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High School — Reading
Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text

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Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text

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Activities: Advanced Work

These activities can help your students reach the next level in their understanding of Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text.

Organizational Patterns: What's in a Name?

Ask readers to consider how the title of a text is used as a feature to make information accessible. Explore with your students how titles help authors achieve their purposes. Begin by providing various examples of informational and persuasive texts. Break students into heterogeneous groupings in order to classify titles into the following groups: titles that require background knowledge, titles that evoke literary allusions, titles that use humor, titles that create visual images, and titles that provide factual information.

After students have classified the titles, ask them how the information related to the title affects the reader's understanding of the topic presented. For example, what might a journalist convey by calling an article about political corruption "Something is Rotten in the State of Ohio"? (Readers must draw on their knowledge of Shakespeare's Hamlet).

What's Your Point?

Whenever there is a major election, the media outlets are inundated with election news stories, editorials and advertisements. In some cases, such as a presidential election, this media coverage can begin more than a year before the election. Many of the messages that are conveyed in the media come from the politicians and their advisors. Since their jobs are to get reelected, a candidate's language is often full of rhetoric. Ask students to analyze the content of a candidate's Web site to identify rhetorical strategies and how they can be used.

Ask students to select a candidate for an upcoming major election. Students will then need to find the candidate's official Web site. The Web site should contain many text features including information about the candidate's background and accomplishments, the candidate's views on important social and fiscal issues, and other related details. There may be photographs of the candidate with specific groups of people, excerpts of campaign speeches, endorsements by important individuals or organizations, charts, graphs, maps and links to other Web sites. Regardless of the Web site content, students need to keep in mind that it was all carefully selected to help portray the candidate as the best possible choice for office.

Students should fully analyze the Web site content by describing each text feature and the facts it contains, identifying the rhetorical strategies, and discussing its intended purpose. For example, a speech in which a gubernatorial candidate details how she will "get tough on crime," that is supplemented by violent crime statistics is appealing to voters' fear. The intended purpose of this rhetorical strategy is to convince voters to cast their vote for her. For an added challenge, ask students to critique the effectiveness of each text feature--does it accomplish its intended purpose?

Students may present their findings in writing or in an oral presentation. A diagram of the Web site should accompany their analysis.

Come Back in Time

Journalists document the accomplishments and challenges of our times. Newspapers and newsmagazines are filled with the photographs and stories that define the era.

Challenge your student journalists to step back in time to a particular literary era. Your writers will report on the daily lives, major moments, and individual cultures of those who lived in that era and place.

Begin by asking your students to identify the major sections they will include in their papers or magazines. Important requirements include a masthead or cover, front-page news or cover story, images or photography, a features or lifestyles section, classified advertisements, comics or cartoons, etc. Explain that each of these elements must accurately reflect some research on the literary era. For example, if students are creating newspapers from the Elizabethan era to accompany your study of a Shakespearean play, The Elizabethan of June 29, 1613 might include a front-page news story on the fire at the Globe Theatre, an advertisement for a Tudor architect's services, an interview with poet and dramatist Ben Jonson, and a cartoon satirizing the fact that males and females were separated and seated by social rank in church. All of the material in your students' journalism should reflect the lifestyles of those living during the chosen literary era and should be organized to illustrate your students' understanding of a newspaper's or newsmagazine's format.

Student Teachers

Many works of literature connect thematically and historically to various works of nonfiction. Expand your study of a work of literature by challenging students to locate "partner" texts to accompany the novel or play you are reading in class. For example, students reading Schindler's List might locate various primary source documents about Schindler's life, the Holocaust, or World War II. Maps and information from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. or printouts from related Web sites would also serve as relevant partner texts. A study of The Crucible would be enriched by biographical information about the real John Proctor, nonfiction texts about the Salem witch trials, or documented information about McCarthyism in 1950s America.

After your students have gathered all of their nonfiction enrichment texts, have students choose a related topic to teach to the class, such as "The Salem Witch Trials." Ask students to create an oral presentation, a literature-nonfiction lesson plan, including such visuals as a PowerPoint presentation. Students will explain the connection between the work of literature and the nonfiction they discovered, focusing on how the nonfiction sources have expanded their understanding of the novel's or play's themes. The goal of their lessons should be to expose their classmates to some thematic or historical aspect of the writing.

Help students plan for their presentation by giving them a template for a lesson plan. Encourage them to identify their objective (i.e., Students will be able to understand the history of John Proctor, the historical figure Arthur Miller used as an inspiration for his play). Instruct your students to begin with some attention-getting introductory material. Then guide them toward some direct teaching of the topic accompanied by a hands-on activity that they can lead for their classmates. Ask them to wrap up with a question-answer/discussion session and some sort of evaluation to ensure that their students have grasped the lesson's objective. Remind them as they work through this process that we learn much by teaching others.

Treatments of a Topic

Ask students to choose a topic of interest and take various approaches to covering the topic. Challenge your writers to create an informational text, a technical text, and a persuasive text on the subject they have chosen. Considering the various types of organizational approaches, students should gather facts related to the subject and try presenting those facts in various forms. For example, a football enthusiast might write a news article about a game (informational), a layout of a game plan (technical), and an essay calling for more sports funding for athletic programs (persuasive).

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