3 Skills I Teach With Nonfiction Text

I like to incorporate a lot of nonfiction in my curriculum. While I love fiction and make sure I include it in my instruction, I also firmly believe that studying, analyzing, and writing about nonfiction is vitally essential for today’s learners.

When I teach argumentation and nonfiction texts in my classroom, there are three skills that I intentionally teach toward the beginning of the unit: paraphrasing, quoting, and summarizing. While I believe that teaching specific rhetorical devices and strategies are important, I save those lessons for when my students are able to correctly paraphrase, quote, and summarize any piece of text.

In my opinion, I believe that paraphrasing text is a bit easier than summarizing text since it is essentially rewriting the entire text in one’s own words. One of the pitfalls in which most students fall victim to is failing to properly cite paraphrased text. This is because so many students assume that just because the text is in their own words that it is theirs, and this is not true. When I teach paraphrasing, I place great emphasis on the need to properly cite their research and the work they are paraphrasing to maintain credibility and avoid plagiarism.

When I teach summarizing, I place an emphasis on finding the main idea and supporting details in the text. When students summarize an article for me, they should always include the article title, author, the main message, and how the author delivers that particular message.

One of the most challenging writing skills for students to master is how to properly embed quotations in their writing. When I teach students to embed quotes (whether from fiction or nonfiction) in their writing, I focus on having the students introduce the quote in their own words with a transition word or phrase and contextual information, and then complete the sentence with a quote that grammatically fits within the sentence. I tell my students their quotes should be seamlessly written into their papers, and that they should never begin a sentence with a quote.

When students know how to properly paraphrase, summarize, and quote text, they will have the skill set necessary to take rhetorical and textual analysis to a deeper and more meaningful level. Some great sites to access nonfiction text include CommonLit.org, NewsELA.com, and Listenwise.com.

In my classroom, I use these lessons to teach these skills to my students: