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Lesson Plan

Timelines and Texts: Motivating Students to Read Nonfiction

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Timelines and Texts: Motivating Students to Read Nonfiction

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Janet Beyersdorfer

Arlington Heights, Illinois


International Literacy Association



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From Theory to Practice



Nonfiction texts, in many students' opinion, lack the excitement, energy, and adventure of fictional stories. In this lesson, students use timelines to help motivate them to read more nonfiction, which will, in turn, help increase their comprehension of nonfiction. Students begin with a discussion about timelines and their use to prepare for the research activity. Using a historical timeline and the students' prior knowledge of events, students predict when specific inventions were produced and take notes describing their reason for identifying that particular year. Students then work in pairs or small groups to add to their notes, indicating how this portion of the activity confirmed, refined, or changed their thinking about the timelines they are developing. Next, students consult Web resources about inventions to help them revise their timelines for accuracy. Through discussion, they verify the dates and consider the connections between historical events and when inventions were created.

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screenshot of Invention Birthdays: A Think-Pair-Share Activity Invention Birthdays: A Think-Pair-Share Activity: Students can use this worksheet to help them complete a think-pair-share activity about the birth of certain inventions.


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Dreher, M.J. (1998). Motivating children to read more nonfiction. The Reading Teacher, 52(4), 414–417.

  • Teachers should create student interest in a wide variety of materials to support vocabulary development and to provide exposure to new ideas.

  • Accessibility to nonfiction reading materials is often neglected in elementary grades, which can lead to problems as students progress through the grades.

  • Motivating students to read more nonfiction is an important first step toward increasing comprehension of nonfiction.


Mosenthal, P.B., & Kirsch, I.S. (1998). A new measure for assessing document complexity: The PMOSE/IKIRSCH document readability formula. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41(8), 638–657.

  • Documents organized in row-and-column formats are extremely common in modern society and are pervasive in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary reading materials.

  • Students' success at reading documents (in this case, timelines) is imperative if they are to develop and update knowledge of events through the integration of ideas.

  • Teaching students the structure of documents can aid in their comprehension of the information presented.


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