choice is a key component of my fourth-grade reading workshop. I
believe that if students have more control over what they read, more
reading will happen. However, more reading doesn't always mean wider
reading across many genres. One of the genres I still see students
struggling to read is nonfiction. Over the past few years I have
increased the amount of nonfiction that is available in my room. At one
time my classroom library had about 20 nonfiction titles. Fiction books
still dominate, but now there are over 200 nonfiction titles.
Yet I discovered having more nonfiction available didn't
translate to more nonfiction reading. If the students are not choosing
these books, why have them in the room? I needed to find ways to get
nonfiction texts into my students' hands without just passing out a
random article to support content studies.
One of the routines in my room is to pick up a picture book
as a break from a longer novel. I encourage my students to not juggle
too many novels at one time. So if a child forgets her book at home, she
will usually choose a picture book during independent reading time. For
many fourth- and fifth-grade readers, having a picture book in their
hands is like having the Scarlet Letter embroidered on their hoodie.
Showing students that a well-crafted picture book is a wonderful break
from a longer book is a good gift to give. And since most of the picture
books that are displayed in my classroom are now nonfiction, there is a
much better chance that high-quality nonfiction will get in readers'
hands during these little breaks from novels.
I also often choose fabulously written nonfiction books to
serve as mentor texts for writing workshop craft minilessons. Even if
kids are working on fictional stories, a well-written narrative
nonfiction piece can be a great model for writing techniques. The books I
choose for minilessons get read and reread many times by students
during independent workshop times.
Book talks are a valuable part of my reading workshop as
well. The past few years I have been much more intentional about sharing
nonfiction titles during the daily book talk that launches our reading
workshop. My excitement about a book will sometimes spark student
interest. This past year I shared over 50 nonfiction titles for book
talks. Some made it into the hands of just one or two readers, and some
were read by more than half of my class.
If you are thinking about
trying to layer more nonfiction into your reading workshop, try using
nonfiction as "break books" and mentor texts in writing workshop, as
well as featuring nonfiction in book talks. These are all authentic ways
to encourage students to choose nonfiction more often on their own.
This week we look at nonfiction in classrooms. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
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