Monday, September 22, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS K-LS1-1. Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.

Try these book pairs:

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




Friday, September 19, 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, September 17, 2014

Behind the Books: Perfect Pairs

After writing more than 150 science books for kids, I decided to try something a little different—a book for teachers that brings together science and ELA instruction.

My co-author Nancy Chelsey and I worked on Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2 for three long years, writing and testing and then re-writing each lesson. So you better believe that we’re thrilled to finally see it in print. Don’t you just love the cover? We do.

The story behind this book traces all the way back to 2006. That’s when I began to see clear signs that some children connect more strongly with nonfiction books, while others gravitate toward fiction. As a result, I started pairing thematically-similar fiction and nonfiction children’s books and developing innovative content-area activities with the books as a centerpiece. For example, here are a few pairings that could be used for an early-elementary science lesson about weather:

The Rain Came Down by David Shannon, Blue Sky Press, 2000 & When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart, Peachtree, 2008 (Gr K-2)

One Windy Wednesday by Phyllis Root, Candlewick, 1996 & I Face the Wind by Vicki Cobb, HarperCollins, 2003 (Gr 1-3)
 
Snow by Uri Shulevitz, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999 & Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Houghton Mifflin, 1998 (Gr 1-4)

I certainly wasn’t the first person to advocate using fiction and nonfiction books together. Two great articles I read as I was just getting started were:

·         Camp, Deanne. “It Takes Two: Teaching with Twin Texts of Fact and Fiction.” The Reading Teacher, February 2000, pp. 400-408

·         Taberski, Sharon. “Fact & Fiction: Read Aloud.” Scholastic Teachers. Internet page at: http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3344

When Nancy Chelsey and I met in 2008, she was a science and literacy specialist working for the Maine Math and Science Alliance. She was concerned with the way she saw teachers using children’s literature to teach science. She was intrigued with my ideas, and we began a series of conversations about the most useful and practical way to combine the magic of children’s books with the wonders of the natural world.

When we realized that the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) would require elementary educators to teach science in new ways, we knew the time was right to create a resource that would allow time-strapped teachers to combine key elements of their science and ELA curriculum. The result is Perfect Pairs.

By bringing together Nancy’s tremendous experience as an educator and my knowledge of science and children’s books, we’ve created a resource that makes science easy to teach and fun to learn. We hope you’ll give it a try.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS K-LS1-1. Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.

Try these book pairs:
For more suggestions and full lesson plans, check out Perfect Pairs:  





Friday, September 12, 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, September 10, 2014

Behind the Books: Read-aloudability in Nonfiction Picture Books

In June, the CCBC listserv hosted a discussion about nonfiction children’s books, and for one week, my book No Monkeys, No Chocolate was featured and people could ask me questions about it.

One of the people on the listserv is Melissa Techman (Twitter: @mtechman), a fabulous school librarian in Virginia. She urged me to share the following excerpt from the listserv conversation on my blog, and I always do what Melissa says.

Librarian Megan Schliesman asked:
I think we generally assume that picture book authors—the best picture book  authors—are very tuned in to how the words sound when read aloud, but I don't know if we always think about informational picture books in this way. In this book, you had the two levels of narrative (three if we include the bookworms). Do you think about both of the primary narratives with this in mind?

Here’s my answer:
As I’m revising a manuscript to make the words choice as pleasing and precise as possible, I always read it aloud while I’m standing up. Somehow I pay more attention when my butt isn’t in a chair. I usually have someone in my critique group read the manuscript back to me, too. If that reader stumbles over a word or a phrase, I know I need to rework it.

When writing books with layered text (a term invented by April Pulley Sayre), the challenge is to make the main text stand on its own AND to allow room for readers to interrupt the main text with the secondary text (and in this case the tertiary text, too).

I’ve discovered that students are really passionate about hearing all three layers of text in No Monkeys, No Chocolate. Here’s a conversation I recorded on Facebook after a school visit in Maine:

Third grader: I'm so mad at my teacher. When she read No Monkeys, No Chocolate, she skipped over the bookworm parts. Don't you think they're CRITICAL?
 
Me: Yes, I do.

Third grader: That's what I think, too.

I love that kid.

Monday, September 8, 2014

International Literacy Day

It's International Literacy Day . . .

Why do I read? I read nonfiction to learn as much as I can about the world around me. I read fiction to travel to places that only the imagination can go.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fan-mail Friday

After receiving the letter below, 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, September 3, 2014

Behind the Books: Words to Remember

I’m still in summer mode, so it’s hard for me to believe it’s already September and the school year has begun. Gesh! Why does summer seem so short?

I’ve got some great, meaty posts kicking around in my head for Celebrate Science this year, but to get us warmed up, I thought I’d start off by sharing a great quote from my friend and fellow nonfiction author Mary Kay Carson:

"I feel like fiction tells universal truths and nonfiction tells specific truths. We need both kinds."

Isn’t that great? You can read the full interview with Mary Kay here. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day!