Build and activate background knowledge.
How you scaffold and spiral your lessons on nonfiction text features will be a major determining factor in student success. It will be important to first find out how much students know about the differences between fiction and nonfiction. I like to begin with a pile of fiction and nonfiction books mixed together. Then, I have students help me sort into fiction and nonfiction piles. At this point, I do not correct them if there is a misconception, but I will simply guide with questions like, “How do you know that it’s fiction/nonfiction? What clues are you using to decide?” We will revisit the pile after the next step.
Now that we have made an anchor chart, we look at the pile of books again and confirm or correct whether the books are fiction or nonfiction based on the information from our anchor chart. I have found that modeling using the anchor chart once it’s made will help my students in referring back to it when they need assistance!
Focus on a few nonfiction text features at a time.
Now that you have activated students’ background knowledge, it’s time to introduce each feature. However, not only are there A LOT of features, but they also have some tricky names. Teaching 2-3 features per week allows students to have a significant amount of time to explore the feature in greater depth. Model how to identify them in the text. I do this by placing a sticky note flag label on the text feature.
Then, spiral. Once you have taught a feature, do not assume that your students have mastered it. Continue to weave it back into your teaching every few weeks. For example, if in September I taught about photographs, captions, and table of contents, then in October I might teach about glossaries and indexes and review table of contents again (since it connects well with the other two). I have included the order in which I like to teach them. There is no right or wrong order, but this is just what has worked for me! I do not teach text features for eight weeks straight; I will spread this throughout the first half (or so) of the school year. Then, I will continue to weave nonfiction text features into my instruction with even more depth throughout the second half of the school year.
Choose engaging text.
Allow students to choose how they would like to show their learning.
Biographies make the perfect books for exploring text features.
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