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Exploring Elements of Informational Nonfiction

Lesson Plan

Exploring Elements of Informational Nonfiction


In this lesson, students learn about the elements of informational nonfiction. Students will:

  • identify the text features found in nonfiction and explain their uses.
  • explain how these text features help the reader and support meaning.
  • demonstrate the ability to use text features to skim and scan nonfiction text.

Essential Questions

  • How do strategic readers create meaning from informational and literary text?


  • Text Features: Any visual cues, such as headings, graphics, and charts, on a page of text that offer additional information to guide the reader’s comprehension.
  • Informational Text: It is nonfiction, written primarily to convey factual information. Informational texts comprise the majority of printed material adults read (e.g., textbooks, newspapers, reports, directions, brochures, technical manuals, etc.).
  • Expository Text: Text written to explain and convey information about a specific topic. Contrasts with narrative text.


45–90 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

Prerequisite Skills haven't been entered into the lesson plan.


  • a collection of nonfiction materials, including books, newspapers, magazines, atlases, encyclopedias, recipes, science experiments, and textbooks. Any nonfiction text that uses text features and is at an appropriate reading level for your students will work. Examples include the following:
    • OWL Magazine
    • National Geographic Kids
    • Your Big Backyard
    • Time for Kids World Atlas by the editors of Time for Kids Magazine, Time for Kids, 2007.
    • Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009.
    • Crystal and Gem (Eyewitness Books) by R.F. Symes and R.R. Harding. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 2007.
    • The Usborne Book of Castles by Lesley Sims and Jane Chisholm. Usborne Books, 2002.

Teachers may substitute other books or materials to provide a range of reading and level of text complexity.

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Related Materials & Resources

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Formative Assessment

  • View

    The goal of this lesson is to build on students’ understanding of the text features in nonfiction and how to use them to better understand the text.

    • To assess students’ grasp of the concepts, have students read from their science or social studies textbook a short passage that has several text features. Have students quickly skim and scan the passage and write the main idea of the section on a sticky note. Have students hand in their sticky notes. Determine if students are successful in meeting the goal of using the text features to skim and scan and find the main idea. Provide additional instruction if needed.
    • Observe students during their discussions with partners. Evaluate students’ ability to do the following:
      • Identify the text features in nonfiction texts.
      • Explain how text features help the reader better understand nonfiction text.
      • Successfully use the text features to skim and scan a passage.
      • Accurately complete a graphic organizer that shows how text features support a main topic.

Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction
    W: Review the term nonfiction and have students work together to find text features in a nonfiction text.  
    H: Discuss how text features help the reader and support meaning. 
    E: Explore various types of nonfiction and have students use the text features to skim and scan. 
    R: Provide opportunities for students to discuss their findings with a partner and then share with the larger group. Encourage students to explain how text features are helpful to the reader. 
    E: Provide opportunities for students to show that they know how to use text features when reading or skimming and scanning a nonfiction text. 
    T: Observe students to assess their understanding of text features when reading and skimming and scanning nonfiction text. Provide additional instruction as needed. 
    O: The learning activities in this lesson provide for large-group instruction and discussion, small-group exploration, partner interaction, and individual application of the concepts. 

Instructional Procedures

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    Focus Questions: How do text features help a reader better navigate and understand nonfiction text? How are text features used to support the meaning of nonfiction text?

    Ask students, “What is nonfiction?” (writing that explains, instructs, or describes rather than entertains)

    Distribute copies of Sorting Facts Worksheet (L-6-4-2_Sorting Facts Worksheet.doc). Have students work in small groups to cut apart the facts and sort them into categories. Then have students write a heading for each category.

    Discuss how these headings and facts might be used to help a reader learn about a topic. Ask, “What is the topic for these facts?” (jaguar) Ask students to explain how the headings help support the main topic. Guide them to see how the heading conveys the meaning of the facts they have categorized.

    Say, “Sometimes when you are looking for information, you use a reading strategy called ‘skimming and scanning.’ ”

    Explain that scanning is used to try to quickly identify the ideas in a passage or to find key words to see if it is something that the reader would like to read a little more thoroughly. Explain that this strategy involves the following:

    • moving your eyes quickly down the page, looking for specific words and phrases
    • looking for words that are bold, italic, or in different fonts

    Tell students that skimming is used to quickly identify the main ideas of the text. Point out that this technique is also done much faster than normal reading and involves taking in more information than while scanning. Explain that readers use skimming when they have lots of material to read and a limited amount of time. Readers use the following while skimming:

    • titles
    • subtitles
    • headings
    • captions
    • pictures
    • graphs
    • charts
    • the first sentence of paragraphs
    • table of contents

    Have students skim and scan a section in their science or social studies textbook that has bold and italic print and several other text features. Hand out the Skim and Scan Graphic Organizer (L-6-4-2_Skim and Scan Graphic Organizer.doc). Have students fill in the organizer while they are skimming and scanning.

    Have partners discuss what they found. Give them the opportunity to adjust their answers. Help them see how the text features support the main idea of the text. Make anecdotal notes about students’ understanding of using text features to skim and scan.


    • Have students use the Text Feature Graphic Organizer (L-6-4-2_Text Feature Graphic Organizer.doc) to organize, or “chunk,” information about a topic. Have them write the topic in the center and then on the lines around the topic write text features they would use. Discuss how each text feature would help support the topic.
    • Have students use a textbook or other nonfiction book to complete the Text Feature Scavenger Hunt (L-6-4-2_Text Feature Scavenger Hunt.doc). Have them explain how each text feature supports the topic of the text.

Related Instructional Videos

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Final 03/01/2013
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