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Reading Strategies for Non-Fiction

November 10, 2021 | Ms. Jonker

As we dive into more non-fiction texts, fourth grade students are learning important reading and researching strategies.

To promote a growth mindset about vocabulary and spelling, and to encourage curiosity and engagement with everything we read, we’ve been talking about “working words.” When we encounter a hard whether, either hard to spell or hard to understand, we highlight that word or write it in our journal to practice later. Once we know our working words, we spend time in small groups tackling how to spell them, and we use “context clues” to figure out what they mean. In one small group yesterday, we also practiced finding synonyms; I rejoiced when a student suggested we go back and read the sentence where the word appeared in order to make sure we liked our synonym. We are learning strategies that work! And we are remembering them!

Another reading and researching strategy we’ve practiced is text previewing. Students head to a webpage with a research question in their minds so that they can preview the webpage before reading through it. They ask themselves, “Does this article have headings that connect with the question I am trying to answer?” If the answer is no, we continue our website scavenger hunt until we find a helpful source. I don’t have the students Google their questions. They go to websites like Ducksters, Britannica Kids, and Kiddle and search from those sites’ search engines.

We’ve also focused on finding main ideas of articles and summarizing those main ideas in a topic sentence. We are learning that a main idea sentence is different than a sentence that describes the author’s purpose. The purpose of an article might be “to explain what chlorophyll is”, but when we are summarizing the main idea, we would use a sentence like “Chlorophyll is an important chemical that plants use.”

We will continue finding main ideas of the articles we read together. We will also practice identifying “pop out” sentences that summarizing single paragraphs of text, and we will continue to take quizzes on the articles we read.

I am so grateful that on Mondays and Tuesdays, Gladys Wu (our learning specialist) and Brian Albanese (a supplemental instructor) can co-teach with me in literacy so that students get plenty of small group attention on these skills.

We are also implementing Fluency Fridays, as I mentioned in an earlier email. What I did not say in that email was that the students created their own set of expectations for that partner reading time. With very little prompting from me, they came up with a list of “We need to…” and “It will go well if…” sentences. An excerpt is below.

It would go well if we help one another.”

“It would go well if we didn’t interrupt.”

“We need to listen to our partners if they’re reading.”

“We need to ask before we help.”

“We need to be kind if someone makes a mistake.”

I am so thankful for an emotionally intuitive and academically gritty fourth grade class!


Kat Jonker

Teacher, Grades 4

Kat Jonker is energized by how passionately Mustard Seed School nurtures each student to blossom into the person God has made them to be. She’s honored to teach and learn beside the fourth and fifth grade students here.

Ms. Jonker’s always been surrounded and inspired by dedicated teachers--including her mother! When she began teaching private violin lessons as a high school student, Ms. Jonker began to think about teaching as a career. Soon she realized her passion for teaching and learning as an Elementary Education with an integrated science major at Calvin College. There she flourished as an assistant teacher at Calvin’s middle school chemistry camp. She also led elementary nature programs at Calvin’s ecosystem preserve.

Music remains one of Ms. Jonkers passions and you’ll sometimes get to hear her playing in worship. She’s an avid violin player and spent a disproportionately large amount of her college life in string quartet rehearsals. She listens to music constantly and likes to keep it eclectic, so if you have any music recommendations, send them her way.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is Ms. Jonker’s home town. Through God-gifted communities of faith there, she found her roots in grace and a life of service.

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