My fourth “teaching” New Year’s Resolution reads:
This year, I will combine related fiction and nonfiction in order to create a deeper understanding of the curriculum.
Our good new friends, the Common Core State Standards, advocate increasing the amount of non-fiction reading required. While I have always included non-fiction in my class curriculum, especially the fine mini-lessons on primary resources found at Edhelper, (a site which is completely worth the nominal subscription fee,) I have found that reading nonfiction seldom holds students' attention unless it is presented in conjunction with other high interest material.
Our dear pals at the Common Core also advocate a “deeper reading” of all texts. I have implemented “IDPS” notes for all of their assigned reading, where kids chart “Idea-Details-People-Setting” for each scene in a story. This method has lead to increased reading comprehension as evidenced by my multiple assessments. (Yay!) I have discovered, however, that understanding the context of a novel is critical to deep comprehension of the text. (Okay, duh.) Much like the Johari Window model of perception, background information that I assume to be common knowledge is not known by my students. I remember as a student wondering why so many of my teachers commented on the Kennedy assassination while to me it was just a dusty news clip from before my birth. Now, it’s my turn to be “old.” As momentous as it seems in my personal time stream, in my students’ eyes, 9-11 has slipped into the annals of ancient history.
In order to increase both appreciation for nonfiction and comprehension of fiction, I will combine the two aspects. One great resource packet I found from the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, combines some of the authors’ greatest poems and stories, (The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado, etc.) with scholarly articles about Poe’s use of figurative literature, primary resources such as photographs of his family and home, and a “mythbusters” section, that (perhaps unfortunately) debunks some of the most colorful tales about his personal life. Another resource, The Big Read, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, provides similar lessons on several novels including To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, and The Great Gatsby.
The symbiosis of nonfiction and fiction increases both the level of interest and of understanding and makes for solid pedagogic practice.
To read about my previous resolutions, please click:
HERE for part one
HERE for part two
HERE for part three