Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Behind the Books: Vivid Verbs in Expository Literature

What’s the difference between an active verb, like walk, and a vivid verb like stomp or tiptoe? A vivid verb does double duty.

If you read the sentence, “The girl walked across the room,” you know one thing—the girl moved from Point A to Point B. But if you read the sentence, “The girl stomped across the room,” you still know that she moved, and you also know how she feels. She’s angry. And if you read the sentence, “The girl tiptoed across the room,” you know that she moved and that she’s trying to be quiet or sneaky. A vivid verb is powerful because it allows you to pack a lot of information into a single word.

Consider this brief excerpt from Rain, Rain, Rain Forest by Brenda Z. Guiberson (Holt, 2004):

“Splitter, splat, splash! Rain gushes into the rain forest. It soaks the moss, drizzles of dangling vines, and thrums against slick waxy leaves.”

As you read this, can’t you see what’s happening in your mind’s eye? When writing is steeped with vivid verbs, it can paint a picture with words.

How can we encourage students to notice how an author uses verbs as they are reading and think carefully about their own verb choices. I'll provide a fun activity on Friday.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS PE 4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Try these book pairs:

For more suggestions ad full lessons, check out Perfect Pairs:

Friday, March 17, 2017

In the Classroom: Comparisons in Expository Literature

After sharing the Power of Similes video mini-lesson available on my website with your class, encourage students to find and circle similes, metaphors, and other kinds of comparisons in a rough draft. Then invite the children to identify at least two places where adding a comparison will make their writing more engaging.

CCSS.ELA—Literacy.CCRA.R.4:  Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning.

CCSS.ELA—Literacy.CCRA.R.5:  Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Behind the Books: Comparisons in Expository Literature

As nonfiction writers do research, they learn a lot of facts and ideas that their readers won’t know. How can a writer make that information accessible to his or her audience? By using similes, metaphors, and other kinds of comparisons to use what readers do know as a launching point.

Many books do this effectively on an as needed basis, but a few books use comparisons as a central focus to make abstract ideas relevant to their readers’ lives and experiences.

Here are a couple of examples from If You Hopped Life a Frog by David M. Schwartz (Scholastic, 1999):

“If you swallowed like a snake . . .
you could gulp a hot dog thicker than a telephone pole.”

“If you scurried like a spider . . .
you could charge down an entire football field
in just two seconds
.”

Actual Size by Steve Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) and How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook, 2013) are also chock full of visual comparisons that will delight as well as inform young readers.

How can we encourage students to be on the lookout for comparisons in the expository literature they read and enhance their own writing with fun, creative comparisons? I'll provide an activity on Friday.
 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Teaching Science with Kidlit

NGSS PE 4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Try these book pairs:
For more suggestions and full lessons, check out Perfect Pairs:

Friday, March 10, 2017

In the Classroom: Text Format in Expository Literature

After reading aloud When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone by Dorothy Patent Hinshaw and my book Feathers: Not Just for Flying, invite students to compare and contrast the two books, using these guiding questions:

·         How is the main text in the two books different?

·         Does the secondary text perform the same function in both books?

·         What is the text structure of each book?

·         What do you think was each author’s purpose for writing her book?

·         Does the layered text format help the authors achieve their purpose? Explain your rationale.

Next, read aloud An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston and Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate, encouraging students to discuss the following questions in small groups:

·         How is the format of the two books different?

·         What do you think was each author’s purpose for writing her book?

·         Does the format of each book help the author achieve her purpose? Explain your rationale.

As the group discussions wind down, encourage each group to share its ideas with the rest of the class. 

CCSS.ELA—Literacy.CCRA.R.5:  Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
 
CCSS.ELA—Literacy.CCRA.R.9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Behind the Books: The Importance of Text Format in Expository Literature

Many high-quality expository titles, especially science-themed picture books, make skillful use of layered text, which consists of a short, simple primary text that conveys main ideas and a more substantial secondary text that provides supporting details.

As you read books like When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone by Dorothy Patent Hinshaw (Walker, 2008) and Pink Is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfect Pink Animals by Jess Keating (Knopf, 2016), you will notice that the primary text, which is set in larger type to let children know that they should read it first, can stand on its own and provides a general introduction to the topic. It whets the reader’s appetite, inspiring children to continue reading, so they can find out more.

The rich, provokative primary text of A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston (Chronicle, 2007)  and the surprising comparisons in my book Feathers: Not Just for Flying (Charlesbridge, 2014) awaken a child’s sense of wonder, while the playful, interactive quality of the primary text in How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) invites students to read and explore and discover.

This engaging, kid-friendly format allows a broad range of students to access the book. It also helps students learn to differentiate between main ideas (the gist) and supporting details, which is an important goal of the Common Core State Standards.

As a result of the recent popularity of graphic novels, authors are experimenting with nonfiction in a graphic format too. Many of these titles present information within the context of a storyline, but a few notable exceptions are entirely expository. These ground-breaking titles include Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks (First Second, 2015), Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick, 2013), and How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page (Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

How can we encourage students to think critically about the text format of the expository literature they read and experiment with various formats in their own writing? I'll provide a helpful activity on Friday.