Exciting lesson ideas, classroom strategies, book lists, videos, and reproducibles in a daily blog by teachers
























My March Top Ten List: Nonfiction Reading Resources

By Beth Newingham on March 24, 2011
  • Grades: 3–5

Last month I shared my favorite resources for teaching fiction reading, and this month I'm focusing on nonfiction.

Last month I shared my favorite resources for teaching fiction reading, and this month I'm focusing on nonfiction. Students (and teachers) often choose to read fiction texts in the classroom, but it is crucial that we expose our students to nonfiction texts as often as possible.

Nonfiction texts allow children to experience the wonder of the world. Facts come alive when books about animals, people, or objects are read to children. Nonfiction texts build on children's interests and increase vocabulary and background knowledge. When we help our students become proficient readers of nonfiction texts, we help them become successful at school and in the “real world.” Research shows that about 85% of what adults read on a daily basis is nonfiction. Teachers have a great responsibility in teaching students to tackle this genre.

READ ON to check out resources for teaching nonfiction reading concepts, including posters, links to great Web sites and articles, printables, an exciting new way to make current events interactive, and much more!


1.  Using Text Features to Successfully Navigate Nonfiction Texts

Before I can teach students to gather information, determine importance, or find supporting details, I must first show them the tools that they will be using. Those tools are the predictable, common features of nonfiction texts. I created text feature posters to help my students recognize, name, and understand the purpose of the most common features. Below are nine of the 23 posters I created. (Special thanks to Charla Lau, the reading specialist at my school, for the idea.)  

CaptionDiagramGlossary Graph Heading MapTable Photograph Table of contenst
Download a PDF slide show of all 23 of my Nonfiction Text Features posters. Since it is a large file, right click on the link and choose "save target as."


2. Text Feature Scavenger Hunt

After students learn the different text features, I want them to start paying close attention to the text features they find in their own books. In the primary grades, students may simply do a scavenger hunt where they check off the features they find, but in the upper grades, they also need to be able to determine the purpose of each text feature and explain why it helps them read the text. Below are activities your students can use to accomplish these goals.

Text Feature Scavenger Hunt Text Features and Purpose

Download the "Text Feature Scavenger Hunt" and "Using Text Features" recording sheets pictured above. I've posted them as MS Word files so that you can adapt them for your grade level. 


3. Teaching Students to Recognize Different Text Structures

P1100662Content textbooks are often above the reading level of the grade for which they're intended. If some students struggle with grade level texts, how can they comprehend history and science textbooks? One strategy that can aid students in breaking down informational text is understanding text structure. Research shows that an awareness of text structure facilitates a greater ability to recall important information in expository texts.  

Text Structure Posters: Knowing the elements of text structure is an effective tool in understanding nonfiction. Each structure can be identified using “signal” words. Words such as “then,” “next,” and “afterward” are indicators of a sequencing pattern. When students learn the key words and can recognize the predictable patterns, they will be better equipped to scan the text and pinpoint the information they seek. Below are posters that I created to teach my students about the most common structures found in nonfiction texts. Download a PDF slide show of the text structure posters.  Since it is a large file, right click on the link and choose "save target as."

 Description Sequential Compare and Contrast Cause and Effect Problem and Solution

Professional Books & Lessons: Of course just introducing the text structures is not enough. Below are three great Scholastic professional books I have used. Click on the books for more information.

 You can also check out this great text structures SMART Board lesson created by Marcia Jones. It has tons of activities to help you teach your students about the different text structures.



4. Have Students Create Their Own Text Features and Text Structures Books

IMG_1595 [Desktop Resolution]Some teachers at our school have students cut out examples of different text features from magazines and paste them into blank versions of the text feature posters in #1 of this post to make a book. Scholastic News is a great source of text features for a project like this. The "My Text Features Book" can be an ongoing project throughout the school year. Students may cut out one or two text features from each new edition of Scholastic News as they read it in class (or any other magazines or newspapers they have access to). Download a PDF slide show of the "My Text Features Book" (shown below) in which I have included templates for 23 different nonfiction text feature pages that you can print and use with your own students.  Since it is a large file, right click on the link and choose "save target as."

 IMG_1597 [Desktop Resolution] IMG_1598 [Desktop Resolution]

Students in older grades should start recognizing that the articles in magazines and newspapers typically follow one of the five text structures I described in #3 of this post. Students can cut out and paste entire articles onto each page of a "My Text Structures Book" to show examples of text structures. Download a PDF slide show of the "My Text Structures Book" (shown below) in which I have included templates for these text structures.

IMG_1594 [Desktop Resolution] IMG_1600 [Desktop Resolution] 


5. Make Current Events an Interactive Experience!

Magazine [Desktop Resolution]With all that is currently happening in our country and around the world, I find it more important than ever to keep my students informed of current events. I use Scholastic News not only because the weekly editions are written at an appropriate level for my 3rd graders, but because they also include a new “whiteboard-ready” interactive option with the subscription. Check out the photos below to see how this new feature can spice up your teaching of current events.

The digital edition can be displayed on your interactive whiteboard — a great option for sharing reading in primary classrooms!

Full Screen

Highlight important text, use shape tools to circle text features, and add “digital sticky notes” with student ideas. Tap the purple W next to important new words to reveal the definition.

Definition final

Students can watch videos related to the text to find exciting additional information.

Video Final
 Teachers can access both current and previous editions at any time. Teacher editions, skills sheets, and even alternate versions of the cover story written at a lower reading level are also available.


 Watch a demo of Scholastic News Interactive!


6.  Comprehension Strategies for Reading Nonfiction Texts

Laura RobbAuthor Laura Robb presents several classroom-proven strategies that enable students to construct meaning from nonfiction in her book Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science, and Math: Practical Ways to Weave Comprehension Strategies Into Your Content Area Teaching. These include asking open-ended questions, skimming text, and making connections.

You can use her lessons "Posing Questions," "Skimming Text," and "Connect & Apply" to model each strategy. They will help you improve student reading and support learning in different content areas.




7. Evaluating Internet Resources

5ws1While publishing companies work hard to create quality nonfiction texts for our students, the Internet is also a valuable tool — when used effectively, that is!

My students are currently doing research on a country from which their ancestors came to America. While we have checked  out lots of great books from the library, we have found that many of them are outdated. For the most current information about population, government, etc., students must use the Internet. However, it is more important than ever that students (and teachers) learn to evaluate Web sites. I love Kathy Schrock's "5 Ws of Web Site Evaluation" handout.

Brent Vasicek, the Scholastic classroom advisor for grades 3–5, also wrote a great post a couple of weeks ago titled "Danger on the Internet: A Lesson in Critical Thinking." In it he includes some great lessons to help students distinguish the “real” from the “fake.”

8. Make Research Exciting and Memorable!

P1020121International Festival: As I mentioned, my students do country research each year. In addition to a traditional report, we host an international festival as a culminating activity. The festival allows students to share what they have learned about their country through a performance, fashion show, and taste-fest. To learn more about this memorable event, read my post from last year "Host an International Festival at Your School!"

Joey39African-American Wax Museum: Our 4th grade students do research on a notable African American during Black History Month. To make their research more purposeful, they do a presentation at the annual Hill School 4th Grade African-American Wax Museum. All classes take turns visiting the museum to listen as the wax figures come alive and talk about their lives and achievements. To learn more about this special event, read this post I wrote a few years ago.

How do you make your research come alive?  Perhaps you bring visitors to your classroom, take virtual field trips, or plan special events at your school. I’d love to hear how you make your nonfiction reading or research units come alive for your students!


9. More Nonfiction Materials and Lesson Ideas

Angela My Top Teaching colleague Angela Bunyi wrote a great post titled "Taking a Look at Nonfiction Conventions."  In it she provides tons of resources and ideas for teaching the conventions of nonfiction, including great mini-lessons and anchor chart/bulletin board ideas. She includes lots of photos of projects in her classroom and printables to download. 



10. Nonfiction Reading Sources and Strategies

Brent jpeg1 Brent Vasicek recently posted another great piece describing purposeful ways to weave nonfiction into your curriculum. He provides teachers with a list of sources to use for nonfiction texts and describes three creative nonfiction comprehension strategies: “Mind Mapping,” “In Three Words,” and “RCRRC: Read, Cover, Remember, Retell, Check.” Read his post "Nonfiction Reading Sources and Strategies" to learn more! 

Comments (72)

Thanks SO MUCH for the wonderful non-fiction features posters. I look forward to using them with my grade 3 class! I also really liked the idea of the scavenger hunt. Thanks for all your work:)

I am hoping that you can share your 23 Text Features posters with me. I can't seem to download them. I'd appreciate if you could explain how I would can download them or if you could send them to me directly.
Thanks very much! I'm anxious to use these in my new second grade classroom this year!

are you aware that another Scholastic top teacher is using this idea as her own? I think she needs to give you credit, as do so many others who continually copy and sell your ideas...

Hi Beth! I am excited to use the nonfiction text feature posters, however I can not open the link with all 23 posters. Can you help with this? Or is there another place these posters are located? Great resource!!

Hi Beth, I am trying to access your downloadable PDF of Non-fiction Text Features Posters, but I am not having much success. Each time I click on the link and try to save it or open it it times out. I am wondering if it still accessible.


Great links, thanks for sharing!

I'm looking for the writing "ending" posters (wish, hope). The link sent me to this site, but I can't find them. Can anyone help me locate them. Thanks! :)


This site has provided me with amazing resources for an informational text features and structures unit! You rock! I was hoping though that you could create a page to go with the "My Text Structure Book" that is Question & Answer. To go along with that, a Q & A poster to go with the absolutely fantastic posters you have of text structures too! That would be a lifesaver! I have to say, I struck gold when I found this site! I hope you can create and add those two pages soon!!

Thanks again!!

Diagram is spelled wrong

REALLY!!!!!???? Cannot believe this. She has all these amazing resources and this is your commmenttt! WOW!

Wow! This information is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I can't wait to use it.

Hi Beth,

The Diagram poster has a typo in the purpose section. Are you able to repair that and repost it? We are using your posters to tackle a schoolwide goal of improved recognition of non-fiction text features. Thanks for all you do!


Hello Beth! Thank you for all the inspiration you have given me through your postings. I am interested in your Fiction resources but it appears the link is not working? Anywhere else I can get access to these?

Hello Beth,

Thank you so much for posting resources to share! I am also unable to download the PDF slideshow. Thank you for your help. :)

Great material thanks.

Hello, Thanks a lot for this awesome article! I will save this website. Thanks.

This is amazing work! Thank you so much for sharing! It's appreciated more than you know...

Your website is phenomenal! I have used it as a refrence and guide for many things. I am unable to open your February Top Ten List. I am very anxious to see a few things I have made notes about for your fiction blog. Would you be willing to repost?

Beth, I tried to download the text structure templates for the non fiction book and it said the file is damaged. Is there a way you can re-post them?

Thank you for all of your hard work & wonderful posters. It is appreciated!

I really can't understand what you are arguing about!!??

Beth! I love all of your ideas, but am looking for your February top ten list about fiction reading resources. Where did it go?! So sad!

Beth! I love your ideas, but where is your February top ten list?? I was going to use your smart board activities with my class and now it's disappeared! So sad!

I also tried to open your file of nonfiction text posters and got the message that the file was damaged. I would love to use them,as I am trying not to reinvent the wheel. If you could repost or let me know where else I could find them I would appreciate it. Thanks for sharing your great ideas to make teacher a little easier for others:)

I love your text features posters! I tried to open it and it said the file is damaged. Am I doing something wrong? Please help, I would love to use this in my classroom.

Thank you Beth sharing all of your ideas. I have been using your website for many years now.
Recently I tried to go onto your February top ten list: Fiction Reading Lessons and Resources, but found that the page is no longer there. Do you still have this page available? If so, where could I find it?
Thanks again!

I love your book genres bulletin board. Dd you make those posters or did you order them from scholastic?


I love your non-fiction text structure posters. Do you have any for fiction text structure? Such as main idea, summary, inferencing, etc?

Thanks! Laura

Julia (comment #39),

I teach at a public school, so standardized testing is most definitely a reality. You wondered how I was able to be so creative and still prepare my students for standardized testing.

I am very serious about my curriculum and meeting the benchmarks that are set by the state (and soon the common core standards). I have implemented intensive reading and writing workshops in my classroom and believe that I am helping my students grow to be very strong readers and writers. Each unit of study addresses different benchmarks that my students are expected to meet in third grade. However, my goal is to make the learning as enjoyable and creative as possible. That doesn't mean that I am straying from the benchmarks. I am simply working as hard as I can to make my teaching as effective as it can be while also making it fun. Creativity and thinking "outside the box" are important as I shape my students as learners and prepare them not only for "the test" but also for the real world. Many teachers in my district take this same approach, and I am proud to say that we regularly have some of the highest standardized test scores in the state:)


Samantha (comment #38),

You asked if I would share my year-long plan of units. I cannot share the units themselves because I wrote them for our school district with a team of teachers. However, you can see the order in which I teach my units of study in comment #40 of this post.

Here is a great website that provides reading workshop units of study avalable for download: http://curriculum.dpsk12.org/lang_literacy_cultural/literacy/elem_lit/curric_instruc_assess/planning_guides/index.shtml

Lucy Calkins has also written reading workshop units of study for grades 3-5: http://www.unitsofstudy.com/teachingReading/default.asp

I hope this helps!


Sara (comment #37),

You asked about my book basket labels. I created them in Print Shop Deluxe Version 23 for PC. I believe you can purchase Print Shop for MAC, but I know that the files cannot be opened in Print Master. It is a similar but different program.


Alison (comment #36),

When I write my reading and writing workshop mini-lessons, I follow the "Architecture of an Effective Mini-Lesson" format. Effective mini-lessons tend to follow a similar structure. That is, while the content of the mini lesson changes from day to day, the architecture of mini lessons often remains constant.

Connection: My mini-lessons begin with a connection, in which you talk about how this lesson will fit into the work students have been doing and how it will fit into their lives as readers.

Teaching Point: Next, tell students exactly what you'll be teaching them. This is the teaching point.

Teaching: Now you teach students something you hope they'll use often as they read. You usually do this by demonstrating a strategy you use to read with greater accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. Sometimes you might share a strategy used by a student in our class, retell a vignette, or re-enact something you've seen other readers do. Usually, this component is structured sequentially, like a how-to text.

Active Engagement: Now you give all students a quick opportunity to try what you've taught with your support, or to imagine themselves trying it before you send them off to continue reading. This active engagement phase often involves students practicing the strategy we've just demonstrated on a familiar text, and it often involves them talking with their reading partner.

Link: To bring closure to the mini lesson, try to link the mini lesson to what the class has learned on previous days, to that day's work-time and to students' lives as readers. You may recall the major topic the class has been studying. "You already learned ... and today you have one more strategy to add ... " Sometimes the subject of the mini-lesson will only be pertinent for some readers. "How many of you will do this today?" you might ask. Other times, you will want to be sure every reader incorporates the new strategy into his or her work that day. "I'd like everyone to try out this strategy today to see how it helps you as you read." In these ways, you make it likely that at least some students transfer the mini lesson to that day's independent work, and that it becomes part of all students' ongoing repertoire.

I learned this approach when I first started exploring reading workshop and still use each component when planning and writing my reading workshop and writing workshop mini-lessons.


Kristie (comment #35),

You asked about my calendar for reading workshop. This is what my year looks like (listed in the order in which the units are taught):

Launching Reading Workshop: 6 weeks Reading Fiction: 5-6 Weeks Mystery/Detective Book Clubs: 3 Weeks Nonfiction: 5 weeks Research/Report: 5 Weeks Poetry: 4 Weeks Reading Partnerships: 3-4 Weeks Author Study/Book Clubs: 4 Weeks Reflection/Summer Reading Plans: 2 Weeks

I hope this helps!


I have found your resources to be invaluable. There are teachers at my school who might think you don't have the constraints of statewide, standardized tests and that might be why you have the freedom to be so creative. I didn't think there were any public schools unaffected by NCLB & AYP. Is yours a public school? Make my day and tell me that you can do all of this despite the standards, because I want to brag on you!!!

Hi, Beth. I have been using your website since I started teaching 5 years ago, and I have gotten so much valuable information from you! I follow a lot of the same ideas that you do for reading workshop, and I was wondering if you have a year long plan of units that you cover that you'd be willing to share, particularly in reading. I feel like a lot of my units are disconnected, or week by week. I want to do more that "flows." Can you share something like this here or on your website?

Hi Beth, Thank you so much for sharing all of your materials! I am sharing with my school and they are really excited about Reader's Workshop!

I have a question about your book labels. I have a mac, and I just bought a new version of Printmaster. i can't open any of the documents you made or the ones I made, unless I saved them to a PDF. Do you happen to know the formatting you used for your labels? I would like to recreate labels with the same format. I also use them for math centers too.

Thank you!

Thank you so much, Beth! Those links are very helpful and I've already saved several things from them. I was wondering if you have a blank template that you use for your lesson plans for reading and writing workshop and/or word study. If so, I'd love to see it (if you are able to share it). I understand completely why you can't share your entire units of study because you created them with other professionals. Thanks for sharing so much!!

Beth, Thank you so much for sharing all your awesome ideas. I am new to third grade this year and have implement a lot of your ideas into my classroom. I look forward to each new top 10 post each month.

I was wondering, do you have some sort of calendar you follow for reading? As to when you teach the certain big units? If so, would it be possible for you to share it? I struggle a lot with where to go from one thing to the next.

Thanks, Kristie

Alison (comment #33),

Have you have read my previous posts I have written about Reading Workshop on my Scholastic blog? Here are links to those posts. Hopefully you will find answers to any questions you may have about my reading workshop.

Reading Workshop: What it Looks Like in My Classroom: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2009/10/reading-workshop.html

The Reader's Notebook: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2009/11/readers-notebook.html

Assessment in My Reading Workshop: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2009/11/assessment-reading-workshop.html

A Virtual Peek Into My Classroom Library: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2009/10/classlibrary.html

I would use the summer to first get your classroom library organized so that your students are able to use it effctively during independent reading time each day.

I am not able to share my units of study since I created them with other members of a reading committee for my school district. However, here is a link to a site where you can find great reading workshop units of study for all grade levels: http://curriculum.dpsk12.org/lang_literacy_cultural/literacy/elem_lit/curric_instruc_assess/planning_guides/index.shtml

I hope this helps!


Hi Beth, I've been using your class website as a reference for a few years now and I've always been interested in the "Reading Workshop" model of teaching. I've always had to use a specific reading curriculum that doesn't allow for a lot of flexibility. My school is allowing me to pilot a reading workshop model next year with my 2nd graders. I'm very excited, but a little overwhelmed. What do you recommend I focus on first? When you write your plans, what do they look like? I actually loop at my school, so I will teach the same students in 3rd grade, as well. Any suggestions or starting points you could give me would be so appreciated. The resources on your websites are so wonderful and I really appreciate your willingness to share!

Erica (comment #30),

You asked some questions about how I use Everyday Math in my classroom. I think most of your questions will be answered when you read a Math Workshop post I wrote last year. Here is a link to that post: http://blogs.scholastic.com/top_teaching/2010/05/math-workshop.html

To address some of your questions, I correct Home Links and use them to guide my future instruction. If a large number of students do poorly on a home link concept, I know I need to reteach those skills. If just a small group of students do poorly, I will put them in the same rotation group during math workshop and reteach the concept to just those students.

On our report card, students receive S (secure) P (progressing) or N (needs improvement) for each unit. Then skills like basic facts and problem solving are given individual marks. I feel like I know my students in a much more thorough way than our report card allows me to show, so I always add lots of additional comments about math to each child's report card.

I think my Math Workshop post will give you a better idea of how I differentiate my instruction and manage math in my classroom to best meet the needs of all students.


Kathleen and Jamie (comments #28 & 29),

Thanks for your thoughtful comments! It's always so nice to hear from teachers who are enjoying my blog!


I recently found your website and I am amazed and excited at the same time! You have really motivated me to make some changes in my classroom. Most of your posts refer to reading and writing. I am also very curious to learn more about your EDM program. How do you deal with all of the HomeLinks and going over them? Also, what do you do for grades? Do you have a standards based report card? I teach 2nd grade and I find that the children have difficult time doing a lot of the pages independently and there isn't a lot of practice due to the spiraling of the program. Do you create additional worksheets? I would love to read a few more posts about how you handle math. Thank you for getting me excited to try some new things!

Hi Beth, I just wanted to say how AWESOME you are! Thank you so much for sharing all of your TOO CUTE posters, etc. and your great lessons! I look forward to your monthly posts! Please don't stop!

Beth,this is a great website! Thanks for sharing your ideas. :) Kathleen Fox LibraryGames.com

Angie (comment #25),

You asked if I had a list of good nonfiction books that have clear examples of different text structures. Since identifying text structures can be a challenging skill for students, I try to use short articles from magazines or student newspapers instead of full-length books. I find that, many times, a nonfiction book will actually have a variety of text structures within it, so that can be confusing for students. Short articles tend to be written in a single text structure and are much easier for students to identify.

Scholastic News is a great magazine to order for your class! Check it out here: http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/classmags.asp


Amanda (comment #23),

You will be able to open any of my Print Shop files in versions 23 or any previous versions. Apparently anything created in earlier versions of Print Shop will not open in the new Print Shop 2.0 version, so my files will not open in the 2.0 version.

I hope that helps!



Do you have a good to list of nonfiction books that are strong examples of the different type of text structures? I'm trying to put a group of titles together for my kids to use.

Thanks! Angie

Thanks, Beth! If you do find the visuals, I would love to see them. The leads you shared have made such a difference in the quality of writing my students are doing!

Hey Beth, Bless you for getting back to everyone on here! I truly don't see how you do this and teach too~ and keep up with two little boys. I only wish I had your stamina!

I have a simple question: There are a few of your literacy centers that I'd like to take and tweak but I don't have Print Shop. I'd like to buy it but I'd like to buy the version compatible to your materials. Can you share that with us? Is it a newer version???

Your site is awsome by the way! Thanks, Amanda

Post a Comment
(Please sign in to leave a comment. Privacy Policy)
Back to Top