Despite the fact that our students are very connected to the online world, they are not always aware of what’s happening outside of their own circle of snaps and texts. So, I decided to come up with a way to teach reading, writing, & awareness with nonfiction.
I’ve been working to find ways to build more awareness of current events into my lessons.
There are topics that I know my kids are already interested in – and I’m using some of them to grab their attention – but I’m also creating lessons on topics that I think are important for them to consider (like our overuse of plastics and what it’s doing to our planet).
Also, each time I create something new, I work to include a variety of activities that cover all of the strands of our curriculum, so students will get opportunities to read, view, write, speak and listen.
Using topics that are relevant to teens turns up the engagement factor with all of these things. In fact, I think that showing students how a topic is relevant to their lives is one of the most important things we can do to get them interested and learning.
Start with a reflection
First, we began with a writing prompt to get the students to collect their initial thoughts on the issue, before they are affected by the ideas that I – and their classmates – present.
Once they had time to reflect, students shared their ideas with a partner during a turn-and-talk. Then, we explored a series of activities and readings that required them to delve deeper into the topic.
Learn more about the issue
Next, students read a magazine-style article directed toward teens that delivered information in a light, conversational tone. They were ones I created myself using information from a variety of sources. These texts serve a double purpose, as they provide information in a voice that speaks to students and they act as mentor texts, showing students how to synthesize information.
The digital versions of these “magazines” have links to related videos that students could watch to get even more information on the topic. As I didn’t always have access to Chrome Books in my classroom, I had paper versions as well, and we just watched the videos as a class.
Revisit initial thoughts on the topic
After the students explored the topic through the reading and videos, I had them to return to their initial response, and add any new ideas that have resulted from their reading and viewing.
This process helps them with developing and supporting their ideas. Often the initial responses aren’t that long because they haven’t engaged enough with the topic. By going back and adding to the first thing they wrote, they practice the art of revision.
Then, to dig even deeper into the issue – and to teach them some writing skills as well – I used several mentor passages that explored the topic even further. Students looked for the moves of the writer and recorded any responses they had to the ideas presented. After they finished, we discussed their findings and responses as a class.
This part of the process allowed me to review concepts we’ve discussed in class, like idea development and word choice. My students are well versed with mentor texts already, so my hope is always that they can readily identify the techniques used by the writers I’ve selected. If not, it’s time for a quick review.
For example, in the passage above, my hope was that the students would point out that the phrase “purposeful about media consumption” is a far more effective phrase than “using your phone.” I wanted them to understand that this phrase is specific and clearly explains the writer’s point: that users need to be more mindful of how they consume what’s on their screens.
My new lessons are pretty versatile. I can use them for reflection and discussion only, or to lead into a writing assignment for the students. If I’m going for the quick version, after we look at the mentor texts, I’ll ask the students to revisit their initial response, add new ideas and try some of the techniques they observed in the mentor passages. Or, I may use the prompt, discussion and passages as a jumping off point for a writing assignment.
Whichever method I use, though, students were engaged because we focused on topics that they were interested in, and I scaffolded the steps along the way. Best of all, I was able to teach reading, writing, & awareness at the same time.
Are you interested in some ready to use resources for this process?
Topics available in the bundle