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Teaching Tip: Connecting Students to Nonfiction

Michele Dufresne

Most states in the U.S. have adopted the Common Core Standards. If you are like many teachers, you are being asked to prepare lessons that reflect these standards. I think it is terrific that the Common Core Standards Initiative places a significant emphasis on informational/nonfiction text. These guidelines highlight the need for students as early as Kindergarten to gather key ideas from informational text. The focus within the Standards is that readers of all ages need to use and understand nonfiction to progress as learners.

Young readers find it easy enough to read nonfiction books and gather new facts from reading. Reading these books may seem easy enough but beginning readers often struggle to move beyond simply gathering the literal information to interpreting it in a useful way.

As teachers, we constantly ask children to make connections and interpret fiction, but we do not usually consider this when working with nonfiction. Tony Stead, in his book, Reality Checks: Teaching Reading Comprehension with Nonfiction K-5, suggests ways to help children use personal knowledge and experience to create meaning beyond the stated facts in nonfiction text. For beginning readers, Stead suggests modeling how to make inferences by raising questions about specific facts in the book.

Work in a group setting and give children an opportunity to practice this as a group and with partners. After some practice, you can begin to ask children to make inferences from their own nonfiction reading. Stead suggests asking children to find one or more facts from their reading and to think about the facts and to make inferences. To help with this activity, we have created a simple graphic organizer for you to use with your students. Click here to download the "Think About It" graphic organizer.

Explore a variety of nonfiction with your students and encourage them to learn new facts and help them to make new connections.

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Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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