Second graders need to develop basic critical reading skills with informational texts so they can move on to higher levels of analysis in later grades. The key to teaching second graders how to read critically is to supplement your traditional instruction with activities focused on specific goals, such as drawing inferences or retaining pertinent information.
Five W Practice
Explain that all informational texts give insight by using the five Ws: who, what, when, where and why. Split the class into groups, giving each one group different texts to read. After your students finish reading, have them list the five Ws in the pieces they just read. For example, if a group reads about rainforest frogs, those students could list the types of frogs and any people mentioned in the text, the overall concept of what was written, when the research was conducted, the specific location of the rainforest and why all of the information is important.
Pair students up and give each student a different text to read. After reading the text, students explain what they've read to their partners, including as much detail as possible. Encourage them to make notes while reading but don't require this. However, as the students listen, they should write down notes about what their partners say. You also can have them list their partners' information according to the five Ws.
Predictions and Questions
Tell your students that they should be thinking about the content of a text before they begin reading it. As soon as they see the title, they should start to form ideas about what the content might be and to do so mostly in the form of questions. Pass out articles and have your students write a short list of ideas and questions based upon the title and their prior knowledge of the subject. For example, if the text is about Benjamin Franklin, students might list expectations such as reading about Franklin's inventions and his role in politics. They also might wonder if his life as a boy will be addressed and whether he had brothers or sisters.
Assigning New Headlines
Your students also need to understand the importance of inferring the main idea from an informational text. Hand out age-appropriate newspaper or magazine articles -- without the headlines -- for students to read. Students should decide what the main idea is, then write a brief headline to reflect that. Afterward, lead a discussion where students share and explain their headlines.
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