Unfortunately, little nonfiction, beyond personal narrative, is practiced in classrooms. Children are content to tell their own stories, but the notion that someone can write about an idea and thereby affect the lives and thinking of others is rarely discussed. Donald Graves
Nonfiction and other information-based texts include any kind of text designed to give information. However, the range of nonfiction texts available to our students in their daily lives stretches far beyond the factual writing found in textbooks and essays. Including nonfiction as an essential part of our ELA classroom provides an opportunity to explore texts that touch on our students' experiences, interests and passions. As well, nonfiction helps students become more aware of other people's lives and perspectives.
Students need to:
Nonfiction texts include:
We do not read information-based texts in the same way that we read fiction. In order for students to be successful they need to know effective strategies for dealing with a wide range of information-based text. When talking about the structures and features of information-based texts it is important to always connect them to their purpose.
When reading information-based texts ask students to think about the following points.
One of the easiest ways to get students interested in nonfiction, is to include it in your Read Aloud selections and have students explore how these texts differ from fiction.
Help students begin to recognize and use some of the most common organizational patterns for presenting information.
These text structures include:
|Cycle one students record their discoveries of the features found in the nonfiction texts they are reading.|
When students are engaged in inquiry, they have many opportunities to read and produce nonfiction texts. Immersion into the kinds of texts students will be reading and writing is an important part of any inquiry.
Barbara Palcich's Cycle two students became passionate readers and writers of nonfiction texts when she introduced them to the world of Red Wiggler worms. The students researched how to maintain the worms in the classroom, kept daily logs of their observations, graphed the worms' food intake, conducted and wrote up the results of experiements, and wrote a class nonfiction picture book about their experience.
Often, when students are engaged in inquiry or social action projects, they come to a point where they need to write to people in power. Randy and Katherine Bomer talk about some of the ways teachers can help students write more effective letters.
Bomer, Randy & Katherine Bomer. For a Better World: reading and writing for social action. Heinemann NH. 2001 (144-148).