Implementing More Non-Fiction Into Literature

June 30, 2013 - 5:55pm -- Mrs. B.

One of the major shifts in the English/Language Arts Common Core standards is the emphasis placed on the amount and quality of non-fiction texts read by students. While I absolutely support this and see the value in it, as non-fiction and technical writing abounds in our society, it has always been harder for me to find quality non-fiction to bring into the English classroom, especially with younger students. There are so many exciting and well-written works of fiction offered for young adults, yet I feel like the resources provided in the areas of non-fiction and technical writing for middle school students can be lacking. I find that it can be hard to find non-fiction and technical writing examples that are both engaging and at the appropriate reading level for 12 to 13-year-old students. Those of you who teach Language Arts or include reading non-fiction as a large part of your curriculum, where do you go to find resources/texts?

Submitted by Alison B. on

For the high school level, I find that I run across good quality nonfiction for my English classes all the time just in the course of my own reading (both hard copy and on the Internet).  I'm sure it's much harder at the middle school level. You might try Radiolab (www.radiolab.org), which has a lot of science-related articles that are at a reasonable level (for example, a recent short article on how caterpillars may have killed off the dinosaurs).  Also This American Life (www.thisamericanlife.org), which has a wide variety of interesting stories.  I think some of the TED Talks (ted.com) might work for middle school -- I use these fairly often, especially as the basis for Socratic seminars. My favorite periodical for nonfiction articles is The Atlantic ("Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?", for instance) -- some of the articles are quite lengthy and complex, but there are some shorter articles that might work and that are available online.  You might also be able to use chapters from interesting nonfiction books such as The Medusa and the Snail or When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In addition, Longform (longform.org) reposts "great new and classic nonfiction articles, curated from across the web" -- you just have to browse as far as appropriate levels go.

Hope that helps.

Submitted by Amanda D. on

Check out DOGOnews.com for free articles. I also use time for kids and have used scholastic news in the past. Time and Scholastic aren't free but your admin or a small grant or even PTA may cover the cost. It is really valuable to let the kids mark the text (this must be taught, I didn't realize what a foreign concept this was) and to hold non-fiction text. DOGO is free and I can almost always find a correlated article to what I need. I also try and use youtube videos as part of the multimedia. I've shown short ads and had the kids analyze them for voice, bias, etc. 

Submitted by Lindsay H. on

I also enjoy using transcripts from interviews or stories I hear on NPR. Anytime I read an article that has relevance with what I teach I tend to set aside to use in class. I've come across several from the New Yorker ("Why are American Kids So Spoiled?" and other short snipits on arts, technology and sports news) that I use with my 9th graders. I also use other Internet Francophone news sources for a quick non-fiction read in my French classes. These topics are often good for debate, compare and contrast, and general discussion. I know this is a bit of a shift. Good luck!