I can’t tell you how often it is that I turn to one of my Harvey “Smokey” Daniels books for ideas on teaching the reading and writing of informational text. The trio of Subjects Matter, Content-Area Writing and Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading sit within reaching distance from my desk, and I am often lugging those books around to professional development sessions to share with other teachers.
In particular, I love Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading for the way in which Daniels and his writing partner Nancy Steineke use single-page newspaper articles, graphs, charts and more within the context of a lesson or unit. That fantastic book really opens up a lot of strategies for approaching the use of authentic informational text with students, in meaningful ways.
Now Daniels and Steineke are at it again. This time, while they are using the same format, they’ve focused their lens on literary texts. Texts and Lessons for Teaching Literature is organized for easy use. There are short stories, poems, sits, and other short fictional pieces that are part of easy-to-understand/easy-to-implement lessons plans and units aimed to get students thinking critically about a wide range of issues from word choices to author’s purpose to literary arguments. Some sample lesson titles include “Tweet the Text,” “Frozen Scenes,” “Finish the Story,” and “Literary Networking.” (Companion resources are available online.)
The range of “mentor texts” is wide, too, running from hip writers such as Dave Eggers to long-established authors like Pat Conroy and poets like Nikki Giovanni. Daniels and Steineke also provide plenty of reproducible templates that you can use with the articles, and then – in their very folksy way of writing – walk teachers through the classroom experience, including the potential pitfalls. As with most books published these days, the two writers also align their lessons and texts to the Common Core curriculum. I also found the charts in the introductory sections useful, as the writers provide an overview of key skills that need to be nurtured in students. This was a book made for busy teachers.
I realize that my pile of Smokey Daniels’ books gets larger every year and I may seem to be obsessing. But that’s OK by me, because as the stack grows, so does my own toolbox of approaches to help my students navigate a variety of texts — informational and fictional — in new ways. I consider that a win-win situation.
Kevin Hodgson is a sixth grade teacher in Southampton, Massachusetts, and is the technology liaison with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Kevin blogs regularly at Kevin’s Meandering Mind and tweets more often than is healthy under his @dogtrax handle.