Those familiar with my blog know that I have long advocated for more informational texts in the elementary classroom. I start my children's literature with Nell Duke's seminal study which highlighted the 1.6 minutes a day students in first grade interacted with informational text.
Thus, I was excited to see the focus on the 70/30 split on informational and narrative texts in the Common Core. By balancing all of the content areas with a close to 60/40 or 50/50 split in ELA students will develop analytical reading and writing skills.
I do not, however, support the idea that the only way to support the use of informational texts is through close reading or that we should severely limit pre-teaching texts. It seems some Common Core supporters have forgotten the most important maxim that the standards tell us "What to teach, not how to teach."
Thus I will always introduce my teachers to the idea of before, during, and after reading activities to build the practices employed by good readers. I will also teach them to draw on the principals of explicit instruction, modeling, and guided practice. Why would we ignore thirty years of reading comprehension research?
Using Technology to Support Informational Text
I am also a big proponent of using technology to make the teaching and assessment of reading comprehension for effective and efficient. Recently this passion has lead to my involvement in many iPad initiatives.
For sometime the impediments of using classroom sets of iPad outweighed the benefits. The product was too new for the workflow to be in place that is changing. Many classrooms can now use the iPad to not only support the use of digital texts and tools but to build foundational literacies skills.
One great app I use is Screenchomp, from Camtasia. It turns your ipad into an interactive whiteboard (in fact instead of spending thousands on IWBs schools should just get an Apple TV and an iPad..more on that later).
In the latest update you can now import PDFs from dropbox. This was a watershed moment for me. Teachers could model the reading of informational texts and share them with students. Students could complete collaborative think alouds and reflect on the strategies they used. The potential is there (you could also use this with Classic literature from gutenberg.org.
Steps to using Screenchomp for think-alouds
1. Choose a background from dropbox.
2. Open a pdf
3. Center the piece. This is the one drawback. As far as I know you can only look at one page of a PDF at a time in Screenchomp. However, you can scroll up and down using two fingers. So just make sure the texts you choose are one page long, or know that you will have to record each page seperatley.
4. Record your think-aloud: