Diagram It! Identifying, Comparing, and Writing About Nonfiction Texts
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This lesson introduces second-grade students to different types of nonfiction writing. Students explore a variety of nonfiction books and compare them to fiction. Students also learn about different categories of nonfiction writing and practice identifying books that fall into these categories. Peer interaction, hands-on experiences with nonfiction books, and the use of graphic organizers facilitate student understanding of the texts. Students record their thinking and new learning and discuss them as a class.
Interactive Venn Diagram: Students can use this interactive to compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction genres.
From Theory to Practice
- Too often, young children are exposed only to fiction writing in the primary years.
- Nonfiction can play an important role in the primary classroom. The texts should include broad topical coverage to meet individual interests and curriculum needs.
- Teachers should encourage independent work with age-appropriate nonfiction texts.
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).
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 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
- Native Americans by Jay Miller (Children’s Press, 1994)
- Native Americans by Judith Simpson, et al. (Time-Life Books, 1995)
- The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin (Putnam Publishing Group, 1998)
- Sitting Bull: Dakota Boy by Augusta Stevenson (Aladdin, 1996)
- Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans by Arlene Hirschfelder and Beverly Singer (Ivy Books, 1993)
- Computers with Internet access
- Chart paper
|1.||Designate a comfortable meeting area in the classroom that will seat all students for group work.
|2.||Label one piece of chart paper with the heading "Fiction" and another with the heading "Nonfiction." Copy the Venn Diagram onto another piece of chart paper. Use a fourth piece to make a three-section T-chart with the headings "Informative Books," "Biographies," and "Autobiographies."
|3.||If you choose to use the Native American theme, obtain and review copies of the following books:
If you prefer to use a different theme, you might use the Nonfiction Booklist to help find other nonfiction texts. You will need to select one book to read aloud from each of the following categories: fiction, nonfiction, informative nonfiction, biography, and autobiography.
|4.||Choose several examples of fiction books that you have read to students before. One of these should fit with the theme you have selected for the lesson.
|5.||Obtain and review a selection of texts from the Nonfiction Booklist, choosing four or five informative books, autobiographies, and biographies.
|6.||Bookmark the Interactive Venn Diagram on your classroom computers. Train at least one child to use this online tool. This could be a computer-savvy student or an older "expert" recruited from another grade level.
|7.||Decide how you will divide the class into groups of three. Make a copy of the Venn Diagram for each group.
- Practice analysis by comparing fiction and nonfiction texts and classifying the latter into autobiographies, biographies, and informative books
- Apply their analysis by creating class charts and Venn diagrams that list the information they have compiled about these different texts
- Demonstrate comprehension by discussing their findings in small groups and with the class
- Synthesize what they have learned in writing
|1.||Gather students in the designated group meeting area. (You will begin all sessions but Sessions 8 and 10 here.) Tell them that you will be discussing fiction books.
|2.||Hold up the fiction books you have set aside. Flip through the pages of some of them and then read one aloud. If you are using the Native American theme, you may choose to read aloud The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin.
|3.||Ask students to list some of the things that they noticed about the story. Questions you might use as prompts include: What do you notice about the pictures? Who is this story about? Could this really happen? Record the students' responses on the sheet of chart paper with the heading "Fiction." After you have written down a few responses, you might invite students to help fill in the chart.
|4.||Explain to students that they have just described a category of books called fiction. Tell them that a fictional book tells a story that is made up. Some parts may be true, but the story did not really happen.
|1.||Review the list from Session 1. Tell them that, during this session, they will be looking at a different type of book called nonfiction.
|2.||Read aloud the nonfiction book you have selected. If you are using the Native American theme, you may choose to read aloud Native Americans by Judith Simpson, et al.
You do not have to read the entire book. You want to illustrate the difference between fiction and nonfiction texts; reading part of the book may accomplish this goal.
|3.||Ask students to list some of the things that they noticed about the book. Questions you might use include: What do you notice about the illustrations? Who or what is this story about? Could this really happen? Record students' responses on the sheet of chart paper with the heading "Nonfiction." After you have written down a few responses, you might invite students to help fill in the chart.
|4.||Explain to students that they have just described a category of books called nonfiction. Tell them that nonfiction books contain real or true information.
|1.||Review the charts you created with the students in Sessions 1 and 2. Tell students that it would be easier to compare fiction and nonfiction if the information appeared together in one place.
|2.||Show students the blank Venn Diagram you prepared on chart paper. Explain that all of the information about fiction texts will go into the first circle and the information about nonfiction texts will go into the second circle. Ask them what information they think might go into the center section. Look for answers such as "stuff that's the same" or "things that are about both of them."
|3.||Go through all of the information that appears on the nonfiction and fiction charts and place it in the correct place on the Venn Diagram. After you have started to fill in the diagram, you may want students to practice filling in the information themselves.
|4.||Using the diagram, talk to students about the differences and similarities between fiction and nonfiction. What do they see that is different about fiction and nonfiction? What appears in the intersecting area in the middle? Why would they choose to read a fictional book? Why would they choose to read a nonfiction book? What type seems most interesting to them and why?
|1.||Tell students that not all nonfiction is the same. Ask them if they have any ideas about what different kinds of nonfiction books there are. Talk about the different things nonfiction books try to do; for example, some of them are stories about people and some of them give facts about history or math.
|2.||Tell students that there are three types of nonfiction that you will be discussing: informative books, which are books that give information about something of interest, for example, skeletons or frogs; biographies, which are books that an author has written about someone else; and autobiographies, which are books about a person written by the person.
|3.||Hold up the informative book you have selected to read aloud. If you are using the Native American theme, you may choose to use Native Americans by Jay Miller. Tell them that this type of book is an example of an informative book. Read through different parts of the book. Flip through some of the other informative books you have picked out.
|4.||Ask students to tell you what things they notice about the informative books. Questions you might use include: What kinds of information are in this book? How is it different from a story? Use your T-chart to record the students' responses. After you have written down a few responses, you might invite students to help fill in the T-chart.
|5.||Go over the responses and ask students why they might read an informative nonfiction book. What could they learn from a book like this? What kinds of topics do they think a book like this could cover? Have they ever read any books like this? Did they like them? Why or why not? What topics would they like to read about?|
|1.||Remind students that you are talking about informative books, biographies, and autobiographies. Explain that biographies are written to tell the reader about other peoples' lives. They are usually about famous people or about people who had an impact on others.
|2.||Hold up the biography you have selected to read aloud. If you are using the Native American theme, you may choose to use Sitting Bull: Dakota Boy by Augusta Stevenson. Tell students that this is an example of a biography. Read through different parts of the book. Flip through some of the other biographies you have picked out.
|3.||Ask students to tell you what things they notice about the biographies. Questions you might use include: What is this book mainly about? How is it different from a fictional story? Use your T-chart to record students' responses. After you have written down a few responses, you might invite students to help fill in the T-chart.
|4.||Go over the responses and ask students why they might read a biography. What could they learn from a book like this? What kinds of people do they think a book like this could be about? Have they ever read any books like this? Did they like them? Why or why not? What person might be interesting to read about?|
|1.||Remind students that you are talking about informative books, biographies, and autobiographies. Explain that autobiographies are written by the person they are about and tell all or part of that person's life story. Some autobiographies are written by famous people, but some are written by people who just have an interesting story to tell.
|2.||Hold up the autobiography you have selected to read aloud. If you are using the Native American theme, you may choose to use Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans by Arlene Hirschfelder and Beverly Singer. Tell students that this is an example of an autobiography. Read through different parts of the book. Flip through some of the other autobiographies you have picked out.
|3.||Ask students to tell you what things they notice about the autobiographies. Questions you might use include: What is this book mainly about? How is it different from a biography? What kinds of things do people write about themselves? Use your T-chart to record the students' responses. After you have written down a few responses, you might invite students to help fill in the T-chart.
|4.||Go over the student responses and ask them why they might read an autobiography. What could they learn from a book like this? What kinds of people do they think a book like this could be about? Whose autobiography would they want to read? Have they ever read any books like this? Did they like them? Why or why not?|
|1.||Review the Venn Diagram that you and the students created in Session 3. Tell students that they will be working in groups of three to create their own Venn diagrams, first on paper and then on the computer.
Note: If students have never worked in groups before, you might want to give them guidelines before the activity begins. Some rules about listening and how to work in teams and with the computers will be vital for successful group work.
|2.||Have the books you selected from the Nonfiction Booklist set up where students can look at them and choose two they would like to compare. Divide students into their groups and then give them time to select the books they want to use for their Venn diagrams.
|3.||Go over the T-chart and remind students that they should write down differences about the types of books they have chosen, not different information that the books contain. You might hold up two of the books and give an example of what you mean.
|4.||Tell students that two of them in each group will be in charge of the books and the other will write on the diagram. Pass out a copy of the Venn Diagram to each group and ask them to choose who will write on it.
|5.||Give students time to fill out their Venn diagrams. Circulate while they are working, stopping to ask questions, provide prompts, or direct their attention to the T-chart and Venn diagram on the chart paper as needed.
For this session, you will need to set time aside for students to work at computers. Computer access will determine how much time you need; you may need to allow groups of students to work during different sections of the day to allow for all of them to have 20 minutes of computer time.
|1.||Tell students that they will put the information they have written about their chosen books on the computer. Show them the Interactive Venn Diagram and explain how it is used.
|2.||Match each group with one student who is trained to use the website. Each group should have 20 minutes on the computer to complete their diagrams.
|3.||Students should print their Venn diagrams when they are complete.|
|1.||Divide students into their groups and ask them to get their books and the printed Venn diagrams. Tell students they will be presenting what they found to the class, and give them five minutes to discuss the following questions: What kinds of nonfiction were the books they chose? How did they use the Venn diagram? Did they have any problems using it? If so, how did they solve them?
You might write these questions on chart paper so that students can see them while they are presenting.
|2.||Discuss the rules you have established about what a listener's job is while the different groups are presenting. Ask each group to tell the other students how they answered the questions and to share their completed Venn diagrams. Allow time for students to ask questions at the end of each presentation.
|3.||When everyone has presented, discuss the lesson with students and ask them the following questions:
Ask students to write a response paragraph that summarizes what they have learned during the lesson. Questions they should answer include:
- What are the differences between fiction and nonfiction?
- What did they learn about the different types of nonfiction?
- What is their favorite type of book and why?
You might also ask them to list one characteristic of each type of writing. For example, fiction writing can talk about monsters and giants, or informative nonfiction tells me how Native Americans live. Encourage them to talk about the different texts they used in the lesson.
- Review science and social studies standards to choose nonfiction books that are appropriate for a range of reading levels. Students should be given nonfiction books that are written at their level and that focus on a familiar topic. Choosing books based on standards covered the previous year may be one way to help in your decision-making process.
- Encourage students to keep their nonfiction collection in a place where they can share or read them with their classmates.
- Set up time for students to work with a librarian to learn how to find the different types of nonfiction in the library.
- Have students keep a nonfiction notebook. In this journal, students can collect information they have learned about nonfiction.
- Use the companion lesson "Predicting and Gathering Information With Nonfiction Texts".
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Observe students during class discussions and their presentations. Do they understand the distinction between fiction and nonfiction? Are they able to identify the characteristics of different nonfiction texts?
- Observe students while they are working in their small groups. Are they able to correctly identify the information for their Venn diagrams? Can they fill them in? Take anecdotal notes about the students' abilities to record relevant information. If there is any confusion, help students make corrections.
- Collect and review each group's Venn diagram and the response paragraph each student completed during Session 10.