Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Prosper, TX PD Handout: The Nonfiction Triumvirate: Category, Style, & Structure

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.

Traditional NonfictionAbout Fish: A Guide for Children by Catherine Sill and John Sill

Transportation! by Gail Gibbons
Water by Seymour Simon

Browseable Nonfiction1,000 Facts About the White House by Sarah Wassner Flynn
Eyewitness Books: Soccer by Dorling Kindersley
Guinness Book of World Records by Guinness World Records

Narrative Nonfiction
Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton and Victo Ngai

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Expository Literature
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman and Isabel Greenberg 

Look at Me! How to Attract Attention in the Animal World by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Aston Hutts and Sylvia Long 
Active Nonfiction

Minecraft: Guide to Exploration by Mojang Ab and the Official Minecraft Team


Stitch Camp: 18 Crafty Projects for Kids & Tweens by Nicole Blum and Catherine Newman
Try This Extreme: 50 Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You by  Karen Romano Young


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

Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano

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

Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee

Eyewitness Books

Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins

Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart

Guinness Book of World Records

Time for Kids Big Book of Why

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins

Creep and Flutter by Jim Arnosky

Frogs by Nic Bishop

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

Chronological narrative
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Buried Alive by Elaine Scott

Noah Webster & His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola

Pop: The Invention of Bubble Gum by Megan McCarthy

What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley

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

Saving the Ghost of the Mountain by Sy Montgomery

Episodic narrative
Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

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

Cycle narrative
A Drop of Water by Gordon Morrison

Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley

Beneath the Sun by Melissa Stewart

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre

Chronological expository
Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee

Dog Days of History by Sarah Albee

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

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

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
Terrific Tongues by Maria Gianferrari

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep by Traci Sorell

Today we continue the Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep series with an essay by author Traci Sorell. Thank you, Traci.

When I write nonfiction (or fiction for that matter), I focus on making the invisible visible. If someone had asked my focus five years ago when I began writing for children, I wouldn’t have answered that way. Back then, I just wanted to have a picture book showing present-day Cherokee life and people to share with my young son, and none existed.
But my focus expanded when I realized how few contemporary books (nonfiction or fiction) there are when you consider there are over 570 federally recognized tribes in the United States. Most books are written by people with no familiarity or knowledge of the tribe(s), people, land base, or history. This results in most of those books having inaccurate text and images that most readers take as fact.
Traci in 11th grade
I didn't realize the Cherokee or other Native Nations and their citizens were invisible until I was a teen. That’s when my family moved from northeastern Oklahoma where my tribe is located to Southern California.
No one in my new community knew or understood I was a dual citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the United States. Even the tribes from the San Diego area didn’t figure into the local news or community events, and they certainly weren’t included in the school curriculum. Talk about identity crisis.
This invisibility caused me to major in Native American Studies in college. I wanted to read, research, and know my own tribe’s history and contributions. I wanted to learn more about other Native Nations too.
After college, I pursued advanced degrees, studying how federal laws and policies impacted Native Nations and their inherent sovereignty. Not exactly what anyone in my family expected from a first-generation college graduate.
I find a lot of abhorrent laws and policies get enacted and upheld in federal courts when stories are not told, when Indigenous people are invisible, and when the sovereignty of Native Nations is not honored. Devastating consequences result.
I want to shine a light on those injustices in my work, so children know the history of what has happened—and continues to happen—in this country. Even if the history doesn’t make it into textbooks, I want to see those stories available on school and public library shelves. 
There are so many amazing contributions that Native Nations and their citizens have made and continue to make, but those stories have rarely been told. When they have, it is usually in service to white-focused narratives, not the humanity, resiliency, and hard work of Indigenous peoples.
Knowing this, I plan to be busy the rest of my life actively recruiting other Native writers and artists to enter the world of children’s literature. Our ability as Native Nations to remain sovereign, provide for our citizens, and contribute to the broader mainstream society depends on greater visibility and education of all children in the United States. Accurate books are critical to this effort.
I’m grateful for the Native creators who have already been doing the work in this field. I’m humbled to add my contributions to this effort.
My debut nonfiction picture book, We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (Charlesbridge, 2018), shares the value of gratitude as taught in contemporary Cherokee culture across the four seasons. I’m working on two picture book biographies that feature Native women—one from science and the other from politics. I want to do what I can to make sure Indigenous peoples are never overlooked, cast aside, or rendered invisible again.

Traci Sorell received a Sibert Honor Award for We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga. She also writes poems and fiction for young people. Before writing for children, Traci advocated for the rights of Native American Nations and their citizens at the White House and U.S. Congress. She is an enrolled Cherokee Nation citizen and again lives in northeastern Oklahoma where her tribe is located. For a complete list of her forthcoming works, visit www.tracisorell.com.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Writing Sprints with Kids

Last summer, authors Linda Sue Park and Laurie Halse Anderson introduced me to the idea of writing sprints—timed writing sessions with short breaks in between.

Some people say 25 minutes is the ideal length of a writing sprint, but Linda Sue prefers 12 minute blocks.

In October, I decided to try this technique with students during a school visit. At the school’s request, I met with fifteen motivated fourth and fifth graders. They wrote on Chromebooks, and I wrote on my laptop, which was hooked up to the classroom Smartboard. We did two 15-minute writing sessions with 10-minute breaks. During the breaks, we discussed the aspects of nonfiction writing we were struggling with right now.

I was delighted with the quality of the conversations we had. One fourth grader was struggling to come up with the perfect wording to describe something. It turns out, she had never heard of a thesaurus. As I demonstrated how to access and use online thesauruses, the teacher ran to the resource room and returned with a half dozen print copies.

A fifth grader was grappling with text structure. She was using a compare and contrast structure, but it wasn’t working as well as she had hoped. I happened to have a draft of a manuscript with an “opposites” text structure on my computer, so I pulled it up and we talked about how the five basic structures most students learn are just the tip of the iceberg.

Instead of forcing the compare and contrast structure, I suggested that the student might want to invent a structure that was perfectly suited to her needs. Then we talked about how she could do that by looking at the information she wanted to share to see if there were patterns. Grouping the information might show her how it could fit together and what the order should be.

I loved how the students and I were interacting like colleagues. I wanted them to know that even though I may have more writing experience than they do, I still face obstacles. Every writer does. For me, finding the best way to share information I care about is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a fun challenge.

In March, I tried writing sprints again. This time I wanted to work with a single grade level and try a classroom of students. Smaller groups have a lot of advantages, but there’s a certain cohesiveness to a classroom group that I thought might be beneficial.

Once again, the students were really engaged, and they had terrific questions and comments. During the breaks, we discussed ways to make revision more manageable, such as taking multiple sweeps through a manuscript, each time focusing on a different element. I was able to show them several drafts of a manuscript, so they could see how much it changed over time.

Next, I’d like to experiment with doing writing sprints via Skype. I think this could be especially useful because informational writing is often taught in the winter, when weather can make travel difficult. Because I can show students my computer monitor via Skype, this technique may work well both virtually and in person.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Secret of a Great Author Visit

What’s the secret of a great author visit? Preparation.

Of course, I need to be prepared. But so does the school community.

If students have read my books and are looking forward to meeting me, the day always goes better. The best visits of all happen when students have done meaningful projects related to the books and ideas I’ll be discussing.

Here are some great examples of project-based learning that students did in the days and weeks leading up to my visit at Pownal Elementary School in Pownal, Maine.

One classroom read Under the Snow and then created four lovely murals that show how animals discussed in the book survive in their winter environments. Fantastic!

In another classroom, students were learning to identify the main idea and supporting details in a text. After students spotted the main idea of Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, their teacher wrote it on a piece of paper and hung it on the wall. Then students used words and pictures to highlight supporting details.

After reading No Monkeys, No Chocolate, Grade 3 students suggested creating a bulletin board showing plant and animal relationships in the cocoa tree’s rain forest home.

I especially love this detail, which comes equipped with a magnifying glass (on the far right). What a great idea!
Students in grade 5 practiced the readers theater script I wrote to accompany No Monkeys, No Chocolate and performed it for me just before I presented to them. They did an amazing job!

Thanks to these projects, students had some skin in the game. They had a deep understanding of the books before I even walked in the door. And not surprisingly, the day was a tremendous success.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep by Lita Judge

Today we continue the Nonfiction Authors Dig Deep series with an essay by author Lita Judge. Thank you, Lita.

As an author and illustrator of both fiction and nonfiction picture books, I’m often startled when someone asks if my fictional books are harder to create and if I turn to nonfiction projects, in between, as a form of rest. I think this misconception comes from the notion that writing nonfiction picture books entails lightly researching a topic in the library until one can come up with a list of facts that make their way into a book.

Many of us were taught to write nonfiction that way in middle school, but that’s not at all how nonfiction writers actually tackle their work. The truth is that my fiction books are often flights of my imagination, but all of my nonfiction books grow from an exploration of deep and lifelong passions.

These books are a reflection of who I am. And the research I do to write them goes far beyond the boundaries of a library. It involves time spent in the field, hours of observation, exchanges with scientists, and drawing from nature.

For example, my book, Bird Talk, explores the ways birds communicate and why. This book was inspired by my grandmother, an ornithologist who worked for fifteen years to successfully breed a golden eagle in captivity.

In the predawn hours of a wintery spring, I listened to the piercing call of a golden eagle beckoning my grandmother to her pen. My grandmother would grab sticks to bring as an offering for the bird to begin building a nest. Later, when eggs were laid, my grandmother and the eagle shared the work of incubating.

I also worked with my grandparents on the marsh, banding owls and hawks, learning to differentiate the calls between mates locating one another from those that warned of danger or responses to hungry chicks.

Bird Talk grew from many experiences gained by research in the field.

I’ve also written about dinosaurs. Like so many others kids, I had a love for dinosaurs. When I was fourteen, I was convinced I wanted to be a paleontologist. In hopes of pursuing this goal, I wrote dozens of letters to museums begging to volunteer on a dinosaur dig. After many rejections, at last, Phil Currie from the Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada, agreed to let me work on a dig.

I ended up working there for several summers and got a degree in geology, but eventually found that I really wanted to write and illustrate books about dinosaurs, more than work as a paleontologist. So I turned to writing books, such as How Big Were Dinosaurs?, which answers many of the childhood questions I had about dinosaurs.

Sometimes, I feel people assume writing nonfiction picture books like Born in the Wild is simple because of its short text. But it takes a breadth of knowledge to take complex ideas like animal behavior and shape them into understandable concepts for young readers.

I create picture books because so much of the knowledge I acquire working in the field is visual. Watching animals gives me an awareness of intimate gestures and body language. I could never do these topics justice if my knowledge of them stemmed only from sampling books on the topic. And the time I spend observing animals results in a desire to draw and record my knowledge as illustrations rather than solely writing about them. That’s why I love the genre of picture books.

Occasionally my nonfiction work involves writing a biography. My book, Mary’s Monster, is a YA illustrated novel in verse about Mary Shelley. But the experience of writing it was not that dissimilar to my other work.

I didn’t set out to write a book about Mary Shelley because she was a remarkable teenager who created the most iconic monster of all time. I wrote about her because I had been going through some really tough experiences. To find a way out of my darkness, I needed to immerse myself in examples of strength and courage.

After reading Frankenstein, I knew Mary Shelley must have survived some pretty intense and painful experiences. I kept asking myself, how did she do it?

I sought out her journals and in them, found the strength I needed. Living within the darkness of her writing became a way through my own. My choice to write about her was no report. It was a rhapsody resulting from the passionate journey of finding my own way back to creating through exploring hers. It could only have been written after deeply inhabiting her life and emotions. That, in essence, is what nonfiction writing is for me. Inhabiting a topic until it becomes a part of me. 

Lita Judge is the author/illustrator of twenty-five fiction and nonfiction books, including Mary’s Monster, a YA novel about Mary Shelley and the creation of Frankenstein. Her picture books include Flight School, Born in the Wild, Red Sled, Hoot and Peep, and One Thousand Tracings. Lita worked as a geologist and paleontologist before turning to a life of creating art. A childhood spent with eagles, owls, and other animals also inspires her work. When not painting or writing, Lita loves riding her electric bike to far off places, or backpacking through Europe with sketchbook in hand. She lives in Peterborough, NH.

Friday, April 12, 2019

NSTA Handout: Cross Curricular Connections for Science Books

Everyone knows that books about how plants grow and how animals use their unique body features and behaviors to survive can enrich science lessons, but they can also be used lots of other ways.

Today, I’m in St. Louis at the National Science Teachers Association’s annual conference, participating in an amazing event that was the brainchild of science educator Carrie Launius. Thanks to months of hard work, Carrie and her team have put together the largest gathering of children’s science writers that I’ve ever seen. Linking Literacy is an incredible opportunity for 30+ authors to share ideas with science educators from all over the country.

Here are some of the Cross Curricular Connections I’ll be sharing for my recently published books A Seed Is the Start and Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs.

Reading Activity: Comparing and Evaluating Texts
The Nonfiction Smackdown!, developed by Waltham, Massachusetts, school librarian Judi Paradis, involves reading two nonfiction books on the same topic. The books can be two narrative titles, two expository titles, or one of each. Students evaluate and compare the titles and record their thinking on the Nonfiction Smackdown! Worksheet. The worksheets can be hung around the room or placed in a folder, so that classmates can use the information to help them select books.

Kinesthetic Activity: Demonstrating the Ways Seeds Move
During dispersal, seeds can fly, spin, or glide. They can also hop, creep, or shoot through the air at incredible speeds. In this activity, students crinkle up a piece of paper and pretend it’s a seed. Then they model all the different ways seeds can move away from their parent plant.

Writing Activity: Observing and Describing Seeds
A seed’s external structures may provide hints about how it disperses. This engaging activity (Kids love using a hand lens!) encourages students to look closely, record their observations with words and pictures, and make predictions.

Science + Engineering: Designing a Machine that Can Disperse Seeds Efficiently and Effectively
This activity encourages students to develop a deep understanding of seed dispersal and then think outside the box as they design a machine that mimics the seed’s actions.

You can find more activity ideas in the Educator’s Guide and Readers Theater Script that go with this book.

Geography and Math Activities: Maps & Stats PosterBecause Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs includes some little-known animals from all over the world (okapi, zorilla, hoatzin, naked mole rat), my editor and I thought it would be useful to create a visual that highlights where they live and provides some key stats, such as size, weight, habitat. This poster can be used to discuss the relationship between geography and climate. Students can also compare the animals in various ways and make bar graphs highlighting their differences.

Writing Activity: Exploring Animal Body Features and Behaviors
Option A: Invite children to draw a picture of the animal they think should get the Coolest Characteristic Award and then write a few sentences explaining why.

Option B: Encourage students to draw a picture of the animal that surprises them the most or that they like or connect with the most, and then write a few sentences explaining why.

Reading Activity: Identifying Main Ideas and Supporting Details
The students at Pownal Elementary School in Pownal, Maine, introduced me to this activity idea. After working as a class to identify the book’s main idea, their teacher wrote it on a piece of paper and hung it on the wall. Then each student used words and pictures to highlight one of the book’s supporting details.

Kinesthetic Activity: Students Put Themselves in Another Animal’s “Shoes”
Encourage students to imagine how other creatures, such as a Galapagos tortoise, survive in the world. What would it be like to have claws instead of fingers and a heavy shell on your back? To find out, invite students to create physical models of animals’ key body features and move through the classroom as that animal would.

Writing Activity: Crafting Voice in Nonfiction
My website includes a half dozen video mini-lessons for teaching the craft of nonfiction writing. The newest draws on examples from Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs and Seashells: More than a Home to show simple ways students can use word choice and punctuation to craft a strong voice, be it lively or lyrical, that matches their approach to a topic.
You can find more activity ideas in the Educator’s Guide and Readers Theater Script that go with this book.

And for even more engaging ideas for integrating science, reading, and writing, check out Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction to Teach Life Science. There’s one book with 20+ lessons for K-2 and another book with 20+ lessons for grades 3-5.

Have a great weekend, Everyone!