Monday, August 10, 2009
Teaching Text Features
Teaching text features is one of my first orders of business for a new school year. When students understand how to use headings, the table of contents, the glossary, and other features, it is easier for them to navigate nonfiction and find out what they want to know.
One roadblock in my way is that kids don't know the word "features". Without this knowledge, they can't connect how features in text relate to other kinds of features. They have only one pathway to the text feature knowledge--which, as we know, leads to a poor representation of this idea in the brain.
But my own personal children know all about features. How did they come by this knowledge? Well, I certainly didn't sit down and do a Frayer model with them! Rather, they learned about features by playing with toys. They have at least five different kinds of boats. What are the different features? Which ones are similar? Which ones are different?
Using toys is a great motivator for kids of all ages. Bionicles, Playmobil, and other intricate toys can help kids to learn what features are. Kids can also learn about the features of the playground. What features make this playground interesting and unusual? What features do most playgrounds share?
Once students can use the word "features" to describe concrete, real-life items, they are ready for learning about features in text. Just as we can look at a toy and describe its features, they can also look at text and identify the features that authors use to make that text easier to understand.