Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My 10-ish Favorite STEM Books of 2020

Today I'm finishing up my posts for 2020 with my annual list of favorite STEM books. This year’s list includes fifteen titles because I just couldn’t narrow it down to ten. It was a stellar year for nonfiction, and for STEM titles in particular.

Six of the books appeared on from my #SibertSmackdown list a few weeks ago:

Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre


Crossings: Extraordinary Structures for Extraordinary Animals by Katy S. Duffield


Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons


Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming


Tiny Monsters: The Strange Creatures That Live on Us, in Us, and Around Us by Steve Jenkins


You’re Invited to a Moth Ball by Loree Griffin Burns

 

I’m also including eight additional titles that you won’t want to miss:

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat


The Great Bear Rescue: Saving the Gobi Bears by Sandra Markle


If You Take Away the Otter by Susannah Buhrmann-Deever


Jumbo: The Making of the Boeing 747 by Chris Gall


Oil by Jonah Winter


Small Matters: Then Hidden Powers of the Unseen by Heather Ferranti Kinser


Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem by Kate Messner


Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other by Heather Montgomery


Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls by Annette Whipple

Monday, December 14, 2020

Resources for Educators: Questions to Help Students Understand Nonfiction Texts

More and more, teachers are requesting educational resources that go beyond traditional teachers guides and activity sheets. So while I do still have those kinds of materials on my website, I’m also offering resources that delve deeply into the nonfiction reading and writing process from an author’s point of view. 

Some of these resources focus on books I’ve written and describe various stages of my creative process in detail, while others provide more general information  and highlight books written by a wide variety of nonfiction authors.  


On Mondays this year, I’m going to be sharing some of these resources and providing ideas for how they might be used in the classroom. Today, I’m going to focus on a document entitled Questions to Help Students Understand Nonfiction Texts, which you can access by clicking on the Nonfiction Reading Resources icon.

This document includes lists of questions that can help elementary students at various grade levels examine and evaluate the elements of nonfiction writing, including main idea and supporting details, beginnings and endings, text features, text structures, voice, organization, writing style, point of view, strong verbs, rich language, sensory details, and more.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Chalk + Ink: A Podcast

Kate Naritaa children’s book author and fourth grade teacher in Massachusetts, has recently started a terrific podcast called Chalk + Ink. It’s intended for Teachers Who Write and Writers Who Teach.

Not long ago, I sat down with Kate for a fascinating conversation that included: 

--tips and tools for teaching informational writing
--the lie I told just about everyone for years 
--the brand-new anthology Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep, which I edited
--the heart-wrenching inspiration behind my book Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs


I also recommended two books I think should be in every elementary classroom and discussed the cornucopia of education resources on my website.

I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Resources for Educators: What’s Creative Nonfiction?

More and more, teachers are requesting educational resources that go beyond traditional teachers guides and activity sheets. So while I do still have those kinds of materials on my website, I’m also offering resources that delve deeply into the nonfiction reading and writing process from an author’s point of view. 

Some of these resources focus on books I’ve written and describe various stages of my creative process in detail, while others provide more general information  and highlight books written by a wide variety of nonfiction authors.  

On Mondays this year, I’m going to be sharing some of these resources and providing ideas for how they might be used in the classroom. Today, I’m going to focus on the What’s Creative Nonfiction? article, which you can access by clicking on the Nonfiction Reading Resources icon.

This article explains the often misunderstood term “creative nonfiction.” At one time, it was considered synonymous with “narrative nonfiction,” but in recent years, it has fallen out of favor. It does NOT refer to books that take creative liberties with the truth. If a book contains any made-up elements, it’s fiction. Period.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Unimpressed Reader

At the NCTE virtual conference the week before Thanksgiving, author Angie Thomas said something that has really stuck with me:

“There’s no such thing as a reluctant reader, only an unimpressed reader.”

I love this idea, and it’s closely aligned with what I’ve been saying for years. The secret of cultivating lifelong readers is giving each individual child exactly the  books they want to read—not books we think they should be reading.

 

Much of my work involves advocating for nonfiction, especially expository nonfiction, because studies show that about 40 percent of kids prefer it because they read to learn. The best way to impress them and get them excited about reading is by handing them a book on a topic that fascinates them.

 

But as Ms. Thomas points out, for some children, the single most important criteria may be something different, such as seeing themselves in the pages.

 

And for still other students, the key that will unlock the desire to read is something else. Whatever that “thing” is—whether it’s a topic, an idea, a format (such as graphic novels), a character from a certain background or with certain attributes—educators and parents must help children name it. Then they must provide a steady diet of books that meet the child’s criteria.

 

In some cases, this is a big job, a monumental task, but it’s a challenge that must be overcome because the reading lives of the next generation is at stake.

 

Thank you, Angie, for reminding us all how to reach the hearts and minds of young readers.