I've had several conversations with teachers trying to incorporate more nonfiction text into their classrooms, whether through close reading, guided reading, read aloud, or independent reading. One of the frustrating things is finding nonfiction reading that is appropriate for our students. As adults, they will have access to a wonderful array of nonfiction that is both entertainingly constructed and highly informative. One solution to our woes is provided by The Nonfiction Detectives. This blog was created by two librarians named Cathy and Louise for the purpose of reviewing nonfiction books for kids. They have so many great resources. I encourage you to bookmark this blog.
Today, I want to share with you the information they shared from their post "The Nonfiction Detectives' Tips for Evaluating Nonfiction". In this post, they share their tips for evaluating nonfiction. These can be applied directly to the nonfiction texts you are using during your balanced literacy block. These tips could also be directly taught to students to use when they are evaluating nonfiction on their own.
First, ask yourself: WHAT TYPE OF NONFICTION IT IS? This will help you decide how and when to use it. You'll also be able to discuss text structure with your kids using the following categories. Notice, there are links to sample texts that represent each of these types.
Next, ask yourself: WHO IS THE AUTHOR? The following steps will help you determine if the text is of value or not. This is also a great step to model for your students when doing research and can even be applied to web-based research.
After that, ask yourself: WHAT ABOUT THE BACK MATTER? This set of questions guides you beyond simply the author's credentials, but gets you thinking about the research and the structure and whether the book is still useful without these.
Finally, run through the following categories to fully analyze the text:
These tips are great when selecting text for your classroom, especially if it is a close read that you'll be doing. There will be no perfect text, but at least you'll be analyzing what you are selecting to see whether it is appropriate, useful, or relevant. Please let me know how I can support your work with nonfiction instruction going forward. When you're ready to dig into some close reading or some nonfiction analysis, please be in touch.
On a related note...
Check out the images below for some sample charts that support nonfiction instruction.
So... Where does close reading fit in? What is close reading? When does close reading occur? How do I select text for close reading? Continue reading for some ideas.
What is close reading?
Close reading is when we use our "heavy" weights. These are the short bursts of practice that are highly directed and coached.
Close reading is:
Who does the reading?
When do we do close reading?
Close reading can be done several times a week. You will most likely use one text over the course of a week and really dig into it, engaging in repeated readings and reading for a new purpose each time, pushing the level of text-dependent questions deeper each time.
How do we select texts for close reading?
Close reading is not the time to differentiate text. You select one text that will challenge your students and give them something to truly tackle. The text should be complex enough to spur discussion and inspire students to debate, investigate, write, present, or take some action of some sort.
On a related note...
Close Reading Model Lessons - Check out the downloadable lessons from Achievethecore.org. There are several sample plans organized by grade level. You can download the lessons with the text for reading included. Using these sample lessons might be a great way to step into close reading before selecting texts on your own.
I am an elementary instructional coach for the Sioux Falls School District.