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Building Literacy with Informational Texts

The 2009 recommendations of the National Assessment of Educational Progress are clear: by grade 4, 50% of student instruction should come from informational texts. By grade 8, the percentage jumps to 55%; by grade 12, 70%. The term "informational text" includes science, social studies, and other disciplines; NAEP did not intend to curtail the teaching of poetry, drama, or fiction. English Language Arts teachers have always, however, included nonfiction in their curricula. Here are some possibilities:

  • 11 Suffixes That Gave Us New, Often Terrible Words
    10 of these suffixes are appropriate for the classroom. Good word study that leads to a "create your own word and justify its existence" writing activity. Middle school and above. Reduced list for upper elementary.
  • Do You Know How? A Technical Manual for Using Highly Technical 21st Century Devices
    Students will define the purpose of the technical manual, conduct research from various sources, organize research and draft a technical manual, and utilize the basic steps in revising, editing and producing work.
  • The Gettysburg Address
    Lesson plans and teaching resources.
  • How Stuff Works
    This site is a good model for students who are doing process analysis papers. It is easy to navigate, and the information is reliable. Best for middle school and older.
  • The Journal of Harriet Tubman
    If Harriet Tubman had blogged about her life, it might have looked like this. A model of student research that can be used to create other biographies.
  • The Library of Congress
    Teacher-created lesson plans using the primary source documents of the U. S. Library of Congress.
  • Single Limited Viewpoint
    Writer Scott Westerfeld discusses the impact of various points of view on a narrative. Follow-up activity: students narrate an event from 3 different points of view. Best for middle school and above.
  • Talking Walls by Margy Burns Knight
    Students use online resources to research the walls mentioned in the book. They identify the countries where the walls are and the characteristics of the people and the culture in those countries. Students also compare and contrast the purpose of walls. Lesson plan includes strategies, assessment, related resources, and extension activities.
  • Tiny Texts: Google Doodles
    A suggestion for a great writing task using Google Doodles as a focus. A little research, a little writing, a little creativity — a great learning activity for upper elementary and older!
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights: How Can We Put It Into Action?
    Students read the children's version of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (link included) and identify the rights and why each is important. Then they brainstorm for ideas of how to make it possible for the rights of every person to be honored. Lesson includes teaching strategy, assessment, and extension activities. Designed for grades K-5.
  • We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
    Scroll to page 4 of this document to find a summary, 10 discussion questions and learning activities, and related titles. Designed for grade 3 and up.

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