How We Engage with Nonfiction Matters!

This past week I attended a Heinemann workshop with Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. I am a huge fan of their Notice and Note Signposts to help alert readers to significant moments in literature.  Though I’ve had their new book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies I honestly haven’t had the time to “unpack” it. In fact, I loaned my copy out and it’s MIA.

So I was excited to hear Kylene and Bob speak to it. What I particularly love is that they don’t advocate using the signposts as the goal for reading, only as a possible stance for reading.  They believe scaffolds should be temporary and fading, as the reader no longer needs them.  This is at the heart of my belief in teaching and coaching as well. So learning and teaching the signposts is not an end in itself, it is a means for engaging with texts more meaningfully as needed.

Very often our students read nonfiction, but aren’t “engaging” with it.  By that I mean, they aren’t asking themselves “so what?” or “what does this mean for me?” They read it to recall important facts and supporting details.  Maybe that’s fine sometimes, but I think we’ve seen in the past year just how important it is for people to become more critical consumers of information.

So using these 5 Signposts for Nonfiction can help our students tune in to what they are reading more critically:

  1. Contrasts and Contradictions
  2. Absolute or Extreme Language
  3. Numbers and Statistics
  4. Quoted Words
  5. Word Gaps


But my biggest take-away from the day was to encourage our students to:


Even if our students just started doing this more often, I believe the level of engagement would be raised and the depth of thinking would increase.  So don’t feel like you need to wait until you teach all of the signposts to your students before you can get started with closer reading of nonfiction.  Invite them to take a questioning stance as they read NOW. Then weave in specific signposts to help guide their analysis and interpretation of what they read.

How we engage with nonfiction matters.  If we want our students to be more critical thinkers, we need to teach them to read more critically.

What’s On My Book Radar?


Wow, I had this book on my TBR stack for awhile and it kept getting passed up for some reason. So glad it finally made it to the top…it is FANTASTIC!
Richard Peck has written a hilarious and yet thoughtful book that I wish everyone would read. It is about growing up both physically for the main character, but also emotionally for the readers of this powerful story.

Archer is a 6th grader who recounts his elementary school years with a touch of naivete and nostalgia and a huge dose of humor! He seems to be the last to know his beloved uncle Paul is in love with his teacher, Mr. McLeod!  With a loving family and role models to guide him, Archer learns to be the BEST MAN he can be!

I cannot recommend this book enough. You will laugh, you will cry, you will THINK about what it is that makes us who we are as humans. Love is love. And I love this book!


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