Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Notable Non-Fiction!

After resting for the first few days of Spring Break (and of course, getting in all the errands that I know we all save until our time off), I’ve now jumped back into teacher “mode”.  For our district, grades are due next Monday, so I’ve spent a few hours the past few days tying up all those loose ends and entering the last few grades.

This has given me a great opportunity to take a step back and look at my students’ work as a whole, from the past 9 weeks.  And let me just say WOW!  I always forget how much I love teaching our non-fiction unit, and I always forget how awesome my kiddos do with it! 

I do have to admit, there are always some struggles at first, simply because 2nd graders do not “interact” with non-fiction as often as they do fiction text.  Below are some great websites and blogs with helpful facts (that make you think “ah, so I’m not alone!”), helpful ideas, and helpful comments!

While I did not create, nor am I affiliated, with any of the above links, I do have them saved under my computer’s “Favorites”!  I especially like reading Nancy Van Valkenburg’s article, because it does help me remember why it’s important to instill a love of non-fiction to my students.  (I must be a nerd because honestly I could read it time and time again!)

With all that being said, let me give you a quick “run-down” of how we’ve been learning non-fiction!  My students began reading non-fiction about 4 weeks ago, so to not overload you, I’m going to break up my posts into 2 week “chunks”. 

During that first week, it’s solely a time for exploration and reflection.  I give students lots of time to read non-fiction books to themselves and with other peers.  Discovering and seeing AUTHENTIC non-fiction is key!  During this week, we also do lots of journaling.  We use sentence stems such as:

   I like…               I learned…            I realized…

   I noticed…          I think…                I found…

Futhermore, we use this time to compare fiction and non-fiction, with notecards, Venn Diagrams, T-Charts, and more! always has great lessons to use with comparing.  Here’s just  one that I like:

During the second week, we start to talk about the specifics of non-fiction (i.e. the Features of Non-Fiction Text).  Each day, we have a few short mini-lessons about the features, then the students go out on their own to find whichever feature we have been discussing.  I normally give them a few sticky notes to "tab" pages where they find genuine examples.  After exploration time, we bring it back in again, and students can share their examples (by quickly flipping back to their tabs!).  Below are some great links for printables of features.  I always scale them down on the copier and have students glue them into their Reading Journals.

Towards the end of this week, I begin assessing their knowledge of non-fiction.  I do a lot of small group readings with the students (because non-fiction is always harder to read than fiction!).  I also integrate some worksheets and activities for grades.  Here are 2 worksheets that I’ve created:
You can view and dowload these sheets at

At the end of week 2, I tend to get an accurate account of who’s succeeding with non-fiction, and who is going to need a little more focus during the first part of week 3. 

If you have any questions about my Non-Fiction Weeks 1 & 2, please don’t hesitate to ask!  I know it’s hard to type every detail that goes on during 10 weeks of lessons, and I also appreciate any comments or suggestions to add in the future!

I’ll be sure to post Weeks 3 & 4 tomorrow!  Thanks for reading!

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