Last year I taught a fourth-grade reading class. One of the units we worked on was Non-Fiction. I have to say, this might have been the most painful unit I taught last year. For years our school has used a basal reader and last year we switched to a reading workshop model of teaching reading – and that was a HUGE change! I think one of the greatest areas of weakness in a basal reader has got to be the non-fiction section. Actually, in our basal readers, I don’t remember a section on non-fiction! That means the only area that the students received instruction about non-fiction would have been in science and SS class!
Because we were basically starting from scratch and our students did not have a large knowledge base on the subject matter we started very slowly! Our first few days were spent on trying to help the students understand that when we read non-fiction we have to take a “Sit up and learn” mentality, rather than a “Sit back and relax” mentality. I read a lot on how to teach non-fiction from Lucy Caulkins and her Units of Study. I took this anchor chart directly from her materials. I used this anchor chart over a couple of days because it is a lot for students to transition to non-fiction reading. I wanted them to be excited about learning new content! We bought a variety of non-fiction books so that students could choose a book to read that was interesting to them and was on grade level. The students could choose to read one book or all of the books during the genre study.
After we spent a few days on revving ourselves up for reading non-fiction I started teaching about text features. I wanted the students to understand the setup of a non-fiction book. I used this anchor chart to teach text features. I apologize for the poor picture!
After we talked about text features we had the students go on a text feature scavenger hunt! I gave the students the list of text features and they used the iPad app Strip Designer to search through the non-fiction books and find examples of the text features. The students took a picture of the text feature and put it in comic strip. Then, they labeled each text feature they found. I think when I do this activity this year with my third-grade students I will have them also tell me how to use the text feature.
Below is an example of one of the pages from a students work. This activity allowed me to see if the students understand the different types of text features in a variety of different books. The camera on the iPad makes assignments like this so easy!