Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nonfiction Reading Part Two: Text Structure

In the fall, I read so many books about sharks with my student, who asked me for more shark books every time I saw her. This spring, we created our own book about sharks organized by topics such as habitat, diet and physical characteristics. Many nonfiction texts are organized this way: creating a KWL organized by topics can help students anticipate this type of text structure before they read. I saw a great guided reading lesson at a workshop with Irene Fountas where she demonstrated that a picture book may have both an overlying structure such as a narrative and an underlying structure, such as describing the life cycle of an animal. 

I’ve also been encountering many books such as Surprising Sharks that have a persuasive message, in this case that sharks aren’t as aggressive towards humans as we might have been led to believe. (A colleague calls this structure  “exploding the myth.”) These books often have an environmental message as well. Suprising sharks concludes that sharks should be more afraid of humans than we are of sharks. There are many books like this about other animals; for example, Bats by Gail Gibbons and Seymour Simon’s Wolves 

As an avid reader of fiction from childhood, I’m used to reading for plot and don’t always pay close attention to text structure. I need to plan to be explicit about text structure for nonfiction as my student and I continue to explore books on high interest nonfiction topics.

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