For each volume in the Using Informational Text to Teach Literature series, we offer several informational texts connected to a commonly taught anchor text, such as To Kill a Mockingbird or A Raisin in the Sun. From these pieces, you can choose those that will enhance your approach to the primary text. The informational texts we have selected:
1) are historically specific in their relation to the primary text,
2) provide background to help students contextualize the work, or
3) relate topically or thematically to the primary text. Each informational text, in other words, is deeply connected to the anchor text and will allow your students to strengthen and enrich their analysis of that text.
Each informational text is presented as a part of a unit in a student-friendly format and annotated with reading strategies and accompanied by a variety of activities for classroom and at-home use. We have secured reproduction permission so that you can copy these articles for use with your students. Using copies (rather than a textbook) allows your students to mark up and annotate the readings, as we would like them to (and as they will be allowed to do on any assessment).
• extensive vocabulary exercises to meet the increased emphasis on vocabulary acquisition in the new standards
• open-ended and multiple-choice questions*
• discussion and writing prompts
• graphic organizers
• a group project
• multimedia links
* We know that teachers are faced with the realities of standardized tests, so we’ve created sets of multiple-choice and open-ended questions teachers can use with these readings. The multiple-choice questions can be used as assessments or do-nows or exit slips or in a variety of other ways. Whether we like it or not, multiple-choice questions are a reality in our students’ lives, and regular practice at the format of these questions, when based on the material under consideration in class, can make the practice more meaningful and less painful. Most of the open-ended questions ask students to put the informational text into conversation with the primary text because we strongly believe this is the most valuable element of the new standards and the most important skill we want our students to take away from English class.
All together, then, each unit provides you with a range of choices in a practical, user-friendly format so that you can entice your students into informational readings while helping them annotate, ask questions, draw inferences, synthesize information (including additional research), acquire and own new domain-specific vocabulary and, most importantly, make connections between the informational text and the anchor text. The latter, after all, is really our goal. We want our students to read, think about, and ultimately love literature, and the readings we have assembled and the suggested activities will allow your students to engage with the primary literary text more deeply. In that sense, these informational texts will enrich the experience with the literary text, rather than take our students away from the literature.