given through the text and the visual and graphic aides.
Readers need to understand that reading smaller pieces of the text to stop and react to is okay because nonfiction texts are filled with information that readers need to process.
Readers need to determine how much they should read within an informational text before stopping to process and react (maybe with those codes I discussed earlier)
TEACHING POINT #7
Creating mental images for nonfiction text
Images in nonfiction texts are not always in photographs, pictures, illustrations and charts.
Sometimes authors of nonfiction and informational text will use wording in the text that ‘paints’ a picture for readers.
Readers need to be able to spot those text descriptions and use those to create a sketch of their mental image.
TEACHING POINT #8
Reading and interpreting graphic and visual aids
So much information within a text can be summarized in a graphic or visual aid.
Readers need skills to connect the information in the graphics and visuals to the text they are reading.
Many times readers will ‘read right over’ the photographs, tables charts and other visual and graphic aides.
When readers encounter a text reference to a photograph or visual or graphic aid such as …see figure 1… or as shown here...they need to stop, refer to that figure and make the connection with the text.
TEACHING POINT #9
Understanding & using content specific vocabulary
Content specific vocabulary is a large part of informational and nonfiction text.
Key ideas are filled with academic and content specific words. Therefore, Readers need skills for using the context of a text to bring meaning to the content specific words they encounter in the text.
Readers can then use this content specific vocabulary to summarize the key points of a text to show their understanding.
There are so many strategies and skills readers must understand in order to navigate the challenging genre of nonfiction. These key teaching points will get your readers moving in the right direction.
If you are interested in these 9 teaching points as minilessons with printable resources, please visit this product on Teachers Pay Teachers, Reading Informational Text--A Collection of Minilessons.
Until next time...