Focus Question: How does knowing the difference between fiction and nonfiction affect how we read a book?
Engage: Focus on finding the differences between fiction and nonfiction literature.
Ask students to look at the two pieces of chart paper that you have posted on the chalkboard, and ask if anyone knows those words. If not, read the words for the children. Ask students, “What does fiction mean?” Write down the students’ ideas. (Suggested answers include make-believe stories; stories that have characters, setting, and events or plot; stories that have drawings; stories in which animals can talk.)
Ask students, “What does nonfiction mean?” Write down the students’ ideas. (Suggested answers include books that are true; books that tell facts; books that tell us how to do something; books that answer questions; books that have photographs; books that are about real people.)
Explain to students that we will come back to the list to revise and confirm our ideas of what fiction and nonfiction are.
Tell the students, “I am going to read you a book. You need to decide if this is a fiction book or a nonfiction book.” Read Lost in the Woods to the students. Ask them to turn to a person next to them and discuss their opinion about the type of book that was read: fiction or nonfiction. Ask students to share their opinions with the class, and discuss why they think it is fiction or nonfiction. Have students refer to the chart of characteristics. Some students will think that the book is nonfiction because of the photographs; others will think it is fiction because it has characters, setting, plot, etc. Explain that this is a fictional text, even though it is illustrated with photographs. Ask students, “What makes this a fiction book?” (It is a made-up story; the animals act like people.)
Tell students, “I am going to read you another book. You need to decide if you think this is fiction or nonfiction.” Read Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship (make sure you don’t tell them the title because that would give it away). Ask students to turn to their partners and discuss their opinion on what type of book this was: fiction or nonfiction. Again, have students refer to the chart of characteristics. Ask students to share their opinions with the class, and discuss why they think the second book is fiction or nonfiction. Some students will think that it is nonfiction because of the photographs; others will think it is fiction because it has characters, setting, plot, etc. Explain that even though this book has characters, a plot, a setting, etc., it is a literary nonfiction book. Ask students, “What makes this a nonfiction book?” (It is a true story.)
Put out a variety of fiction and nonfiction books and have students look through them. Have students choose a book that they would be interested in working with. Have students read and explore their books. Some books may require that students read them from cover to cover, while some books may lend themselves to a skim-and-scan method of reading; you may have to help them with this. While students are deciding if their books are fiction or nonfiction, walk around the classroom conferencing with students to determine whether they understand the differences between the two kinds of texts.
On a small sheet of paper, have students write down whether they think their book is fiction or nonfiction and why. Pair students with a partner. Ask the partners to switch books and read each other’s book. Have the pair discuss whether they think the books are nonfiction or fiction. Have students repeat this activity a few times with a different partner each time.
Bring the class together and ask some students to share which type of book they think they have and why they think so. If anyone disagreed with his/her partner, discuss why they disagreed, and as a class go through the book to decide if it is a fiction or a nonfiction book.
Ask students if they would like to change any of the ideas they listed on the chart at the beginning of the lesson. For example, they have discovered that fiction books may have photographs and that nonfiction books may have characters, a setting, and a plot. Point out that some books may have characteristics of both fiction and nonfiction.
- Give students magazine articles and short stories that are copied on paper with no illustrations or photographs. Have the students read the text and determine if they think it is fiction or nonfiction. Ask how they decided.
- Have students write a fiction piece and a nonfiction piece. Discuss how the writing process differs depending on what you are writing.