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9 Cool Ways to Make Nonfiction Engaging and Interactive

Nonfiction reading should not just be about reading passages and answering comprehension questions! Informational reading is such an important skill for your students to have. Now, more than ever, your students need engaging activities to get them reading nonfiction and improving their reading skills. Get your students ready with these cool ways to make nonfiction engaging and interactive! This isn't your mama's classroom! Using analog and digital resources to engage your students makes nonfiction fun to read.

1. Puzzles and Ciphers for Decoding

Why should you use puzzles in the classroom to make nonfiction engaging and interactive? Puzzles are not only a perfect way to engage readers; they also help your students with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Puzzles and ciphers engage your students in metacognition.
Students start to think about their own thinking process when they use puzzles and ciphers.
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They are thinking about how they read and comprehend nonfiction text. Tell your students that they are code breakers or hackers to get them really excited about reading and "cracking the code"! Check out the ways you can engage your learners with puzzles and cyphers with social studies, science, and Language Arts content in your classroom.


Cryptograms, simply put, are encrypted text or secret code! Engage your students with cryptograms by making a paper or virtual cipher wheel or a St. Cyr slide. Learn more about how to use these cryptograms in your classroom!

Morse Code

Not only is learning morse code a critical thinking activity for your students, it also has a huge historical context when it comes to engaging with nonfiction text. Samuel Morse developed this code of dots and dashes in order to communicate via telegraph around the world, especially during times of war. What a great way to integrate history into code-breaking and making! Have your students make their own puzzles and ciphers using morse code! Simply use a quick morse code translator. If you don't want to let them in on the secret translator, use this site to make your own morse code to use with the students. After assigning them nonfiction passages from a handout or textbook, ask comprehension questions not by old school multiple choice but by morse code! Your students will be ready to learn and engage with these super ciphers! Morse code can be more than just dots and lines. It's a way to level-up engaging and interactive nonfiction text activities.

Even More Secret Codes

One of my favorite websites to create ciphers and codes is Rumkin. Use this site to create everything from an Affine Code to Vigenere Autokey. Not familiar? Don't worry. Simply type in your message to any of the code generators, and "BOOM!", you have the code. Give your students a key or a way to solve the puzzle. You can even share the type of code and how it's generated! For example, tell your students the rotate code has them write letters in a rectangular grid and then rotate it left or right 90°. Differentiate for your gifted learners and early finishes by having them create their own secret coded language. You could even use it to create your own puzzles with your students!

Escape Rooms

So what do you do with all these puzzles and ciphers? Put it all together with nonfiction readings that engage your students, and create an escape room!

What are Escape Rooms?

You may be familiar with escape rooms outside the education arena. Companies have customers "breakout" of a physical room by solving puzzles and unlocking boxes to find clues and eventually escape. Similar education concepts have become popular with breakout boxes. With so many learners online, however, this concept has definitely gone digital. That's why escape rooms are accessible for every learner with an internet-enabled device!
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Educational escape rooms use puzzles and ciphers to help students learn and review material in nonfiction texts. They make nonfiction engaging and interactive by requiring students to read the material before solving puzzles throughout their journey. Once they are able to solve all the puzzles, they "escape" and find out the answer to the big question or the final code.

Why Use Escape Rooms?

Escape rooms are one of the most engaging ways to integrate nonfiction into social studies and science curriculum! For example, when teaching about the US Constitution , you could certainly read the textbook verbatim and do all the usual comprehension questions. But, how do you know if your students are really internalizing the information? There are so many topics you can tackle with nonfiction escape rooms! Learn more about how and why you should use escape rooms in your classroom to make nonfiction engaging and interactive!

2. Paragraph Scavenger Hunts

When you think of nonfiction reading activities, you may not think of movement. However, getting students up and moving has many benefits! Movement promotes social-emotional well-being and keeps the body engaged and moving. This helps students remember and internalize what they are learning! One way to get your students moving is with paragraph scavenger hunts.

Here's How Paragraph Scavenger Hunts Work!

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  1. Start with a nonfiction passage.
  2. Break up the paragraphs and hang them around the room.
  3. Create 10-20 questions for students to answer using the paragraphs.
  4. Students won’t know which paragraph to visit so they will read and skim for answers in each paragraph numerous times.
This activity makes nonfiction engaging and interactive for your students by getting them moving and requiring multiple reads of a text! Use this for a formative assessment or allow students to work together as a team-building activity.
Try paragraph scavenger hunts with the Lewis & Clark unit or to promote Growth Mindset in your classroom!

3. Task Card Review Games

Another way to make nonfiction interactive and engaging for your students is with review games! Reviewing for a summative assessment shouldn't be just about memorizing information. By doing tasks that help students internalize and apply the information they learned, they are more likely to remember the material. This not only improves test scores, it helps students retain the information long term!

How Do Task Card Review Games Work?

Start with 10-20 questions about a reading passage you share with your students. Instead of just answering the questions and finding out which answers are correct (or incorrect), task card review games become a competition. We know that a competitive spirit means engagement in and interaction!
First, students go around the room looking for task cards. Hang them high, low, and at eye-level to get your students moving! Check each answer in a box on the recording sheet.
At the end, the students will add up all the ABCD answers to get a 4-digit number and check to see if their answers are correct.
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Ways to Use Task Card Review Games

Here are some other ways to use task cards in your classroom!
      • Get Students Moving!
      • Small Group Rotation
      • White Board Activities
      • Scoot! Game
      • Reteaching, Reinforcement of Skills
      • Remediation After Assessments
      • Anticipatory Sets
      • Enrichment Activities
      • Exit Slips
      • Board Game Activities
Learn more about each of these task card activities for your classroom!

4. Color by Number and Text Marking

Color by Number is not just for the youngest kids in school. Even upper elementary and middle school learners can benefit from text marking resources using color by number! Use this strategy to make nonfiction and informational text engaging and interactive for your students.

Color by Number for Middle School

Using color by number for middle school students is an engaging and interactive nonfiction tool! There are so many reasons to use color by number in the middle school classroom!
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      • Engagement
      • Relaxation
      • Language Arts Skills
      • Following Directions
      • Homework, Review
      • Anxiety Reducing
      • Brain Stimulation

How to use Color by Number for Nonfiction Activities

Start with questions and multiple choice answers over a nonfiction passage or textbook reading.

Each answer has a color to use on a picture. The color provides a quick check when your students see the final picture.

The markers or colored pencils are not just for coloring in a picture, however. Encourage your students to find textual evidence to support their answer in the nonfiction passage. Text marking is huge for students! They can even apply this to standardized tests that have highlighting tools or simply jotting down reasons and reflecting on reasons for answers before they lock them in.

Text marking also includes annotating text. Teach your students common annotation marks, such as * for important facts, circling vocabulary words, ? for things they do not understand, and ! for surprising facts.

Check out all the Color By Number and Text Marking activities for your classroom at any level!

5. Nonfiction Secret Messages

Keep nonfiction engaging and interactive for your learners with nonfiction secret messages! When it comes to secret messages, your students will be intrigued by the mystery. Reluctant readers and introverted learners are still inherently curious. Mystery activates the frontal lobe of the brain. Students are engaged in problem solving and critical thinking.

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Boom Cards Magic Mirror

I love using secret messages by creating a "Magic Mirror Effect" on Boom Cards. Once you have a Boom Card account, this is so easy to do! Using Flow Magic on Boom Cards, you can use this secret magic mirror effect!

Google Slides Mystery Reveal Effect

Another way to create nonfiction secret messages is to add a secret message with Google Slides by layering slides! Again, this is so simple to do with slides, your images, and simple layers.

Google Sheets Secret Messages

Boom Cards and Slides are a blast for those nonfiction secret messages, but my absolute favorite is using Google Sheets! First, students will read a nonfiction passage and answer questions. Once they have correct answers, the colors on the sheet will begin to reveal the secret message! Not only is this activity engaging and interactive, it's a great self-checking reading comprehension activity for distance learning or computer day! Try the Skeletal System Nonfiction Secret Message all on Google Sheets!

6. Create Interactive Slides

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When students are able to receive instant feedback on assignments, they perform better on formative and summative assessments and internalize their knowledge! That's why self-checking assignments like interactive Google Slides are the way to go!
Create your own Google Slides presentations to make nonfiction engaging and interactive for your students!
First, interactive slides make it easy to practice different reading skills as your students work since they are self-checking.
Make the answer choices simple, like True or False or multiple choice. You can have deeper discussions to provide textual evidence for the answer choices.

Google Classroom for Google Slides

Share interactive slides in Google Classroom and choose the option to "Make a Copy for Each Student" to let each student have their own set of self-checking slides.

Pear Deck for Interactive Google Slides

Make slides even more interactive and engaging by using add-ons like Pear Deck to allow students to sort answers, give a "temperature check" for understanding or social-emotional learning purposes, use flashcards, and integrate animations and gifs. There are so many options with Pear Deck as a Google Chrome extension!

Save Time with Google Slides

Try ready-to-go self-checking Google Slides to make nonfiction engaging and interactive. The Louisiana Purchase interactive slides are perfect for your social studies unit. As long as your students have Google Classroom and a Google account, you can share these ready-to-use slides with no prep! Each unit comes with:
      • Short Nonfiction Reading Passages
      • Corresponding Questions
      • Teacher Directions
      • Student Directions
      • Words to Know
      • Interactive Google Slides Presentation
      • Background Sound
Questions are multiple choice and True and False to allow your students to self-check and get instant feedback!

7. Digital Interactive Notebooks

If you've been teaching for more than a few years, the term "interactive notebook" may not bring the idea of digital technologies to mind. The original interactive notebooks meant that students added folded papers and cut and paste materials to their notebooks to make them more hands-on than just taking notes.
Now, interactive notebooks have gone online!
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Digital interactive notebooks allow for greater differentiation and collaboration for your students. Try some interactive activities with digital interactive notebooks for social studies and science nonfiction made on Google Slides!
Each unit comes with eight different tasks, giving your students choice and a voice in their learning
      • True or False
      • Drag and Drop Questions
      • Jigsaw Puzzle
      • Fill in the Blank
      • Vocabulary Words
      • Research
      • Short Response
      • Maze Phrase
When you share the digital notebook to Google Classroom with "Make a Copy for Each Student", it's easy for each student to experience their own differentiated assignments and choice activities through the digital interactive notebook.

8. Boom Cards

Similar to digital interactive notebooks, Boom Cards are self-checking nonfiction activities that allow your students to learn as they go and get feedback!

What the Heck are Boom Cards?

If you haven't jumped on the Boom Card wagon yet, what are you waiting for? Boom Cards are self-grading digital task cards that are perfect for reviewing or introducing new nonfiction concepts. These interactive tools are so engaging, your students will beg to break out the Boom Cards! Although a Boom Card account (required for use and Boom Card creation) is free, you may want to try the premium account for extra tools and tricks! Check out more about Boom Card accounts! Boom Cards work with every content area. You can create your own, or check out the social studies and science Boom Cards pre-made for your learners! Pair the Boom Cards with Escape rooms to make nonfiction interactive and engaging from introducing the concept to reviewing for the test!

Did you know you can make any board game educational with digital board games to make nonfiction engaging and interactive? Use nonfiction comprehension questions with any board game! Use digital board game task cards to review nonfiction topics in social studies and science. It's so easy!
First, the student answers a task card correctly. Next, they take their turn in the board game.
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If they answer incorrectly, they lose a turn and play goes to the next student. Simple!

-First, the student answers a task card correctly.

-Next, they take their turn in the board game. If they answer incorrectly, they lose a turn and play goes to the next student.


Review social studies and science topics such as:

Board Games to use with Digital Task Cards

Look at your classroom shelf? What games can you use with the digital board game task cards in your small groups or classroom rotation stations for nonfiction?
Any board game can work with the digital task cards! The key is to focus on games with simple rules and processes, so students can focus on the digital task cards.
Making nonfiction engaging and interactive does not have to be another thing to add to your to-do list. These resources allow you to spend last time creating and planning and more time working with your students. From puzzles and escape rooms to board games galore, your students will interact with nonfiction text like never before! What methods will you use to make nonfiction engaging and interactive in your classroom?
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9.  Go on a Comprehension Challenge

What is a Comprehension Challenge?

Students read and examine comprehension passages multiple times in order to complete six tasks and “race” to the finish! A little bit of competition helps your students learn and grow as readers and historians! Each quest includes the following:

  • Fill in the Blank Reading Passage
  • Vocabulary practice
  • Crossword Puzzle
  • Text Marking
  • True or False Word Scramble
  • Summary and Supporting Details Graphic Organizer

Learn more about Comprehension Challenges HERE.

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