Reading nonfiction texts can be overwhelming for students, especially when it comes to a topic they are unfamiliar with at a reading a level that is even slightly above theirs. With a push to read more and more nonfiction from lower grade levels, it is important that we set our students up for success with nonfiction reading comprehension.
Below are 3 strategies to teach and practice with our students in order to make them strong, independent nonfiction readers.
1. TEACH & PRACTICE NONFICTION TEXT FEATURES:
When introducing text features, I first go through a chart of different text features and visuals of each with my students.
I like to choose a nonfiction book that is very text feature heavy that is on a topic that students are already familiar with. I model doing a picture walk focusing on browsing for text features. We use a text features “read and record” graphic organizer to check off which text features we have found in that book and how each one is helpful to our reading comprehension of the main body of text.
To practice text features, I have students do a text feature gallery walk of numbered nonfiction texts. I spread out the number of students to books and let students walk around with their nonfiction text features checklists. You can have the titles pre-written in for them, or just have them write the titles as they do the gallery walk. Then, they check off each text feature they see. This allows them to practice this with about 20 books – depending on the number of students in your class. I like to have my students do this independently, but this could easily be an activity done in partners.
Throughout the year, I look for ways to apply this knowledge in new nonfiction texts that we read. I find if we are reading a nonfiction text that does not have any headings, subheadings, captions, glossary, etc. that this offers a great opportunity for students to apply their text feature knowledge. Students can create their own text features, writing their own headings/subheadings, drawing and labeling a diagram, writing a caption, and so on. I also keep text features puzzles available for early finishers or for a reading center. You can read more ways I teach nonfiction text features here.
2. TEACH & PRACTICE NONFICTION TEXT STRUCTURE
Text structure is how the text is organized by the author. When students are aware of the structure of the text they are reading, it is easier for them to navigate the text and make predictions about the text, therefore increasing their nonfiction reading comprehension.
When introducing a specific text structure, I like to begin with a poster that gives an explanation, clue words, a visual graphic, and an example. Students help to flag the key words or phrases in the example. I will then put up a new passage or paragraph that shows that text structure. We go through and highlight the signal words, or “clue words.”
Then, I have students diagram the text structure of the book with me. We create a visual graphic organizer for each type of text structure.
Lastly, students independently diagram their own nonfiction text structure. This is something I will repeat with the whole class, or in guided reading groups throughout the year. The nonfiction text structure poster stays up all year in my classroom as a reference. You can read more about ways to teach nonfiction text structure here.
3. TEACH & PRACTICE READING COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES:
Teaching and practicing reading comprehension strategies throughout the year with both fiction AND nonfiction texts is crucial for fostering independent comprehension. I follow the 7 Keys to Comprehension (Susan Zimmerman) in my classroom. The 7 strategies included are:
2. Use Background Knowledge
3. Make Inferences & Predictions
4. Ask Questions
5. Determine Importance
6. Synthesize Information
7. Monitor Comprehension
I like to teach one strategy at a time, while continuing to build on each strategy that has been introduced throughout the school year. I have posters up with a visual and brief description of each strategy.
Graphic organizers are a huge part of how I teach and practice these reading comprehension strategies with my students. They are great supports for all learners and they are so versatile in how they are used. I use them whole class and in small groups until students are comfortable with them, and then eventually students are able to use them completely independently. I love that they allow students freedom to organize their thoughts in their own words and in their own unique way.
The resources pictured can be found in my TpT shop! Click on the covers below to check them out!