I am a firm believer that if a child does not love reading it’s because they are not reading the right books! One of the ways we as teachers can spark student curiosity, and a joy of reading, is to engage them through pairing fiction and non-fiction text.
Pairing both fiction and non-fiction also allows us to teach across the curriculum. Students practice language skills, vocabulary, learn about science and social studies, and it allows them to connect to the world around them. We can use their natural curiosity about the world, and the questions they have, to explore and create deeper connections.
Why Both Fiction and Non-Fiction Text?
In my district, we have a basal that we read from when teaching reading as a whole group. Most of the stories alternate between fiction and non-fiction text. For example, these are the stories from the first unit we read in our second grading reading series (Reading Street):
- The Twin Club (fiction)
- Exploring Space with an Astronaut (non-fiction)
- Henry and Mudge and the Starry Night (fiction)
- A Walk in the Desert (non-fiction)
- The Strongest One (fiction)
Quickly, I learned that students were far more interested in reading the non-fiction more than the fiction. So, I started incorporating more non-fiction text into my reading block, including my read aloud and as mentor texts in writing. The topics often excite them (space, insects, frogs, etc.) and it keeps them engaged longer. This also means they read for a longer period of time, and as a result, are not only better readers but they learn more about the topic.
Here is a list of books that I paired with other stories throughout the year:
- The Strongest One (Reading Street)
- Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg
- Army of Ants (Scholastic)
- Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
- Bats by Gail Gibbons
- A Froggy Fable (Reading Street)
- Amazing Amphibians (Scholastic)
- Tara and Tiree: Two Good Friends (Reading Street)
- Dogs by Gail Gibbons
- Red, White, and Blue: The Story of the American Flag (Reading Street)
- Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
- Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
We are able to have better discussions about reading, as well. I love science almost as much as I love reading. So, I’m more excited about what I’m reading about, which means I show more passion for teaching. We all have more fun in the classroom when we enjoy what we are teaching and learning about!
Read All About It
While reading both the fiction and non-fiction text for the week, I also gather a bunch of books on the topic. Most of my student want to learn and read EVERYTHING about the topic we are reading about. Gathering both fiction and non-fiction books, I collect them from my classroom and school libraries. Then, I place them in a tub for my students to browse through in the morning and put in their book box to read later. Or, if they finish work early throughout the day, they can grab a book quickly to read. They soak up the information like sponges!
Teaching Vocabulary from Fiction and Non-fiction Text
Some teachers explicitly teach new vocabulary ahead of time. I think it depends on how you are reading the story. You’re going to teach vocabulary differently depending on whether you are reading the story as a whole group or small group. If you are reading whole group or in partners, you can pair up students who are lower level readers with higher level readers. When the lower level reader comes across a word they do not know, the higher level reader can help them to stretch through the word.
If you are having them read the text as a small group, you may introduce difficult words ahead of time to have your lower readers spend less energy trying to figure out the word and focus on reading the rest of the text. I do not usually explicitly teach new vocabulary words before reading unless it is a high frequency word. Typically, I have my students read the text first. Then, we review the vocabulary specific to the story after reading as part of our discussion, using context clues in the story to decipher the meaning of the word.
How Do I Assess Learning?
Other activities I have completed along with reading fiction and non-fiction text are KWL charts and Venn Diagrams. My students share what they already know about the topic and what they want to know about the topic before reading. Then, once we have read the story, they identify what they have learned from the text. We also compare the fiction with the non-fiction story, identifying the similarities or differences, creating a chart together as a class.
Finally, we write a paragraph about to story of the week. We retell the events in the story or we write about the non-fiction topic that week by writing a topic sentence and 2-3 details about what we learned.
I share another example of how I incorporate fiction and non-fiction text into my week in my Frogs & Toads Activities post. We read the story A Froggy Fable out of our basal, and spend the week learning about frogs and toads, as well as reading the classic Frog and Toad stories. Enjoy!