Friday, January 29, 2021

Nonfiction Writing Tips: The Idea Incubator

As you read the mentor essays in Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing, it will become clear that professional nonfiction authors choose topics that resonate deeply with them, often for reasons only they can understand. The ideas may trace back to childhood curiosity, a deeply held belief, or even a missed opportunity.

Even though students may not have enough life experience to fully understand their unique passions and perspectives the same way adult writers do, they can still learn strategies for choosing topics that are related to their personal interests and ideas that matter to them.

A great way to get started is with an Idea Incubator—a bulleted list of potential topics on the last page of their writer’s notebook. Every time a student has an idea or question about something they see, read, or experience, they can add it to their Idea Incubator list. They can also include cool facts they come across.

When it’s time to start a nonfiction writing project, students can use their Idea Incubator list as a starting point. If students are choosing their own topic, they may be able to pull an idea directly from their list.

But even if you assign a topic that aligns with your content area curriculum, a list of facts, ideas, and questions is still a valuable tool. Working alone or with a partner, students can search for a common thread among the items on their list and brainstorm ways to apply that to the whole-class topic you’ve assigned. I’ll share more ideas about how students can make this sort of  “umbrella” topic their own next week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Nonfiction at the ALA Youth Media Awards


WowOhWowOhWowOhWow! 

2020 was an incredible year for children’s nonfiction, and the winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards absolutely reflected that.

There were so many wonderful titles, including some that stretched our thinking about what nonfiction is and what it might be come in the future.

Of course, my favorite award is the Sibert, which is devoted to nonfiction. I’m thrilled that one of my Sibert Smackdown titles won the Sibert Medal.


I’m also excited about the three honor titles.




I’m also so happy for Candace Fleming, who wrote Honeybee as well as the YALSA winner The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh. Wow!


Most years those are pretty much the only awards that celebrate nonfiction, but this year, there were nonfiction honorees everywhere you looked!

From Newbery and Printz to Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpre. Stonewall. Schneider Family. Odyssey. Seriously, I could go on and on.



Last March, just before the pandemic hit, I wrote a blog post called "Has Nonfiction Reached a Tipping Point?" Although the title is posed as a question, my article made it clear that I could see tangible signs that the children’s literature community’s attitude toward nonfiction was beginning to change.

Now, on Monday, the evidence was clear. This is the golden age of children's nonfiction. 

So I’ll end this post the same way I ended the one last in March.

As exciting as it is to see nonfiction FINALLY getting the attention it deserves—the attention it’s had all along in the adult publishing world—there’s something else that’s even more thrilling . . .

As far as we’ve come over the last 30 yearsfrom just one kind of nonfiction to five distinct categories, the wonderful world of nonfiction still has more to offer. Much more. There’s plenty of room for growth and innovation, so let’s get to work!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Resources for Educators: Taking Notes & Avoiding Plagiarism


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 sharing some of these resources and providing ideas for how they might be used in the classroom. Today, I’m going featuring an article with ideas for helping students take notes more effectively, organize the information they collect, and avoid copying their sources. It’s available by clicking on the Nonfiction Writing Resources icon shown above.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Benefits of Teacher Timesaver Tables

Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing is bursting with ideas and insights from many of today’s leading nonfiction authors. Ideally, educators will have a chance to read all the essays. But because time is such a precious commodity, teachers should also feel free to dip in and out of the essays in a way that meets their interests and needs.

To make this process easier, each chapter features a Teacher Timesaver Table that includes helpful information about the essays and the books each author writes.

 


By consulting this table, educators can quickly discover the grade level(s) that each author writes for, the format of their books—picture book (PB) or long form (LF)—and the content area the books address. The table also includes a brief summary of each essay. This table will help teachers identify the best two or three essays to accompany a particular lesson.

 

The authors’ ideas and experiences described in each essay can enrich reading and writing instruction in a variety of ways.

 

1.    While students often think about the people behind the fiction books they read, they generally don’t think about nonfiction writers in the same way. The essays in this anthology will give young readers a chance to hear the authors’ voices and understand their motivation for writing particular books.

 

2.    During an author study, the essays can help students feel more connected to the writer.

 

3.    When using children’s books featured in the anthology as mentor texts in writing workshop, the essays can bring a new dimension to lessons that focus on nonfiction craft moves and revision. By revealing how professional writers think, the essays can help demystify the writing process for students.

 

There are so many options for using this one-of-a-kind resource!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Best Nonfiction of 2020 Roundup

Next Monday is a big day in children’s literature. The winners of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards will be announced. So today seems like a good time to look back at some of the highly-regarded titles published last year.

There’s no doubt about it. 2020 was a phenomenal year for nonfiction, and it seems like more people were paying attention than ever before.

Here’s a roundup of the lists I’m aware of. Please let me know if there are others I should add.

Mock Sibert Lists
Sibert Smackdown! (picture books)

Sibert Showdown! (MG science titles)

Individual Lists

Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production: Nonfiction Picture Books

Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production: Nonfiction Books for Older Readers

Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production: Unique Biographies

Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production: Science & Nature Books

Betsy Bird at A Fuse #8 Production: American History

My favorite STEM titles


Group Lists
AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize Finalists

CRA Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Awards

Cybils Award: Elementary Nonfiction Finalists

Cybils Award: Middle Grade Nonfiction Finalists

Cybils Award: High School Nonfiction Finalists

Nerdy Book Club: Nonfiction Picture Books

Nerdy Book Club: Long-form Nonfiction

NCTE Orbis Pictus Award

NSTA-CBC Best STEM Book

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award

 

Library Lists

Chicago Public Library Best Informational Books for Younger Readers

Chicago Public Library Best Informational Books for Older Readers

New York Public Library Best Books for Kids: Nonfiction


Review Journals
Booklist Editor’s Choice Books for Youth
(Would you believe nonfiction is first on this list? Hooray!)

Horn Book Fanfare 2020  
(Scroll to bottom for nonfiction.)

Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book Biography of 2020

Kirkus Reviews Best Informational Picture Books of 2020

Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Biography and Memoir of 2020

Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade History of 2020

Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Nonfiction of 2020

SLJ Best Nonfiction of 2020

Now it’s time to look ahead to 2021. So far, it seems like we’re going to have another great year of nonfiction. Time to start reading! 

Friday, January 15, 2021

An Innovative Resource for Teaching Informational Writing

Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing has been out in the world for just about two month now, and I’m so excited by the reception it’s receiving from educators. Here’s what some of them are saying:







Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite features, activities, and teaching strategies from the anthology. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Get Ready for NFFest!


NF Fest is a month-long crash course in writing nonfiction for children. Throughout February, you’ll learn the craft of nonfiction writing from 28 award-winning authors through daily posts and activities to get you writing and researching in small steps. It's all FREE, and there will even be prizes!


Join the NF Fest Facebook community at 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/NFFest/ for updates and discussion.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Resources for Educators: Choosing a Nonfiction Topic

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 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 article Choosing a Topic for a Nonfiction Report or Project, which you can access by clicking on the Nonfiction Writing Resources icon.


Many students struggle to come up with an ideas for a nonfiction report or project. This article provides some easy-to-implement strategies that can help them.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Helping Young Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep

You may wonder why fifty of today’s leading children’s nonfiction authors have come together to write a book for educators. After all, our target audience is usually young readers.

It’s because we want to set the record straight. We want to shine a light on a critical part of the nonfiction writing process that often goes unseen and unappreciated.

Again and again, we encounter teachers and students who seem to think that writing nonfiction is simple and straightforward. Just do some research and then cobble together a bunch of facts. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Children’s Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing features essays by fifty authors, each with their own story, but all with the same message: To craft high-quality prose, nonfiction writers have to dig deep.

We have to be personally invested.

We have to get in touch with our passions and our vulnerabilities and use them to fuel our work.

The topics we choose, the approaches we take, and the concepts and themes we explore are closely linked to who we are as people—our personalities, our beliefs, and our experiences in the world. As far as we’re concerned, putting the information we collect through our own personal filters and making our own meaning is the secret to creating engaging nonfiction. 

We created Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep because we want to revolutionize the way nonfiction writing is taught across the country and around the world. We firmly believe that once K-12 writing teachers realize what they’re currently leaving out of their instruction, they will be eager to make changes. 

The tips, tools, strategies, and activities included in Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep can provide guidance as educators search for ways to help students become more personally invested in their nonfiction writing. Our fondest hope is that, from an early age, children will understand that to create nonfiction that delights as well as informs, writers need to have skin in the game.

100 percent of the proceeds from Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep will be divided among the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Sibert Smackdown! There’s Still Time!

The American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards are less than 3 weeks away. I can’t wait to find who the winners will be, can you? 

As a nonfiction lover, the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is my favorite award of all. And that’s why I started the Sibert Smackdown five years ago. It’s a fun activity for students in grades 3-8. And there’s still time for you and your students to participate. 

Check out this post for all the details, including my list of recommended titles. I hope you’ll join us.

Please use the Twitter hashtag #SibertSmackdown to share what you and your students are doing.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Resources for Educators: Whole-class & Whole-school Nonfiction Activities


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
Whole-class & Whole-school Nonfiction Activities section, which you can access by clicking on the Nonfiction Reading Resources icon.


The activities offer fun, innovative ways for elementary students to interact with a variety of nonfiction texts.