Inspiring readers one book at a time

03/21/2011  |  LAUREN SANDERS

Being a teacher is challenging. Not only do you design lesson plans and manage classroom logistics and behavior, you are expected to meet the needs of every diverse learner in your classroom. From the academically gifted to the most struggling student, you must meet the learner where they are and inspire each learner toward literacy achievement. What can a teacher do to support all students’ lifelong learning?

One unique curriculum that has proven to boost test scores, increase confidence and engage students across the country is Plugged-in to Nonfiction.

As a culmination of her 40 years in education, the award-winning Dr. Janet Allen designed the Plugged-in to Nonfiction literacy curriculum for students in grades four to 12. Its flexible framework can supplement existing curriculum or provide core curriculum for educators looking to complement cross-content comprehension — from science to English language arts — with engaging, authentic nonfiction texts to which young adults can relate. The curriculum is designed to help students develop the necessary skills to comprehend and create complex texts in and beyond the classroom.

Designed for readers of all abilities, Plugged-in to Nonfiction offers a gradual release model that slowly transfers the responsibility of reading and learning from teacher to student. The curriculum is particularly beneficial in supporting reading volume for all students because the titles involve appealing, relevant topics about important cultural, scientific and historical events from around the world. Audio support provides access to text for all readers, regardless of reading level, allowing students to select titles based on interest level. Reading volume is central to any curriculum focused on reading achievement. (Allington, R. What Really Matters for Struggling Readers)

One of the signatures of Plugged-in to Nonfiction is the eight Power Strategies designed to improve academic achievement in content area reading, writing and communication. Teacher-directed instruction of the Power Strategies is modeled during the whole-class shared reading of the core text. Peer-supported learning of the Power Strategies continues in Power Strategy Group texts, where students transfer and reinforce their strategic learning. Self-directed learning is the goal supported by an Independent Reading library of high-interest, relevant texts and Independent Reading Guides designed to promote independence.

With Dr. Allen’s embedded professional development, Plugged-in to Nonfiction bridges the gap between teacher-directed instruction and the self-directed learning to come.

Ultimately, students gain more confidence, fluency and stamina as they read, and they become engaged in the learning process. For these students, making it real with nonfiction reading, writing and thinking provides a bridge to success in and beyond the classroom.

The revamped Plugged-in to Nonfiction includes the addition of 100 new book titles. In addition, there are now distinct levels for each grade from grade four to grade 12.

In the newly updated curriculum, the teacher’s guides were revamped and restructured based on educator feedback. As requested, the answer key was moved to the back and new teaching strategies, lessons, writing and vocabulary have been added for each book. Each text’s assessments have been updated as well. Nearly 100 pages of teaching support have been included for each novel, with even more material available digitally on CD-ROMs, as requested by teachers. Strategies for the Common Core Standards are addressed in each text.

As part of the gradual release model used by Plugged-in to Nonfiction, the group work has also been revisited in order to offer teachers better opportunities to gauge individual student’s levels of understanding, which will allow the small groups to become an even more effective peer-supported learning environment.

Because the new changes came from suggestions by fellow educators, Dr. Janet Allen has high hopes for the curriculum’s continued success in engaging readers of all levels and increasing test scores.

“These principles encompass a classroom any of us would wish for our children. This classroom would give students the opportunity to read and write engaging texts, explore new ideas, develop strategies for independent learning, and collaborate with others through interesting conversations and activities,” said Dr. Allen.

Lauren Sanders is a Public Relations Executive for Recorded Books. For more information visit and
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