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Helping children understand informational texts

[LAYOUT-220100809022244000-832,1400,937,1421-\LAYOUT] Darnell Wynn

Informational texts are designed to teach specific information about a topic. Informational texts, also known as non-fiction are texts that are based on facts and not made up.Science, social studies and health textbooks are examples of informational texts. Informational textbooks are filled with new concepts, vocabulary and facts.Students are not only required to read this information but also to learn it for tests. Students must learn how to read informational texts with careful attention to specific details and text features. Key text features found in most informational texts are a table of contents, index, glossary, photographs and illustrations, labels, captions, comparisons, cutaways, maps, close-ups and types of print.Knowing how each of these features contributes to understanding informational texts is key.Table of content helps us find the main topics in the book in the order they are presented.Index lists important words in the book in alphabetical order with the page number.Glossary helps explain special words in the book and how to pronounce them.Photographs and illustrations help us understand what something looks like.Labels tell us about the photograph or illustration and its parts.Captions tell us information about the picture.Comparisons help us understand the size of something.Cutaways show us what something looks like inside.Maps tell us where things are in the world.Close-ups help us see the details in something small.Types of print (bold) signal important words.Parents can take an active role in helping their child understand informational texts. Start by previewing the reading assignment. Look at the pictures, the headings and subheadings, the introduction, and any summaries.Try to predict what the reading assignment is about.Talk briefly about the topic to find out what your child already knows and expects to learn by reading the passage.Break up the reading assignment into shorter sections (using the headings and subheadings will help).Read the first section with your child and talk about the words, sentences and ideas that seem difficult or confusing.Ask your child to tell you the key ideas from each section.When you have completely read the whole assignment talk about the most important ideas that your child has learned.Try to take turns predicting questions the teacher may ask on a test.Include activities on understanding maps, charts, timelines, and graphs. Use the computer to explore graphs.Make maps, graphs and timelines with construction paper, colourful crayons and markers, rulers and other interesting tools. This hands-on experience is not only fun but helps children understand the reasons for graphics and how they are produced.Discuss what else your child would like to learn about the topic.What is key is helping your child to link new information to what he already knows and to identify the most important ideas in the passage.Reading informational texts takes a new approach by reading for facts and themes and this requires a slower read so as not to miss anything important.Your role is to help your child to read and study more efficiently and effectively.