Chocolate Economics 5: Informational Texts & Common Core Activities

  • There are a variety of excellent informational texts about chocolate that can be used in your classroom to teach economics concepts.

On this post, I will illustrate how to use these texts in activities that meet Common Core State Standards. The main text I will use is from  The Story of Chocolate  website.

Before using the site for information, ask questions about the source. Who wrote this text? How do we find out? (prompt students to find the “About Us” section if they don’t come up with the answer on their own). Then have students discuss the individuals who created the website. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.)

Tell students: Read closely to discover who wrote this. What evidence can you find? Show me or read me the evidence. Who are they? What is their purpose for designing this website? (inference).( CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly andto make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text).
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Pull out a chocolate bar to use as an artifact.

Ask: How do you think this is made? Tell students they will investigate by “Reading Like a Detective” to discover how it is made. Click on the website The Story of Chocolate and ask students to tell you which section they might find information about how chocolate is made. In order to do this, students have to navigate through the features of the website and figure out how these relate to each other. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.)

Ask students what part of the website do they think they would use to find the answer to the question. When they answer “where is it from?” navigate to that section and ask them where they should start to find out about the natural resources needed for chocolate. When they navigate to the Where Is It From? page, there are a variety of texts: traditional written text as well as video and photos. Spend time “reading” through these texts to discover some main points about the natural resource. Ask questions about key details with who, what, when, where, how, why questions. What is it called? Where does it come from? Who picks it? ETC. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Use a specific economics question to have students read closely to discover evidence about the productive resources (natural, human, capital).  CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. Ask text-dependent questions about the productive resources needed to produce chocolate. Encourage students to cite the “texts” by providing specific descriptions of evidence from photos, videos, or written words. Discuss what type of evidence they found in different media and what inferences they can make. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words).

Have students investigate the other stages of production in order to create a timeline and discuss how the process develops over the texts. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.) Then, use the student interactive timeline tool from ReadWriteThink to help students construct a timeline of the stages of production. Screen shot 2013-02-20 at 4.10.38 PM

Students can use this timeline when they create their informational/explanatory writing about how chocolate bars are made. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content). But before they write, you might want to compare other texts as a mini research project for the students. For example, use one or more of the following:

  1.  On the Hershey’s site you will find movies, images, and a downloadable informational text. These all relate to how chocolate is made. Ask questions about the productive resources: raw materials, human resources (workers), and capital resources (tools and equipment).
  2. Exploratorium on chocolate for another source.
  3. The Field Museum for more information.

This activity covers the following writing standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Students should compare and contrast information found from the different sources (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take).

Once students have all of their information, they can use technology (like this wordpress blog site) to publish their informational text. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others). Alternatively, they can create PowerPoint slide shows, videos, or multimedia reports (using word, pages, or Glogster–lesson in the next post!)

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About Deborah Kozdras

Instructor and Chief Creative Officer at the Gus A. Stavros Center for Free Enterprise and Economic Education at the University of South Florida.
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