Reading Fiction and Nonfiction

Melissa N. Matusevich

Today we are going to talk about reading. Is anyone reading a book he or she believes is interesting? If so, tell us the title of the book and one sentence describing what the book is about. For example, I am reading a book called Human Brain and Human Learning. This book tells how our brains work and how we learn. Now, who would like to tell the name of a book and give one sentence about the book, just as I did? [Give time for students to respond.]

How are the books we told about alike? Different? [If no one mentions that some of the books were fiction and some nonfiction, bring this up yourself. Write the two words on the board.] What does fiction mean? [Under the word, write descriptive phrases students suggest.] What is nonfiction? [Repeat as with fiction. Clarify as needed.] Good. I see you have a good understanding of these two types of writing. [Some students may suggest that there are different types of fiction. Acknowledge this, but do not spend too much time discussing it.] What books do you have in your desk that are fiction? Nonfiction? How do you know which books are nonfiction?

Think about what you do when you read fiction and/or nonfiction. Whether you realize it or not, we read fiction differently from the way we read nonfiction. For the next part of this lesson, I am going to project a series of statements about reading fiction and nonfiction. As I read each statement, I would like for you to agree or disagree with the statement or add more information that I may have omitted. Here is the first example. "Fiction or literature is read for pleasure and is generally read one time through." [As students agree or disagree, add appropriate information to the statement. Continue with all the statements. (Statements are listed at the end of this document.)]

Today we are going to focus on reading nonfiction. Reading nonfiction takes many different skills, skills both similar to and different from reading fiction. Take out your science book and turn to the first page of the first chapter. Letís look carefully at this chapter. With your partner, discuss how this chapter is structured. Look for bold type, italics, diagrams, and so on. Now, refer to our list of statements about nonfiction. See if you can find examples of any of these statements. [Give time for students to respond.]

When reading pages on the World Wide Web, how often do you believe you find pages that are fiction? Nonfiction? Yes, most pages on the World Wide Web are nonfiction. Do any of the pages you find look anything like the pages in this science chapter? If so, how?

Sometimes reading nonfiction can be more difficult than reading fiction. I know it is for me. One of the books I use in my graduate class is a book about statistics. Statistics is about numbers that represent certain ideas. We used statistics a bit when we analyzed the results of the presidential election. We found what percentage of the electors in each state voted for Mr. Dole and what percentage voted for Mr. Clinton. I find that when I read this book about statistics, I have to read slowly and carefully. Sometimes I read the same paragraph more than once or twice. I take notes to help me remember what I read. I use the same reading strategies for nonfiction we have talked about this morning. I want you to use these strategies, too, because they will help you better understand and remember what you have read.

I have created what I call a generic form. This means the form can be used over and over for many different purposes. The form I am going to give you will be used when you read a nonfiction web page. Here is what it looks like:

Organizing what I have Read

Name:_____________________________ Date:________________

Title of reading selection:__________________________________

1. In a complete sentence, write the main idea of the nonfiction selection you read.
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________

2. In complete sentences, write three supporting details about the main idea.
A._____________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________
B._____________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________
C._____________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________

3. Describe other information given that helps you understand what you read. Examples are charts, illustrations, graphs, tables, etc. Write in complete sentences and tell what you learned from this information.
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________

4. Tell how the information was organized. As an example, were there headings, italics, bold type, etc.? If so, describe this in complete sentences.
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________

On the back, write questions for me if there is anything you did not understand.

[Go over the form orally. As you go over each question, ask students what they believe the question is asking them to do.]

Now, we are going to complete one of these forms together. I would like to you find this URL: http://ny.frontiercomm.net/~bjenkin/ice.htm.

This URL will take us to a science web page that is all about ice. Has everyone found the URL? What is the title of this web page? What do you think the title means? Before you read any further, think what you know about ice. If you donít know anything at all, this is a cue to you to read even more slowly and carefully.

Now, read the paragraphs about ice. When you finish, write the main idea of this selection on the lines provided on your sheet. Who would like to read what he or she wrote? [Comment on the content as well as whether or not the answer is in a complete sentence. Allow other students to share their writing.]

For number two on your paper, write three supporting details about the main idea. You may need to reread the information. Hint: Remember that the first sentence in a paragraph often tells the main idea of that paragraph which is also a detail about the main idea of the entire page. Remember to paraphrase. Who remembers what that means? Yes, it means to write in your own words. Do not copy what the author wrote. [Allow students to share what they have written, as above.]

Now, letís move on to number four. How was the information organized? [Elicit that, in this case, the selection was written in paragraphs with a title. No graphics, tables, charts, bold lettering, etc. were used.] Ask students to describe how this page could be made easier to read and understand.

There is one last step I want you to take when you complete your work. Turn your sheet over to the back. If there is anything you read that you did not understand, write a question for me. You may write more than one question. Who would like to give an example? [End the lesson with examples from the students. Write and project them for all to see. Collect the papers.]

Reading Fiction

Reading Nonfiction

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