The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 1 - Page 12


comprehend and monitor their comprehension of text. Therefore, we want to be sure that we also model Think Alouds with informational text. As we read aloud chunks of text with students, we can orally share how we approach images we encounter, strategies for figuring out academic vocabulary, and how to use headings, sidebars, captions and other text features as tools to better understand informational text. While research shows that informational texts are used much less frequently as read alouds with very young children (Pentimonti, Zucker, Justice, & Kaderavek, 2010), that needs to change. It’s not only important to increase the number of informational texts students hear read aloud but also to incorporate think alouds into the read aloud experience so that our students know how to approach such texts.

Share Multiple Texts on the Same Topic

Gather five to ten books on a topic such as space. Talk about how the books are similar and differ. The most obvious difference might be that some are fiction, some are faction, and others are informational. Discussing these differences can lead to Text Flexibility which we talked about before, but then encourage students to look ,more closely at the

. Perhaps some of the texts contain experiments students can complete as they study space and the solar system. Others might be more descriptive texts about space, and finally there may be a text or two which encourages space travel and spending money on space exploration. Talk about why authors write different texts. How will the texts differ according to purpose?

Research has shown that students as young as first grade can demonstrate an understanding of audience (Wollman-Bonilla, 2001). Take this opportunity to focus student attention on why authors write texts and how the writing differs. How do we read directions versus descriptive text? This is a good time to talk about how succinct directions are and the importance of reading every word in order to successfully complete the experiment. At the same time, students may not read every single word of a descriptive book on Mars and still get a lot of information from it. The ability to analyze multiple texts on a topic is something our students will need to be able to do throughout their life, and we can start when they are young.

Create Classroom Critics

All text is not created equal. With the rapidly increasing number of digital texts available, we need to help our youngest students become critical consumers of text. It isn’t difficult to find errors in printed texts, and yet we know that digital texts often don’t even go through the same rigorous review process as printed texts. How can we best begin to create text critics? We can start by including multiple informational texts on a topic. As a class, talk about criteria that might be useful in determining if a text is well written. Does the text say anything about the author? Does it mention the consultation of any experts? How do we know the author has the background to write the book and why is that important? Does the copyright matter? Is the publication date important? Encourage students to really think about what they are reading and to become critics of text. I’ve often seen young students give a thumbs up or down for books. In the similar manner, we can do that with informational text and have them share their reasoning.

Our ultimate goal is for our students to successfully develop the disciplinary literacy skills necessary to navigate the complex textual demands they will need in order to think and read like scientists, historians, and mathematicians. However, we can’t lose sight of the fact we need our students to have an interest in texts and the