Monday, October 30, 2017

5 Faves: Expository Nonfiction Recommended by Michele Knott

A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers about a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, 2015)
I really loved the organization of this book. Lots of factual information written in a conversational question and answer format.

If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams (Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

A fascinating look at the importance of these apex predators in our oceans.  With terrific backmatter, the information in this book entertains readers from cover to cover.

Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown (David Fickling Books, 2016)

Another book that shows today's nonfiction is not the boring material we read years and years ago.  Add humor and who knew reading about animals could be so fun!  Perfect to use with Jess Keating's Pink is for Blobfish.

Why'd They Wear That? Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee (National Geographic, 2015)

This book should be a mentor text in every middle school class—from the text structure to the organization to the fascinating facts!

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky (Ten Speed Press, 2017)

The accomplishments of women in the world of sports should be more widely recognized! Ignotofsky shares 50 women (and a few extras in the backmatter) who have made amazing, athletic accomplishments... and I'm not going to lie... so thrilled that Katie Ledecky's accomplishments were highlighted in the world of swimming! Go distance swimmers!

Michele Knott is a K-4 literacy specialist in the north suburbs of Chicago.  When she's not being a swim mom, she's reading and blogging, hoping to get books and ideas out to educators, librarians, and kids everywhere!

Friday, October 27, 2017

In the Classroom: Choosing a Topic

Not long ago, during a school visit in Rhode Island, fourth graders said something that shocked me. According to them, choosing a topic is the hardest part of the nonfiction writing process. Seriously. They found it completely overwhelming.

I’ve heard students and teachers talk about this struggle before, but never so adamantly and with such resignation. And frankly, I was baffled.

For me, ideas are everywhere. They come from books and articles I read, conversations with other people, places I visit, and experiences I have. The hard part isn’t getting ideas. It’s keeping track of them, so that I can pick one when it’s time to start writing a new book.

That’s why I have an idea board in my office. Anytime I have an idea, I write it on a scrap of paper and tack it up there. Some of those ideas lead nowhere, but others turn into books.

Young writers could mimic this by having an idea board in their classroom. Alternately, they could write ideas on the inside back cover of their writing notebook.

If a teacher gives students an umbrella topic, such as the Revolutionary War, the children can use the ideas they’ve recorded to brainstorm narrowly-focused ideas, such as what soldiers ate during the Revolutionary War, what kind of clothes soldiers wore during the Revolutionary War, or medical practices during the Revolutionary War.

There could also be a classroom idea jar for struggling students, or children could participate in ABC brainstorming to home in on a specific topic.

Do you have other ideas that could help young writers select a topic for a report?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

5 Ways to Share More Nonfiction with Your Students

For the last six weeks, I’ve been talking about expository nonfiction. I’ve presented a heap o’ research indicating that nonfiction in general and expository nonfiction in particular is more popular among elementary students than most of us might think. Simply put, what the children’s literature community calls broccoli, many kids call chocolate cake.

In the comments of the previous blog posts, on Facebook, and via email, I’ve discussed and debated the body of evidence that’s been building up for years but that few people seem to be aware of. I’ve engaged in conversations about male vs female preferences for expository writing and even the precise definition of “story.” I’ve emailed PDFs of the studies to at least a dozen people.

In a related post on Betsy Bird’s A Fuse #8 Production blog, hosted by School Library Journal, I described the characteristics of expository literature (high quality expository nonfiction).

All this has been interesting, and what I’m now seeing is positive reactions from two different camps. Some people are overjoyed because they feel validated. Others are realizing that they may have a bias they weren’t previously aware of. So it’s good news all around.

But the question remains: Where do we go from here? How do we move forward?

Here are my suggestions.

1.    Purchase more high-quality expository nonfiction for classroom and library collections. According to experts, a well-balanced collection should consist of 50 percent fiction, 33 percent expository nonfiction, and 17 percent narrative nonfiction/blended titles.

Need guidance in selecting titles? I’ve got you covered.

For the entire 2017-2018 school year, highly-regarded teachers and librarians will be sharing their 5 favorite expository nonfiction titles every Monday on my blog. You can scroll down to see the lists that have been posted since September. There are more coming.

I also highly recommend two blogs—Kidlit Frenzy (Wednesday posts look at nonfiction, especially nonfiction picture books) and The Nonfiction Detectives.

2.    Create three equally attractive, well-lit book display areas (fiction, expository nonfiction, and narrative nonfiction/blended) and label them, so students learn the characteristics of the different writing styles. Encourage students to browse all three areas.
3.    Read nonfiction aloud. If you're doing #classroombookaday, choose a nonfiction title at least once a week, alternating between expository literature and narrative nonfiction/blended books.
Not sure how to read expository nonfiction aloud? Check out this blog post and this one for some suggestions.

4.    Booktalk expository nonfiction. If you’re feeling a little nervous about that idea, here’s one, two, three blog posts that will help you.

5.    Use expository literature as mentor texts during writing workshop. You can find suggestions here and here and here and here.

As you plunge into the wonderful world of expository nonfiction, share what you’re learning and how students are reacting with the colleagues in your building, with people you meet at conferences, and with your PLN on social media. If we all work together, we can help more fact-loving kids become lifelong readers.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Literacy for All Handout: The Nonfiction Triumvirate

Today's nonfiction is more creative than ever before. Discover how understanding and experimenting with nonfiction categories, writing styles, and text structures can help authors of all ages make their writing more engaging.

Nonfiction Categories
Life Story
The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman
Brave Girl by Michelle Markle

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari
El Deafo by Cece Bell
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

Lives of the Presidents (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull
A Mother’s Journey by Sandra Markle

Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatium

Some Writer! by Melissa Sweet

Survey Book
Eyewitness Books
The Horrible, Miserable Middle Ages by Kathy Allen

Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

Lightning by Seymour Simon

National Geographic Readers
Spiders by Nic Bishop

Why’d They Wear That? by Sarah Albee

Specialized Nonfiction
Chasing Cheetahs by Sy Montgomery

Drowned City by Don Brown

Handle with Care by Loree Griffin Burns

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story by Tom Yezerski 

Sniffer Dogs by Nancy Castaldo

Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman

Concept Book
Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart

Hidden Dangers: Seek and Find 13 of the World's Deadliest Animals by Lola M. Schaefer

Just a Second by Steve Jenkins
Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart

Pink Is for Blobfish by Jess Keating
Seeing Symmetry by Loreen Leedy

A Star in My Orange by Dana Meachan Rau

Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre


Writing Styles
Facts Plus
Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano
Bone by Bone by Sara Levine

Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge
Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee
Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

Fast Facts
Animal Grossapedia by Melissa Stewart
Eyewitness Books
Guinness Book of World Records
Time for Kids Big Book of Why

Ada's Violin by Susan Hood

Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Buried Alive by Elaine Scott
The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton 
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
I Dissent by Debbie Levy

Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley
Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre
When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan
Common Text Structures
A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano
The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins
Creep and Flutter by Jim Arnosky

Dolphins! by Melissa Stewart
Frogs by Nic Bishop
Lightship by Brian Floca
Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

Chronological narrative
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman

Buried Alive by Elaine Scott
The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton 
Marvelous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully 
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola
Pop: The Invention of Bubble Gum by Megan McCarthy
The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass 
Some Writer by Melissa Sweet

What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley 

Episodic narrative
Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
Brave Girl by Michelle Markel
Fearless Flyer by Heather Lang

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan

Braided narrative

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
We’ve Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson

Journey narrative
If Stones Could Speak by Marc Aronson
Lost Treasure of the Inca by Peter Lourie
Quest for the Tree Kangaroo by Sy Montgomery
The Great White Shark Scientist by Sy Montgomery
Cycle narrative
Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari

A Drop of Water by Gordon Morrison
Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman
Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley
A Seed Is the Start by Melissa Stewart
Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre
Chronological expository
Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee
Poison by Sarah Albee

Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee
Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee
Cumulative expository
Here Is the Tropical Rain Forest by Madeleine Dunphy
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart
Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox

How-to expository
Dessert Designers: Creations You Can Make and Eat by Dana Meachen Rau
How to Swallow a Pig by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
The Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes by Doug Stillinger
Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes by Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl
Try This! 50 Fun Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You by Karen Romano Young
Compare & Contrast
Dueling spreads
Frog or Toad? How Do You Know? by Melissa Stewart
Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy
Neo Leo by Gene Barretta
Those Rebels, Tom & John by Barbara Kerley
List book
Born in the Wild by Lita Judge
Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge
Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins 
Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart
Move by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
My First Day by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
Just One Bite by Lola Schaefer

Cause & Effect
Earth: Feeling the Heat by Brenda Z. Guiberson
Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart
When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart

The Great Monkey Rescue by Sandra Markle   
A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart
Mesmerized  by Mara Rockliff

Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean


Q & A Books
Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sarah Levine

Good Question series (Sterling)
Creature Features by Steve Jenkins& Robin Page

Hatch! by Roxie Munro

Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde

Scholastic Question & Answer series

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

Mixing & Matching
If you’re writing a Life Story . . .
  • Probably sequence (chronological) structure
  • Narrative writing style
If you’re writing a Survey Book . . .
  • Description/explanation, sequence, Q & A
  • Expository writing style
If you’re writing Specialized Nonfiction . . .
  • Probably sequence, compare & contrast
  • Narrative or expository writing style
If you’re writing a Concept Book . . .
  • Sequence, compare & contrast, Q & A, cause & effect, problem—solution, or invent your own
  • Probably expository writing style