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Teaching Tip: Teaching Concepts and New Words in Nonfiction

Michele Dufresne

It is very important for students to read nonfiction. I know this isn't news to you. Still, I bet if you review the books you have used in your lessons you will find that fiction dominates your book choices. Nonfiction presents different challenges to beginning readers. Either the topic is so well-known that there are no new concepts or you are faced with having to help them learn and understand complex new vocabulary. Students need to learn how to read and understand informational texts with new concepts. They will be tested on them as they move up the grades. Best to have them start early reading nonfiction with your help. Here are useful follow-up activities to help students learn new words and concepts from nonfiction books:

  • After reading a nonfiction book, select new and important words in the text and write them on index cards or sticky notes. Have the students use the table of contents and organize the words by chapter. Discuss what they learned about each word and how it relates to the topic. 
  • Use the Thinking Cap Chart. Before students read, ask them to tell you what they know about the topic. Record their thoughts on sticky notes and place them on the Thinking Cap Chart. After reading the book, review the notes. Were they correct? If not, move the sticky note to the trash can. Did they learn anything new? Record those ideas and place them on the "New Facts" cap.
  • Ask students as they read to place a sticky note on a page in the book where they learned something new or found something they would like to know more about. After the reading, have them share where they placed the sticky notes.
  • Have each student select several words from the glossary. Have the students jot the glossary or index words down and use the words as part of a writing plan. Now ask the students to use those words and write several sentences about the topic of the book. 

You are doing important work - keep it up!

Michèle Dufresne