Adventures in Nonfiction

These series of three lessons provide a foundation for using nonfiction resources for developing and answering questions about gathered information. Using a wide variety of nonfiction literature, students learn to sort and categorize books to begin the information-gathering process. Then, working with partners and groups, using pictures and text, students are guided through the process of gathering information, asking clarifying questions, and then enhancing the information with additional details. Students complete the lesson by collaboratively making “Question and Answer” books for the classroom library. This is a high-interest foundation builder for using nonfiction literature in research as well as for pleasure reading. Students should have participated in discussions of nonfiction books that have been read aloud to them, especially to help them learn to think while reading. Suggested questions are provided to help direct discussions of text.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 

Student Objectives:

Students will:

  • browse and skim nonfiction texts to find interesting facts. 
  • develop follow-up questions about gathered information. 
  • use Internet search engines to find answers to their questions.

NCTE/IRA National Standards For The English Language Arts:

  • Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound–letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Lesson Variations

Extension suggestions: 


  • Have students select one topic for further exploration and have them make a graphic display with facts and pictures.
  • Set aside a time each week for the whole class to read from nonfiction materials and share information.


Helpful Hints


  • All nonfiction books from the classroom library should be identified and isolated from the rest of the books. It would be valuable to have students sort all the nonfiction books by topic categories. (See Book Sorting: Using Observation and Comprehension to Categorize Books, a ReadWriteThink lesson that engages students in sorting books by topic.) 
  • Create a "name-drawing" basket by writing each student’s name on a small piece of paper and putting all the papers into the basket. These will be used for the sharing time. 
  • For Website exploration it might be helpful to arrange for an adult helper to work with students at computers. Also, the teacher will need to open up a different children’s informational Website on each computer available. This lesson assumes that primary-age students are allowed Internet access; however, if that access is limited to teacher-selected sites and does not allow the use of search engines, have sites bookmarked before the activities.

It is assumed that students will have participated in discussions of nonfiction books that have been read aloud to them, especially in regards to helping them learn to "think while reading" by responding to questions such as the following:

  • What do we know so far? 
  • What did we just learn? 
  • What else do you wonder about this?

The teacher may want to precede the lesson with such a read-aloud to kick-off the activities.



Further Reading:

  • Routman, Regie. 1996. Literacy at the Crossroads: Crucial Talk about Reading, Writing, and Other Teaching Dilemmas. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Cunningham, Patricia, and Richard Allington. 1994. Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write. Pearson.
  • Parker, Diane. 2007.  Planning for Inquiry: It's Not an Oxymoron! Urbana, IL: NCTE.