Utilizing Those Nonfiction Text Features (file to share)

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We are deep into our nonfiction units in both Reader's and Writer's Workshop. In Writer's, my students will eventually create their own informational text. In Reader's, it's all about reading and comprehending a variety of nonfiction texts.

Speaking of that, those nonfiction text features have a huge part in the comprehension of advanced texts, don't they?


Well, not so much maybe.

My 5th graders know them all by name, they know their various purposes within a text. But were they always utilizing nonfiction text features for information?

I wasn't so sure after a recent benchmark assessment.

Student after student read fluently through the running record book...but completely gliding past numerous charts, diagrams, and captions, all carefully designed to support their comprehension.

vital visuals

So I decided to turn to our science text which is chock-full of important text feature visuals...especially in the section on ecosystems.
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This section was actually perfect for such an activity, as the features are key in understanding consumers, producers, decomposers, food pyramids, and so many other terms the students must learn.

I photocopied selections from the chapter, then blocked out all of the regular text, leaving all of the text features alone on the page:
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I then asked my students our Essential Question for the lesson:

how do nonfiction text features help with our comprehension of informational texts?

(nothing better than the combination of Reading and Science, right?)

After a quick discussion of what we already knew about this question, I handed my students the text-less (new word for you!) chapter selection along with a graphic organizer.

I asked the students to find as many facts from the nonfiction text features as they could and record them in the organizer.
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My 5th graders got to work, highlighting and recording all those facts. I watched them study the pictures and captions very closely, sharing out what they discovered with their teammates.

As they recorded facts, students also demonstrated facts they had already known versus new information:
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(I'm sure you can guess which column had more checks, as was the intent!)

Then we shared out and recorded facts we had discovered on a chart. There were quite a few facts we had learned, and all of this information came before we had even read the chapter! (can you hear me exclaiming this to my class?)

what does this mean to us as readers 
of nonfiction texts?

We then took some time to reflect on the experience and what it meant to us as readers.
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I have learned from my dear friend Jen over at Runde's Room the immense value of reflecting over everything we do in class, so I knew this would be an important closing to our activity. (thank you Jen, I can't tell you enough how you helped me evolve my practice!!!)
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My students realized how much information could be gained from the text features and were able to share this nicely in their reflections.

And, as an added bonus, it turned out to be a wonderful frontloading activity for Science, as we hadn't even read the chapter yet! 

features in the future

In our reading groups, my students now take the time to look all over the page at the various features, remarking on their findings before reading a particular selection.

And to help continue this practice of utilizing features for information and comprehension, we continue to examine and identify our learning from text features across all subject areas. 

would you like to try this? 

I designed the graphic organizer used with my students to be pretty general, in hopes some of you may be able to use this as well.

If you would like to download this file, please click on the image below:

facebook friends?

Before I dash off to plan for the week (don't be impressed, I'm bound to get distracted by something more pressing!) I did want to say I've been making a concentrated effort to share happenings in our classroom on Facebook, since I've been such a intermittent blogger this year. I would love to see you there if you would like to follow!! :)

Thanks for visiting, I hope you can use the file!


  1. Hey Kristen!
    This looks great! I've used something similar, but this will be perfect for changing it up a bit! It's funny how students see the text features, probably look at the pictures, but don't realize what they can LEARN from it. I do think it's important to do lessons like this that only focus on the information there! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Good luck on your plans!
    Collaboration Cuties

  2. Brilliant idea! So simple but so very effective. Thanks for sharing!
    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

  3. I LOVE this, Kristen! Thank-you so much for including the organizer, too. I'm definitely going to do this with my kiddos this week! Mine seem to be a lot like yours - they can name all the features, and tell me information about them when specifically asked, but are they REALLY using them?

    Runde's Room

  4. I really, really like this. Printing now to use for next week, as we are going to move from fiction to non-fiction as our focus. Thank you!!! (and thanks for the detailed explanation!)

  5. Wow! This is exactly what my kiddos are struggling on. Thank you for the freebie and explaining how you taught! :)

    Alexis at Laugh. Eat. Learn.

  6. Perfect! We were just discussing in grade level how we assigned some questions and deliberately used text features to answer them and how many students could not locate the information! Can't wait to try this! Thanks for sharing!


  7. Love the idea of blotting out the text. Thank you!!

  8. Love the idea that they can check off if they knew something or didn't know something with the page number! Great idea :)

    Thanks for sharing a great resource! I'm going to have to save some of this for next year since we've finished our big nonfiction until in January!

    My Shoe String Life

  9. This is such a great idea! When we are in reading, and I ask my students to get out their science or social studies books they think it's the craziest thing! But this is a great concept! I am looking forward to using it with my students this week!

  10. What a great idea! Thanks for making it generic. I will be using it with my young ones.

  11. Awesome! Will definitely use this. Can't thank you enough.

  12. Can't wait to try this out in my class! Thank you!


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