Studying Authors: Nonfiction Writing
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to identify different techniques and features of nonfiction writing that various authors have incorporated into their writing.
Introduction (5 minutes)
- Call students together.
- Show students a picture. Ask them to really examine the picture. What types of things do they notice? Did they notice these at first glance or did they have to look a little deeper?
- Ask students to think about another time they have had to really examine something. (If they need help thinking of examples, rocks, flowers, and bugs are common things that children spend a lot of time observing.)
- Explain to students that today they will be examining different things nonfiction authors have done in their writing to make it stand out, easier to understand, and more interesting to readers.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (10 minutes)
- Pass out the Learning From Other Authors worksheets.
- Go through each of the headings, explaining what information should be included under each.
- Then, take a nonfiction book from the class’ collection. Depending on the length, either read or skim the story with the group. Instruct the students to think about things they might want to include on the chart as you are doing so.
- After reading/skimming the story, fill in a row of the chart together as a whole group. Make sure to ask if there are any questions or things that are confusing.
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (10 minutes)
- Break the class into smaller groups.
- Assign or allow each group to choose a nonfiction story.
- Have each group follow the same process of reading/skimming the nonfiction book and then filling in a row of the chart.
- Bring everyone back together to share their observations and make sure that the different elements of the chart are correctly filled out. Explain to students that they will continue to fill out the chart independently.
- Review any applicable classroom rules and expectations for independent work. Make sure that students are clear about what is happening before sending them off to continue working.
Independent Working Time (20 minutes)
- As students are working, it can be helpful to have a central location for them to return books and select new books. It can also be helpful to designate certain areas of the room for any small groups or partnerships so that they don’t disturb students working individually. To help keep students from having side conversations, it can be useful to play soft music playing in the background. For English as a Second Language Learners, it can also be useful to provide bilingual dictionaries or books in their native language.
- Support: For students who need a little extra support, it can be beneficial to work with partners. Providing a variety of nonfiction books in a range of reading levels and languages can also be useful to help scaffold the lesson for students.
- Enrichment: For students who need a greater challenge, it can be fun to take a trip to the library to choose their own non-fiction books to perform an author study on. Students can explore the nonfiction section of the library with a librarian and get a lesson about how these books are organized on the shelves!
Assessment (5 minutes)
- Informal assessments can be done based on student participation and interactions during class discussions and whole-group activities. Adults should look to see that students are actively engaged and participating in ways that demonstrate an understanding of the discussion.
- A more formal assessment can be done based off of the quality and quantity of information recorded on each student’s Learning From Other Authors worksheet. Key things to look for include noting a variety of nonfiction text features on the chart and a student’s desire to include these in his or her own writing in the future.
- As an additional form of assessment, students can be assigned to do additional rows on the chart for homework. These can be assessed based on the quality and quantity of the student’s notes. They should demonstrate an ability to discern the different tools authors are using in their writing and also an understanding of how these could be included in students’ future writing.
Review and Closing (15 minutes)
- Call students back together.
- Give each student a chance to share part of their chart with the group. Do students have similar things on their charts? For students who examined the same books, did they notice different things? What books did students like the most? Why?
- After students have had a chance to share, it can be fun to brainstorm a list of topics students know a lot about as preparation for writing their own nonfiction literature using some of the techniques they just observed.
- Remind students that writers use different techniques to help engage readers and understand information. For nonfiction writers this can include diagrams, captions, headings, and titles. These are techniques they may want to use in their own writing in the future!