Fiction or nonfiction?  Often, teachers view these two types of texts as separate and distinct, with little overlap in purpose or instruction. However, pairing fiction and nonfiction texts together in instruction can have many beneficial effects. While some students are drawn to fiction, others are naturally attracted to nonfiction. Pairing fiction and nonfiction texts help to engage both types of students, while also broadening their vocabulary and knowledge about a common topic.

So, how do you pair fiction and nonfiction texts? Follow these simple steps.

  1. Identify a shared topic. 
    For example, a fictional story about the adventures of rainforest animals may be paired with a nonfiction text about the Amazon rainforest, or Lois Lowry’s novel Number the Stars may be paired with a nonfiction text about World War II. 
  2. Consider your teaching objectives.
    Teaching fiction and nonfiction texts together provides an excellent opportunity to teach multiple standards at once. For example, students can examine how a point of view affects the way both fictional and true events are described.
  3. Develop an essential question to help students identify the connections. 
    Once you have chosen the texts to pair together, students should be able to draw information from both the fiction and nonfiction texts to help answer the question. 

To start the lesson, share the essential question with the class. Depending on the level of the students, you can decide whether the texts should be read aloud, in pairs or small groups, or independently.  Focus on either the fiction or nonfiction text first. Once students have a solid understanding of the first text, have them focus on the second text, returning to the essential question during both readings. After completing both texts, have students study the common themes, while also applying the shared learning objectives and standards to both texts.

Using paired fiction and nonfiction texts in the classroom is an effective and meaningful way to enhance instruction in many different academic areas. So, don’t hesitate, start pairing today!