Friday, September 21, 2018

Expository Nonfiction: Display It in Classroom Libraries and Read It Aloud

For the next few weeks, educator Marlene Correia and I will be discussing two infographics we created to help get teachers excited about using more great expository nonfiction children’s books in the classroom. On Fridays, we’ll focus on 5 Ways to Share Expository Nonfiction with Students.

Since today is the beginning of this Friday series, we’ll start at the top of the infographic. Displaying expository nonfiction more prominently in your classroom might seem like a small step, but it can have a BIG impact. Here are a few tips:

—Feel free to borrow books from other teachers and the school or public library to enrich your book displays.

—At the beginning of the year, rotate the books you display once a week. During Week 1, feature fiction titles. For Week 2, display narrative nonfiction (such as picture book biographies). And for Week 3, feature expository nonfiction. If you repeat this pattern a few times, students will begin to get a sense of the different kinds of books available to them. They will also get the message that you value all types books equally.

—As the year progresses, display text sets that are related to your current science or social studies unit. Include both fiction and nonfiction titles to appeal to a broader range of students.

Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2 and Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, Grades 3-5, which I co-wrote with veteran educator Nancy Chelsey, can help you identify high quality science-themed picture books that align with the Next Generation Science Standards. You can also look at the annual lists of recommended books from the National Science Teachers Association and the National Council for the Social Studies.

—When your class seems ready, allow teams of students to create their own text sets for display. The books the teams select must have something in common—a theme or concept, a text structure, a writing style, the voice (lively or lyrical) etc. Encourage students to be creative in their choices and then summarize their thinking on an index card. The teams may enjoy asking the rest of the class to guess what the books in their text set have in common.

Displaying expository nonfiction books prominently in your classroom is an important first step in showing students that you honor these books. But to really bring that point home, be sure to feature these books as read alouds too.

One of the best ways to incorporate a rich assortment of read alouds into your classroom routine is #classroombookaday, an idea developed by Wisconsin educator Jillian Heise (@heisereads). It involves taking 10-15 minutes a day to read aloud and briefly discuss a picture book.

Jillian recommends displaying the book covers on a wall or bulletin board, so it’s easy to refer back to them later in the year. For example, students can make thematic connections between titles. They can also compare craft moves employed by authors and artistic techniques employed by the illustrators.
Jillian also maintains a vibrant Facebook group where educators discuss logistics and make book recommendations.

And here are some tips that you might find useful as you develop strategies for sharing expository nonfiction titles as read alouds.


  1. A Librarian partner and I are book talking fiction and non-fiction titles for TEACHERS at our state Soc. St. conference this fall. Making non-fiction possible and available is a passion for us. We are talking pairs as well. The link NCSS link above is only for members. I wish I had access...I used to be in NCSS. However, I limit my $ for Prof. Org to library now.

  2. I love the idea of classroom book a day--it can cross so many genres. Great tips! Thanks, Melissa :)

  3. Jillian Heise is doing such a great job inspiring the #classroombookaday community.