Finding Nonfiction Features
- Grades: 1–2
- Unit Plan:
When I introduce the students to a new genre of reading or writing, I like to immerse them in that type of book. This first lesson does just that by allowing them to discover the different features of nonfiction. This lesson could last from one to two weeks depending on how many features you want to cover each day. I tend to teach two a day, but a first grade class might only focus on one feature a day.
- Observe the differences between a nonfiction book and a fiction book
- Discover the 11 features found in many nonfiction books
- Evaluate whether a book is fiction or nonfiction
- Chart paper and markers
- Nonfiction Feature Find (PDF)
- Many, many, many nonfiction books
- Students' individual Feature Notebooks
Set Up and Prepare
- Gather lots of nonfiction books from your own library or school library. Try to make them diverse in topic, reading level, and writing style.
- Make a T-chart with the left side heading being Feature Name and the right side heading being Purpose.
- Make or gather notebooks for the students to record the name, purpose, and an example of each feature.
Step 1: Gather the students on the carpet or in a group area. Ask them if they have noticed or know where to find nonfiction books within your classroom library. Ask what they think the difference is between fiction and nonfiction. They should already have an understanding that nonfiction is real information.
Step 2: Discuss what makes a story nonfiction or fiction. Is it real (true) that Cinderella's godmother turned a pumpkin into a carriage? Is it possible that Jack really climbed a beanstalk and met a giant? We know these things are fictional because they can't happen. Nonfiction teaches us real, factual information. It is important to notice whether a book is nonfiction or fiction when reading because you need to know if the information is accurate or just a story.
Step 3: Inform them that for the next few days they are going to be finding different types of features or conventions within nonfiction.
The following is a list of all the features and their purposes. You can decide the number and order in which you will teach them each day.
- Labels help the reader understand the small parts of a picture.
- Photographs help the reader see what the real topic looks like.
- Captions help the reader understand what they are looking at in a picture.
- Comparisons help the reader compare the item to something they are already familiar with.
- Cross Sections help the reader see what something looks like from the inside.
- Maps help the reader know where something is located in the world.
- Types of Print help the reader know that the word or words are important.
- Close-Ups help the reader see what something looks like from up close.
- Tables of Contents help the reader know how the book is organized.
- Indexes help the reader find specific information in a book.
- Glossaries help the reader understand the definitions of important words in the book.
Step 4: Prior to the lesson, decide how many features per day and which ones you will be teaching. Use the following routine for the introduction of each feature.
- Introduce the name of the feature.
- Show many different examples of the feature in nonfiction books. (The use of real literature helps students understand the importance of each one.)
- Discuss and record on the class chart what the class thinks is the purpose of each feature.
- Have students write the name and purpose of the feature in their notebooks. Then have them hunt through nonfiction books to find their own example of the feature and record it in their notebook.
- Take time at the end of each day to share some examples that they found.
Step 5: Each feature should be taught individually even if you are teaching more than one a day. The same applies to making the chart and sharing notebook findings. Make sure the students really have a grasp on the vocabulary of the different features.
Step 6: On the final day of features, hand out the Nonfiction Feature Find (PDF). Tell the students that now that they are experts, they must find all the different conventions and record their findings on the worksheet.
Step 7: As a culminating point of features, allow them to share their findings and add them to the class chart. Hang the chart the class created and keep it up through the next lessons and until you are done teaching nonfiction. It will prove to be a valuable resource when the students are reading or writing nonfiction.
Supporting All Learners
Always take into consideration your students' personalities and learning styles. When they are off hunting through books, check in with the ones who may need more assistance. Also, have some books in mind that have each of the features in them, so that you can guide some of the struggling learners to the right books. Some features are definitely harder to find than others. Make sure you have resources for all the features.
Taking this type of genre-hunt home is always a great way to connect the lesson to the students' homes. Ask the students to bring in some examples of nonfiction books from home, or send the Feature Find home to see if they can find the features at home.
- Feature Notebook
- Nonfiction Feature Find worksheet
Ask questions of yourself and the lesson:
- What went well?
- What didn't?
- Did the activity help them grow as learners?
- How could you change the lesson to better suit the needs of your class?
- Were the features explained well and understood by all of the students?
- How many do you think are appropriate to teach each day with your class?
- Ask and monitor for understanding during group discussions.
- Monitor the ability of each child to individually find the features and accuracy of their findings.