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Best Practices: Teaching with Nonfiction

Day 3: Teach Text Features & Read the Selection

Students will:
  • Learn the tools of reading nonfiction (i.e., text features)
  • Use think-aloud strategies to prepare to read the selection
  • Identify graphic aids and understand their importance


  • Overhead transparency of Stopping a Toppling Tower (optional)
  • Student copies of Pre-reading Organizer (PDF) — 1 for each student
  • Sample book with fiction stories (optional)
  • Student copies of Stopping a Toppling Tower (PDF) — 1 for each student


Step 1: Distribute the PDFs and make an overhead transparency for "Stopping a Toppling Tower" if possible to refer to as you discuss the selection.

Step 2: Lead students through the “Read About,” having them look over the article and notice the special text features: title, headings, photos, etc. Have students comment on the differences they see on the article page compared to a page in a favorite story. You might open a book of fiction for them to review.

Step 3: Walk students through the reading tools. As they read about each item, have them identify corresponding features from the selection. Point out that photographs, diagrams, and charts are examples of graphic aids that illustrate information and help readers visualize what is in the text. For example, the photograph helps readers visualize the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Graphic aids sometimes offer additional information that is important.

Step 4: Model think-aloud strategies for pre-reading by asking questions and making observations about the text features.

Example: The title tells me I'm going to read about a tower that might fall. Certain words are boldfaced — these are important, so I'll try to remember them. There is a photograph and a diagram — I can use these to get a clear picture in my mind of what I'm reading.

Step 5: Have students use the Pre-reading Organizer to make predictions about the reading. Discuss some of the predictions that students make; be sure to ask them how or why they formed their ideas.

Step 6: Students should read "Stopping a Toppling Tower" quietly to themselves. Remind them to pay attention to the text features.

Day 1: What's Special About Nonfiction?
Day 2: Prepare to Read
Day 3: Teach Text Features & Read the Selection
Day 4: Teach Text Structure & Reread the Selection
Day 5: Check Comprehension & Apply Writing

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Nonfiction Home | 6 Reasons | 5-Day Unit Plan | 4 Sources
3 Comprehension Strategies | 2 Ideas | 1-on-1