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Lesson Plan

Literature as a Jumping Off Point for Nonfiction Inquiry

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Literature as a Jumping Off Point for Nonfiction Inquiry

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Sessions Three and Four

Session Five

Session Six


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • explore nonfiction topics related to a novel that they have read.

  • work in cooperative groups.

  • brainstorm inquiry questions.

  • conduct research on a selected topic.

  • publish their findings using an online tool.

  • present their research to the class.

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Session One

  1. Since the students will have already completed Tuck Everlasting, begin this session with a wrap-up of the book. Invite the students to talk about the story elements, including characters, plot, and setting. Students can discuss the elements informally or more formally by completing and discussing the Story Map interactive.

  2. Explain that in this activity, the class will learn more about some of the symbols and themes mentioned in Tuck Everlasting with the help of text sets.

  3. As a class, create a list on the board or on chart paper of the different symbols and themes found in Tuck Everlasting. This lesson uses the topic of water as an example of how to work with text sets, but the class can focus on any related theme. Possible examples include the following:

    • Fountains/Fountain of youth

    • Eternal life/Immortality

    • Life cycles

    • Death

    • Water

    • Circles

    • Earth's creation

    • Morals and lessons to be learned

    • Sense of setting

    • Independence/personal growth

    • Greed

    • Family

    • Organization/disorganization
  4. Explain that the class will examine the many references to water (or the topic the class has chosen) in Tuck Everlasting.

  5. Begin the process by asking students the following general question: How is water mentioned in Tuck Everlasting?

  6. Invite the students to find passages in the book to share.

  7. Record students' answers on the board or on chart paper. Their responses may include the following:

    • the spring

    • the fishing lake/pond

    • ocean

    • stream

    • the water cycle

    • damp weather

    • the rain

    • tears from crying

    • sweat

    • dishwater/washtubs

    • flowers in vases of water
  8. Invite students to share examples of water in their own lives.

  9. Record their answers in a separate section on the board or on chart paper.

  10. Explain that the class will explore some of these water subtopics in the following session using text sets.

  11. Share a definition of texts sets:

    Text sets are collections of resources from different genre, media, and levels of reading difficulty that are designed to be supportive of the learning of readers with a range of experiences and interests. A text-set collection focuses on one concept or topic and can include includes multiple genres such as books, charts and maps, informational pamphlets, poetry and songs, photographs, non-fiction books, almanacs or encyclopedias.
  12. Invite students to adapt and revise the definition to fit their project.

  13. "Walk and talk" the students through an example text set so they can see the different resources found in one.

  14. Model the way that you read and examine each of the texts found in the text set.

  15. Before the next session begins, compile text sets on the appropriate water topics brainstormed by the students. If desired, refer to the booklist for titles about water. Additional texts such as magazines, pamphlets, photographs, maps, charts, etc. should also be collected.

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Session Two

  1. Before this session begins, compile text sets on the water topics brainstormed by the students. Select items included on the booklist as well as other forms of texts (audio, video, and so forth).

  2. When the students are present, share the list of water subtopics compiled in the previous session, and explain that the topics are the focus of the text sets.

  3. In a way that compliments the management style of the classroom, have students pick a topic they would like to learn more about, or assign groups and topics.

  4. Once inquiry groups are formed, ask students to browse through and examine the text sets for a set amount of time (e.g., 15 to 20 minutes).

  5. While the students are exploring, walk around and monitor their progress. Listen to the conversations the groups are having about their topic.

  6. Towards the end of the session, ask each of the groups to write down questions that they want to answer about their topic. These questions and their subsequent answers will be the final project to this text set activity.

  7. Share publication options with the students:

    • Flip Book: students can include a title page and up to 9 question and answer pages.

    • Stapleless Book: This booklet includes six inside pages, in addition to a front and back cover.

    • Multigenre Mapper: Keeping with the multigenre theme of text sets, students have an area in which to draw and three areas for text.
  8. Once the students have seen the different options for publishing, share the rubric with the students so they know what their goals and targets are.

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Sessions Three and Four

  1. Invite students to share any observations they have from their explorations of the text sets.

  2. Explain that for the next two sessions, the class will use the text sets to find answers to the questions that were brainstormed in Session Two.

  3. If needed, the teacher can hold a mini-lesson on notetaking in research.

  4. While the students are conducting their research and using the resources from their text sets, assist students as needed. You can also be take anecdotal notes on students' work.

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Session Five

  1. Once students have found all of the answers they can for their questions, begin the process of publishing their findings, using the Flip Book, Stapleless Book or Multigenre Mapper.

  2. Demonstrate the tool that you have chosen and provide assistance as students work.

  3. Keep a copy of the rubric available for the students so they know what the targets and goals of the activity are.

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Session Six

  1. When the students have published their work, invite them to share their findings with the class.

  2. As the groups of students present their projects, complete the rubric to assess their work.

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  • Invite the students to compile their own text sets on a given topic or theme. The process of finding resources provides an opportunity for students to use their information literacy skills.

  • Since text sets contain materials of multiple genres, it may be interesting to introduce students to multigenre texts-where multiple genres are found within one text. To learn more about using multigenre texts in the classroom, view the "Reading and Analyzing Multigenre Texts" lesson plan or a lesson plan using the Caldecott award winning book Snowflake Bentley. Both lesson plans include booklists of multigenre texts.

  • For more ideas on using text sets in the classroom, see the lesson "An Exploration of Text Sets: Supporting All Readers."

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Observe participation during studentsí exploration and discussion of the text sets as well as while students use reference materials as a part of their research. Monitor studentsí progress and process as they conduct their research about their selected topics. As students present their published research to the class, take notes and assess their work using the rubric.

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