This is the second blog post in the “How do I Teach______?” series.
In this blog post you will walk away with clear steps for how to launch and teach your next non fiction unit.
Teaching students how to read or approach a genre or text is important and tantamount to teaching students how to plan for a road trip to a particular location, using a specific route. In this episode we will talk about the what, the why and the how of teaching students how to navigate reading non fiction.
What is Nonfiction?
Let’s start with the what. What is non fiction? Nonfiction text refers to a type of text that is based on real people and real events. This genre is based on facts. The reader who picks up this text is generally looking for information about a specific topic. It’s Broken into two camps: Expository and Narrative Nonfiction
Expository text is- nonfiction text that presents information.
Narrative nonfiction text is- nonfiction text that tells a story.
Now that we’ve talked about the what, let’s talk about why we teach students how to read or approach nonfiction.
Why Teach Nonfiction?
Teaching students how to navigate nonfiction text is important for a variety of reasons. In school this skill will help them know how to read to learn new things. As an educator and as an adult you and I both know that you are never done learning, this means that learning how to navigate non fiction is a lifelong skill.
In addition, learning how to navigate nonfiction will also teach students how to take in new information and decide how to think about it and what they think about it. We’ve talked about what nonfiction is, and why we should teach students how to read nonfiction. Now we are going to talk about how to teach a non fiction reading unit in your classroom.
How Do I Teach Nonfiction?
First we’ll take an airplane view of how to teach students how to read nonfiction. You would teach these lessons during the mini lesson or read aloud portions of your nonfiction genre unit.
- Teach students the elements of the genre for both expository and narrative nonfiction.
- Teach students how to create a plan for reading nonfiction text
- Teach students how to monitor their comprehension of the text
4.Teach students how to respond to what they have read
Let’s go back and revisit each point teaching point
Teach students the elements of the genre
Expository: A nonfiction text that presents information. The reader can generally enter this text from any point and still get the information they need. It may be broken up into subcategories that help the reader navigate the text and quickly find the information they are looking for.
Narrative Nonfiction: A nonfiction text that tells a story. This sub-genre can include biographies and generally has a beginning, middle and end.
Both may include various text features like: captions, photographs, table of contents, diagrams and labels to name a few
- Both may be written using various text structures to include: description, compare and contrast, cause and effect, problem and solution and order and sequence
- Both will be based on Facts
- Both may include bias so students will need to be taught how to identify the author’s purpose in order to help them discern this
To do this, give students the opportunity to dive into nonfiction text, I would highly recommend attaining at least two texts about a common topic in order to build a bank of knowledge from a variety of sources. This will also allow your class to become “experts” on this topic and allow your students to see how different authors wrote about the same topic in different ways. Exploring books in this way also allows your students to notice a variety of features about nonfiction.
Some book/text suggestions for this genre are:
National Geographic Kids books
DK Eye Wonder Books
Eyes On Nature Books
Nina a Story of Nina Simone
Counting On Katherine
Choose two or three of the above mentioned texts for immersion and then use these same texts to teach from during the rest of your Nonfiction text unit.
Teach students to create a plan for reading the text
- Teach students that everything on the page is included by the author for a purpose
- Teach students to first read the text and write what they learned
- Teach students to read and study the photographs, diagrams and captions
- Teach students to take all their new learning and summarize what they learned from that page of text
To do this, model how you take the above steps as a reader and then give them an opportunity to practice doing the same.
Teach students how to monitor comprehension- one of the challenges of reading nonfiction is keeping up with all of the new information that you are learning. Readers need to be given a way to keep track of what they are reading one paragraph or one chunk at a time. My favorite way to do this is to teach students how to read a chunk of text and then ask themselves who was the text about (or what was the subject) and what happened or what did they learn and then jotting the answers to these questions off to the side of the text. This approach helps students stay engaged with the text as they read and increases their comprehension.
Teach students how to respond to what they have learned.
- Model your thinking
- Provide students with the steps you took to get there
- Give them an opportunity to practice
- Provide students with stems to communicate their thinking orally and in writing
So to recap we teach nonfiction by….
1.Teach students the elements of the genre for both expository and narrative nonfiction.
2.Teach students how to create a plan for reading the text
3.Teach students how to monitor comprehension
4.Teaching students how to respond to what they have learned
One tool you can use to help you execute this model is my nonfiction reading response choice boards.This choice board unit includes a roll out plan, a teacher rubric, a student checklist and a reading log. We talked about the what, the why and the how of teaching students how to read nonfiction. Teaching the nonfiction text unit in this way will give students the opportunity to learn how to read, analyze, and learn from the elements of nonfiction text as well respond to their reading both orally and in writing.
Next steps: Use the steps you learned in this episode to teach students how to navigate non fiction text. If you need one-on-one coaching support with this endeavor or want me to talk to your school about how to teach their students to love reading, let’s set up a discovery call. If you want to work alongside other educators in a group coaching container then get on the waitlist for my mini lesson revamp bootcamp. Getting on the waitlist will ensure that you are the first to know when the group coaching program opens for enrollment.
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