How to Teach Nonfiction Reading to Kindergarteners?

By Laurie Patsalides

Now that state exams are given in the United States by grade three, the onus to prepare third graders for the exam is on K-2 teachers like never before. One way to prepare students is to teach nonfiction reading in a whole unit over a month, and reinforce nonfiction reading across each science unit.

Reading Comprehension Steps

Teaching reading comprehension in nonfiction books can be done at the Kindergarten level. Teachers can teach nonfiction reading for a month*. Follow these important steps in the Kindergarten classroom:

  • Start by gathering nonfiction books to use as read alouds with the students. Have at least five shared reading nonfiction text to use for the month. Look for very simple nonfiction text. Choose books that will relate to the science curriculum for the month.
  • Gather nonfiction books and separate them by topic. Place the books into labeled bins. For example, create a bin of books about food/nutrition/cooking, trains, animals, bugs and so on.
  • Gather science pictures, charts and posters that relate to a nonfiction unit and post them in the classroom centers.
  • When beginning shared reading, begin with a picture walk, asking yourself aloud what the book is trying to teach. Do this each time a new text is introduced. Then, for each reading delve a little bit deeper into the information the book provides. For example, after subsequent readings of the book, point out a diagram and make one with the class. It is also a good idea to try to choose books with an index so students can begin to learn what an index looks like, and how to use one.
  • Tell the students what nonfiction is? Show them books that are fiction and nonfiction. Comparing fiction and nonfiction books about bears works well. Make a chart with the class and list the differences between a fiction and nonfiction book. Let the students share the differences between fiction and nonfiction with the class. At first they may just say that the bear in the nonfiction book is real and the one in the fiction book is animated. Revisit the chart throughout the month to see if the students would like to add anything new. You will be surprised at how much they will learn! They may begin to add that the bear eats fish, walks slowly, is very large and fierce and so on. Let them experiment with compare and contrast with many different fiction and nonfiction books.
  • During reading time, have the students sit together in small groups of four to examine the nonfiction books. Let them discuss what they see. They may or may not be able to independently read the books, but it is OK as long as they are discussing the pictures. What is happening, what can I "tell" about this picture, how can I describe what I see? These are also the questions the teacher models in the shared reading texts.
  • At the end of each reading session allow the students to draw a picture of what they learned through the books in the bin and write a simple sentence. Students are natural inquirers at this age and will find commonalities and differences between the books.
  • Learning to read nonfiction will be best served when it is reinforced across the curriculum. A science unit about living and nonliving things (trees, plants, food, animals, bugs, oceans, electricity/magnetism, or transportation/mechanics) will compliment the reading. Plan for three to four science topics across the month. For example, when teaching about living things bring hermit crabs to the classroom for a month. Post hermit crab pictures and display books about them for reading.
  • Relate to writing by having students write about a nonfiction object you bring to class during interactive writing time. For example, when teaching about bugs, they should listen to music about bugs, draw pictures with labels of bugs and write poetry about bugs to incorporate other curricula areas around the nonfiction unit. These activities will show comprehension when reading nonfiction text.

In Summary

Learning to read nonfiction books warrants as much attention as other curriculum areas. Kindergarteners are natural scientists; they guide the instruction. Kindergarteners will also enjoy learning "big words", so introduce and chart the proper scientific terminology at this age. Anyone visiting the classroom should know that the class is reading nonfiction by the displayed books, pictures and posters, and displayed individual and group writing projects.

*It should be noted the nonfiction unit should not replace independent reading time for the month. Switch independent reading to another time of the day for this month.