Reading to Learn: Students typically make the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” around second or third grade. This is a critical time in cognitive development. By then, students have the tools to decode words and make sense of a passage, but we cannot assume this means they know how to make meaning from what they read.
Nonfiction Comprehension: When teaching students how to make sense of a nonfiction passage or text, there are some reading comprehension skills we should be teaching explicitly. These include (but are not limited to): ask questions, author’s purpose, categorize and classify, cause and effect, compare and contrast, fact and opinion, genre, main idea and details, sequence events, text connections, text features, and more. (See our full product of fiction and nonfiction graphic organizers to reinforce these skills.)
Using Thematic Topics to Engage Students in Nonfiction Comprehension: So, how can you get students excited to practice these skills? One of my favorite ways to capture student interest is to introduce nonfiction text act as companion texts to the fiction books we are using for read aloud. During the fall, many of our read alouds include bats, so this foldable product is one of my favorites to use. This foldable teaches about the differences between bats and birds and can be used with books like Bats at the Library by Brian Lies (or any other in this series), Nightsong by Ari Berk, Bats by Gail Gibbons, or Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (for a full unit of activities for Stellaluna, click HERE). This foldable focuses on activating schema (what I know and what I want to know), comparing and contrasting, and facts and opinions.
How to Use This Product: Print front-to-back and fold above the title “All About Bats.” Either complete this foldable as a warm-up for the fiction read aloud you will use it with, or as an extension activity you do after you have read the fiction book aloud.
- Activate Schema: Students activate their schema by filling out the first flap (what I know and what I want to learn).
- Active Reading: Students read the passage (whole group, small group, in partners, or individually), pausing to write down any confusion or questions they might have on sticky notes. They should make note of which questions get answered as they read.
- Compare and Contrast: When they have finished reading, they will fill out the Venn diagram to compare and contrast birds and bats. They should refer to the passage to find relevant information to include.
- Fact and Opinion: When students are finished with the inside activity, they flip to the back of the foldable and write three facts about what they read, as well as three opinions about what they learned.
- Questions: Students should refer to their remaining, unanswered questions. They write these questions at the very end of the foldable, then, if time allows, they research to find the answers. Sometimes this means they must find another book or article about bats, and sometimes the questions they have might lend themselves to talking with their peers to help synthesize information they have read and create a new understanding of it.
Once you’re through with this activity, you will have explicitly practiced four nonfiction comprehension skills (schema, questions, compare and contrast, and fact and opinion), all within one, quick passage that pairs nicely as a nonfiction companion to any fiction read alouds about bats that you have planned. Enjoy!