NF UNIT P1 Day 6

Day 6

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Poem A Day:

None- wasn’t feeling inspired… still can’t think of anything… AGAIN. (gotta say, I secretly love how much the kids want poems, and how disappointed they are when I don’t come up with one).


Today is another revision day. This time, the objective is: Students will revise drafts for structure and organization. Again we used this checklist. This time, students focused on the “Structure” section.

Again, they summarized in bullets on the left side of their checklists. And I distributed a second draft of my essay.  I made clear how my draft changed by highlighting everything I changed or added to develop my ideas more (as they were to do last class). We read it together and decided that it was poorly organized and lacked transitions.

Active Engagement:

Students got into pairs and I gave each pair scissors, a glue stick and blank paper. They had to decide how to reorganize my essay by literally cutting it up and pasting it in a new order. They also had markers to write in transition phrases.

The kids had fun with this one.

After the students were done (this took about 40 minutes) I revealed my third draft, and talked about why I chose to organize it the way I did. I also told them I would revise it a final time before I was done.


We reviewed this doc to recap the work students have done so far. Students were directed to revise their essays one final time paying attention to organization and structure. This was the end of the week and their final drafts were due Monday.

NF UNIT P1 Day 5

Day 5

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Poem A Day:

None- wasn’t feeling inspired… still can’t think of anything…


Students came to class today with a draft of their nonfiction analysis.

The objective was for students to evaluate their drafts for “development of ideas” and clarity.

We began today by looking at this checklist.

In pairs, they read through the “Development” section of the checklist and on the left hand side, wrote bullet points of the most important info on the checklist (so that they understood it).

I wrote a draft of an analysis of the model text about Euphemisms. I printed it out and handed copies to the students. As a class we read my first draft (which I wrote in about an hour).  I asked students to get into pairs and underline all the thoughts in the essay that were mine, and to circle all of the thoughts that came from the article I was analyzing (that is why there is so much underlined text in the draft).

Students noticed right away that I did not simply summarize the ideas of the mentor text’s author. I had my own ideas based on what I learned in his article. This was visual for them and got that point across.

Next, students used the development section of the checklist to assess my paper.

Then, as a class, students called out suggestions that I could use to make develop my ideas more. Those suggestions are present in this doc. 

Active Engagement:

Students got out their own drafts and did the same activities with their own work. Then got onto Chromebooks to revise their drafts for development of ideas.


I reviewed the expectations for their second drafts and reminded students that they are due next class.

NF UNIT P1 Day 4

Day 4

Poem A Day:

Emily Dickinson “Tell all the Truth”

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Today’s Objective: Students will evaluate the article’s context (Who is the author? The publisher? Advertisers? When is was it published? What was going on in the time and place from where it comes?).

We began by watching this video to prepare for further analysis of their nonfiction articles.

Then, students got out the model text for this unit and worked in pairs to complete this worksheet in order to evaluate the source material they are analyzing.

We share out answers and as a class and I ask the students to determine the credibility of my article based on the activity. They rated it on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is an unreliable source and 10 is totally credible. The students found my article to be anywhere between 5-7. They are critical!

Active Engagement:

Students use their personal choice articles to complete a blank version of the same worksheet. 


Students have analyzed their articles in various ways at this point, paying close attention to different types of details.  For homework, I asked them to use their notes so far to write an analysis. This is due next class. (after a weekend)

NF UNIT P1 Day 3

Day 3

Poem A Day:

Today’s poem is not a poem. It’s an image.

Media Manipulation Optical Illusion

Students were to react to the photo in their notebooks. Then we discussed ways photographs and video and audio can be manipulated to distort meaning. The goal is to induce critical thinking.


Today’s Objective: Students will analyze strategies used by authors of nonfiction texts to convey meaning including diction (word choice), graphics/images, organization (layout, headings, etc.).

Students got out the model text for this unit and worked in groups to complete this worksheet. 

We share out answers and I filled it in on my document. I posted this to Google Classroom for the students to reference as we move through the unit.

Active Engagement:

Students use their personal choice articles to complete a blank version of the same worksheet. 


Review the objective and check for questions. Students finish work at home.

NF UNIT P1 Day 2

Day 2

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Poem A Day:

I did not have a poem for today. Instead we had an activity to switch up seating and collaborative groups. I had students arrange themselves into groups of four without saying a word. There was only one rule: You can’t work with anyone you have already worked with this year.

I was surprised how quickly they were able to do it and they seemed excited about the new groups.

I then asked the students to share their articles and thoughts on their articles in their new groups.


Today’s objective is to determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; or to provide an objective summary of the text.

I started by distributing copies of the article I chose for the next several class sessions. I will use this as a mentor text and one that I will model every day’s objective with. 

First we read the story. Then we took notes about it together as a class (the students yelled out their thoughts, and I typed them in this doc.  I posted this to Google Classroom for the students to reference as we move through the unit.

Active Engagement:

Students filled out this same doc about their own article and attempted to write an objective summary of their article that determined the central idea and the specific details that developed that idea.


Students finished the work for homework.

NF UNIT P1 Day 1

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Day 1

Poem A Day:

“Eclipse” Pink Floyd. After reading the lyrics, I told students we were starting a new unit today about nonfiction. Then as a class we mocked up a definition of non-fiction. They called out several examples and I wrote them on the board.


Once students understood that we were going to be learning about a new genre, nonfiction, I asked students to define the following two terms in their notebooks:



This obviously opened up a lot of great conversation. Kids love prompts like these that open their minds and challenge them.

Active Engagement:

I pulled a news report from that morning’s NPR Morning Edition. We listened to the podcast and read the transcript. You can really use any story here that appeals to you or your students.

Then, students worked in pairs to answer these questions. 

We came together as a class to discuss our thoughts.


Students were asked to find a nonfiction news article that is no longer than three months old. They were to fill out the same worksheet with their new article. I also warned them that they would do A LOT OF WORK with that one article for the next week, so I told them to choose something interesting and substantial.

New Semester. New Unit. Nonfiction.

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Part One: What is true?

The nonfiction unit I have designed to use with my kids this year can really be adapted to any classroom, at any age. Most of the unit is driven by student choice, and teacher modelling, so really you can use any materials to model any of the skills you are interested or called to teach. This is a highly student-centered unit, so it is important to remember that you are assessing skills. Not content. Of course, there is no lazy way to execute this. It will require a lot of modelling, reading and taking in a lot of information, but I mean, isn’t that the fun part? I don’t know about you, but my favorite thing about teaching is that I am in a classroom where I learn every day. As a fan of learning, and a believer that I do not know it all (or much, really, in context), I enjoy units like this that keep me on my toes, teach me a lot, and where the students are engaged, and learning, and teaching.

The Particulars:

  1. This unit was taught over 13 80-minute blocks that meet every other day.
  2. At the beginning of the year, I set up this routine. I play a song or read a poem to the students every single day. I cannot stress the success I have had with this (it’s my first year trying this, even though I have wanted to do this for years). These can be used in any way, to develop and deepen themes, to explore character development, to review figurative language. I mean, really, the list goes on. I like it because every single day, my students walk in happy and excited to see what is going to happen. They are called to the music that can be heard in the hallway, and when I hand them a lyric sheet and say hello as they walk in, students know that I care about them. They come in and talk about the song with their peers and then take their seats and get out their notebooks. Every day, the routine is the same, and they actually do it. Once the bell rings and I take attendance, we listen to the song again, and depending on the day I will give them a prompt about it to respond to, or just ask them to jot down things they like or notice. It is low-stakes writing that I do not grade. It gets them engaged, and thinking, the second they walk in the door. No time is wasted. It’s brilliant. Try it, and use it in a way that makes sense for you.