Getting Students Engaged in Nonfiction Text

If you walked into a third-grade classroom at Lincrest Elementary in Yuba City, California, you would see readers devouring nonfiction articles, jotting “reflection points” on sticky notes, and talking to each other about their reading and thinking. It’s not uncommon to hear students enthusiastically telling other students about specific information they have gleaned from their reading or a strategy that helped them comprehend the selection.

Questioning, making connections, and extracting facts are normal practices that occur in a reader’s mind as he or she encounters a new nonfiction selection. For many students, however, these practices need to be explicitly taught to ensure that all students are able to implement the strategies that good readers use

As teachers, we have the opportunity to emphasize the importance of these strategies by modeling our own thinking while reading. We can share the conversations that take place between the reader and the text.

In addition to modeling our thinking while reading, we have created a template called F.A.C.T. It. F.A.C.T. It is an acronym for facts, asks, connections, and think time. We use this template for both guided and independent practice. It is a tool that reminds our students to think as they read.


The Basics of F.A.C.T. It

F = Facts
Nonfiction is full of facts that make reading exciting and interesting. We want students to notice the facts as they read and to realize facts are important in helping them understand the text.

A = Asks
Questions help a reader move toward understanding. We encourage students to pay attention to the questions that pop into their minds as they are reading. Those questions enable readers to sift through the information and comprehend the text.

C = Connections
We teachers must model the strategy of listening to our inner voice. Students need to understand that the inner voice helps readers make connections with their reading.

T = Think Time
What is most important about the text? What did you learn? What is the author’s purpose for writing this selection? We have asked many students these questions over the years and the results are always interesting. It opens up a gateway into their thinking and understanding.

As teachers, we must instill in our students the realization that reading is thinking. We’ve all experienced students who can decode any text but give us a blank stare when asked a question. We must equip our students with tools, like the F.A.C.T. It template, that will ensure that all of our students become successful readers.

F.A.C.T. It
This template aids students as they identify facts, ask questions, make connections, and reflect on text. Best for students in grades 2-5.

F.A.C.T. It Literacy Set
This set includes all the resources you need to help your students identify facts, ask questions, make connections, and reflect on text: a pdf version of this article, the F.A.C.T. It template, and illustrated and electronic book versions of our nonfiction article about Mt. Erebus.


This article was written by Tracey Allen and Clarissa Reeson. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email them at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright December 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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