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.
9 Cool Ways to Make Nonfiction Engaging and Interactive
1. Puzzles and Ciphers for Decoding
Students start to think about their own thinking process when they use puzzles and ciphers.
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!
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.
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!
Even More Secret Codes
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!
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!
What are Escape Rooms?
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.
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!
Why Use Escape Rooms?
- U.S. History
- Growth Mindset
- Westward Expansion
- Famous Failures
- Women's Suffrage Escape rooms have so many benefits for students in upper elementary and middle school classrooms!
- Add Excitement to "Boring" Topics
- Reach Multiple Learning Styles
- Think Outside the Box
- Cover Multiple Lessons and Topics
- Deeper Level Thinking
- Promotes Focused, Undistracted Learning
2. Paragraph Scavenger HuntsWhen 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!
- Start with a nonfiction passage.
- Break up the paragraphs and hang them around the room.
- Create 10-20 questions for students to answer using the paragraphs.
- Students won’t know which paragraph to visit so they will read and skim for answers in each paragraph numerous times.
3. Task Card Review GamesAnother 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?
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.
Here are some other ways to use task cards in your classroom!
Ways to Use Task Card Review Games
- 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
4. Color by Number and Text MarkingColor 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.
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!
Color by Number for Middle School
- Language Arts Skills
- Following Directions
- Homework, Review
- Anxiety Reducing
- Brain Stimulation
Start with questions and multiple choice answers over a nonfiction passage or textbook reading.
How to use Color by Number for Nonfiction Activities
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
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!
Boom Cards Magic Mirror
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 Slides Mystery Reveal Effect
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!
Google Sheets Secret Messages
6. Create Interactive Slides
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.
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.
Google Classroom for 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!
Pear Deck for Interactive 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:
Save Time with Google Slides
- Short Nonfiction Reading Passages
- Corresponding Questions
- Teacher Directions
- Student Directions
- Words to Know
- Interactive Google Slides Presentation
- Background Sound
7. Digital Interactive Notebooks
Now, interactive notebooks have gone online!
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
- Short Response
- Maze Phrase
8. Boom CardsSimilar to digital interactive notebooks, Boom Cards are self-checking nonfiction activities that allow your students to learn as they go and get feedback!
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!
What the Heck are Boom Cards?
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.
-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.
-Simple!Review social studies and science topics such as:
Board Games to use with Digital Task CardsLook 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?
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?
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.