Standard Lesson

Traveling Terrain: Comprehending Nonfiction Text on the Web

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Three 30-minute sessions
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Strategic instruction and explicit teaching of targeted comprehension strategies can allow students to integrate skills into their current competencies, thus improving their overall reading ability. This lesson identifies three skills (i.e., identifying text features of nonfiction text in a Web format, locating specific information, and generalizing information) to be taught in strategic lessons that build upon each other and allow for scaffolding of skills when necessary.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Teachers create contexts for engagement when they provide prominent knowledge goals, real-world connections to reading, meaningful choices about what, when, and how to read, and interesting texts that are familiar, vivid, important, and relevant. Teachers can further engagement by teaching reading strategies. A coherent classroom fuses these qualities.

  • Strategy instruction involves the explicit teaching of behaviors that enable students to acquire relevant knowledge from text. Explicit instruction includes teacher modeling, scaffolding, and coaching, with direct explanation for why strategies are valuable and how and when to use them (Duffy et al., 1987; Paris, Wasik, & Turner, 1991). Fundamental to most theories of intrinsically motivated learning is self-perceived competence (Bandura, 1997; Deci & Ryan, 1987; Harter, 1990). In the domain of reading, students are given a sense of self-perceived competence when they are taught strategies for learning from text (Pressley, 1997).

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.
  • 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.




  • Make copies of the Text Features chart, Scavenger Hunt handout, and Connecting Concepts graphic organizer.

  • Schedule access to a computer lab. (Lessons can be completed as a whole-class activity with one station projected, however, assessment will need to be adjusted.)

  • Review websites prior to instruction.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Identify text features within a webpage format (contents in form of menu, hyperlinks which serve as headings, graphics and illustrations, italics and bold print)

  • Search for specific information within nonfiction text

  • Generalize information to related topics

Session 1

Introduce the Missouri Botanical Gardens/Evergreen Project website. Explain how this website is similar to text features in nonfiction texts. These text features include clues to help the reader understand the information that is presented. Students then complete the Text Features chart as you describe each feature. Space is provided for additional features if desired.

Define keywords that appear on the chart, such as:

  • Hyperlink—mouse control turns into a hand when rolled over the link, then the user can click and move to another page.

  • Menu—words or phrases that appear in a list format

The completed chart below explains the text features to be discussed.

Text feature Website format Purpose-How does it help me read and understand the information?

Table of contents Menu with hyperlinks (Sometimes marked with a home icon that looks like a house. If I see this, I can click on it and return to the menu anytime during my reading.) This provides me with a list of information included in the text.
Headings Headings (no difference) I can read a brief phrase that tells me what information I will find in the paragraph below it.
Bold or italicized words Bold or italicized words (sometimes these are hyperlinks) These are important terms that I must be able to define so I can understand the information.

Graphics/illustrations Graphics/illustrations (sometimes hyperlinks that explain more or enlarge picture) A picture, graph, or chart that provides me more information OR arranges the information in a visual format so I might understand it better.

Pages Navigation buttons (often look like arrows) In a book I must turn between pages to organize the information; on a webpage I click on buttons to determine how I view the information.

You can complete this chart as a whole-class activity or provide some information on the chart and allow students to identify features in a guided practice format.

Session 2

Students can work independently or in pairs to complete the Scavenger Hunt handout. The focus of the activity is for students to locate specific information within the text. Questions begin very simply where only one link must be clicked to locate the answer and progress to where three links are required to arrive at the page with the answer. A teacher's key is included to provide not only the answers, but also the hyperlink icon labels that create the path leading to where the information is in the text.

Session 3

Use the Connecting Concepts Organizer (bubble chart) to guide students in generalizing the biome information and comprehending how human interaction impacts the environment. Students should identify two facts that illustrate destruction or endangerment to the biome and then synthesize how human interaction is causing this. Then they should develop an action that could help to solve the problem. Have students use the facts they wrote in the appropriate bubbles to write two paragraphs. (Rainforest, grassland, wetlands, and shorelines are the best biomes in the site for accomplishing this task.)


  • Use this same format with different subject area websites. Be careful to ensure text is presented at the reading level of your students.

Some suggested sites:

Enchanted Learning - dinosaurs

Kiddyhouse - farm animals

Geographia - countries of the world

Ben's Guide - government

  • Continue investigating other forms of information by viewing videotapes that support the Missouri Botanical Gardens/Evergreen Project.

    You may also want to check your media resources for videos that were created to accompany the Missouri Botanical Gardens/Evergreen Project site. These videos are currently being repackaged for marketing and are unavailable but have been previously sold since the early 1990s. The video education quality is excellent for this grade level band.

  • Compare information found on the website with that in a textbook, checking for accuracy and observing what information was included in each. (Was it the same or different? If different, how?)

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Session 1 - Text features. Review the Text Features chart created for understanding of text functions. Observe utilization of text organization to locate specific observation.

  • Session 2 - Locating information. Chart at which levels student was successful in locating information.

  • Session 3 - Generalizing information. Utilize a rubric to assess student's ability to generalize:

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