Nonfiction features are what makes nonfiction kid books so interesting! There are little "fun fact" boxes, charts, and tons of pictures with captions. The more visually appealing these pictures are the more likely students are going to look at them. However, they're there more than just for entertainment. They actually can help a reader understand the text better. Therefore, this lesson is for directing students to notice as many graphic and text features they can find and identify their purpose.
I start by showing students a new nonfiction text that I have purposely picked because of the amount of different features it has. I flipped through the book "noticing" text and graphic features and begin to name them: "subheading", "index", "graph", etc. Most nonfiction informational text will have these. The ones with words are called text features because they use text to explain bits of information and the ones with images are called graphic features because they use pictures or images to explain bits of information. In this lesson, we will look for as many as we can and figure out how they help us understand information in the book.
After I've previewed the book and the lesson with the class, I choose a section to read, which could just be at the beginning or if it is a book with sections, I might use the table of contents to pick a specific place to begin. I come across an explanation that is hard to understand or could be clearly and I see a diagram nearby that helps.
On a premade graphic organizer, I demonstrate how I put a label in the "feature" section to represent the diagram. I write "diagram", draw a quick sketch of the diagram. After I discuss with the class the purpose of a diagram (to describe in detail parts of an object or thing) I add that description to my premade chart. Every text or graphic feature has a purpose.
I demonstrate how to use the graphic organizer with a text and a graphic feature and then I ask the class to help me find and identify more features as I flip and read through the book. Students raise their hand to stop me. They share that a picture is a graphic feature and that sometimes it has a caption which would be a text feature. I label each separately because they don't always go together.
I ask student to share until I have no more than eight features drawn and explained on my graphic organizer.
Finally, students have seen me do it, told me how to do it and now they will find features and explain their importance on their own. They chose a nonfiction book from a selection of books I've provided in the class. Their task is to look for as many new and different features as they can and record information on their graphic organizer.
If there is extra time, they can either get another page of the graphic organizer or they can color their sketches.
After students have had a chance to complete their graphic organizers, they get to share through a scavenger hunt style activity.
I display a list of common features and go through the list calling out a feature, one at a time. As I call a feature that a student has, they get to raise their hand and share with their table group. I ask them to keep track of how many feature from the list they were able to find. After I have gone through the list, I review which were most common and which were rare. Finally, I ask if there were any that students found that were not on my list.