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Nurturing Informed Thinking

Reading, Talking, and Writing Across Content-Area Sources

Practical help for teaching students in Grades 3-8 to read, talk, and write across content-area sources.

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In today’s world, the importance of teaching students to analyze different sources on a particular topic has never been greater.   Students need to be able to connect ideas, weigh viewpoints, and balance differing perspectives. “We want students to ask questions and then actively seek out answers by reading, listening to, or viewing  multiple sources —articles, books, videos, photos, infographics, and more,” literacy consultant and author Sunday Cummins explains.  “We want them to think across those sources and be able to articulate for themselves as well as for others what they’ve learned—orally and in writing.”

Nurturing Informed Thinking provides support for teachers as they plan for and manage teaching with multiple sources on a regular basis. Sunday’s practical framework includes strategies for:

  • Planning: establishing purposes for reading, and selecting sources
  • Teaching: lesson ideas for reading and thinking across sources
  • Supporting: instructional moves that help students
  • Releasing Responsibility: student-led research with inquiry charts and other scaffolds.

“The value of this endeavor becomes clear when you see your students’ eyes light up as they examine a second, third, and fourth source on a topic,” Sunday writes. “As a result of reading across sources, students understand the world around them better. More importantly, they have a sense of how they can continue to learn. This is what we want for students—strong identities as strategic readers, writers, and thinkers.”

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


1. Why Learn with Multiple Sources?

2. Planning: Establishing Purposes for Reading and Selecting Sources

3. Teaching: Lesson Ideas for Reading and Thinking Across Sources

4. Supporting: Instructional Moves That Help Students

5. Releasing Responsibility: Student-Led Research with Inquiry Charts and Other Scaffolds

6. Assessing: Suggestions for Marking Progress

7. Making This Work Your Own: Finding Opportunities for Reading Across Sources

In Depth

Nonfiction texts can be dense with information. Students may become overwhelmed by so many details, or they may think they need to remember everything they have read or noticed in multiple sources. A purpose for reading stated as a question can make a huge difference. Questions we develop for students also serve as models for the kinds of questions they can ask on their own later. 

Chapter 2 provides some guidance on developing questions. Chapter 2 includes suggestions for locating and identifying sources that are feasible for students to think across and for developing sets of sources that support each other. Chapter 3 includes nine lesson ideas that focus on teaching students about specific strategies or tools they can use for making sense of information in more than one source. Chapter 4 describes specific instructional moves we can use to move students forward in this endeavor. To be ready, we have to continually observe students, noticing what they are doing well and what they are struggling with and then stepping in to support at this point of need. 

Our ultimate goal is for students to ask their own questions, locate their own sources, and then independently and productively engage with multiple sources. This might be an open inquiry on a topic of their choice or as part of a mandated curriculum. This may happen at multiple points during an integrated unit of study. 

Chapter 5 includes advice on how to gradually release responsibility to students for generating questions, locating helpful sources, and grappling with the content in these sources. Chapter 6 offers suggestions for assessment to inform our instruction as we move students toward independence and to evaluate the sum of students’ learning. Chapter 7 describes how several of my colleagues who work in different school settings are integrating learning with multiple sources into their curriculum on a regular basis. 

— Chapter 1


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Email if you would like to contact Sunday Cummins directly about professional development support.