I have numerous favorite websites; if you are a teacher of any subject looking for informational texts to incorporate into your curriculum (because it is NOT just the ELA teacher’s job to teach/practice/require literacy in the classroom), I strongly encourage you to check out Learning Blogs at The New York Times and NewsELA (both are linked below in my blogroll). If you are teaching any subject that can contact with history, check out the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov) for primary sources. However, all three of these websites are well-known or well-linked in the education universe.
My new find this school year was Narratively (narrative.ly or on Twitter @NarrativelyNY); I found it when Mental Floss (another great website–the articles tend to be interestingly quirky http://www.mentalfloss.com) tweeted a link to an article on Narratively. Narratively publishes original narrative essays that they group by a single theme each week. At the high school level, CCSS suggests a 70%-30% split between informational texts and fiction texts. PARCC suggests that in the ELA classroom, this split should be 50%-50%, but most of the informational texts will be nonfiction narrative essays–exactly what Narratively provides (some personal narrative, some third-person narrative).
I carefully chose three essays during first semester to use as mentor texts for my students’ personal narrative essay assignment (Kelly Gallagher says that you cannot provide too many example or mentor texts). I found topics that I thought would interest my students, that would be no more than four printed pages (two pages front-to-back), and that I then edited for language if necessary. Over winter break, I received an email (because you can subscribe and receive weekly emails) stating that the next week’s theme (the first week after winter break) would be “American Dreamless.” What was the third quarter theme in junior English? American dream/American nightmare, with The Great Gatsby as the extended text. The five essays were wonderful! They provided a more realistic view of the theme but also provided textual evidence that the so-called American dream is not limited to America. (Again, a couple essays needed a word or two edited for appropriateness.)
Third quarter I used an essay about a soldier to illustrate a realistic example of the hero’s journey with my freshmen; this quarter, I have used one essay (rather than an entire weekly theme of essays) to provide a cultural/religious discussion of identity with my freshmen.
The essays also include illustrations; some are photographs of the people and places, while other illustrations are created by artists to accompany the essays. Finally, some of the essays are video essays.
The only drawback to the website is that it cannot be searched; to find an essay, one needs to scroll through the essays. I have made it a point to save essays the same week that they are published for my future use.