3 Ways to Make Teaching Non-Fiction Interesting

Learn 3 ways to make teaching non-fiction interesting for your middle school English Language Arts students.

Non-fiction gets a bad rap. Let’s make teaching non-fiction interesting.

So often when we think of written work we think of fiction as the fun, exciting stories, and non-fiction as the necessary unit. But we really might often think “goodness me, when will the informational (non-fiction) text unit be over so we can get back to the interesting stuff?”  

But they don’t have to be, and with many provincial and state curriculum standards putting significant emphasis on non-fiction, hopefully, this won’t be the norm. Let’s discuss a couple of ways to make teaching non-fiction interesting. 

Suggestion One: Get Interesting Materials

Just like there are plenty of boring novels out there that we don’t want in our unit plans, there is also plenty of boring non-fiction material. Don’t use it.  

Find interesting materials – current and relevant news articles, research on topics your students care about, and materials that are well-written.  It is just as easy to use these sorts of things as it is to use dull and dated non-fiction pieces. Your students will be so much more engaged and willing participants if you do so. Here is a list of some places to look for current events articles

Suggestion Two:  Teach a Wide Variety of Non-fiction Materials

When curriculums mention non-fiction, the first thing that almost always comes to ELA teachers’ minds is biography, but non-fiction is so much more than just biography.  

Think about your day – the news articles you read, the informational texts you look at to figure out problems, the rabbit holes you fall down when you look up something on Wikipedia.  

And for the most part, we don’t find these awful texts to use; in fact, we often read these sorts of things willingly and on our own time. As you design your non-fiction units, remember this. Just like a poetry unit might include a variety of poems, your non-fiction units can include everything from current news articles to research writings on engaging topics.

High-Interest Non-Fiction Lessons

If you are looking for suggestions for a wide range of interesting and engaging non-fiction articles, check out this Article of the Week Full Year Mega Bundle. This resource contains 44 high-interest non-fiction articles and 41 non-fiction-aligned graphic organizers. These high-interest articles range in topics from eSports to Bigfoot or The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart to Popular Desserts. The articles will make your students want to read more non-fiction. Learn more about this resource in my Shopify store CAD or my Teachers Pay Teachers store USD.

Suggestion Three: Get Excited

If you are not interested in what you are teaching, you have little hope of getting your students to be interested in it.  

As all good teachers know, you set the tone before students even begin to express their own thoughts and opinions.  

Therefore, it is so important that find a way to be engaged yourself in what you are teaching.  

  1. Make a list of all the positive things about a non-fiction unit.  
  2. Think of all the times non-fiction plays an important role in your life.  
  3. Fake it (but be sure you are faking it well).  

Whatever you need to do, be positive, be excited, and don’t let what you are teaching come out as strictly something to endure.

Don’t be the reason non-fiction gets the bad rap.  You are going to have to teach it, both because the curriculum standards demand it and because as a responsible teacher you know how big a role non-fiction plays in everyday life, so make it something to look forward to and not just something to get through. We can make teaching non-fiction interesting.

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