Monday, February 10, 2020

Today's the Day: Share Your Nonfiction Picture Book Selections Here #nf10for10


It's February 10th!!!

You know what that means....

It's time for our annual #nf10for10.

If you're looking for the place to share your nonfiction picture book selections for our #nf10for10 event, you're in the right spot.  I'm excited to be hosting this year's nonfiction picture book celebration!  Just scroll to the bottom of the post for more information, but basically you just need to leave your link in the comments below.

This is our 8th year for this nonfiction event.  I am looking forward to reading everyone's selections.

And My 2020 Selections Are...
So what does participation in #100daysofnotebooking with Michelle Hasteltine, coupled with the conversations I have been having with colleagues about supporting young writers with informational writing, and the latest blog post from Melissa Stewart about expository nonfiction text structures have me wondering?  All this has me thinking about the importance of a notebook in collecting ideas and information for nonfiction writing.  So...what are the books that might make a young writer want to grab a notebook for some informational writing?

Maybe these ten will get us started....

10 Books to Inspire Young Writers to Grab Their Notebook

Look Up!  Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate

This book might inspire some quiet observation outside or a bit of research to learn more.  The book's illustrations, speech bubbles, and simple collections of information are sure to inspire the information collector.  The "Bird Watching Do's and Don't's!" could easily apply to other lists of "do's and don't's."  There are several other informational organization ideas presented in the pages that are sure to bring pen to paper.

Animals by the Numbers:  A Book of Animal Infographics by Steve Jenkins

Oh, infographics.  I love them and this book does not disappoint.  Full of interesting collections of animal facts, this book is sure to inspire notebook collections.  Want to web information?  You'll find examples here.  Want to graph findings?  Yep, you'll find that too.  Want to get creative with collections?  Here's the place to start.


Mapping Sam by Joyce Hesselberth

Writers can do so much with mapping.  Want to understand a location?  Want to share your house, a park you've visited, a city, or the stars?  Well, mapping is the perfect way to do that.  Mapping Sam has maps to inspire your thinking.






The Presidents:  Portraits of History by Leah Tinari

From the author of Limitless:  24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts comes this beautifully illustrated book.  This book will inspire budding artists, fact collectors, and information enthusiasts to open their notebooks.  Grab some paints, markers, or colored pencils and get started!







Lovely Beasts:  The Surprising Truth by Kate Gardner and illustrated by Heidi Smith

For all the word collectors, Lovely Beasts is sure to get them jotting words and interesting ways to express meaning.  The author weaves words with interesting facts about these lovely beasts.





Give Bees a Chance by Bethany Barton

The end papers alone should bring out the notebooks.  The author has drawn a variety of bees with a quick fact about each.  These simple drawings and collections of information are sure to inspire young writers to start researching.  Additionally, the book is full of other interesting ways to collect information including drawings with labels, sequence of steps (in this case for how honey is made), and so much more.  Packed with possibility this book is sure to get readers to think twice about bees AND to grab their notebook.


Flying Frogs and Walking Fish by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Hmmm.  I wonder if I have ever had a nonfiction list that didn't include a Steve Jenkins book.  This list has two.  He's the master.  One of the things I love about his work is the interesting way he sorts and categorizes information.  This book is a great read full of the many ways animals move, but its the last pages that I'm sure will bring out the notebooks.  Jenkins and Page have quickly collected facts on different animals and the many ways they move.



Who Am I? by Tim Flach

This book is sure to inspire some quick writes in a writing notebook.  In this book, Flach shares a dozen animals that are endangered.  The book allows a quick peek at part of the animal, tells a bit about it, and then readers find out which animal was being highlighted as they turn the page.  Writers are sure to be inspired to start to collect clues for their own "Who Am I" writing.  The back of the book includes more information about why each animal is special and the reasons they have become endangered.  This one is sure to get pencils flying.



Notable Notebooks:  Scientists and Their Writing by Jessica Fries-Gaither

This book highlights different scientists and the way they used their notebooks to collect information.  So many possibilities....








The Hike by Alison Farrell

I'm taking a little liberty here.  Isn't that what these picture book events are all about?  We've all found little ways to finesse the system.  This book isn't an informational text...well unless the author has taken some autobiographical liberties.  Though it isn't informational, I think it could inspire some observational collecting in a writer's notebook.  Mandy shared this book with me as we wandered the rows at NCTE and I fell in love with it immediately.  Not only is it a great story about the delight of a hike with friends, but it also has some peeks into Wren's sketchbook at the end that are sure to inspire.


10 Nonfiction Picture Books 
In previous nonfiction events, I've shared:

Join Us
Want to join the conversation?  You're in the right place.  Just add your link in the comments below.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

It's Almost Time for our Annual Nonfiction Picture Book Celebration

Our February Nonfiction Event
Yikes!  Time flies when you're having fun!  How did we leap into February so quickly?  (I think we will leap out of February this year too.  Sorry, I love bad puns.) Mandy, our event co-conspirator shared a little sneak peek to her stack for upcoming nonfiction celebration.

Yep, the countdown is well underway.  Next week is February's Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 event (#nf10for10).  I'm always amazed that this event rolls up so quickly.  It seems we flip the calendar - and boom - it's time to prepare for February's nonfiction picture book party:  #nf10for10. This year will be our 8th annual nonfiction event.  Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 is the sister event for August's #pb10for10.

What is #nf10for10
In 2010 Mandy Robek and I hosted our first picture book event.  In 2013, Julie Balen suggested we add a nonfiction picture book event that worked the same.  Participants choose 10 - well, usually 10 (they're a crafty bunch) - nonfiction picture books to share.

On the day of the event, Monday, February 10th, we'll ask that you visit this blog, Reflect & Refine, to add your nonfiction link to the conversation.  
So....

Join us!

Start sorting through your collections to find your favorite titles and join us on February 10th as we each share 10 nonfiction picture books we just can't live without.  Feel free to grab the #nf10for10 button and spread the word.

I guess I better get busy.  I only have a few days to pull together my titles.  Whew!  I guess I better get busy.  

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Week One: 100 Days of Notebooking #100daysofnotebooking


"Writers collect.  They collect random inspiration - things they notice and conversations they overhear.  They collect around a single idea when beginning a project.  They also collect possibilities for revision.  They collect ideas for future projects.  And they collect bits and pieces of life that may (or may not) have significance."  
                                                        -Ruth Ayres, Enticing Hard to Reach Writers, p. 89.


It all started with a tweet....



In the age of digital, my writer's notebook has certainly been something I've neglected.  When an idea strikes, it's easy to open the blog or document where I want to write.  Going directly to drafting instead of my notebook likely leads to writing that doesn't have the depth it could have.  I suppose many ideas don't percolate long enough.  Digitally, I often use Google Keep, Voice Recorder, or my notes app to do some planning, but it still isn't the same so I've been thinking about my notebook for awhile.

Then I saw Michell's tweet.  Her tweet to took me to her post.  Her post led me to a plan.  The plan led me to a community.

So for the next 100 days I'll be opening my notebook.  I've kept my goal for this time pretty simple:  one word.  Basically all I have to do is open the book, put my pen to the paper, and get down one word.  I've even already told myself it could be adding one artifact.  It's just one.  One attempt.  Of course, I know myself well enough to know most days it will be more than that, but I know I'll need to permission to step back when I need to without giving up.  It's a notebook, it's supposed to be simple.

If you would have loved to join, but are worried you're too late, the way I see it all you have to do is write about six words to catch up.  That's just a really sentence.  Ha!  So go ahead, pull out your notebook (or go buy one), and jump in with us.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Conversations Around Research: Let's CrowdSource (Share What You Know)

Disclaimer:  Before you read this, please know this is my interpretation of what I heard.  While I will give credit to the people who made me consider this, my interpretation may not exactly match their true point.

Please comment to join the conversation:  What I most want from this post is for everyone to share who the researchers are they follow and what are the publications that help them to find good research?  Who are the people who read a lot of literacy research and share it (with citing not just synthesis....I want people who share their sources not just their opinions)?  I'm going to start with a little intro to take you to how I got to my questions, but most importantly I want your thinking around the questions I ask.  

This morning, I woke up early to watch (for the fourth time), What Research Really Says About the Teaching of Reading - and Why That Still Matters, which is still available to members of the International Reading Association.  The talk features literacy researchers P. David Pearson, Nell Duke, Sonia Cabell, and Gwendolyn McMillon.  (Thank you, ILA, for live-streaming during your conference and keeping this available to members.  I could go on for days about that, but I must move to point.)

First of all, I'm going to admit to being a huge fan of Nell Duke.  I first saw her at the National Reading Recovery Conference in Columbus, Ohio.  I've never seen anyone who could talk with such ease and clarity about research in a way that makes such sense to me (and to be able to throw in the occasional one-liner to make the audience laugh).  In that session, she shared seven studies with the audience for consideration in practice.  When I saw her name on a panel about research during the ILA Conference, I had to sign up.  I was not disappointed by Nell - or the group.

Let's be honest, it's a hot time in literacy.  I'm a little saddened by the this or that stance people are taking.  (To be clear, I don't think the "all this" or the "all that" camp is doing us any good.  Additionally, I was going to say educators but, let's be honest, it isn't always educators leading this charge.)  The truth is, we'd all be a lot better off if we could step back for a minute and ask ourselves what we could learn.  You see, none of this conversation is without a bit of truth.  Yet, the problem has always been that we tend to take a this or that approach to teaching young children when in truth it is a this AND that approach that matters.  I always wonder what we could learn from each other that would make the work we do with children better if we'd all sit down in the middle.  If there was one answer to teaching children to read, the debate would have ended long ago, but children are different and answers are complex.  (Sorry, stepping off my soapbox to get to my point.)

I'm going to simplify a few points made by Nell Duke as she talked about the research that I've taken to heart and the reason I am writing this post.

  1. Beware confirmation bias!  For me this means two things.  The first and most important is that I am aware of the bias I have in the teaching of literacy and listen carefully to alternate points.  I (We) must remain open to alternate points-of-view.  Additionally, I try to remind myself that often the person across from me has their own bias.  What are the ways to discuss important topics with someone who comes from a different point of view?
  2. Literacy teaching is complex.  Nell makes the analogy (that I won't do justice to here) that a doctor will tell you to eat healthy foods, exercise, reduce stress and get plenty of sleep in considering your wellness.  She won't just tell you one of those things (at 50.33).  What I especially like about this analogy is that I know my doctor would focus their attention on the part of my health I'm not being as attentive to each day while not letting me forget the others.  The same is true in our teaching of literacy.  
  3. Know the research.  "When it comes to thinking about evidence based practice...the best source for understanding what the evidence says is either the studies themselves...[or] people who regularly read research in research journals," reminds Nell Duke.  I've been trying to work on this for a bit now.  I want to know the research that supports my beliefs, but also to dig into the research of the ideas that bump up against what I know.  This, however, isn't easy.  As practitioners, we don't have access to many of the publications that researchers and scholars can access.
With that in mind, I'm going to share a few of the people I follow who seem to lead me to strong research and the publications that also push me in that direction.  I will be transparent about the cost of those publications.  

Researchers/Scholars/Educators I follow that lead me to the research:
  • Dr. Nell Duke:  Nell doesn't share as much as I wish she did, but she is quite thoughtful in the studies she shares.  Honestly, I still haven't figured out exactly what her belief system is as she seems to remain so unbiased in her work.  
  • Dr. Mary Howard:  It isn't hard to figure out the bias of Dr. Mary Howard; it's best practices for children.  She is transparent about this bias, but what I do love about what she shares is that she always takes you back to the research to support these beliefs.  I have found many great research sources thanks to a blog/article/podcast she has shared.  
  • Donalyn Miller:  Donalyn is all about getting books into the hands of readers.  However, she is also good about sharing the research that supports her beliefs.  I like to keep an eye on the locations of her sources as this often leads me to new research. 
  • Larry Ferlazzo:  Larry Felazzo posts several times a week (maybe every day?) and curates collections around important literacy topics.  I especially appreciate his work in supporting English language learners.  His posts often move me toward recent research.  
  • I tried really hard to get to 5, but I couldn't.  I have a few that could maybe go here, but they didn't seem to consistently take me to research.  Yikes!  I need to get busy finding these people.  
Who are the researchers/scholars/educators that continually lead you to research of evidence based literacy practices?  

Sites/Publications that lead me to research:
  • The Reading Teacher: ($$) This journal often shares articles that lead me to the research as most of the references given in articles of interest share more of the evidence behind the practice.
  • Reading Research Quarterly:  ($$)  More than other journals to which I subscribe, this one takes me closer to the actual research that was conducted.  The articles dig into the studies and give a bigger picture of the work that was done and the implications. 
  • Google Scholar:  Thank you, Nell Duke, for sharing this gathering space of research.  It's helped a bit.  
  • What Works Clearinghouse:  This is often one of the first stops in my search for evidence based practices in literacy.  
  • Again, four seems the number.  (I really prefer lists of 3, 5, 7, or 10....lol.)
My hope is that you will share the researchers/scholars/educators you follow who lead you to strong research (especially those that can do so without bias) and the sites/publications you follow.

My final wonder today is why it is so hard for practitioners to access research.  Perhaps one of you know the secret to accessing research without cost.  I have truly considered going back to our university to take a course so I can once again access research.  If I'm a teacher in the field, doesn't it make sense that I should be able to access this research with greater ease? 

I digress.  My purpose in writing this post is truly to start a conversation so while commenting is pretty out these days, I do hope you will leave a comment to share what you know.  That being said, this is not a space for this or that conversation so I will delete any comments that go into a rant about this or that.  I truly want to know the best people and places that share information with educators about the evidence based practices in the teaching of literacy.  

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Deadlines, Challenges, and Other Writing Truths

The deadline loomed.

That morning I awoke trying to find the article I would submit for our writing group.  It was to be submitted that evening.  I'd had two weeks to write the article (honestly more), but I had not produced a word.

Here I sat with a deadline and nothing.  I'd try rereading old pieces for revision, but none of them felt right.  I tried starting a few new pieces and none of them took off.

Of course, the challenge wasn't the deadline as much as it was the writing.  I know the problem.  I just haven't been writing as much as I usually do.

Writing is harder when I'm not writing regularly, I find.  I know this, but I have to keep reteaching myself this lesson.  Because calendars.  Because time.  Because work.  Because distraction.  Because excuses.

When I got home that evening, the clock was ticking toward the deadline.  I had to do something.

Tick, tock.  Tick, tock.  Tick, tock.

Once again, I wrestled through a few older articles I had in my drafts folder, but they just weren't going anywhere.  Finally I decided the clock was running out, I had to write about where my feet were right now.  I started a draft that was related to some work I was currently doing.  Still.  Every.  Word.  Was.  Hard.

That's the challenge of not writing regularly.  It's like exercise.  The less you do it, the harder it is.

I've sworn myself back to some regular writing, but I can't help but wonder about the writers in our classrooms.  Do they have the daily time to write?  Do they have the time to play in their words?  Do they have time to write the really bad stuff that hides the gems we can tease out?

When we aren't writing regularly, our young writers can struggle to get words onto a page.  If we aren't writing regularly, we can find ourselves trying to push them through their struggle by giving them graphic organizers and strict guidelines for pieces.  We can find ourselves wondering where their passion is in their writing, where the voice is hiding, why they struggle so much to write.

Time isn't the solution to strengthening our writing, but it certainly is the first required step.

I didn't quite make the deadline, but I wasn't far behind.  (Yeah, I need an occasional deadline to push myself forward.)

It did remind me that the best way to make writing easier is to write often.

So here I am.




Thursday, October 10, 2019

Three for Your Library: Be Brave

Some days we are our own worst enemies.  The messages we tell ourselves can be the very thing that holds us back.  Some days the most important thing we can do is show up.  How do we push ourselves through these hard days?  How do we stand up and step forward?

In our classrooms, we work to help our learners be fearless.  There's power in taking risks and pushing through the hard parts of our day.   These three titles will help students to find ways to be brave.


Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

If you love wordless picture books, you'll love Brave Molly.  The story begins as Molly is working to draw a picture of a shadowy figure.  Molly sees some kids outside and decides to go out to where they are.  The shadowy figure seems to follow her.  As she gets closer to the kids, they walk away.  The boy leaves a book behind.  Molly heads through the woods with the book in her backpack and the shadowy figure close behind.  Molly decides to be brave and push on.  Will she ever get rid of the shadow that follows her?

The Way You Might Use It:
Community Conversations:  Being brave, doing the right thing, taking care of one another and the power of friendship are all certainly topics of conversation this book might inspire.

Anchor Text:  We learn a lot about this character across the story.  Even though there are no words, there is plenty of room to talk about what this is like.  The book also provides some great opportunities to wonder together about what the shadow represents (or even if it is real), her motivation in getting the book to the boy, and how the author wanted us to feel (and the decisions made to accomplish that).

Mentor Text:  The author/illustrator moved between panels, single page illustrations, and double page spreads.  The panels are used to move us through time quickly.  The author/illustrated used changes in color to help create mood and portray the way the character might be feeling.  Young writers might find ways to try these craft moves in their own writing.



Brave Enough for Two by Jonathon Voss

Sometimes the best way to get through hard times is to have a friend by your side.  Olive likes the adventures in stories, but she doesn't feel brave enough to tackle these adventures in real life.  However, with Hoot by her side, Olive finds the strength to try things she finds a bit scary.  This story illustrates the way hard things can be easier with a friend by your side.

The Way You Might Use It
Community Conversations:  This book could help communities talk about the things that are hard for us to do or times we've been trying something a bit scary.  Kids have many experiences that require them to be brave such as learning to ride a bike, playing a new sport, or going into the basement to get something for their mom.  There is also some space to talk about how we can take care of each other and help our friends through the hard parts of our day from working on a hard math problem, digging into a science inquiry, or crossing the monkey bars for the first time.

Anchor Text:  This book would support conversations about how characters change across time.  It also demonstrates the way we can make inferences about characters based upon dialogue.

Mentor Text:  This cumulative text gives young authors ways to think about adding multiple events to a story to help illustrate a point and clarify the message.  The use of dialogue might also help young writers think through the ways the authors carefully select conversations that help us to learn more about the character.


When You Are Brave by Pat Zielow Miller and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Certainly kids today have many reasons they have to be brave.  In this story, the character's family is moving to a new place that seems far from where they had been.  The character is uneasy and feels very alone as she works to take a strong step forward.  In this book, the author shares some ways we can find our courage in the hardest of times.  While there is much to love about the story, the illustrations really call readers back again and again.

Community Conversations:  Students will be able to identify the times the author shares that we have to be brave.  Communities can begin a conversation about the way they work through hard times and find their courage.

Anchor Text:  You really can't have a book about being brave without having ways to talk about the character.  How do we know how the character feels?  What clues did the author and illustrator give us?

Mentor Text:  Young writers can have much conversation about the lead in this book.  The author uses repetitive stems to strengthen the message.  The author begins, "Some days when everything around you seems scary...you have to be brave.  Brave as....".  The author does this in other places in the book as well as uses changes in sentence length to change the pace of the reading.  How does this impact the message?  This book might inspire some brave writing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Teaching for Independence: The Power of the Practice Page


Recently, I used a video example of a small group writing lesson during guided reading.  The students were writing about their reading during the lesson.  Each student had their own blank book to use when writing about reading.  Students began by rereading their last piece of writing, turned the page and started to write about the book they had just read with their teacher.  A lot happened in less than five minutes.  As the students wrote independently, the teacher supported each in writing.  It was a small group of children so the teacher was able to easily support each writer as they composed and wrote their short piece about their reading.

After watching the video, our group discussed ways we might make our students more independent in this guided writing situation.  What are the strategies we might teach these writers that they could carry into their independent writing?  We talked about wait time.  We talked about small changes in language and prompting.  We talked about ways we might help students to better self-monitor.

For me, using a practice page is one way to teach writers strategies they can carry into their independent writing.  Using a practice page is something I learned when teaching Reading Recovery years ago.  It gives students the opportunity to build high frequency word knowledge, develop knowledge of the way words work, and creates a space for writers to ____.

Here are three ways I like to use a practice page:
Practice High-Frequency Words:  High-frequency words do not follow typical spelling patterns which can make them tricky for students.  They are also words used often so I want students to know them well.  They need to be able to write them quickly as it frees up their attention for composition and the writing of other words.  When students write these words incorrectly in their writing, the practice page can be used to write the word correctly 3-5 times.  I ask students to write the word, then we cover it to see if they can write it without seeing it.



Elkonin Boxes:  When working with students in guided writing, they often come to words they haven't written before.  When I notice them having difficulty writing a new word, I can draw Elkonin boxes on the page to help them segment the sounds in the word.  In Elkonin boxes the child listens for the sounds that would be in each box.  There is a progression of teaching that gets students ready to use Elkonin boxes and ways to adjust them as students try to spell words of increasing difficulty.  I most like to use these when I see students trying to write a word that fits word features we have been learning.  (Here's a simple explanation of Elkonin boxes from Pioneer Valley.)



Try It:  Helping students to monitor their own writing helps them make faster gains.  Students often know when they are having difficulty writing a word.  I teach students to use the practice page when they are unsure how to write a word.  When a word seems tricky, writers go to the practice page and give it a try.  Students learn to try to the word three times when they are unsure of the spelling.  This is fascinating.  If I see the correct the word, I ask them to pick the one they think is right.  Most times they know.  If none of the attempts are correct, we work to figure out the word together.  This page can tell me a lot about what learners know about words.  A child who randomly attempts different spellings is of greater concern than one who seems to know which part of the word is causing challenge.






Small-Group Writing:  Steps for Success

Building Word Learning Routines