From the STAAR Third Grade Reading Information Booklet: Los estudiantes analizan, infieren y sacan conclusiones sobre el propósito del autor en contextos culturales, históricos y contemporáneos, y proporcionan evidencia del texto para apoyar su comprensión.Just the other day, I sat next to a friend while trying to explain to her the basics of Pinterest, specifically the why and the how. Within a few minutes, she was hooked and I sent her pinning merrily on her way.
We all find ourselves at different points on the spectrum of taking on the newest trend in technology. However, most of us are successful with those trends when given a moderate amount of guidance and the opportunity to make connections to what we are already familiar with. As adults, we already have a framework for examining WHY we would want to tackle a new type of media. Will it entertain me? Will it keep me informed? Will it explain how to do something new? Will it try to change my perspective?
Our minds also possess an internal structure for HOW to interpret the new media and understand what is important. We don't exhaust ourselves with reading every single word. We don't necessarily start at the beginning every time and move forward in a sequential order. We also give ourselves permission to abandon the media if it is not meeting the "why" for which we originally agreed to give it a look.
Even with all of this experience, we can still feel inundated at times. Just think about our students! They begin their reading journey thinking that reading is simply about learning the letters and the sounds they make and putting those sounds or sílabas together. They (hopefully) have heard hundreds of stories read aloud to them and retain a framework for understanding those simple narratives.
Yet, we know that the texts of life are not all fictional narratives. Research also tells us that many of our students will fall much more deeply in love with reading if we allow them to explore world of nonfiction. When I first heard about the benefits of nonfiction with my young students, I excitedly began pushing on them all sorts of expository texts. After several weeks of a less than enthusiastic response from my students, I began to question those researchers. It was then that I read Debbie Miller's Reading with Meaning about her journey into critical thinking with her first graders.
I realized that my students needed to learn to determine the "why" about the new genres of books they were reading. We created a chart similar to this one I snapped from a Mesquite second grade teacher's classroom. I would suggest adding to explain/para explicar.
I began scavenging for all types of text anywhere I could find it. I discovered that the entrances to grocery stores like Fiesta or Carnival are great places for diverse (and FREE) types of Spanish text. Phone books, newspapers, and tourism pamphlets are typically easy to find in both Spanish and English. These were cut apart and placed in a basket. Many times throughout the year, I would hand a type of text to each student and ask them to bring it up to our chart and sort it according to the author's purpose and why we might want to read more about it.
Those conversations spilled into our library time. As the students would bring their books up to the checkout counter, we would discuss their purpose for reading it based on the author's purpose for writing.
Once the students had a general idea of why we read different types of text, we began to implement what Debbie Miller calls the Nonfiction Convention Notebook. You can download my free bilingual template here. As I observed my students read nonfiction text, I saw them do what I and their previous teachers had taught them to do: just pay attention to the letters and their sounds. I was amazed as they diligently focused on the tiny writing and seemed oblivious to the captions and tables and bolded print. Apparently, I had to teach them to pay attention to those things as well! Go figure!
The Nonfiction Convention Notebook or charts like this one (also snapped from the teacher above) do a great job of helping our students to notice and understand how to approach different types of text. As we point out these features and study them over time, the students' eyes will begin to notice them and recognize their usefulness for reading.
So, what are your favorite ways for teaching author's purpose and the characteristics of nonfiction? As dual-language teachers, this is something that can and should be taught in both languages because there is complete transfer!