Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Improve Vocabulary with Nonfiction Text Features, Part 1

By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger

As children are learning to read and write in primary grades, a lot of our lesson planning is focused on teaching literacy skills. This can affect how much time is left for other content areas like science. Using nonfiction text features to improve vocabulary and helping students use questions are helpful comprehension strategies that can boost their content-area literacy. Keep reading because today's post will outline steps you can use with a level C guided reading book to help students with vocabulary while they observe nonfiction text features, make predictions, ask questions, and write about science concepts. Be sure to return to our blog soon because I'll describe how you can do the same with nonfiction books at levels F and I.

All About Grasshoppers is a leveled reader with a simple sentence structure and nonfiction text features that spark conversations about how grasshoppers survive in their environment. You can introduce the book by asking students about differences between living and nonliving things. Invite them to sketch pictures of what they think could be considered living and nonliving, and then invite them to talk about their illustrations.

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After kids complete the introductory illustration activity, you can use the following suggestions to use with each page of All About Grasshoppers:

  • Page 2: Help students understand that grasshoppers are insects, and explain how we know that. Consider keeping grasshoppers and grass in a container so that kids can pass it around in your classroom. Invite them to ask questions they would like to have answered about insects, and write their questions on the board to refer to later.
  • Page 3: After your students have made observations of grasshoppers in the container, invite them to make inferences about how grasshoppers use their six legs. Remind kids that all insects have six legs, and then ask, Why are grasshoppers' legs different sizes?
  • Page 4: Help students compare and contrast the movement of humans and the movement of grasshoppers by asking them to name games that they may play that require them to hop. You can play a game of hopscotch inside or outside of your classroom as an active way to engage students in the discussion. Since grasshoppers can jump ten times their length, use a measuring device and chalk to give students a visual depiction of this fact. Have each child take turns hopping as far as they can and measuring the distance he or she covers. In addition, consider using the following questions: How is the way we hop different from the way that a grasshopper hops? Why do grasshoppers have more than two legs?
  • Page 5 and 6: Engage students in a discussion about grasshopper wings: How are the pictures on pages 5 and 6 different? If you saw the grasshopper fly in the container, what did the grasshopper do with use wings? Do you think the grasshopper needs wings? Why? Can you think of a nonliving thing that can fly? What are some other living things that fly?
  • Page 7: This page presents a fact that is important for students to understand living and nonliving things. They will notice several things when looking at this page, so you should consider asking the following questions: What color is the leaf and what color is the grasshopper? Why do you think this is important for the grasshopper? Could the grasshopper be staying safe? What animals could harm the grasshopper?
  • Page 8: This page's labeled photograph of grasshopper parts offers a great opportunity for children to name the parts as you point to them, especially if you're using the big book version. Invite students to ask questions about each part, and be sure to remind them of the facts that have been discussed while reading the informational text. Answer any questions that you wrote on the board as you introduced the book. Then have children make their own drawings of grasshoppers with labels of parts similar to page 8.
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After students complete the illustration activity, give them enough time to explore your classroom library for additional informational texts about insects. By helping your students use nonfiction text features to improve vocabulary relevant to grasshoppers, you'll be providing a strong foundation for kids to use as they increase their vocabulary about more scientific topics.

If you'd like to share more interesting facts about grasshoppers during your guided reading lesson, consider the following details:

  • Grasshoppers have two pairs of wings.
  • Some grasshoppers can make a noise by rubbing a leg against a wing.
  • Large eyes give grasshoppers 360-degree vision, which means they can see everything in their surroundings.

Be sure to visit the Hameray blog soon because next I'll share how you can help students improve vocabulary with nonfiction fiction text features in books at levels F and I.

Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog.