Leap Into Literacy Grade 3

April/May 2018

Reading Workshop - Informational Text

Once Upon a Concept–Fun with Informational Text by Janice Such

Although fiction has traditionally been a popular choice for read-alouds, informational text is a strong alternative that offers many benefits. By including high-interest informational read-alouds that reinforce "once upon a concept" instead of "once upon a time," teachers can help students learn to navigate the rich terrain of informational text. By selecting read-aloud texts created to inform, and not just to entertain, teachers can influence students' understanding of the world.


One of the key advantages of using informational texts for an interactive read-aloud is that it helps students build background knowledge. The Reading Standards for Informational Text make clear that students must be well equipped to read texts that inform, think critically about those works, and respond to higher-level questions. As learners listen actively and discuss the text, they make progress toward the Speaking and Listening Standards. For a more complete look at expectations for students, teachers can consult their grade-level standards.

Real-Life Application

Informational text most resembles what adults read in college, in the workplace, and in everyday life. It prepares students to process facts, interpret charts and tables, and follow directions. In addition, it offers young readers a chance to develop diverse interests that might range from architecture to cartooning to ocean life. Some readers naturally gravitate to nonfiction, and informational text can sometimes ignite the reading life of a struggling student.

Text Features and Structures

Interactive read-aloud for nonfiction encourages students to listen carefully for important concepts. Since interactive read-aloud removes the onus of decoding, all listeners, especially struggling readers, are free to enjoy the experience. The added value of carefully chosen, thoughtful teacher think-alouds makes the text more accessible for listeners. Stopping at preselected intervals, the teacher can invite children to discuss text elements that expand their critical thinking. By participating in cooperative structures such as turning to a partner and/or sharing in a small group, children voice their thoughts. Ultimately, it is this exchange of ideas that extends their learning.

When teachers read an informational text aloud to students, they can expose them to text features (such as tables of contents, captions, cutaways, photographs and illustrations, labels, glossaries, indexes, sidebars, hyperlinks, and more) that enable them to traverse their way successfully through the book or article. Because of the popularity of informational texts, many are now available in big-book format, making them ideal for classroom sharing. Teachers can point out selected text features as a springboard to discuss author's craft. By asking questions like "How did the author use headings to organize the article?" or "Why did the author decide to use a cutaway in this section?" the teacher can deepen students' understanding of author's craft and the writer's decision-making process.

With intermediate-grade students, the teacher can use an informational text read-aloud to call attention to the structures of chronology, comparison, and cause/effect. This attention to structure is crucial, because the Reading Standards for Informational Text call for students in grades four and beyond to have knowledge of text features so that they can expand their learning to include text structures (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010).

One of the reasons that interactive read-aloud has retained its popularity in a digital age is the human element: the teacher-reader has the power to enthrall listeners with an attention-getting, fluent oral reading of the text. In an interactive read-aloud focused on informational text, teacher-readers can channel enthusiasm, amazement, wonder, and curiosity. They can invite students into their own relationship with the text as they model strategies. Teachers can model how to convey the author's meaning through the skillful use of their voices.

As students listen to a read-aloud of an informational text, they encounter many content-specific words. They grow in their understanding of academic vocabulary. Discussions about words help students EXPAND VOCABULARY because they hear words that are not ordinarily used in everyday speech.

Promoting Informational Read-Aloud

Classroom teachers have opportunities to include informational text in their frequent read-alouds. At school literacy nights and parent-teacher conferences, and via family correspondence, they can encourage parents to consider choosing informational texts for their home read-alouds. They can invite guest readers to share their favorite informational texts.

The Standards promote wide reading that includes a variety of texts; they also reinforce the importance of informational text. These standards invite teachers to continue to share high-quality fiction through their interactive read-alouds, but to include informational text as well. In turn, students' literary lives will be enriched by encountering fictional characters who live happily ever after and nonfiction concepts that live on in their understanding.

Works Cited

Boushey, G., & Moser, J. (2009). The CAFE book. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Washington, DC: Authors.

Writing Workshop - 5 Ways to Initiate Your Share Sessions

Share sessions in the writing workshop are most useful when teachers structure them, not as a second minilesson, but as a time for kids to have instructional conversations with one another. When conducting share sessions as conversations, begin by telling the kids the topic of the conversation. Then, kids talk to one another in partnerships and finally, they talk together as a group.

Ultimately, the kinds of shares you can do with your kids are endless.

  1. Content: This type of share starts with a student sharing either her entire piece or a part of her piece. The class retells the piece to make sure they understand it. Finally, they ask questions about the parts that confused them and/or the parts they want to know more about. Based on these questions, the student will decide what revisions she’ll make (if any). Just recently, I did a content share in a kindergarten class. The little girl wrote a story about having a play date with her friend. She and her friend were playing under the table. On the last page, she wrote that she was sad. After the class retold her piece they asked questions: Why were you under the table? Why were you sad? She explained that they were playing family under the table and that she was sad because her mother came early and she didn’t want to go home. Ultimately, she revised her story by explaining why she was sad.

  1. Craft: This type of share starts with one child sharing the craft technique he/she tried. The craft might be directly connected to what was taught in the minilesson or it might be something that popped up during a conference. The other kids come to the share with their current writing piece, a pencil, and/or a post-it note. After the child shares, the other kids reread their writing checking to see if the craft technique would work for them. If it does, they make some sort of notation to remind themselves of what they want to try. Finally, they share their findings with one another.

  1. Minilesson: This share starts with a question that is related to the minilesson. The kids talk about the question as a way to clarify their ideas and deepen their understanding of what was taught. Recently, I conducted a minilesson helping students organize their table of contents in their non-fiction books. After the lesson, many kids were still confused and unable to make substantial changes. During the share, I asked the following questions: What kinds of changes could a writer make to their table of contents? How would those changes help? Because they were talking as a way of thinking, they struggled at times to find the right words but the talk itself brought to a new level of understanding.

  1. Process: During a progress share, the teacher poses a question that gets kids to reflect upon some part of the writing process (How does rereading help you? What kinds of planning can you do in your Writer’s Notebook? How does that planning help you with drafting? How have you grown in this unit? What can you do now that you couldn’t do in the beginning of the year? How can you take what you learned in this study to the next study?) The kids talk about the question as a way to deepen their understanding of that part of the process, as well as to help themselves transfer their learning into ongoing work.

  1. Spelling: In a spelling conversation, the teacher finds a student who has spelled a word incorrectly and uses that word to provide spelling instruction for all students. The teacher first shares what the student did well and then shows the class the spelling rule or pattern that this word follows. Finally, the kids talk to one another, trying to generate other words that follow the same rule or pattern. Recently, a student I worked with had spelled played as plad. First, I pointed out to the class how the child listened closely to the beginning sound of played. Then, I showed the kids how in this word, the long a was represented by ‘ay’. Then, then kids talked to one another brainstorming other words where the long a was represented by ‘ay’.

Adapted from the blog written by Leah Mermelstein on http://twowritingteachers.org