Slice of Life Day 11: Adventures in Informational Text

Day 11 in the March Slice of Life Challenge hosted by Tara, AnnaDana, Stacey, Betsy and Elizabeth at Two Writing Teachers. Read a few more slices here. Today’s slice is all about adventures in informational reading: discovering how students see the text.


 Vicki Vinton’s recent post on worksheets pushed me to try something today with Scholastic Magazine.

My thinking went in this direction: When I ask students to write about their reading it should show me the “process of thinking” and “lead to new thoughts and insight.” Secondly I needed to ask myself will it give me “a window on how students think” so I can take the next step. 

I gave students a fairly short and simple text from Scholastic News. Students were to read and sketch as they read. Jot words that repeated and ask themselves what is the main idea the author wants you to know/learn from this article?


The paper I gave them for response looked like something you might use with primary students, lots of space for jotting and some lines at the bottom.  What I found most interesting was what popped out at them. Many thoughtful readers felt that the fact that the young climber was climbing to raise awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (one sentence at the end of the article) was important and added into their thinking.

I think this is mostly about how amazing this experience was for him and how he’s trying to get people aware of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

One of my athletic students focused on the training (one sentence in the middle of the article) the 9-year old had to do to make the climb.

This is mostly about a young boy who had to train hard to set a record climbing a mountain in South America.

Another boy felt it was about reaching your goals.

Anybody can reach their goals if they train for it. Kids can do what adults do.

It seems many students brought a bit of themselves to the text and it colored their comprehension.  All students understood the text, but they all interpreted the meaning through their own lens. You could say they went outside the box of the text a bit, outside the four corners of the page, to place more importance on one aspect of text, making that “fifth corner” discussed in Kate and Maggie B. Roberts  post back in September.   

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I asked students to look at their pictures and what they had written. Did the picture and the text match? Was one a better representation of what the article was mostly about? Interestingly the class was spilt. Some said the text matched the picture, others favored their picture over the text, or the the text over the picture. Bottom line, I wanted students to be open to using both strategies when reading and thinking about information text. 

So what to do with that fifth corner? The part that colored their thinking about the text? We talked about how we bring a bit of ourselves to text. Some things pop out at us more that other things because we have a greater understanding of it or interest in it. And that’s good but we should realize our perspectives and talk with others about how they view the text.

What do you think? Did students meet the expectation of (RI 5.2): Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details. Probably not completely, but understanding how they view the text in light of others makes them think a little more about it. This fairly straight forward text became a little complicated once I left the room for their thinking.