Sunday, 6 November 2011

Fact Friday- Teaching Kids About Non-Fiction Books

About a year and a half ago, I realized that I was not spending enough time exposing my students to non-fiction.  I didn't read enough non-fiction during read-a-louds and I did not spend enough time explicitly teaching my kids about the different parts of a non-fiction book and how or why we use them.

In term three, we often do small, wonder based research projects and we would spend that term madly trying to teach our students how to use fact books to find the answers to their wonders.  Well last school year, I set out to change all of that and I was pleased with the results.

I came up with "Fact Friday."  Each Friday, we would spend thirty to forty minutes learning something about non-fiction books and enjoying non-fiction books.  My class last year absolutely loved it, they begged for Fact Friday and on weeks that it was missed they always wanted to make it up on another day.  Now I have to be honest, I am doing virtually the same program this year and there is not nearly the same enthusiasm.

My first Fact Friday lesson always centers around taking a closer look at non-fiction or fact books and generating a list on things that we notice about non-fiction books.

We also talk about how a non-fiction book is different from a fiction book.

After the first lesson, I generally work my way through basic conventions that are in most non-fiction books such as:

  •  labelled pictures or diagrams 
  •  table of contents
  •  glossary
  •  index
  •  headings 
  •  captions
Here is one lesson format that is tried and true and the kids love.  It can be done with almost any of the conventions.  Let's say we are learning about table of contents.

After talking about what is a table of contents and how it can be used, I put a whole bunch of non-fiction books on the floor.  I tell the students that their job is to find a non-fiction book that has a table of contents.  Once they have found their book, they are to sit in the circle and wait.  When everyone is in the circle with their books, at the count of three they are to open their book, find the table of contents and hold the book up high open to the table of contents, for everyone to see.  The students then close their books and pass them to the student on their left.  Again at the count of three, the students open the new book they have just been given, find the table of contents and hold it up.  This is a great assessment for learning piece because it is clear quickly who knows what a table of contents is and who knows where to find it. We repeat this process five or six times so each student has had a chance to find the table of contents in several different books before stopping for the day.

I always end the day by sharing a non-fiction book and being sure to model to the students exactly how the convention we are learning about, can be used.

We keep the non-fiction books that we have used or read in a special bin so the kids can find them easily.

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