Friday, December 2, 2016

A New Book

If you’re a fan of Feathers: Not Just for Flying, I have some great news, which I can FINALLY make public. Publisher's Weekly has recently announced a companion title, which will be called Seashells: More than a Home. It will be illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen and published by Charlesbridge in Summer 2018.

Right now, 2018 seems far, far into the future. Still, I’m giddy with anticipation.

Here are a few studies Sarah did last summer, before she even had a contract. Now that’s dedication! 

Aren’t the shells lovely? I can hardly wait to see the art for the book.

Both Sarah and I have been enamored with shells since childhood. I spent my summers beachcombing the sandy shores of Cape Cod, and Sarah enjoyed searching the rocky beaches of Penobscot Bay in Maine.

In some ways, I’ve been researching this book for most of my life. I’ve had the pleasure of spending countless hours exploring seashores all over the world, from Costa Rica to Mexico and the Galรกpagos Islands, from Hawaii, Great Britain, and Kenya to Vancouver Island, Canada.

Here are a couple of photos taken by traveling companions at moments when they were amused by my enthusiasm for shells and all the amazing creatures that call them home.

Haena State Park, Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii, January 2015

Botanical Beach, Provincial Park, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, June 2015
As you can see, creating this book was a labor of love.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference Handout

Building Research Skills in K-3
Author-educator Melissa Stewart introduces scaffolded visual, information, and digital literacy activities to help K-3 students develop the observational, inquiry, and critical thinking skills required to evaluate print and digital resources for nonfiction reports. Supports Common Core RIT Standards 6 and 7 and Writing Standards 7 and 8.
Recommended Books
Encouraging Observation
Where’s Walrus? by Steve Savage

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krause Rosenthal

The Power of Pictures
Wave by Suzy Lee

Fossil by Bill Thomson

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Peet

Great blog post with suggestions for wordless picture book read alouds:

Words and Pictures that Work Together
Blackout by John Rocco

One Day, The End by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Where in the Wild by David M. Schwartz

Pictures that Go Beyond the Words
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Visual Teaching Strategies Method
I use images from picture books I’ve written (A Place for Turtles, Feathers: Not Just for Flying, When Rain Falls, Under the Snow), but you can use illustrations from any illustrated book, fiction or nonfiction.

Ask students:
--What do you think is happening in this picture?
--What do you see that makes you say that? 

After a class discussion, encourage students to think about how they might have drawn the art differently if they were the illustrator. If time permits, invite the children to draw their version of the art.

Extracting Content-Area Information
Sample Question: How do animals depend on the place where they live?
Book Pair: Just Ducks by Nicola Davies & Hip-pocket Papa by Sandra Markle

Sample Wonder Statement: I wonder how a rain forest is different from a desert.
Book Pair: The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry & Here Is a Southwestern Desert by Madeliene Dunphy

For more samples and book suggestions: Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2 by Melissa Stewart & Nancy Chesley

Books with Designs that Convey an Extra Layer of Information
Move! by Steve Jenkins

Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton

How Design Affects Our Thoughts
Guide students in understanding the importance of designers in creating the visuals we see every day. How can our thoughts and feelings be manipulated with visuals, such as in advertisements and website homepages?
Tricks for Evaluating Websites
Point out the three letter domain names at the end of website addresses. Let them know that these three letters can tell them who created the site and what the creator's main objective is for the site.

Encourage students to ask themselves, "What is the first thing my eye notices when I look at this website?" Help them understand that their answer to this question can help them assess the reliability of a website.

Recommended Blog Posts on this Topic

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Behind the Books: Stepping Up to Research, Step 4

According to new findings from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, the best nonfiction writing occurs when early-elementary research experiences are scaffolded as follows:

1. Organize and categorize information 
     (a) based on personal experiences
     (b) on a topic they care deeply about

2. Organize, categorize, and compare observations.

3. Conduct guided research.
4. Conduct cold research.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at each of these steps in detail and suggesting activity ideas.

For step 4, students choose a topic they’re passionate about and conduct research with the support of their classroom teacher, literacy coach, and school librarian.  By now, they have the skills they need to find facts in books and online articles. They may also be ready to consider other kinds of sources. Encourage students to think outside the box.

For example, if students are writing about an animal, can they observe it in its natural setting? If the animal lives in your area, they may be able to find it and watch it. They may also be able to locate a webcam that shows the animal going about its daily routine.

If students are writing about a social studies topic, can they visit a local historical society or museum? What can they learn from artifacts? Can they interview people who are knowledgeable about their topic?

The more creatively students think about their research process, the more invested they will become in their topic, and their enthusiasm will definitely shine through in their written report.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Quintets for Curious Kids: 5 Great Books about Rocks

Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor

If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian

A Rock Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas

A Rock Is a Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston

Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Quintets for Curious Kids: 5 Great Picture Books about Rain Forests

Army Ant Parade by April Pulley Sayre

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

Rain, Rain, Rain Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Red-eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley

Friday, November 18, 2016

THE Best Book Ever for Kids Who Love to Learn About Animals

The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins

Seriously, this book is in a class all by itself, so run right out and buy it as a holiday gift for all the curious kids in your life.