I've taught my students before about nonfiction text features but it was never in an explicit way. Have you ever had a great idea but never enough time to make a Smartboard lesson and prepare the materials? That was me! So when I became involved with the Master Teacher Project I decided I was going to push myself and turn my ideas into explicit lessons that address the Common Core standards, and I am happy that I can share these lessons with you.
We have such an important job as first grade teachers to lay a strong foundation for our students so they can be able to achieve not only the first grade Common Core Standards but also to reach the anchor standards in future years. The standard addressed in this lesson is RI1.5. Let's look a little bit beyond that at the anchor standard for RI1.5 - CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole. When we begin to show students how a particular text is structured, students' comprehension is strengthened because they know how each part of the story relates to other parts.
You will see that I have designed the Smartboard lesson to fit this standard. For example, in one part of the Smartboard lesson, there is a question that says, "What chapter would you find information on huge bugs?" The students have to read the chapter names and find the chapter named "Very Big Bugs."
What's nice about this activity is that you can use any nonfiction texts in your classroom. I developed text dependent question sets for the grade level informational books in my classroom library. You can view them here Animal Table of Contents Questions.pdf. Students have to use the table of contents to find the correct information in order to answer the questions. I previewed each book and intentionally formulated questions that students would have no prior knowledge of and needed to find the information in the text. This way, they not only are practicing using a table of contents, they are also practicing close reading skills.
You will need to copy two question sets for each partner group you have. If you don't have those books, you will have to create text dependent questions for the informational books that you have. It's easy to differentiate the lesson as well. You can choose nonfiction texts that fit the reading level of each of your student partner groups. You will also want to download either the Smartboard Nonfiction Text Features.notebook or Activboard Nonfiction Text Features.flipchart lesson for this lesson as well.
I started the lesson by reading the first few pages on the Smartboard lesson and explaining why it was important for us to learn about nonfiction text features. I said, "When we read fiction, we usually read the whole book and the purpose of our reading is to enjoy the story. In nonfiction, readers will sometimes only read parts of the book to find the facts and information that they need for research or other purposes. A table of contents will help a reader find the information quickly and then you won't waste time flipping through all the different chapters." I told my students that we would be focusing on the skill of using a Table of Contents today. We worked on the practice activities and pages for using a Table of Contents on the Smartboard lesson.
After we had practiced on the Smartboard, I read the book "Hammerhead Sharks" by Deborah Nuzzolo. I took the questions for this book from the packet of text dependent questions I had formulated, and I modeled how to think about what the question was asking me and which chapter I should be looking at in my Table of Contents. I answered all the questions making sure I used the Table of Contents as a tool. Again, if you don't have this particular book, you can use another informational text that you do have. You'll just have to prepare your text dependent questions ahead of time, so you can model for your students how to use your table of contents to answer the questions.
Then I partnered everyone up according to reading ability. I gave partners a book that was at their reading level along with a set of text dependent questions that went along with their book for each partner to write on. It was time to get to work.
My students received their books and questions and spread out across the room. It was noisy in the classroom, but if you looked closely everyone was on task and talking about the assignment. I have a video of what my class looked like during this assignment. You can see it Table of Contents.mp4 here. You can see that some of the students found the information from the Table of Contents and were able to answer the questions correctly. Others found where they were supposed to be by using the Table of Contents, yet they didn't answer the question correctly and I had to redirect them.
Years ago, I would have been stressed out if my students weren't mastering the content right away. My thinking has shifted since implementing Common Core in my classroom. The standards and activities that I've designed are rigorous for my students. They aren't always going to master the content the first time. This is O.K. I need to keep offering opportunities for my students to practice these skills in order to improve. Keep this in mind if you do this lesson with your students. With continued practice they will improve as well.
I like my closure to be short and sweet. I gave partner groups 2 minutes for each person to tell their partner what they learned about a Table of Contents and how it can help them find information. I circulated around the room and was listening. Just like the independent practice, some students were able to articulate what they learned and others needed help to articulate what they learned and what the purpose of the lesson was through questioning.