Nonfiction Texts in the Elementary Classroom
As elementary educators, it is imperative to not only have a multiculturally and academically diverse classroom library, but one that was high-interest. An effective classroom library is essential to initiating a lifelong love of reading in your students! With the introduction of the Common Core, the common collective of grade level objectives, teachers were then suggested to ensure that students were reading genres of 50% literature (fictional) and 50% nonfiction (informational). Integrating nonfiction (informational) literature into your curriculum is a nonnegotiable in classrooms today.
One of my favorite nonfiction series that my students and I have absolutely fallen in love with are the National Geographic Readers. I love that the series entails three different levels. Level 1 books are for the students who were starting to read. Level 2 books are for the independent readers. Level 3 books are for the fluent readers. I never found it appropriate to invest or engage with the pre-reader-leveled books, as I found the students in the general setting at least at the starting to read phase. National Geographic absolutely outdid themselves with the series with multiple publications of new topics across the domains. Animals, biographies, science, history, landmarks, STEM, and many others can be found represented by the series. As of August of 2019, National Geographic has published well over one hundred of these titles. They are super affordable as well, I would pick up a few that I thought my students would like each paycheck for $4-5 each. These books don’t kill the bank account, but they absolutely kill it in initiating the amazement that I always seemed to find in my students’ engagement in these readers.
Prior to us discovering National Geographic readers, we were desperate to find a way to reach all of the readers in our classrooms in a way that didn’t waste a lot of time or money. Thomas Edison, who has his own book in the National Geographic Readers series, once said: “Necessity is the mother of all invention.” Thus, our hundreds of differentiated passages were born. In diversifying the text complexities of the texts that we created, more of our students were showing progress in their reading. It was the “cherry on top” when it helped us integrate social studies and science into our literacy blocks, since our daily schedules were already so jam-packed.
Students like choice. Teachers like choice. That is why we heavily-researched anything and everything we could about text complexity in order to have readily-accessible instructional materials in order to reach our students. We both advocate for balance and acceptance, especially with students and their prospective reading levels. We discretely incorporated three different symbols to identify for the teacher, not the student, where the approximate “leveling” of the texts were. A student’s sense of security, sensitivity, and ability is something that good teachers are always mindful of. We planned, researched, developed, edited, revised, and published a wide spectrum of educational content for students, not realizing the massive necessity of differentiated content for teachers around the world. It was been so rewarding to spend the hours of research (literally thousands primary and secondary resources) to develop differentiated passages for students around the world. We know that it counts!
So, how do the books your classroom library stack up? Are you close to the 50-50 fiction and nonfiction percentages? If not, we would encourage you to shop our Amazon Storefront for amazing National Geographic Reader titles or our TPT store to help your students become more comfortable with nonfiction. This helps us continue to be able to create resources for all of our students! This year, decide to try one or two new ways of helping all readers in your classroom feel successful with informational texts!