Writing Non-fiction Reports

“I don’t know how to write a report!” Is a response that I have heard from students who are great at writing creative stories, but have difficulty with non-fiction reports. While writing is the same for both types of writing in that you are communicating with an audience, it does require a different skill set to write a nonfiction report.  You have to do some research and summarize  facts in order to write the report. The writing piece answers the 5 W’s  and the 1 H (who or what, when, where, why, and  how) in a concise manner. Last week I talked about teaching how to distinguish fiction from non-fiction to students. If you have not looked at that, here is the link to the post.

Non-fiction Reports – A Visual Representation This is a criteria sheet that has sections that can be cut apart and used as a handy reference guide for both you and your child(ren) when writing a non-fiction report. It isn’t a long list so I had my son put four of them on one page. I believe it is easy to understand, but I have added a brief explanation for each category. Thank you to Sarah who came to see me last year for a portfolio review. She gave me the categories and criteria as well as permission to share the idea and modify it.

The report has categories such as green (group) for easy reference and a visual aid when working with your student(s). You can say, “Please look at the green section again.” This also helps children visualize what goes into a report as they can go through a mental list “seeing” a green circle, a smiley face, a pencil, etc.

Have a copy of the non-fiction report form to refer to as I give the following explanation. 🙂 Ready? Let’s get started! For the sake of giving you an idea on how to use this, let’s assume I am assigning a paper to be written about a spotted salamander that we observed on the creek walk we took recently.

❍ Green- Group (categories) Here the student writes that a salamander is an amphibian and if you have an older student writing the report they can include more scientific data: Ambystoma maculatum

❍ Blue- Do: “What does it do? What do you do with it? Students write about its life cycle.

☺  Face- Look: What does it look like? Shape, size, texture, color Students describe it and draw a picture or include a photograph.

✎  Wood- What is it made of? Where does it come from? This may or may not pertain to the salamander, but it certainly would apply if you were writing a report about a machine.

❍  Pink- Parts: How does it work? Since it is an animal this would be its internal organs.

❍  White: Where do you find it? Describe its habitat.

❍  Red- What else do I know? Interesting facts  One interesting fact is that it is the official state  amphibian of Ohio. *I didn’t know that when I picked it for this post. I found out when I was researching the scientific name! There was even a spotted salamander festival last year in Birmingham, Alabama. I didn’t know that little critter was so popular!

  Isn’t he cute? Plan on a creek walk in late winter to see him/her for yourself! Just be sure that if you find one of these amazing amphibians you return it to where you found it. It selected that special place for a reason and you want to be sure and allow it to go back to its cozy abode.

*** For younger students I have created an elementary  Non-fiction Report   that can be filled in. Depending upon their level and how much further you’d like to proceed with this, you can either use this as the entire writing project or have them use it as a guide to write a paragraph at the bottom of the worksheet and draw a picture of the topic.

Also, I just read a terrific article about making non-fiction reports fun by creating a mini report book, otherwise known as a lapbook. You can read it yourself by going to the website bravewriter. They are also offering this as an online class if you are interested.

Next week I will have some nature themed resources on my blog for you to enjoy and help with reports.

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