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Teaching nonfiction text features
How much nonfiction do your students read? Probably not enough, according to Jay Mathews at the Washington Post. In a blog entry from February 2010, he uses the What Kids Are Reading report that describes what 4.6 million students in grades 1-12 read during 2008-2009 as evidence.
Teaching nonfiction can be difficult; it relies on background knowledge that some students may not have, and because it contains different types of features, it reads differently than fiction. Kids can learn to navigate nonfiction. Here are some resources that might help.
Nicki Clausen-Grace and Michelle Kelley, two educators, offer up a great teaching tip for helping students navigate features of nonfiction text that students might overlook. With an Interactive Text Feature Wall, teachers help students brainstorm a list of text features that exist in nonfiction. These might include headings, pictures, captions, maps. A bulletin board is divided into sections, and using magazines, newspapers, and other print resources, students cut out and mount the examples into the correct area on the mural.
A similar idea from Classroom 2.0 uses text mapping — a scroll made from several pages of the book glued together. Students in going on a "treasure hunt" in search of text features. Features are highlighted and labeled. Scrolls help students see the text in its entirety and can be marked up depending on your instructional focus.
Scholastic offers a 5-Day Unit Plan for introducing nonfiction. The lesson sequence begins by asking kids to identify the special feature of nonfiction text and ends by understanding how to check comprehension and asking kids to apply what they've learned to their writing. Several handy resources are used during the five day plan, including a simple handout describing five non-fiction text structures.