Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Nonfiction Notetaking Part 2

I wrote last week about the ways in which I was rethinking nonfiction and my plans for December. This week was a good one in terms of nonfiction and kids are coming around to enjoying it a bit more than they used to.

We started the week with what I call a "Check It Out! Circle". Kids sit in a circle and I hand each one a book (this time a nonfiction picture book).  For one minute, the child previews the book in their hand and then (when the timer goes off) passes it on to the person on their left. This continues until all students have seen all books. So by the end of 25 minutes, every child has previewed 25 books.  I insist that kids are quiet during this time and that they do this independently because I want them to really immerse in the book for a minute. I want them to find books that they just aren't ready to pass on to the next person, books they want to go back to.

We also spent time on web reading. Just having time to check out all that is available on websites like Wonderopolis and The Weather Channel was worthwhile for the kids. Navigating a site takes strategy and they learned this. They wrote a blog post about their favorite nonfiction sites (classroom blog).

After the Check It Out! Circle, we talked about a few things. We talked about books we wanted to revisit and we talked about things that surprised them. They were surprised at how many times they thought a book was not interesting when it was handed to them, and then they realized that it was interesting. They were also surprised that some nonfiction sounded like a story.  A bit more nonfiction reading is happening because of this and kids are realizing that these books are often worth reading beyond skimming.

The other big thing I started this week was a nonfiction read aloud. My hope was to take our note taking routine from our regular read aloud time and give kids time to think about note taking in nonfiction. My kids are comfortable taking notes on their thinking when it comes to fiction so I figured nonfiction read aloud would help them transfer these skills and ideas.

I had planned on reading The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity (Scientists in the Field Series) but I decided to start with something a little shorter to see how it went. I started with the first section of the book Extreme Scientists: Exploring Nature's Mysteries from Perilous Places (Scientists in the Field Series) from the same Scientists in the Field series. We are learning about weather and Hurricane Hunter seemed like a perfect read aloud. I am so glad i stared with something a bit shorter. In 2 days, we've only read 5 pages but the talk has been fabulous.  The talk is around the content, the vocabulary, our reading strategies and their note taking.  I started by showing them examples of various kinds of notes and we are using the document camera to share the kinds of notes kids are taking. Since drawing is huge in the classroom, we focused on a few paragraphs and really thought about what a good drawing might look like--what would we include?

The kids moaned earlier this week when I told them we'd be reading aloud a nonfiction book but they are totally glued to the book already and the questions they have about weather and clouds because of the talk are going to lead them right into the content of our standards.

Really, I learned so much from Kate and Chris in their NCTE session on note taking that my whole stance was different. I learned a lot about my thinking and the ways I might record it right along with my students. I am thrilled with the conversations we've had in only a few days. I am excited to see where our next week goes!


  1. Happy birthday to the only person who makes me think that 5th grade might be more fun than kindergarten...I miss you!

  2. I'll take the birthday wish, Heidi, but this is a Franki post, so if the great thinking here is making you miss teaching older kids, you've got Franki to thank for that (this time)!!

  3. Anonymous8:04 PM

    I love, love, love the "Check It Out! Circle". I just started discussing nonfiction with my 4th grade teachers and I can't wait to share it with my colleagues! Thanks!

  4. Anonymous7:27 AM

    Love reading about this series and we are about to embark on the same non-fiction focus (Jan). So I am taking notes, haha. To a newer teacher, what resources would you suggest for note taking strategies?

  5. Anonymous9:58 PM

    What a great idea to make part of the non-fiction read aloud experience about how to process/think about the read aloud.

    I'm curious. Did the students and you notice any ways that processing informational text in the read aloud was different than fiction?

    Thanks for sharing your classroom!


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