Book Review: Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading

Now, this is a book I can use, although I pilfered it from my wife’s collection of teaching resources.

Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading (by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels and Nancy Steineke) may not sound all that alluring but this resource of more than 75 news and magazine articles tied to various reading strategies in the various content areas (science and social studies being the main focus) is a goldmine of great ideas and handouts. Daniels and Steineke cull through The New York Times, Rolling Stone magazine, Car & Driver, and more to gather up great examples of topics that can be used for teaching reading skills.

As we talk more and more about the shift to the Common Core, with its emphasis on reading and writing in the content areas, this book provides another bridge for English teachers like me to bring various genres of writing beyond the narrative into the classroom, and for content-area teachers to bring more reading and writing skills into their classrooms.  Plus, the push for more reading of informational texts (charts, maps, data sets, etc.) and expository/persuasive writing is front and center in the Common Core, no matter what state you live in in.

Here, Daniels and Steineke make that work accessible and fun, with many of the activities geared around collaborative work by students. They also provide multiple extension activities so that a lesson could last 20 minutes or become an entire unit of instruction.

I already have in mind four of the ideas here for my sixth graders:

  • A jigsaw activity that uses two articles around genetic cloning — of dogs and cats. The students learn to annotate their text in preparation for sharing out their findings to their partners.
  • An activity called Quotation Mingle, in which students are given small pieces of an article that has been cut up, and their job — like a detective parlor game — is to determine the theme of the article. In this case, Daniels and Steineke provide an article about girls, driving and texting (high interest? you bet), and a handout of quotes taken from the article.
  • There is a whole lesson around the science of Invasive Species that nicely connects to science and geography, with articles on Fire Ants, and Killer Bees, and Asian Carp, and more.
  • And there is a very interesting activity called “Country X” in which students are given maps to a mystery country and they need to make inferences and judgements about that country. This “reading” of maps is important, as is the reading of data, and it is something I am working more on with my students.

I’m bringing this book into my school to show my principal, in hopes he might purchase it for our school library. My wife wants her book back.

Peace (in the sharing),


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