Faculty Member: Eric Noah

Tier III Project - Non-Fiction Book Lists

Eric’s Tier III Project 2009-2011

2009-2010 Summary: Examine the issues surrounding non-fiction book projects. Develop lists of suitable non-fiction books and a plan for keeping these lists up-to-date.  Involve both Communication Arts and teachers from other disciplines to provide input, ideas, express needs, etc.

  • Developed a master list of non-fiction book categories appropriate for projects.
    • All About It: the most generic of the categories.  If it didn't fit elsewhere, it went in here.
    • Biography: a person's life story; sometimes a collection of several people in one book.
    • Historical Periods & Eras: longer time periods like named wars, decades, centuries, other named time periods like Ancient Greece or the Middle Ages.
    • Historical Events: Shorter or more limited events from history - a battle, a natural disaster, etc.
    • How-To: Instructional books designed to help the reader make or do something
    • Issues That Matter: Social issues, topics with a pro/con spin, controversies.
    • Novel-Like Non-Fiction: A few non-fiction books really read like a novel.  Some teachers might want to either encourage or specifically discourage books in this category.
    • Places & People of the World: modern geography; doesn't so much focus on the history of a place or group of people as much as describe current/modern conditions.
    • Religion, Philosophy & Beliefs: sometimes describes beliefs and tenets and what life is like for someone who shares this belief, sometimes gives a more historical treatment.
    • Science & Technology: how the universe and the things in it work.
    • Teen Self-Help: advice for teenagers on conduct of life.
    • Voyage in Time: how a thing has changed through the ages.
  • Similarly, developed master list of non-fiction book types that are not appropriate for projects. Examples:
    • Most true reference books (encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, almanacs, statistics) that do not contain much if any narrative text
    • Database-in-a-book books (field guides to trees, rocks/minerals, animal tracks – not enough narrative)
    • Books that are chiefly illustration or otherwise do not contain much narrative text (i.e. books of musical scores)
    • Eyewitness books (clusters of illustrations with captions but no real narrative even on the chapter level)
    • Comic books/cartoon books
    • Recipe books
    • Books of random facts (Ripley’s Believe It or Not)
    • Short stories, poetry, plays – even though they are in the non-fiction section, they are actually fiction and are more appropriate for fiction book reports
  • Examined entire 8000 book non-fiction collection and picked out about 2000 books that are particularly readable and put them into the appropriate categories on Destiny.
  • Met with members of communication arts, social studies, science and other departments to get a sense of what barriers keep them from using non-fiction book reports as assignments and what, ideally, they would like to see such projects look like
  • Monitored use of these lists by three 8th grade CA classes for book projects

2010-2011 Summary:  While I will revisit the non-fiction book project lists I created last year, I will be changing gears somewhat this year.  My focus this year will be on creating lists of books (non-fiction for most, some fiction for CA classes) that could serve as "summer reading lists" for students entering grades 7 and 8 to prepare them for some of their core classes.  We have had parents request book lists, and the idea is to provide a pretty targeted list of books that would provide valuable background knowledge to help students be successful in learning new information in these courses. 

  • Review the non-fiction book lists I created last year with an eye to dropping some titles that may not work as well as previously thought.  In particular, the largest categories (Biography and Science) could use some trimming. 
  • Create curriculum-themed book lists for 7th and 8th grade Communication Arts, Social Studies, and Science. 
    • These lists could be used as suggested summer pre-reading for students, enrichment material for use during the school year, and possible candidates for class sets of non-fiction books. 
    • In addition, this activity will give me a greater knowledge of the curriculum and reveal any holes in our collection where key curricular concepts are not being supported by the collection.
    • My plan is to meet with each group (7th grade Science, 8th grade Science, 7th grade SS, 8th grade SS, 7th grade CA, 8th grade CA) for at least two 1-hour sessions and have them help me create the book lists by actually searching through our collection for materials that match their curriculum.  This will not only help me accomplish the list-creation activity, but will help the teachers of these classes see what our library contains related to their curriculum. 
    • These book lists will start life as Destiny "Visual Search" categories, and then I can output these to PDF lists that can be posted on the curricular area websites. 
    • I also need to develop a plan for revising these lists on a regular basis.  As the collection changes and as curriculum changes and units are added or dropped, these lists could become out of date if not refreshed regularly.
  • Assuming this all goes well, I may seek out a few other areas to create lists - my initial instincts include 8th grade Health and 7th and 8th grade FACE as being particularly suited to such a project.
  • In addition, I will be working with our Reading Specialists on various literacy teams and projects throughout the year.  I am hopeful that we can direct a focus toward non-fiction/informational text literacy, which meshes well with my project.
  • I also will seek out some suitable professional reading material on non-fiction literacy issues.

Notes from Meeting with Shelley Weiss on 1/5/10:

My goal for this project is to have students not just reading non-fiction, but interacting with it.  I want them to be able to demonstrate what they learned in some way.

From Doug Buehl:  Strategies Characteristic of Proficient Readers (and comments on activities that might help with each): 

  • Make connections to prior knowledge (The "K" in a KWL chart)
  • Generate questions (The "W" in a KWL chart)
  • Visualize and create sensory mental images (student-created illustrations, diagrams; or writing prompts that encourage description)
  • Make inferences (??)
  • Determine importance (find and record main ideas and key details; write summaries; create outlines with hierarchical structure)
  • Synthesize, Draw Conclusions, Generalize (the "L" in a KWL chart - implies discarding faulty knowledge and working new knowledge into existing schema; I think certain writing prompts could do this, too)
  • Monitor Reading and apply fix-up strategies (??)

The book project probably has two main parts: a part that they would all share in common, and then a part that might be different depending on what type of book was picked. Examples:

  • In common:
    • finding main idea and key details;
    • summarizing;
    • KWL chart;
    • organizing information after a KWL chart has been completed;
    • noticing non-fiction information patterns (cause/effect, chronological, compare/contrast, pro/con, etc.);
    • writing prompts to spur reflection;
    • describing key illustrations and explaining their significance;
    • interacting with any special features or tools (glossaries, special text boxes, etc.)
    • a vocabulary piece (create-your-own mini glossary?)
  • Different pieces:
    • Timelines for books from Voyage in Time, Biography, Historical Eras, One Moment in Time.
    • Pro/Con chart for Issues that Matter
    • Cause/Effect tool for Issues that Matter, Voyage in Time, One Moment in Time
    • Compare/Contrast organizers (Venn diagram?) for Science & Technology
    • Maps for Historical Eras and People & Places of the World
    • Opinion vs. Fact tool for Religions, Philosophies & Beliefs, and Issues that Matter
    • Actually doing some of the projects in a "How-To" book and documenting progress, evaluating the clarity and accuracy of instructions, etc.


Nonfiction Book Project Roundtable Discussions
Notes from 1/13/10
Barry has done a Non-fiction book project Powerpoint with an oral presentation this year
  • Written book reports can be “painful”
  • Technology component, presentation component, content component
  • Went well – kids are improving with presentation
  • Was hard to fake your way through the project – students had to be able to think on their feet and know the material from their own heads
  • Presentation or sharing what they learned and what they read was key – motivating, a natural human reaction to learning something new
Good to force students to face non-fiction – thus, there is an affective component to this too – making this too hard, or too big a deal, or too complicated, might be a drawback
Limits of Destiny – searching – the categories cannot be further chopped up or searched (by Lexile, by keyword, etc.)
Related question: biography reading vs. biography report (i.e. is it “fair” for them to do the biography report after they have thoroughly read a biography on that subject?)
Related question: offering incentives or extra credit for students to pick certain topics (get them out of their comfort zone)
Related question: restricting certain categories or topics (require them to expand comfort zone)
Notes from 1/21/10
Outlining – a good skill to know, sometimes challenging for this age group; helps with main idea vs. key details vs. trivial details
7th grade vs. 8th grade – will 7th graders need an easier or more “canned” approach? What about class sets of some shorter non-fiction books to use in 7th grade?
Biography unit in 8th grade – creating a photostory for that person – 2-3 minute overview of the person’s life, condensed – focus on the main ideas vs. the trivial details. 
How to grade this or give credit for it?
How to leverage the natural instinct to share what you have learned – students will naturally want to talk about, share, demonstrate, show what they learned, and what activities encourage that?
Writing book reviews to post on Destiny? 
Small group discussions? How to make them accountable?
Online discussions via Moodle?

Notes from Literacy Meetings:

Vocabulary Ideas: 

  • Word Wall (technical or jargony language defined in simple terms on fairly large easy-to-read signs in the LMTC - things like Call Number, Fiction, Non-Fiction, etc)
  • Frayer Model for key vocabulary (example for my copyright lesson - Intellectual Property - Copyright Law - Derivative Work - Public Domain - Fair Use - Plagiarism - etc.)

Project Ideas:

  • Instead of always handing a kid an instruction sheet for how to use new software, make them create their own by taking screenshots and writing instructions using appropriate vocabulary and precision, so another student could read and follow the instructions.

Notes from book club on I Read It, But I Don't Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers

  • Chapter 1: disabuses reader of certain faulty assumptions...
    • that struggling readers are lazy
    • that struggling adolescent readers are too old to fix whatever problems they have with reading
    • that reading comprehension is more an inborn/inherent talent than a teachable & learnable skill
    • that "concentrating" and "paying attention" are not reading strategies
    • that good readers understand everything on the first read through
    • that struggling readers want to avoid challenging reading material
    • that struggling readers don't ever feel a connection with what they read or have read
  • Chapter 2: Realities of Reading
    • "[Resistive readers] have learned that if they are patient, the teacher will eventually feed them the information they need to know.  Many resistive readers survive by listening to the teacher and copying the work of others...  Lectures and class discussions mayhelp resistive readers cope temporarily, but sooner or later their lack of reading will catch up to them."
    • "[Word callers] expect to comprehend what they read by simply pronouncing the words....  They want to complete the assignment so they can earn a good grade."
    • Successful reading is comprehension.  Strategies used by successful readers:
      • Connect new info to existing knowledge
      • Ask questions before, during, after reading
      • draw inferences
      • monitor comprehension
      • use fix-up strategies when meaning breaks down
      • determine what is important
      • synthesize info
      • create sensory images
    • Students struggle with text when they...
      • Don't have enough strategies in their bag of tricks
      • Don't have right background knowledge
      • Don't recognize organizational patterns
      • Don't have a purpose when they read
    • Couple of suggestions:
      • search for and use interesting text, weed out the poorly written or dull texts
      • model how good readers read
  • Chapter 3: Purposes for Reading
    • Helps separate trivial from key/main info
    • students need to set their own purpose
    • not everything in a text is equally important
    • Thinking Aloud:
      • make invisible mental processes visible
      • be explicit
    • Marking Text:
      • helps w/engagement
      • types of thinking are coded
    • Double Entry Diary:
      • Quotes/paraphrasing on one side; inferences/thoughts on the other ("I wonder", or "This is important because")
    • Comprehension Constructs:
      • worksheets to help call up background knowledge, require reader to ask questions, and then speculate as to where the answers could be found (within or outside of text)
  • Chapter 4: Self-Monitoring of Comprehension
    • Reader needs to recognize signals that the reader is stuck
      • internal voice not interacting with text
      • internal camera shuts off
      • mind is wandering
      • can't recall details
      • can't answer literal-level questions from text
      • can't recall when a character was first introduced
    • Strategy: highlight/mark areas where confusion first arises
    • Strategy: listen for voices - the "right" voice is conversational and interacts with text; the "wrong" voices are simply reciting the words, or are off-topic conversations
    • Strategy: record what conversations are taking place at set points in the text
  • Chapter 5 - Fix Up Strategies - what to have students do when they are "stuck"
    • Make connections between text and your life, knowledge of the world, another text - activate prior knowledge.
    • Make a prediction - anticipate, and use failed predictions as a chance to rethink and revise.
    • Consider previously read material - connect with what has come before in the same text.
    • Ask and answer a question
    • Reflect in writing - summarize, or respond.
    • Visualize - imagine a picture, or relate to prior visual experiences
    • Use print conventions - bold, italic, underlining, fonts, white space, etc. all try to draw the eye to important details
    • Retell what you've read - a kind of reflection
    • Reread - not everything, maybe just the intro or conclusion or an especially complicated part
    • Notice patterns in text structure - especially in non-fiction, where there is not an assumption that one has to read everything cover-to-cover to gain information
    • Adjust reading rate (up or down) - skim things that are familiar, slow down for things that are complex or unfamiliar
  • Chapter 6 - Connecting the New to the Known
    • Venn Diagram - show how subjects overlap and how they differ
    • What do you know about...?  Activate prior knowledge in groups to help bring those with less up to speed
    • This reminds me of ... connection to personal life
    • Three kinds of connections:
      • Text to self
      • Text to world
      • Text to text
    • It is a type of active reading that rewards paying attention and be involved with it
  • Chapter 7 - Questioning
    • How to make students curious, how to get them to ask and answer higher order questions that don't have set, factual answers
    • "I wonder" can be about things that have no answer, or that can only be answered with time
    • Some questions cannot be answered from info presented in the text; must research answer elsewhere, and some must be done by inference - info is "in text," "in head," or "in another source"
    • Questioning while reading puts responsibility on the reader to improve comprehension...
      • by interacting with text.
      • by motivating themselves to read
      • by clarifying information
      • by inferring beyond literal meaning
  • Chapter 8 - Taking Inferences Too Far
    • There is such a thing as a wrong guess, or a wrong inference
    • Students need to be able to line up the facts or evidence in the text that support the inference and weigh them against other evidence
Last Updated: 12/5/16
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