Reading Without Limits

Maddie Witter

How to Structure a Nonfiction Class

First off, I want to give a huge shout out to Jannett, my mentor.  We were sitting in a cafe 6 years ago after a literacy coach meeting, and I told Jannett that since I was joining KIPP, we had the flexibility to do whatever we wanted in order to help our kids achieve.  We excitedly debated what the whatever we wanted would look like.  We knew it had to be either nonfiction or a drama class.  Oral language is a HUGE developmental factor for readers.  But, as administrators in a public school, we also knew how important it was for content teachers to teach nonfiction literacy.

Nonfiction won!

First off, one of the hardest parts about Nonfiction Studies is how to structure it.  Here’s a micro and macro view.

Daily Lesson Plan:

1. (Do Now) Spiral Review of Content

This is huge in nonfiction studies.  The purpose of the do now is to purposefully spiral the content that you have taught this year AND what teachers taught in latter years.  Choose wisely.  The hard part is the do now (including review) can’t take more than 8 minutes.  Otherwise, your students’ attention span is kaput.

2.(Mini Lesson) Model a literacy strategy using a page from a textbook, trade book or content document

Using a standards-based, on-level document (1-2 pages max) model the strategy you are trying to teach.  For example, model using subtopics to determine importance.  While you do that, you’re also doing a think-aloud about the content.  For example, model using subtopics to determine importance about a document that shows the water cycle.

3.  (Guided Practice) Students practice together in partnerships

Students must talk in a literacy classroom.  I’ll repeat.  Students must talk in a literacy classroom.  In partnerships, have students practice the same strategy WITH A NEW TEXT.  Then, since you are doing a determining importance strategy, you can then ask them what they determined to be important.  Then, aha! content.

4.  (Independent Practice) Students practice together in partnerships on their own level.

For this part, you will need classroom library or photo copies of texts on different levels that fall under the same umbrella (i.e. weather).  This can get expensive, but as a school I would highly recommend prioritizing purchasing these books.

5.  (Share) Students share out what they learned.  What’s cool is that they are all sharing slightly different content- and learning that content from each other.  But, it’s all under the same umbrella!

Then, the next day, the teacher spirals the essential content in her do now and the cycle starts all over again.

2 comments on “How to Structure a Nonfiction Class

  1. Lelac
    February 4, 2010

    Really want to read the rest of this post, but I think it got truncated. Please tell us more!!!!! (:

  2. K.
    February 5, 2010

    I also hope there’s more to this. 🙂

    I’m a middle school non-fiction teacher and could use any support there is out there (recently moved from teaching high school, totally overwhelmed).

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This entry was posted on February 4, 2010 by in Reading Lessons, Uncategorized and tagged , .

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