Informational Texts ~ORBITS

What Are Your Students Reading?

Most teachers would agree that young readers are far more familiar and comfortable with narrative text than they are with informational text.  Research indicates that many students have difficulty comprehending informational text, although they crave facinating facts (Marinak and Gambrell). While there may be many reasons for this difficulty, one explanation is that many students lack access to such text.  One study of 20 1st graders found that on average, informational text constituted less than 10 percent of classroom libraries (Duke, 2004) .  Additionally, many students have difficulty  understanding the elements and structures of informational text.

 Importance of Embedding Informational Text into Classroom Instruction

 Using Informational Text across the content areas is well supported by research.  Practice in reading informational text can help prepare students for the many demands that they will be faced with later in life.  Research indicates that a student’s comprehension improves with explicit instruction about informational text structure.  Such instruction can help students become comfortable and familiar with the “academic language” needed for understanding informational text and talking about it with others. 

Supporting in developing the language, strategies, and skills needed to read informational materials is crititical step in preparing them to comprehend within and across all types of text.  Proficiency in comprehending informational text will help our students build the enduring skills they need to “read the world” and be successful in school, work, community, and everyday life (Duke, 2004).

Correlation to Common Core Curriculum

  • In K–5, the Standards follow NAEP’s lead in balancing the reading of literature with the reading of informational texts, including texts in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. In accord with NAEP’s growing emphasis on informational texts in the higher grades, the Standards demand that a significant amount of reading of informational texts take place in and outside the ELA classroom.
  • The 2009 reading framework of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) requires a high and increasing proportion of informational text on its assessment as students advance through the grades.

 How can you make this happen?…ORBITS!!!

With the contraints of today’s financial crisis, many schools (including my own) are struggling to secure funding to ensure that all classrooms are equipped with a wide selection of informational texts.  During the 2011-2012 school year we will be using ORBITS to meet the needs of the students.  The use of ORBITS is a simple concept, but it does requires a great deal of work and resourcefulness on the part of staff members.  Basically, exisiting informational text resources are gathered and organized into  grade level appropriate sets.  These sets are then rotated among the grade level classes giving  students exposure to each of the sets of materials.  While this is not the best scenario, it does increase student access while the school works to build its resources.

Graphic Organizers

In addition to exposing young students to informational text, teachers must also teach them how to read it. Graphic Organizers are an amazing tool to assist students as they allow students to construct visual representations, draw inferences, and summarize their reading.  Below are some generic graphic organizers that can be used with almost any informational text selection.  You are welcome to use these for instructional purposes only!

Check for Understanding

In the News


Chick KWL

Nonfiction Feature Find

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Four Square

What’s the Scoop

A Growing Story

All About A State

Biography Organizer

Cause and Effect chart

Plants We Eat

Plants we Eat 2

Cluster Map

If I were president

Keeping Track

Photo Journal

Steps in a Cycle


writing a news story

Analyzing a photo upper grades

Cause and Effect Upper Grades

Note Taking Organizer Upper Grades

Stay on Target Upper Grades

What’s the Big Idea Upper Grades


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