Nonfiction is "No Nonsense"
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- View various types of nonfiction
- Take notes on each work's organization and presentation
- Write a brief essay, demonstrating understanding of author's purpose in expository text
- Various examples of nonfiction: magazine articles, textbook chapters or sections, newspaper articles, Internet printouts, encyclopedia entries, essays, graphs, etc.
- Computer Lab with projector and screen for whole group lesson
- Notebook paper and pencil
- Traits of Nonfiction (PDF)
- Expository Essay Rubric (PDF)
- Chart paper and markers or chalkboard to write student responses
Set Up and Prepare
- Distribute the examples of nonfiction in centers around the room so that students can rotate during their "gallery walk" to review each piece separately.
- This activity works best if all types of nonfiction are on the same topic. Check with your social studies and science teachers to see what topics are currently being covered in their classes, and integrate one of those topics into this lesson in order to increase personal relevance for your students.
- Pre-select three pieces of nonfiction that clearly demonstrate the author's intent to inform, to explain, and to persuade.
- Schedule time in your school's computer lab for Day 2
- Copy the Traits of Nonfiction printable (PDF) for each student.
- Copy the Expository Essay Rubric (PDF) printable for each student.
- Prepare chart paper/markers or chalkboard for student responses.
Step 1: Distribute the Traits of Nonfiction (PDF) printable and review the three criteria: types, traits, and author's purpose with the students.
Step 2: Direct students to take out a piece of notebook paper and a pencil to carry with them while taking a "gallery walk." Instruct them to walk around to each center and scan the works of nonfiction for the three criteria: the type of organization, its presentation traits, and the author's purpose. Students will write notes about these criteria on their notebook paper and determine whether the author's purpose for each selection is to explain, to inform, or to persuade.
Step 3: Students will reconvene in a whole class setting after each has had a chance to review the materials. Lead the students in a discussion of each type of nonfiction presented in the "gallery walk," reviewing specifically the author's purpose for each. Record the students' ideas on the chart paper or chalkboard.
Step 4: Briefly review the three pieces that you pre-selected as models for informing, explaining, and persuading. Discuss with the students the difference between the different types of writing. Each has the same content, but each uses a different voice due to the changing purpose of the writing.
Step 5: Inform the students that they will now use an online activity to write their own persuasive essay. Instruct students to take out paper and a pencil. Using your school's computer lab, walk through the Writing Workshop online activity as a whole group.
You may do this by stopping at intervals to allow students to write or after the students complete a rough draft. This online activity will guide students through the writing process in order to revise and edit a piece of nonfiction writing.
Step 6: After the Writing Workshop online activity, distribute the Expository Essay Rubric (PDF) to each student. Have them write their name at the top. Review the expectations for the final draft of the essay using the rubric. Allow time for students to write a final draft of the essay. It is best for students to be able to share their final draft, even with a small group of peers, if time is limited.
Supporting All Learners
- Give students the option to complete the "gallery walk" alone, with a partner, or in a group of three.
- Upon completing a draft of the essay, some students may benefit from peer conferencing to get ideas for revisions. This also assists reluctant writers to be less intimidated by the process as a whole. Try using the rubric included with the online writing workshop.
Assign a new work of nonfiction to each student and ask each one to read the piece, classify it by its type of nonfiction, and distinguish the author's purpose. Students may also do this in a small group, on a chart, or orally.
Encourage students to look at literature found at home from a parent's newspaper subscription, magazine subscription, or at an online resource for research. Ask the students to informally decide the author's purpose when writing.
- Complete class notes on each type of nonfiction presented in the "gallery walk."
- Complete an expository essay on an individually chosen topic.
Did the students make the connection while distinguishing author's purpose and the need for their writing to have a purpose also? Did the students understand that whether they are writing an essay or expository piece, they should also decide if they are writing to explain, inform, or persuade? How did the students enjoy the writing workshop? Would this be a reasonable approach for the next writing assignment? Why or why not?
- Observe each student's writing process to note reluctance and in order to encourage a student.
- Notice which step students struggle with in order to design a differentiated writing workshop approach for the next writing piece you will assign.
- Use the Expository Essay Rubric (PDF) to assess the final draft of the student's writing.