Beyond History Books: Researching With Twin Texts and Technology
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Pairing fiction and nonfiction books on one topic (twin texts) has been shown to build background knowledge, boost comprehension, and increase motivation. Informative and interactive websites further enrich such literacy experiences. In this lesson, students explore a historic event in depth by reading fiction and nonfiction literature. Then, to enhance and extend the reading experience, students participate in website exploration and virtual field trips. Throughout the process, students gather facts and relevant information, which they later organize and present to the class. This lesson is easily adaptable to accommodate a wide range of historic events, instructional objectives, and grade levels.
Twin Texts and Technology Topics: This printout offers suggestions for fiction and nonfiction books and relevant websites relating to four different topics (the American Civil Rights Movement, the Holocaust/World War II, the Irish Potato Famine, and the history of inventions).
K-W-L Creator: Create savable K-W-L Charts for whole-class knowledge collection.
From Theory to Practice
- The use of both fiction and nonfiction texts can activate background knowledge, build vocabulary in authentic contexts, and motivate students to think deeply.
- Incorporating multiple texts on the same topic helps students become sophisticated readers who make connections between diverse texts and gain knowledge from a variety of genres.
- Through participation in Internet activities, students engage in critical thinking and acquire new skills and strategies needed to take advantage of today’s information and communication technologies (ICTs).
- When teachers use the Internet in their classrooms for teaching and learning, they extend opportunities for developing new literacy skills.
- Linking story time to computer time can motivate children to learn more about literacy by drawing attention to big ideas, new vocabulary, thematic connections, and innovations in text.
- The Internet provides students opportunities to build background knowledge, gather information, gain knowledge, and exchange ideas.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- A collection of fiction and nonfiction books on the same topic of your choosing (see Twin Texts and Technology Topics under Printouts for suggestions)
- Visual presenter/document camera
- LCD projector
- Computers with an Internet connection
- Select and gather fiction and nonfiction texts on the same topic. (See Twin Texts and Technology Topics for suggestions.) If possible, collect multiple copies of the same title(s) to allow several students to read a text simultaneously.
- Create a reading schedule that allows time for exploration of both fiction and nonfiction texts. For each title, determine whether to have students read individually, in small groups, or listen to you read aloud. Decide whether nonfiction texts should be read in their entirety (cover to cover) or if certain chapters or sections should be emphasized.
- Identify important facts and events from each text. Consider your students’ grade level, instructional objectives, and prior knowledge. Print a Fact Chart for each student (additional copies may be needed, too). Prepare a large Fact Chart on poster board or chart paper for classroom use.
- Identify vocabulary words from the texts. Focus on words that are relevant to the historic event or frequently appear in both the fiction and nonfiction books. Consider your students’ grade level, reading abilities, and prior knowledge, and adjust the number of selected vocabulary words accordingly. Print a Vocabulary Chart for each student. Prepare a large Vocabulary Chart on poster board or chart paper for classroom use.
- Identify 1–3 websites that support and extend the reading experience (see Twin Texts and Technology Topics for suggestions). If possible, use websites that are interactive yet informative. The goal is to allow students to participate in virtual field trips or enriching, hands-on experiences without actually leaving the classroom. If needed, reserve time in the school’s computer lab.
- Learn how to research a historic event through fiction, nonfiction, and website exploration by note-taking and recalling information
- Learn how to present information to an audience by gathering, synthesizing, and organizing information
- Explain to your students that they are about to explore a historic event about the topic you chose through a wide range of books, including works of fiction and nonfiction. Review the meaning of fiction (imaginative, made up, or “untrue”) and nonfiction (factual, accurate, “true”). Explain that historical fiction is indeed fiction but is based on true events.
- Engage students in a discussion about both genres, and ask what they like/dislike about each type of text. Explain that pairing fiction and nonfiction texts on the same topic is often called twin texts. Discuss the benefits of using twin texts. Student responses should identify that nonfiction allows readers to learn true facts while fiction helps readers identify and relate to characters and events on a more personal level.
- Using the visual presenter or document camera, display each text that you plan to use in upcoming sessions. Preview each book, and discuss whether it is a work of fiction or nonfiction. Point out specific features of fiction and nonfiction books (text structure, access features, and so on) to help students identify the correct genre.
- Ask students to share what they already know about the chosen historic event and what they would like to learn. Organize students’ responses into a K-W-L Chart or the K-W-L Creator.
- Listen to students’ comments and responses about fiction and nonfiction texts. Address any misconceptions and share examples with the class as needed.
- Upon the conclusion of the session, review the students’ responses (K-W-L Chart or K-W-L Creator) and adjust future instructional plans accordingly.
Session 2 (45 minutes)
- Explain to students that there are many specific vocabulary words associated with a historic event. Say something like, “When learning about [topic], it is very helpful to have a strong understanding of the vocabulary words that relate to this event. To help you learn and keep track of words that relate to [topic], we are going to use a vocabulary chart as we read about [topic] in the fiction and nonfiction books I showed you yesterday.”
- Distribute a copy of the Vocabulary Chart to each student. Place a copy on the visual presenter and/or post a large version on the board. Add one or more vocabulary words to the chart. Discuss the meaning of each word while modeling how to fill out the chart. Explain to students that they should listen for the vocabulary word(s) as you read aloud.
- Select a short reading from the twin texts to read aloud. For example, choose a picture book, a chapter from a historical fiction chapter book, or a section or chapter from a nonfiction text. While reading, pause and review the meaning of any vocabulary words from the Vocabulary Chart.
- After the read-aloud, distribute a copy of the Fact Chart to each student. Place a copy on the visual presenter or post a large version on the board. Explain to students that the purpose of the Fact Chart is to help them record important information from the readings. Say, “The book or chapter we just read was about [topic]. Let’s think about what we learned from this text. What facts do you recall?” Encourage discussion while modeling how to add information to the Fact Chart.
- Remind students that they must use their Vocabulary Charts and Fact Charts during subsequent lessons. Say, “Researchers gather information from many different sources; over the next few days, you too will continue to learn new vocabulary words and information about [topic] by reading more books.”
- At the end of the session, ask students to turn in their Vocabulary Charts and Fact Charts. Prior to the next session, review the charts. Look for any mistakes or misconceptions, and make sure the necessary information was added correctly.
Sessions 3–5 (number of sessions may be adjusted; 45 minutes each)
Before each session begins, return each student’s Vocabulary Chart and Fact Chart. Address any mistakes or misconceptions as needed.
- Sessions 3–5 are similar to Session 2. Begin each session by introducing one or more vocabulary words that relate to the historic event. Continue to model using the class Vocabulary Chart while discussing the meaning of each word.
- You may choose to continue to read aloud or to have students read individually or in small groups. Select the texts (fiction and nonfiction) and the amount of reading according to students’ reading levels, interests, and prior knowledge.
- As students read, encourage them to add information to their individual Fact Charts. Remind them to record the source for each fact.
- At the end of each session, encourage students to discuss their findings (this is particularly important if you’re using multiple texts in the classroom). Encourage students to review the K-W-L Creator chart from the Introductory Session; discuss what they have learned so far and what they still want to learn. Make adjustments or additions to the K-W-L chart as needed.
- While students are working, circulate around the room and review their Vocabulary Charts and Fact Charts to make sure they continue to add correct and appropriate information. Address any mistakes or problems with individual students as needed.
Session 6 (30–60 minutes)
- Explain to students that in addition to learning about the chosen historic event from fiction and nonfiction books, many websites can provide them with wonderful learning opportunities.
- Before providing students with access to individual computers, use a class computer and projector to model how to access the first website (see Twin Texts and Technology Topics for suggestions). Discuss different features and sections of the website (interactive games, exhibits, images, facts and information, podcasts, timeliness, and so on), and explain which sections of the site you deem particularly important. Model how to elicit facts from the website and add this information to the Fact Chart. Remind students that while using a website can be a fun, interactive experience, the goal is still to learn about the chosen historic event.
- If desired, continue to add one or more vocabulary words from the website to the Vocabulary Chart.
- Allow students time to explore the website and continue to record facts and information on their individual Fact Charts.
- Monitor students as they explore the website. Help them navigate the site as needed.
- At the end of the session, ask students to turn in their Fact Charts. Prior to the next session, review the charts. Look for any mistakes or misconceptions, and make sure that students added accurate information retrieved from the website.
Sessions 7–8 (number of sessions may be adjusted; 30–60 minutes each)
Before each session begins, return the Fact Chart to each student. Address any mistakes or misconceptions as needed.
- If desired, select additional websites that are relevant to the historic event.
- Repeat the steps from Session 6.
- While students are exploring a website, circulate around the room to make sure they access all applicable parts of the website. Help them navigate the site as needed. Also, closely monitor their Fact Charts to make sure that they continue to add information correctly.
Session 9 (60 minutes)
- Tell students, “Over the past few days/weeks, you have gathered important information from fiction and nonfiction books and websites about [topic]. Today, you’re going to review the information on your Fact Chart and Vocabulary Chart and organize it in a way that makes it easier to share with others.”
- To model, use the class Vocabulary Chart and Fact Chart. Discuss specific information from the different sources (twin texts and websites), and look for patterns, contradictions, and repetition of facts. Say, “We have a lot of facts here. How do you believe we should organize and arrange the facts so they make more sense?” Prompt students to think of common ways to organize information: by topic (an outline or a web) or in chronological order (a timeline). Use highlighters or different colored pens to visually organize and rearrange the information.
- Using a class computer and projector, model how to transfer the facts from the Fact Chart into the interactive ReadWriteThink Notetaker, ReadWriteThink Webbing Tool, and/or Timeline. Emphasize how incorporating words from the Vocabulary Chart may be helpful during this process.
- Explain to students that they should now
a) review their own Fact Charts and Vocabulary Charts
b) consider the best way to organize the information
c) use one of the three online tools (Notetaker, Webbing Tool, or Timeline) to organize and present their information
- Provide students with access to computers and time to work individually. If computer access is limited, students can work with a partner. If they work with a partner, they should consider information from both Fact Charts.
- While students work, monitor their ability to organize and transfer information from the Fact Chart and Vocabulary Chart into the online interactive tools. Assist and support as needed.
Concluding Session (30–60 minutes)
- Have students share their finished outlines, webs, or timelines with the class. Discuss format and content after each presentation. Point out commonalities and differences between the presentations.
- Review the K-W-L Creator chart. Encourage students to add information that they now “Know” for sure. Discuss what they have learned. If there are still unanswered questions, ask how they can find out the information using additional books and/or websites. If desired, assign small groups of students the task of further researching any unanswered questions.
- Encourage students to share how they felt about the research process and the types of information and facts they retrieved from different sources (fiction, nonfiction, and websites).
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Observe students as they research and collect information and as they share knowledge for class K-W-L Creator chart.
- Use the Twin Texts and Technology Presentation Rubric to evaluate each student’s ability to research and gather facts using fiction, nonfiction, and websites; synthesize and organize information; and effectively present information to an audience.
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