Informational Text Focus for Middle Age Students

A recent question from a colleague on our Official Story Grammar Marker® Facebook Professional Learning Community: 

What are your recommendations for working on listening comprehension and written language for middle age students?


Thanks for your question, Sarah.

In the twenty five years since the first Story Grammar Marker® was used in a classroom, we, at MindWing Concepts, Inc. have created multiple manuals and materials for tweens, and teens as they struggle with the text and how to communicate their responses to it. The academic focus gradually becomes the text of information, also called “expository text.” It is the text of science and social studies and the like.

Although narrative reading and writing in terms of novels and their deep themes are still strong contenders for thoughtful minds of older students, many struggle with “how to navigate” informational texts and also media communicating information in various forms such as pictures, art masterpieces, news clips and videos of the actual happenings for students to see, discuss and write about.

The focus lately has been the call for more attention to information (expository) text through the lens of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This focus, beginning with preschoolers, provides background knowledge to many students who come to school lacking basic knowledge from which to construct complex informational schemas using essential questions, broad questions, which require problem solving, peer discussion and the formulation of argument!

Often students are given a graphic organizer with terminology such as:

  • issue/claim
  • reasons
  • facts to back reasons up
  • perspective of opposition, and
  • conclusion

This terminology, in actuality, must be explicitly taught. It is not enough to assign “turn and talk” sessions—which are great for many students—but for students who struggle with how to obtain, organize and communicate the information inherent in the basic terminology listed above, direct explicit instruction/intervention is necessary. Students who are learning English as a second language or who are language-impaired and have a reading comprehension problem, or those who struggle in general education classrooms, are all at risk.

In 1998, responding to a call for a “how to” related to expository text, we created the ThemeMaker® (Moreau & Fidrych, 1998). The engaging icons familiar to users to the Story Grammar Marker® were utilized to make expository text structure more visible to students. At the center is the Problem-Solution Map (narrative Complete Episode). This map is the “go-to” map for assessing the “problem” faced by “characters” such as Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Mother Teresa or Dr. Jonas Salk.

Inside any “problem” there may be lists of causes, some sequenced; emotional responses which can be inferred from the world view of the time (Characters/Settings); Plans made through thought, and the planned sequential Actions taken to solve the problem. The “solution” may be to attack the cause, focus on the people involved, or search for a scientific cure! However, one person’s solution may not be the same as another person’s. Herein is the “issue/claim”…opposing view points or perspectives.

Note: The teaching of perspective taking is the outcome of narrative development. We have discussed using the Critical Thinking Triangle® as a way to linguistically code the process of perspective taking: issue, emotion, thoughtful inquiry, planful actions… More about this in a future blog.

Since the publication of ThemeMaker®, we have published other manuals that delve deeper into expository text with older learners as well as the connection between narrative and expository text.

  • The Core of the Core: Using Story Grammar Marker® and other MindWing concepts tools to support students in meeting grade-level Common Core State Standards: Even if your state is not a participant in the CCSS, the intervention tenets within this book are extremely useful for student engagement.

    The Core of the Core focuses on text complexity and the combining of narrative stages and expository text types for ease of intervention.

  • Oral Discourse Strategies: Increasing academic language and student engagement.
    • Dive into the Depths of Knowledge
    • Stretch vocabulary and Sentence Structure
    • Climb to More Complex Thinking

  • Deepening Discourse Strategies ChartDiscourse and Thought Development Chart showing the relationship to narrative and expository text structures. Webb’s Depth of Knowledge question words and Bloom’s Taxonomy levels are integrated into the four quadrants of deepening thought and knowledge.

    The above, two references were written in 2015 to facilitate explicit instruction into peer discussion macro-strategies and pragmatics, such as Reciprocal Teaching and conversational moves (Palincsar; Hattie; Moreau).

  • Finally, Deepening Discourse Strategies (to be published July 2016) is an illustration of the process of discourse intervention using a book entitled Those Shoes (Boelts). Both narrative and expository text structures are utilized and illustrated to deepen knowledge and learning.

In closing, the road map for expository text is not straight forward. There are many dead ends, winding country roads and many highways with multiple exits. With explicit instruction, there will be clear street names and explicit directions. The Issue/Claim is the outcome of investigation of eras, Characters, Initiating Events (causes of problems) leading to the thought process through which Plans are made by varying Characters to solve these problems…each thinking their way is best! Ultimately, it is up to our students to investigate, dig deeply, and formulate claims to be argued from each person’s unique point of view.

Explicit instruction is necessary for many, if not most.


Maryellen Rooney Moreau
Maryellen Rooney Moreau

Author

Maryellen Rooney Moreau, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is founder of MindWing Concepts. She earned her University of Massachusetts at Amherst Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Disorders at University of Massachusetts at Amherst with Departmental Honors and her Master’s of Education degree in Communication Disorders at Pennsylvania State University. Her forty-year professional career includes: school-based SLP, college professor, diagnostician, and Coordinator of Intervention Curriculum and Professional Development for children with language learning disabilities. She designed the Story Grammar Marker® and has been awarded two United States Patents. She has written more than 15 publications and developed more than 40 hands-on tools based on the SGM® methodology. Maryellen was awarded the 2014 Alice H. Garside Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Dyslexia Association, Massachusetts Branch.



1 Response

Marcia Zegar
Marcia Zegar

June 20, 2016

Such Amin-depth and descriptive composition-thank you!! Excellent-as always.

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