Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Working in supplemental informational text

Wow that's a pretty wordy title, but I wanted to be as specific as possible.

Today I thought I'd give an example of how I bring in some supplemental informational text, which is aligned with CCSS.

A lot of people read the CC standards and gasp "No more fiction! Only non-fiction! The horror!" And while CC does say about 60% of what high school students should be reading is informational text, that means ACROSS THE CURRICULUM. Meaning, 60% of your English class does NOT have to be strictly non-fiction.

Students are reading non-fiction (or informational text) in science, social studies, Spanish, foods, consumer get the idea! Most of what they read in other subjects is informational, not fiction. So it's OK to still teach a lot of fiction in English class.

But what CCSS would like us to do is bring in supplemental materials sometimes in addition to our fictional texts. It is actually fairly easy to find a non-fiction text that relates to something you're studying in fiction.

If you're reading Fahrenheit 451, students could read an article about the pros/cons of censoring books.

To go along with To Kill a Mockingbird, they could research the history of the "n" word or read the Jim Crow Laws, or a plethora of other ideas.

These are things you probably are already DOING in your novel units anyway without necessarily thinking of it like this.

I'm going to give you an example of a lesson I recently did that tied fiction and non-fiction together.

We have been doing an American Poets unit in my junior class, and we recently read "Birches" by Robert Frost. (I admit, I choose my favorite poems to teach my students. "Birches" is one of my absolute favorite poems EVER!)

So after we did our lesson analyzing the poem, I had them listen to JFK's speech at Amherst College which honored Robert Frost after his death in 1963:
{Hint: If you only want the part that talks about Frost, start it at 6:28}

 I give them a printed version of the text of the speech and have them annotate as they are listening/following along to show evidence of a close reading.

These are the specific instructions I gave them on their sheet (click to make larger)

After we listened to it, I let them go back through and take more time to add annotations if they couldn't keep up with the recording. After they did this, I brought it up on the Smart Board and had about 5 students mark their annotations in just the first three paragraphs. I talked about how THAT was the extent and amount of annotations I'd expect for the whole article.

Then for homework, they answered these close reading questions, which I put at the end of the speech:

 We started class the next day discussing their annotations, their answers to these questions, and relating with JFK said about art/poets/artists to Robert Frost specifically, as well as discussed his ideas in general. We talked about whether or not they feel our country is the kind of country JFK described in his speech.

All told, we spent about 1.5 class periods on this supplemental speech, but I am also using it next week to teach parallel structure, so it is killing like three birds with one stone :) 

This is just one example of how you can bring in informational text to supplement the fiction you are already doing, the fiction we want to be teaching.


  1. This is a great example. I have not used CLOSE reading while listening to the audio version of the text (or speech). I am going to give it a try. Thank you for explaining the process so well.

  2. I love how specific your lessons are and how much effort you put into describing what works and what doesn't! I have nominated your blog for a Liebster award. Check out my page to see what it's all about: