Sunday, September 7, 2014

Scary Textbooks...Nah!

     I believe that sometimes it's important to look at things through the eyes of a student.  In elementary school most school books are full of pictures that
students can acquaint themselves with by thumbing through the pages and looking at the pictures. By middle school however, textbooks change. They are no longer filled with pictures and large text. Instead they are replaced with textbooks so large that only a couple at a time can fit easily into a backpack. They are heavy, the print is small, there is a glossary, index, graphs, charts, diagrams, maps, and sidebars! This new, middle school textbook can be very scary. Personally, I never want a student to fear any part of school! So to avoid fear and possible avoidance of the text book, I do text feature walks to familiarize my students with their textbooks. When understood, textbooks can become a valuable resource for students and very possibly their strongest ally, aside from their teacher, to success in the course. 
     A text feature walk introduces students to all of the features their textbook has to offer them to help them interpret the information that they will be studying in the given course. They learn how to read expository text which simply put is informational text. Doing a text feature walk, helps students to link prior knowledge to new terms,to make meaningful connections, and to glean a purpose for reading the informational (expository) text. In the beginning of each school year when my 7th and 8th grade students come back to my classroom with their cumbersome and overwhelming American history textbooks the first thing we do is "dissect" them. We thoroughly look through them from cover to cover. When a text feature walk is done correctly, it can be a very powerful tool for the student. This in turn helps the student become more successful in the course. I scaffold the text structure walk by guiding the students a little bit each day with clear directions. I allow the students to work in pairs. When everyone is finished with their guided text feature walk we discuss them. Below is an example of "day one" of a guided text feature walk:
  Typical text features that should be examined and discussed are: the title, table of contents, the index, the glossary, headings and/or subtitles, sidebars, pictures and/or captions, labeled diagrams, charts and graphs, maps, cutaways and cross sections, and inset photographs.
   Students benefit from a text feature walk because they explicitly learn what the purpose of each section of their textbook is which will be invaluable to them as they navigate their way through the course and textbook. They see their textbook not only as a learning tool but a resource as well. So, are textbooks scary? Nah!

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Children's Book Review:

   Today's book review choice is: Tale of A Tadpole, written by Barbara Ann Porte. It was a book I once purchased for my daughter, Rachel when she had a pet frog she named "Cinnamon". I wanted Rachel to know the journey a frog had taken from tadpole to becoming a frog! the Tale of a Tadpole, follows the growth of a tadpole named fred owned by a little girl much like Rachel, named Francine. It's a very sweet story of a very beautiful journey.

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