Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Personalized Nonfiction Reading Unit

I'm not going to lie...I absolutely LOVE teaching nonfiction to kiddos! And the best part is that THEY love it, too! Kids are in pure discovery mode and can't wait to share "Ah-Ha" facts with anyone and everyone nearby. I love watching them read and seeing their faces when they learn something new that they think is really cool. So, needless to say, this unit has always been one of my favorites.

One thing we have struggled with has been how to make it individualized for our students. The thing about this unit, is most kids do not have much background knowledge on text structures or nonfiction types. They know they like nonfiction. They know "text features" (Click here for our Text Feature Scavenger Hunt freebie that we used as review). But if you ask them to identify or use a cause and effect text structure, and they look at you like you're speaking alien. Due to this, all of our mini-lessons for this unit were whole group. We really tried to personalize the unit for our individual kids during their independent work time.

So, we teach our mini-lessons and get kids excited about text structures (wow...who knew?), but finding books that have these text structures can often be a challenge, too. By collaborating with our amazing ELL and SPED staff, we printed multiple articles from the Reading A to Z library. By whiting out the identifiable  labels at the top, we were able to provide our kids with multiple articles to choose from at their level to practice with. Another fantastic resource that we often turn to is the Stephanie Harvey Tool Kit! (click picture below to be taken to her website).
These awesome books come with high-interest, leveled articles! The CD's are great to print clear copies from, too. Not all match specific text structures, but many do, and really helped to provide multiple options for kids to choose from.

Once kids had their chosen articles/books that interested them, we gave them multiple graphic organizers to help them organize their understanding of the different text structures. We used the same graphic organizers to model with during our lessons. This was really helpful, because when the students downloaded the Google Docs that they needed, they had our class examples on the front page as a reference model. We used these formatively to help support our strategy group work.
As we dug deep into nonfiction for over a month, we wanted a culminating project that we could also tie in with our nonfiction writing standards. We wanted the kids to dig deeper into a topic that interested them, but at the same time, prove they had a strong understanding of the text structures. What we developed was a "Magazine Article." It required that they choose and research a topic, complete "Boxes and Bullets" as note-taking, cite their resources, and include the many different tools/structures that we explored throughout our unit. Feel free to click the image below to get your own copy. You will need to "FILE, MAKE A COPY" of the document first. Then you can edit your own version as you see fit.
As they researched, we coached them on their note-taking, sources, we talked about reliable sources, and provided them with additional graphic organizers to help with their own text structure planning. They self-edited and peer edited. Then, it was time to start the final product!

They were most excited about trying out Google Slides in a new and unique way. We chose Slides as our format for the same reasons so many bloggers utilize Powerpoint. It provides the user with more versatility than a traditional Doc. They can make multiple text boxes, layer them, change backgrounds, and more! They came up with some incredibly creative final articles! Most importantly, they were totally engaged and VERY proud of the final "editions." Below is my "exemplar" that I built with them to teach them the tools. I also researched Giraffes when I modeled the note-taking once we introduced the topic.

Here are a few kid examples, too! These are only the first pages of two of them. Many were 3 pages long (and for a good reason ;)
They never cease to amaze us with their creativity, excitement for learning, and the way they make every day fun! We love our jobs!

Do you have any creative projects or ways of working through nonfiction? We'd love to learn with you!

Happy Teaching!


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