Lesson plan

Nonfiction Genres

In this lesson, your students will explore the library in search of various genres of nonfiction texts. Teach this lesson at the beginning of the year to familiarize your students with the structure and organization of the library.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Compound Sentences in Nonfiction pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
Grade Subject View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Compound Sentences in Nonfiction pre-lesson.

Students will be able to define and distinguish the various nonfiction genres in the classroom or school library.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students what they think of when they hear the word nonfiction.
  • Have students turn to a partner to respond to the question, and invite a few students to share out. Record students' responses on the board.
  • Confirm or correct students' explanation of nonfiction, emphasizing that nonfiction is a category of text that is based on facts and usually serves to inform or educate people. Tell them that today they will explore different types, or genres of nonfiction texts.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain to students that the three main genres of nonfiction are: informational, biography, and autobiography. Define and show examples of each genre by displaying the bottom half of the Genre Guide worksheet on the document camera. (Note: ideally, you would show one or two nonfiction text examples in each subcategory; preferably ones that students are somewhat familiar with.)
  • Tell students that there are some characteristics that appear frequently in nonfiction texts, including evidence or data to prove that facts presented in the text are true, connections between information such as cause and effect, and supporting details which may or may not compare and contrast the information. Inform students that all of these characteristics are key in making a piece of nonfiction text strong and interesting.
  • Distribute the Vocabulary Practice: Nonfiction Genre worksheet to students and read the directions aloud. Tell students to complete the matching activity with a partner. Review the worksheet as a class to clarify any misunderstandings. Discuss with students which genre of nonfiction book these terms would likely be associated with (e.g., "procedure" would be a term used in informational writing, while "compare" and "contrast" might be used in an autobiography or biography of a person to compare the person to another individual in their field).
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will go on a scavenger hunt to find some examples of each nonfiction genre. (Note: depending on the structure of your classroom or school library, you may want to have students take turns finding the books in small groups. Alternatively, you could show students the nonfiction sections and pull out a pile of nonfiction texts for them to sort.)
  • Remind students that many nonfiction texts include books on science such as animals, or social studies, such as the history of a region, but it is also important to remember that nonfiction texts include magazines, cookbooks, and newspaper articles.
  • Hand out the Discovering Nonfiction Genres worksheet. Have a student read the teaching box and directions aloud.
  • Model how to identify a nonfiction text and determine which genre it falls under. Point out how you use the title, front cover, and synopsis on the back cover of the book to help you categorize it. Emphasize that a biography is written about a person by another person, while an autobiography is written about the life of a person by that very person.
  • Assign students into partners or small groups of three to complete Part 1 of the worksheet.
(10 minutes)
  • Direct students' attention to Part 2 of the worksheet. Read the directions aloud.
  • Instruct students to choose one of the nonfiction book titles they discovered during the scavenger hunt that interests them.
  • Tell students to consider the title, front cover, and back cover of the book to complete the paragraph frame at the bottom of the worksheet.
  • Have students share their paragraph with a partner, and call on a few to read theirs aloud to the class.


  • Provide students with simpler nonfiction texts for them to sort in the guided practice.
  • Provide students with a word bank to complete the sentence frames.
  • Lead students in a small teacher-led group for the independent work.


  • Have students analyze some classic nonfiction texts with the optional Learning Genres: Nonfiction worksheet.
  • Tell students to come up with a list of additional nonfiction genres and select one of them to write a paragraph about why they would like to read nonfiction texts in that genre.
(5 minutes)
  • Hand out an index card to each student and have them complete the following sentence stems:
    • "An autobiography is..."
    • "A biography is..."
    • "An informational text is..."
  • Collect the index card as exit slips to measure students' understanding of the objective.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to discuss the following questions with a partner:
    • What is your favorite nonfiction genre and why?
    • Why is it important to distinguish between the various genres of nonfiction? (e.g., "So that we can figure out what type of book we like to read or to be aware of the variety of texts that are available in the library.")
  • Invite a few students to report their partner's answer to the class.

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