As educators, we’re always looking for ways to engage learners in reading. Pairing fiction with nonfiction is a fantastic way to engage all readers and to help them understand the attributes and text features of both kinds of texts. We often think of these genres as separate and distinct, teaching them separately and not linking them for instruction. But pairing fiction and nonfiction can facilitate deeper discussion and broaden students’ perspectives about content and themes.
Think about your learners. Some may gravitate toward fiction, while others prefer nonfiction. As an educator, you can build the bridge and make connections thematically between genres. This pairing not only appeals to all your learners, it can help draw them from one genre to the other. Filling your classroom library with fiction/nonfiction pairs will entice all your readers! Challenge students to dive into both genres. Fiction/nonfiction pairs also authentically blend language arts with content, such as social studies and science. Readers can master academic vocabulary as they encounter words in different genres and contexts.
Fiction/nonfiction pairs build excitement, too! Read aloud a favorite fiction title, and then lead learners to explore nonfiction books on similar topics. These pairs build rigor while keeping reading fun and engaging.
How Can You Pair Fiction and Nonfiction?
Identify a shared topic or theme. You could, for example, pair historical fiction with nonfiction text. Learning facts about the Underground Railroad, for example, could be even more powerful when reading about a fictional character’s experiences as a runaway slave. You could pair a fictional story about the adventures of penguins with a nonfiction text about the animals and the habitat in which they live. The possibilities are endless! Think about content, theme, and academic vocabulary. All are great ways to pair fiction and nonfiction, and all are ways to deepen students’ understanding.
Consider your learning objectives. Suppose that you were teaching a lesson about point of view. Pairing fiction and nonfiction would help students understand how point of view differs in fiction and nonfiction texts. If your learning objective is to understand academic vocabulary, choose fiction and nonfiction texts with the same vocabulary words and have students consider how the vocabulary is used in both genres.
Craft an essential question that helps students identify how the texts are connected. You might, for example, display an essential question about courage. A variety of fiction and nonfiction texts could show characters and real-life situations in which courage plays a part. Collect students’ ideas about courage after reading. What if the essential question is about a content standard, such as understanding the events in the Civil Rights movement? While nonfiction texts seem a natural fit to meet this standard, consider how historical fiction might help students increase their understanding of living during that time.
Pairing fiction and nonfiction texts is a meaningful and effective way to enhance instruction and pique student interest! When readers make connections regardless of genre, their literacy development increases. They understand what comprises a fact and become much more critical readers and problem-solvers.
Are you ready to pair fiction and nonfiction? Capstone can give you a head start! Check out Engage Literacy, our balanced literacy program, with thematically linked fiction and nonfiction pairs!
What makes Engage Literacy so compelling for the classroom?
- Precisely leveled readers, levels A through V, with thematically linked fiction and nonfiction pairs from guided reading levels C-P
- Highly engaging visuals and humorous stories with recurring well-loved characters
- Comprehensive teacher support with text dependent and inferential questions for every page in every book
- Systematic vocabulary introduced and reinforced throughout all the levels
Your students will make connections, use their prior knowledge, and gain a deeper understanding of the differences between genres—and what genres have in common!
Try these fiction and nonfiction pairs:
Billy Brown's Cat: Billy Brown wants a puppy. But he gets a cat instead! Will he learn to love his new pet?
Big Cats: There are big cats in the jungle, and there are big cats in the desert. Big cats are different from pets!
Backstage at the School Play: It’s high tech versus low tech as students produce sound effects for the school play!
Properties of Light and Sound: This book explains the basic properties of light and sound.
Marvin and the Monarch Butterflies: Marvin and his friend Kayla follow the journey of monarch butterflies as they make their annual migration.
Animal Migration: Discuss different types of migrating animals and the amazing routes they travel during migration.