Last updated: 4/24/2013


Grade 2 - Reading Our World

  Subject:   English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)
  Grade:   Elementary, 2nd Grade
  Unit Title:  

Reading for Information: Reading Our World                                                                                                 

(Adapted from: A Curricular Plan For The Reading Workshop, Grade 2, 2011-2012 by Lucy Calkins, Heinemann)

  Approx. Number of Weeks:  

Unit Summary:

This unit teaches young students the strategies of nonfiction reading. Students are surrounded by “just right” high interest nonfiction texts on topics that they already know something about, because nonfiction readers attach new learning to what they already know. Work in this unit involves setting up the classroom nonfiction library, studying the layout of a nonfiction text, making meaning beyond the text by synthesizing and analyzing pictures and other graphics, tackling new content specific words and comparing and contrasting a topic across texts.   The sequence of learning activities provides a highly independent sequence of instruction.  You may want to make use of parent volunteers or other adults as you work through this unit.  Also, the text set provided will need to enhanced with additional non-fiction titles from your classroom library or from your school library.  Please talk to your librarian about resources. 

Next Generation Skills Addressed:
   Collaboration & Communication
   Creativity & Innovation
   Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
   Research & Information Fluency
   Social & Emotional Intelligence

1. What will students know and be able to do?


RL.2.1 - Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

RI.2.2 - Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.

RI.2.3 - Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

RI.2.4 - Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.

RI.2.5 - Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.

RI.2.6 - Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

RI.2.7 - Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.

RI.2.8 - Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.

RI.2.9 - Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.

RI.2.10 - By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 2-3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

Essential Understandings:

  • We read nonfiction to become smarter about the things in our world. 

Essential Questions:

Students will know:

  • Readers of nonfiction texts attach new learning to what they already know.
  • Readers of nonfiction texts teach others what they have learned.
  • Readers of nonfiction texts look beyond the words on the page to make meaning.
  • Readers of nonfiction texts encounter new (content) words that are related to the topic they are reading about.
  • Readers of nonfiction texts figure out hard words by using the same strategies they use to figure out words in fiction texts.
  • Readers of nonfiction texts understand more about a topic by reading more than one book about the topic. 

Students will be able to:

  • Read across a range of topics in science and social studies.
  • Sort and categorize objects and name the categories.
  • Study nonfiction texts to figure out how the information is structured and to identify the author’s main purpose (explain, answer, describe).
  • Use text features (i.e. table of contents; the index; a glossary; headings and subheadings; text sidebars and italicized or boxed notes; and labeled diagrams, tables and charts) to locate key facts and information.
  • Preview, predict, find main ideas, and visualize to make meaning from text.
  • Ask and answer questions to make meaning from the text.
  • Read nonfiction texts with fluency and intonation.
  • Read nonfiction texts for longer stretches with engagement.
  • Retell nonfiction texts to a partner.
  • Connect specific sentences and paragraphs, and larger parts of the text to each other and the text as a whole to describe how an author proves their ideas with reasons. 
  • Categorize the text into sections and make sense of the sections.
  • Synthesize and analyze pictures, charts and other diagrams and charts in a nonfiction text to make meaning.
  • Make active connections between nonfiction texts and pictures/illustrations.
  • Decode and understand key words in nonfiction texts.  
  • Read to compare and contrast more than one nonfiction book on a topic

2. How will we – and they – know?

Authentic Performance Task:

Students will work in small book clubs to read across a text set (more than one book on the same topic) on a topic of interest. Each group will collect all their notes and ideas and then each student writes a 5-8 page information book showing all they have learned from reading about their topic.

Ask students to gather their text set. Each student will complete a graphic organizer (provided) for each book in the text set. Using their notes, organizers and the Writing an Information Book Checklist (provided) students will write an information book to explain what they know about the topic. 

Common Benchmark Assessment:

3. What learning activities will students participate in?

Learning Activities:

Sequence of Learning:

Session 1:

Place leveled non-fiction books in cartons/boxes.  You will need to supplement the books in the bin with other nonfiction titles so that there is a large number of texts with which students can work.   Be excited about the new books! Ask students to think like a librarian. How could they organize the books? Take student suggestions and add your own to get a chart that looks something like:

Librarians organize books by:

  • Author
  • Subject
  • Informational or story
  • Level

Put students into groups of 3-4 and give each group a carton of books to sort. (Make sure the books are not already sorted by topic, author or level.) Tell them to sort the books so that it will help readers find books quickly and make readers want to explore new topics. (As they sort and categorize, they will make some mental sense of this genre. It will also help them develop curiosity about the topics in the class library.)

Once the books have been sorted, put two groups together and have them re-sort the combined collection by topic.

Finally, give the whole class empty “topic baskets” to place books into. Have a topic card or tag for each basket. As a class they must decide what topic to write on the card for each basket.

 Session 2:

Share your excitement about this unit! “We read nonfiction to get smarter about the wonderful and cool things that happen in our world and then teach what we have learned to others.”

Mini lesson:

When nonfiction readers begin reading our books we first get a big idea about what we are reading. We glance at the table of contents, the chapter headings, and the subheadings to get an idea about how the text will go.” Open one of the books they have just sorted to point out text features that help readers make sense of how the information is organized. Share text features such as: table of contents; index; a glossary; headings and subheadings; text sidebars; boxed or italicized notes/facts; labeled diagrams; tables; charts. Show them how they can use text features to preview, predict, find the main topic and envision (visualize). Don’t spend more than one day on the features.

You might give every child a book and have them read the content on the page and then check to see if it fits with the heading on that page. Remind them that readers slow down when they read nonfiction texts. We pause to think and often sort the ideas into buckets in our heads. We can use the headings to help us do this.

Let them retell their page to a partner.

Session 3:


When we read fiction we read with a story voice. But when we read nonfiction we read with an explaining voice. Like a teacher or narrator in a drama. We always think about what is more important and less important. As we read, we use the voice in our head to pop out the big, important information.

Show a small clip from Unleased, a Discovery channel show narrated by Jeff Corwin. Point out that Corwin uses different voices to pop out important or exciting information. Have them listen for when Corwin uses a questioning, surprised, hushed, or dramatic voice and also his use of the dramatic pause.

After the video, they can practice reading aloud to a partner a section or chunk of expository text with intonation that conveys the meaning. (there are many Unleased videos you can choose from.)

Sessions 4, 5, 6:

The focus here is helping students read longer stretches of nonfiction text with engagement. To do this young readers need to learn strategies designed to help them constantly monitor for meaning. Set up temporary partnerships for the next few lessons, so that for a short time each day readers are accountable for retelling what they have read to a partner.


Partners don’t just retell our nonfiction books to each other. We also ask each other questions to make sure we understand. First we teach our partner about what we have learned and then we ask questions like, “What does that really, mean? and “Can you give an example of that information?” Spend some time modeling and leading them through this work with guided practice.

Remind them that nonfiction readers can say things that help us make sense of what we have read, like “One kind of ________________ is ____________________. Another kind is _________________. The last kind of __________________ I learned about is _________________. Model this for them and have them practice with a partner.

Note: You could make different types of templates for students to use as they read and talk with their partners about their expository texts.

Give the student partnerships an adequate amount of time to read and retell independently.

Session 7, 8, 9:

Once students are able to read nonfiction text for meaning and engagement, you help them become more sophisticated nonfiction readers by showing them that there are strategies for making meaning beyond what is explicitly written on the page. You begin to nudge readers to respond to illustration and to content. Common core state standards emphasize that second graders should be able to synthesize and analyze a text’s pictures, charts and other graphics.


Readers of nonfiction read more than just the words on the page, we study and read pictures, too. We figure out that the pictures connect with the words. We looks carefully at the details of the pictures and read the labels and any other words that help us understand exactly what the picture is telling us and how it connects to the words we are reading. (model this for them)

Sometimes we find pictures without any text and we need to think about what words explain what the picture is teaching. (model this for them)

Give children time to practice this skill with a partner.

Mini-lesson: (model this for them with a nonfiction text)

When readers of nonfiction pay attention to what they read and jot down their thoughts and questions, they can grow bigger ideas about the topic. We can respond to the new things we are learning. We can respond to the new things we are learning on post-it notes or in our journals. We don’t just copy down the words on the page. We jot things like: “This makes me think _________________.” “This makes me wonder ______________.” “This is just like _________________.” “This surprises me because__________________.” Note: Watch out for children who want to record trivia or random facts vs. thinking and responding with their own thoughts.

Let them practice this skill as they read independently with a partner.

Mini-lesson: (model this for them with a nonfiction text)

Non-fiction readers don’t just ask questions, they also try to answer them. When we have a question about our topic that the page doesn’t answer, we hunt elsewhere in the book- or we find another book to find the answer. We can use the table of contents and the index in the book we are reading, and other books, to find the answer.

Let them practice this skill as they read independently with a partner.

 Session 10: One aspect to nonfiction reading is that readers will encounter words unique to the content they are learning. These words are very important because they put names to the concepts and objects and parts of the topic of study. So it is important to teach them how to tackle these tricky words.

Mini-lesson: (model this for them with a nonfiction text)

When readers come across a hard word in a nonfiction text we use everything we know to figure out what it might mean. “We can figure out what words mean by reading a little further, looking at the pictures, captions, labels and sidebars on the page, checking for a glossary, or simply fitting another word in the place of the hard word and then reading on.” If we are still unsure we can jot the word down on a post-it and try to figure it out with a partner.

Let them practice in their independent reading.

Session 11, 12, 13, 14: We want to remind students that the reason we read nonfiction is to grow smarter about our world and the things in it. Create text sets around topics that have been especially popular with your students and set up a book club around each topic. (Your collection for this unit has several books on the same topic, you can also add to the text set from the library or book room.)

One of the most important standards in the CCSS asks that students work on the skill of comparing and contrasting information across the same topic, as well as become proficient at presenting information orally. Club work helps children work on both of these skills.

Giving each club a text set on a particular topic, you will encourage the collaborative study of many texts on a topic, so that children may compare and contrast the information and illustrations within them. You will also aim for bookclubs to grow conversations from their collaborative study of a topic.

Each student will produce a 5-8 page information book to share what they have learned about their topic. (See Authentic Performance Assessment)

Mini-lessons: (model this for them)

As members of a reading club we talk to other club members and plan the work our club will do. One thing that reading clubs might plan is to jot notes on the ideas and questions we have as we read the books on our topic. We can jot our ideas and questions on post-its and collect them in a club folder.

Let the club groups read and note their ideas and questions.

Mini-lesson: (model this for them)

Readers in a club can choose one post-it and talk about it for a long time. When they are finished they can choose another post-it and talk about it.

Let students practice this with their club.

Mini-lesson: (model this for them)

Nonfictions readers often read more than one book on topics we love. Then we compare and contrast the information. We note the ways in which different books on the same topic are organized. We also note that they give us different angles and details about the same topic.

We mix and match what we read before with what we are reading now to grow a more complete understanding of the topic. One way nonfiction readers mix and match information across books is by making quick notes.

Let students read, take notes and talk to each other about their topics.

Sessions 15-18 (as needed) Complete the Authentic Performance Assessment with their book club group. 

Discipline Specific Considerations:

  • Text features such as: table of contents; index; a glossary; headings and subheadings; text sidebars; boxed or italicized notes/facts; labeled diagrams; tables; charts.
  • Be aware of unfamiliar content specific words found in the nonfiction leveled books.
  • Text set (more than one book on the same topic) 
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