As adult readers, we know the importance of using nonfiction text features in order to help us understand the main body of text. Headings help us to make predictions while reading, and then easily find information after reading. Captions explicitly tell us what we are looking at in a photograph or picture that aligns to the text. An index helps us to find the exact page that contains information on a topic we are researching. The list goes on.
It may seem like common sense to us, but it isn’t for our growing readers. Without explicitly teaching and having students interact with text features, they could be missing out on a huge piece of their own nonfiction reading comprehension puzzle.
Below are 5 ways to teach and practice nonfiction text features with your students.
1. DISPLAY NONFICTION TEXT FEATURES VISUALS
Having nonfiction text features displayed on your classroom wall is a great way to provide students with exposure to them all year long. I like to display a nonfiction word wall that includes vocabulary cards showing a text feature, a definition, and a visual example displayed as a reference. When directly instructing text features, I have posters that hone in on just one or two text features at a time. You can also create an anchor chart with cut-outs, or have students help you to create an anchor chart display with cut-out article examples from magazines or printed informational passages.
2. TEXT FEATURES FLAG
While reading a nonfiction text or article, students first flag text features so they pay attention to them. This helps them to learn their importance in nonfiction comprehension, and ultimately become more and more aware of seeking them out and internalizing them independently.
There are other spins you could take on this too. You can have students just flag one specific text feature you are working on throughout a text. You can also have students use larger post-its to flag features and write on the post-it what they learned from it and why it is helpful.
3. TEXT FEATURES GALLERY WALK
A text features gallery walk is a great way to expose students to nonfiction text features in many different layouts of nonfiction texts at one time. Students love that this text features activity gets them up and moving, so that is an added bonus!
Basically, you spread out at least the number of students to books. If you have students work in partners you can do just half the number of students in your class. Each book gets a number card placed right by it. Then, students walk around with a nonfiction text features checklist to check off the text features they see in each book.
4. NONFICTION TEXT FEATURES PUZZLES
I really like using puzzles for any vocabulary, because they are a hands-on activity and once you print and cut them out they can be used over and over. They can be used as part of a reading center, in guided reading groups, as an early finisher activity, or as independent practice.
5. GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS
I like to have students use graphic organizers while reading nonfiction. This is not only to support them in organizing their ideas, but also for me to check their thought process and understanding. Some organizers include…
- recording pages that a text feature was on and how it helped them,
- making predictions based on a text from skimming text features (cover, timelines, photos, etc.),
- using images and captions to understand the text, and
- creating images and captions to help visualize the text
For texts that do not use many photos/captions or headings/subheadings, it can be very helpful for students’ comprehension to have them create their own.
If interested, I do have a bunch of differentiated nonfiction reading passages in my TpT shop that already come with these types of activities as well. Caption It & Headings Match-Up has students match captions to the images and headings to the text. Another activity has students sort the nonfiction text features from the text and explain how they helped them.
The resources pictured can be found in my TpT shop! Click on the covers below to check them out!
Looking for more resources on teaching nonfiction? Read this blog post on 5 Ways to Teach Nonfiction Text Structure.