I like to tell my students that learning biology is like learning another language. I wanted my classroom to be student-centered instead of a “sage on the stage” classroom. My belief is that the more students can develop their own learning the better they will understand it and the longer they will retain it. That’s why informational text activities play a large role in my classroom.
How to Use Informational Text Activities
As often as I could I tied textmapping, close reading and informational text together, often using all three strategies in the same lesson. Here are some tips I’ve discovered about ways to used informational text to teach my science content.
Make sure to chunk the information.
- A long article or block of text can be intimidating and off-putting for many students. Chunking the reading up in smaller sections and letting students work with only one or two sections at a time makes it much easier for students to focus without getting overwhelmed. An easy way to accomplish this is to number the paragraphs. Then you can instruct students to “read paragraphs 1 – 3 and then summarize them”. They’ll know exactly what you want them to read.
Use informational text at stations.
- I’m a huge proponent of using stations at the high school level. For some reason we seem to think that they’re only useful with elementary students but I’ve found that my students greatly enjoy and benefit from them.
To use informational text at stations, you could have each station use a different type of reading strategy. For example, let’s say your overall topic is protein synthesis. You could have one station where students read a short section of the text and discuss the main ideas, headings and subheadings.
At another station place an article about the steps of protein synthesis where students are asked to textmap and answer several questions.
A third station could have a different article about protein synthesis, along with Cornell notes that they can complete. You could differentiate this by using cloze notes for students that need extra prompts in writing notes.
Have students annotate the article and do close reading.
- They can work in pairs to read and annotate, and then answer questions and do other activities such as watch a video with Edpuzzle or or do a Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) activity.
- You can use informational text activities in so many ways with just about any science topic. They can also work very well in a flipped or blended classroom.
You might like to check out my informational text series called Amazing Nature. Each of these resources contain an interesting article, vocabulary activities, comprehension questions, and an extension activity.
What are some informational text activities that you’ve tried? We’d love to hear about them!