Using the RAN Strategy to teach informational text
The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts increases the amount of time students will need to spend reading and exploring nonfiction/information texts. During the school day, teachers are expected to develop lesson plans using both information texts and literature to achieve the following balance:
|Grade Band||Informational Text||Literature|
To meet these new requirements, teachers are continually searching for strategies that provide meaningful and engaging methods to use information texts.
The RAN strategy (Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction) developed by Tony Stead adapts the very popular and often-used strategy of KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) charts. Students are asked to fill out a graphic organizer before, during, and after their assigned reading (similar to KWL) containing five thinking-analysis headings:
- What We Think We Know
- Confirmed Information
- New Learning
The teacher then identifies specific sub-topics designed to help students sift through and sort their information prior to writing about a given topic. These headings are designed to help students activate prior knowledge about a topic and synthesize information as they read multiple sources.
Depending on the students’ age and teacher’s preference, this exercise can be conducted in front of the whole class, in small groups, or by individual students at their desk.
Consider the following example. The assignment is to learn about France and the French culture. The RAN graphic organizer could read:
|Topic: FranceSub-Topics||What We Think We Know||Confirmed Information (Yes! We were right!)||Misconceptions(We don’t think that anymore)||New Learning||Wonderings|
Using the RAN graphic organizer:
- Students brainstorm what they think they know about the topic. (similar to KWL) Ideas are written on post-it notes and placed in the first column of a table.
- Students read an instructional text. (In early elementary grades, the text can be read aloud).
- When students find a fact that is confirmed in the text, they transfer the post-it note to the second column, Confirmed Information.
- After reading the text, students review the chart and note any Misconceptions they had about the content. They can move post-its from the first column to the third column or write the misconception on a new post-it and add it to the third column.
- Students re-read the text to discover any new information that can be added to the fourth column, New Learning.
- Students consider any unanswered questions they have regarding the topic and add them to the final column, Wonderings.
Students from Gina Rexrode’s second grade class at Leasure Elementary School in the Christina School District confer as they make decisions about where to place post-it notes on the class RAN chart that they used as they were researching the country of France.
The RAN strategy can be used to help students evaluate and synthesize nonfiction texts in any discipline.
Tony Stead has included information about the RAN strategy in his books, Reality Checks: Teaching Reading Comprehension with Nonfiction (2006) and Good Choice! Supporting Independent Reading and Response (2011). To watch a short clip of Tony Stead using the RAN strategy, visit: