Friday, May 17, 2019

How Young Nonfiction Writers Can Dig Deep, Part 2

In last week’s post, I provided a list of six questions that you can ask students as they think about enriching their nonfiction writing by making personal connections to the content. You can scroll down to read them all, but today, I’m going to take a closer look at this question:

How can you find your own personal meaning in the information you gather during the research process? 

Students may struggle to answer this question, but all it takes is a little bit of time to stop and think. Encourage your students to review their notes, digest the information, and think about what it means to them.

Ask them to circle or highlight facts and ideas that they think are especially important or interesting. Then invite them to choose one of the following prompts and jot some thoughts in their writer’s notebook:
—The idea this gives me . . .
—I was surprised to learn . . .
—This makes me think . . .
—This is important to me because . . .

For example, here are some notes I took for a book I’m currently writing:

“Female flesh fly lays about twelve eggs at a time
When they hatch, female places maggots on a harlequin toad’s skin

The larvae burrow into the toad and feed on its body. They  kill the toad in just a few days."

As I read them over, I jotted the following in my writer’s notebook:

I started thinking about some fun or interesting ways to share this information with my readers. Then I made a few more notes:
First, I realized that it might be possible to use a humorous voice and somehow incorporate the word “croak,” which could have a double meaning. Then I noticed the words “the end” and thought that perhaps I could use a narrative writing style.

This kind of thinking is critical to my nonfiction writing process, and it helps to make the piece I write different from what someone else might write. 

What’s next? I need to add a little bit of myself to the writing. I’ll talk more about that next week.

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