Standard Lesson

Adventures in Nonfiction: A Guided Inquiry Journey

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 50-minute sessions
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These activities provide a foundation for using nonfiction resources for developing and answering questions about gathered information. Using a wide variety of nonfiction literature, students learn to sort and categorize books to begin the information-gathering process. Then, working with partners and groups, using pictures and text, students are guided through the process of gathering information, asking clarifying questions, and then enhancing the information with additional details. Students complete the lesson by collaboratively making “Question and Answer” books for the classroom library. This is a high-interest foundation builder for using nonfiction literature in research as well as for pleasure reading.

From Theory to Practice

In Literacy at the Crossroads Regie Routman reminds us of the importance of "a greater use of multiple texts in reading instruction," to include not only narrative texts, but informational texts as well. Having students find the answers to questions is one way to engage them in making connections between reading and writing, according to Patricia Cunningham and Richard Allington in Classrooms That Work.

The use of self-selected nonfiction texts for pleasure reading, followed by informal sharing and discussion of information, can give a high-interest twist to the gathering of information and can be a jumping-off point for further inquiry and exploration.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • General classroom supplies (chart paper, several colors of broad markers, fine-tipped markers or colored pencils, writing paper, and copier paper)

  • A large variety of nonfiction books



  • All nonfiction books from the classroom library should be identified and isolated from the rest of the books. It would be valuable to have students sort all the nonfiction books by topic categories. (See Book Sorting: Using Observation and Comprehension to Categorize Books, a ReadWriteThink lesson that engages students in sorting books by topic.)

  • Create a "name-drawing" basket by writing each student’s name on a small piece of paper and putting all the papers into the basket. These will be used for the sharing time.

  • For Website exploration it might be helpful to arrange for an adult helper to work with students at computers. Also, the teacher will need to open up a different children’s informational Website on each computer available. This lesson assumes that primary-age students are allowed Internet access; however, if that access is limited to teacher-selected sites and does not allow the use of search engines, have sites bookmarked before the activities.

  • It is assumed that students will have participated in discussions of nonfiction books that have been read aloud to them, especially in regards to helping them learn to "think while reading" by responding to questions such as the following:

    • What do we know so far?

    • What did we just learn?

    • What else do you wonder about this?

    The teacher may want to precede the lesson with such a read-aloud to kick-off the activities.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • browse and skim nonfiction texts to find interesting facts.

  • develop follow-up questions about gathered information.

  • use Internet search engines to find answers to their questions.

Session One

  1. Inform students that they are going to be reading books and Websites that have a lot of information. Explain that they can read alone or with a partner, and that they will be working at the computer in small groups. Give students the following instructions:

    For reading time:

    • Read with a partner.

    • Talk about the information while you read.

    • Look for interesting information.

    • Don’t worry about reading the whole book.

    • Change books when you want, but do more reading than looking for books.

    For Website exploration time:

    • Work with a group.

    • Explore one Website.

    • Look for interesting information.

    • Talk with your group about information you find.
  2. Divide the class into two groups; one group will read for pleasure from nonfiction texts of their choosing, and the other group will explore children’s informational Websites in smaller subgroups.

  3. As students are working, circulate to ask questions about what they are finding. After about twenty minutes, reverse the groups and give students another twenty minutes to explore books and Websites, again circulating to ask questions.

  4. After all students have had time both reading books and exploring Websites, gather them together in a large group circle. Explain to them that you have their names in a basket, and as you draw each name, that person will tell one thing they learned. After all students have shared, ask questions such as the following:

    • What was the most interesting thing someone else found out?

    • Is there any information that is related to information found by someone else?

    • What is one fact that someone found out that you never knew before?
  5. Post a chart paper on the board, and write the title, "Things We Found Out." Tell students that you want to write about eight to ten facts on the chart, either by having students volunteer their facts or by drawing names again to decide. Use different colored markers for each fact. When the chart has several facts and is full, have students review the information. Keep it posted on the wall for Session Two.

Session Two

  1. Gather students together to review the "Things We Found Out" chart from Session One. Post a blank chart paper next to the first one, and label it "Questions We Have."

  2. Starting with the first item on the chart, ask students if they have any other questions about that particular topic. What you’ll be looking for is "follow-up" questions for which the answers will provide additional details. For example, if the first chart says "Lizards can live in the desert," a follow-up question might be, "Where else do lizards live?" or "Where do lizards get their water in the desert?"

  3. On the second chart, write one or two related questions directly adjacent to the original fact, and in the same marker color. When the chart is full, students will be able to track across the two charts easily to read the facts and then their follow-up questions.

  4. Inform students that the next step will be to find answers to their questions, either using computer Websites or books. Review the two charts.

  5. Post a third chart to the right of the "Questions We Have" chart, and label it "Answers We Found."

  6. Explain to students that they will have a chance to look for answers both on the computer and in books. Assign students to specific questions (to help them focus on one thing at a time) by asking for preferences, making sure there are an approximately equal number of students working on each question. Write the students’ names right next to the questions with a pencil.

  7. Generate a discussion about how to find answers to questions. Have students volunteer strategies. Write down some ideas on the board.

  8. Divide the questions in half so that the students assigned to the top half are one group and the students assigned to the bottom half are one group. Assign one group work on the computers using Ask Kids and the other group looking through books to find answers, letting them know that they will be switching after about twenty minutes.

  9. Give each group of students assigned to a question a sheet of paper to write answers on as they find them. As students work, lend any assistance needed. As students find answers, have them continue reading about the subject and to write down any additional facts that are interesting, until all students are finished finding answers.

  10. Students who find answers during the first time session should look again during the second time session, both to verify answers and to compare the ease of finding answers in books with finding them on the Internet.

  11. When all students have had a chance to work with books and the Internet, gather the whole group together again.

  12. Have students talk about their answer-seeking work by asking questions such as the following:

    • What was hardest about finding answers?

    • Was it easier to find the answer on the Internet or in a book?
  13. Going through the charted questions one at a time, have students give their answers to the questions; write the answers on the third chart, directly across from the questions and in matching colors.

  14. When the answer chart is finished, review all information on all the charts, in a horizontal direction: initial fact, question, and answer.

Session Three

  1. Tell students they will be using the information on the charts to work together to make "Question and Answer" books for the classroom library, and that each student will make one page of the book.

  2. To make the books, first assign each student one set of "fact, question, and answer."

  3. Directions for the books are as follows, for each student:

    • Fold a sheet of copier paper in half.

    • Write the original fact and question on the top half of the paper, and write the answer and draw an illustration on the bottom half of the paper.

    • Check spelling with teacher and make corrections as needed.

    • Trace over writing with fine-tip marker or dark colored pencil.

    • Cut the paper in half on the fold, then cut each half into a fun shape, if desired.

    • Glue the fact/question on one side of a sheet of 9x12 construction paper, and the answer/illustration on the other side. (Make sure all students have the construction paper facing the same direction.)

    • Check students’ spelling and make corrections as needed, in pencil.
  4. Compile a complete set of pages for one book and bind into more than one copy so that there are no repeating pages in one book. When the book is read, it will be like a "riddle book," where the facts/questions are read first, and the pages are turned to read the answers on the back of each page.


  • Have students select one topic for further exploration and have them make a graphic display with facts and pictures.

  • Set aside a time each week for the whole class to read from nonfiction materials and share information.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Teacher observation of the following:

  • student participation in discussion

  • reading fluency and comprehension skills

  • students’ ability to paraphrase information

  • quality of "matches" between questions and answers


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