Building student interest in nonfiction

After hearing a sixth grader say, “ I hate nonfiction, Mrs. Miller. It’s so boring. It’s all about dead presidents and whales,” Texas teacher Donalyn Miller went on a mission to engage students in the “dazzling world of nonfiction.” Miller suggests five ways for teachers to build an appreciation for nonfiction in a recent article in the always excellent Educational Leadership magazine.

1. Do more nonfiction book talks:

When endorsing books (with a book commercial or short testimonial) to your class, be sure in include nonfiction books and magazines alongside fiction, poetry, and graphic novels. Showing you as the teacher value nonfiction will increase their awareness and build interest.

2. Read nonfiction texts aloud:

Engage students and build background knowledge by reading nonfiction picture books, poetry, articles, and excerpts aloud to students. Use librarians as a resource to find nonfiction texts that align with an upcoming unit of study.

3. Use nonfiction as mentor texts:

Find nonfiction texts that can serve as writing models for descriptive writing, figurative language, and imagery.

4. Pair nonfiction texts with texts on related topics:

Relate real-world topics by pairing nonfiction with fiction, poetry, and other nonfiction texts.

5. Provide access, time and supports:

Keep nonfiction texts related to the curriculum in your classroom and encourage students to skim these texts as a warm-up to science or social studies lessons. Invite them to locate text features such as maps, charts, photographs, and glossaries.

Find award-winning books, read reviews, and check out blogs and websites to find high-quality nonfiction texts. Miller recommends The Nonfiction Detectivesa blog written by librarians. You can also find nonfiction book lists on our Common Core site.

Photo: MissMessie