Working with nonfiction texts can be a challenge for students and teachers. Many nonfiction texts contain higher lexile levels and higher levels of complexity. Maintaining a sense of focus for struggling readers may determine the comprehension success of the text.
When I assign a complex nonfiction text, I approach the text using the following steps.
- Setting a purpose. Since struggling readers sometimes have a difficult time understanding why a certain text is being read in class, it is important to set a purpose for reading. Setting a purpose helps students focus on the “why” behind the reading. When students have a clear focus, they can power through obstacles that may get in their way such as unfamiliar words, text structure, and text length.
- Chunking the text. Dividing the text into manageable pieces helps build confidence and endurance. In a two-page article, I divide the text into a minimum of three chunks. Of course, the number of chunks is dependent on the length of the text and the age of the students. When a text has clear divisions, such as headings and subheading, this is an easier task. However, it is important to provide students with specific reading strategies to help them understand what to do during a chunk of reading, what to do at the end of a chunk of reading, and how to proceed to the next chunk of reading.
- Adding movement. With the struggling reading, as well as any reading engaging in a challenging text, I like to give students the opportunity to move at the end of a chunk of reading. The type of movement used, and the purpose of the movement, may change based what students are asked to do with the text as well as the type of readers reading the text. For example, I may add movement to help students with comprehension, or I have students participate in a reading activity designed for deeper analysis.
There are multiple uses for this activity. I mentioned this activity in an earlier post, but I recently used this activity as a during reading activity. The activity is basic, but it does get students up and moving while they are reading.
At the end of a chunk of reading, students are asked to identify textual evidence that supports the overall purpose for reading the text. Students write a piece of textual evidence on a sheet of paper and then they fold the piece of paper into a paper airplane. The class is then divided in half. Half of the class lines up on one side of the classroom and half of the class lines up on the other side of the classroom. The students fly their airplanes to the center of the room, and then they choose an airplane to take back to their desks. At their desks, they read the piece of textual evidence and discuss it in a pair or in a small group. The students proceed to read the second chunk of text. At the end of the second chunk of text, they repeat the process. The activity continues until all three chunks of text have been read.
At the end of the reading, each student will have a piece of paper with three pieces of textual evidence to match the purpose of reading. A class discussion of the evidence may then occur, or students may be assigned a writing prompt. The activity prepares students to look for evidence and analyze evidence of their peers. When writing, all students, regardless of their reading ability, will have textual evidence to use in responding to a prompt.
This activity can be modified in many ways. Instead of textual evidence, students could draw pictures summarizing key points. Students could also answer basic comprehension questions, or they could answer (or develop) higher-order thinking questions.
Providing students with the opportunity to stand during reading, gives them a chance to think about what they have read. It also gives them an opportunity to refocus on another chunk of reading by breaking up the monotony of a being seated while reading a challenging text for an extended amount of time. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety a struggling reader is faced with leading to a more positive and successful reading experience.