July 1, 2016

Five for Friday: Unlocking the Secrets to Text Features with Gail Gibbons Books

It’s summer, so do you know what that means?  It means teachers sell things!  Lots of things!  I’m on this Facebook Group of local teachers that post all kinds of fun things they are getting rid of, right there, shopping online, at home!  I resist most things!  I have plenty-trust me!  But sometimes I must invest! 
These bad-boys came up on the sale board and I HAD to have them. You see, Gail Gibbons is the BEST informational text author EVER!  For YEARS I have been teaching using her books, before it was even cool, to instill the love of text features in children! 

About 10 years into my teaching career is when Balanced Literacy hit the air-and I was in LOVE!  One of the key features of Balanced Literacy was to being to teach HOW reading happened within nonfiction.  I purchased Make it Real! by  Linda Hoyt.  I became very interested in something called Text Features!  This captured my attention for one main reason-I just discovered the secret to my success as a student!  I was always fascinated by history and science (still am!) and I devoured our text books in high school and college! I read every square inch of those books, I examined the pictures, read the materials below them, paid attention to headings,  and I could go on and on!  The other kids couldn’t figure out how I could so easily find answers and information, and, frankly, I couldn’t see why it was so difficult for them-it was right there!   It wasn’t until Make it Real! that I understood-I had taught myself text features and I was using them for full advantage-and the other kids in school didn’t have a clue!  And, that, became my goal-to never leave another kid (in this case student) in the dark again!  So, every year, including when I taught in the Science Lab at my school, out come the Gail Gibbons books.  So, here’s the Five for Friday top reasons you should be using them in your classroom!

TEXT FEATURES!  Can I tell you that EVERY text feature is found in one of her books (ok, not every one-no table of context and no index!) She does have an appendix if you pay attention-her extra information page!) I always start with Frogs as my first book because it has the key features found within this text.  Within the first pages read you will have encountered labels, diagrams, headings, bold print words, pictures, and captions!  You will also encounter some that, in my opinion, are just as key:  insets-where pictures are places within pictures, and cut-aways-where a picture shows the inside, or cut-away- of an item.  In this case, it is the hibernation of a frog, showing them underground in their burrow.  And, above all that, Frogs is an attention keeper!  They LOVE it!  No matter what grade (I’ve done this from 1st grade all the way to 5th grade!)

That’s right!  The second reason to use Gail Gibbon’s books is because they are highly engaging.  She does a considerable amount of research for each text. If you pay attention to the dedication page of each book, you will find out EXACTLY how much research she does, because she thanks the experts who help her.  One of her books that I use right away is Sea Turtles.  Living on the Gulf Coast of Florida, my students have first hand experience with turtle nests, but don’t really understand the why behind staying away from them.  Many are from the North where there are no sea turtles.  So, great teaching moments-BUT there’s more.  At the end, I go back and show them the dedication page!  She thanks a researcher at Mote Marine-where many of them have visited and have year round passes!  Their faces EVERY TIME!  Then we go through and do a picture walk of how it does look like our beaches!  This is not an isolated event!  We end up really examining and discussing the information within the text!  Total engagement!

Her books can teach the students the WHY of text features.  As I look at many products on TpT and other places, I see a lot of name calling!  What I mean by this is I see a lot of “This is a caption.”  “This is a picture.” I don’t see a lot of WHYS!  Why did the author use this text feature here?  Why does this text feature SUPPORT the text?  Why would you stop and pay attention to this text feature?  We need to be teaching the WHY!  It always amazes me when teachers skip this part.  Trust me, it unlocks everything!  When I was in the Science Lab, I had student whom I had taught in 2nd grade.  When I was sharing text features each week, those kids knew the WHY and could explain to others!  They were in 4th and 5th grade!  It had UNLOCKED THE SECRET CODE to nonfiction text!  This wasn’t just higher achieving students-this crossed the whole range of kids I had in class!  WHY matters-it unlocks the secret code! 

You can also teach author’s craft with Gail Gibbons books!  She has, literally, HUNDREDS of books!  I always pick some of her middle of her career books to start with.  We continually talk about her work as an author.  I share facts about her writing life and begin to slowly introduce some of her older material next.  It is much weaker and has less information and text features.  I do this on purpose.  So we can compare them to what we have been reading and talk about how her work has changed.  Then, I begin to introduce her newest material.  Then we can fully see the progression of a writer’s work over time.  How it changes, flows, develops!  It is a GREAT thing to do with kids, and it doesn’t take tons of effort or time, because it is right there, and they can see it! 

Readability!  By 2nd and 3rd grade, her books are totally at a readability place.  Even 4th and 5th graders enjoy her writing.  It is meaty enough for children at these ages, especially if they are struggling.  The pictures are still mature enough for older kids on the whole.  My kids begin checking out her books almost right away from our school library and this continues throughout the year.  It doesn’t take long for them to start trading books-which means tons of exposure to nonfiction topics in a friendly way!  It is truly a great thing to see! 

So, there’s my Five for Friday!  I have another totally cool activity I do with my students, but I’ll save that for another post !  When it is up, I will link it here!  I also plan on creating materials for both the Polar Bears and Penguin books (Penguins is a GREAT one for teaching maps as a text feature!)  so watch for those at my store!  You can follow my at The Best Days by clicking the green star!  Remember to  also follow me here at my blog and on Facebook!  And, if you have used Gail Gibbons before, share a comment to tell everyone how! 


Alicia said...

I LOVE Gail Gibbons books too!

Tonya said...

What a great post on text features! You are exactly right when you say students must know the "why" of it, not just the name of it!
Storybook Endings

ithappenedin3rd said...

Love Gail Gibbons books...and the kids do too! Great post!

Julie Santello said...

Awesome! They truly are a great tool for text features!

Julie Santello said...

It truly empowers them!

Julie Santello said...

Thanks! And thanks for leaving a comment too!