Last updated: 11/4/2013


Grade 1 - Informational Reading: Learning about our World

  Subject:   English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)
  Grade:   Elementary, 1st Grade
  Unit Title:  


Reading for Information - Learning About Our World

(Adapted from: A Curricular Plan For The Reading Workshop, Grade 1, 2011-2012 by Lucy Calkins, Heinemann)

  Approx. Number of Weeks:  

three weeks

Unit Summary:

This unit teaches young students the strategies of nonfiction reading. Students are surrounded by 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 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.

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.K.1 - With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

RL.K.2 - With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

RL.K.3 - With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

RL.K.4 - Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

RL.K.5 - Recognize common types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems).

RL.K.6 - With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.

RL.K.7 - With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).

RL.K.8 - (Not applicable to literature)

RL.K.9 - With prompting and support, compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.

RL.K.10 - Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

RL.K.11 - With prompting and support, make connections between self, text, and the world around them (text, media, social interaction).

Essential Understandings:

We read nonfiction to learn about the world.


Essential Questions:

Students will know:

  • 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:

  • Sort and categorize objects and name the categories.
  • Preview nonfiction texts to figure out what the book is about (main idea) and if there are headings or sections that guide the reader.
  • 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 learn and understand more about the subject.
  • Ask and answer questions with a partner to make meaning from the text.
  • Read nonfiction texts aloud with special emphasis to bring out the meaning.
  • Use pictures/illustrations to help understand a word, part of the book, page of the book, book itself.
  • React to facts by making a statement (“Cool” or “Wow” or “Gross”) about their response.
  • Visualize to understand nonfiction topics better.
  • 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 create a poster or Big Book page displaying all they have learned from reading about their topic.  These can be shared with the class and/or buddies.

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. 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. We all have questions about the world, right? The answers to our questions can be found in nonfiction!”

Mini lesson:

We use everything we know to get ready to read nonfiction. We make sure we read the title, study the cover, take a picture walk and think, “What is this book about? “ Doing this helps us understand our books.

Say and model, “As we are looking through our books, we may ask ourselves, ‘What words do I expect to see in this book about (topic)?’”

Session 3:


As we get ready to read, we think about how our books work. Knowing how our books work helps us predict what our books will be about (model this for them).

We ask ourselves questions, like:

  • Are there headings or sections to guide us?
  • Is this all about one subject?
  • Are there text features to support me and help me understand more?
    • What do the photographs teach me?
    • How does the label identify new information?
    • How do the headings help me know what the section is mostly about?

Session 4:


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. Model this for them. Have them practice reading aloud with a partner to emphasize the big idea. Ask each other, “What does that really mean?” “Can we give an example of that information?”



Sessions 5:

Common Core State Standards emphasize that first graders need to be able to analyze how specific pages and larger portions of text relate to each other and to the whole. When reading non- fiction we don’t race through the text, we want to pause quickly and often to think about what we have just learned. We think, “What have we learned so far” “What was this part mostly about?” As we read on we hold this information in our minds. (Model this)


Partners don’t just retell our nonfiction books to each other. We also ask each other questions to make sure we understand. We ask and answer questions like, “What does that really, mean? and “What is happening in the text?” “Can you give me the big ideas in your book?” “What is this mostly about?” “What reasons/details does the author give to support the big idea?” Model this for them and have them practice with a partner.

Session 6,7:

Readers want to understand as much as we can about our subjects when we are reading information books. Model the following for your students. Give them a chance to practice with you and with a partner.

We see more than the text that is on the page by…

  • Looking closely at illustrations/photographs
  • Using post-its to record our ideas and questions
  • Making a statement about our reactions, like “Cool” or “Wow” or “Gross” and explain why we are reacting that way
  • Making pictures in our mind to understanding our topic better. We can read a section and then close our eyes and picture how our subject moves or changes. We can even act out parts of our informational books, or make a sketch to help explain how our subject moves or changes.

Session 8: One aspect to nonfiction reading is that readers will encounter words that are new and tricky. It helps to teach students to not give up and to use strategies that might help them figure out the tricky words.

Mini-lessons: (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 look closely at the word, read across the word, get our mouths ready, look at the first part of the word and think, “What are all the words that this word might be?” We can take a good look at the picture and then take a good guess. If I’m still stuck I can put a post-it note on the page or word and ask my reading partner to help me later.

But, readers need to do more than figure out how to read or pronounce a word. We also need to understand what the words means. We can say to ourselves, “What does ___________ mean?” “Let me reread this part to see if that helps me.” “Can the picture help me?” “What is it?” “What is it not?” “Is there a glossary I can use to check my idea?”

Session 9: 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 club will produce a poster or big book page to display share what they have learned about their topic. (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. We can decide what we want to explore closely and make a plan for our reading. For example, if we are reading about birds we may decide to collect information and discuss how birds take care of their babies.

Mini-lesson: (model this for them)

Readers in a club want their clubs to be successful. Readers come with important information to share, but we also listen to and try to understand what other club members are saying. One way we can do this is by listening with our eyes, our ears and our bodies.

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. As we compare and contrast we can use specific language to help us get started. Today I want to teach you how to use language to compare and contrast information across your nonfiction text sets. Some ways we can start our conversation are…

  • On this page…but on this page…
  • In this book…but in this book…
  • The difference between… and… is…
  • What is the same about these two… is…
  • Unlike the … in this book, the… does or doesn’t…

Mini-lesson: (model this for them)

When we are talking about and discussing our information we can also ask questions that help us think deeply about our books. We can ask questions while reading and discuss our questions with our club members. We may ask questions like:

  • How do…?
  • Why do…?
  • How come…?
  • Why would…?

Sessions 10-15 (as needed) Complete the Authentic Performance Assessment with their book club group.

Discipline Specific Considerations:


Grade One Common Core State Standards Informational Texts: 20 different titles

Grade One Common Core State Standards: Science Informational Texts: 12 different titles

Grade One Common Core State Standards: Life Cycles Informational Texts: 12 different titles

Note: Within the informational books provided, text sets can be created on different topics.                          For example:       

  • Butterfly: I Spy a Butterfly; The Life Cycle of a Butterfly; Born to Be a Butterfly; From Caterpillar to Butterfly
  • Tadpoles: Tale of a Tadpole; From Tadpole to Frog; Frogs
  • Water, Water Everywhere; Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean; Rain

Discipline Specific Considerations:

  • 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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