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Non-Fiction Reading Activities

Page history last edited by Bill 9 years, 3 months ago

Non-Fiction Reading Activities


At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, the sixth grade science team decided to focus on strategies for integrating non-fiction reading into our classroom.  Looking at end of grade testing numbers in language arts, we noticed that our current students struggle with nonfiction reading and that our school often struggles to challenge our top performing students.  We also know that the integration of non-fiction reading strategies into content classrooms is an expectation in the new common core standards for science.


Our plan for integrating nonfiction reading into our classroom is to order class sets of Current Science magazine -- a nonfiction reader for middle school students that centers around science current events -- or the current events posted on the Science News for Kids website


Each month, we will introduce a separate nonfiction reading strategy to students using the Current Science magazine.  Then, we will use the common assessments in the Current Science magazine to evaluate the effectiveness of the reading strategy that we are studying. 


This work supports Action Step 14 on our school's action steps, which reads: "Every team will work to incorporate reading (print and/or non-print) and writing opportunities into their instruction."






Important Materials



Common Core Reading Standards



This document includes a list of the specific nonfiction reading behaviors that sixth grade science teachers are expected to integrate into their classrooms.  We should use this document to pick the individual nonfiction reading skills that we plan to focus on. 



Current Science Order Form



This order form can be used by teachers to collect donations from parents for Current Science magazines.  Each track should aim to collect $400 -- which will ensure that every group has 40 copies of Current Science to work with.



Current Science Teaching Center



This link connects to the homepage for the Current Science Teaching Center.  Here, you can subscribe to Current Science magazine. You can also gain access to a wide collection of teaching materials designed to be used alongside each issue of Current Science.  We may want to check these materials on a regular basis to see if there is anything that can support our nonfiction reading efforts. 


Current Science Inventory




These two Google Docs are being used by the sixth grade science team to document the content in the Current Science issues that we have on hand at school.  Teachers can use these forms to find issues that contain articles that are connected to our curriculum.  The first link connects to the form that teachers are using to record submissions.  The second link connects to a form that can be used to look up content.  All magazines are stored in drawers in room 2427.



Reading Strategies We Will Introduce this Year


Our goal over the remainder of the school year will be to introduce students to four specific nonfiction reading behaviors.  Those behaviors are designed to (1). give students sets of strategies for tackling nonfiction text and (2). get students thinking critically about the nonfiction text they are reading. 


Teachers ARE allowed to choose ANY science current event to read with their students while introducing these strategies, but the strategies should be tackled in the following order:


Strategy 1: Active Reading Behaviors - Introduced by the end of September.

Strategy 2: Evaluating the Reliability of Experts - Introduced by the end of December.

Strategy 3: Using Statistics, Star Statements and Stories - Introduced by the end of February.

Strategy 4: Reading Nonfiction with a Skeptical Eye - Introduced by the end of March.




Active Reading Behaviors Worksheet

Handout, Active Reading Behaviors.doc



One of the reading strategies that we will introduce to students is the notion of making "active reading comments" while reading. We will ask students to make 4 comments for each Current Science article that they explore.  These comments are designed to focus students and to get them to pay more attention while reading.  They also serve as good small group conversation starters for students once reading is over. 


This handout introduces four types of active reading comments to students, includes sample language for making a good active reading comment, and includes a rubric so that students can self-score their active reading comments.


The key point to get across in this lesson is that readers are ALWAYS thinking while reading. 


The comment types that are introduced in this lesson are the kinds of things that good readers are thinking about.  Introducing those patterns of thinking will make them more efficient readers of nonfiction text.


Common Core Literacy Standard Addressed: By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently. 


Students will provide us with feedback about Active Reading Comments using this survey:




Their responses can be found in this spreadsheet. 


This document contains our team reflection on the data collected after our 2012-2013 student survey.  It can be used to help us polish this instructional practice to make it more useful and approachable to our students. 



Evaluating the Reliability of Experts



To be literate when reading nonfiction, students need to learn to recognize when an expert quoted in an article is worth trusting.  This connects nicely to the idea that interpreting scientific texts, forming opinions and drawing conclusions requires critically thinking about the sources of information that a reader is studying.


To teach this skill, we will have our students use this handout to collect all the direct quotes from an article in a Current Science issue and pair them up with the person being quoted.  Students will then rate the overall reliability of the information based on what they can learn about the source that is being quoted.


The key point to get across in this lesson is that experts can have agendas too -- and until you know more about who an expert is, you can't effectively decide whether or not they are worth believing.  


This is particularly important for readers of nonfiction because bias and agendas DO play a role in what experts say about controversial topics.  A question every reader should ask when they come across a quote from an expert is, "Who is this person and why should I believe them?"


Common Core Literacy Standard Addressed: Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.


Students will provide us with feedback on evaluating the reliability of experts as a nonfiction reading strategy using this survey:




Their responses can be found in this spreadsheet.





Using Statistics, Star Statements and Stories to Persuade



Another skill that students need to learn when reading nonfiction text is that authors use different kinds of evidence to both inform and persuade readers.  We will use this handout to introduce students to the different kinds of evidence that they are likely to find in nonfiction text. 


It asks readers to (1). find examples of different kinds of evidence in a Current Science article, (2). think about the kind of evidence that seems to be the most influential and (3). think about why authors include specific pieces of evidence in a text. 


The key point to get across in this lesson is that authors of nonfiction text use several different types of evidence to make their case -- and those different types of evidence have a different impact on readers. 


Learning to first RECOGNIZE the types of evidence being used to make a case and then to determine the impact of each bit of evidence on readers will help students to think critically about the texts they read. 


Common Core Literacy Standard Addressed: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.


Students will provide us with feedback on looking for statistics, star statements and stories as a nonfiction reading strategy using this form:




Their responses can be found in this spreadsheet.


This document contains our team reflection on the data collected after our 2012-2013 student survey.  It can be used to help us polish this instructional practice to make it more useful and approachable to our students.



Reading Nonfiction with a Skeptical Eye



Many students believe that nonfiction reading pieces are ALWAYS true simply because nonfiction reading pieces are supposed to be full of facts.  The truth is that nonfiction reading pieces – particularly current events connected to controversial science topics – can be biased because they rely on people giving their own personal opinions and/or interpretations of the same set of facts.  That means good readers are always on the lookout for potentially biased statements when they are reading nonfiction. 


We will use this handout to help our students practice reading with a skeptical eye.


It asks students to identify statements in a science current event that they aren't ready to automatically trust.  Then, it asks students to (1). explain why they are skeptical about those statements and (2). what they would do in order to gather more information about the statement that they are skeptical about. 


The key point to get across in this lesson is that all of the evidence in a nonfiction piece isn't automatically true -- and that good readers are always reading like critics, trying to spot evidence that may be biased.


Common Core Literacy Standard Addressed: Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.


Students will provide us with feedback on reading nonfiction with a skeptical eye as a nonfiction reading strategy using this survey:




Their responses can be found in this spreadsheet.




Specific Issue Lessons


October 2012 - NYC Soda Ban


In the October 2012 issue, Bill is focusing on the article about the New York City soda ban that starts on page 16.   If you are teaching this article too, you might want to watch this video advertisement from the NYC Department of Health that is designed to encourage people to avoid sugary drinks.




November 2012 - Mining on the Moon



For November, Bill has chosen to focus on this article -- which talks about the fact that we are running out of easy-to-reach supplies of valuable minerals here on Earth.  As a result, companies are proposing to mine on the moon, on asteroids and at subduction zones on the floor of the sea.  All of those options are seen as better simply because getting to deposits of valuable minerals in those places is easier. 


The key question that Bill had kids wrestle with was, "Given what you know about mining, do you think we should expand mining to the moon and the bottom of the ocean?"


After brainstorming an initial response, students were asked to find statistics, star statements or stories -- one of the four nonfiction reading lessons we're focusing on -- to support their position.  This was interesting because both of the statistics in the article were convincing, but both were also generated by mining companies.  This created an opportunity to talk about bias -- the nonfiction reading lesson for kids is that knowing the source of a statistic is important to knowing whether or not it can be trusted. 


The lesson took one class period to complete. 





Additional Non-Fiction Reading Strategies

Content Area, Reading Strategies.doc


This document -- which is an excerpt from Kelly Gallagher's Deeper Reading -- outlines several common strategies for tackling non-fiction text.  Our science team may be interested in studying the impact of some of these strategies during the course of the year. 





To be completed:


  • Culminating activity -- using Diigo to bookmark articles about an issue, using Noodle Tools to develop a bibliography and writing a position paper on a controversial topic -- needs to be posted. 
  • Add materials on identifying and evaluating the quality of solutions from TiG.


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