I am going to be teaching non-fiction reading only next year and I need some good suggestions for non-fiction read alouds. I'm going to miss reading fiction this year, but I might as well have fun with the non-fiction too. Thanks.
An entire class on nonfiction. Truth be told, I think we spend WAY too much time reading and writing fiction in elementary classrooms. Fiction is wonderful, and I'm not slamming it (I WRITE fiction, so I'm not slamming it) but really, in the real world, the ability to read nonfiction is really where it's at. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for your students.
Consider that boys often like nonfiction much better than fiction. Lots of boys who are reluctant fiction readers like to read for information.
What grade is this? I'm sort of jealous of the opportunity. My nonfiction reading that I do with my kids is one of my favorite parts of my language arts classes. Give me a grade level, and I may be able to help.
There is a good biography of Squanto (Native American who travelled to England) just called "Squanto", I think. Can you do poetry? What about Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories of her life? Seymour Simon writes great stuff about nature and animals. Jean Fritz does good children's biographies. We read her book "George Washington's Mother" every year as part of President's Day. Maybe you could look at what your students will be studying in social studies and science and try to tie to that.
You didn't say which grade, so that may make a difference in the books you read. But I envy you being able to teach a class like this. Non-fiction reading is a very different skill from fiction reading. Besides sixth Lit/Lang arts, I also teach 5-8 social studies, so I tend to choose more informational books relating to that.
Any books by Russell Freedman (Great photographs), and
Kathleen Krull (makes the kids want to learn more)
Gallo, Donald First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants
Ashbury, Ruth "The Amazing Mr. Franklin...." A longer book. I tend to read excerpts from it.
Scott, Elaine "Poles Apart: Why Penguins and Polar Bears will Never be Neighbors" Great pictures.
Hawass, Zahi "Curse of the Pharoahs: My Adventures with Mummies"
I read excerpts from this. the kids found it very exciting.
These were recommended by the National Council of Social Studies. http://www.socialstudies.org/resources/notable/
By the time the list comes out the books can be purchased used rather inexpensively if your library doesn't have it. (Note: some of the books they recommend are historical fiction) The books I suggested were the informational books I purchased last year. I always try to get 3 or 4 a year.
You might also find this site interesting. At the end they give you sites for booklists of non-fiction read alouds.
In Stephanie Harvey's Strategies that Work, Appendix A: "Great Books and Author Sets to Launch Strategy Instruction and Practice" and Appendix B:"Great Books for Teaching Content in History, Social Studies, Science, Music, Art, and Literacy" list many, many anotated titles.
I think Appendix B would be the list that would meet your needs. The books are organized by content area and then by topic. Actually, I'm looking at the Appendix right now as I type, and I think it looks perfect for you. Do you have access to this book?
Books by Ted Lewin and Jim Arnosky. Ted Lewin writes wonderful books that are photo essays of his travels around the world. Many are about the wildlife he and his wife encounters. Jim Arnosky also does some great picture books about wildlife. He also has a character, Crinkleroot, who is infused in some of his books and imparts the information. The kids love his work. Could you also use biographies as read alouds?
I have read stories from Reader's Digest to my students. I remember reading to the kids a true-life memoir of a woman out hiking alone who was struck by lightning. I think instead of reading entire books to the kids as read-alouds, you can read articles of interest from the internet or from magazines. Also you can use a resource like Time for Kids for current events, science, and social studies topics. Scholastic News and Weekly Reader are similar resources.
I think if you really want to read a book to the kids, or study a book with the kids a biography would be appropriate. Scholastic has a great series that is pretty easy to read and has a variety of people profiled. The books are entitled Who was ..., like Who was Leonardo Da Vinci? The books are really easy to read, informative, and have graphic elements.
When we completed our biography unit this year (4th grade) two favorites were "Shark Lady" by Ann McGovern and one about Louis Braille but the author is slipping my mind. I agree that Seymour Simon books are always a hit.
There are so many awesome biographies out there now you could read about just about anyone the kids find interesting.
Also Jean Craighead George has some great books about One day in the Tropical Rainforest, Tundra, Prairie, etc. There is one that was classified as fiction in here series but all the others are nonfiction.
I teach nonfiction in my reading class all year. I review nonfiction reading strategies all year. We discuss nonfiction features like
titles, glossary, bold terms, captions, graphs, pictures, contents, etc. All those helpful items used in displaying nonfiction information. Because many of my students skip those.
We discuss how most of our reading in the world is nonfiction and it is important that we read nonfiction differently than we read fiction.
I focus on alot of interesting science information- things that are unusual or gross- they like that.
I also have baseball magazines and Chicken Soup books for the students. The girls tend to love the Chicken Soup series.
Baseball or sport magazine shelp students practice graphs and charts which are often on the state tests. Plus many boys seem more interested if they think they might use the information somehow.
There are also some shorter nonfiction books about different authors. You could tie that into an author study if need be.
I can't believe I got so many great reponses. The 4th grade at my new school will be departmentalized and I will be teaching a couple days of math (Investigations and Problem solving), non-fiction and social studies. I wish I could have 5 days a week of non-fiction and social studies. I think it will be fun, and I am hoping I will get really good at teaching non-fiction reading since I didn't do enough of it the last 2 years. Anways... thanks for the ideas.
I am planning on doing a unit on bios since I have quite a few and many are picture books that are great for sharing. I'll look into the other things you mentioned as well. I really want to fit in read aloud time each day, especially since non-fiction read alouds are often neglected. Luckily the school ordered the national geo non-fiction books for me. I haven't seen them yet, but I'm sure they are great. I look forward to hearing more ideas from all of you.
I love watching the news every morning (CNN headline news) but I don't have time to watch/read my local news. Also, I don't usually want to; there isn't much good in the news anymore.
With all that said, kids love hearing about stories in the newspaper. Also, you could make it a class assignment/project to get an article to share (like 1 per week or 1 student per week) and use the skills you taught for non-fiction comprehension. They might not have made the connection that newspaper=nonfiction. My students love when I point out specific articles and read them/show on ELMO.
I agree that nonfiction needs to be read more. I find that as an adult I can sometimes shy away from it because of how much fun and inflection I can put into reading fiction aloud. I am too on the hunt to read more nonfiction to my 3rd and 4th grade classes. Standardized testing has nonfiction passages in it and my goal is moderation. One week I read fiction then next nonfiction. I just read Dog Heroes this past week and the Librarian of Basra last week.