Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Behind the Books: Three Melissas and Nonfiction Text Features

Last week during a Twitter conversation, @mtechman a.k.a. Melissa Techman, the K-5 School Librarian in Charlottesville, VA (Hooray for Virginia for still having school librarians!), mentioned that the new Common Core ELA standards has left teachers searching for effective ways to teach nonfiction text features. She pointed me to this great blog written by Melissa Clancy, a kindergarten teacher at Bates Elementary School in Wellesley, MA. Mrs. Clancy created the great text feature poster (above).

And she was inspired by another great poster (below) she spotted on Pinterst. This is what social media is all about!
Anyway, this started me thinking about how I could help educators teach their kiddos about nonfiction text features. And the answer seemed obvious. My A Place for . . . books are chock full of them.

Here are some examples from A Place for Frogs.

There are maps of each frog’s range on the end papers—12 in all. Here’s a close up of the northern leopard frog’s range.
The opening spread has a life cycle diagram with a label (on the right).

And a sidebar a.k.a. text box with a heading. (You’ll find these on every spread.) Plus main text at the top.

Flip a couple of pages and you'll find a close-up image of a detail from the main illustration. It shows the unusual strings of eggs the western toad. (Most frogs lay their eggs in clumps.)

At the end of the book, there are even more text features, including a page with Acknowledgements and a Selected Bibliography with books, articles, and websites. Boks suggested For Further Reading are marked with an asterisk.

And opposite that is a page with Fascinating Frogs Facts.
As far as text features are concerned, this book is a treasure trove. That makes it perfect for lessons that support an important Common Core standard. And, oh yeah, the kids will learn a lot about frogs and their habitats and what they need to survive along the way. What could be better than that?
Thanks to Melissa T. and Melissa C. for being part of my PLN!


  1. I love your "place for..." series for just those reasons!

  2. It's interesting to really dissect nonfiction books and see what makes them works. I gravitate to books with sidebars, resources, activities and a variety of images (like yours of course). For me, I think they allow you to share age-appropriate information with preschoolers, but then you can read more deeply with older children.

  3. You're right, Kirsten. The text layers make the ideas accessible to a broader range of kids, and that's exactly what I had in mind.

    Also, the book is perfect for teaching cause and effect text structure. You can combine it with my book Frog or Toad? What's the Difference? to braoden the lesson by including a discussion of compare and contast text structure.

  4. Steve Jenkins books are great for teaching text features, as you delve deeply into his focus question--how his book is organized. He includes maps, comparison pictures, question/answer structures (to name a few).