Looking ‘Closely’ at Non-Fiction in the Classroom

How much time do students spend reading nonfiction a day?  Research suggests only 4 minutes.  NonfictionReadingPromotesStudentSuccess

So, can this be remedied?  Yes.  How?

To try and change this in my classroom, I have implemented some analysis strategies to help students understand non-fiction in a way that I wish my teachers would have introduced this type of text to me.

Classroom library set up for non-fiction selections


I have used ideas from a combination of mentors; each giving me ideas to accomplish this difficult text.

Penny Kittle and Donalyn Miller push for more reading in the classroom to help our students become ‘Readers’ for life; independent reading time- most of us call this Silent Sustained Reading and Choice.  Both of these ideas are great for my pre-adolescent 6th graders.
Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis created a book called, Strategies that Work, that in my experience truly work.  These are strategies that actually work.  It is an easy book filled with references, quick fixes, and short descriptions for even the first year teacher to get ideas.
Lori Jamison Rog wrote a book titled Struggling Readers to help support students in 3-6 grade become stronger and more confident readers. This book has great graphic organizers, tricks, and activities for before, during, after reading.  
Finally, Jennifer Serravallo has created a book that most of my collegues are claiming to be the ‘best thing that has ever happened to their classroom teaching’ The Reading Strategies Book.  Because of the way this book is laid out: fiction and non-fiction strategies with anchor charts, it makes for a great reference book to help solve most reading issues. 
Book Titles I referenced


The combination of all of these ideas gave me a classroom of students who can read independently, analyze and synthesize non-fiction text without any complaints, and I even get some students running toward the classroom library during independent practice to choose their book.

The class begins with a brief introduction of the skill and strategy of the day and the TEST question(s) they should be able to answer after completing the strategy.

Here is a picture of their Close Reading notes that the students use to choose the strategy that works BEST for THEM. You can find these at my teachers pay teachers store at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Jule-Huck (shameless plug!)

A great way to help students Choose Their strategy and read closely.


I use the same trade book for all guided lessons throughout the week.  This week, I chose Henrys Freedom Box by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson.  While I teach them the strategy, I read aloud the text, model the thinking and the strategy.  This only takes me 15 minutes to model.  The important part of class is allowing my students to experience the strategy independently.  This gives me a chance to meet with struggling readers and answer individual questions.

Here are a few pictures of my students strategies (GPPS, text structure organizer, mind map, and The Hand) that are helping them tackle the difficult skills of preview, paraphrase, synthesize and summarize. 

By Friday, the students will be asked to complete all skills by working through the strategies on a non-fiction text – Malala the Prologue (High interest and can easily be compared to  Henry’s Freedom Box).  (The results from this independent practice and assessment will be added next week)

In conclusion, if you are wanting your students to branch out and read non-fiction, the best advice I can give you is- Let them read it!  Help them understand it!


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