Posts tagged ‘nonfiction’

107. Volcanoes by Franklyn M. Branley

volcanoes branleyRetell: Branley describes how volcanoes form and how geologists constantly pay attention to their activity.

Topics: volcanoes, eruptions, earthquakes, geologists, earth movements

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense

My Thoughts: While reading this book I was reminded of work I did last year.  Some colleagues and I examined level K and L books in order to investigate why readers struggle at those levels.  We noticed that books at this level usually have illustrations that convey information about part of the text.  Proficient readers understand that the illustration supports what the text says.  Struggling readers will form their mental picture of what’s going on from the illustration and not from the text.   We discovered that it was important to teach readers to not rely completely on the illustration, but to envision what’s not in the illustration.  Volcanoes is a great read aloud for modeling this strategy.  For example, when Branley describes the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the illustration shows the volcano erupting in the background of a lively city; the readers must envision the city being buried.  If we don’t model this thinking during the read aloud, students may miss vital pieces of information.  Prompts I like to use during read aloud to push this thinking are:

  • “What’s missing from the illustration?”
  • “What would you add to the illustration?”
  • “Where would you put that idea in the illustration?”
  • “Paint the illustration in the air.  Think about what you would include.”

October 11, 2009 at 10:37 pm Leave a comment

106. H is for Home Run: A Baseball Alphabet by Brad Herzog

h is for home runRetell: Brad Herzog celebrates the A to Zs of baseball.

Topics: baseball, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: envisionment, determining importance

Writing Skills: using alliteration, using dashes, crafting rhyme

My Thoughts: I normally don’t use alphabet books very much throughout the course of the year.  This book inspires me to change my mind.  This book is more sophisticated than your average alphabet book.  Each page has both a rhyming description of an aspect of baseball and a more detailed description in the sidebar.  I’m considering proposing alphabet books as a way to publish Content-Area pieces.  During Social Studies students could make alphabet books as a way to assess their understanding of the content of a unit.

Often I’m scrambling to find read alouds that fit within one of our units of study.  However, sometimes it’s nice to read something that will connect with a current event or a current class interest.  For those who want to celebrate the upcoming World Series, H is for Home Run is a good choice.

October 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm 1 comment

103. Steam, Smoke, and Steel: Back in Time with Trains by Patrick O’Brien

steam, smoke,and steelRetell: This is a history of trains told from the perspective of a boy who comes from a long line of engineers.

Topics: trains, generations, generators, steam engines, family

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: envisionment, monitoring for sense, determining importance, reading diagrams

My Thoughts: Though I probably won’t have time to teach a unit on industrialization this year, I think I will just have to insert this book into my read aloud plans anyway.  Though my class isn’t studying trains at the moment, we are doing a unit in Math called, “Ages and Timelines”.  During the introduction to the unit, students had a difficult time understanding the concept of a ‘great-great grandparent’.  Steam, Smoke and Steel could be a book to help them understand this concept.  The main character comes from a family of train engineers.  As he looks back on his family’s history, the reader learns about trains from the past.  His father drives a modern locomotive.  His grandfather drove a diesel-electric locomotive.  His great-grandmother drove a steam locomotive…you get the point.

Yesterday I attended a Social Studies workshop at Teacher’s College, and I’ve become very excited about time lines (I should probably get out more).  In their workshop, Shana Frazin and Kathleen Tolan suggested that teachers should have moveable time lines in their classrooms.  Students and teachers can add important events and visuals to the time line.  After reading Steam, Smoke and Steel I think I may post pictures of the trains and the characters (the boy, the father, the grandfather, the great-grandmother, the great-great grandfather, etc.) in the book on the timeline.  Doing this I think will help enrich students’ understanding of generations and time periods.

Now I just have to find space in my classroom…

October 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

101. Heartland by Diane Siebert

heartlandRetell: A celebration of the Midwest, told in rhyming verse and gorgeous illustrations.

Topics: rural communities, landforms, plains, farming

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, envisionment

Writing Skills: creating metaphors,  personification

My Thoughts: At the moment my class is learning how readers interpret maps.  They have difficulty envisioning what places look like.  In their minds, New York State is just one gigantic city.  I plan on reading this book aloud to help my ‘citified’ students envision what rural areas look, feel and sound like.  It will be great to use this as a mentor text in a few months during the Content-Area unit when some students may choose to write nonfiction poetry.

October 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

99. The Whales by Cynthia Rylant

the whalesRetell: Rylant imagines what whales might be thinking while swimming in the ocean.

Topics: whales, whale songs

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: envisionment, inference, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: repetition, alliteration

My Thoughts: Though the Content-Area unit is months away I’m trying to start early in my search for nonfiction poetry.  As a child I loved doing research but I hated having to do research reports.  Within the Content-Area unit students make choices about how they will publish the findings from their research.  They could do a research report but they could also choose to do a speech, an essay or write a poem.  Last year one of my struggling writers, who found essays and fiction writing to be torture, discovered nonfiction poetry.  He became interested in longhouses, researched the topic for a few weeks and wrote a poem several stanzas long.  I feel that I could lift the level of my students’ writing this year if I can get my hands on engaging nonfiction poetry.  The Whales is just the mentor text I’ve been looking for.  I love how she inserts factual information and balances it with descriptive language.  I think it would be great to read this book side by side with an informational text in order to compare each author’s voice.

Do you know of any fantastic nonfiction poetry texts?  Please post your suggestions in the comments section!

October 4, 2009 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

95. If You Are a Hunter of Fossils by Byrd Baylor

if you are a hunger of fossilsRetell: As a child goes hunting for fossils in the Southwest she envisions what the dry world once looked like underwater.

Topics: fossils, trilobites, dinosaurs, ocean, landforms

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe, striving for accuracy and precision

Reading Skills: envisionment, questioning

Writing Skills: using repetition

My Thoughts: One of the many goals of this blog is to discover hidden read aloud gems.  This is one of those books and it just happens to fit with our current Science unit.  I love how the author invites the reader to envision what the world must have been like when today’s mountains were covered by a vast ocean.  This book could also make a good mentor text for students who need help using repetition effectively.  If you decide to have students read and write nonfiction poetry, this book would be a good addition to that unit.

September 29, 2009 at 10:14 pm 1 comment

93. Who Pooped in the Zoo? Exploring the Weirdest, Wackiest, Grossest and Most Surprising Facts About Zoo Poop by Caroline Patterson

who pooped in the zooRetell: This book is filled with interesting facts about poop.  It discusses how animals use poop for food, defense, communication, and shelter.

Topics: poop, feces, animals, digestion, bacteria, camouflage

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Reading Skills: monitoring for sense, determining importance, envisionment

Thoughts: I’ve been chuckling all evening, calling out disgusting facts to my family.  “Hey!  Did you know that a grizzly bear doesn’t poop when he hibernates?  When a grizzly bear wakes up in the Spring its poop is as big as a baseball bat!”  This book is great for demonstrating how readers of nonfiction make a plan before they read the text.  Each section of the book contains blurbs with interesting facts about poop, glossaries and supplemental information.  Readers can choose to read the blurbs first and then read the entire section or vice versa.  A great read before going to the zoo or before you dissect owl pellets.

September 27, 2009 at 10:43 pm Leave a comment

91. What’s So Bad About Gasoline? Fossil Fuels and What They Do by Anne Rockwell

what's so bad about gasolineRetell: This book explains how gasoline is made and describes its role in global warming.

Topics: gasoline, carbon emissions, global warming, petroleum, coal

Units of Study: Personal Essay, Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits: Thinking flexibly

Reading Skills: questioning, determining importance, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: using repetition to make a thesis stronger, using supporting reasons and examples to support a thesis

My Thoughts: I mentioned before that my students are currently studying earth movements (how mountains are made, volcanoes, etc).  Next week students will examine fossils found in rocks.  This book could be a nice extension of the fossil investigation.  It blew my mind years ago when I learned that petroleum is made from decomposed fossils.  When we are in the Personal Essay unit I plan on rereading parts of this text to show how the writer weaves in her opinions and supports them with facts.

The beginning of the book explains how petroleum is made and how it has been used throughout history.  Throughout this section the phrase, “They still didn’t use much” repeats.  The author argues that gasoline and other petroleum products are not inherently evil.  After all, the reason why we still have forests and whales is connected to the invention of distilled petroleum.  I like how the book ends with the question, “What ways can you think of to help?”  After the read aloud students could brainstorm ways to use less gasoline.

September 26, 2009 at 11:33 am Leave a comment

88. Volcanoes by Seymour Simon

volcanoesRetell: The title pretty much speaks for itself.  Seymour Simon explains how volcanoes form and why some volcanoes are not as destructive as others.

Topics: volcanoes, magma, lava, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Shasta, plates, Mt. Hood, Surtsey, legends

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content Area

Reading Skills: determining importance, envisionment, monitoring for sense

Writing Skills: supporting a thesis with reasons and examples, including similes in nonfiction writing

My Thoughts: The photographs in Simon’s books draw me in and I find myself becoming interested in subjects I had never cared about before.  Volcanoes is another great nonfiction title that could support the Earth Movements unit.  (See post #87.)  Unlike many nonfiction books for kids, this book doesn’t organize the information into friendly headings.  It’s a great way to model how readers organize expository text, creating our own mental headings and subheadings.

September 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

87. How Mountains Are Made by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

how mountains are madeRetell: A group of children climb a nearby mountain.  During the climb they start wondering about how mountains are made.

Topics: mountains, erosion, plate tectonics, earth movements, volcanoes

Units of Study: Nonfiction, Content-Area

Habits of Mind: responding with wonderment and awe

Reading Skills: questioning, determining importance, envisionment

My Thoughts: This is a great read aloud to supplement the fourth grade New York Delta FOSS Kit unit on Earth Movements.  It’s a simple example of how narrative nonfiction and expository nonfiction are often blended together within the same text.  The illustrated characters who narrate the text are a little distracting but you can choose whether or not to read their speech bubbles out loud.

September 21, 2009 at 9:24 pm 1 comment

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