Lesson plan

Nonfiction vs. Fiction: Which Style Is It?

Sorting and categorizing isn’t just for cleaning! In this fun-filled activity, students will learn how to distinguish fiction from nonfiction.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards

At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to identify texts as fiction or nonfiction and explain some of the text qualities associated with each type of writing.

(10 minutes)
Fiction or Nonfiction?Literature Sleuth
  • Call students together.
  • Dump out the collection of items to be sorted. Encourage students to attempt sorting them in a variety of ways. Ask them how they decided to sort the items and knew what types of items to put in each pile.
  • After students have had a chance to sort out the items, explain that today they will be sorting two types of literature, fiction and nonfiction. Just like when they sorted the miscellaneous items, they need to know the qualities that make writing go in one group or the other.
(10 minutes)
  • Show students two recent texts that they have read as a class that are fiction and nonfiction. Read a brief sample from each book.
  • Ask students to think about things they noticed that are unique to each of the writing styles. (Students may mention things like animals speaking, a greater amount of dates, differences in tone, etc.) Keep a running list of these on the board.
  • Pass out the Fiction or Nonfiction?Worksheet to each student.
  • Read the directions and try sorting a few of the sentences as a class using the characteristics list for each writing style that students just came up with.
(10 minutes)
  • After students seem to be getting the hang of it, ask for a student volunteer to lead the class in sorting the next sentence using the list of characteristics.
  • Continue this process a few more times until all of the sentences have been sorted.
  • Pass out the Literature SleuthWorksheet.
  • Go over the directions with the students, ask if there are any questions, and send students out to work independently.
(10 minutes)
  • While students are working independently or in pairs, any adults in the room should be circulating, answering questions, clarifying any sources of confusion, and redirecting students as needed. If any partnerships are being utilized, it can be useful to designate a specific area for them, so as not to disturb other students working silently.
  • Support:For students needing a little extra assistance, working with a partner can help to scaffold the activity. Having an adult or peer read the sentences orally can benefit students who are either auditory learners or who have certain sensory processing difficulties. For students who struggle with fine motor skills, the worksheet can be pre-cut.
  • Enrichment:For students who need a greater challenge, have students try to write their own sentences or paragraphs in fiction and nonfiction writing styles.
(5 minutes)
  • An informal assessment can be performed during the lesson based on adult observations of student engagement in the class discussions and activities.
  • Calculating the number of correct answers students write on the worksheets can offer a more formal form of assessment.
  • As an additional form of assessment, students can search for paragraphs from a variety of genres, trade with a classmate, and try to determine which are from fiction and nonfiction choices. Whether or not students are able to do this successfully will indicate whether or not students have mastered this skill.
(10 minutes)
  • Call students together again.
  • Review the Literature SleuthWorksheet as a class. Are there any questions that stumped students? Do the correct answers make sense to everyone?
  • It can be fun to conclude by taking an informal poll about whether or not students prefer fiction or nonfiction writing more. Why? Did this answer change during the lesson?

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