Identifying the Difference between Informational and Literary Texts

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SWBAT explain the differences between books that tell stories and books that give information.

Big Idea

Decisions, decisions … what to read for what? After this lesson your students will know when they want to learn something new to read an informational text.


During the last two lessons in this series, it was my goal to show my students they can enjoy learning from informational texts, comparing informational texts, and a little more about the text features.  I was already aware that my students enjoyed listening to literary texts and looking at and learning from informational texts.  From prior lessons they are pretty good at identifying the difference between fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, and science/nature genres, so today's lesson focuses on making sure that they are really skilled in distinguishing these texts based on their different purposes.

Common Core Connection:

One common core standard that I heard from other colleagues that would be too much for First graders to handle is RL 1.5: Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.  To me the standard was pretty clear, because identifying genres was something we already do whenever we read a new book.  The problem, I discovered, was that I was not spending the time explaining what the purpose of the text was that defined it as an informational text and distinguished it from a literary text.

Lesson Overview:

After two days of exploring informational texts about snails, I thought it time to read a literary text and have my students explore and explain the differences between informational texts and books that tell stories.


  • Group set of informational and literary texts about the rain forest
  • Group set of informational and literary texts about turtles
  • Group set of informational and literary texts about dinosaurs
  • Group set of informational and literary texts about insects and bugs
  • Identifying Informational and Literary Text Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

As my students sat on their rug squares, I began the lesson by stating, “These past few days we have read books about snails, what can you tell me about the two types books we read”?  I gave students a moment to partner share, then called on individual students to share with class what types of books we read and what they were about.  As one student answered “informational and literary text”, the rest of the class agreed by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).  I then explained today we were going to look at books that give information and books that tell stories, then after they looked at the books they were going to write in their journals what they noticed about the purpose for why the author wrote each type of text: Was it to inform us with true things about the world around us or entertain us with an interesting story?

Guided Practice

15 minutes

From there I had my students stand up and take a stretch before walking to their desks, where I explained today they would work with their reading groups, and each group would have a set of books.  I gave them the directions that they were to work with the group to decide if a book was an informational or literary text and explain why.  As they did this they were to divide the books in two piles either informational or literary piles. Then they were to fill out the Identifying Informational and Literary Text Activity Sheet.  When they were finished we would come back to the large group and each reading group would share about their set of books. 

To help them better understand the directions, I displayed the Identifying Informational and Literary Text Activity Sheet on the Promethean board and chose four students (one from each reading group) to help me model and demonstrate the above stated directions and how to fill out the activity sheet.  This little group and I modeled what it should look like as we were looking at a set of books and took turns holding one up and telling the group what type of book it was and why.  Stressing they were to share the books and work as a group, I modeled and had them partner practice, ‘This is an informational text/literary book because ___’.

To check for understanding I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to call on a student to restate the directions to the class.

Collaborative Work

20 minutes

From there I called each group and placed them at different work areas where I already had group sets of literary and informational texts set out, as well as individual copies of the Identifying Informational and Literary Text Activity Sheet.  When all the groups were settled, I worked with my most beginning reading group as they started to look at books about turtles. I also frequently circled the room to observe students working, re-explain the directions, or reminded them to share.

Even though both students have the same school experience (in that they went to the same school for pre-school, kindergarten, and first grade) the writing skill level is evident in the student work samples from Sample: High Reading Group and Sample: Middle Reading Group. The student in the Turtles: Comparing Texts and Stories video knew the answers I was asking, but trying to help his peers out.  Which is what happens during collaborative work- they help each other more.  While the students in the Dinosaurs: Comparing Texts and Stories and Dinosaurs for Fun had a pretty good grasp of which books were literary and informational.

When they were finished I called them back to the large group at their desks. I then had one student from each group share with the class what topic their books were and which titles were informational and which were literary/informational and why.  Before going up to share in front of the class my beginning readers practiced how they were going to explain "It has a title", and "That's real" making it an informational text while "This book is fun" is a book to read for enjoyment.

As my students finished sharing what the learned about informational and literary texts I asked if there were different times when they would read an informational text compared to a literary book.  Several students pointed out that when they wanted to learn something new they would read an informational text. This helped them make the leap towards understanding that texts in each genre are written for different purposes.

What I have learned about sharing at the end of the activity is children want to share what their group did and the class wants to hear it.  Sharing gives students an opportunity to speak in front of the whole group and take on a leadership role.  I also think it is a good way to end this section.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

In order for my students to demonstrate they were able to explain the difference between a book that gives information and a book that tells a story I had them use their activity sheets to write in their journals what topic their books were, and which ones were informational, compared to the literary books, and why.  In the video Journal Check demonstrates what my high reading group was able to write.

For my students still at the beginning stage I put this prompt on the Promethean board:

The topic of the books I looked at was ___.  These books ____ were informational because ____, ____, and ____.  These books ____ were literary books because ___, ___, and ____.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker my students told me when they would read an informational text and when they would read a literary story.