I. Love. Teaching nonfiction text features. I love them because they really help readers to make meaning as they read. In Virginia, one of our standards is to teach students to effectively use headings and subheadings when they read informational text. Read on for some tips you can use to teach this skill!
First, what are headings and subheadings? Headings are short words or phrases that usually appear at the top of a page. They let the reader know what the page, chapter, or section of text is about. Headings help to organize the information on the page. They’re usually in large or bold type, so they’re set apart from the rest of the words. [Be sure to watch out for kids who skip reading them, especially at the lower grades!]
Subheadings further help to break down the text into smaller chunks. They give the reader an idea of what to expect in each section of the page or part of the chapter.
By looking at the heading or subheading before reading the text that follows, we can get our brains ready for what’s to come. By skimming the headings or subheadings, we can also find the information we’re looking for much faster.
Here are some of my favorite activities to teach students how to effectively use headings and subheadings when they read!
- Locate headings. Have students browse nonfiction books and magazines and use sticky notes to mark examples of headings and subheadings. I like to have students share out so they see a variety of examples (especially those that are in the form of a question).
- Ask students to look at a particular heading or subheading and brainstorm words and phrases they might find in the text as they read.
- Practice turning headings into questions. This is a great way for students to activate their schema and think about what they already know about that topic, and what they might find as they read.
- Matching game! Give students short nonfiction sentences or paragraphs and have them match the right heading to each one. This is great for a partner activity to scaffold their learning!
- Write your own! Give students short nonfiction paragraphs and have them write their own headings to match. This is a great way to work in some science or social studies content, or you can make them silly and have fun with it!
- Scavenger hunt! Display a page of text that includes several subheadings, and have students predict which section will contain a particular fact.
- And finally, because we love to connect reading and writing, I also encourage students to try using headings and subheadings when they’re writing informational text!
It’s also a good idea to have your students practice reading digital nonfiction texts so they can see how headings and subheadings look on the screen. Online articles, encyclopedia databases, etc., are helpful resources.
As I mentioned, I love teaching text features because I think they’re very useful to the reader. All of these interactive activities are hands-on, easy ways to teach headings and subheadings in nonfiction text.