Nonfiction Passages That Can Save You Time

"I hated it when you made me read last year.  But then, when we went to remote learning in the spring and over the summer, I got bored and so I started reading.  And now I like it!"

"What do you like to read now?"

"I like nonfiction, especially about people."

It's music to any ELA teacher's ears to hear that you've helped turn a student into a reader.  This conversation was especially sweet because the young man had come to my class last year from Puerto Rico, with only a little bit of English under his belt, but a lot of determination.  

We started with graphic novels and, when he felt ready, we moved on from there.  He would read a book with more print and then go back to graphic novels again.  That was fine with me.  I think what surprised me though, was that he enjoyed nonfiction so much.  He said he could picture it better in his mind than fiction.

It's important to help students read both fiction and nonfiction, but in sixth-grade fiction is chosen by most students over nonfiction.  So how do we get students to read interesting passages and show them how to understand them well?

These websites are ones I tap into pretty frequently for fiction and nonfiction passages.  Over the years, they've gotten better about making the same article available on different levels (very important to sixth graders who constantly compare themselves with others, even when you make those distinctions TOP SECRET.)

Some of these even allow you to search by grade, reading strategy, genre, theme, paired reading, and a number of other factors.

Thinking about my former student, I decided to create some passages that I thought my students would be interested in, and that would save me time by focusing on a particular reading strategy.

  1. The passages needed to present different points of view, if possible
  2. They needed to be about lesser-known events or people in our history
  3. They needed to focus on one reading strategy, primarily
  4. They needed to be interesting to 5th - 7th graders

And then I wrote the first one and didn't follow my plan, but there's a reason for that which I'll explain.  You can read about why I wrote this passage here.  

Greenwood is a section of town where an ugly race riot took place in the 1920s in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  It's written with a focus on author's bias because, naturally, I have feelings about the event.  That's not a bad thing and I wanted students to see that bias doesn't always have to come from a bad place.

The passage has good questions that will have your students thinking, and I provide the sources I used for my research if you want to explore further. And the best part, if you click on the picture or here, it's FREE!  

Does your school celebrate Columbus or Indigenous Peoples' Day?  

Have your students read these two passages, one written from the point of view of Columbus as the fearless navigator that he was.  The other, written from the point of view of the Taino people, that shows Columbus for the ruthless man he also was.  Your students will respond to vocabulary words using context clues and choose a point of view as they step into the shoes of either Columbus or a Taino chieftain.  Click on the picture or here to take a closer look.

You could also combine this passage with a reading of Encounter by Jane Yolen, a powerfully told story from the point of view of a Taino boy.
Youtube has several versions as a read-aloud if you don't have the book.  (This is just one of many available.)
Are you looking for something a little lighter?  How about comparing and contrasting real and artificial Christmas trees?  I think your students will find it thought-provoking.   Click on the picture or here to take a look at it.

I hope you find some passages here that your students might want to read and that will help them review particular reading strategies.  

Are there passages about particular people or events any that you'd like to see written?  Leave me a comment below, and I'll be happy to give it a try!

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