Cheryl did this great lesson on a Social Studies text at a workshop. It
would work for Science too. I can't wait to try it this year.
Have the kids read the title of the chapter and close their books. On a
web on the overhead or board, write the chapter title in the middle.
Tell them to tell you what they already know about the topic. (we did
it on the Subtropics) Make the spokes coming off the center circle in
black pen. Record their responses in black.
Next, have them open their books and read just the subtitles. Close
their books and have them tell you any knew knowledge they learned. Do
this in a different color ink.
Next, have them open their books and read any boldface words or
italicized words and the sentence it is in. Repeat above in a third
Next, have them look at any pictures, graphs, charts, diagrams, etc. and
read the captions. Repeat above in a fourth color.
By this time you have recalled background knowledge, discussed
vocabulary, given them a mental framework of the sequence of the text
and previewed important information they will read about.
Pretty nifty, huh?
This past year I worked real hard to teach my third graders how to
"read" non-fiction. I taught mini-lessons on the text structures common
in non-fiction texts (heading, sub-heading, labels, diagrams, charts,
guide words, captions, etc.) I used big books to show them actual
examples. We posted these in a list on chart paper as we discussed how
these help us "read." I then gave them each a different non-fiction
book (from Rigby, Newbridge, Sundance, etc) and had them do a
Non-Fiction Scavenger Hunt. I wrote up a several page guide that had
all the components of non-fiction that might be in a book and had them
search for them. They had to put the page number and describe each one
they found. Some of the books did not have all the elements (look
through the books yourself first) but for the most part, the students
seemed to really like this activity. It was one way I could assess if
they understood what I was hoping to teach. I did not "grade" these. I
skimmed and searched at random to give ME feedback as to if I had
accomplished my goal.
After doing this lesson (spread out over 2-3 days), I put all the books
used for the scavenger hunt together in a book basket and the kids
seemed to gravitate to these books for SSR. I was surprised how many
more of them were choosing to read non-fiction after that.
Here is something I'm going to try this year after reading Harvey
Daniels book Literature Circles. I have used a form of this in the past
but after reading his book I think the process will be much better
defined in my mind and have more structure for the kids.
Form groups of 4-5 kids each. Divide the text into logical parts,
usually using the subtitles. I will have each group read the same
section later coming together to share and compare. Sticky notes should
be used by the students to help them locate the parts of the text they
wish to bring into the discussion.
The role sheets are: (This is where it will take on more structure this
year than last year because I didn't use role sheets.)
The text can be read in class or assigned to be read outside of class.
Either way, assign the role sheets first so they have a purpose for
Dicussion Director: Your job is to develop a list of questions that
your group might want to discuss about today's reading. Try to
determine what is important about today's text. Try to think of the BIG
Passage Master: Your job is to locate a few special sections of the
reading that the group should look back on. The idea is to help your
group notice the most interesting, funny, puzzling, or important
Vocabulary Enricher: Your job is to be on the lookout for a few
especially important words - new, interesting, strange, important,
puzzling, or unfamiliar words - words that the group needs to remember
Connector: Your job is to find connections between the material you are
reading and the world outside. Also to other things in the text that we
have previously discussed.
Illustrator: (optional) Your job is to draw some kind of picture
related to the reading. It can be a sketch, diagram, flow chart, or
stick figure scene.
After reading the text, the group meets and the discussion director
leads the group. As he/she asks the questions that are on the role
sheet , the others will bring into the discussion their assigned role to
answer the questions and discuss the text.
I highly recommend this book to help teachers teach nonfiction as well
The next day, I plan to have a whole group discussion to determine what
was important about the text. This can be noted on a graphic organizer.
I used mine (science books) last year as guided reading and it worked
out great! I also have an older set that is better than our current
science book so I use both. Both have lots of decent simple experiments.
Sometimes I let them take the books home and do the experiment there.
Actually, they usually beg me to let them do this and I act like it's
their idea and that I'm "giving in" to them. Heh! Heh! Heh! Seems to
work out pretty good. The supplies are usually household items and the
parents have been enthusiastic. Seems to be like spelling - something
the parents can really grab onto.
We also have quite a few sets (6 each) of good science-related books
that I can use, too. Same goes for Social Studies. I use my book for the
first few chapters - maps, continents, land forms. Then I switch to
biographies and history-related books for guided reading. I have the
book Daily Oral Geography and I use it about once a week in our morning
activities. Since I'm a geography freak, I have lots of maps around for
them to use.
Another thing I use for science is the Astronomy Picture of the Day
website. It's got a huge archive that can be loaded with thumb nail
sketches. I turn them loose on that. They pick a picture and it loads
the bigger version with an explanation. They have to read that to find
out what the picture is. Most are motivated enough to give it a pretty
good try. I let them do it in pairs on their own.