3 helpful steps to using Non-fiction reading for French learners

non-fiction reading for language learners

Many CI readings focus on cute stories with outlandish characters, which can definitely be fun.  But there is another option that can be used in the CI classroom – non-fiction reading!  ELL teachers have long used content to teach language, but world language teachers haven’t been on the bandwagon quite so much.  There are so many interesting topics available for language learners to read about – and many can be adapted to simple language for even novice language learners! 

Of course, topics that are more concrete will be more accessible to the earlier levels while more theoretical topics might be easier for intermediate mid – advanced learners. There is a wide variety of topics that students may find interesting for non-fiction readings – biographies, historical events, cultural information, scientific topics.  These topics can often be differentiated for different levels. This can be great for teachers who have more than one level in a single class, or who teach different levels throughout the day!

One good source for non-fiction readings can be podcasts – yes, podcasts! The podcast network Choses à Savoir has a wide variety of short (2-3 minute) podcasts that are about all sorts of nonfiction topics. If you find a good one, you can easily make a transcript and use it as a reading, or write your own reading passage. After doing the reading, you can then play the audio of the podcast to double your interpretive input to students. That’s a win-win for any French learner!

How to use non-fiction readings in different levels

  1.  Determine the topic, and what is the most important information about the topic. For example, if I were writing about penguins I might start with where they live, what they eat, and other basic biological information.  I would stick to things that can easily be discussed in the present tense.  This will be the base reading for the novice level readers.
  2. Now that you’ve got your novice lesson done, it’s time to add a little big of detail to the base reading.  At this level, you might start to add in the past tense – so you might talk about when a specific species of penguin was discovered, or when a scientist discovered something interesting about the species.  This will be the intermediate level.
  3. Finally, the advanced level – in this version, we will add more hypothetical details and tenses such as the subjunctive, the conditional, the future simple.  You might mention what will happen as climate change occurs, or what it is necessary to do to save the penguin population.

If you are teaching different levels divided into class, you can make a non-fiction reading lesson for each level.  That might be a PowerPoint, Nearpod, pear deck, or reading.  If you are teaching different levels in the same class period, you can use font color or style to differentiate – this way students who are novice level will know that they are not expected to understand every single part of the reading, but that the parts in black font should be accessible to them.  Intermediate students can read the red and black sentences, while advanced students can read all of the sentences – red, black and blue.

If you get started on a non-fiction reading and realize that you can’t really make it simple enough for the lowest-level students, don’t feel bad – sometimes that happens!  I’ve written about topics and then realized that the topic isn’t really that good a fit for level 1, but levels 2 and 3 can still read it. Here are some examples of leveled non-fiction readingsI’ve worked on recently.  They are also available in my TPT store.


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