We just wrapped up a two week unit on exactly what it means when the teacher says, "You have to read nonfiction differently." Kiddos at my school have HEARD that phrase before, but many could not really explain exactly what that meant. So on Friday, as an assessment, I had them write out answers to these three essential questions which we had discussed in detail throughout the two weeks. (We also made and reviewed "anchor charts" on the SmartBoard.)

1. How can you tell if a book is nonfiction?
2. What does it mean to read nonfiction "differently"?
3. What are some of the features that authors give you to help you understand nonfiction?

THEN, and here's the best part, I gave them each a few photo copied pages out of a nonfiction book (just about one year below grade level reading so text difficulty was not an issue) and they HIGHLIGHTED (sorry that highlight didn't show up so well on the scan) all of those features that the author threw in to help them understand the story. Then they wrote one to three sentences on each page that showed that they were being ACTIVE readers as they read and highlighted.

I had done this twice before. Once at the very beginning as a whole class--we made LONG scrolls out of the photocopied pages (see last blog post) and once in small groups with three different texts selected to meet the needs of each group.

So, long story short. This actual READING assessment feels much more authentic to me than any "bubble test" or any "answer these questions" test. I got to see exactly what each kiddo noticed in their highlights and a small GLIMPSE of what they were THINKING in their sentences.

All said and done, this kind of assessment took more time for me to grade than a bubble test, but I REALLY have a good handle on which kids totally get nonfiction reading, which kids have a pretty good grasp of it, and which kids are going to need some reteaching.

Now I just need to develop a rubric for more objective scoring! :-)

Views: 2764

Tags: assessment, authentic, nonfiction, reading

Comment by Mobbsey on September 28, 2008 at 10:18pm
This is a fabulous task! I hope you don't mind me sharing with my colleagues working on a similar unit? :)
Comment by Melanie on September 29, 2008 at 12:50am
Love this! We use the National Geographic magazines for a similar activity. We order 2 levels (Pathfinder and Pioneer), so the students have the same articles, same text features, but the content is simplified for one level, and all can participate in follow up discussions. I'll have to add your 3 essential questions to the activity. That will help to bump it up a notch. Thank you for sharing!
Comment by Sarah Hanawald on September 30, 2008 at 6:43pm
Fantastic! I do similar work, but I use magazine articles. I want to incorporate books like you do. I've been trying to figure out how to use Diigo/education to accomplish some of what I do with non-fiction reading. I do believe that reading electronic text is a specific skill that needs teaching. Has anyone tried this?
Comment by Michelle TeGrootenhuis on September 30, 2008 at 7:20pm
Mobbsey--use, improve, share as you please. Just keep in mind that Dave Middlebrook of www.textmapping.org is responsible for the "seed" of this idea. Check out his site!

Melanie, my Hawaiin friend, I HOPE to visit your classroom someday. :-) I'm SURE I would learn a LOT! I have essential questions for other reading strategies. Maybe we'll make a new forum on our reading teachers group page for that.

Sarah--EXCELLENT point on the reading ONLINE thing. I was just talking with my students today about how they all just look at the pictures and read a few captions. I REALLY need to develop a WHOLE unit on SEARCHING, reading, and EVALUATING online material. I hope someone responds to these comments if they have such a unit and would be willing to share.
Comment by Anthony Manzo on July 11, 2011 at 1:03pm


Please consider the following thoughts and cutting edge assessment options for promoting Higher-Order Literacy - The obsession with word analysis and “fluency” at the elementary school level seriously needs to be rethought by those who are carefully tracking oral reading “miscues.” Try the Informal Reading-Thinking Inventory (Manzo/Manzo/McKenna, 1995, 2004) it is, to my knowledge, the only informal assessment that measures 3 levels of Comprehension (reading the lines, between the lines and beyond the lines) as well as several critical aspects of cognitive development. It also provides a rubric for an Informal Writing Inventory. The fundamental idea behind the instrument is to help teachers to internalize the question and discussion types that promote higher-order literacy as part of regular classroom teaching. This informal inventory addresses the most difficult issue in contemporary education, namely the wall that students hit in comprehension growth at about 4th – 5th grade levels.  If we don’t measure the right things we won’t do the right things.

(For more information see: Manzo/Manzo/Albee (2004) Reading Assessment for Diagnostic-Prescriptive Teaching)


 Tony Manzo, Emeritus Professor

& Dir. Ctr. For Studies in Higher Order Literacy,

U. of Missouri-KC (Current: Lecturer: CAL State U. – Fullerton)


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