Recently I taught a lesson with sixth grade students reading two texts on the topic of Hurricane Katrina. While the authors of both texts had the same purpose–recounting events that occurred when the storm hit land, the authors used different text structures to convey the content. The first text was primarily a timeline of what happened including statistics like wind speed and so forth. The second was a first-hand account by a journalist who barely escaped the destruction of her office when the storm hit. The author’s tone in the first text is “I’m giving you the facts” with a little bit of language that implies “this was a powerful storm that did a lot of damage.” The author’s tone in the second text is “this was a dangerous, life-threatening situation” and “this changed my life and how I view the world.”
What is the value in reading both texts? For me, reading and thinking about both deepened my understanding of what happened and helped me develop a stronger perspective on how hurricanes impact the environment and humans.
How to convey to students that there’s value in reading multiple texts? When I asked the students to write about the “value of” reading and thinking about both texts, one responded, “In case I ever need to compare texts.” Not really what I was aiming for, you know? But I think over time–through conversation, this student’s perspective might change.
I write this because I’m thinking about how we can teach students to value reading multiple texts. I want them to see “reading and thinking across texts” as an opportunity to develop knowledge, as an opportunity to deepen their understanding, as a critical step anytime they are learning about a topic or issue. The Common Core attempts to get at this in standards like:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.6 –Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.
I would add, though, that the standard doesn’t get at the value of doing this and that’s what I really want for students.
I’m thinking about this and will continue to share more 🙂
BTW – I’ve attached a doc that includes both texts. I found both texts on-line and chose to excerpt one page of each. I think this is enough text for 6th grade students to grapple with at one time. I’m aware that by excerpting, I might have changed each author’s overall purpose for the whole text. This was a worthy sacrifice for me as I was trying to make the reading and thinking manageable for students. I believe the excerpts are still powerful enough to provide room for critical thinking.
Hope this helps.