Wednesday, October 25, 2017

5 Ways to Share More Nonfiction with Your Students

For the last six weeks, I’ve been talking about expository nonfiction. I’ve presented a heap o’ research indicating that nonfiction in general and expository nonfiction in particular is more popular among elementary students than most of us might think. Simply put, what the children’s literature community calls broccoli, many kids call chocolate cake.

In the comments of the previous blog posts, on Facebook, and via email, I’ve discussed and debated the body of evidence that’s been building up for years but that few people seem to be aware of. I’ve engaged in conversations about male vs female preferences for expository writing and even the precise definition of “story.” I’ve emailed PDFs of the studies to at least a dozen people.

In a related post on Betsy Bird’s A Fuse #8 Production blog, hosted by School Library Journal, I described the characteristics of expository literature (high quality expository nonfiction).

All this has been interesting, and what I’m now seeing is positive reactions from two different camps. Some people are overjoyed because they feel validated. Others are realizing that they may have a bias they weren’t previously aware of. So it’s good news all around.

But the question remains: Where do we go from here? How do we move forward?

Here are my suggestions.

1.    Purchase more high-quality expository nonfiction for classroom and library collections. According to experts, a well-balanced collection should consist of 50 percent fiction, 33 percent expository nonfiction, and 17 percent narrative nonfiction/blended titles.

Need guidance in selecting titles? I’ve got you covered.

For the entire 2017-2018 school year, highly-regarded teachers and librarians will be sharing their 5 favorite expository nonfiction titles every Monday on my blog. You can scroll down to see the lists that have been posted since September. There are more coming.

I also highly recommend two blogs—Kidlit Frenzy (Wednesday posts look at nonfiction, especially nonfiction picture books) and The Nonfiction Detectives.

2.    Create three equally attractive, well-lit book display areas (fiction, expository nonfiction, and narrative nonfiction/blended) and label them, so students learn the characteristics of the different writing styles. Encourage students to browse all three areas.
3.    Read nonfiction aloud. If you're doing #classroombookaday, choose a nonfiction title at least once a week, alternating between expository literature and narrative nonfiction/blended books.
Not sure how to read expository nonfiction aloud? Check out this blog post and this one for some suggestions.

4.    Booktalk expository nonfiction. If you’re feeling a little nervous about that idea, here’s one, two, three blog posts that will help you.

5.    Use expository literature as mentor texts during writing workshop. You can find suggestions here and here and here and here.

As you plunge into the wonderful world of expository nonfiction, share what you’re learning and how students are reacting with the colleagues in your building, with people you meet at conferences, and with your PLN on social media. If we all work together, we can help more fact-loving kids become lifelong readers.


  1. These are fantastic ideas! Thanks for another great post on expository nonfiction, Melissa!

  2. Thank you for this insight. I am learning more all the time about expository nonfiction. Need to revise my thinking for my book. Great help - thanks again.

  3. This is great, Melissa! I've been enjoying seeing the various teacher/librarian recommendations, and will look forward to more. I am also a fan of Kid Lit Frenzy & NF Detectives--so many wonderful recs from them!