Saturday, June 15, 2013

Informational Text Free Digitial Resources: Gearing up for the Common Core

It's time for Common Core (CCSS) all over the United States, and I for one couldn't be happier. I believe these standards will demand more of students and teachers. The standards will demand a thorough, rigorous, culturally relevant, and college preparatory based education from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. If the standards are taken to heart, if teachers buy in and work to the maximum of their abilities, I have little doubt that education in the United States will not only be the strongest in the world in about 10 years, but will be the strongest educational system the world has seen. No, I'm not just a CCSS fanboy, I was skeptical just like many others, but the more I read, the more I experience, and the more I train both myself and others, the more excited I am to see what my students are capable of, and how hard and how far I can push them.

In the area of literacy, the CCSS moves classrooms into the world of informational reading and writing. In fact, by the 4th grade, students should be reading 50/50, 50% literature and 50% informational. It also demands that informational text goes deeper than just reading for fact finding. I'm guilty of this, I have too often used informational texts as nothing more than a fact hunt to use in research posters or projects, etc. But that's changing, we have to start going deeper.

This post specifically targets informational text resources that are freely available out there. For me personally, I'm able to call upon a teacher resource room with hundreds of informational texts at my school, and an online resource file of informational texts through the Pearson SuccessNet website (something that came with my districts reading adoption a few weeks back). Those two things are definitely not free and if you don't have them, you're probably not getting them anytime soon. So what to do?

Here is a list of some resources out there to get you some informational texts to your students. All you really need here is a computer, BUT, if you'd like to view these on a tablet, or have them in pdf format, that's pretty easy to accomplish (I prefer using pdfs on iPads because students can annotate them within a note taking app, and pdf documents have more of a traditional text "feel" to them.

I will be focusing on the ins and outs of the CCSS and how informational texts fit in the classroom here in the near future, but for today, let's stick to resources, because it's so much easier to jump on board when you know you have something to back you up. So here we go:

  • This first link is to a free, browser based web page to pdf converter. It takes the center frame of a web page and saves it in a high quality pdf. I use this when I want students to read something from, for example, the Scholastic for Kids page, and don't want them sifting through text in the midst of side bars and links. Web 2 Pdf. Bookmark it!
  • A listing of some good places to start gathering resources, in a post titled Online Sources for Informational Text at a blog called "Hello Literacy." Ignore the link to the web to pdf converter on their page called joliprint, as it is no longer in service.
  • While I'm linking to some online listings (of which there are literally thousands upon thousands), there's also this page from the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards website on Informational Text Resources. There's also this post at Eye on Education. Both should give more than a few resources that you'll want to bookmark.
  • At the beginning of the second page of this pdf document is multiple links to small readers on the Scholastic website, and they're really pretty good (and already in the correct format). 
  • If you're not aware of The Reading and Writing Project, familiarize yourself. They are the group that did Pathways to the Common Core, a great book that's been like a CCSS literacy bible for me personally. On their site, they keep a listing of information texts called Digital Nonfiction Text Sets.

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