Monday, April 1, 2013

Adventure #2--Nonfiction Reading and Writing in 5th Grade

A few weeks ago, my students immersed themselves in nonfiction picture books.  There were many reasons I wanted them to get their hands on some nonfiction.  First, and foremost, because there is some WONDERFUL nonfiction out there right now that is perfect for intermediate grades (4, 5, and 6).  Most of said nonfiction (NF) is in picture book format.  Don't let this dissuade you in its value for children ages 9-12.  Just because the text is accompanied by pictures, doesn't mean it's simplistic in nature!  Some of the NF picture books are quite full of information and require lots of dissection and digestion.  I've found myself buying more and more NF for my classroom library, and our school librarian has made some recent purchases that are right up 5th and 6th graders alleys.  If you're just getting started in your quest for quality NF picture books for intermediate kids, here are some you should check out:

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and her Cat by Susanna Reich

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet

Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland (apparently I have a thing for Julia!)

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh

And ANYTHING by Seymour Simon and Steve Jenkins

Once my students had picked a book to dig into deeply, either with a reading partner, or by themselves, they had time to sit and read and enjoy.  As they read, they had post-it notes at-the-ready to document their thinking.  We've practiced "close reading" (a slow version of reading where you focus on what the author is really saying and your thoughts and reactions to it) several times this year.  As my students read, they read closely by documenting their thinking on post its.  Check out the pictures at the end of this paragraph.  After they had read the book and could tell me what they learned from reading the book, they completed a NF flip book assignment.  In this assignment, they had to write a short summary of the book they read, find and copy five facts directly from the text (this get them back into the reading and shows me that they understand what a fact is) and give two of their own opinions about the topic or person about which/whom they read, illustrate their favorite photograph from the text and write why it was their favorite and how it was significant to the text, create five cause/effect statements (because of X, Y occurred), and identify five vocabulary words that were either new to them or that they deemed important to the context of the story.  Below you will see some pictures of their hard work:

                                 An example of close reading a nonfiction book about minerals.

                                                Close Reading and Flip book Examples

I have a few motives for carrying out this project in my room.  The first is to engage and excite kids about reading nonfiction.  They often think they won't like nonfiction, when in fact, they love it!  That is reason enough to give them time to read and think.  The flip book is simply a different format than a worksheet to check for understanding.  The assignment seems a little more broken down for kids and they can pace themselves easily.  They can start on any section they wish and include some of their own thinking in the process.  By the time students are done with this project, they usually want to read more books on the topic they selected!  That's a homeroom in my book!


  1. I like how you have created a smorgasbord of nonfiction books for your kids to read. I was thinking about doing something similar after break. You've provided a really nice structure for how to set up a sort of nonfiction inquiry.

    Here's another idea--what if kids picked 1-3 things they learned in their books to research more deeply (segway into research project)? I'm reading a book called Nonfiction Mentor Texts, and that's one of the ideas they suggest...except in their book, the teacher has read a nonfiction mentor text as a class read aloud...I think your approach is better, in this regard.

    Cool stuff--keep posting!

  2. Great idea, Noah! I love the idea of guiding kids toward research ideas, but allowing them a choice in what they do. There's so much more meaning that way. I, too, have the book Nonfiction Mentor Texts, but it's on my TBR pile. You'll have to let me know what you think about it.