Blending Fiction and Nonfiction to Improve Comprehension and Writing Skills
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This lesson supports the use of a text set (paired fiction and nonfiction texts on a similar topic) to increase student interest in and understanding of content area material and to develop critical writing skills. The more familiar format of narrative fiction introduces the topic and generates confidence in exploring the less familiar genre of nonfiction. Students then demonstrate what they have learned about the topic and about genre by writing an original piece that blends together narrative and expository elements.
- Stapleless Book: Students will use this interactive tool to create a short story or diary.
- Comic Creator: Students will use this interactive tool to create a comic strip or cartoon.
- Letter Generator: Students will use this interactive tool to create a diary entry or letter.
From Theory to Practice
- Teachers can integrate language arts, science, social studies, and other content areas by using children's literature as a bridge.
- Beginning the lesson with fiction generates student interest and may facilitate subsequent understanding of nonfiction texts and content material.
- A creative writing activity is a natural extension from text sets.
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.
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.
- 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).
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 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.
- 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
- A fiction and nonfiction text on a given topic
- Chart paper
- Student writing supplies
Before this lesson can be completed, you will need to select fiction and nonfiction texts on a similar content area topic. This topic may be teacher or student generated and can complement any area of your curriculum.
For text set ideas on a variety of topics, you might consult Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site: Curriculum Areas. Also, you will want to research and bookmark one or two websites that would be appropriate for your students to use for additional nonfiction reading on the topic.
- Use fiction to begin discussion of a content area topic and to generate questions about the topic
- Use nonfiction to answer the questions they have about the content area subject
- Conduct Internet research to further explore the subject and to resolve any questions left unanswered by the nonfiction text
Demonstrate their knowledge on the subject and an understanding of the basic elements of fiction and nonfiction:
–By contributing to the creation of a class chart
–By writing an original piece that features both narrative and expository elements
Instruction and Activities
The following outline is approximate. You may need to adjust the number of days depending on the length of texts and how much in-class time you can devote to Internet use. Additional time may also be needed to allow for student writing. Depending on the characteristics of your classroom and the abilities of your students, this writing time will vary.
Session 1: Reading the fiction text
|1.||Using the Know-What-Learn (K-W-L) method, begin class with a discussion of what the students already know about the topic and generate a list on the board or projector.
[Teacher's note: Use of the K-W-L method is explained in the article cited in the From Theory to Practice section of this lesson. The article also discusses several other strategies that work well with paired texts (i.e., Venn diagramming, directed reading-thinking activity, webbing, and activating prior knowledge). You might use any of these strategies as a substitute or supplement in this lesson.]
|2.||Ask students what questions they have about the topic? What would they like to learn? List students' ideas and questions in a separate column.
|3.||Depending on grade level and text availability, read the fiction text aloud or have your students read the text silently. If you are reading aloud, stop along the way to fill in a third column of new facts and information that address the questions asked in the second column. If the students have finished reading silently, generate the third column as a class.
|4.||Are there any questions in the second column still unanswered? In addition, ask students if they have any new questions to add to the list. At this stage, there should still be a lot left to discover. Explain that fiction is enjoyable, but it may not be the best source for gathering factual information. Let them know that in the next class session they will be turning to a nonfiction text to further explore the topic.
Session 2: Reading the nonfiction text
|1.||Review the second column generated by the class in the first session. Is there anything else that can be added to the want-to-learn list before going forward?
|2.||Depending on grade level and text availability, read the nonfiction text aloud or have your students read the text silently. Add to the third column as you did during the previous session.
|3.||Again, review the second column. Some unanswered questions are likely to still be on the list. If all the questions have been answered, ask the students if reading the nonfiction text has generated yet more questions. Continue to expand on the second column accordingly.
|4.||Explain that whereas nonfiction is often better than fiction in answering questions about a topic, not all questions will be answered by one nonfiction text. Provide content materials and Internet access for students to explore other nonfiction sources about the topic. Have them take notes as they find new facts and information to add to the K-W-L chart.
|5.||Have students report back as a class what additional information they have found to complete the third column.
Session 3: Discussing the elements of fiction and nonfiction
|1.||In a whole-class discussion, chart the genre elements of fiction and nonfiction, having students cite examples from the texts and the Internet. Chart responses so that fiction elements are on one side and nonfiction elements are on the opposite side, leaving space in the middle for a chart that will blend elements from both sides. (See Sample Genre Chart as a guide.)
|2.||Prompt students about the possibility of texts having both narrative and expository elements. Ask for textual examples from the paired set and, as a class, discuss the types of writing that blend fiction and nonfiction elements: Are they familiar with realistic fiction? The Magic School Bus series? Can a letter be both narrative and expository? A diary? A comic strip?
|3.||Return to the empty column between the fiction and nonfiction charts. What elements, fiction and nonfiction, can be found in the types of texts just discussed? Chart these elements in the middle column.
|4.||Explain to students that their task will be to create an imaginative work (narrative) that includes facts about the given topic (expository), blending the genre elements of fiction and nonfiction as you have just done in the middle column. Distribute the criteria checklist (or a modified version of your own) to students, so that they are fully aware of what is expected in the final product.
|5.||Encourage students to choose the type of writing piece they will create and later share. Be sure and let students know what form this sharing will take (several suggestions are given in Session 5) and how this portion of the lesson will be assessed.
|Provide a brief time for students to talk out their ideas and share story starters and elements of their writing with the class or with partners. Share possible ideas to get them started.
Session 4: Creative writing
|1.||Provide time for students to independently complete their writing pieces, offering support and guidance throughout the process.
|2.||Encourage students who are writing in one of the following applicable formats to create a final product using an interactive from this website:
|3.||If more time is needed, have students complete their writing as a homework assignment.
Session 5: Sharing
For this part of the lesson, a variety of sharing techniques could be used, such as whole-class presentations, small-group presentations, or partner reads. Other real-life applications could include sharing in the school newspaper, with a younger class, at an author's share or authors' tea, with family members, or in a library display.
The timeframe is also flexible, not necessarily limited to one day. For example, sharing could be worked in throughout the school day, as in a daily morning activity.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Observation, anecdotal notes based on class discussions, and student handouts can be used to assess:
How well students use the fiction text to generate ideas and questions about the subject How well students approach the nonfiction text as a means of gaining knowledge on the subject How well students use the Internet as a nonfiction source to answer their questions
- Note students' contribution to and understanding of the class-generated K-W-L and genre charts.
- Evaluate the writing assignment based on how well students blend elements of the two genres and demonstrate knowledge gained on the subject. (The criteria checklist can aid in this assessment.)
- If sharing takes some form of oral presentation, your classroom or state standards rubric may be applied here.
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