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Ecosystems #2: Non-Fiction Texts, Part 2

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, student complete work on understanding non-fiction texts. Last week students worked on textual elements of non-fiction books.  Today they will work on non-textual elements in non-fiction books.  If they know how information books are “built,” they will be more likely to work confidently and use them more effectively.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To successfully identify both textual and non-textual elements of non-fiction texts.

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will be able to independently identify and explain textual and non-textual elements of a non-fiction text.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Last week we worked with information books.  We found and checked the table of contents and index.  We looked at heading and subheadings.  Who remembers what the difference between a heading and subheading is?  (Answer: Headings are usually chapter titles while subheadings show us the parts of a chapter.)   Today we will look closely at non-fiction (information) books again.  But, we won’t be looking at the words – we’ll be looking at everything except the words!!  Let’s see how much we can find out and how much we can learn.

2. Main:

Teach elements of the non-fiction text, one element at a time.  Be sure to have students record their findings on their assignment sheet.  The assignment sheet is the same one from last week.  This time, however, have the students work in the section for non-textual elements.

In this lesson, teach students the parts of the book that relate to pictures, diagrams, illustrations, etc.  These are usually:

Non-textual Elements:

  1. Photographs
  2. Captions (descriptions or comments that accompany pictures)
  3. Diagrams
  4. Illustration
  5. Maps
  6. Charts or Graphs
  7. Fact Boxes
  8. Anything else??

It is usually best if the students are seated at tables so that they can open and use their books comfortably.

I usually teach that:

  • Most students can identify a photograph, but very few know the term “caption.”
  • A diagram has labeled parts. This is new information to most students.
  • An illustration is a picture that is drawn by a person, not a picture taken by a camera.
  • Maps usually represent the land or water features of a place.
  • Charts and graphs show relationships in numerical data.  Examples are pie charts and bar charts.
  • Fact boxes isolate and highlight special information.

You will find many more non-textual elements because there is a wide variety of techniques used in non-fiction publishing.

In PYP programs, teachers often write their own curriculum and do not use textbooks.  If this occurs in your school, then children are expected to get information from non-fiction library books.  This lesson, paired with the preceding lesson, is essential for students to be able to work with confidence in non-fiction books.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the children to make sure that their assignment sheet is complete.  If anyone is missing something, ask them to work with a partner to go back and find the missing elements.

Congratulate the children on their work over the last two weeks.  Tell them that you expect them to be able to use non-fiction books easily now!  There will be lots of chances to practice working with the parts of non-fiction books as the year progresses.

Finally, ask the children to gather the books and return them to a central location in the library or return them to the classrooms for further Unit of Inquiry study.

  1. A good supply of non-fiction books on the unit subject.  You need at least one for every child, but I prefer as many books as children in the class plus five or six more, just in case one of the books does not have all the features.
  2. Copies of Student Handout.  (Attached, but you should not need to make copies.   Continue working on the same handout from last week.)

The same student handout is used both for last week’s and this week’s lessons.  Make sure you have the student’s assignment papers so that they can continue this week.

The “Elements of Non-Fiction Texts” lessons can be noisy.  The kids get so excited about what they are finding that there is a lot of talking and sharing.  You may wish to have a little bell or another signal to get the kids to quiet down and pass their books on to their neighbor.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A selection of Unit of Inquiry books from the library or the classroom.

Key Terms:

Fiction, Non-Fiction, Table of Contents, Index, Glossary, Headings, Subheadings, Keywords, Text

Student Handout, Non-Fiction Texts

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