Learning Plans & Activities
Learning to Identify, Find, and Use Nonfiction Books

When using nonfiction resources with students, the following key issues should be addressed: identifying nonfiction areas of the library, the meaning of the call numbers (e.g., Dewey Decimal System), how to use nonfiction text features to assist in comprehension, and the difference between fiction and nonfiction. This learning plan will help frame the learning of nonfiction and build upon prior knowledge in relationship to using nonfiction.

INFORMATION LITERACY/ INQUIRY OBJECTIVES:

Linking to AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner:

  • Connect understanding to the real world (2.3.1).
  • Recognize new knowledge and understanding (2.4.3).
  • Show social responsibility by participating actively with others in learning situations and by contributing questions and ideas during group discussions (3.2.2).
  • Read, view, and listen for pleasure and personal growth (4.1.1).
  • Connect ideas to own interests and previous knowledge and experience (4.1.5).
  • Identify own areas of interest (4.4.1).

CURRICULUM OBJECTIVES:

  • Identifying the nonfiction sections of the library
  • Determining what makes nonfiction different from fiction
  • Utilizing nonfiction text features to improve understanding of text
  • Becoming an expert in a nonfiction topic

GRADE LEVELS: 2 (ADAPTABLE FOR 3-6)

RESOURCES:

Books:

Berg, Brook. What Marion Taught Willis. UpstartBooks, 2005. Grades 2-3.
The Library Gingerbread Man. UpstartBooks, 2010. Grades 2-3.
Fowler, Allan. The Dewey Decimal System. Children's Press, 1996. Grades 4-6.
Hopkins, Jackie Mims. The Shelf Elf Helps Out. UpstartBooks, 2006. Grades 2-3.
Miller, Pat. A Pet for Every Person. UpstartBooks, 2007. (Big book and class set of little books)

Materials: 

Call Numbers laminated on 8 ½ x 11 paper
Matching Game-categories and call numbers
Nonfiction Text Feature Scavenger Hunt
Nonfiction Text Feature Memory Game
Nonfiction Conference Sheet (grades 4-6)

INSTRUCTIONAL ROLES:

The school librarian and classroom teacher collaboratively teach the nonfiction unit. In most cases, the teacher will be working with half the class and the librarian will be working with half the class. Then they will switch groups of students and repeat the lessons. In some activities, the librarian and teacher will be role modeling expected outcomes to the entire class. The assessments cover the standards that are focused on for the grading period.

PROCEDURES FOR COMPLETION:

This nonfiction unit could take 3-6 weeks to complete depending upon the background of the students and how many of the activities are chosen to be completed to meet specific objectives.

INTRODUCTION:

The teacher reads aloud a random fiction book, discusses the key features of fiction, and sings the “Fiction” song with half the class. The librarian reads aloud a random nonfiction book, discusses key features of nonfiction, and sings the “Nonfiction” song with the other half of the class. The groups switch and the adults repeat this mini lesson.

These are the songs that can be used to help students distinguish between fiction and nonfiction.

Fiction Song (sung to the tune of “High Ho the Derry O”)

Fiction is a story.
Fiction is a story.
Hi ho the derry o.
Fiction is a story.

Nonfiction Song (sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques”)

Nonfiction, nonfiction
has facts and information, has facts and information.
Nonfiction is, nonfiction is,
not a story.

The teacher and librarian each pick a title to introduce the Dewey Decimal System. They read and discuss the story with their individual small group. They switch small groups and read to the second group and create a Venn diagram, comparing information from each book. Both groups come together to discuss the Venn diagram and participate in a sorting activity.

Sorting Activity

Pick six or more students to pretend to be books that will be sorted. They stand in a line in front of the class, facing away from the class. Have the rest of the class identify their own spines/backbones, and then show them the spine of a book. Spines on students keep the body from falling apart. Spines on books keep the pages from falling apart. After explaining the job of a spine label, place a spine label, sized 8 ½ by 11, on each student’s back with tape (three fiction and three nonfiction labels). Note: In our school we use a variation of labels for fiction books (e.g., chapter and everybody books). So we use two labels for “F” that stand for fiction and represent chapter books and two labels “E” stand for everybody books and represent picture books, and two labels for nonfiction books.

Explain that “numbers” stand for nonfiction. Stress the “n” sound of both words; the fact that nonfiction and numbers start the same makes it easier to remember. Explain the bottom letters stand for the author’s last name. Have the class sort the students, putting the call numbers in alphabetical/numerical order.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION ACTIVITIES:

Practical application activities help the students to use introduced skills. The teacher picks one activity to facilitate in a small group and the librarian picks another activity to facilitate. When the group is finished with one activity, they switch to the other adult for the second activity.

Identification of Nonfiction Areas of the Library:

  • Share with the students how the library signage is useful in helping find the correct aisle or correct shelf in the nonfiction area.
  • Read aloud The Shelf Elf Helps Out by Jackie Mims Hopkins and have the students use the poems in the book to find the nonfiction categories on the shelves.
  • Have students match up call numbers to subject categories with the Matching Game.
  • Have students work in partners to find one book from each of the nonfiction areas.

Activities to teach Text Features:

  • Read aloud A Pet for Every Person (big book) by Pat Miller and point out the different types of text features that help in reading a nonfiction book. After demonstrating a text feature (e.g., captions), have the students locate the feature somewhere else in the small copies of the big book.
  • Give each student a random nonfiction book and have them find the text feature in the random book that is shared in the big book.
  • Have students match nonfiction text features to the definition/example of those text features (Nonfiction Text Feature Memory game).
  • Nonfiction Conferences. The teacher and librarian model how to conference with each other regarding nonfiction books. Each adult picks a nonfiction book and reads it. A fifth grade teacher used the following points for organization of thoughts for the conversation.
    • Prior knowledge of the topic
    • Interesting facts and details
    • Personal connections
    • New vocabulary
    • Opinions related to the text
    • Helpful text features
    • Main idea of text
    Students score the teacher and librarian with a rubric, see Figure 1, below. Each student then chooses a nonfiction text to read for conferring with other students. Once students have read and prepared to discuss their text, they meet in a group of three to discuss the texts. The teacher/librarian observes and scores their discussion with the rubric.
  • Becoming an Expert on a nonfiction topic. Students choose a nonfiction topic through researching online and through print resources. They prepare a PowerPoint slide show. Students create a poster from the slides. The students hang the completed posters in the library and complete a gallery walk. A gallery walk is a time when students spend a few minutes asking questions and sharing comments on someone else’s work. During the gallery walk, the students need to find three interesting facts that they have learned from the other students’ posters.

Adaptations:

The call number sorting activity could be all fiction or all nonfiction to focus on just one part of the Dewey Decimal call number structure. The gallery walk could utilize slide shows if there are enough computers to do so.

STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTION:

Students can be assessed through application of their skills as they identify nonfiction areas of the library. Give them a call number and have them point out the location for the book on the shelf or find the actual book.

To assess students in nonfiction text features, have them complete a nonfiction print conventions scavenger hunt requiring them to find the following in a book:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Glossary
  3. Index
  4. Photograph
  5. Caption
  6. Bibliography
  7. List of Websites
  8. Map
  9. Graph
  10. Chart

For grades 2-3, they locate a-e; for grades 3-4, they find a-g; and for grades 5-6, they identify all, a-j.

In addition, classroom teachers created an assessment for nonfiction called Nonfiction Conferencing “Book Talk” rubric. See the fourth grade rubric example, Figure 1.

PROFESSIONAL REFLECTION:

Using this unit across the grade levels ensures that the focus is on the exact needs of the class/grade level. This unit has really helped me to collaborate with teachers, as they have focused on the assessment piece while I help them to spiral the learning across grade levels.

 

Fig. 1 Nonfiction Conferencing "Book Talk" rubric, 4th grade

Standard(s)43210Score
4.4: Expand vocabularyComplete understanding and extended example.Good understanding and good example.Average understanding and an average example.Below average understanding and very basic example.No understanding or evidence. 
4.6d: Identify the main idea of nonfiction textsComplete understanding and extended example.Good understanding and good example.Average understanding and an average example.Below average understanding and very basic example.No understanding or evidence. 
4.6e: Summarize supporting detailsComplete understanding and extended example.Good understanding and good example.Average understanding and an average example.Below average understanding and very basic example.No understanding or evidence. 
4.6h: Distinguish between fact and opinionComplete understanding and extended example.Good understanding and good example.Average understanding and an average example.Below average understanding and very basic example.No understanding or evidence. 
4.6j: Identify new information gained from readingComplete understanding and extended example.Good understanding and good example.Average understanding and an average example.Below average understanding and very basic example.No understanding or evidence. 
4.6b: Formulate questions that might be answered in the selectionComplete understanding and extended example.Good understanding and good example.Average understanding and an average example.Below average understanding and very basic example.No understanding or evidence. 
Final Score:     __/24
Created by Rachel Beck and Shavone Ferguson, Discovery Elementary

 


About the Author

Andria C. Donnelly, MEd, is an elementary librarian at Discovery Elementary for Loudoun County Public Schools, VA. Donnelly holds a master’s in education from Shenandoah University and earned a credential as a school library media specialist from George Mason University. She is affiliated with AASL and VAASL and is a past president of LASL. In 2015, she was awarded the Potomac Regional School Librarian of the Year and Virginia School Librarian of the Year. Donnelly was a columnist for School Library Monthly focusing on library collaboration and is the author of The Library Collaboration and Flexible Scheduling Toolkit (Libraries Unlimited 2015).

MLA Citation Donnelly, Andria. "Learning to Identify, Find, and Use Nonfiction Books." School Library Monthly, 31, no. 2, November 2014. School Library Connection, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/1967162.

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Entry ID: 1967162

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