Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Georgia Conference on Teaching and Learning: Having Fun with GSE Handout

Today I’m presenting two talks at the Georgia Conference on Teaching and Learning in Perry, GA. I’m sharing my handouts here (rather than on paper), so that interested people can simply click on the links. (Plus it saves trees.)

This post is the online handout for my first talk, Having Fun with GSE: Using Award-winning STEM-themed Books to Support the Reading Information Text Standards. It includes teaching ideas and book lists that address each of the Georgia Standards of Excellence Reading Information Text Standards.

Thanks to blogger’s scheduling option, the online handout for my second presentation, All Writers Depend on Mentor Texts, will magically post at 1:00 p.m., when that presentation begins.

Here are some general resources to get you started:

GSE RIT #1 and 2: Identifying main ideas/Recognizing supporting details
Reading Buddy programs have many proven benefits. When buddies use nonfiction trade books with layered text, the benefits increase. Younger students read the simpler main text (which includes the main idea) and the older student reads the secondary text (which includes supporting details). Then they discuss the art together. When they are done, they can work together to complete supporting activities.


Recommended Titles
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

Beaks by Sneed B. Collard
The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre
A Butterfly is Patient by Diana Hutts Aston
Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart
Meet the Howlers by April Pulley Sayre
Move! by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart
A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart
What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
When the Wolves Returned by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

GSE RIT #3: Identifying connections/relationships between ideas, events, or individuals in a book
It can be tricky to find books that are perfectly suited for teaching this skill. Here are some titles that I recommend:

For K-2 Students
Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sarah Levine

Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman


For Grade 3-5 Students
Energy Island by Allan Drummond

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonard da Vinci 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
GSE RIT #4: Building Vocabulary
For younger children, fun songs are a great way to reinforce domain-specific vocabulary introduced in children’s books. Here are some sample songs I’ve written to build vocabulary included in lifecycle units on butterflies and frogs:

For upper elementary students, Readers Theater is a wonderful way to reinforce vocabulary (not to mention build fluency and comprehension). Many science-themed children’s books can easily be adapted into Readers Theater scripts that kids will love practicing and performing.

Recommended Titles
Animals Asleep by Sneed Collard

Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart

Dig Wait Listen: A Desert Toad Tale by April Pulley Sayre

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

Home at Last: A Song of Migration by April Pulley Sayre

How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Move! by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young

Rain, Rain, Rain Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart

Where Are the Night Animals? by Mary Ann Fraser
Additional Resources
Readers Theater scripts on my website:

Stewart, Melissa. “Science Books + Readers Theater,” Science Books & Films. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C., May/June 2008. Internet page at: http://www.melissa-stewart.com/pdf/ReadersTheater.pdf#zoom=70

GSE RIT #5: Identifying text features/Analyzing text structures
This is an important skill twenty-first century learners. Many of my books include a wide variety of text features. You can use them as mentor texts as students develop their own text features.

I’ve also sorted developed teaching ideas for text features and structures and created a list of dozens of award-winning nonfiction books organized by text structure. You can access them here:


March Madness Nonfiction

GSE RIT #6: Visual literacy and point of view
Most of the other RIT standards focus on one skill that is introduced in K and builds from one grade level to the next. This standard looks at visual literacy in the early grades and author intent in grades 2-5.

Grades K-1
Visual literacy is a critical skill for twenty-first century learners. While any book illustrated with art or photos can be used to discuss the role of the words and pictures, here are a few that I particularly recommend:

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton  

An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston  

Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkle

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Visual Teaching Strategies

Grades 2-5
To meet this standard, students should have experience considering the intent of texts and author point of view. Today’s students are also being asked to imagine themselves “in the shoes” of the authors. They must consider that an author’s world view affects how he/she approaches topics. For discussions of author intent, I recommend two activities.

1.    Compare The Snail’s Spell by Joanne Ryder (illus Lynne Cherry) and Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell, focusing on why two authors might have created such different books about the same small animal.

2.  Imagine author Brenda Z. Guiberson’s thought process as she developed the voice for Frog Song. How do students think the publisher’s choice of Gennady Spirin as the illustrator reinforced the author’s intent for the book?

For discussions of point of view, ask students to consider how the authors’ world view inspired them to write the following titles:

City Chickens by Christine Heppermann

Earth: Feeling the Heat by Brenda Z. Guiberson

A Place for Bats by Melissa Stewart

Step Out Gently by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

Point of View/Persuasive Writing


GSE RIT #7: More visual literacy and accessing information quickly
Because visual literacy is so important, this standard addresses it at increasing degrees of complexity from grades K-4. See my notes above for book recommendations.

Visual Teaching Strategies


At grade 5, this standard suddenly switches its focus to building skills for accessing information. The good news is that publishers have already begun beefing up the index and resource sections of all books, especially those for ages 10 and up.

GSE RIT #8: Examining how an author supports points
List books (in which the main idea is stated on the first page and subsequent spreads are essentially a list of examples that reinforce the main idea) are a simple and powerful way to show students how author can support their points.

I recommend the following titles:

Bird Talk by Lita Judge

Born to Be Giants by Lita Judge

A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston  

An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston  

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart  

How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins

Move! by Steve Jenkins& amp; Robin Page

Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

A Rainbow of Animals by Melissa Stewart

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston

Wings by Sneed Collard

GSE RIT #9: Comparing multiple texts and various media
There are lots of ways to help students develop this skill, and trade children’s books can play a central role. Students will enjoy comparing fiction and nonfiction books that look at the same topic. Here are some book pairs I recommend:

Bring on the Birds by Susan Stockdale + Birds by Kevin Henkes

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart + Under and Over the Snow by Kate Messner

A Mama for Owen by Marion Dane Bauer + Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Htakoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu

And if you are looking for a resource that combines studying fiction/nonfiction pairs with teaching science, you might want to use Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2, a book I co-authored with former teacher Nancy Chesley. It’s available here:

Students will also be interested in comparing two, three, or even four or even three nonfiction books covering the same topic but written in different ways by different authors. Here are some great examples:

The Wolves Are Back by Jean Craighead George  

When the Wolves Returned by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee

The Truth About Poop by Susan E. Goodman  

The Tale of Pale Male by Jeanette Winter

City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male by Meghan McCarthy

Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulamn  

Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter

Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire Nivola

Seeds of Change: Wangari's Gift to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli

A great general resource for planning lessons that take advantage of multiple books and/or various media is Teaching with Text Sets by Mary Ann Cappiello and Erika Thulin Dawes. Follow their blog here: http://classroombookshelf.blogspot.com/
Some of the books I've listed above will eventually go out of print. Plus new books are being published all the time. How can you find great nonfiction books in the future?

Keep an eye on these lists:  

AAAS/Subaru Prizes for Excellence in Science Books

ALA Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

CA Reading Association Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award

Cook Prize for STEM Picture Book

Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List

Cybils Nonfiction for Middle Grade & Young Adult

Cybils Nonfiction Picture Books

NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

And that's it! Phew.

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful, Melissa! Thanks for all of the amazing resources!!