Common Core: The Fuss Over Non-Fiction


Q: What exactly is expository or informational text? Isn't it just non-fiction?
The main purpose of informational texts is to inform or instruct the reader in some way. Nell Duke, in her book Reading and Writing Informational Text, explains that informational text teaches about the natural or social world. It tends to talk about entire classes of things in a generalized way. (“Sharks live in water.”) There is often specialized or technical vocabulary associated with it and particular text features such as diagrams, charts, tables, photographs or realistic illustrations. (Think about all those animal books and books about trains, sports, etc. that your students enjoy!)

Not all non-fiction is considered informational text. To make the distinction, you need to consider the purpose of the text. A biography, for example, conveys information about a single individual's life, and specific points in time. A how-to or procedural text has as its purpose to tell someone how to do something, not convey information about a particular topic. Other forms of non-fiction are narrative in nature (e.g. memoir), and their purpose is to tell of an event or series of events. They don't typically have many of the text features mentioned above. This is not to say that these other forms of non-fiction are not valuable; they are simply not considered informational text, and in most cases they are not as complex.

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