13 March 2012

5 Terrific Pairings of Print and Non-print Texts to Increase Engagement

Having always had an interest in photography, film, and non-fiction, I never had much trouble incorporating the reading of non-print texts into the classes I taught. When reading fiction, I generally paired it with non-fiction or non-print text based on a general topic or theme. Text pairing is not only an effective way to engage students; it also provides opportunity to teach students many of the important skills they need to be successful in life.

Fortunately when I entered the teaching profession well over a decade ago, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) jointly published The Standards for English Language Arts two years prior. I utilized these standards throughout my teaching career, and I still refer to them when working with teachers or when writing and researching programs and policies in my job.

Standard number one calls for students to read a variety of print and non-print texts

Some of my favorite pairings occurred in the classroom and others outside of the classroom because my young boys and I have enjoyed reading and exploring texts together.

Five of my favorite pairings over the years include…

Pairing #1 Slowly Slowly Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle. Paired with YouTube clips of sloths moving slowly. It was one thing to see the pictures in the book, but curious boys were always interested in seeing video. Here’s one we watched together after reading the book. This was one of the videos we accessed online; there are many more YouTube clips on sloths now, but this one happened to capture our interest several years ago.

Pairing #2 Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk. Paired with images of various libraries and new short award winning film. The boys and I have read and re-read Library Mouse together innumerable times over the past five years. Usually we use it to launch my youngest son into his favorite journal writing activities because he enjoys writing non-fiction. Even now that they are both beyond picture books for their own reading, we still enjoy some of our favorite picture books again and again. In fact, we like Library Mouse so well, I’ve taken to using it in writing workshops with teachers as we explore critical literacies and paired texts. Most recently, I’ve paired the following print and non-print texts for workshops with teachers. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore short film (link not permitted) and Most Interesting Libraries of the World.

Since my teaching years were spent primarily in high schools, my experience with texts for middle grades is only just beginning as my fifth grader and I discuss the books he now reads. As we transition into those important middle grades years, let me share one of our favorite picture books about Henry David Thoreau.

Pairing #3 Henry Climbs a Mountain by D. B. Johnson paired with images of Walden pond and replicas of Thoreau’s cabin found online. There are actually several books by D.B. Johnson depicting various stages of Thoreau’s life, and we like them all, but our most interesting conversations between mom and sons tend to come from this particular text. Some of these similar conversations were shared with my high school students as we read Walden.

Pairing #4 Walden by Henry David Thoreau and Mexican War Lithograph. This pairing worked nicely because it brought conversations about another aspect of Thoreau’s life, and it also brought history into the classroom. Many of the students I taught in this particular English class were also students who were viewing this same lithograph in their U.S. history class, so students made connections and saw school as more than isolated courses in a school day.

Pairing #5 Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall, Newspaper clipping, and various images from the bombing. Conversations around these texts center not only around the historical event but also around the rights of people in today's society. Are we all treating others appropriately? Are we discriminating against others for any reason or using violence in an attempt to solve our problems, or are we following the lead of Thoreau who practiced civil disobedience?