Teaching Nonfiction Text Features The Easy Way

You need your students to understand nonfiction text in a simple process. I completely understand! This post gives upper elementary teachers tips that are effective, but also quick. Here you’ll learn the ins-and-outs of teaching nonfiction text features the easy way!

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The Importance of Teaching Nonfiction Text Features

Her eyes told the whole story. 😳

Even through her glasses, I could see slight panic when I called on her to answer the question.

A former 4th grade student–let’s call her Suzy Q–froze like a deer in headlights when I asked her how the subtitle helped us understand more about the main idea.

Suzy Q demonstrated strong reading comprehension. She had proven over and over again that she understood main idea.

So, it shocked me to see her stuck over this question.

I helped her play it off to avoid embarrassment.

Once we had a chance to talk one-on-one, she admitted that she didn’t know what a subtitle was.

How are text features helpful to the reader?

Nonfiction text features are like the secret ingredients in a recipe, making complex information easy to digest for your kiddos. Here’s why they’re so helpful:

  • Map to Understanding: Just like a map helps travelers, headings and subheadings guide students through a text, pointing out what’s important.
  • Visual Breakdown: Photos and diagrams break down complex ideas into bite-sized, visual pieces, making tough concepts easier to grasp.
  • Quick Facts at a Glance: Fact boxes offer exciting tidbits and essential info, perfect for sparking curiosity and reinforcing learning.
  • Bold Highlights: Bold and italicized words emphasize key terms, helping students identify and remember crucial concepts.
  • Glossary Gems: A glossary is a goldmine for vocabulary building, turning unfamiliar words into new knowledge tools.

In a nutshell, text features are the unsung heroes in the reading journey, transforming challenging texts into engaging, student-friendly resources. They’re not just helpful; they’re essential in lighting up the path to understanding! πŸ¦‹πŸ“šβœ¨

Improving Reading Comprehension with Nonfiction Text

The experience with Suzy Q opened my eyes even more to the importance of explicitly teaching nonfiction text features to upper elementary students.

When our kiddos understand how to find and use text features, it improves their comprehension.

So many helpful inferencing clues are found in features such as:

  • Titles
  • Subtitles
  • Captions
  • Illustrations
  • Graphs / Charts / Timelines

Even the table of contents gives excellent comprehension clues!

But how do we effectively teach these features? Furthermore, can the process be simplified? πŸ€”

Absolutely, teacher friend! Here are some tips for you. 🀩

Introducing Nonfiction Text Features to Students

To kick things off, I like to use videos or text features Powerpoint slideshows instead of anchor charts.

I notice an increase of engagement and understanding with these with videos or slideshow lessons.

This is one of the easiest first steps to teaching nonfiction text features! I directly teach each feature and show several examples.

Students follow along with a video outline OR with their interactive notebook version filling in each blank.

Most students are visual learners anyway, so matching the vocabulary with examples makes things clear.

Once they’ve seen lots of examples, I show them even more text features using magazines.

Using Magazine Scavenger Hunts as Informational Text

I LOVE ❀️ teaching reading with magazines.

So, my second step in teaching nonfiction text features is to put students with a partner for them to complete a magazine scavenger hunt.

magazine scavenger hunt literacy center
If you’d like to try using this set of Magazine Scavenger Hunts for your classroom, click HERE or click the image.

Partners work together to find text features throughout different magazines.

This offers a non-intimidating way for kids to identify what they just learned from the video/slideshow.

It’s also a win-win because they enjoy reading the articles, which gives them practice reading informational text passages. πŸ™ŒπŸΎ

What Are Informational Text Features?

What do informational texts like magazines have to do with nonfiction text features?

Well, as a seasoned 4th grade teacher, I’ve seen the magic that happens when kids explore informational text features, especially through the fun of magazine scavenger hunts. 🌟 Let’s connect the dots between these features and the nonfiction text features we’re already familiar with:

Think of nonfiction text features as the tools that help students navigate through a text, like signposts on a road. They point out the important stuff and make the journey smoother. Informational text features, on the other hand, are more like the attractions along the way. They’re the engaging bits in magazines and other texts that draw students in and make the content relatable and exciting. πŸŽ‰


Here’s a quick rundown of the most common informational text features:

  • Captivating Captions: These little snippets under photos or illustrations give extra info that isn’t in the main text.
  • Intriguing Infographics: These mix visuals and data to explain concepts in a fun, easy-to-understand way.
  • Bold Biographies: Short bios connect the text to real-world people, making learning more personal.
  • Time-Telling Timelines: These help students understand the sequence of events or the history behind a topic.
  • Comparative Charts and Graphs: These tools compare and contrast data, making complex information clear and accessible.

Using magazine scavenger hunts, we turn the hunt for these features into an adventure. It’s a hands-on, engaging way for our students to discover these elements in a context they love. ❀️ Plus, it’s a fantastic bridge from what we just learned about nonfiction text features.

Remember, whether it’s a textbook or a magazine, these features are our allies in bringing the world of information to life for our students.

How Do I Find the Best Magazines for Kids?

I’ve received several sets of magazines from former teachers. I keep them in 3-ring binders with plastic sleeves made specifically for magazines.

This preserves them for use year-after-year.

But I’ve also built an impressive collection with these subscriptions:

  • Ranger Rick Jr.
  • National Geographic for Kids
  • Highlights (I use the version for older kids.)
  • Time for Kids

These–along with other engaging books for teaching nonfiction text features–can be found in my Amazon store.

Click here to see the nonfiction text features list OR just to view all the teacher goodies throughout the store!

Practice with Nonfiction Text Features Worksheets and Task Cards

If you’ve spent any time on this site, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I adore literacy centers! 🀩

It’s no surprise then, that my final step in teaching nonfiction text features involves practice during center time.

Students are given worksheets, task cards, and digital games reviewing what they’ve learned.

More importantly, this continued practice helps them specifically use these features with reading comprehension.

Because remember, the goal isn’t just memorization of random features. The goal is to USE text features to strengthen their understanding of reading nonfiction! πŸ“š

On-going practice with worksheets and task cards helps students to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.

These activities also empowers students like Suzy Q to confidently answer questions about text features during class discussions.

What Are the Main Nonfiction Text Features to Teach?

Since I like to use spiral review stretched out over several weeks of practice, I tend to cover way more than the main text features.

For instance, I designed activities that consistently go over these features in nonfiction texts:

  • charts and graphs
  • titles and subtitles
  • bold and italic words
  • labeled diagrams
  • timelines
  • heading and subheadings
  • glossaries
  • pictures with captions
  • table of contents
  • index

Does this seem like too much for 3rd through 5th graders? πŸ€” Yes, if you’re trying to teach all these text features in a short period of time with no on-going practice.

But over time, your students will know how to identify, use, and gain meaning from using these with their nonfiction reading.

What really sweetens it up is that NONE of these activities mentioned above take up tons of lesson planning or teacher prep time! πŸ™ŒπŸΎ

A Recap on Teaching Nonfiction Text Features the EASY Way!

Let’s do a quick review of the three steps I use to teach upper elementary features from informational texts:

  1. Introduce the terms and examples with videos or Powerpoint lessons.
  2. Allow fun practice finding examples of text features using magazine scavenger hunts.
  3. Continue review using worksheets, task cards, and digital games in small groups.

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy! πŸ‹

If you follow these steps and your students are still struggling, then asses their overall reading comprehension with nonfiction.

Once you check out the activities mentioned above, you can hop over to this post with tips on how to make reading informational text fun for upper elementary students.

Bonus Ideas: Fun and Quick Activities to Teach Nonfiction Text Features πŸŒˆπŸ“š

In addition to the ideas above, I want to share some bonus ideas to help you teach nonfiction text features with ease.

Before we dive into these quick ideas, be sure to check out the text features worksheets, which are great for lesson warms, extra practice and more! πŸ‘‡πŸΎ

  • πŸ•΅οΈβ€β™€οΈ Feature Detective: Turn your students into text feature detectives! Have them use magnifying glasses to ‘investigate’ a text and find different features. It’s a fun way to encourage close reading.
  • 🎨 Text Feature Gallery Walk: Set up stations around the room with different text features displayed. Students walk around, observe, and jot down notes about each feature. It’s like an art walk but for text features!
  • πŸ€– Robot Read-Aloud: Students read aloud a text, but they must change their voice when they come across a text feature. It’s a quirky, fun way to emphasize the importance of these features.
  • 🎭 Feature Charades: Students act out different text features while others guess. It’s a great way to get them moving and thinking creatively about how each feature functions.
  • πŸ“ Text Feature Bingo: Create bingo cards with different text features instead of numbers. As they read, students mark off features they find. First to get bingo wins!

In conclusion, teaching nonfiction text features doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a fun and interactive experience for both you and your students! 🌟 Try out these activities and watch as your class becomes more confident and skilled in navigating nonfiction texts.

And hey, don’t forget to drop a comment below with your favorite idea from this list, or share any other fun activities you’ve tried. Can’t wait to hear your awesome experiences!

Happy teaching! πŸ¦‹βœ¨πŸ“š

The Butterfly Teacher

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