When working with students on comprehending expository text, we can often capitalize on their interests for motivation. However, expository sources lack the draw of narrative, so it can be helpful to use technology to add engagement. In this post we’ll update you on five places you can find free expository text material for mapping with ThemeMaker® maps for List, Sequence, Description, Compare-Contrast, Problem-Solution or other associated graphic organizers.
Newsela offers free sign-in with a Google account, providing access to the site’s library of current events articles. Each article can be “assigned” to students or viewed as a group, and a major feature of the site is the ability to adjust the reading level of each article to find the level of complexity that is right for your student or group. Newsela also features Text Sets so you can work within a topic or theme. Given your awareness of expository text structures, it is easy to find articles that contain a structure you would like to target. For example, the article shown above features a LIST of slang terms (e.g. “YASSS” and “Okrrrr”) that a news team painfully attempted to incorporate in an embarrassing broadcast that became news on its own.
Readworks.org also offers a free sign-in for educators and has a particular focus on expository text structures and even allows you to search for articles organized around Cause-Effect and Compare-Contrast, among others. Readworks articles feature a read-aloud function as well as question sets and a focus on vocabulary. Like Newsela, Readworks has an app for iPad with different interactive features, or can be accessed on a laptop or Chromebook.
3. Epic Books for Kids
Epic! Books for Kids provides free educator accounts and a large library of online books, akin to walking into a Scholastic Book Fair! Epic! Is a go-to for texts that are visual picture books, and the site (or app) allows you to search for nonfiction texts. Particularly helpful on this site are existing Collections related to topics created by teachers, which will help you with discovering books.
Classhook is a library of curated videos from YouTube pertaining to educational topics, designed to engage students through the use of visual resources and pop culture. Again, it is easy to zoom in on topics relevant to students’ current curricula and locate expository text structures within a video, even though these will generally be presented through oral language and dialogue rather than text. The site is explicitly geared toward educators and provides discussion questions and standards alignments for each video.
And finally, don’t forget BrainPop and BrainPop Jr. These resources, widely subscribed to by public school districts but also providing lots of free content, are libraries of motivating animated videos on a wide range of curriculum topics. The presentation often highlights expository text structures with the use of visual lists and other diagrams. Each video provides a transcript as well, if you want your students to refer to the text itself. Also, don’t miss the related features for each video, such as interactive games and cloze activities (The Meaning of Beep, referring to the robot Moby’s signature sound).
Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and as a clinical supervisor at Boston University. He consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology “through a language lens.” Contact him at email@example.com.