Strategies for Reading Nonfiction


Gustave Flaubert said that we read in order to live. Common Core State Standards in English language arts are a bit less poetic than Flaubert, but they make something of the same point. They identify reading as a foundational skill and require students to analyze complex nonfiction texts to determine the central idea, the development of that idea, and the use of specific details. Students are also required to summarize the text.

SAS Curriculum Pathways offers a nonfiction reading tool to help students meet these standards. The tool guides students through the entire reading process. More specifically, the tool helps students predict what they will learn before they start reading, modify those predictions as they read, identify key details and phrases, organize main ideas, draw conclusions about what they have learned, and write a summary.


Strategies for Reading Nonfiction - Quick Launch #1265

Students can enter their own text by cutting and pasting, or they can select from a wide range of nonfiction materials included in the tool. These include essays (e.g., on pets or movies), autobiography (e.g., by Ulysses Grant or Frederick Douglas), biography (e.g., on William Shakespeare), history (on Mark Twain or muscle cars), a letter (e.g., by Teddy Roosevelt) or news articles (e.g., about Harry Houdini or Jack London).

After choosing their text, students work through a four-part process. In the Predict section, they write answers to two short questions before they start to read. In the Identify section, they update their original answers so that they can compare their responses before reading and after reading. In the Organize section, they use a built-in feature to categorize the main ideas in the text. They also highlight and paste key phrases under each category and write a brief statement about the import of these phrases. Finally, in the Assess section, they write a series of conclusion statements and summarize the entire nonfiction text.

Students can then save, print, and email their work—as directed by the teacher.

SAS Curriculum Pathways also has a series of tool-based lessons on reading complex nonfiction texts. Topics range from Mendelian genetics to the My Lai Massacre, from income taxes to stream ecology.

We also have “strategies for reading” tools on poetry, science fiction, short stories, novels, biography, mythology, epics, folklore, and drama.









About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

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