Category Archives: nonfiction reading

Diagrams help students read

“Scaffolding” is an educator term to describe teacher actions to help students  learn something new.  Scaffolding could be a series of questions meant to prepare students for what they are to read.  Scaffolding could be a timeline of a topic—say American history—to show where a subtopic—say the Civil War—fits into the big picture.

Scaffolding can also be simple diagrams to help visual learners, ESL students and students with comprehension issues understand what they are about to read or write.  These diagrams help students “see” the organization of a reading passage, or they help students “see” the structure of a paragraph or essay they are about to write, providing clarity.

For example, suppose a student needs to read a biography of Coretta Scott King.  To help the student see the organization of Mrs. King’s life, the teacher could draw a color-coded diagram of important activities in Mrs. King’s life.   Take a look.

This diagram is a simple visual pattern following Mrs. King’s life, more or less in chronological order.  With a little help, the student might see that Mrs. King’s life was private until she married; then her life became public as she worked with her husband on civil rights matters; then her life became even more public after his death as she led efforts to honor him and she spoke and wrote about ongoing civil rights matters.

If each box of the diagram is outlined in a color which corresponds to a portion of Mrs. King’s life or activities, the overall organization of the essay becomes clear.   Color-coding the information is important because it helps visual learners “see” how the reading passage breaks down into smaller chunks.

Whether it is Junie B. Jones’ fear of school buses or why polar bears face a bleak future, a diagram showing students what they will read before they read it allows them to see the big picture and each subtopic in the order in which they will read about it.  For children learning English or children with reading comprehension problems, a diagram can help them understand and remember what they read.

A few students in my class read quickly. What do I do to keep them on task?

You could prepare a quiz ahead of time on the reading selection. Let the quiz focus on the pages to be read.  Ask students to raise their hands when their reading is done, give them the quiz and watch.  Since the quick readers are often gifted students, ask questions not at the knowledge level, but at higher level thinking.  Ask inference questions too which everyone finds tough.  Ask students to write not only the answer but the page and paragraph or line number which proves their answers.  Collect and check the quizzes to know if the quick readers are skimming or truly gaining knowledge.

dhild running with book in hands

You could ask quick readers to outline the reading passage. If it is nonfiction, then the outline could name the way information is presented, such as chronological, problem and solution, cause and effect, or whatever is appropriate.  Then the students could write one sentence per paragraph describing the information in each paragraph.  If the reading selection is fiction, then the outline could state the type of writing, such as description, dialog, action, or whatever is appropriate.  Writing one sentence per paragraph might not work for fiction, but one sentence per scene or character might.  The point is for the students to prove to you that they comprehend what they have read.

You could ask students to choose five words from the passage that they don’t understand or that they think their classmates might not understand and use a classroom dictionary to look them up. Then students should write each word in sentences to show what the word means.

You could ask students to write one (or two or more) questions about the reading which require thoughtfulness to answer. Collect them, shuffle them, and then use them for class discussion or homework.

Notice that all of these assignments focus on the original reading selection and either extend or deepen students’ understanding of it.  Students need only paper and pen and possibly a dictionary to do the work.  If you have the extra assignments printed up to use as needed, you can pass the appropriate one out any time a student finishes early.  And most of the ideas work well in science and social studies classes as well as in ELA classes.

Of course you could always have early finishers take out books and read them.  If the books’ Lexile numbers fit the students’ reading levels, this works.  But it does not enrich the reading lesson, and it could cause resentment among the slower readers who might feel punished for their slower progress.

Books for your child to read this summer

To maintain your child’s reading level during the summer and to avoid the summer slide, make plans now to stock up on good books.

Below are hyperlinks to lists of books appropriate for child readers. However,  the grade or age suggestions might not correspond to your child’s reading level.  Check out books in nearby grade levels too.  If your child is a precocious reader, keep in mind that books recommended for higher grades might not contain suitable content for a younger child.

boy reading on the floorAnother place to find good lists is from your child’s school or from your public library.  In the summer, children’s books tend to fly off library shelves. Reserve books now before your name goes on a waiting list.

Grade 1

Goodreads grade 1 reading list
Greatschools grade 1 reading list
Scholastic ages 6 to 7 reading list
Educationworld geade 1 reading list
ALA grade K to 2 reading list

Grade 2

Goodreads grade 2 reading list
Greatschools grade 2 reading list
Scholastic ages 8 to 10 reading list
Educationworld grade 2 reading list
ALA grades K to 2 reading list

Grade 3

Goodreads grade 3 reading list
Greatschools grade 3 reading list
Scholastic ages 8 to10 reading list
Educationworld grade 3 reading list
ALA grade 3 reading list

Grade 4

Goodreads grade 4 readinglist
Greatschools grade 4 reading list
Scholastic ages 8 to 10 reading list
Educationworld grade 4 reading list
ALA grade 4 reading list

Grade 5

Goodreads grade 5 reading list
Greatschools grade 5 reading list
Scholastic ages 11 to 13 reading list
Educationworld grade 5 reading list
ALA grade 5 reading list

Grade 6

Goodreads grade 6 reading list
Scholastic ages 11 to 13 reading list
Educationworld grade 6 reading list
ALA grade 6 reading list

Grade 7

Goodreads grade 7 reading list
Scholastic ages 11 to 13 reading list
Educationworld grade 7 reading list
ALA grade 7 reading list

Grade 8

Goodreads grade 8 reading list
Educationworld grade 8 reading list
ALA grade 8 reading list

Grade 9

Goodreads grade 9 reading list

Grade 10

Goodreads grade 10 reading list

Grade 11

Goodreads grade 11 reading list

Grade 12

Goodreads grade 12 reading list

How to find the main idea in nonfiction articles

Understanding the main idea of a piece of writing is probably the most important aspect of reading once children understand phonics.  Yet many children struggle to find the main idea.  How can we help them?

  • Ask the children to read the title and any subheadings. Ask the children what those words mean.  Ask the children to predict what the writing might be about.
  • Ask the children to look at any graphics such as photos, graphs, charts, maps, diagrams or other nontextual information. Ask the children what they have learned from those graphics.  Ask them to predict what the reading might be about.
  • In nonfiction, the main idea is often expressed at the end of the first paragraph. Ask the children if the last sentence of the first paragraph tells what the main idea is.
  • In nonfiction, many times the first paragraph or even two or three paragraphs are a hook. They might give hints about the topic of the writing, but they might not tell the main idea.  Ask the children if that is the case with what they are reading.
  • In nonfiction, topic sentences often start the body paragraphs of a reading. Ask the child to read the first sentences of the body paragraphs.  Are they topic sentences?  If so, what is the topic that they are giving details about?
  • In the last paragraph of nonfiction, the main idea is often repeated. Ask the children to read the last paragraph and to identify the main idea if it is there.
  • Reading the first important paragraph (not the hook) and the last paragraph, one right after another, can sometimes help children to discover the main idea. Do both paragraphs talk about the same thing?  If so, what is it?

Some children will understand immediately while others will need many, many lessons focused on the main idea.  If children need more examples, more tries at figuring it out, make sure they get those extra examples and time.  Figuring out the main idea will be on almost every reading test they ever take from first grade to the SATs.

But more importantly, it is a life skill which they will need.

Picture books about voting and elections

With the election looming, this is a great time to read about how a president is elected.  Below are five picture books which get the job done.

Vote!  by Eileen Christelowvote

This book introduces children to the fundamentals of voting, including political parties, campaigns, pollsters, debates, voter registration and casting ballots.  The candidates’ dogs try to figure it out.

Vote for Me!  By Ben Clantonvoteforme

A donkey and an elephant seek votes and after a while, resort to exaggerating, name-calling, making silly promises and even slugging mud at one another.  This satirical view of an election is told in red and blue.

Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchiograceforpres

When Grace hears a woman has never been elected President, she decides to run in her school’s election.  She soon figures out it’s not easy to get elected.

 

If I Ran for President by Catherine Steirif_i_ran

What would you need to do to run for President?  This picture book shows how you would develop a platform, choose a vice president and campaign for votes.

 

1vote2votes

One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote by Bonnie Worth

The Cat in the Hat explains American democracy.  Why are elections in November?  Why do political parties exist?  The focus is on electing the President, all told in rhyme.

For more book selections, go to http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/25617.Children_s_Books_About_Voting

How to make reading nonfiction easier

Here is a pattern I have taught second graders, but  children of all ages can benefit.  It works especially well for reading nonfiction which is usually harder than reading fiction.

boy reading on the floor

First, before reading the text,

  • Read the title and think about what it means. Then look at all the photos, drawings, charts, cartoons, maps and tables.  Try to figure out what they mean.  From all them, try to figure out what you will be reading about.
  • If there are subheadings, read them. Go through the whole article and read them.  If you are reading a book, read chapter headings.  Ask yourself, what is this about?  Try to predict what you’ll be reading about.
  • If there are vocabulary words in the margins or highlighted in the text, read them and their definitions. Say them out loud, and if you can’t, ask an adult how to pronounce them.

Now you are ready to read the text.

  • The most important thing to figure out is the main idea. Often in nonfiction, the main idea is stated at the end of the first paragraph.  But sometimes the first paragraph is a hook, so the main idea comes later.  Reread the title and find words in one of the first paragraphs which say the same thing.  If you own the book, underline or highlight the main idea and in the margin write “main idea.”  If the book cannot be written in, start a mindweb on a separate paper with the main idea in the center.  Or write “main idea” on a sticky note and paste it over the main idea in the text.
  • The next most important thing to figure out is shich details are important. Underline them or add those ideas to your mind web.  It’s easier to study a mindweb than it is to study a whole lot of paragraphs.
  • Highlight or write down the words you don’t understand. Then write down their meanings.  Sometimes there are clues in the nearby words, or the book contains a glossary.  Or you can ask someone.  Or you can use a dictionary.
  • If some idea is difficult to understand, ask someone to explain it.  If you can find a young child’s version of the information, that is a good place to start.  Online sources might say what you need to know in an easier way.

Summer reading book lists by grade and age

To maintain your child’s reading level during the summer and to avoid the summer slide, make plans now to stock up on good books.

Below are hyperlinks to lists of books appropriate for child readers. However,  the grade or age suggestions might not correspond to your child’s reading level.  Check out books in nearby grade levels too.  If your child is a precocious reader, keep in mind that books recommended for higher grades might not contain suitable content for a younger child.

boy reading on the floorAnother place to find good lists is from your child’s school or from your public library.  In the summer, children’s books tend to fly off library shelves. Reserve books now before your name goes on a waiting list.

Grade 1

Goodreads grade 1 reading list
Greatschools grade 1 reading list
Scholastic ages 6 to 7 reading list
Educationworld geade 1 reading list
ALA grade K to 2 reading list

Grade 2

Goodreads grade 2 reading list
Greatschools grade 2 reading list
Scholastic ages 8 to 10 reading list
Educationworld grade 2 reading list
ALA grades K to 2 reading list

Grade 3

Goodreads grade 3 reading list
Greatschools grade 3 reading list
Scholastic ages 8 to10 reading list
Educationworld grade 3 reading list
ALA grade 3 reading list

Grade 4

Goodreads grade 4 readinglist
Greatschools grade 4 reading list
Scholastic ages 8 to 10 reading list
Educationworld grade 4 reading list
ALA grade 4 reading list

Grade 5

Goodreads grade 5 reading list
Greatschools grade 5 reading list
Scholastic ages 11 to 13 reading list
Educationworld grade 5 reading list
ALA grade 5 reading list

Grade 6

Goodreads grade 6 reading list
Scholastic ages 11 to 13 reading list
Educationworld grade 6 reading list
ALA grade 6 reading list

Grade 7

Goodreads grade 7 reading list
Scholastic ages 11 to 13 reading list
Educationworld grade 7 reading list
ALA grade 7 reading list

Grade 8

Goodreads grade 8 reading list
Educationworld grade 8 reading list
ALA grade 8 reading list

Grade 9

Goodreads grade 9 reading list

Grade 10

Goodreads grade 10 reading list

Grade 11

Goodreads grade 11 reading list

Grade 12

Goodreads grade 12 reading list