Mindful reading of nonfiction: What I know, what I think I know, what I want to know

Guest Blogger

Jan 07, 2013
Help your students read their nonfiction ebooks mindfully! Fourth-grade teacher Laura Murray is here again with some greatStoria ideas! Today, she’s talking about nonfiction — and more importantly, how to get kids reading it mindfully. At school we are in the thick of one of our nonfiction reading units, so I have nonfiction on the brain. I know that I discussed using the notes and highlighter features of Storia with nonfiction early on in November, but I would like to revisit nonfiction again. I often notice that when my students are directed to read nonfiction, there is an excitement they display that is different from when they are presented with fiction. They are eager to learn new things and read about topics that interest them. I also think it is quite appealing to them that they don’t have to read the entire book or read it in order. But another thing I notice is that they have gotten so good at going into a fiction book with certain expectations, but sort of dive into nonfiction completely blind. We have been working on noticing the differences between fiction and nonfiction, and one of the big differences we have noticed is all of the conventions of nonfiction that help a reader understand the material presented. We know authors use some of the following to help a reader get more information or to clarify the text: photographs/pictures maps captions labels cutaways charts/graphs diagrams bold/italics/colored words bullets table of contents glossary index However, even though nonfiction has all of these aids to assist with understanding information, readers still need to go into reading with some expectations. I ask my students to think about what they already know about a topic and what they want to know more about. They record this information in their reading response journals as “What I think I know” and “What I want to know” or “Questions that I have.” Using Storia, your child can do this in the notes section and refer back to it throughout their reading. We also discuss the possibility of misconceptions. Sometimes they think they know something about a topic, but it actually isn’t a truth. After a bit of thinking, writing, and discussing they are ready to dive into their fact finding. However, they still may not really know what to expect when reading about certain topics. When reading about different nonfiction topics such as animals, technology, people, places, etc., there are certain things we expect to read about. Here is a chart with some “Always Questions” that your children can think about depending on the topic of their nonfiction books. These questions are “Always Questions” because they center around information that is most likely found for each topic. Having these in mind might help your child formulate better “What I want to know” questions before they read. This will focus their reading and help them sort through the mounds of information presented in a book. It will also help them decide where they want to start reading and how to utilize the table of contents or the index to guide their reading.   When reading about: You can always ask: Animals How does the animal use its body to survive? How is this animal like or different from other animals? How does this animal adapt to its habitat? Technology How does this invention make life easier? Why was this invented? Places How is this place like where I live? How is it different? Cultures How is this culture like mine? How is it different? What important things do people in this culture do? Why? Famous People What hardships did this person overcome? Why is the world different because of this person? Events How did this event change the world? There is so much information out in books and in digital form. We need to help our children learn how to focus their reading and fact finding to get the most out of their nonfiction reading. I hope these “Always Questions” help your child out when enjoying books on Storia! Happy ereading!