When students read nonfiction, they should be either learning new information, verifying what they thought they knew, or challenging it. Nonfiction reading is intentional reading. Although, I want students to enjoy reading nonfiction as much as they enjoy reading fiction, I want them also to enjoy the intellectual quality of it as well.
In order for this lesson to work well, you want to introduce a topic that students will know something (but not a lot) about and that will be interesting and get them excited to think and share what they know. You can find various current nonfiction articles using Scholastic Kids, Time for Kids, or National Geographic.
First, I introduce the topic by showing the cover page and using an excited voice, "Wow! Look at that picture. Has anyone every heard of this topic?" I then remind them as a nonfiction reader, we'll be learning more about this topic as we read today. However, I am assuming based on their response that they already know a lot. They get some times to share with a partner or their table group. This is also a strategy to help other students pull up background knowledge to remember while they are reading.
Next, I model how I document what I already know about a topic so that I can pay special attention to new information. I have to think about what I know so I can tell when there is something new. As I'm reading, I might think aloud, "Hmmm...I didn't know that..." or "Huh. I thought it was a little different than this," etc. I especially try to find places where I've had misinformation. I want students to learn that sometimes, new information comes as a contradiction to what we thought we already know.
After I've modeled how I consider what I know before reading then listen to my thinking to find new information, I ask students to do the same. I only use part of the article during my modeling time. Therefore, I ask students to record some of what they already know about the topic in their journal. As I continue to read, I ask them to jot down any new information or information that changes what they previous thought and write those ideas down as well. I don't expect them to all have the same new information because some students will know more or less about a topic.
After we finish the article or section of the article, I ask students to share with their table group or class what they learned and if they noticed what they heard in the head when they discovered the new information. I might also ask students to connect it to something they already learned.
After modeling and providing some guided practice, I ask students to do it on their own in a new article or section of a nonfiction text. We review the steps to paying attention to new information. First, students consider what they already know and possibly write it down. Then they read with a lens to adding to what they know or changing what they think they knew.
They record their thinking in their learning journal.
Finally, students get to share with a partner what they have learned from reading their nonfiction text. I encourage students to make connections to what they already knew and what they heard in their head when they discovered the new information. Sometimes, as I'm listening to students, I might stop the class and give them an example of an effective phrase I heard a student say. For example, "At first I thought...but then I learned...".