Leap Into Literacy 5th Grade


Supporting Nonfiction with Digital Text Bins

“When you read fiction, you enter the author’s world. When you read nonfiction, the text & topic enters your world.”

-Kylene Beers (as quoted by @MaggieBRoberts on Twitter)

Since the amount of information available to us today is greater than ever before in human history, the teaching of nonfiction has become a priority. As adults, most of what we read is nonfiction. Nell K. Duke led a landmark study that found in elementary schools, students spend an average of only 3.6 minutes a day with informational text. Our task is to teach our students how to sift through and think critically about the information they encounter in the world.

This can be daunting when many of us look at our classroom libraries and realize that they do not reflect the 50/50 balance of fiction and nonfiction that the Common Core and New Jersey Student Learning Standards require. One way to add to our libraries without taking up any physical space is by using digital text bins. Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) has a collection of digital texts available on their website (http://readingandwritingproject.org). This collection includes 29 topics ranging from Aliens to Wildfires. Digital texts include articles and videos, so this variety is reflected in the list.

Additionally, the Two Writing Teachers blog has a post about digital bins that includes tips for building your own bins. The Lit Learn Act blog has a post about student engagement and digital bins. They even made a display with QR codes that link to digital texts. The task of teaching our students how to navigate the world of information can be challenging, but digital text bins can help us find enough nonfiction to supplement the informational texts in our classrooms.


January's Reading and Writing Units of Study

January finds our Reading Unit of Study being a true companion to our Writing Unit of Study. In Reading, we study Argument and Advocacy - Researching Debatable Issues and in Writing, we have the Research-Based Argument Essay. By making connections to what the students are reading, we can raise the level of their writing and by connecting their writing to their reading, we can deepen their understandings. This is reciprocity at its best. And to help with this, Lucy Calkins and her staff have a wonderful chart available in your registered Reading Units of Study resources on the Heinemann website. It offers a vision of the work taking place in both units as well as key connections between the two. The chart can be found in your Unit 3 resources in the Reading Units of Study. It is entitled Considerations for Using the Reading and Writing Grade 5 Argument Units Together and Independently.

For those of you who only teach writing, there are also suggestions for you. If you don’t have access to the online resources for the Reading Units, see your building Reading Development Teacher and she can provide you with a copy.