Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Strategies for Teaching with Nonfiction

The Language Arts article "A New Way to Look at Literature: A Visual Model for Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Texts" (G) explains why nonfiction texts are important to students’ literacy skills. Nonfiction texts are a part of everyday life. Outside the classroom, there are bus schedules, instructions on microwave dinners, and websites with advice on getting the most out of video games. At school there are content area texts for every class from science to the arts. There are sports reports and the latest celebrity news to keep track of. And in a year where Americans are voting on their next president, there are political advertisements, interviews, and voting ballots to read and understand.

Nonfiction texts are truly everywhere, but for many language arts teachers, these texts are challenging to teach. Often more accustomed to the demands of teaching fiction, teachers must tap different strategies to incorporate instruction on the diction, text structures, and other features of nonfiction texts. Each of the ReadWriteThink lesson plans below models effective strategies for incorporating nonfiction texts in the classroom—with projects ranging from inquiry study to strategy lessons, and content areas ranging from social studies to science and math:

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen on the ballots comment, Traci!

kelgarneal said...

I am clicking on the article link and it is not letting me have access. I even read the side bar that said it is free to read for 21days from the blog post. Any help out there with this problem????

Mickey Schafer said...

I was so pleased to read Traci's post this week! As an instructor of scientific writing at the college level, I sometimes bemoan the lack of non-fiction skills students have -- of course, I entered college the exact same way -- with excellent training in literature and humanities writing, but virtually no meaningful training in writing to communicate information to a reader who needs to understand scientific ideas. The forms and structures of scientific discourse are different, and I think are best taught as a separate subject rather than as a comparison to the humanities. Such training would not only prepare students for better educational success, but equip them with the reading skills necessary to make more informed decisions when voting on issues argued through empirical evidence.

Thanks so much for this week's entry!

Traci Gardner said...

Sorry about the error with the link Kelgarneal. It's fixed now. I messed up the URL. :(

shawn urban said...

I agree with Mickey Schafer regarding the need to teach students how to comprehend and communicate non-fiction, particularly non-literature, prose. However, as a professional ecologist, fantasy writer and now teacher, I must point out two downfalls of training in at least scientific writing.

First, scientific writing tends to be episodic and explicative rather than progressive and narrative, making it hard to digest, what one might call "a deeper read". Some of the best and most celebrated scientific papers are narrative in nature. Somewhere along the line, when trained to be literate in non-fiction, we lose some of our ability to write non-fiction narratively. Essay-writing suffers from the same problem, though to a lesser degree.

This brings to me to my second point. I have been writing since I was 11 years old. Before I was trained to scientifically write, my stories flowed; they were vivid with ideas and story. Now, my stories are loaded with detail and precise thoughts; I think about how I write about as much as I think about what I write. My stories are still stories, but the trees overwhelm the forest and my creative writing is harder to read.

Stacy Goldberger said...

Life is interdisciplinary, and unfortunately various types of texts and writing are 'departmentalized.' As Shawn Urban described in his post, many scientific texts follow a narrative format. As an English teacher, I tend to bring in both historical and scientific (although light in nature in content) into my classroom to supplement the fiction that we read. Fiction exists within many contexts, and by teaching and using multi disciplanry, nonfiction texts, we are helping our students get a better grasp of the stories they read while preparing them for reading tasks outside of our classrooms.

Stacy Goldberger