Literature as a Jumping Off Point for Nonfiction Inquiry

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions
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This lesson uses text sets, collections of multiple text genres with a single focus, to facilitate student inquiry inspired by a fiction book they have read. Students begin by brainstorming a list of symbols and themes in the book. They select a topic on which to focus and search the text for specific references to that topic. Next, they work in small groups to research subtopics within their main topic using text sets. After a brief exploration of the text sets, they generate a list of questions they want to answer about that topic. Finally, students use the text sets to answer the questions they generated, publish their results using an online tool, and present their work to the class.

This lesson uses Tuck Everlasting as an example, but can be adapted for use with any novel students have read or listened to during read aloud sessions.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

When students conduct research in the classroom, they typically use a traditional resource like an encyclopedia in addition to a few books and Websites. Why not broaden students experiences with research and introduce them to the idea of using many different genres and texts in their research? In her article, "Multiple Texts: Multiple Opportunities for Teaching and Learning," Laura Robb states,"Using multiple texts in a single unit has another benefit: students are introduced to multiple perspectives on a topic rather than being limited to the single view presented in any one text" (31). Multiple texts also give students the opportunity to read "multiple interpretations of events, they provide diverse perspectives for the discussion of social, political, and economic issues" (31). While looking at all of the different information presented, students can make connections and form their own informed decisions. Together, this process will deepen students' knowledge and understanding.

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).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • Tuck Everlasting (ideally a class set)

  • Books about Water

  • Completed text set to use as a model

  • Text sets compiled using topics brainstormed by the students




  • Students should have read the book Tuck Everlasting, or the book that you've chosen, before this lesson is completed. They can read the novel in reading groups, literature circles, independently, or a read-aloud.

  • Before Session One, compile a text set that can be used as an example.

  • Prior to Session Two, compile text sets based on the topics brainstormed by the students. Refer to the booklist and the Websites listed in the Resources section if needed.

  • Make appropriate copies of the rubric for the students.

  • Test the Story Map, Flip Book, Stapleless Book and Multigenre Mapper on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


  • 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."

Student Assessment / Reflections

Observe participation during students’ exploration and discussion of the text sets as well as while students use reference materials as a part of their research. Monitor students’ 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.