Friday, November 30, 2012

Look!

It’s the cover of my brand-spanking-new book, which is at the printer right now. No Monkeys, No Chocolate will hit bookshelves next July. I can’t wait.

Dec. 5 update: Woo-hoo! Just found out No Monkeys, No Chocolate is a Junior Librar Guild selection.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Behind the Books: My New, Improved Nonfiction Family Tree

Back in September, I blogged about my view of the nonfiction family tree. I said other authors might disagree with it, and that I might even want to revise it in a year or two.

Well, a year or two has turned into a month or two. That’s how quickly the wonderful world of nonfiction for kids is changing right now.  And I’m very excited.

Here’s my new version:
What has changed? A lot. For starters, I became aware of an article by Marc Aronson in the July 24, 2012, issue of School Library Journal.It recounts Aronson’s experience on a panel at ALA in which Jonathan Hunt (of the Heavy Medal blog) introduced the term “gateway nonfiction”—nonfiction that forms a bridge between the fact-filled record books and gross-out titles that captivate 7 to 10 year olds and middle-grade narrative nonfiction.

According to Aronson, Hunt, and their fellow panelists, gateway nonfiction is a critical stepping stone for young readers, especially boys, and few such trade books currently exist. I completely agree with this idea. So even though these books are currently few and far between, I’ve added it to my tree in the hope that the category will bud and blossom.

I’ve also added some twigs to the straightforward branch. I thought it was a good idea to highlight some of the features that can make straightforward nonfiction outstanding.

And I’ve added a branch called “Experimental” to contrast with “Straightforward." The more I thought about it, the twigs “Strong voice” and “Innovative structure and design” are really two examples of a new, experimental kind of nonfiction.

So what do you think? I’m planning to take a closer look at the twigs and branches over the next few weeks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Having Fun with Common Core: Silly or Serious Stories

Okay, so we were talking about CCSS for ELA in the Reading Informational Text #4. It focuses on building vocabulary.


Craft & Structure #4

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.

In my last Monday post, I discussed a great strategy for early elementary students—songs. But let’s face it, by grade 3, not all students are enthusiastic about singing.

So how about this: Challenge them to write a silly or serious story using as many vocabulary words as possible. And here’s the great news: This assignment also meets CCSS for ELA Writing standard #3.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Having Fun with Common Core: Word Wizards

Back in the day, kids across America were tortured with a multi-year vocabulary-building program called Word Wizards. Each Monday we were introduced to a new set of words, and each and every Friday, there was a much dreaded test. As if a weekly spelling test wasn’t enough to give us all anxiety nightmares!

Word Wizards may be a thing of the past, but the need to learn vocabulary certainly hasn’t disappeared. And that’s what CCSS for ELA in the Reading Informational Text #4 is all about.


Craft & Structure #4

Kindergarten

Grade 1

Grade 2

With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.

Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.

Believe it or not, there are fun ways for your kiddos to learn vocabulary.

For grades K-2, songs can really do the trick. For example, let’s say your students are struggling with the terms used to describe the various life stages of butterflies and many other insects. This little ditty (which I wrote and give you permission to use any way you like) just might do the trick:

The Butterfly Song
(To The Tune of “London Bridge”)

Butterflies lay their eggs,
Here and there—
On leaves and twigs.
Butterflies lay their eggs,
Then they fly away.

Catterpillars hatch from eggs.
They creep and crawl,
chomp and chew.
Catterpillars grow and grow.
Then they shed their skin.

Wrapped inside a chrysalis.
Pupae change.
They grow wings.
They slip out of that chrysalis
And slowly spread their wings.

Butterflies flit and fly,
They search and seek
For a mate. Butterflies lay more eggs,
Then they fly away.

FYI, there are more fun songs on my website. Just look here.

What about older students? I have some great ideas, but they'll have to wait for my next Monday post. Stay tuned.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: Why did the fly fly?
A: The spider spied-her.

Q: Why do spiders spin webs?
A: They don’t know how to knit.

Q: Where do insects go shopping?
A: At a flea market.

Q: What do you get if you cross a daddy longlegs with an elephant?
A: I'm not sure. But if you see one walking across the ceiling, RUN!

Q: What’s a scorpion’s favorite TV show? 
A: Survivor.

Looking for more super silly jokes about the weather? Check out Creepy, Crawly Jokes About Spiders and Other Bugs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Behind the Books: My New Obsession

I know what you’re thinking:  “More social media? I need that like I need a hole in my head.” At least that’s what my grandfather would be thinking.

But hear me out. Pinterest is fun and helpful. (And they didn’t even pay me to say that.)

Okay, so the four boards they suggest you start with promote shopping and materialism. But guess what. You can delete them with just four quick clicks. Then you can create your own categories.

I love looking at my boards, especially Cool Insects! and Flower Power and Wild for Nature. I’ve also created some great resource for teachers—books and ideas that are perfect for teaching various parts of the Common Core State Standards. It was fun and fast. Much faster than uploading images to this blog.

Instead of squirreling away all my digital images on a bunch of CDs buried somewhere in my office. I can find just the image I want for a blog post or to email a friend by just heading over to my Pinterest page. Easy as pie.

And a few weeks ago, I had a brainstorm. What a great place for authors and illustrators and other kidlit professional to show us their workspaces. So I started what is now one of my favorite boards. Thanks so much to everyone who has sent me photos and stories.

Like Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest probably isn't for everyone, but I think it's great.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Having Fun with Common Core: What Other People Are Suggesting

So many people were disappointed when I took a break from blogging on Columbus Day that I thought I'd better post on Veteran’s Day.

But because I have incredible respect for our veterans and because I could use a day off once in a while, I’m delighted to share this idea-packed article, which first appeared in Booklist.

But don't think you can guilt me into blogging during Christmas break. No way.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Fun: Over-the-Top Article


Lots of people seem excited about my new book, Animal Grossapedia, but this article from the Santa Cruz (CA) Examiner takes the cake.
 
Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Behind the Books: More on Language Devices

Last week, I wrote about using language devices in my writing. I’m not the only author who does it. Not by a long shot.

Here are a couple of great examples.

         Alliteration and assonance
         Repetition
         Rhyme


And then, in a flash,
with the stealth of a thief.
a frog’s sticky tongue
flicks out at the leaf
and snatches the meal . . .

                   The bug comes to grief.



The sun is rising.
Up, up.
It heats the air.
Up, up.
Wings stretch wide
to catch a ride
on warming air.
Going where?
Up, up.

The first example, The Story Goes On by Aileen Fisher, is more zany and playful. Well, the word choices don’t hurt. But here’s something else to notice: The rhyming words have a very hard sound—thief, leaf, grief.

But in Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre, the rhyming words have much softer sounds—wide, ride, air, where. Those softer sounds help to make the piece more lyrical, as does all the repetitive “up”s separated by commas.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Having Fun with Common Core: Connections and Relationships

For the last few weeks, I’ve talked about a lot of ideas for meeting CCSS for ELA in the Reading Informational Text #1 and #2. This week, the focus will be standard #3, which is all about identifying connections and relationships.


Key Ideas and Details #3

Kindergarten

Grade 1

Grade 2

With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Describe the relationship between series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, ideas, or concepts in a scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

In K-2, your students are supposed to notice and articulate connections between two people, events, or ideas in the nonfiction books they read.

In grades 3-5, students should recognize the relationships between events, ideas, or steps in some sort of  procedure. They should have an awareness of passage of time, the sequence of events, and how one thing leads to another.

Here are some great books that you can use to help your kiddos develop these skills:
11 Experiments that Failed by Jenny Offill & Nancy Carpenter
Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs by Kathleen Kudlinski
Energy Island by Allan Drummond
Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman
John, Paul, George, & Ben by Lane Smith

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonard da Vinci by Gene Baretta
Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Baretta
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola
Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre (illus. Kate Enderle)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes


Q: What did the comet say as it whizzed past Uranus?
A: How about giving me a ring sometime?

Q: Why is Neptune so blue?
A: Because it wants to be closer to its Sun.

Q: What kind of doughnuts do dwarf planets like best?
A: Munchkins.

Q: Why is Earth glad to be so far away from Jupiter?
A: Because Jupiter is such a gassy planet.

Q: Why didn’t the moon have ice cream for dessert?
A: It was too full.

Looking for more super silly jokes about the space beyond Earth? Check out Out of this World Jokes About the Solar System.