Friday, October 7, 2016

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words



Just imagine how many words it would take to explain everything we see in this solar system diagram:
--the names of the planets,
--the sizes of the planets,
--the colors of the planets,
--the distance each planet is from the sun,

--the distance each planet is from the other planets.

It's amazing that just one quick glance can convey so much information. That's why visuals—charts, diagrams, photos, illustrations—are such an important part of nonfiction writing.

Of course, in a nonfiction book, everything in the words AND everything in the pictures has to be 100 percent true. But because very few artists have a strong science background, I need to review the artist's sketches for science-themed picture books very carefully for accuracy.



As K-2 teachers at Middle Gate Elementary School in Newtown, CT, listened to me describe the process of reviewing sketches for When Rain Falls, they came up with a great idea for their students.
Problems with sketch: Three ladybugs probably wouldn't be so close together and all falling at the same time. A spider wouldn't sit on its web during a rainstorm.

Problems with art: The text says the ladybug falls off a blade of grass, so the words and pictures don't match.
Solution: It would be too time-consuming to change the art, so we changed the text to say that they ladybug is falling off a slippery stem.
 
First, students write nonfiction about a topic of their choice. Then children in another class at the same grade level illustrate the text. Like professional authors and illustrators, they don't meet and they don't speak to one another.
 
When the drawings are done, the original writer reviews the artist's work. Did the artist make any factual errors? If so, how can the writer explain the problems clearly and politely in writing?
 
This activity models the process nonfiction authors go through when they review sketches created by an illustrator. What a great idea!

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