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Nonfiction Reading Comprehension

When using nonfiction resources from textbooks to written directions, reinforce reading comprehension skills unique to nonfiction including skimming and scanning for data, evaluating information, reading critically for information, using visual and auditory features, and drawing conclusions. Use real-world reading experiences as an opportunity to teach about good directions.

In their book Comprehension Process Instruction, Cathy Collins Block, Lori L. Rodgers, and Rebecca B. Johnson note that nonfiction requires a different set of reading strategies than fiction.

Skim and Scan. Teach young people skills in using the web pages. Provide models.

Think differently about book logs. Go to Book Blast from PowerPoint Sidekicks. Explore the Are You A Reader? example.

Artifact Exhibit. After reading a work of nonfiction, ask students to create an exhibit representing the main ideas presented in the book. Artifacts may include rocks, shells, sports equipment, or photographs. The child uses the artifacts to tell about the book.

Create a graphic organizer to go with the exhibit such as the Kidspiration Simple Machines template.

Scrapbooking. Explore ways to expand traditional writing response activities. For instance, you may begin with a two-column journal listing "What the book said" and "What I think". Expand this to include excerpts from the book and images. Consider activities that connect a book with other materials. For instance "What the book said" and "what I found that supports/contradicts it". Expand this by including concept maps, timelines, Venn Diagrams, sketches, charts/graphs, and other visual elements. Use PowerPoint bubbles to label ideas.

Take screen shots from websites and use bubbles to label main ideas, things of interest, and distractions.

Two Texts. Ask students to read two texts on the same topic consecutively. Make comparisons. Identify the overlapping information. This approach can increase comprehension more than 33% (Block & Reed, 2003). It was also more effective than using basels or fiction.

Use the two texts approach with Internet activities. Read a selection from a web page. Then, read a book. What did the book contain that was lacking in the web page? This approach helps students understand the importance of going beyodnd Google for their information.

Stop and Savor. Because children most often learn to read entire stories from beginning to end, they may not realize how that it's not necessary to read an entire work of nonfiction from beginning to end. Model skimming and scanning techniques using a web-based magazine and a data projector. Demonstrate how to stop and savor a particularly interesting graph, photo, or section of text. Model this tehnique using a variety of nonfiction works such as magazines, newspapers, almanacs, and e-zines. Remind students that nonfiction doesn't demand attention to setting, plot, and characters like fiction. Instead, ask students to think about questions such as (Block, Rodgers, & Johnson):

Encourage young people to think, imagine, and create mental representations of those key ideas they want to remember. Discuss alternative approaches to notetaking including concept maps and diagrams.


Till a Text. Young people need to learn how to find the gist of the content. This approach helps children better predict facts that will appear on future pages, build pictures in their minds, and maintain motivation. Children activate their prior knowledge by skimming the entire text, then selecting passages they'd like to explore. Students are encouraged to stop and think about what they've read.

Community Workers

Attending to Author's Writing Style. Help students learn to understand the structure of a book including the table of contents, headings, and subheadings. Create outlines of the content and discuss why the author may have chosen this approach.

Build pathfinders to guide young people through the nonfiction reading experience. Classification and Taxonomy Pathfinder, Deadly Invaders, and Desert Habitats are examples.

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