In my politics of reading class, we recently went over how Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have led to an increase in informational texts in the classroom. At first, when I heard this, I thought it was a great idea, because informational texts require students to use certain reading skills (such as information recall) that aren’t used as much in fictional texts. However, when I thought about when I was in Elementary school, I remember how boring I thought non-fiction informational texts were. I know that if I was forced to read more informational texts in elementary school, I would have been turned off by reading even more and rushed through the texts to get the necessary information.
John Spencer recently wrote a blog on this entitled “8 Strategies to Keep Information Reading Fun” and in this article (found here), he discussed how to re-frame your students’ mindsets to be excited about informational texts, instead of being turned off by the thought of them. Below I have listed his eight strategies, and I will explain each one briefly.
(1) Student Choice: Spencer started by saying that, even though it is not generally effective to allow students to read whatever they want, allowing children to have some control over what they read encourages them to read more, because they get to pick readings that they are more interested in. Spencer indicated that the best way to go about this is to ask them “What information do you want to find?” instead of asking them “What do you want to read?” This puts the students in a research mindset and helps them “fall in love with informational texts.”
(2) Think More and Work Less: Spencer also stated that most of the frustration students have with informational texts relates back to the amount of work required with these texts. Instead of giving them a bunch of questions after each reading, Spencer suggested that teachers ask their students to “practice reading strategies mentally” which often leads to improved reading endurance.
(3) Keep the Strategies Flexible: With this, all Spencer is suggesting is to encourage close reading but not enforce it to the extent to which children are so focused on the process, that they forget to actually think about the information in the texts.
(4) Personalized Practice: I actually thought this strategy was very intriguing. For this strategy, Spencer suggested that before reading, students should select “two strategies that are strengths and one that is a weakness.” The point of this is to help children develop all of their reading strategies, instead of focusing on racing the pacing guide.
(5) Solve a Problem: As Spencer stated, “one of the most common motives for seeking out an informational text is the desire to solve a problem.” So, why do we not apply this in the classroom? If we encourage students to see informational texts as part of research, informational texts become much more relevant and intriguing.
(6) Make Something: This part was sort of confusing to me, but I think that Spencer was basically telling teachers to treat informational texts as project-based learning and use it as part of a creation. If children use the information to make something tangible, it becomes more relevant to their lives.
(7) Embrace Technology: This is one strategy that I feel most teachers are finally starting to take advantage of. This simply means that teachers should go with the culture of modern society and implement more technology in reading instruction.
(8) Don’t Shy Away From the Conflict: In this section, Spencer suggested that all to often, teachers teach students to think of informational texts as objective and factual. While this is generally true, Spencer also said that we must encourage students to challenge the objectivity in these texts and examine “the bias of the language” to analyze the “social, political, and economic forces at work in an author’s argument.” I think this is important because it gets the reader more involved, and allows them to think more deeply about the information they are reading.
All in all, I think Spencer suggested some great strategies for getting students more excited about and involved in informational texts, which is particularly important in modern school systems. If we implement these strategies successfully, students will enjoy informational texts more, and improve their research reading skills.