Because it received such an enthusiastic response, last week I published a follow-up post with sample book lists. It quickly became the second most popular post ever on this blog. Wow!
Since this is clearly a high-interest topic, I’ve decided to write two more posts, answering a Facebook query from school librarian Laurie Nawor: Could I suggest a lesson for teaching students in grades 3-7 the five categories?
Introducing the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction Children’s Books
Organize the class into small groups and invite each team to gather a range of books on a single topic from the school library. After students have sorted the books into at least three categories that make sense to them, compare the criteria each group used.
Next, introduce the five kinds of nonfiction books. After sharing several books that fit each category, read aloud sections of books that are about the same topic but represent different book types. Here’s one possible text set:Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose (narrative)
Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart (expository literature)
Owls by Gail Gibbons (traditional)
Eyewitness Books: Bird by David Burnie (browse-sable)
National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America by Jonathan Alderfer (active)
Ask the students what they notice about how each kind of book shares information with the reader? Can they identify each author’s intent for writing his/her book? What are the similarities and differences across categories?
Then, if time permits, invite students to dig deeper. Is the focus on each book narrow or broad? What kind of text features does each book include? How do they help the reader navigate the information? What kind of text structure, writing style, and craft moves does each author employ? Does the writing have a distinct voice? How do these text traits affect the way a reader experiences a book?
Finally, send the groups back to the stacks to gather a selection of nonfiction books on a new topic. Invite each team to sort the books into the five types—narrative, expository literature, traditional, browse-able, and active. Did they find examples of all five kinds of books? If not, can they explain why?
Next week, I'll share a lesson that reinforces what students learned during this activity.