Using nonfiction text is challenging for me. My district requires elementary teachers to focus on nonfiction text during the 2nd quarter. (Fiction is focused on during the 1st quarter and a mixture of fiction and nonfiction text are suggested for the 3rd and 4th quarters.) As a first grade teacher, I have not found many quality text that I can incorporate into my guided reading groups because most of the texts are too challenging for beginning readers.
To solve this issue, I began using nonfiction as part of my shared reading. During this time, I read the text aloud to the students and we work together to extend their thinking. Since Thanksgiving has been our topic of discussion for the last several weeks, I used a number of resources to build my student’s background knowledge. One week, we discussed Pilgrims, the next Native Americans, and last turkeys. At first, I thought this might be information overload for the kids, but they really soaked up the lessons!
A few years ago, I stumbled upon ReadWorks. This site provides differentiated passages for K-12 students. Finding this website was a lifesaver! No more creating text or having to edit the ones I did find for my struggling readers. I love this website because you can search by topic, level, or skill. There is something for all student’s needs.
I used ReadWorks in my Thanksgiving unit by displaying various articles about the subject matter each day. Together, we created an anchor chart using a circle map to describe the Pilgrims and a separate map describing Native Americans. After reading a passage each day, we added additional information that we learned to the map. Then the next week, we used both circle maps to create a double bubble map, comparing and contrasting these groups of people.
While discussing turkeys, I came across this turkey resource by A Year of Many Firsts, a first grade blog that I follow. (Yes, I used teachers pay teachers!) I like the fact that the author uses vocabulary about turkeys throughout her unit. For example, she has created an anchor chart with the word, the meaning, and a picture of the word. This was helpful for students to be able to connect a picture with the word while discussing the topic. I placed these posters throughout my classroom and I saw students using them, even in their independent writing time! (I also appreciate that the author used photographs throughout this lesson. My students and I discussed the fact that photographs are used with nonfiction text and illustrations are used with fiction text. It was hard breaking the news to my students that turkeys don’t look like your hand and they have more than 4 feathers!)
I also use EpicBooks during the computer time of literacy stations. EpicBooks provides educators with free access to various types of books that students can read. Last week, I asked students to read a book entitled It’s Thanksgiving. After reading, the students had to take a short quiz and then they could play a game on a different site. The only downfalls that I don’t like about this website is that there is no listening component. This means, my struggling readers may have difficulty reading some books. Also, the quizzes at the end of each story are not pre-created. I like this so that each teacher has the freedom to choose which information is important.
How do you incorporate nonfiction text within your lessons?