Teaching Informational Text to Upper Elementary (without boring them to tears!)

At times, it seems easier to keep kids engaged with reading fiction novels and picture books than with nonfiction books. Is it possible to make nonfiction reading fun? Absolutely teacher friend! In this post, I share my favorite strategies for teaching informational text to upper elementary students.

PLUS you can grab a free activity to use in your classroom this week!

What Are Informational Text Passages?

Even though it may seem like a no-brainer to some, I don’t want to move on without defining informational texts.

Besides, how can we know how to teach them, if we can’t be crystal clear on what they are.

Informational text passages are a wide variety of sources that basically give you more information.

They include things like:

  • biographies
  • how-to articles
  • recipes
  • social studies and science themed texts
  • autobiographies
  • history and more.

Informational texts can come in the form of books, worksheets, workbooks, and my personal favorite–magazines!

Are Informational Text Passages the Same as Nonfiction Reading Passages?

Although teachers use the terms interchangeably, informational text passages aren’t always the exact same as nonfiction passages.

Nonfiction reading covers anything that isn’t fiction. This means they can include characters, which you often do not see in informational texts.

So when teaching students to read informative passages, keep in mind that these are a sub-set of nonfiction reading.

In a way, nonfiction reading is the big umbrella, and informational text reading is one example that falls under it.

Knowing these slight differences can really help you when designing your lesson plans for reading.

How Do You Teach Informational Text in a FUN Way?

I feel like this is the essential question! Since so many kids “seem” to hate reading them, how do we make informational text passages more interesting?

Well, my first tip is to allow your students to choose what texts they want to learn more about.

3rd-5th graders actually enjoy learning random facts about new things! Especially on topics that appeal to them.

The best way I’ve found to manage student choice in my class is with choice boards or learning menus.

During our literacy centers rotations, I give students a choice board with different informational text options and allow them to choose their favorites throughout the week.

Not only do choice boards give students autonomy with their learning, but it also helps you ensure that they don’t choose informational texts that are inappropriate.

Magazine Scavenger Hunts

Another tip I have for teaching informational text to upper elementary students is to have magazine scavenger hunts!

Magazine scavenger hunts are worksheets with a list of options students must find and write down while they read magazines.

There are so many things I love about using these with our reading centers:

  • they don’t require any extra prep time for me to have ready
  • I can use them all throughout the school year with different magazines
  • students can use them with any nonfiction magazine they choose (YAY, more guided student choice!)
  • they can be used to practice reading as well as identifying text structures

Knowing text structures is such an important part of mastering informational texts reading. The fact that I can weave this in with our scavenger hunts is such a win-win for me and the students!

Make Reading Fun With Mystery Pictures

Another highly engaging activity for upper elementary students is mystery pictures reading!

Mystery pics take reading nonfiction to a whole new level. Here’s how they work:

  • Students read the informational text passages on different topics through Google Slides. Each topic has a picture related to it, but there’s a catch: the picture is all scrambled up.
  • In order to see the pictures, students must correctly answer comprehension questions that allow them to “solve” the mystery picture.

Here’s an example from my YouTube channel that shows how mystery pictures work:

Using this reading center requires devices, but incorporating technology into your reading centers is a good thing!

That provides novelty and a new way to experience reading nonfiction.

This is another way to make teaching informational text more fun for students.

And since this form of nonfiction reading tends to lack characters, students look forward to seeing any pictures that come with them.

The pictures can also give more information about the informative topic, which strengthens students’ comprehension.

It will be music to your teacher-ears to hear students asking for more reading because they want more mystery pictures to solve!

Teach Students to Color-Code Their Close Read Passages

In addition to the tips above, it is also very helpful to color-code any close-reading passages in class.

Close reading is pretty self explanatory: it’s when students are reading the text closely in order to gain more information.

My favorite way to practice close reading is to teach students to color-code their texts. This works especially well when teaching informational text.

One of the issues I have found with many basal readers for upper elementary is that they lack nonfiction passages in general.

This is where informational text quick reads come in to save the day! 🙌🏾

These no-prep reading comprehension worksheets allow me to have on-going practice and spiral the standards that my students need.

These basic characteristics align with this tip:

  • students get to color-code their answers and the text, which forces them to refer back to passage 
  • the color-coding aspect breaks away from the monotony of just having a worksheet with several sentences to fill out
  • these passages can be completed quickly, so they’re great for lesson warm-ups, morning work, or exit tickets

For these reasons and more, I highly recommend using color-coding during reading.

The Top Way Teachers Make Close Reading BORING for Students

It’s hard to talk about close-reading without including this warning in there: don’t drill students about color-coding perfectly!

The process of color-coding during reading should not overshadow learning new information from the text.

If you penalize students for getting one of their colors incorrect, then they will start paying more attention to the colors rather than the passage itself.

Of course, you want to remind students to follow directions when they’re reading.

But you don’t want to suck the joy of reading out of them by knocking points off their grade if they mix up one of their colors when highlighting their answers.

Do a quick fact check during your guided reading time to see if the students understand what they read.

If they show comprehension, then move on!

More Resources for Teaching Reading

Hopefully you found some golden nuggets about teaching informational text to your upper elementary students.

Be sure to pin this post on your favorite Pinterest board or bookmark it for later use.

I love teaching reading, so I have more resources here for you:

PLUS, don’t forget to grab your FREE activity here:

The Butterfly Teacher

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