Informational texts can be high-interest for many kids, but first the topic of the text needs to look appealing. Maybe it’s the pictures, the title, or the topic itself, but something has to appeal to the kids right off the bat to get them into the text before they can begin to get to the information that it holds.
The same idea holds true for close reading activities, which of course can be done with fiction as well as non-fiction. But with either type of text, close reading can seem like a lot of work to students if they aren’t interested in the topic yet. But once they’re into it, even meticulous, close reading can hold interest.
The key is setting up the class to want to read.
Pictures are always a good place to start. As they say, a picture’s worth a thousand words – and that does seem to be especially true with kids. Ask the students to look closely and talk about what they see in the image. Have the kids list questions or note details of the picture that they might like to know more about. Once they have ideas and questions, it’s time to read!
For current events topics, a class discussion is a great opener. Whether it’s a two-sided discussion, such as one about an upcoming election, or just talking about an event everyone has heard of – if it’s on kids’ minds, they will want to talk about it. Once the class gets to discussing, they’re hooked – time to read!
Another way to get kids into a text is with a preview, kind of like a book talk, presented by the teacher. For a topic that the kids aren’t already tuned in to, this build-up may be essential to an effective reading. And, for even more interest, the preview can always be combined with pictures and discussions.
School or Holiday Connection
A school or holiday connection can work wonders. Football season? Why not choose an article about football, or another fall sport? Earth Day or Martin Luther King Day coming up? Well kids do love holidays – out of school ones and school-day celebrations too – so take advantage and read about it!
Whatever you choose, once you’re ready to read you’ll want both good reading material and good related activities and questions. Informational articles are abundant and easy to come by, even at kids’ reading levels, but good question sets and activity sheets – not always. So plan on using some prep time before an informational text or close reading lesson. Or locate materials already made by another teacher! Either way, once your lesson is in the works, you’ll be glad you have those materials ready to make the most out of it.
Here are some of the resources that I’ve put together for close reading and for reading informational texts.