Many blog posts and tweets are buzzing with plans for the school year. My mind is swirling, I have piles of work all over my dining table, trying to create a way to organize what I hope to do this year. Maybe I’ll never be done, but I’m beginning!
There are numerous professional books that help with ideas about getting started in the school year, and blogs are lately filling up with ideas for starting reading workshop, writing workshop, writers’ notebooks (see Two Writing Teachers’ blog series this week! The first one is by Tara Smith, workshop routines).
I just enjoyed a NEW twitter chat with Ruth Ayres (@ruth_ayres) and Christy Levine (@rushlevine) on Sunday evening that will happen every first Sunday of the month at 8 eastern time, hashtag #TandCWriters. This time Katherine Sokolowski (@Katsok) was the host and questions were asked about the use of writers’ notebooks. How does one start them, etc.?
Also recently, Carrie Gelson’s four posts on her blog There’s A Book For That about introducing, loving and using non-fiction picture books in the classroom have been awesome. In one of these posts, a comment caught my attention. The commenter shared that she thought the enthusiasm for non-fiction diminished as the students got older. That may be true in some classes, yet I know there are ways to enhance non-fiction learning for older students, too. I’d like to share some recent books that I know students read and love, and one activity that worked well for me for two reasons: showing students that the world is filled with ideas that are interesting, and letting them have a continuing experience of good non-fiction writing.
I’ve taken the Smithsonian magazine for years, and as I finished reading an issue, I tore out articles, stapled them, and kept them for class. Sometimes I browsed the articles myself and pulled some that touched on the new unit topics my students had chosen. (Each student in my school chooses their own topic to study throughout the year, and the curriculum for them is built around that topic.) But the rest of the articles' subject matter covered a myriad of topics, as you might imagine.
Using those articles, the assignment I gave was to read two articles each week and answer the following questions:
- What did you read and who wrote it?
- Share in a brief paragraph the high points of what you learned.
- What strategy did you notice that might be used in your own writing?
- What did you like, or not like, about the topic?
I created a worksheet that would cover both articles and each student turned it in on Monday. I read them, kept a record, and they were placed in a large binder with a section for each student.
On Fridays, I divided the class into small groups to share some of the article learning, to see if they would begin trading. They did! This really took little time on my end, and I read two articles too, participated in a group at random each meeting. It showed students the excitement of non-fiction, the many styles of n-f writers, and the high interest of so many, many topics.
Here is a brief list of some recent books I've book talked to students and/or used in my own classroom a few years ago:
Bomb – Steve Sheinkin
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi -
The Animal Book – Steve Jenkins (actually most any book by Steve Jenkins)
Carver: A Life In Poems – Marilyn Nelson
The Panama Canal: The Story of How a Jungle Was Conquered and the World Made Smaller – Elizabeth Mann – pair with Silver People by Margarita Engle
The Scraps Book: Notes From A Colorful Life – Lois Ehlert
The Boy On The Wooden Box – Leon Leyson
Marley and Me – John Grogan
Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer (I own a large collection of outdoor adventure/out in nature books. They are popular.)
Poop Happened: A History of The World From The Bottom Up - Sarah Albee (her latest book is Bugged: How Insects Changed History)
If you have other book ideas, leave the titles in the comments and I'll create a page with these and those commenters add too.
And please share other ways you're getting your older students to love non-fiction!