Beginning in 2nd grade, the Common Core Reading Informational Standard 9 challenges students to be able to “compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic” (CCSS, 2010). By 5th grade, there are four Reading Informational Text standards that require students to grapple with ideas across texts (5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.9). In the middle grades, students continue to be challenged by the Standards to think across texts. While what we are asking students to do with texts on the same topic may vary somewhat by grade level, the similarity is that students are reading across texts and synthesizing the information in these texts in order to do the “what” of the standard.
Finding these “text pairs” is tricky. Here is one tip I’ve started using for my own practice when searching out paired texts: Start with a well-written source (that you like and may have already used with students) and then look for a related source (that may not be as well written but discusses the same topic).
One of my “go to” sources for science-related articles is Science News for Students. The articles on this site, (appropriate for 6th grade and up) are usually well written; the authors employ a similar style of writing – introducing their topic, describing current related research to the topic, quoting experts and so forth. (These articles make good examples of texts to look at how authors develop central ideas – but that’s another blog entry.) What I do is find one article and then Google the research or topic discussed in the article to find a second article. Quickly skimming a couple of the articles I land on, I can identify one that might pair with the Science News for Students article. Using the Common Core as a guide, I determine how these articles can be used – like Reading Informational Standard 7.9 – “Analyze how two or more authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information by emphasizing different evidence or advancing different interpretations of facts.” Ideally, I’d like paired articles to tie into a unit of study – but, in reality, this does not always work. The good thing about this site is that the topics are sorted by science topics – so you could conceivably find an article relevant to a unit of study. Here are a few pairs as examples:
- Science News for Students article “Cell Phones on the Brain” by Stephen Ornes AND an article from the Chicago Tribune “How do cell phones affect young brains?” – Both articles talk about the same research study. The authors’ points of view differ a bit and their use of “credible” sources is worthy of discussion.
- Science News for Students article “Loneliness Can Breed Disease” by Hugh Westrop and Time article “Recipe for Longevity: No Smoking, Lots of Friends” by Laura Blue. Both authors discuss the same research, but the second one adds another dimension – not just any relationship prolongs our life!
An additional site that works in the same way – as a place to start – is www.junior.scholastic.com . An example of an article I might start searching with is “Why China Can’t Breathe” by Walters (3/3/2014). Googling the same topic turned up a related (and a little more challenging) article “Beijing Issues Rare Air Pollution Alert” by Associated Press (cbsnews.com, 2/21/14) .
Another “go to” source is Library of Congress site America’s Story from America’s Library for 2nd-5th grade students primarily. (PARCC used this site for the 3rd grade assessment with the excerpt on George Washington Carver.) Here I look through the biographical sketches for two people who share a common personality trait or disposition. This usually is a “main idea” in a text (aligned with Common Core Reading Informational text standards like 4.1, 4.2, and 4.9). The categories of essays (like “Leaders and Statesman”) give me ideas about what questions I might ask; the essays themselves also have traits I might use in a question for close reading (like “pioneer” in the essay below on Leonard Bernstein). Here are two examples:
- With the short essays on John Joseph Pershing & Thurgood Marshall from this site (found under “Meet Amazing Americans” and then “Leaders and Statesman,” I might ask this text-dependent question: How did Pershing and Marshall show that they cared about people’s actions not their appearance? Or how did Pershing and Marshall reveal themselves as leaders? (Definition of leader: a person who has an influence.)
- With the short essays on Leonard Bernstein and John Philip Sousa (found under “Meet Amazing Americans” and then “Musicians and Composers”), a question for close reading might be: How were these two musicians both pioneers? (Definition of pioneer: a person who helps create or develop new ideas, methods, etc.)
These sources could also be easily combined with multimedia sources (short videos and so forth) as another experience for students with thinking across texts. I haven’t explored this much, but it seems like you could start with a well written or developed source and then build from there.
Hope this helps. Would love to hear how you find paired articles or paired sources.