Tips for Helping Your Mentee Learn From Nonfiction Texts

Guide your mentee through the following process to better understand nonfiction texts. When he or she has trouble, model the steps yourself:


  • Read the title of the chapter and predict what it might be about.
  • Read all the headings in the assigned reading to preview upcoming information.
  • Go back to the beginning of the chapter and examine any graphics and their captions.
  • Before reading, ask the mentee to summarize what he already knows and predict what he will learn based on the headings and graphics. (This step achieves two things: It activates the student’s prior knowledge and creates a mental outline for organizing the information to be learned.)
  • If the assignment requires answering questions after reading, preview the questions.
  • Begin reading together. As new features arise (e.g., bold or italicized words,sidebars, etc.), pause and ask the student if he understands their function in the text; if not, explain. As you read, revisit the features you previewed in steps 1–3. Though the student might tell you that he has already read them, explain that revisiting these features enhances comprehension.
  • Identify new or technical vocabulary and clarify using the context, dictionary, or other appropriate reference material.
  • Encourage the student to take notes or highlight text (if appropriate) as he reads.

Adapted with permission from: “Now I Get It!” Homework Help Strategies for Volunteers, by Charissa Sgouros and Nicky Martin (The Tutor, Spring 2005, pp. 1–11. Portland, OR: Northwest RegionalEducational Laboratory, and New York, NY: Bank Street College of Education).