Nonfiction text engagement can be difficult to establish with readers. Often students are intimidated by the content specific vocabulary found in nonfiction texts. They may also be overwhelmed by the length of an informational text. Or, students may simply lack interest in the topic of a nonfiction text. All of these difficulties lead to lower engagement. While these all may be a challenge when it comes to nonfiction text engagement, I’ve found a few tricks that help. Read on for ideas on how to improve nonfiction text engagement with your students.
Identify interesting Nonfiction topics
There are a few ways you can identify interesting topics with students, before choosing which texts to display in your classroom. The purpose of each of these activities is to find out what interests students, so that you can increase nonfiction text engagement.
Brainstorm ideas and topics together, as a whole class, in small groups, or with partners. You can provide general topics first, such as: people, events, years in history, animals, etc. You can even create a calendar together first, listing different focuses for each month, such as Black History Month in February. As the list grows, you can continue to add to the calendar together, with a list of monthly holidays, themes, events, etc.
Once some topics have been identified, you can create a web together, to show all the ideas.
The web can begin with general ideas and topics. Then, you should get more specific as a class, about each topic. Your web may start off with just one idea, and then have a bunch of other more specific topics.
Using the specific topics that are listed in the web, you can then create a chart. In the chart, students will vote on topics they’re most interested in. The most popular ones are a good place to start, with regard to topics of books you choose to provide students. Even if there are topics that just get one vote, make note of the students who liked each topic. You can then make sure to offer texts that match all the topics.
Typically, once you can identify interesting nonfiction topics, students are hooked and ready to devour new facts about their chosen topic. Then, once they begin learning about one topic, it often leads to identifying another interesting nonfiction topic, that stems from the original idea.
keeping readers engaged with nonfiction texts
The first step in keeping readers engaged with nonfiction texts, is identifying interesting nonfiction topics. However, you then need to move forward with actually studying and reading about those chosen topics.
Students can read about the different holidays, events, in books, passages, online, magazine articles, etc. As they read, have students make note of what they’re learning.
This can be done:
- in a graphic organizer
- in a journal
- on chart paper
- on sticky notes
- in response to specific comprehension questions, for informational text standards
- verbally, in discussions as a group, with a partner, 1 on 1 with the teacher
Using Engaging Nonfiction Texts
It’s important that you are using engaging nonfiction texts. In the last few years, I’ve found amazing nonfiction books from Scholastic, and other sources. If you find a series or type of book that students really connect with, look for more of those texts, with new topics.
The more engaging the nonfiction texts are, the more likely students are going to be excited to read those texts.
You can also include nonfiction reading passages as a source of engaging nonfiction texts. Both my African Animal themed passages and my Guided Reading Nonfiction passages are engaging for students. The topics are interesting and the format keeps their attention.
Just remember that once you can hook readers in to nonfiction texts, the easier it is to get them interested in a new nonfiction topic. Nonfiction text engagement can be a challenge, but when you shift your focus to students’ interests, engagement can increase, quickly!