Fiction or Nonfiction? That is the Question

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SWBAT distinguish between literature and informational texts.

Big Idea

What's the difference between literature and informational texts?


10 minutes

One of the Common Core shifts is to introduce and use more informational texts. Introducing more informational texts is important because as we get older most of the text we read is informational. The earlier students begin to be exposed to informational texts, the more time they have to learn how to pull the information from it and internalize that information. My teaching will focus on what informational text has to offer to my students, and how my students can learn from this type of text. Students will be able to critically think, analyze, and learn more about the world around them.

This is the first time students in my class will have been introduced to the terms nonfiction and informational texts. Some students may have checked nonfiction books out of the library, but chances are they did not know that it was called nonfiction. To introduce nonfiction we will be working on books dealing with animals. Many of my students are interested in animals, and our curriculum has us learning about the different types of animals.

We are talking about mammals this week so I hold up a book called Mammals, and a familiar story to them, A Pocket Full of Kisses. We do a picture walk, first through the fiction text, and then through the nonfiction text. I ask them to stop me when they see something different about the nonfiction book that they did not see in the other like table of contents, headings, captions, diagrams etc.

Read Aloud

20 minutes

As I turn to the table of contents I explain to them that nonfiction books are to help us learn information about something. "What is this book about?" Since my students don't know any of the text features I start at the table of contents, and explain what it is called and how it is used. I read them each of the chapter titles, and ask them to choose which one we explore. I also have to explain that we do not need to read nonfiction books from beginning to end, although we may want to. I turn to the chapter that they choose, and read through the chapter pointing out the new text features on the pages. As we talk about what is special about nonfiction texts and the text features, I am writing their names on an anchor chart. (We will continue to talk about each one in more detail throughout the week, creating an anchor chart for each).

Guided Instruction

15 minutes

In preparation for the lesson I have prepared sentence strips with features of fiction and nonfiction texts to place on a Venn Diagram. I have included a photo in the resources.

My students will help me place the sentence strips in the correct places on the diagram. We have used Venn Diagrams in previous lessons so my students know that Venn Diagrams are used for comparing. I place the headings at the top of the Venn Diagram, and the students tell me that that side of the Venn Diagram goes with that heading. We also talk about the middle being the part of the diagram that shows the what is the same about the two headings. 

I read aloud a strip and ask where in on the Venn Diagram it goes. I start by asking students to tell me where it goes and how they know it goes there. I pull sticks to choose students, and if the student is unsure, they are able to look through the books for clues. As we get more comfortable with what goes where, I assign each part of the Venn Diagram a number: the informational text side is 1, the middle is 2, and the literature text side is 3. After I read the strip, my students put up the number of fingers to show me which section they feel it goes in. I choose a student to tell me why they think it goes in that section. If anyone chose something different, I allow them to voice their reasons. Then we discuss which is the proper place. This allows me to gauge which students are having trouble finding the similarities and differences. 

Partner Practice

20 minutes

Students get with a partner. I pass out some nonfiction texts, and with their partner they are doing a scavenger hunt. Students fold a piece of paper into fourths and write the title in the center of the paper. In each box they will record one item from their book. They will write down a caption, heading, diagram, and a word and definition out of the glossary. Here is a video of students looking for text features.


5 minutes

On an exit slip (post-it note), students will write one thing they can find in nonfiction texts. They will write their name on the post-it so I can look over them at a later time. I use exit slips as an informal assessment to see any misconceptions my students may have and which students may need further instruction.