Tuesday, July 21, 2020

NCSLMA Handout: 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Rethinking Your Book Collection


Many school librarians have worked hard to add award-winning narrative nonfiction to their collections, but studies show that 42 percent of elementary students prefer expository nonfiction. This session breaks down the five categories of nonfiction children’s books (four of which have an expository writing style), offers tips for updating book collections, and provides strategies for integrating a variety of nonfiction texts into reading and writing lessons. 

Background
I’ve written about the 5 kinds of nonfiction for SLJ.

I’ve discussed the 5 kinds of nonfiction in this video created for Colby Sharp’s vlog.

Please see this blog post for my latest ideas on the topic.

AND Be on the lookout for 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books, co-written with Marlene Correia, Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Bridgewater State University and past-president of the Massachusetts Reading Association. Coming soon.     






Characteristics of the 5 Categories and Activity for Students






Vickie Blankenship's Student Document


Blended Books





Gateway Nonfiction
http://celebratescience.blogspot.com/2018/05/in-classroom-gateway-nonfiction-and.html



Re-thinking Your Collection

Friday, June 12, 2020

6 Summer Reads to Encourage Outdoor Exploration


Being Frog by April Pulley Sayre, Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster

From award-winning author and photographer April Pulley Sayre comes a stunning photographic look at the fascinating lives of frogs.

A frog is a being.
It is watching.
It is seeing…

Frogs are amazing creatures, and this book offers young readers an up-close and revealing peek at their everyday lives. Follow them from egg to tadpole to froglet crawling up onto land for the first time. Watch them resting on a favorite log, searching for food, and leaping through the air. And see how frogs are unique, individual beings with rich lives all their own in the wild.From award-winning author and photographer April Pulley Sayre comes a stunning photographic look at the fascinating lives of frogs.

A frog is a being.
It is watching.
It is seeing…

Frogs are amazing creatures, and this book offers young readers an up-close and revealing peek at their everyday lives. Follow them from egg to tadpole to froglet crawling up onto land for the first time. Watch them resting on a favorite log, searching for food, and leaping through the air. And see how frogs are unique, individual beings with rich lives all their own in the wild.
Stunning, up-close photographs and rich, evocative language immerse readers in the watery world of frogs, allowing them to experience daily life from an amphibian’s perspective. Follow frogs as they transform from egg to tadpole to froglet and hop onto land. Join them as they rest on a favorite log, search for food, and leap through the air. Discover how frogs are unique beings with rich lives all their own. An author’s note clarifies the difference between scientific and anecdotal research—and the value of both.



Daylight Starlight Wildlife by Wendell Minor, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House

Using a clever compare-and-contrast text structure, this charming book offers a fascinating look at diurnal animals that surround us when we’re awake as well as nocturnal critters that are active while we’re sleeping. Simple, lyrical text and lifelike illustrations invite readers to experience the movements, sounds, colors, and textures of nature as they compare the roaming habits of common North American wildlife. Two pages of Fun Facts at the end of the book provide more information for curious minds.


A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija, Millbrook Press/Lerner

Discover the many surprising roles leaves play in this poetic exploration through the seasons. Children will be captivated as they work out the meaning of simple, playful rhymes that highlight how leaves provide food and water, offer shade from the sun and shelter from rainfall, purify the air, warm the ground, and more. Soft, luminous illustrations lend a warmth and vibrancy to the text. A section at the end of the book elaborates upon the poetic descriptions, providing more insight into the integral roles that leaves play in nature.



Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward and Steve Jenkins, Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster

Lively rhyming main text accompanied by engaging factual descriptions and richly-detailed cut-paper collage art introduce young readers to an amazing variety of birds’ nests from around the world. Made of everything from twigs and grass to moss and mud to a few scratches on the ground, nests have a shared purpose—to protect eggs and house chicks as they grow into fledglings. An author’s note provides additional information and explains why the author felt compelled to write the book.



Play Like an Animal! Why Critters Splash, Race, Twirl, and Chase by Maria Gianferrari and Mia Powell, Millbrook Press/Lerner


Bursting with joy and energy, this delightful exploration of how and why animals play is irresistible! From somersaulting parrots and boxing kangaroos to dolphins diving through the surf, animals play to practice critical survival skills, encourage brain development, and build bonds with one another. Vibrant illustrations are a perfect match for the high-spirited text. A section at the end provides more information about the featured animals and encourages readers to make time to play every day.



You’re Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Celebration by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz, Charlesbridge

Large, appealing photos and engaging, conversational text describes how to plan and carry out a moth ball—a fun group activity for attracting and studying moths. As Burns enticingly states, “Did I mention we get to stay up late? Because we do!” In addition to experiencing a moth ball vicariously, readers learn about the moth life cycle, the anatomy of moths, and how moths differ from butterflies. This appealing hands-on science book is sure to inspire budding scientists to host their own moth ball in a nearby open space.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Expository vs. Narrative: What’s for Dinner?, Part 2

On Monday, I shared an expository passage about the red-spotted purple butterfly’s unusual eating habits from my upcoming book Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses and talked a little bit about the process of writing the book.


Today, we’ll continue discussing the differences between narrative and expository nonfiction by looking at two consecutive spreads from Loree Griffins Burns’s fabulous new book You’re Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration, photographed by Ellen Harasimowicz. The book is perfectly suited for a narrative writing style because it conveys an experience, a thrilling event known as a moth ball. 

The first of these spreads features a group of children observing an incredible variety of moths attracted to a white sheet illuminated by a special light. What an experience!


And the second spread (which loosely connects to the topic of the Ick! spread I shared on Monday) highlights why it’s helpful to know an insect’s dietary preferences. 

Let’s take a closer look at Loree’s text:

The number of moths might be small at first. Be patient. On a warm night, moths become more active as the night gets darker and the hour gets later.

Some people never, not once in their whole lives, connect with moths this way. So take your time. Soak it all in.

And don’t forget to check the sugar bait. There might be more moths to meet.

Party on, friends! Be kind to your guests. Watch them sip homemade nectar, and marvel at how they do it. 

There are so many things to love about the way Loree has written this book. While direct address can sometimes seem heavy handed or even didactic, in this book, it contributes beautifully to the gentle, friendly, invitational voice. Even though the language is remarkably simple, each word has been carefully chosen to instill a sense of wonder and awe, which will undoubtedly inspire many young readers to begin planning a moth ball of their own. 

After reading the book, I wondered what inspired Loree to write about a moth ball rather than a more general survey book about months. I also wanted to know how and why she decided to employ a narrative writing style. 

Here’s what Loree had to say:

“I'm one of those people who is naturally drawn to narrative. I never asked myself what would be the best writing style for a book about moths? Instead, I stumbled into a subject that was new and fascinating to me—moth watching, and I saw immediately that there was a beautiful and intriguing narrative ready-made—a moth watching party, or moth ball. Those two things convinced me that I wanted to make this book.

“This is not a book that gives a reader everything they'll ever want to know about moths. Rather, it’s an invitation into the world of moths, a quick and (I hope!) intriguing look at a new subject. 

“My fondest wish is that readers finish and do two things immediately: 1) hit the library for more books about moths and 2) start watching the moths in their own neighborhoods.” 

According to Loree, one big advantage of writing a narrative is the built-in text structure. While writers of expository nonfiction have to carefully consider how they will frame their facts, narratives typically have a chronological sequence structure.

“I didn't start by pondering how to organize all the moth facts,” says Loree. “Instead, my focus was entirely on telling a compelling moth story. I had to decide where to begin that story, where to end it, and how to get from one to the other. 

“Eventually I decided I would host a moth ball and invite readers to come. That story starts with the book's title: you're invited to a moth ball. I have readers arrive early, when it's still light outside, so that they can help me set up the party; that's how they learn how to attract moths. The story ends where so many great stories (and parties) do: bedtime. 

“This very simple story structure guided the way I conveyed moth facts. I couldn't just stick those facts anywhere, because I had to consider the party narrative. [There’s a] natural break in the party after the moth attractants were set but before the moths arrived. [That’s where] I tucked extra moth facts for readers.” 

I hope that this six-part blog series, which featured three spreads from my expository book Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses and passages from the narrative nonfiction titles Honeybee by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann, Flying Deep by Michelle Cusolito and Nicole Wong, and You’re Invited to a Moth Ball by Loree Griffins Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz has helped you gain a stronger understanding of the differences between narrative and expository writing. (Scroll down to read all the posts.)

The two writing styles present information in different ways, and as a result, appeal to different kinds of readers. While some students enjoy narrative and expository writing equally, others have a natural affinity for one or the other. 

Ultimately, we want all readers to be able to interact successfully with both writing styles, but developing the skills to do so takes time and patience and practice. That’s why it’s so important to meet emerging readers where they are by understanding, accepting, and encouraging their natural preferences.
  
When school and library book collections feature a rich assortment of expository nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, and fiction titles, every child will be able to find books that they connect with right now as well as books that can help them stretch and grow as they develop confidence as readers.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Expository vs. Narrative: What’s for Dinner?, Part 1

Last month, I began a blog strand that involves comparing two books on similar topics, but with different writing styles. (Thanks for the idea, Kate Narita!)

My hope is that these posts will help educators and other members of the children’s literature community learn to identify the two writing styles and understand the best situations for using each one. I’d also like educators to realize that, although they may have a natural affinity for stories and storytelling, some of their students definitely do not. 

As you can see in the chart above, some children prefer expository texts because they read with a purpose—to soak up facts, ideas, and information about topics they find fascinating. These “info-kids” want to understand the world and how it works and their place in it. They want to learn about the past and the present, so they can envision the future stretching out before them.

To feed these children a steady diet of the books they crave, classroom and library collections need plenty of nonfiction--both expository and narrative. Unfortunately, many schools aren’t even close to having well balanced collections. We need more nonfiction. A lot more! A well-rounded collection should have just as much nonfiction as fiction.

The shared topic for this week is a question: What’s for dinner? And our subjects are butterflies and moths.



Today I'll present a spread from my upcoming expository nonfiction book Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, and on Wednesday, award-winning author Loree Griffin Burns will answer some questions about her fabulous narrative nonfiction book You’re Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration, photographed by Ellen Harasimowicz.   

Okay, here’s the red-spotted purple butterfly spread from Ick! 

Notice that it’s illustrated with photographs, including a large close-up image of a butterfly gorging on juices from a rotting persimmon fruit. The spread includes a variety of text features, including captions with fascinating facts and figures, a stat stack for kids (and adults) who love data, a sidebar about red-spotted purple caterpillars (which look a whole lot like bird poop), and a factoid that describes even more surprising butterfly food choices, from mud and blood to sweat and urine. 

Even though there are a lot to explore on this spread, the design helps readers navigate the elements. While some narrative lovers might feel a bit overwhelmed by this layout, info-kids will be excited by the cornucopia of choices and ready to dive in.

Here’s the main text for this spread:

Slurping Up Supper
Many butterflies eat just one thing—flower nectar. They can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.

But red-spotted purple butterflies prefer a different kind of meal. And they aren’t alone. At least seven kinds of butterflies sip juices from rotting fruit, animal dung, and dead animal bodies. Blech!

Why in the world would butterflies choose such curious cuisine? Because the juices are packed with nutrients the butterflies need to stay healthy. In fact, some scientists think the females can’t produce eggs until they’ve sucked up these vile vittles


Since this book focuses on animals that rely on gross stuff like pee, poop, vomit, and rotting carcasses for food, building materials, or defense strategies, my goal on this spread was to describe the strange and surprising range of foods that butterflies, especially the red-spotted purple butterfly, eat. 

To make the expository text engaging, I employed a casual, conversational voice and included a healthy helping of strong, precise verbs and alliteration along with a dash of onomatopoeia.

Since I’m an info-kid myself, this way of presenting the material seemed natural to me. And while I sometimes struggle to find a hook or text structure or voice for the books I write, those elements quickly fell into place for Ick! Gross animal behaviors provide a built-in hook, and they simply beg for a lively, playful voice. Because I had tons of examples, I knew a list text structure would be the perfect choice for this book. 
While I sincerely hope that kids will be as excited to read Ick! as I was to write it, I recognize that it may not be a good fit for every young reader. And that’s why I’m thrilled that Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz created You’re Invited to a Moth Ball, a narrative nonfiction title that features kids joyfully observing an incredible variety of moths–an experience they won’t soon forget. I can’t wait to share a portion of the book and talk to Loree about it on Wednesday!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Getting Ready to Research, Part 6


Since the 2019-2020 school year marks the 10th Anniversary of this blog, on Fridays, I’m resurrecting and updating old posts that sparked a lot of conversation or that still have a lot to offer people teaching or writing nonfiction. Today’s essay is the final post in a six-part series that originally appeared in spring 2016.


Because it’s difficult to create authentic, self-driven research experiences for early elementary students, I’m sharing the last of my ideas for activities that will allow K-2 students to develop research skills, such as visual literacy and information literacy, without actually doing research. As a result, they’ll be ready to start doing authentic research in third grade. 

When students have solid visual literacy and information literacy skills (Scrolls down to read previous posts on these topics.), they’ll be well equipped to evaluate the accuracy and reliability of websites as they conduct research for reports. Here are some suggestions that can help children assess digital resources.

The first thing young researchers should do is look at a website’s URL and identify its domain name—the final three-letter abbreviation. The most common ones are .com (company/commercial), .net (network), .biz (business), .org (organization), .edu (education), and .gov (government). Then they should ask themselves: “What’s the main goal of the people who created the website?”  

For the most part, websites that end with .com, .net, and .biz are businesses and their main goal is to sell products or services so they can make money. Because this is not the same as the students’ main goal, which is to gather accurate, up-to-date information, these websites usually aren’t the best sources of information. 

On the other hand, websites that end with .org, .edu, or .gov often have the goal of sharing carefully vetted, up-to-date information, which makes them great resources for students. For example, if a student is doing a report on the circulatory system, the American Heart Association’s website is the perfect place to gather information. And if a student is doing a report on the history of their town, the local historical museum’s website is an excellent resource.  

As students look at a website’s homepage, they should ask themselves: “What is the first thing my eye notices when I look at this website?” 

By drawing on their visual literacy skills (See previous posts.), students can judge the usefulness and reliability of the site. If their search for “hippopotamus” leads to a website with a prominent logo for a well-respected university or a world-renowned zoo, students can be confident that they’ll find reliable information. But if the most dominant features are stuffed animals and dangly hippo earrings for sale or a sad-looking hippo and a donate button, students should be suspicious. 

Young researchers should also think about efficient use of their time. If they find that evaluating a website is difficult at first glance, they may want to skip the site and look for resources that are clearly good choices.

Using the activities I’ve described over the last five weeks, students should be ready to begin doing authentic, self-driven research on their own in grade 3, but that doesn’t mean they will always make the right choices. Today, information is literally at our fingertips, but learning to effectively evaluate, compile, collate, and synthesize it takes time and practice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Expository vs. Narrative Nonfiction: Dep-Sea Denizens, Part 2

On Monday, I shared an expository passage about some amazing deep-sea critters called bone-eating snot flower worms from my upcoming book Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses and talked a little bit about the process of writing that book.


Today, we’re going to continue our discussion of the differences between narrative and expository nonfiction by looking at two consecutive spreads from Michelle Cusolito’s wonderful book Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN, illustrated by Nicole Wong. And then, Michelle is going to share how and why she chose to use a narrative writing style (which tells a story or conveys an experience) for this book.

Here are two consecutive spreads from Flying Deep:


Like the bone-eating snot flower worms I described on Monday, these deep-sea denizens are nothing like the creatures we see on land. The environment is so exotic that young readers can’t help but be intrigued.

Let’s take a closer look at Michelle’s fascinating narrative scene:

10:00 a.m.
A desolate landscape stretches before you.
Soar along
sloping mounds
of cooled lava.
Like a puppeteer,
use the miniature arm inside
to control the large arm outside.
Grasp a piece of glassy rock.
Drop it into the sample basket.

Movement
out the starboard porthole
catches your eye.
A ghost crab!
Could there be more?

Fly forward.
Watch for jutting vent chimneys
as you tunnel through darkness.

Eerie spired loom.
Black smokers blast
scalding water
and poisonous, sooty particles
from deep inside Earth.

Cottony field of bacteria
wave in currents.
shimmering water swirls.
Pompeii worms,
like sausages sporting dreadlocks,
move in and out of tubes.
Dinner-plate-sized clams

Nestle among rocks.
Giant tubeworms’
feathery plumes sway.
Few humans have seen
the blooming oasis.
thee vigor and variety
of life is breathtaking.

Notice Michelle’s use of second-person narration, similes and metaphors, and precise word choice. She varies sentence length to build drama, and her imagery is spot on. The craftmanship behind this book is undeniable.

“To write in a narrative style,” says Michelle, “you need the basics of a story: beginning, middle, and end. Biographies tend to have this built in, but many STEM topics will not work in a narrative style.”

But by framing her book as an undersea adventure, a journey to a hidden world beneath the waves (which has a built-in story arc), Michelle found her way to a narrative style. Here’s the backstory:

“I was out for a walk when the first line popped into my head. ‘Imagine you're the pilot of Alvin, a submersible barely big enough for two.’ (Note: it fits three. My memory was wrong.)

“I thought, ‘Whoa! That's good!’ I reached to my back pocket for my notebook, but I had forgotten it. [Luckily] it dawned on me that I had another tool in my pocket I could use—a smart phone with a Notes app. I sat down beside a pond to type that first sentence and more came flooding out. I typed wildly, with one finger, trying to capture everything. 

“When I looked up thirty minutes later, I had a 500-word draft. [By] putting the kid reader in the pilot seat for a typical dive day, I had found the heart and structure of my story. 

Once I decided on using the structure of a dive day [a narrative with a sequence text structure], many of the decisions were made for me . . . so I was able to [focus on] word choice and rhythm.” 

By comparing this response from Michelle to my comments on Monday (scroll down to read them), we can begin to identify patterns underlying an author’s decision to use either expository or narrative nonfiction in STEM-themed books. 
Expository nonfiction is the best choice for books that explain or describe widely-accepted science knowledge or concepts, while narrative nonfiction is a better choice for titles that focus of the role of humans in making scientific discoveries. Narratives can explore how scientists carry out investigations or the nature of scientific inquiry.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Expository vs. Narrative Nonfiction: Dep-Sea Denizens, Part 1

Before Memorial Day, I began this blog strand by sharing an expository passage from my upcoming book Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses (on Monday) and a related narrative passage from Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis mellifera, a wonderful new book by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann (on Wednesday). You can scroll down to read the passages and explanations from each author about the choices we made.  


This week, I’ll be presenting two passages about amazing deep-sea creatures.  Today, we’ll look at a second spread from Ick!, and on Wednesday, author Michelle Cusolito will tell us a little bit about her writing process for the so-totally-cool narrative nonfiction book Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN, illustrated by the very talented Nicole Wong.

My hope is that this series of blog posts will help educators and other members of the children’s literature community gain a more solid understanding of:

--the differences between the two writing styles (narrative v. expository),

--when it makes sense to use each of these writing styles,

--how each type of writing appeals to particular subsets of children, and

--how sharing expository and narrative passages together provides powerful pedagogy.  

Okay, here’s the spread from my expository nonfiction book

Notice that it’s illustrated with photographs, including a labelled close-up image of one of the strangest critters on Earth—the bone-eating snot flower worm. The spread includes a variety of text features, such as a sidebar, a factoid, and captions bursting with fascinating facts. Plus there’s a stat stack for kids (and adults) who love data. 

Even though there are a lot of elements, readers don't feel overwhelmed because the design helps them navigate the spread, from the yellow headline, to the central photo, to the main text on the left, and finally randomly exploring the secondary text blocks.

Here’s the main text for this spread:


One Weird Worm
Would you want to live inside a rotting whale carcass at the bottom of the sea? You would if you were a bone-eating snot flower worm. Yep, that’s really its name. 



The females spend most their lives attached to a whalebone. Frilly, flowerlike plumes rise above a snotty mucus ball that covers the worm’s main body tube. As the plumes wave through the water, they take in oxygen.


The worm's “roots,” which are embedded in the whalebone, ooze acids that break down the bone. Then bacteria living inside the worm’s main body tube go to work. Then bacteria living inside the worm go to work. They absorb fats, oils, and other tasty treats from the decaying bone, so they—and the worm—get all the nutrients they need to survive.



To make the expository description engaging, I employed a casual, conversational voice and included lots of strong, precise verbs with a sprinkling of alliteration.

From the moment I began thinking about Ick!, I knew it would be a list book with an expository writing style. Expository nonfiction (which explains, describes, or informs in a clear, accessible way) is generally the best way to present narrowly-focused STEM concepts, such as how an animal’s unique body parts or behaviors help it survive in the world. It’s also a good choice for sharing information in short blocks of text accompanied by lots of visuals and a range of text features. 

The challenge of writing expository nonfiction is choosing a great hook, a compelling text structure, and just the right voice. Since gross animals are a built-in hook, that was the easy part of conceiving this book. Because I had tons of intriguing animal examples, I knew a list text structure would work. And based on past experience, I was confident I could craft the playful voice the book needed.

On Wednesday, Michelle Cusolito will share how and why she decided on a different approach for discussing some incredible deep-sea denizens. Her wonderful narrative nonfiction book Flying Deep puts young readers in the pilot’s seat for a thrilling journey to a hydrothermal vent far below the ocean’s surface.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Getting Ready to Research, Part 5

Since the 2019-2020 school year marks the 10th Anniversary of this blog, on Fridays, I’m resurrecting and updating old posts that sparked a lot of conversation or that still have a lot to offer people teaching or writing nonfiction. Today’s essay is number 5 of a six-part series that originally appeared in spring 2016.

Because it’s difficult to create authentic, self-driven research experiences for early elementary students, I’m in the midst of sharing a series of activities that will allow K-2 students to develop research skills, such as visual literacy and information literacy, without actually doing research. As a result, they’ll be ready to start doing authentic research in third grade. 

Last week, I focused on helping students learn to extract relevant information from texts as they conduct research. You can scroll down and read that post if you like. Today, I’m going to continue my discussion.

By second grade, students should know that a picture book is created by an author and an illustrator or an author-illustrator. In addition, children have probably heard about editors and editing during writing workshop. Now is a great time to let them know that there is also an art director who oversees the work of the illustrator. And in most cases, there is a book designer. (Sometimes the art director or illustrator does double duty by acting as a book’s designer.)

Here’s a picture of Diane Early, the designer/art director who worked on my book Feathers: Not Just for Flying. Most designers go to art school and have a degree in graphic design. During college, they’re trained to understand how the human eye moves across a page and responds to visual elements. 


My book, A Place for Birds, was art directed by Loraine Joyner and designed by the Melanie McMahon Ives. Melanie is the one who decided that the main art would occupy the bottom three-quarters of each spread and that the main text would be placed on a colored band at the top of the spread. This placement lets readers know that they should read it first. Melanie also decided where the sidebar and the inset would go. The placement of these elements varies from spread to spread, guiding readers as they explore the book.

In some children’s books, the design and format are such critical elements that they convey an extra layer of information. In Move! by Steve Jenkins, the format and design move readers from one spread to the next. As a result, the way readers interact with the physical book matches the book’s theme. Cool!

Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy includes two distinct storylines. On each right-hand page, black and white photos show children playing a game of hide-and-go seek at dusk and a boy who encounters a mosquito. On each left-hand page, colorful micrographs illustrate the mosquito’s side of the story. Here again, the format is a key part of what makes the book special.

In The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton, the stylized cartoony art is black and white at the beginning of the book, and muted colors are gradually added as the main characters slowly inch closer to the discovery that makes them famous. At the climax of the book, a shockingly bright spread created with day-glo paints highlights the characters’ success. Thus, the intensity of the artwork makes the story arc visible to readers. 

After sharing examples like these with your students, show your class a few photos (available online) that designers have altered in Photoshop for fun. Next, show them images in advertisements that are clearly intended to manipulate consumers. Possibilities include toys or hamburgers that look far better than the real thing. 

Let your students know that graphic designers are behind almost every visual we see, and they make decisions based on specific goals dictated by the companies, organizations, and institutions that employ them. 

What does this have to do with getting students ready to research on their own? Once students realize that website homepage designs are intended to elicit specific reactions, they can make more informed decisions about the accuracy and reliability of the websites they encounter. I’ll discuss this topic in more detail next week.