ELA Monthly Digest

Charles VerheyELA

Nonfiction—More Than Just Textbooks

I don’t know about you, but in undergrad for Secondary English Education, I had to take tons of literature classes. But I was never required to take a nonfiction class. It wasn’t until much later in adulthood that I realized the joy that can come from reading a nonfiction book. So, with limited experiences as a student and reader of nonfiction, it was really challenging to figure out how to teach it.

Explicitly teaching nonfiction texts is important because most people interact with nonfiction texts on an almost daily basis. As students, kids have textbooks and other educational resources that present them with facts and information. But as adult members of society, they will interact with news sources, magazines, op-ed pieces, and nonfiction books that may present an argument or may be impacted by bias.

For example, in Nickel and Dimed, the author, Barbara Ehrenreich, has a point she is trying to prove—that hourly workers are paid too little. If a student reads this book and does not realize that Ehrenreich’s argument and point of view impact what information she has chosen to share with her readers, then that student can easily be persuaded—without being aware that they were persuaded in the first place! 

Teaching nonfiction is so much more than text structures and features. Students need to be prepared to read these nonfiction texts with a different mindset. They can enjoy them, of course, but students must learn how to think critically about the information—how it is being presented, and by whom.

Informational Text Middle School Classroom

Click the picture below to shop all informational text middle school resources.

Why Current Events Are an Important Resource for the Informational Text Standards

Current events are not exclusive to Social Studies but are relevant to all disciplines of study, especially ELA. While not all students have a natural interest in current events, they need to know what is happening in the world around them. In today’s society, young people are consumed by social media, and oftentimes it is their main source of news and information. By reading and writing about engaging, genuine news articles, students become aware of real-life issues in an authentic context and hone their literacy skills as a result. 

How do they hone these skills? When students read news articles by authors with diverse backgrounds and writing styles, they learn various points of view and arguments based on concrete evidence, encouraging them to come up with their own conclusions. This improves higher-order thinking skills. In turn, students learn how to evaluate texts in a multitude of ways: understanding and analyzing points of view; establishing main ideas; using rhetorical strategies for persuasive arguments; and exploring controversial issues through class discussions, such as Socratic Seminars and Philosophical Chairs.

10 Lessons to Teach Information Text Analysis at Your Fingertips

The In 10 Lessons series utilizes life skills articles for informational text analysis.