Comparing the way that information is related is a good way to challenge the kids with different kinds of writing. By focusing them on both interview and diary style they will recognize how information is distributed successfully in two different manners. When we compare, it's often between similar things that contain differences, not the actual styles themselves, and it's good to change-up the method to which they're accustomed. Basically, I want the students to learn about these different text structures so they can better comprehend all kinds of reading material. Sometimes the best way is to correlate with another type.
I split the class into two halves. The first side is interview, the second side is diary entries. This is just to insure equal numbers, not for them to work together. As a warm up activity, their job is to use the interview or diary entry examples given, and think about what makes their assigned text distinctive as they read.
I used an excerpt from our Houghton Mifflin textbook, "Eye of the Storm" by Warren Faidley, a storm chaser. He gives his reader a sort of play by play account of chasing a storm. They don't read this story in its entirety, (they did the first week of school) but within the story it includes a day in his life written in journal form. They understand how a journal is written and identify it as an informational text.
The other half of the class reads an interview with a favorite author, Margaret Peterson Haddix. They are also thinking about what is different about reading this kind of a text and not surprisingly, finish well before those reading the journal entries.
As a group, we discuss the differences between the two types of text. Understanding the structure of the text is critical in the skill of reading for information that helps them learn the specific content that's provided. Once they've concluded this part, I give "experts" of each type of text a chance to give their opinions and write a few of the comments about each on the Smart Board.
I begin by asking the class what informational text is. The first student response was, "What we read in a textbook," which makes sense in their world. It was followed by other offerings such as non-fiction books, newsapaper articles, and a fabulous, if not surprising answer, "The paper that told us how to set up the baseball bounce back." (He meant an instruction sheet for pitching practice tool he got for Christmas.) I gave an enthusiastic, "Yes!" thrilled to hear an atypical, but accurate response. Just coming off the warm up activity, one student asked, "Are diaries informational text?" Perfect! I responded by citing that the diary entry they used in the previous activity, though personal, was still informational. One girl disagreed because she said, "A diary has information, but also opinion." Student reads from a diary. I understood her confusion and replied, "If you read a non-fiction book about butterflies, and the author referred to them as beautiful butterflies, would it provide any less information?" A few other examples were cited and it was agreed that there is a place for opinion among informational text.
Important to share with the students: not all diaries are informational text, but the examples they're reading today are. Author's purpose is the key. Many fictional books are written in diary form, but the purpose is not to share information, it's to entertain. The diary in today's lesson is informational text because it's a primary resource written by a girl living in a war-torn country. As the author, her purpose is to share the day-to-day details of her harrowing life.
Time to switch gears and move the lesson to specifics. Kids don't realize that many of the informational text they read started with an interview. Students reading an interview. Newspaper and magazine articles, they're probably aware of, but all of that non-fiction reading came from people researching and posing questions to the experts, in short- the interview. Interview with a Weatherman is the text we use. This is a concept I enjoy pulling out of them as we begin our focus because it's one of those times when you see the "light of awareness" shine just a little brighter.
Putting the focus on diaries and their role as an informational text, is next. Although The Diary of Anne Frank isn't necessarily age appropriate due to content, some kids have read it, and most have at least heard of it. I reference it in brief discussion to show how important a diary can be as an informational text. An excellent book to read as a literature connection- or as we do in this activity- through excerpts is Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic. It chronicles her experience and survival during the Bosnian War in Sarajevo just as she began fifth grade in 1991, and is engaging text. By the end of this discussion, the kids are well aware of the relevance of certain types of diaries as informational text.
I present the kids with their interview and diary sections along with an Informational Text graphic organizer for them to detail the components of each. The students gather the information and structure their informational text so the highlights are evident and they can easily support. As many of the lessons in my Structuring Informational Text unit, formulating data to aid in comprehending text is the objective. Student example of an interview and a diary.
Divide the class into two groups as was done in the warm up, but reverse which Informational Text they are in charge of. One group is interview and the other is diary entries. Pass out the Information Sheet to both groups and explain that they will either write up an interview or put the facts into a diary entry.
Differences between interviews and diary entry informational text:
Interview: Two or more individuals converse about a topic, opportunity for clarification (follow up questions,) information covered is based only on questions that have been asked.
Diary: A record by an individual, current events expressed from author's point of view, includes multiple entries over a period of time.
Similarities between interviews and diary entry informational text:
Both: gives information, personal-directly from the source, present viewpoints to the reader, organized, help the reader to connect to the informational text intimately as opposed to reference.
Two of the girls asked me if they could do it together with one pretending to ask the questions and the other answering in true interview fashion. I agreed, and it was a great idea because most of the others sounded pretty similar. (The reason for this is explained in the next paragraph.
The topic the students will use for informational text types is in regards to the day's lesson. I provide each group with the same listing of facts, although the directions bolded at the top are specific to interview or diary entry. There is a dotted line in the middle so they can be copied at the same time, and just cut in half.
The students pair up within the two groups (interview or diary entry) to write the facts in an interview style or in a diary entry style. Once the groups have finished the assignment, examples are shared and the two types of informational text are compared easily.
This idea of utilizing the same information in two different forms, such as the diary and interview, is a really great idea that I haven't used enough. The kids had fun with the assignment and didn't argue over the type they had to write. One pair finished early and did an example of the other type as well.
There are so many ways to use this kind of an activity. The kids can use the same information and write it from different points of view; use a literature connection to have the kids write about the same information (the same person, for example) at two different time periods of their life...there are many ways to do this. The kids will be receptive.