February 4, 2013

The Nonfiction Reader Experience

We have just wrapped up our nonfiction unit in Readers' Workshop.  For the past month, the kiddos have read almost exclusively nonfiction books!  When we came back from Winter Break, I had turned over my library from primarily fiction books in leveled bins (based on the Fountas & Pinnel leveling system) to nonfiction books in subject bins.

Throughout this unit, the kiddos had an opportunity to explore each subject bin.  I created my bins based on the books we had available, so we had bins for Animals, Insects, Plants, Space, Geology, People/Cultures, Biography, How-to, and Holidays.  Interestingly, Animals and Biography seemed to be the class favorites this year.

One of the primary goals of this unit is developing the kiddos' fluency while reading nonfiction.  To do this, we used some videos of The Jeff Corwin Experience from Animal Planet to help the kiddos learn what a "narrator voice" should sound like.  Jeff Corwin is very expressive (as you can see in this clip).  The little guys learned to bring their voice down to a whisper at exciting places in a story, sound dramatic at exciting parts, and slow down a bit when describing important details.

This unit was very popular among the kiddos. They learned how to use post-its to mark their thinking, make connections between books on the same topic, identify the main idea of a section or book, and pick out key details.  This week, the kiddos were able to shop from the leveled bins again, but I noticed that many of them were still eager to choose some nonfiction titles.  It's exciting to see them developing a passion for learning through reading!