Sunday, April 15, 2018

Poetry Pleasures: Five Poetry Picture Books

It's National Poetry Month.  I'm busy celebrating at Merely Day by Day by attempting to write a poem each day.  Of course, it's also the perfect time to share a few new favorite picture poetry books I've purchased this year.  These are selections perfect for any classroom library.

New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

There's so much to love about this collection of poetry edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins:  the beautiful artwork, the wondrous words, the surprise of favorite poets selected.

A selected snippet from This is the Hour by Irene Latham, a poem within this collection:

"This is the hour
when sun dreams,
when river
its' silky song...."

I Am Loved:  A Poetry Collection by Nikki Giovanni with illustrations by Ashley Bryan.

This collection of poems by Nikki Giovanni is a delight from start to finish.  A celebration of life, each poem selected is complemented with art sure to delight.

A selected snippet from No Heaven, a poem within this collection:

"How can there be
No heaven...

When shadows
And owls
And little finches
eat upside

Sakura's Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston and Misa Saburi.

This book is a bit different from the others shared as it is a story written in Tanka.  In this story, Sakura lives in Japan and loves spending her time with her grandma under the cherry blossoms.  She has to move to America with her family but misses her grandma and the cherry blossoms.  Nothing is the same in this new place.  This is a delightful story of love, change, and the little gifts life gives us as a reminder of all we hold dear.

A snippet from the story:
"Sakura's new school
was a big, boisterous place
where each word was new.

They nipped and snapped on her tongue
like the tang of pickled plums."  

Out of Wonder:  Poetry Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth with illustrations by Ekua Holmes.

Every time I pick up this book, I notice something new.  In this book, the authors celebrate famous poets by writing poems in similar styles to the poet.  Each section shares a way poets work and offers advice for the budding poets in our classrooms.  As in the other examples, this books is a celebration of poetry, but also of art; each page illustrated with art to inspire.

This snippet from How to Write a Poem was written by Kwame Alexander in celebration of Naomi Shihab Nye:

"Let them dance together
twist and turn
like best friends
in a maze
till you find 
your way
to that one word." 

Shaking Things Up:  14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood with multiple illustrators featured in this collection.  

This collection features poetry to celebrate the lives of 14 women who helped to pave the path for the rest of us.  Each poem features an illustration by a different artist celebrating the lives of these women.  I was fascinated by the variety of styles of poetry used by this poet in this many possibilities.

This snippet is about Molly Williams and is titled, "Taking the Heat."

"The fire laddies gave her praise
respect where it was due
dubbed her Volunteer 11 - 
a member of the crew.

She glowed with pride.  A pioneer!
She blazed a path, it's true,
yet women weren't hired here
'til 1982." 

I love poetry tucked within my day, and it certainly is perfect for the little cracks in our day with students.  Whether you plan to use poetry for shared reading, as a mentor text for young writers, an opportunity to study wondrous words, or just to delight in a little read aloud, these titles will be celebrated additions to your collection.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Poetry Month Pleasures: Five Poetry Month Challenges Your Students Will Love

It's April and poetry is in the air.  While every day is a good day for poetry, I love the way poetry just seems to find me in April.  I've downloaded a few poetry audiobooks from the library (yep, I might have scored a few books where the poets actually are reading their own poetry), filled my living room shelf with poetry, pulled out all of my books about writing poetry, and am attempting to write a poem each day at Merely Day by Day (just a poetry playground this month, nothing like the poems you'll see linked below).

Of course, this is also the month that poets everywhere dress up their blogs and celebrate poetry with a monthly challenge.  As a teacher, if you're looking for a little inspiration, a mentor poem, or poetry your students will love, here are a few sites that might be perfect for your exploration:

The Poem Farm
Want to think about technique?

The Poem Farm:  Each day, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is sharing a poem about Orion written using a different technique.  Her poetry month challenge is to write about one subject thirty different ways.  Each day she highlights a new technique, shares her poem, and reflects on the process.

A Year of Reading
How about a golden shovel poem?  

A Year of Reading:  Mary Lee Hahn has decided to take on the challenge of writing a golden shovel poem each day this month using a student selected quote.  I've been absolutely fascinated by the process and challenge of writing a shovel poem.  A daily stop by A Year of Reading will certainly give you and your students much to ponder, and a daily dose of wondrous words.

Live Your Poem
Does art inspire you?

Live Your Poem:  For the last several years I have been following Irene Latham's April ARTSPEAK challenge.  Each day, you can stop by Irene's blog for a poem inspired by a piece of art.  This year, Irene's poetry is focused on art from the Harlem Renaissance.  I'm learning a lot as I follow her journey.

Carol's Corner
Hoping to write about a topic from a variety of angles? 

Carol's Corner:  This year, Carol has decided to write a poem each day about the life of a reader.  As teachers working to help our students build a reading life, I am enjoying looking at reading from so many angles.  What a great way to have our communities consider their reading lives.  A stop by her blog is also a smart reminder that we can take one topic and write about it in so many ways.

Check It Out
Need a mentor poem for your students?

Check It Out:  There's nothing better than student poetry.  If you find yourself in need of a mentor poem this month, you might want to stop by Jone MacCulloch's blog.  She's sharing a student poem each day during the month of April.  Oh, my heart.  I love student poetry.

Other Poetry Links:

  • Jama's Alphabet Soup:  2018 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Event Roundup (more poetry month possibility)
  • The Poem Farm:  Drawing into Poems (Amy's 2013 poetry challenge was one of my favorites to help students write poetry.)
  • Writing the World:  A Little Haiku (if you just want a little Haiku, Laura Purdie Salas, has one each day for you.) 
  • Tyler Knott Gregson:  This one is just for you.  Tyler Knott Gregson shares his poetry on Instagram and Twitter.  He has two books out, and shares is poetry almost daily on his site.  It's one of my favorite stops.  

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Lessons from Writing: It Takes a Community #sol18 week 4

For the month of March, I participated in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I've learned some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

Today is the last day of Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life Challenge.  For 31 days, a community of at least 300 participants have come together to share their story, support and learn from one another, and grow as writers.  Writing every day isn't easy so, at the beginning of the challenge, I made a list of tips and tricks I had learned in past years that might help me when things got tricky.  This year I found the rhythm of the process to be essential.  My process went something like this:  find a possible slice, spin it in my head (sometimes this was a voice recording and sometimes a quick jot), write it early in the morning, let it sit and gel.  The next morning I would edit, revise, and hit the publish button.  I was really writing two posts a day:  one "final" copy and one draft.

While the routine was certainly essential, it was the community that made all of the difference.  Here's why:

The community commitment kept me writing each day.  I knew this was a community that would write each day so I felt I also had to write each day not doing so would have let the community down.  I suppose it's like having an exercise buddy or an accountability partner, it just always seemed like the right thing to do.

The community opened my eyes to new possibility.  In reading the work of other writers, I discovered new crafting techniques and could envision new possibilities.  Sometimes the writing of others served as a mentor text.  Other times, I discovered new ways with words.  At times, I really was made aware of the power of the clarity of message.  Each stop to read the work of another writer taught me something.

The community helped me to find my voice.  Putting writing out into the world each day is a bit of a stretch.  As community members stopped by to comment, I learned what worked for my audience.  Their comments helped me to see the parts of my writing where I had captured their attention.  Starting to learn what works for an audience, in combination with daily writing, helped me to find my comfort zone in writing.

The community cheered me on.  The effort made by the community really helped me to continue to write.  A few years ago, I wrote about the types of comments people leave on a blog.  Just hearing that people often shared in my experience in some way, affirmed my point, or noted a part of the writing that spoke to them, kept me going.

The community connected me beyond my daily world.  Having a writing community that connected beyond my daily world broadened my experience.  It amplified the possibility in writing and discovering the power of the message.

Being a part of a writing community helped me to grow as a writer but, most importantly, it kept me in the chair each day.  It showed me the power of possibility and connected me with other writers who understand the struggle and the small victories.  Each year we grow and nurture our writing community so that across the year we can learn from another.  Each day of our workshop, we carefully stitch together new conversations that connect and lift our writers.  We find ways to help our writers reach out into the world to learn from other writers.

If you want to think more about how writers support one another, check out this video lesson from Ruth Ayres.

Lessons from Writing (other lessons from #sol18)


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Lessons from Writing: That Piece Isn't There Yet #sol18 week 3

For the month of March, I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

I've been writing with the community of Two Writing Teachers for the month of March.




Writing every day certainly makes me think a lot about what I ask of writers in my classroom, and maybe what I should do differently.  After 25 days of writing, I've been surprised to not find myself in crisis over what I will write about this year.  I seem to have found a rhythm that works, and I've just been plugging away.  It's probably the gift of our writing workshops; knowing you're going to write every single day (and the challenge).

Though I've been able to write every day, most days I publish my pieces knowing they aren't quite there yet.  After twenty-five days of posting, there's hardly a piece that I wouldn't go back to and try to rework.  You see, I know why each piece isn't there yet.  I'm not always sure how to get it there, but I can detect the parts of each post that work --- and those that don't quite make it.

That makes me wonder, do we ask our students, "Is your piece of writing where you want it?  Is it there yet?"  I'm going to guess that if asked, most of our writers could tell us the part of their writing that works, the new things they've tried, AND the parts that aren't quite there yet.  Instead, we often show them parts we think aren't there yet.  We require particular types of revision and lament that students don't make enough changes to their pieces.

As I get ready to write for the final week of March, I wonder what would happen if we just asked writers, "What works in this piece of writing?  What isn't quite there yet?".  Then, after a bit of conversation, perhaps the next question is, "Are you moving on or going back to try to strengthen the piece?".  Either way, the writer has learned something to carry forward.

As Georgia Heard reminds, "Revision is seeing and reseeing our words and practicing strategies that make a difference in our writing."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lessons from Writing: 5 Questions to Help Young Writers Find Their Own Process #sol18 week 2

For the month of March, I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

These lines caught my attention as I visited Mandy Robek's post, Fumbling, on day 2 of the Slice of Life Challenge:
"I think I've learned the benefits of using my notebook during the day, along the way.  It's a spot to hold my thoughts until I can embrace them with intention."                                  - Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace Writing
As I read posts from other writers during the Slice of Life Challenge, it isn't uncommon to see a participant write about the challenges they are facing.  There are the days the idea bucket is empty.  There are days our writing goes out into the world without the polish we would like it to have.  There are days when the voice of the writing doesn't feel quite right or the craft doesn't seem to take the message to the place we'd like it to go.

It isn't uncommon to hear someone write about their process.  Participants in the event talk about where they get their ideas, crafting techniques they've discovered, new types of writing they're trying, or the way they're playing with words.  It's not uncommon to read posts about participants' favorite writing spaces, times, or tools.

This is my seventh year participating in the challenge to write 31 days, but this might be the first year I have felt I've found a rhythm to this writing.  This year, I've decided to write my posts the day before I post them.  I get up at about 5:30 in the morning, reread the post I started the previous day, complete some quick revisions, and then post it for the day.  I then spend some time drafting the post for the following day.  This habitual rhythm has certainly helped me to feel less overwhelmed by the requirements of writing every day.

Mandy talks about using her notebook to collect ideas during the day.  She finds this helpful in her writing.  I, too, love a notebook, but I find that I never have it with me.  This year, when an idea strikes, I either go into Blogger and start the post with a quick five-minute write or I open voice recorder to record my idea at the moment it hits.  Most often, ideas come in the day when I don't have time to write so voice recorder has really come in handy.

As I interact within the writing communities I belong, I've learned that everyone has their process.  I love to listen to people share their process as it often helps me to reflect and to be more intentional in my own way of writing.

Helping Young Writers Find Their Process
As I listen to adult writers talk about their work, I can't help but think about the young writers we are shaping.  Do we allow students the opportunities to find their own their process or do we assign the process?  Do we allow students to find their writing territories or do we tell them what they will write about?  Do we acknowledge that the writing can be hard or do we expect perfection in every piece?  Do we allow students to find the structure and craft of each piece of writing or do we give them formulas for completion?

Here are some questions for helping young writers find their process and rhythm as writers:

  1. Where do writers find their ideas?  This is a little different than what do writers write about.  This talks about memories, books, conversations, daily events, and maybe some good eavesdropping.  
  2. How do you collect your ideas?  Often we're in the middle of a piece of writing when we get an idea for another piece of writing.  How do we capture those ideas before they are gone?  Writers do this in a variety of ways, especially now that we have digital possibilities.  Of course, the notebook is still a favorite for writers.  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has a site called Sharing Our Notebooks that is full of possibility to share with students.  
  3. How do you grow your ideas?  This is a topic often shaped by opportunities and challenges.  Some people sketch, some web, some research, some list.  These possibilities are often driven by purpose.  Additionally, when do you revise?  Some writers revise as they work; others work to get the idea onto paper and then return for revision.  How do you strengthen your lines and words?  
  4. Where do you like to write?  During a school day, young writers have very little say in where they write, but that doesn't mean they can't make some decisions about their spaces.  Providing alternate seating, allowing writers to write on the floor, creating quiet spaces, and maybe even just pulling out a picture and a favorite pen can help to create an atmosphere for writing.  Additionally, digital spaces may allow writers to carry their reading beyond the school day and write in their favorite spaces at home.  
  5. How will you use your time as a writer?  In classrooms, having a regular daily time to write is essential.  If young writers know they will have time to write each day, they can begin to collect ideas.  Writing every day is essential, but isn't always easy.  Allowing writers to be in different stages of the process, knowing the process is not linear, and understanding that writers may take a short break from a piece to grow a burning idea all provide flexibility for the writer. 
Young writers need the opportunity to find their own process.  If we truly want our writers to write with purpose, to develop their voice, to utilize craft, to move their audience, we have to let them write.  

Lessons From Writing Series

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Learning from Writing: You Should Write About That #sol18 Week 1

For the month of March I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

"Your next post should be about the loss of bookstores," Clare commented on my Slice of Life post, A Familiar Pattern, about the pattern of malls closing.

A few days later she returned to another post, Start a Contribution List, asking, "What's a Passion Planner™?  Can you slice about that?" 

I've appreciated her comments.  I've kept these little nuggets tucked in the back of my mind knowing when I need an idea to continue my goal to write every single day this month, I'll have a few ideas to use for my post.  

In my first grade classroom, one of my favorite things to do was greet students at the door.  Students always entered first thing in the morning full of stories, and I was the story catcher.  My students would share tales of losing teeth, learning to ride a bike, or going someplace special.  They'd share stories of friends, new experiences, and funny things that had happened to them.  Of course, I'd listen intently and then say, "You should write about that.  That would be a great story for writer's workshop."  The more reluctant the writer, the more deeply I listened - and the more animated my reaction.    

Even among my friends who have blogs, it isn't uncommon to hear one of us say to another, "You should write about that."  It's like a gift when that happens.  It's not always easy to see our stories we might share.

There's power in having someone say, "You should write that."  

Writing every single day isn't easy, but having someone to help shine light on your stories makes it a little more possible.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Are You All In?

As educators and leaders, we often find ourselves running from one thing to another.  For classroom teachers, there's a myriad of responsibilities.  In addition to day-to-day teaching and preparation, there are team meetings, parent emails, and collection of resources for students.  Educators working as instructional coaches, administrators, and other roles supporting classrooms, can find themselves bouncing from place to place, teacher to teacher, team to team and student to student.  It can be easy, and perhaps somewhat understandable, to find our minds on the next thing, especially in collaborative conversations.

It's not uncommon for me to sit in a meeting, team conversation, or learning opportunity to see people with their phones out, answering emails on their computers, or being distracted by thinking beyond the moment.  In today's world, people can multitask between devices in a meeting, but we all know engaged multitasking looks different than disengaged multitasking.

In my role as our district's literacy instructional leader, I am in a myriad of meetings across the day.  One of the things I work hard to do is to be all in.  Whether I am in a data team meeting with a team of teachers, professional learning community conversations with a group, a planning meeting with district leadership, or a book talk with a student book club, I am trying to train myself to be all in.  That means I am listening, making sense of their ideas, and trying to work toward new understandings beside the people I am with at the time.

Too often we become distracted by the buzzes, bleeps, and notifications of our devices.  We easily disengage from conversations to think about the next thing on our calendars.  This can leave the people we are sitting beside feeling like they are not valued.

The next time you grab your phone, open up your email, or find yourself a million miles from the conversation.  Ask yourself, "Am I all in?".


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Our Classroom Libraries: Connecting, Stretching, Evolving

Yesterday I was able to chat classroom libraries at the Dublin Literacy Conference with Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. Our session probably began to spin last year as she started to reflect on the students in her classroom and the books that would be best to support her community.  It was a delightful conversation that continued across time and soon we decided we would love to talk with other educators about classroom libraries.  

The Heart of Our Learning Community
The classroom library is the heart of the community.  It's the authors who mentor our students' writing.  It's the books that inspire thoughtful conversation.  It's the common texts that bring us together in shared understanding.  It's the stories that help us to find ourselves and to see out into the world.  Our classroom libraries shape our learning.  

While there are many joys to our classroom library, there are also many challenges.  My work allows me the privilege of being in and out of classrooms across fourteen elementary schools.  There are just some classrooms where the library pops as soon as I walk in the door.  There are classrooms where books surround the children every day.  In these classrooms, books spill out of the library and into spaces around the room.  A reader can hardly take three steps without running into a book.  Imagine the power in just that.  In these classrooms, I can feel the books as soon as I walk in the door and it always seems that in these communities I know when I talk with young learners they will be able to talk about books.  There are classrooms in which I can tell as soon as I walk in which authors the community has grown to love.  In others, it doesn't take long to tell what the focus of study is in the classroom by the way books are arranged around the room.  Our libraries say a lot about our learning community - and our beliefs about supporting literacy learning.  

Growing Readers with Strong Libraries
Knowing there isn't one right way to manage a classroom library, Mandy and I wrestled with what was most important in sharing our message.  For me, it was the library that supported the conversations in our community.  Across the year my library would change.  At times across the year,  I would notice readers were a bit restless in the workshop and would realize it was our library that needed a little freshening; after all, across a school year, learners grow in their ability to read and their interests shift across the year as a result of new conversations.  

Here are the three considerations Mandy and I discussed in thinking about our classroom libraries.  Our classroom libraries work to help our readers by:
  • Connecting:  Classroom libraries connect readers to their next book, to new authors, to one another.  As educators, we curate libraries that have books of appropriate challenge and make sure our collections are inclusive to all of our readers.  Books in our collections provide mirrors for seeing ourselves, windows for looking out, and sliding glass doors to step into new possibilities.  The books that surround our learning community help to grow common conversations that will shape and connect learners across the year.  In today's world, through the use of digital tools, our classroom libraries will also help us to connect to authors (websites, Twitter), other readers, and to outside experts.  
  • Stretching:  Classroom libraries can provide stepping stones into new texts.  Across the year our conversations help readers learn to balance their reading.  We find ways to help readers stretch to try new genres, authors, and types of reading.  As a community, we reach to discover more through multiple media that grow our understanding, help us to compare a variety of information, and ask us to consider other perspectives.  In our mini lessons we include a variety of texts and consider the balance between print and digital possibilities.  
  • Evolving:  Classroom libraries continue to grow during the year to meet the new needs of our readers.  Our libraries change as we study new authors, dig into a particular genre, or delve into a new topic of study.  They evolve as we move from a literal understanding of text to try to understand author's perspective and work to uncover the themes within a text.  Our libraries evolve as readers request new books, young writers need to learn about different crafting techniques, or our scientists seek more information.  Our libraries evolve as new books are published and new possibilities begin to find their way into our classroom.  Our libraries are no longer confined to the physical space in our classroom, we consider the digital possibilities for our readers.  Using Padlet (example of digital reading Padlet here), our classroom hubs, or other digital spaces we can curate digital spaces for our readers.  

More About Libraries
As Mandy and I were working on our session, I wondered what other educators would say about the classroom library.  I found myself wanting to go into classrooms to really take a look at their libraries so I created a hashtag and asked some educators to share their tips and pics.  As always, everyone was so gracious to share both.  You can learn more about the classroom library on Twitter at the hashtag #CRlibrarylove.  Please join the conversation by sharing pictures of your library, beliefs that shape your work with your classroom library, and resources.  Of course, we'd also love to see some library makeover pictures!!!  ;o)  

More Links for Libraries:
I'd love your links, resources, and thoughts in the comments below.  Please share!  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Nonfiction Picture Books to Inspire Informational Writers #nf10for10

Today's the day for our nonfiction picture book event:  #nf10for10.  This is our 6th annual nonfiction event.  In the past, Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, Julie Balen of Write at the Edge, and I have cohosted this event.  Again this year all activity will be collected in our Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  Stop by to read, share your favorites, and/or link up.

Ways to participate:

My 2018 List:  10 Nonfiction Picture Books to Inspire Informational Writers
As a student, I remember writing research papers year after year after year.  I think we all do.  Sometimes the process required some time with an encyclopedia and an assigned topic, others it required a large stack of notecards.  Always the paper ended up about the same.  I'm sure my teachers were tortured by my voiceless writing and lack of passion for my subject.

A lot has changed since then.  Since I began teaching, there seems to have been an explosion of new informational text.  (Thank you, authors!)  Inquiry and research no longer require a research paper; thanks to today's authors, writers can envision so much more.  Moving our thinking beyond research papers, to new possibilities in genre and craft, can open new doors for our writers.  It might have saved my teachers from falling asleep while reading my research papers all those years ago.

Here are 10 nonfiction picture books to inspire writers.

Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

Did you know that nearly 1,000,000 insect species have been named with new discoveries happening all the time?  Did you know that termites have the largest biomass with a combined weight of 700,000,000 tons!?  Did you know that giraffes only sleep about 2 1/2 hours a day?  In today's world, infographics are everywhere.  Oh, the possibilities in this book!  From graphs to charts to unique visual representations, Jenkins shares a variety of ways to compare and contrast information across a topic.

This book not only makes an outstanding mentor text for infographics, but it is sure to be a book children will return to again and again.

Little Leaders:  Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

This collection of essays describing the important contributions of black women will surely bring readers back again and again.  Featuring essays of over 40 women who have had an impact on our world for over two centuries.  Each essay tells about the leader's childhood, life experiences, and accomplishments.

This book would surely work as a mentor to help writers to understand the power of the essay in sharing important information with others.

Freedom Over Me:  Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

In this book, Ashley Bryan discovers a real historical document about property auctioned from a plantation including a houseful of slaves.  Bryan was moved by the document and decided to use poetry to imagine the stories of their lives.  She features eleven slaves in two poems.  The first poem describes their role at the house, and the second their dreams.  The possibilities abound with this book.

Poetry provides informational possibilities for writers of all ages and the mentor text possibilities continue to grow.  After narrowing my collection I still had a stack of five books including When the Sun Shines on Antarctica by Irene Latham, Shaking Things Up:  14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood, River Friendly, River Wild by Jane Kurtz, National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis, and When Thunder Comes:  Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis.

Miracle Mud:  Lean Blackburne and the Secret that Changed Baseball by David A. Kelly with illustrations by Oliver Dominguez

This book just stays among my favorites.  You can't go wrong with a story about baseball, but this one has the stretch of mindset.  Kelly tells the story of Lena Blackburne who wanted to be a baseball great.  Things didn't go as planned for Lena, but he found a way to contribute to a sport he loved.

Narrative nonfiction uses story to tell about people, places, topics, time periods or other important information.  It takes a deep understanding of a topic to be able to weave it into a narrative.  This is another stack I struggled with as it is a favorite of mine.  In the end, my literary nonfiction stack also included The Water Princess by Susan Verde and Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson with impressive illustrations by Frank Morrison.

How To
How to Swallow a Pig:  Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Want to know how to trap fish like a humpback whale?  Build a dam like a beaver?  Dance like a grebe?  Then you'll want to check out this book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.  It offers step-by-step advice on how to do each of these things, and so much more.  Illustrations complement the steps of each of these tasks.

In the You Tube age, everyone wants to know how to do something.  Beyond videos, there are many possibilities in books to learn something new.  Sharing mentor texts with students can open up the possibilities.  While some picture book mentors carry one how-to task across many pages (like Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka), this mentor text puts readers in the place of the animal to help them understand some of their interesting behaviors.

Consider a Side Bar
Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins with illustrations by Tim Hopgood

Readers will love this fun, fast-paced, book about frogs.  Perfect for read aloud because of its way with words, colorful illustrations, and interesting information, this book is sure to be a hit.  I also love that it has two layers.  First, it is possible to just readd the narrative of the author who shares interesting descriptive information about frogs.  Next, readers will love to return to the side bars for more information.

Many nonfiction authors include side bars, often placed at the side or bottom of the page, to give readers more information.  Often easier to make sense of information because of their placement (as opposed to including it in the back of the book), side bars are often seen in literary nonfiction or alongside informational poetry.

Question - Answer
Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Steve Jenkins

In this book, Stewart playfully takes a look at the sounds animals make through the use of questions.  Can a porcupine whine?  Can a dingo bellow?  Can a giraffe laugh?  You might be surprised by the answers.  Stewart answers these questions while using questions to compare and contrast the sounds animals make.  (Yep, more side bars too.)

This mentor text can help young writers see the way questions can be used to tell readers more about a topic.

Circle Text

Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer and Adam Schaefer

This book is a delight for young readers.  It begins with the acorn that becomes a tree.  Because of the tree so many things happen in nature.  As the story ends the acorn returns.  The author's rhythm of words, "because of a ____, a _____," will make this a book young readers will want to read again.  Beautifully illustrated, students will want to take time to notice all the detail the illustrator has provided.

When I think about a circle text structure, where the end brings us back to the beginning, I often think of this craft move for fiction, yet it works well with informational text as well as is illustrated by this book.  This structure would also work well for steps in a process, "before a ___, a ____," or "after a ____, a ____."  It seems this would also make sense when trying to write about a system or cycle.  This mentor text might open the door to a lot of new possibility for young writers learning to understand the world around them.


Woodpecker Wham!  by April Pulley Sayre with illustrations by Steve Jenkins

This book makes a delightful read aloud.  Full of beautiful words and catchy rhythm, this story of the woodpecker just rolls as you read it.  Young readers will be drawn to the illustrations full of strong shapes and bold colors.  At the end of the book, Sayre has included more information about woodpeckers.  Readers will enjoy digging into these pages to learn more about woodpeckers.

This mentor text is perfect for thinking about informational books that might include sounds.  What would a woodpecker book be without sounds like "CHOP, CHIP, CHOP?"  There are just some informational texts where sound might make a difference.  This crafting technique might be useful in writing about observations or topics where sound is important.

Words Beautiful Words
If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian with photographs by Barbara Lember

Young readers will enjoy the way the author talks about the many different kinds of rocks that can be found in the world.  The photographs enhance the text, making it perfect for read aloud and revisiting.

Nonfiction writing requires curiosity, reading, recording, and often some observation.  This book, not only demonstrates the power of deep observation but, uses beautiful words to help readers know more about each rock.  If you want informational writers to be thought about words, this book is the perfect mentor to start that conversation.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's Coming: February's Nonfiction Picture Book Event

Our February Nonfiction Event
How did the calendar get to 2018 so quickly?!?  Well, here we are...and January is moving so quickly.

February is waiting right around the corner and, of course, there's a lot to LOVE about February.   It's time to get ready for one of my favorite events: February's Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 event (#nf10for10).  This year will be our 6th annual nonfiction event (August is the sister event #pb10for10).  Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 allows the opportunity to bring our community together to share our favorite nonfiction picture books.  I'm always trying to grow in my knowledge of nonfiction, and this event always reenergizes this quest.

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, we'll ask that you visit the Google Community site to add your nonfiction link to the 2017 #nf10for10 tab.

Join us!

Start sorting through your collections to find your favorite titles and join us in one month 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.