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Believe it or not, nonfiction books are a very popular genre for young learners. Most children are curious about the world around and beyond them. What better way is there to harness a child’s curiosity than by surrounding them with great choices in nonfiction? Plus, with the onset of the Common Core Standards, it is key for students to make connections and demonstrate learning from what they have read. An important way is by writing about what they have learned.
First Grade Common Core Standards/Objectives:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.3 Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of “how-to" books on a given topic and use them to write a sequence of instructions).
Interesting Nonfiction Topics For Young Students
- Animals: sea animals, land animals, prehistoric animals, big animals, small animals, pets
- People: Living or Historical
- Sports: Athletes, Learning a sport
- Places: Famous Landmarks, States and Countries
- How Things Work/ How To Books
These are general expectations and will certainly be tailored to a particular student’s ability. But remember to be consistent in your instructions and keep the bar raised high. Expect the personal best from each child. Most students like the challenge and will respond positively.
- Produce a legible product by using correct letter formation and spacing
- Use correct spelling of age-level words
- Use phonetic spelling
- Use complete sentences
- Begin sentences with capital/uppercase letters and end with correct punctuation
Begin by reading a nonfiction book to your students. Then provide each student with writing paper. The assignment will be for them to write one sentence about the book you read to them. Focus on the “who or what" of the book. So if it is about a person you might ask them to answer the question, “Who is the book about?" For an animal you might ask, “What is the book about?" You can put some key vocabulary words on the board for them to see but don’t just put up a sentence for them to copy. Remind them that a sentence starts with an uppercase letter and ends with a punctuation mark.
Once this is completed add another sentence to the paper asking “where or why". Why is this person important? Where does this animal live?
Continue this type of assignment until the students understand the basics of writing an informational sentence. For more advanced students you can tailor the assignment by requiring two or more sentences for each question. You can add an opinion question, “Why do you like this animal or person?
Writing Projects and Ideas
When you are comfortable that students understand the basics of sentence writing you can vary the activities while still focusing on your objectives. Also, many of the first graders will be able to read independently and can be given an individualized assignment for the books they are reading.
1. Books about the real world build vocabulary. Give each student a journal to write down new words he/she learns while reading. Write a sentence or phrase next to the entry. Include a small drawing if appropriate. Keep the journal all year. It can be divided alphabetically by sectioning off several pages for each letter of the alphabet. Students can write the entries on the correct page in the journal.
2. Provide each student with three file cards to write three facts about the information in the book. Share with the class.
3. Use the same idea as above but instruct the student to write one untrue statement and have the other classmates guess which one is false.
4. Write a friendly letter to the author of the book telling the author what you learned.
5. Write an opinion paper about why you did or did not like the book.
6. Write several sentences with the topic, “What I learned that I didn’t know"
7. Pretend to be a reporter. Answer as many of these questions: Who? What? Why? Where? How?
8. Compare two things/people. How are the two alike? How are they different?
9. My favorite is… Suppose you are reading about a sport, weather, career, state, etc. Describe what is your favorite in the category and why. For example, “I like Florida because it has beaches." or “My favorite kind of weather is sunny and hot so I can go swimming."
10. Sell it! Write several sentences about why your friends should or should not read the book.
Promoting good writing skills is an important part of today’s curriculum. Help your students express the connection they make in what they read. Build content vocabulary by understanding it and then using it in writing assignments.