When it comes to bringing technology into the classroom, a lot of cool tools exist, but no matter how great they are, if they do not address the standards, you cannot use them with your students. Thankfully, many new technologies are being designed with the standards in mind, particularly the Common Core Standards. In our newest series, educational expert and eighth-grade teacher Stacy Zeiger will showcase the best tech resources for your classroom.
What are the Common Core Standards?
The Common Core Standards represent the skills and concepts that children throughout the United States need to know. Currently 45 out of 50 states have adopted the Common Core Standards to guide classroom teaching. Parents can also refer to the standards to know what skills and resources are appropriate to use with their children.
Teaching Informational Texts with Web 2.0
Finding informational texts that engage students can be a challenge. A lot of informational texts are written above the level your students are at and you rarely have the time to seek out articles, informational videos and other pieces of information your students will enjoy. Nevertheless, informational texts are the type of texts your students are most likely to encounter as they go through life and the Common Core Standards have devoted an entire thread to this type of text.
The Common Core Standards divide the standards related to informational texts into four main sections: key ideas and details, craft and structure, integration of knowledge and ideas and range of reading and level of text complexity. While the individual standards within these strands vary, many of the resources you will find online related to informational texts can be used to address them at any level.
Finding informational texts online
Before you can use resources to help students analyze and discuss informational texts, you have to find those informational texts. Resources such as Scholastic News and National Geographic Kids offer multiple texts designed to appeal to students at different grade-levels. Students can access kid-friendly versions of newspapers such as the Washington Post online and, for older students, teachers can access lesson plans designed to use articles from papers such as the New York Times.
Thinking beyond articles
Teachers often get caught up on the word “text” when it comes to teaching informational texts and think they must only use books or articles, but, particularly when it comes to informational texts, it’s important to think beyond the traditional. Look to non-traditional texts and other resources to help make information that would typically be boring more engaging for students. For example, Timbuktu, an iPad magazine, features articles, videos, illustrations and games all related to the topic’s theme. Photos from Fotopedia’s Wildlife “Photozine” help students learn about animals and plants by seeing them first-hand. Virtual Field Trips help students experience museums, factories and other real-life, historical and scientific information. While none of these resources are traditional, they still address the standards.
One of the keys to the standards related to informational texts is learning how to evaluate information. When you stick to the textbook or photocopies of informational texts, you’re limited with what resources you can provide your students. Online, students have access to multiple texts and multiple types of texts. As students view different texts on topics, they learn how a photograph can convey different information than a chart and how both may make something easier to understand than a long article. Students are also exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of points of view on a given topic and as they read different texts, watch videos or view pictures, they learn how to evaluate each text to determine what the author’s point of view is and how it fits with their own point of view or their own understanding of a topic. Resources such as mind-mapping and visual-thinking tools, such as Webspiration and Mindomo give students ways to organize that information as well.
Variety is key
When it comes to teaching the Common Core Standards related to informational texts, variety is key. The more texts you can expose students too, the easier it will be for them to develop the skills to pull out key details and information, understand the craft and structure of the texts and learn how to analyze the texts in relation to the accuracy of information, the point of view and other critical elements.