You will find our newly updated, informational text unit of study here: Writing Unit of Study.
We have created the nonfiction writing unit of study to help guide your students through the nonfiction writing process. The Common Core Standards emphasize the importance of students learning how to pull facts from the nonfiction they are reading as research. This unit is designed to help students learn how to research and how to turn the facts they find into books.
Lesson 1 Noticings (Depending on what you have previously discussed in your classroom, this may be a lesson that can be skipped.)
To work on noticings, you compile a large collection of nonfiction books. You then put students in pairs and give each pair one or two books. The students take post-it notes and record their observations about text features of nonfiction books. This is an activity that can be done at the beginning of every reading and writing unit of study. We have created a nonfiction anchor chart to use as a reference in your classroom: Anchor Chart.
Lesson 2 Introduction to Nonfiction (Again, depending on what you have previously discussed in your classroom, this may be a lesson that can be skipped.)
On this day read aloud the National Geographic Kids book titled Frogs! and Froggy Rides a Bike (or another Froggy book.) After sharing the books, talk about the author’s purpose for each book. Lead a discussion that helps students learn that nonfiction books are written to teach or inform while fiction books are written to entertain.
If your students have not studies nonfiction text features through reading mini-lessons, you might choose to incorporate these lessons into your writing unit: http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/2013/02/11/nonfiction-text-features/.
Lesson 3 Choosing Topics Use our Topic Choice Organizer to help your students brainstorm possible topics for writing nonfiction. Model for students completing the organizer with topics you could write about. After the mini-lesson, have students work in partners or small groups to complete their own organizer. We have found that allowing children to talk as they work through this organizer, helps students brainstorm more ideas.
Lesson 4 Research Practice When students first begin writing their own nonfiction, the research they will be conducting should be simple. For this reason, we have created a Nonfiction Writer’s Notebook designed to help students record their research. Model reading a nonfiction book and recording four important facts. During writing time today, we suggest laying an assortment of nonfiction books around the room and allowing students to work together to practice researching. Depending on the age of your students, you might need to modify this task. Younger students might need books read to them so you might work with groups and read the text to them.
Lesson 5 Using Other Resources On this day, discuss other resources writers might use to research a topic. Among the answers should be asking experts and factual movies about the topic. To practice recording facts while watching a video clip, we used this fun clip about potato chips from National Geographic Kids: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/kids/cartoons-tv-movies-kids/i-didnt-know-that-kids/idkt-potato-crisps-kids/. Students completed a page in their nonfiction writer’s notebook as we discussed potato chips.
Lesson 6 Preparing to Write Pick a favorite nonfiction book that is rich with nonfiction text features. Share this as a read aloud at the beginning of writing. Talk about the features the author chose to use. Share the Nonfiction Features Checklist with students. You might determine to have every student in your class write a nonfiction book with a given number of features. Or, you could differentiate depending on the needs of your students and require a different number of features determined by ability. Practice using the chart by going through the book you read to determine the number of features the author used.
Lesson 7 Turning Facts Into Writing Model for your students how you would transform one of your topic and fact pages from your own Nonfiction Writer’s Notebook into a nonfiction book. As you begin modeling, point out when you include the nonfiction text features you have studies.
Lesson 8 Looking at More Nonfiction Again, begin today with a nonfiction read aloud, paying attention to the nonfiction text features. When finished with the reading and discussion, provide students with blank books and allow them to begin writing. As always, during independent writing you will filter around and conference with your students. If you need assistance with completing meaningful writing conferences, we have created a guide you will find here: http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/2012/09/25/writing-conference-guide/.
Lesson 9 Creating a Glossary Students often need help understanding and creating a complete glossary. Many skills go into doing this successfully. We have created a Glossary Practice page to help your students get practice. Return to the book you modeled with your class. Determine 4 or 5 words you can include in a glossary for the book. Have students help you alphabetize the words and model how you will complete the glossary practice page by filling in the definitions.
(The Glossary Practice page may also be used at a center. Provide 5 words on index cards which go with your current science or social studies unit of study. Students can complete the practice page by alphabetizing the words and then writing defnitions.)
Lesson 10 Continue Writing For the mini-lesson on this day, refer to your writing conference notes for a skill students are struggling with. If there is a feature students need more assistance with including, model adding this feature to the book you created or in a new book.
*** Depending on your class, students may need additional days of writing to complete their books before moving on to Lesson 11.
Lesson 11 Revise and Edit On this day, model for students how you would revise and edit the book you created. Talk about ideas for including more descriptive words and adding details to pictures. Have students partner up and read their books to each other. If this is a new practice for your students, you may benefit from our post on Launching Writers’ Workshop: http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/2012/07/22/launching-writers-workshop/.
At this point, you might move on to a new unit of study or go farther in depth with nonfiction writing. If you decide to go more in depth, we have created a research organizer and blank book to help you. You will find these here: http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/2012/05/12/nonfiction-writing-organizer/. This organizer is designed to require more research from your students. It is perfect for second and third graders who need more!
Don’t forget to end your nonfiction writing unit with a celebration! Invite in families or important people in the building. Students love sharing the writing they have created.