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

We use informational, technical and persuasive texts to help us perform certain tasks in our daily lives. Students must use the organization, language and visual features of such texts to make sense of the information presented. They must also be able to draw conclusions about the uses and purposes of information within different texts. Students build their critical reading skills by asking such questions as, "Is this information reliable? How does this information help me complete a task? How does this information expand my knowledge of a subject?"

Students need to learn about common organizational structures and the best ways to read and use sources of information. Whereas some texts, such as recipes, make use of lists, others--advertising, for example--use opinionated, persuasive writing. Essays and instructional manuals are organized differently. As students learn how to use these documents, they will learn of the types of information to be found in different sources.

The Ohio Academic Content Standards establish the following expectations for student performance in the area of Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text:

  • Students apply the reading process to various types of informational texts;
  • Students make predictions and build text knowledge based on their reading of text features, such as titles and visual aids;
  • Students read diagrams, charts, graphs, maps and displays as sources of additional information;
  • Students use their knowledge of text structure to organize content information, analyze it and draw inferences from it;
  • Students recognize arguments, bias, stereotyping and propaganda in informational text sources.

The content in this Teaching Tool is based on Ohio's Academic Content Standards and Benchmarks and includes types of questions asked on the Ohio Graduation Test. While various suggestions and activities for working with students are included, this Teaching Tool is designed to complement a rigorous, research-based curriculum, not to substitute for one.



Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text

1. Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text

Click on the following benchmarks for more information and for links to annotated OGT items.

a.

Benchmark A: Evaluate how features and characteristics make information accessible and usable and how structures help authors achieve their purposes.

Benchmark A: Evaluate how features and characteristics make information accessible and usable and how structures help authors achieve their purposes.

Nonfiction writing--informational, technical and persuasive text--conveys ideas and opinions that are based on facts and real-life events. When reading nonfiction, students must identify the organization of arguments, recognize essential details, and understand the connections between the details, facts and main ideas presented. By reading different types of nonfiction, students become acquainted with methods of organization and the different ways nonfiction authors achieve their purposes. Students will frequently use these texts for research. Students must also develop skills for navigating such consumer documents as warranties, product information and instructional materials designed to help one with daily tasks.

Because the purposes of nonfiction texts differ widely, organization also varies. Writers of nonfiction texts should present supporting details in order to show how they arrived at a particular conclusion. When organizing a newspaper article about a political race, for example, a writer will use quotations from interviews and biographical information about the politicians involved. A writer of a biography will use such factual information as dates and geographical places, as well as such first-hand sources as letters or journals. Readers of these texts need to know how to make distinctions between different types of supporting details, for example, quotations that reflect personal opinions versus facts taken from an encyclopedia.

When students read nonfiction texts, they must organize and manage all the details. As students grow familiar with the different purposes and organizational structures of nonfiction, they develop specific reading and information-gathering strategies. For example, students can search for visual cues by asking the following questions:

  • What does the title tell me about the text?
  • How long is this text? What are its organizational features? Is it divided into chapters? What do its organizational features tell me about the author's intentions?
  • What are the important headings and subheadings?
  • What important words and phrases does the text highlight with italicization, bold lettering, or phrases such as "Most importantly..." or "It is critical to understand that...?"

Nonfiction texts can be densely packed with information. In order to present facts in a more digestible format, authors often divide the information into main topics with related subtopics that follow.

When a reader identifies the topic or subject of a text, he or she states the overall main idea. Subtopics, the subdivisions of a larger concept, are the essential bits of information a reader needs to understand the topic. Draw your students' attention to the use of the prefix sub, which means under. Like a submarine, which goes under the water, a subtopic is an idea that falls under the main topic.

Nonfiction texts are often organized on the page in a way that draws attention to subtopics. For example, subtopics may be organized under bold headings, in list form or in block paragraphs that are set apart from one another. Discuss these visual and organizational cues with your students, asking them to identify the subtopics based on the text's appearance on the page.

Encourage students to use the structure of a text to identify the author's priorities. Information and an author's ideas come together because an author uses reasoning and evidence to form a cohesive thesis and to defend it. There are many different kinds of organizational patterns and techniques that support strong arguments; however, some widely used types include:

  • Cause and effect. Authors use this organizational structure of text to describe events and their causes or consequences. An author uses cause and effect to illustrate how events are linked. Often, a single cause will have more than one effect, and a single event may have more than one cause. Sometimes cause and effect is a balancing act. If we change one thing, then something else will change too. As we fix one problem, we might create another.
  • Problem and solution. Organizational structure is similar to cause and effect, except that outcomes are a result or solution of a perceived need or problem. Authors present problems and solutions in order to illustrate the relationship between ideas.
  • Question and answer. Questioning is a technique that can make information accessible in a familiar way. By posing the essential questions raised in a text and presenting answers, a writer creates a dialogue with the readers.
  • Comparison and contrast. Authors use this organizational structure to describe similarities and differences among two or more things. Comparing and contrasting is an effective way to present factual information, to craft an argument, or to increase one's understanding of a subject.
  • Sequence. Writers must consider how to organize or order the information in a text. Sequencing is the arrangement in which things follow in a logical order or a recurrent pattern; a following of one thing after another in time. The most effective organizational structure may not be chronological (events placed in the order in which they occur.) It might be most effective to describe things in spatial order, order of importance, etc...

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

b.

Benchmark B: Identify examples of rhetorical devices and valid and invalid inferences, and explain how authors use these devices to achieve their purposes and reach their intended audiences.

Benchmark B: Identify examples of rhetorical devices and valid and invalid inferences, and explain how authors use these devices to achieve their purposes and reach their intended audiences.

Rhetorical Devices. Authors use various devices and writing styles to reach intended audiences. A rhetorical device is a method used in writing or speaking, in which language is used to influence or persuade an audience.

You might introduce the concepts of rhetorical devices, writing styles and target audiences by asking students to consider how they use different styles of language to reach intended audiences. When do they use slang? How might they speak to a prospective employer during a job interview? Would they use different words when talking to their best friends at lunch and when they are speaking to a college admissions officer? How does the language of their class papers differ from the language they use in an instant message or e-mail? Why are some modes of speaking more effective for a particular situation than others?

Speakers and authors select particular words, phrases and structures to convey a message to various audiences. An author uses words, sentences, and figurative language to establish mood, images and meaning as she describes ideas.

The devices an author uses influences how we interpret the facts and information presented in the text. The particular words and phrases chosen affect how we see the ideas. Consider the various styles of the following statements:

  • Hey, break a leg.
  • Best of luck.
  • May both teams perform to the best of their abilities and may the best team win.
  • Get out there and get 'em!

Each phrase means essentially the same thing--someone is wishing another person good luck--but the style of each phrase differs and so do our interpretations. The words an author chooses reveal much about the speaker, the audience and the situation. The effectiveness of an author's rhetoric is determined by the choices he makes to convey the intended message. For example, a more formal style may be an effective choice for a writer who is crafting a speech for a Model U.N. convention than for a writer who is humorously saluting the graduating seniors in a school newspaper editorial.

When reading a text, ask students to consider the author's attitude. Does she seem sarcastic? aggressive? passionate? nostalgic? angry? hopeful? ironic? How do students define these various moods? What words or phrases indicate an author's feeling or tone?

Once students become familiar with defining a particular tone, ask them to evaluate the effectiveness. Would anger be an effective tone for an editorial about a social injustice? Could the same tone be effectively used in a children's book about dinosaurs? Compare various nonfiction texts that adopt effective tones to help students identify why authors express certain attitudes as they write about particular subjects. Additionally, ask students to consider the tone of their own nonfiction writing. How might they write about their favorite sports teams, their schools or their families? What attitudes and moods do your writers express when they communicate about these important subjects?

Imagery is the use of words and phrases that create vivid sensory experiences for a reader. Authors allow us to experience the world within a text by choosing words to help us see, hear, smell, touch and taste what is being described. A well-written description generates a response or emotion in the reader's imagination.

Encourage your students to select passages in texts that paint particularly vivid images. Ask them to discuss what words or phrases appeal to their senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. When a reader can picture a place as if he is actually there, the author has succeeded in using imagery effectively.

Irony is when we recognize the difference between reality and appearance. Verbal irony is the use of a word or phrase to mean the exact opposite of its literal or usual meaning. Situational irony refers to a contrast between what is intended or expected and what actually occurs.

Ask students to identify examples of verbal irony--situations in which authors convey meaning that is intended to be the exact opposite of what the words actually mean. Sarcasm is a tone of voice that often accompanies verbal irony.

Propaganda, Bias and Stereotyping. Readers are responsible for analyzing the messages of writers and assessing the accuracy and appropriateness of an author's details. Students must be aware of persuasive techniques, methods used in speaking or writing to get an audience to agree with the speaker or writer's point of view. Draw students' attention to techniques an author might use to slant the perspective, or to persuade the audience by using invalid, irrelevant or inaccurate information. Provide opportunities to analyze text for examples of:

  • Propaganda: the spreading of ideas, information or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person;
  • Bias: an inclination of temperament or outlook; a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment;
  • Stereotyping: a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion or prejudiced attitude;
  • Bait-and-switch technique: a tactic in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item but is then encouraged to buy a higher-priced one;
  • Glittering generalities: a propaganda technique in which words have different positive meanings for individual subjects but are linked to highly valued concepts.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

c.

Benchmark C: Analyze whether graphics supplement textual information and promote the author's purpose.

Benchmark C: Analyze whether graphics supplement textual information and promote the author's purpose.

When we hear the word text, we think of the written word. Informational, technical and persuasive texts often also incorporate images to support an author's purpose. Examine why an author might add a map, chart, table, graph or diagram to the information provided. How do visuals promote the intended message? What information is extracted from or added to the text? How do these devices help a reader to comprehend information?

d.

Benchmark D: Explain and analyze how an author appeals to an audience and develops an argument or viewpoint in text.

Benchmark D: Explain and analyze how an author appeals to an audience and develops an argument or viewpoint in text.

Each author has both a reason for writing and a viewpoint from which she writes. When considering the nature of information in a text, the reader must also take into consideration the source of the information. Ask students to think about the aim or goal of a text, as well as the position taken by the author. Students should be able to determine why a text might have been written, to infer an author's opinion or perspective, and to recognize how genre or narrative strategy may influence or aid an author's aims.

To help students determine a text's central aim, you might ask such questions as:

  • What is the author's intended result? Does the author hope to make us react or take action? Does the author want us to embrace a particular belief?
  • What is one of the author's main goals?
  • What seems to be the author's overall aim?
  • What lesson does the author want to teach us?

While writers often present an objective perspective, free from judgment or opinion and well supported by fact, sometimes authors express a subjective view in their writing. A subjective view is one that expresses personal feelings or beliefs. Students should be able to infer an author's attitude toward his subject matter and to explain how this attitude suggests a larger point of view. You might ask students the following questions to help them recognize an author's opinions:

  • What does the author seem to believe? Why?
  • What would the author probably agree with? Why?
  • What might the author's view of or attitude toward a given subject be? Why?
  • Does the author seem to be in favor of something, against something or neutral? Why?

When an author aims to persuade a reader, he or she will include essential facts that provide information about the topic, as well as opinions intended to influence the reader's point of view. Authors select factual information that will support their opinions in persuasive writing. When students read and analyze persuasive writing, they must determine what information is most important to the argument's logic. Readers must discern which factual details are crucial to their comprehension of key ideas presented and which details are included to persuade the reader to agree with the author's opinion.

Students might begin to analyze positions or arguments for evidence of statements of fact and opinion by developing an overall understanding of the text. For example, they might first make sure they know what type of persuasive text they are dealing with--such as an advertisement, persuasive essay or review--and then consider how this particular piece is organized. The following questions may help readers extract the essential information in a persuasive text:

Is the author appealing to my emotions by building an argument using expressive language or other devices instead of presenting evidence? In an appeal to emotion, the writer uses a fallacy in argument often referred to as "ad populum" (to the people). For example, in a persuasive essay about the deforestation of valuable rain forest, an author might highlight how much acreage of rain forest is lost and how many species of animals die each day due to destructive farming techniques. While this information can be proven to be true, readers are wise to note that the facts are presented to generate some feeling or emotion.

Is the author using a testimonial (of an expert, celebrity, or layperson) to convince me to agree with his or her opinion? A testimonial is a technique based on quotations or endorsements from famous people, in or out of context, that attempts to connect a famous or respectable person with a person or item. Authors might select individuals to give evidence to validate the stated opinion. For example, in a persuasive essay about the dangers of pollution, an author might include a doctor's testimonial about some physical effects of pollution. In this case, a writer will draw upon an appeal to authority, calling upon an individual or other source as an expert to give credence to the argument. Likewise, an advertiser might cite a celebrity in order to convince consumers that a famous person prefers a particular product. Perhaps the author offers the ideas and advice of a layperson--an "everyday" person just like you and me--who agrees with the author's opinion.

Is the author calling me to action? An author might also use an appeal to reason, calling upon a reader's ability to think in a rational way in order to cause a change in his or her thoughts. Advertisers want readers to respond to the facts in their text by purchasing the product, while reviewers might want a reader to go out and see the movie that they highly recommend. Students might consider the following questions:

  • What does this author want me to do?
  • What facts does the author offer to convince me to act?
  • Are these particular facts sufficient evidence to move me towards the author's intended outcome?
  • Which facts are most effective in inspiring me to act or respond to this text? Why?

Does the author use symbols to convey meaning? A symbol is a concrete thing used to suggest something larger and more abstract. The author puts a symbol into a text to tell us what he means, and we understand what it signifies.

Students will recognize familiar visual symbols, such as a dove for peace, a skull and crossbones for danger, or the scales for justice. Explain that we cannot see peace or justice because they are abstract concepts, so people have designated objects or symbols, such as the dove and the scales, to represent these ideas.

Though symbols represent a shared conversation, they are not simply generic codes that exist to represent the same idea. Students must analyze symbols in context. For example, green can represent growth or envy, depending on the context. Encourage students to be specific in their interpretation of symbols by referring to evidence in the text.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.

e.

Benchmark E: Utilize multiple sources pertaining to a singular topic to critique the various ways authors develop their ideas (e.g., treatment, scope and organization).

Benchmark E: Utilize multiple sources pertaining to a singular topic to critique the various ways authors develop their ideas (e.g., treatment, scope and organization).

Different authors approach the same topic using various approaches. Discuss how authors treat topics--from the choice of genre to the breadth of the discussion to the way writers organize information--so students can consider how authors develop and share ideas.

Ask your students to consider a text you've covered in class. Isolate various topics and explore how the author treated these ideas. Provide examples of some treatments that authors employ to cover particular subjects:

  • Humor is often the vehicle through which the author conveys her opinion. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone finds the same things funny; personal preferences play a role. Many authors have been criticized for making light of important or shocking issues; however, the intention might be to examine how an issue affects society.
  • Satire is defined as the humor or wit in a literary or artistic work that is used to bring to light the weaknesses in our human condition. Often, authors use a light, satirical tone to portray some of the most serious problems of a culture or to celebrate the characteristics of a people. To draw attention to social issues, writers often cast these challenges in a humorous light. The best satire almost always contains a large element of truth.
  • Parody, on the other hand, is a literary or artistic work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule. Satire makes fun of substance or content, while parody makes fun of form or style.
  • Sarcasm refers to a difference between the way something appears and what is actually true. Sarcasm allows writers to say one thing, but to mean something else. Sarcasm is easier to convey in speech than in writing, so readers must be alert to an author's use of sarcasm by analyzing the intention of the speaker and the situation in the text. How the character might say the words are as important as the words themselves.
  • In contrast, authors may opt for a straightforward, academic treatment of a topic.

Scope is the extent of an author's treatment of a subject. Ask students to consider various types of scopes, lenses used for viewing, such as telescopes, microscopes and periscopes. In writing, scope implies the breadth or range of one's view, thoughts or vision. How extensive a view does an author offer of a subject? Does the writer aim to scratch the surface by introducing a topic, or does she go much deeper, outlining all aspects?

Students should also explore the fact that genre influences an author's aim. Why write historical fiction as opposed to a history textbook? Why do some authors choose fantasy as the genre to convey a lesson about friendship? When authors determine the type of writing they will pursue and the perspective from which they will present the content, they are making decisions that influence their writing purpose.

Considering the genre is important for recognizing the purpose of an author or a text. Inferring the author's purpose involves examining not just the content of the words, but also the vehicle--the genre--in which they are presented. Discuss form versus function with your class.

 



Activities
Help With Fundamentals

These activities can help you address the fundamentals of Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text with your students.

 
Activity 1

Order of Importance

To prepare students to identify organizational patterns such as sequence, ask them to look at manuals used for playing games, building models or using recipes. They should note the most important steps and the visual enhancements as well as the specific chronology of steps.

Ask students to write an essay about the process in order of importance instead of in chronological order. They will need to explain to their reader how the various steps in the process fit together without relying on a linear description. A reader should be able to use the essay to follow directions and complete the task at hand just as successfully as if he or she were using the manual.

 
Activity 2

Analyzing Word Choice

Ask your students to do a close reading of an informational, technical, or persuasive text. Instruct the class to look at the words, sentences, and kinds of language that the author uses, and have them consider the following questions:

  • Word Choice: Are the words easy to understand or do students find themselves reaching for the classroom dictionaries?
  • Syntax: Look first at the sentences the author writes and define them. Are they long and descriptive, or short and to the point?
  • Use of language: Does the author use many kinds of figurative language, such as similes, metaphors, and idioms?

After students have answered questions about the pattern of word order in the author's sentences and the kind of vocabulary and language the author uses, ask them to define the author's style. Is the writer descriptive, figurative, literal, concise, humorous, etc.? Make a list of the descriptive words your students use to describe the author under study. Refer to this list as you compare and contrast authors' styles. How does this approach support the author's intended purpose?

 
Activity 3

The Fine Print

When reading advertisements, informational brochures and instruction guides at face value, people often miss the important information in the fine print. For example, car dealers often advertise exceptional deals. However, when one reads the fine print, it becomes apparent that the deal is on a specific car rather than the whole fleet. Ask students to analyze how the visual components and layout of the text affects the reader's initial understanding of the information.

Ask students to collect multiple examples of "fine print." Have them analyze the language of the fine print and determine what restrictions, exceptions or exclusions are being described. Have them create a new advertisement, brochure or instruction guide that incorporates the fine print as part of the overall message rather than as an afterthought. Students should explain how they used images or text layout to draw attention to certain aspects of the information.

 
Activity 4

The Art of Persuasion

Introduce discussion as a prewriting exercise. Ask students to share their initial opinions about the subject. After the class has discussed both sides of the topic, pair up students who have opposing views. Ask these partner groups to look together at research materials you have provided for them. As they read and jot down ideas for or against the chosen topic, students can discuss their ideas with one another, gathering insight on the opposing view. Require students to use the class discussion, paired readings, and partner talks to answer the following questions:

  • What information can I use from class discussion, reading, and personal experience to argue for or against this topic?
  • What perspective did my partner offer in opposition to my opinion? How can I counter this argument in my writing?

Suggest that students use their answers to these questions as the starting place for crafting their persuasive piece.

 
Activity 5

Extra! Extra!

News is presented in many different media -- students can read the newspaper, look at a news Web site, listen to the radio, or watch television. Have students select a newspaper article that is interesting to them. Ask them to research the same story in other media, such as online or on the TV news. Then have students discuss or write about the differences they encountered from one form of media to another. What are the differences in the treatment, scope and organization of each text? Did a color photo on the Internet or live images on television change the way the students thought about the information? Did any elements of the story change across contexts? If so, how and why?



Additional Instruction and Practice

These activities may be useful for students who require additional instruction and practice with Reading Applications: Informational, Technical and Persuasive Text.

 
Activity 1

Scrapbook Biographies

Biographers must research important dates, events, places, people, and ideas connected to the individuals they portray in their writing. These key facts of an individual's life are usually reported in an informational text, a work of narrative nonfiction.

In a variation on this form, have students select a person, living or historical, who interests them. Ask them to construct a biography composed of many texts--a collage of various types of nonfiction to present the person's life. Students should include the following types of information:

  • Important dates on a timeline;
  • Relevant places on a map;
  • Letters or journals, written by the student, but supported by factual research;
  • Quotations that reflect personal opinions about the featured individual;
  • A fictional scripted conversation between the subject of the biography and another person who was significant in the subject's life, also written by the student, but supported by research;
  • A review of the person's work, written by the student, who will back up her opinions with information gathered from nonfiction sources.

These creative expressions allow students to gather essential facts of a person's life and present them using various organizational approaches. Creating a scrapbook biography encourages writers to imagine different types of nonfiction texts as vehicles for expressing factual information.

 
Activity 2

Candidate Clarification

Being objective means not being influenced by emotions or beliefs. It also means basing what you say on documented information, not on rumors or opinions. When politicians run negative campaign ads about their opposing candidate's voting record or personal life, however, they are hoping to sway voters by manipulating their emotions. It may help your students to understand objective writing by having them compare objective nonfiction to subjective, opinion-based nonfiction.

Ask students to find a particularly negative campaign advertisement on the television or radio or printed in the newspaper or on a campaign flyer. Have them list the damaging opinions detailed about the candidate. Then have them research the candidate to verify or disprove the charges against them. Students will need to select sources that have little bias, such as newspapers, rather than relying on campaign Web sites, that portray a "rosy picture." For an added challenge, have students rewrite the original ad, clarifying the accusations.

 
Activity 3

Happy Trails

Being able to glean and use information from graphic sources such as maps and schedules is a critical skill. In this activity, students will plan a tour to a city of their choice.

Have students select a city they are interested in learning more about and possibly visiting some day. The city can be anywhere in the world, should be in a state or country they have never visited, and have a public transportation system. Once students have selected their cities, they can plan their trips. To design their journeys, students will need to consult a variety of informational texts such as official city Web sites, materials from the city's Chamber of Commerce or Bureau of Tourism, maps of the city, train or bus schedules on public transportation Web sites, travel guides, travel agent brochures, and travel magazines.

Each excursion must last five to seven days, including a three-day sightseeing itinerary. Students will need to determine how and when they will travel to and from the city. For example, if a student chooses to fly, she will need to refer to flight schedules to pick appropriate flights. Each three-day sightseeing itinerary should include the mode of transportation, arrival and departure times, as well as the following:

  • A cultural event, such as a Broadway show in New York;
  • A commercial center, such as Bond Street in London;
  • An ethnic center, such as Chinatown in San Francisco;
  • A natural attraction, such as Lake Michigan in Chicago;
  • A day trip to a nearby attraction, such as the hill towns outside of Florence, Italy.

Buses, subways, trains or other means of public transportation should be used whenever possible. To determine appropriate transportation, students will need to refer to a map of the city and bus, subway, or train route maps.

Have students construct a detailed map of the city, including the location of the airport, important landmarks, major streets, and public transportation routes. Sightseeing destinations should be clearly labeled on the map as well. Ask students to produce a multipage tour brochure that contains necessary itineraries, descriptions of sightseeing destinations, public transportation schedules, and the detailed map. The brochure should be comprehensive enough that anyone could use it to travel to and around the selected city.

 
Activity 4

Literary Editorials and Opinions

With each text you explore in class, allow students the opportunity to write an article or commentary that expresses an opinion or viewpoint. Give students a chance to vent about reading The Canterbury Tales in Middle English. Perhaps you have some readers who want to express their enjoyment of Huxley's Brave New World. Require students to use factual information (or extended research on the text) to support their opinions. For example, if a student wants to express the opinion that reading Chaucer is irrelevant, he might research educators' writings and findings on the importance (or irrelevancy) of this text in the high-school curriculum. A Huxley fan might cite some statistics on how our current society is "brainwashed" by product placement and constant media exposure, as Huxley predicted. Post or publish these literary op-eds in the classroom or on a class Web site, discussing the techniques each student used to represent her viewpoint.

 
Activity 5

Responsible Reporting

Readers explore interests by reading about topics that stir their passions. Each of these texts is written by individuals who know something about the subject at hand. Their knowledge comes from their experience and their own study of the topic.

Ask your students to consider an area in which they are well-versed. Ask them to imagine that they are given the task of writing a nonfiction book on this subject.

Explain to your authors that in order to prepare for their book they are going to expand their knowledge of the subject. Though they will not actually write the nonfiction text, your students will create an annotated bibliography for this imaginary book, exploring various treatments of the topic, from fiction to news articles. By locating various sources, your students will expand their knowledge of their passion and familiarize themselves with the wealth of information available to them as researchers. In addition, they will be exposed to various treatments and organizational structures authors use to present information.

Schedule time for students to explore the library and to search the Internet for relevant sources. Once students have gathered books, articles, and Web sites on their subject, model for them the format of an annotated bibliography. You might even provide a handout for them to complete, including guidelines for locating all of the required publication information and a space for them to summarize the text's relevant content. Explain that they are pulling together possible sources to report on their topic, and that an annotated bibliography helps them to organize their sources responsibly.



Advanced Work

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

 
Activity 1

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).

 
Activity 2

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.

 
Activity 3

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.

 
Activity 4

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.

 
Activity 5

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).