Teaching Non-Fiction and Real World Connections

Using non-fiction in the classroom is a great tool to increase engagement and expose students to a wide variety of current issues and events that extend beyond the traditional fiction taught in most English classes. This week’s Twitter chat was focused on using non-fiction texts to help students make real world connections. Teachers shared their best ideas for making this a regular process in the English Language Arts classroom from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.

Using non-fiction in the classroom is a great tool to increase engagement and expose students to a wide variety of current issues and events that extend beyond the traditional fiction taught in most English classes.

This week’s Twitter chat was focused on using non-fiction texts to help students make real world connections. Teachers shared their best ideas for making this a regular process in the English Language Arts classroom.

Q1: How do you use non-fiction texts and media in your classroom?
  • We use non-fiction texts to complement fiction texts. We're reading Tangerine=articles on muck fires & sinkholes a must.
  • There's always at least one nonfiction activity or assessment in every lit unit. We also do AoW and have NF-only units. 
  • Article of the Week is a weekly non-fiction writing assignment that helps expose students to more non-fiction writing on a regular basis.

Q2: What is your favorite resource for finding nonfiction texts that are timely and apply to teens?
  • Fave places to find NF are NewsELA, @KellyGToGo AoW, https://t.co/TBl9MSLVFo daily article.
  • My favorite resource for finding non-fiction texts is @Newsela Otherwise I google themes.
  • Also trying to beef up NF in my classroom library & use excerpts as they relate to topics 
  • NewsELA all the way!! 
  • I start with the primary source or the closest thing to it - an author's website, for example. Then CNN, BBC, etc. 
  • I also like to cover current events using these websites.

Q3: What short/long term benefits do you find from using nonfiction materials related to current events and real life issues?
  • As much as I hope students read literature when older, they will mostly read NF so they should be prepped. 
  • As @davestuartjr says, students need to know stuff. Reading NF helps them to increase their knowledge base.
  • Anytime I can relate school to real life, engagement increases exponentially! 
  • Current events aren't always as popular unless it's controversial.
  • My middle school students are struggling with fake news and rumors, so the more time we spend on current events, the better! 

Q4: How do you handle sensitive topics in the nonfiction materials you use in the classroom?
  • Mostly trying to match the right NF book to the right reader and intercept a middle school student who isn't ready for it.
  • Even more important for us to address the sensitive topics so students get accurate info & safe place to ask Qs. 
  • I try to focus on the facts and leave out the emotions. That can be hard but is worth trying. 
  • I give students a "you're mature enough to handle this" pep talk & that usually does the trick 
  • I'm remembering a heated discussion about fairness ala The Giver... where we had to think from the character’s perspective. 
  • Lots of success using restorative justice-type circles when discussing topics like racial profiling.

Q5: Describe your favorite lesson or unit that incorporates nonfiction material related to a current event or real life issue.
  • I'm obsessed w/teaching propaganda & rhetoric to help students filter biased sources.
  • Fave NF unit last yr was intro-ing rhetorical analysis. Started w/ commercials, then moved to excerpts, then whole text.
  • I like to read short biographies related to a theme - like a famous person who shows perseverance. (Walt Disney) 
  • Then you can say "Let's be like____ as we do this..." 
  • Ethos Pathos Logos ftw! 
  • We also had a lot of fun last yr. planning an imaginary vacay for our pine cone pets using non-fiction travel guides!
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Using non-fiction in the classroom is a great tool to increase engagement and expose students to a wide variety of current issues and events that extend beyond the traditional fiction taught in most English classes. This week’s Twitter chat was focused on using non-fiction texts to help students make real world connections. Teachers shared their best ideas for making this a regular process in the English Language Arts classroom from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.


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