As students progress through the educational system, it becomes more important that they can read and comprehend informational texts. Outlined below are three practical techniques that can help students access information from these texts.
- Introduce new vocabulary – 5-10 words maximum. Introduce the words one-by-one. Help students decode the word, discuss its meaning(s), put into sentences, think of synonyms and antonyms (if relevant), add prefixes and/or suffixes, discuss the part of speech.
- Activate prior knowledge about the topic. Encourage students to share their knowledge on the topic. You could also develop a mind-map showing this knowledge which students could then add to as they read the text.
- Preview text by looking at headings, sub-headings, tables, graphs and pictures.
- Create a series of 6-8 questions that cover each of the key sections of the text. Make sure you include literal (the answer is easily determined by reading the text), inferential (requires making connections between different parts of the text and own background knowledge) and extended or evaluative questions (the answer is not in the text, but rather requires the reader to reflect on the reading and make predictions or connect to their own values and attitudes).
- Students can also create 2 or 3 of their own questions reflecting their interest in the topic and gaps in their current knowledge.
- Pose the questions prior to reading and clarify if necessary.
- Students read the text, placing post-it-notes next to the answers to each questions as they read. It would be useful if students had the post-it-notes pre-numbered.
- Students return to the post-it-notes and write the key words which will answer the questions.
- Students can complete the original mind-map or fill in a table or event chains or compare and contrast Venn diagrams or timelines, etc. Again, encourage students to use one or two key words.
- Students orally answer the questions in their own words using their notes and/or retell the key points in the text using one of the forms in the previous point.
- Finally, students can write the answer to the questions and/or write a summary of the text in their own words.