March 18

A Fiction v Non-fiction Smackdown

Is tension between fiction and non-fiction a trend you have seen in your workplace?

Over the course of my time at Willsden Primary School in 2014, 2015 and 2017, I observed, from a distance, not so much a “smackdown” between fiction and non-fiction books (Mosle, 2012, para. 8) but a never-ending directional change. The changes occurred in the context of reading assessments, in particular, whether or not students should be tested using only fiction texts, only non-fiction texts, or a balanced mixture of both.

Initially, reading assessments were conducted using only fiction texts as it was assumed that this was the type of text that students had been most exposed to and, therefore, were most likely to achieve success with. Non-fiction texts set up for assessments were available but used rarely, as a backup to fiction.

Soon, it became apparent that students weren’t building on the skills they needed to successfully read non-fiction texts, even though the school’s reading results were improving. A new policy was agreed upon – fiction texts were to be used in terms 1 and 3, non-fiction texts were to be used in terms 2 and 4.

When students read non-fiction texts they:

  • grow and build on their interest in the topic.
  • see and reflect on examples of nonfiction writing.
  • upskill in comprehension, questioning and summarising strategies.

(National Library of NZ, 2014)

When comprehension became a school focus, some staff argued that teaching comprehension through non-fiction texts would be easier and build a foundation for students’ comprehension of fiction texts.

I believe that the school has stuck to its two-term fiction / two-term non-fiction policy, although the way that reading assessments are being conducted is changing dramatically. Soon, a flexible arrangement may be implemented. In this case, the teacher may use professional judgement as to which type of book is used for an assessment at any given time with a particular student.

I worry that by placing an emphasis on either fiction or nonfiction texts, students will have gaps in their skill base. As such, achieving balance between fiction and non-fiction in the library collection is important (Giavenco, 2019).

To fulfill K-5 standards in The United States, teachers must ensure they teach a 50-50 balance between fiction and non-fiction (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2019, para. 14). In contrast, the Australian Curriculum does not mandate an exact percentage balance, although it calls for students to experience a wide range of relevant literary texts, including “fiction for young adults and children” and “a variety of non-fiction” (ACARA, 2019, para. 12). Clearly, the library collection must have a balanced mixture of both to support the requirements of the curriculum.

References

ACARA. (2019). Key ideas | The Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/english/key-ideas/

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2019). Key Shifts in English Language Arts. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/other-resources/key-shifts-in-english-language-arts/

Giavenco, G. (2019). 2.2 The Balanced Collection. In ETL503: Resourcing the Curriculum, [Learning module]. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website: https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_42383_1&content_id=_2636370_1

Mosle, S. (2012, November 22). What Should Children Read? [Blog Post]. Opinionator: The New York Times. Retrieved from https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/what-should-children-read/?_r=0

National Library of New Zealand. (2014). Non-fiction. National Library of New Zealand Services to Schools. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20160729150727/http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/creating-readers/genres-and-read-alouds/non-fiction

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Posted March 18, 2019 by murphda75 in category ETL503 Resourcing the Curriculum

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