I’ve been working with an extension group as part of our school-wide efforts to reteach, remediate, and extend. It’s been a really positive experience as I get to work collaboratively with our technology specialist. We’re given the topic each week and then we get to plan instruction together. We work with the same grade level three days a week and the students flow in and out of our group every two weeks or so. We have 30 minutes together (which you know can be more like 20!). Generally the groups have ranged from 35-55 students. One week we had the topic of nonfiction text features. To practice thinking about the impact these features truly have on our understanding of nonfiction texts, we asked students to add features to a stripped down article.
As a large group on Day 1 we identified a list of nonfiction text features. Students helped me mark the ones they consider ‘essential’ such as a title, subtitle, headings, bold print words to match a glossary, pictures with captions, etc. We left the list on our board to use as a reference during the project.
I printed five articles from Time for Kids of current events and stripped out all of the formatting, headings, title, pictures, and captions. Each pair of students had their choice of the five topics and received a print copy of their article.
I set out the post it notes, the list of nonfiction text features was posted, and off they went! They stuck post its in for the title, wrote headings, decided which words should be in bold and used the dictionary to find definitions. They continued this planning on Day 2.
On Day 3 the students paired up in the computer lab. It was a little cozy! I had saved each article as a Word Template. They opened the template matching their article and started to follow their plan for adding text features. It seemed like the articles transformed instantly as they used their plans to make changes to their new document.
It’s funny, I never once had to say “Does that font make sense for the article? Can we read that color choice well enough?” They were so focused on making the transformations that were essential to the task that they didn’t have time to get too ‘creative.’ They did change fonts, colors, and added underlining, but it make their articles look real and professional. No one added pizzazz for no reason.
On Day 4 I gave a quick review about inserting pictures. We used Google Image search and I stressed the fact that photographs in articles have credit given if it is a reputable news organization. I reminded them that they have fair use of images for their education, but we still give credit. I did not require a formal source citation, and in about 50% of the cases they cited just the website, but 50% of them also found the photographer, or asked what “AFP” means (Associated Foreign Press).
During our time we reviewed the impact that text features have on text by adding meaning and helping readers. Students carefully chose images well suited to the topic, were able to explain to me why they chose the words they did for their glossary, and how they were organizing items on the page.
Overall it was a great success and a lesson I would repeat again with fifth grade students!