Informational Reading and Student Engagement
According to the CCSS, 45% of all reading should be informational. Wow. I realize that we read for information when reading social studies, science, technology, the arts, psychology, etc. but it also seems that most reading children elect to read on their own is literature – not informational.
Anyone that teaches children knows how difficult it is to teach an “informational” subject such as those listed. Once children reach college level work, they choose a major that interests them and this type of informational reading becomes easier to teach just based on student interest. However, until that time, we are still required to teach it and students are still required to learn it!
The best way I have found is to get the students involved with their learning. They need to do something with the information, not just read it and answer questions on a worksheet. Last year, I was doing a long-term sub job in a fifth grade class. I watched my students as we read in the science book and answered questions in the workbooks. They read a little and they wrote down answers. They read some more and wrote down some more answers. This stop and start reading actually interferes with understanding the text. It interrupts the reading flow and slows their progress. Besides, it is actually pretty boring for us as well as for them! Find a way to engage them with the information. As I share what I did, I hope it will stimulate ideas for you as well.
We read the entire chapter on digestion together – typical round-robin reading. At the end of each section we discussed what we read, asking questions, discussed vocabulary, and come up with examples , some of which were pretty grouse – remember I was dealing with 10-year-olds! Okay, so I know that most of you probably also do the same thing. Well, instead of doing the comprehension workbook pages, I asked them to write a story from the point of view of a piece of food as it moved through the entire – yes, entire – digestive system. They described what happened to them at each step ending with a “plop” into a big black hole know as the toilet! It was amazing to watch them. They referred again and again to their text book, they checked out library books, they looked up information on the Internet all on their own. They read and reread parts of the chapter. They were doing something with the information – the same information that could be boring… and had a ton of fun and learned about the digestive system at the same time. Interestingly enough, every single student turned in a story – every single one.
Without some sort of engagement, learning will not happen. Students really have no choice in what they are asked to read and learn. Teaching today is not the same as teaching twenty years ago.