Friday, November 21, 2014

Fan-mail Friday

Over the summer, I decided it would be fun to look back through all the mail kids sent me during the 2014-2015 school year. I've picked out some of my favorites and will be posting one every Friday. They truly are inspiring.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Behind the Books: Influencing Your Audience with Persuasive Nonfiction

When I first started compiling Common Core-related book lists in 2012, persuasive writing had me stumped. I couldn’t think of any good mentor texts.

Then my friend, writer and school librarian Sam Kane, forwarded me a link to this an article in Booklist. It discusses Common Core text types and recommends recently-published science books in each category.

When I saw that my book, A Place for Bats, was included in the persuasive category, I was stunned.
 
I didn’t think I was trying to persuade anyone of anything. I was merely laying out the facts and letting the reader decide. Wasn’t I?

But then I thought about it a little more.


Do I want people to protect bats and their environments? Yes.

By the end of the book, are kids going to understand that? Well . . . yes.

Are they going to take action? They just might.

After having that startling moment of insight, it became much easier to pick out other persuasive books. Here’s a list of ten that I recommend:

Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone

Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns

City Chickens by Christine Heppermann

Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Gaia Warriors by Nicola Davies and James Lovelock

The Girl from Tar Paper School by Teri Kanefield 

A Place for Bats by Melissa Stewart

Write On, Mercy: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren by Gretchen Woelfle

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom by Sue Macy

Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

Students may never have to write persuasive texts as part of their future jobs, but everyone will encounter them in their adult lives—from product advertisements to political platforms. That’s why all students should be able to recognize when someone is trying to convince them to do something or think a certain way, and then be able to step back and carefully consider whether or not they agree.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS 1-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.

Try these book pairs:














































For more suggestions and full lessons, check out Perfect Pairs:


Friday, November 14, 2014

Fan-mail Friday

Over the summer, I decided it would be fun to look back through all the mail kids sent me during the 2014-2015 school year. I've picked out some of my favorites and will be posting one every Friday. They truly are inspiring.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Behind the Books: Is “Expository” Derogatory?

Narrative. The word has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Expository? Not so much.

Rhymes with gory, purgatory, derogatory, lavatory. Gesh, it’s no wonder authors cringe when someone uses the word to describe their work. And yet, plenty of great nonfiction for kids is expository. Its main purpose is to explain, describe, or inform.

Why are authors so sensitive? Because narrative nonfiction is the new kid on the block, and it’s getting lots of attention right now. But here’s a little ditty that’s worth remembering:

Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
and the other’s gold.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a golden moment for expository nonfiction because, in recent years, it’s gone through an exciting transformation. Once upon a time, it was boring and stodgy and matter-of-fact, but today’s nonfiction books MUST delight as well as inform young readers, and nonfiction authors have risen to the challenge. The books they’re creating feature engaging text, often with a strong voice, as well as dynamic art and design.

The problem is that not everyone is aware of these dramatic changes. And that’s why we have to work hard to get terrific expository books into the hands of as many educators as possible.

Here’s a list of ten examples (more are available on my pinterest pages):

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano

Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge

Bugged: How Insects Changed the World by Sarah Albee

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Frogs by Nic Bishop

Just One Bite by Lola Schaefer

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Neo Leo by Gene Barretta

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

There is also a second kind of expository nonfiction books. Marc Aronson and his Uncommon Corps colleagues call them data books. I prefer to call them fast-fact books to distinguish them from the facts-plus books listed above.

Facts-plus books focus on facts as well as overarching ideas. In other words, they present facts and explain them. Fast-fact books focus on sharing cool facts. Period. They inform, and that’s all. Examples include The Guinness Book of World Records, Time for Kids Big Book of Why, and Eyewitness Books. These are the concise, fact-filled books that groups of boys love to read together and discuss.

Some people don’t have a very high opinion of fast-fact books, and to be sure, they don’t build reading stamina or critical thinking skills, but they do motivate many reluctant readers to pick up a book, and IMHO that alone makes them worthwhile.

Why do students need to be exposed to a diverse array of expository texts? Because it’s the style of nonfiction they’ll be asked to write most frequently throughout their school careers and in their future jobs. Whether they’re working on a report, a thesis, a business proposal, or even a company newsletter, they’ll need to know how to summarize information and synthesize ideas in a way that is clear, logical, and interesting to their readers. Today’s expository children’s literature makes ideal mentor texts for modeling these skills.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS K-ESS3-3. Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

Try these book pairs:


For more suggestions and full lesson plans, check out Perfect Pairs:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fan-mail Friday

Over the summer, I decided it would be fun to look back through all the mail kids sent me during the 2014-2015 school year. I've picked out some of my favorites and will be posting one every Friday. They truly are inspiring.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Behind the Books: Nonfiction that Reads Like a Story

I’ve written about narrative nonfiction many times in the past. In this post, I compare two books about frogs to show why one is narrative and the other is expository. In this post, on the Nerdy Book Club blog, I questioned if this style of nonfiction really deserves all the attention it has received in recent years.

But today, I’m going to look at narrative nonfiction specifically through the  it’s-one-of-three-styles lens (the other two styles being expository and persuasive). Simply put, narrative nonfiction is one way of presenting information to readers. In adopting this style, the author’s purpose is to use the research he or she has gathered to craft a manuscript that reads like a story.

This style works especially well for biographies or books about historical events because the passage of time helps to define the story’s arc. Drawing upon meticulous primary-source research, the author thrusts readers into the action as he/she shows real people in real situations and settings. The carefully-chosen scenes that help us get to know the “characters” are skillfully woven together with summaries that act as transitions and provide necessary back ground information. Many readers enjoy narrative nonfiction because it gives them the opportunity to feel a strong connection to the central characters and understand their motivation.

Here are ten examples, five picture books and five long-form nonfiction:

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman 

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo by Sy Montgomery

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson

There is also a second kind of narrative nonfiction, which is most often employed in science or nature-themed picture books. These texts describe the typical daily, seasonal, or annual activities of a single animal or a host of animals living and interacting in a specific environment. The authors of these books aren’t writing about a particular real-life creature. They are creating a sort of composite that provides a realistic view into the world of the animal or the overall workings of a habitat.

Research for the book generally involves observing the animal in the wild over a period of time or spending many hours exploring a specific habitat. Parts of the narrative may also be based on reviews of the scientific literature or discussions with scientists or naturalists who have their own observational experiences.

Here are some examples:

Big Blue Whale written by Nicola Davies

Dig, Wait, Listen: A Desert Toad Tale by April Pulley Sayre

Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

A Drop of Water by Gordon Morrison

The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration by Sandra Markle

Red-eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre

When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart

Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell

Students may not have much need to write narrative nonfiction in school or in their careers, but they will be reading it as part of their education and hopefully for personal enjoyment as adults, so they should be able to recognize this style of writing, understand how it is crafted, and recognize its advantages as well as its limitations.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS K-ESS3-3. Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

Try these book pairs:

For more suggestions and full lesson plans, check out Perfect Pairs:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Fan-mail Friday

Over the summer, I decided it would be fun to look back through all the mail kids sent me during the 2014-2015 school year. I've picked out some of my favorites and will be posting one every Friday. They truly are inspiring.