Nonfiction Excitement!

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We just kicked off our last reading unit of the year – nonfiction/informational text.  Of course, we have been reading and exploring informational text all year in a variety of ways.  However, this unit is our in depth focus, and I LOVE IT!!  Well, my kids love it, and that makes us all love it.

This post is just about the kick off though.  I went down to our school library with a cart, and I got out as many engaging, interesting, super “cool” informational books as I could load on the cart.  I get as much variety as I can find – animals, pirates, tornadoes, the human body, plants, sports, planets, you name it.  (I exceeded my maximum checkout allowance of 100 books, and needed an override to get what I wanted!)  For this I do not worry about reading level at all.  So much of our focus is on text features, and informational texts at lower reading levels are often missing the very features I want my kids to work with.  And, when kids are so intrigued by a topic, they challenge themselves as readers much more than they would in simpler, and often less interesting, texts.

I put together a bunch of tubs of these books and have them spread out around our meeting area.  When my kids walk in, they are, of course, very interested.  I then explain that we are going to be learning all about informational text, and that the first day is all about exploring.  I take some time (five minutes or so) to actually read the title and show the front cover of every book to the class.  I think this is key to building the excitement.  As I read more and more titles, I see different kids light up.  One is over the moon to hear that there is a book all about volcanoes, while another can’t wait to get their hands on the kitten care book.  My kids are usually gasping, cheering, and beside themselves (in a good way) by the time I read all the titles.

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I then let them loose to explore.  Typically in reading workshop I have my kids “shop” for several books that they keep in their bags for a few days.  However, I delay this shopping for a while at the beginning of this unit.  I want my kids to have a chance to see and explore many fascinating examples of informational text, and really discover how many different topics they can learn about.  So, for day one, I call the kids up a few at a time to choose one book to look at.  I explain that they are going to spend a little time reading and looking through that book, and then they can come back to the bins and trade it in for a new one.  This way there is no drama over who got “Mother Natures Goes Nuts” – there are many turns!

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My kids can easily continue this exploration for 45 minutes.  And that is crazy in kindergarten.  They just LOVE it.  I also find that I have to loosen up on the independent/partner reading distinction during this introduction, because they are simply bursting to talk with their friends about what they are finding in books.  They cannot contain their interest, which is amazing to witness.  Here is a group of my boys, clustered around each others’ books.  They are pouring over them, interrupting each other to talk about all the “cool” things they are reading!

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We go on to have several weeks of informational text work, which I will certainly blog more about, but I wanted to share this first piece, as it is so delightful and powerful for my kids.

How do you introduce informational text to your students?

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