Unlocking Informational Texts: Nonfiction Text Features for Elementary Teachers

Non-Fiction Text Features – A MUST-TEACH!

Hey teacher friends! Ready to tackle nonfiction text features???

Ever felt like you’re trying to crack a secret code when reading a nonfiction book with your students? You’re not alone. Teaching nonfiction text features can sometimes feel like explaining hieroglyphics to a room full of budding Indiana Joneses. But fear not, today we’re going to demystify these cryptic elements and turn our students into proficient nonfiction text detectives with nonfiction text features.

nonfiction text features

Understanding Nonfiction Text Features

Now, what’s this fuss about nonfiction text features?

Well, text features are the building blocks of nonfiction books that help readers understand and interpret the information. They’re like the friendly tour guide in a museum. They point out what’s important and provide extra insights that enrich the experience.

Understanding informational text features is essential for comprehension.

It’s not just about reading the words on the page, but knowing how to navigate the layout of nonfiction texts. Think about it: a map would be useless without a legend, right? The same goes for nonfiction texts – without a grasp of text features, students might struggle to fully comprehend the material.

One time in my 4th-grade class, every student (but one) missed a question on a reading comprehension worksheet about the solar system. They could read the words, sure, but the information hidden in captions, diagrams, and the glossary was flying past them. It was a great opportunity to point out just how crucial these text features are for understanding nonfiction texts.

So, let’s dive deeper and explore what these features are and how they serve our young readers.

List of Key Nonfiction Text Features

Let’s go over some examples of the most common nonfiction text features. Consider this your glossary (speaking of glossaries, that’s a text feature too!) to the building blocks of nonfiction.

  1. Table of Contents: This is like the roadmap of a book. It shows what topics are covered, in what order, and on what pages they can be found.
  2. Headings and Subheadings: These are the signposts along the road. They break up the main body of text and give readers clues about what they’ll learn in each section.
  3. Bold Print and Italics: Think of these as the book’s way of saying, “Hey, this part is important!”. They emphasize key words or phrases.
  4. Captions: These little blocks of text explain pictures, diagrams, graphs, and other visual features.
  5. Diagrams, Maps, Graphs, and Charts: These provide visual representations of information, helping readers to understand complex data or concepts.
  6. Glossary: This is like a mini-dictionary found at the end of a book, defining bold words or industry jargon used in the text.
  7. Index: This is the book’s own search engine. It allows readers to look up specific topics and find where they’re discussed in the book.
nonfiction text features

Unearthing Lesser-Known Nonfiction Text Features

Beyond the usual suspects, there’s a lineup of less common nonfiction text features that are like the hidden Easter eggs in your favorite movies. They add a little extra ‘oomph’ and depth to the main story.

Let’s dive in and uncover these lesser-known but equally impactful features:

  1. Sidebars: Think of these as the little pop-up bubbles in comic strips. They’re boxes or sections within a page that dish out extra tidbits, fun facts, or additional context that’s related to the main text, but not part of the primary storyline.
  2. Timelines: Picture these as a memory lane of facts. Timelines neatly lay out a sequence of events in chronological order, perfect for understanding the progression of events over time, especially in historical or scientific texts.
  3. Flowcharts: These are like the instruction manual of a text, mapping out a process or sequence of actions in a way that’s as easy as following a treasure map.
  4. Pull Quotes: These are like the book’s own little billboards. They’re key phrases or sentences that have been yanked from the text and given a spotlight to underline important points or intriguing statements.
  5. Comparative Illustrations: These are the side-by-side snapshots that compare different entities. They could be sizing up comparisons, ‘before and after’ style images, or showing different stages of a process.

  6. Pronunciation Guides: These are the language lifelines next to those tricky or foreign words, guiding the reader on how to pronounce a particular word.

nonfiction text features

These lesser-known features might not be the main stars of the show, but they play a vital supporting role in comprehension and add a layer of richness to nonfiction texts.

And just like their more familiar counterparts, we can teach these text features using our tried and true strategies, emphasizing their specific roles and significance in enhancing understanding. So next time you’re exploring a nonfiction text with your class, keep an eye out for these hidden gems!

Practical Strategies to Teach Nonfiction Text Features

Now, how do we teach students these features in a fun and engaging way? Here are some strategies that have worked in my classroom and I bet they will in yours too.

Anchor Charts:

Creating an anchor chart is a great resource for teaching text features. Make this an interactive activity by having students identify and label text features on a sample page. This hands-on approach not only helps students learn but also creates a reference point they can use throughout the year.

Text Features Task Cards:

These are cards that ask questions or give tasks related to different text features. You can use them in small groups or as a scavenger hunt activity. For example, a task card might say, “Find an example of bold print in your book and explain why the author chose to bold this word.”

Check out this set of text feature task cards we have in the store.

Nonfiction Text Features Scavenger Hunt:

Speaking of scavenger hunts, this activity is always a hit. Provide a checklist of text features and have students search through a nonfiction book to find them. This active learning approach gets students excited about exploring nonfiction texts.

Grade-Level Nonfiction Books:

The best way to learn is by doing. Provide students with nonfiction books at their grade level and encourage them to identify and discuss the text features they find. As they become more familiar with these features, their comprehension of nonfiction texts will improve.

Printable Nonfiction Text Features Activity

Want a head start?

We have several nonfiction text features activities you can use as a review or assessment after teaching your lesson on text features.

This activity involves matching text features to their definitions and examples, and it can be completed individually or as a group task. Simply print it out, distribute, and let your students put their newfound knowledge into practice. If you’re a member of Minds in Bloom Unlimited go grab it! If not, you can sign up for a trial membership and choose any three resources you like!

Tips for Adapting Strategies for Older Students

Now, let’s not forget about our upper elementary students.

While students might be introduced to these text features as early as 3rd or 4th grade, the skill of utilizing them effectively continues to develop and refine as they progress into more demanding classes.

The strategies we discussed can be easily adapted for older students by incorporating more complex nonfiction texts and introducing advanced text features. Background knowledge becomes more important as the texts become more specialized, so ensure students have the necessary foundational understanding before tackling new material.

For instance, when discussing captions, you could expand the discussion to include the purpose and importance of captions in scientific diagrams or historical photographs. For older students, task cards can include more challenging tasks, like comparing and contrasting the use of text features in different texts.

Remember, the goal is to deepen their understanding and enable them to independently navigate and comprehend a variety of nonfiction texts features. As students’ reading levels advance, so should their ability to utilize text features effectively.

You got this!

There you have it, friends!

A comprehensive guide to demystifying nonfiction, understanding text features, and turning your students into bona fide text detectives. By understanding these features and knowing how to teach them effectively, we can empower our students to navigate the sometimes challenging terrain of nonfiction texts with ease and confidence.

Just remember, as teachers, we’re also guides.

Like the text features we teach, our role is to point out the important stuff, provide some background, and help our students make sense of all the information.

Now, it’s your turn.

What are your go-to strategies for teaching nonfiction text features? Do you have a memorable anecdote about a breakthrough moment in your class? Share your stories in the comments below—we’re all in this together!


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