Lesson Plan for Nonfiction Comprehension: Connect and Apply
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
- See how what they are learning relates to their own lives, other texts, family, friends, community, or world issues
- Chart paper and writing tools
- Nonfiction selections (textbook chapter, newspaper story, trade book, or magazine article) such as: Jim Murphy's Blizzard; Hiroshima No Pika by Toshi Maruki; Peace Crane by Sheila Hamanaka; Protect the Planet (PDF)
PART 1: Making Personal Connections
Step 1: Read the text you've selected aloud with students.
Step 2: Share a personal experience that helps you relate to the reading.
Example: After reading Jim Murphy's Blizzard with her students, 3rd grade teacher Sandy Bayliss reflects:
"Obviously the snow was too deep for an engine to simply push it's way through. I remember when I was your age and my mom and dad and I were on a train to northern Vermont. It snowed the whole way. Finally, the snow on the tracks was so deep that the train stopped. I wasn't worried at all because my mom took out a thermos of hot chocolate and a box of homemade oatmeal cookies. I sipped the warm chocolate and munched on cookies and watched the snow until men cleared the tracks. When I was older, mom told me that she was worried we wouldn't move for days."
Step 3: Use the following prompts and questions to help students make connections for themselves:
- Did you ever have a similar experience? How did you feel? What did you do?
- How was your situation the same? Different?
- Did you connect to any of the decisions the people you read about made?
- What feelings did the reading raise? Why?
- How is your family the same or different from the one you read about?
- Did you learn anything about yourself by reading about what happened or what people did?
PART 2: Making Connections to Daily Life
Step 1: Have students read their nonfiction assignment.
Step 2: Highlight topics from the reading that are important. Write these on chart paper
Example: After reading Protecting the Planet, Sandy Bayliss writes:
Energy, Water, Recycle
Step 3: Create a statement that compels students to connect the topics to their own lives.
Example: Sandy states:
Shortages of energy, water, metal, plastic, and paper can change your lives.
Step 4: Invite students to share how these issues could influence their own lives. Chart student feedback.
Example: The following ideas were collected during Sandy's class discussion:
PART 3: Making Connections to Other Texts
Step 1: Use a read-aloud to model how to connect two or more texts. The read-aloud should have something in common with a previous text your students have studied.
Step 2: Thinking aloud, point out something about the read-aloud that calls to mind the previous text.
Example: Laura Robb reflects on similarities between Sheila Hamanaka's Peace Crane and the class' recent study of Hiroshima No Pika by Toshi Maruki. She reads from Peace Crane:
My teacher says Sadako
folded a thousand paper cranes,
each one a wish for peace.
Then pauses to reflect:
"Yesterday, I read aloud Hiroshima No Pika. Sadako's name in Peace Crane brought me to the horror of that day and the horror of the aftermath that's here today in deformed births and crippled men and women who survived the bombing. I thought of the last page that tells of August 6 when people send lanterns with names of loved ones who died adrift on the seven rivers that run through Hiroshima. I thought of the last words of the book: It can't happen again if no one drops the bomb."
Step 3: Use the following questions to prompt students to make connections between texts:
- Do the authors have a common purpose?
- Were any of the characters in similar situations? Compare how each handled the situation.
- Did you find similar themes? Settings? Problems?
- Did magazine articles offer new information about the topic in your book?
- How did each text improve your understanding of the topic?
This lesson was adapted from Laura Robb's Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math: Practical Ways to Weave Comprehension Strategies into Your Content Area Teaching. For more lessons from this book, see Posing Questions and Skimming a Text.