Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Questioning with Nonfiction

Today, at the start of my whole group lesson, I held up the read aloud we've been working through over the past few weeks--The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas. "Why do you want me to read this today?" I asked students. "Share your ideas with your partner."

Well, the general consensus was that they wanted to know what happened. And this is what makes stories so compelling for readers--in the effort to find out what happens, they want to read on.

When readers hit longer format nonfiction, however, they sometimes feel bored or disengaged. I'm not talking about the nonfiction with lots of big pictures and cool features. I'm talking about the longer articles and sustained text that transitional readers have to learn how to read. Many students aren't quite sure of how to negotiate the switch from reading to find out what happens to reading to learn something new.

"This is where our questions help us," I told students. Then, I shared a chapter from a book called The Pledge of Allegiance. It's one that I picked up at a used book sale, one of those nonfiction books that stays in pristine condition because no one ever reads it. "Even if you think that you're not interested in the topic, you can ask yourself questions about what you think you might learn. Then, you're reading to try to find answers to your questions."

I modeled with a chapter, showing how we can leapfrog from question to question, keeping ourselves interested even as the text got longer and more complex. Tomorrow, as students work on reading an article with a partner, we'll look at their questions and see if this strategy helped them to stay connected with the text. Going from reading to find out what happens to reading to learn new ideas can be a stretch...but it is a vital step for fourth grade readers.

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