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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Melissa Stewart

Why Students Copy Their Research Sources,
and How to Break the Habit

ResearchBy third grade, nearly all students know what plagiarism is and understand that it’s both immoral and illegal, and yet, again and again, we catch them copying their sources.

Why don’t students express ideas and information in their own words? Because they haven’t taken the time or don’t have the skills to analyze and synthesize the material they’ve collected so that they can make their own meaning. In other words, they haven’t found a personal connection to the content, and that’s a critical step in the nonfiction pre-writing process.

Here are some ideas to help students break the habit:

Nix the All-About Books

The best nonfiction writing happens when students have to dig deep and think critically, so asking them to write All-About books, which present a broad overview of a topic, is just setting them up for failure. When students choose a narrow topic that they find fascinating, they’ll have to mine their sources, collecting tiny nuggets of gold here and there. This fun quest will fuel their passion for the topic and result in engaging writing that presents ideas and information in fresh ways.

QuestionsStart with a Question

Suggest that students develop wonder questions and use them to guide their research. Not only does this guarantee that students will have some “skin in the game,” a specific query will lead to more targeted note taking and require students to make connections between information they find in a variety of sources.

Dual Notetaking

Julie Harmatz, a fifth grade teacher in San Pedro, California, has had great success with collaborative notetaking in a Google doc. Not only do students enjoy the technological novelty of this activity, they gain access to the thought processes of their partner(s). Pairing an adept notetaker with a student who’s struggling with this skill can be a powerful experience. After all, students often learn better from peer modeling than adult instruction.

Journaling

Encourage students to review the information they’ve gathered and journal about it. This will help many children take ownership of the material and identify what fascinates them most about what they’ve discovered. When students approach writing with a clear mission in mind, they’re more likely to present ideas through their own personal lens.

Thought PromptsUse Thought Prompts

Ryan Scala, a fifth grade teacher in East Hampton, New York, recommends inviting students to synthesize their research and make personal connections by using one of the following thought prompts:

  • The idea this gives me . . .
  • I was surprised to learn . . .
  • This makes me think . . .
  • This is important because . . . 

Can’t Copy

Encourage students to use source materials that they can’t copy, such as a documentary film or personal observations outdoors or via a webcam.

WowFocus on the “Oh, wow!”

Award-winning children’s book author Deborah Heiligman advises young writers to only write down information that makes them say, “Oh wow!” Then she suggests that they write their first draft without looking at their notes, using just what they remember. Of course, they can always go back and add details, dates, etc., later, but when kids are forced to write from their memories, they write in their own voices, and they focus on the ideas and information that interest them most.

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Word Search: No Monkeys, No Chocolate

No Monkeys, No ChocolateIs chocolate, in any form, one of your favorite foods? Then you’ll be fascinated by our featured books this month. No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart, Allen Young, and Nicole Wong is an excellent guide to understanding where our chocolate comes from (even if the part about maggots and ants’ brains is an eeeewww part of the process). If you love puzzles and games, we hope you have a good time solving this Word Search. 

Simply use your mouse or touch pad to draw a line over your found words and the program will mark them off for you. Words can be found forwards, backwards, horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. As you find a word, it will be highlighted on the board and it will disappear from the word list.

Have fun!

Hidden Words

Puzzle by mypuzzle.org
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Melissa Stewart

Melissa StewartWe are so pleased to have author and science speaker Melissa Stewart take time away from her very busy book-writing schedule to share her answers to burning questions we had after reading No Monkeys, No Chocolate, our Bookstorm this month.

Melissa, when do book ideas usually come knocking on your brain?

Melissa's NotebookIdeas can come anytime, anywhere—so I always have to be ready. I carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go. The idea for No Monkeys, No Chocolate started percolating in my mind when I saw cocoa trees growing in the rain forest during a trip to Costa Rica.

As ecosystems go, how do you isolate one and stick to writing about it?

To me, No Monkeys, No Chocolate isn’t really about the rain forest ecosystem, it’s about a tree and all the creatures it depends on to grow. This is all happening within a rain forest, of course, but my goal was to keep a laser-sharp focus on the tree itself.

Cocoa tree

You revised this manuscript 56 times, which you share so thoughtfully in classroom-usable detail on your Revision Timeline. Is this typical for all of your writing?

For most of my books, I revise a half dozen times, but concept picture books like No Monkeys, No Chocolate often take quite a bit more work. It can take time and a whole lot of trial and error to find the very best way to present the information to young readers.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate bookwormsWhose idea was it to include the cartoon commentators on each spread? Do you remember why you decided to include them?

The bookworms were my idea. They have two functions—to add humor (which kids love) and to reinforce some of the challenging science ideas presented in the in the book’s main text.

What’s the most vital takeaway you hope to inspire with No Monkeys, No Chocolate?

I hope it will help children (and adults) understand that every living thing on Earth is interconnected, and if we want to keep enjoying our favorite things (like chocolate), we need to protect and preserve the natural world and its amazing cast of creatures.

Allen YoungYou worked with a co-author on this book. What role did Allen Young play and how did you work together?

For this book, I needed to know all the different creatures that cocoa trees depend on to live and grow and make more cocoa trees. I read every scientific paper that had ever been written about cocoa trees, but they didn’t have the information I needed. Since it wasn’t possible for me to spend months observing cocoa trees in the rain forest, I needed to find someone who had.

That’s where Allen Young came in. He’s the world’s leading expert in cocoa tree growth and he studied cocoa trees in the Costa Rican rain forest for more than 30 years.  I asked Allen if he’d share his knowledge with me, and he said, “Yes,” as long as he could be the co-author of the book.

So I asked him a bunch of questions to get the information I needed, and then I started to write. Later, Allen read the manuscript to make sure that everything was accurate.

What are the second and third most fascinating ecosystems for you?

Oh boy, every ecosystem is fascinating to me. One ecosystem that I’m dying to visit is the American Southwestern desert. I’m hoping to travel to Arizona sometime in the next year.

How do you make sure that the language and concepts in the book fit the intended audience?

Curriculum standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards, specify what topics and concepts students at various grade levels are studying in school, so that helps me decide whether an idea I have will work best as a picture book or an early reader or as long-form nonfiction for older readers.  Once I know who my audience is, I can adjust the voice, point of view, hook, and text complexity to make the writing interesting and age-appropriate.

Melissa Stewart working with a student during a school visitWhen you’re at a school talking about ecosystems, what kind of hands-on activities do you do with this book?

Because teachers want to provide students with real-life examples of how revision can improve writing, my school visit for No Monkeys, No Chocolate focuses on my 10-year process of creating the book. I explain why it took so darn long to write the book and why I didn’t just give up. My hope is that hearing my story of my struggle and ultimate success will encourage students to develop stamina as writers.

What has captured your attention currently in the science realm?

Oh, wow, there is always something new and exciting. That’s why I love science. I think it’s really interesting to see all the amazing innovations in robot research. And I’m also closely following stories about new discoveries in space. I’m especially interested in knowing if there really is another planet out there on the lonely outer fringes of our solar system. More and more, it’s looking like the answer is “Yes!”

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Bookstorm™: No Monkeys, No Chocolate

No Monkeys Bookmap

 

No Monkeys, No ChocolateWe are pleased to feature No Monkeys, No Chocolate as our August book selection, in which author and science writer Melissa Stewart, along with Allen Young and illustrator Nicole Wong share the interdependent ecosystem that creates the right conditions for cacao beans to be grown and harvested so we can produce chocolate.

This ecosystem is set in the rainforest of the Amazon, but there are interdependent ecosystems all over the world, vital animals, reptiles, birds, insects, humans, and plants that are necessary for our lives to continue on this earth. We all rely on each other. We all have a part to play in preserving a healthy Earth. We are grateful to authors and illustrators like Melissa, Allen, and Nicole who bring these connections to our attention so we can share them with children who will become the stewards of this planet.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. You’ll find books, articles, and videos for a variety of tastes and interests. This month, we’re focusing on books about American lighthouses, lighthouse keepers, and biographies of female heroes. 

Downloadables

 

 

You’ll find more information about Melissa Stewart on her website. Illustrator Nicole Wong’s website will show you more of her portfolio.

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Chocolate. I know there are people who don’t like chocolate, but surely they are a small percentage of people in the world! As we move between descriptions of decadent chocolate pleasures to news that it’s healthy for us to fountains and personalized chocolate … these books share facts, stories, and tantalizing photographs.

Ecosystems. Our featured book is an excellent description of an ecosystem in which plants, animals, and insects work together to create the bean that creates chocolate. There are a number of good examples of ecosystems throughout the world in the books we’ve included.

Growing Food. We appreciate and thank the people who work so hard to grow our food. From urban farms to rural ranches to rainforests, the foods we tend and grow and harvest are essential to all life on earth. We hope that teaching children about the sources of their food, the people who grow it, and the care given to the stuff of life will encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Monkeys. Monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, apes … primates have been fascinating people, especially children, since time began. And now we now they’re essential for chocolate! We’ve included books that will start discussions, answer questions, and entertain young readers.

Pollination. The process of pollination, and all the ways it happens, is incredible. These books are guaranteed to interest young readers.

Rain Forest Preservation. It’s vital for all the people of the earth to support efforts to keep the rain forests of our world healthy. The more we know and understand about their role in our climate, our air, our ability to breathe, the more we can commit to doing our part as individuals. 

Author’s Website Resources. Author Melissa Stewart created a writing timeline that is useful in teaching writing, especially expository writing, to your students. She has a reader’s theater, teaching guide, and several more teaching aids to offer. We’ve provided links.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.

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Look at how we’re teaching nonfiction!

Melissa Stewart working with a studentAs another school year winds to a close, I’m feeling encouraged about the state of nonfiction reading and writing in elementary classrooms across the country.

In 2010, when the Common Core State Standards were introduced, educators began asking me for ideas and strategies for implementing the Reading Informational Text standards. And they were hungry for tips and tools that they could use to teach informational writing.

Melissa Stewart's websiteSo I began to think deeply about the craft of nonfiction writing. I described my evolving insights and observations on my blog and provided resources on my website and pinterest pages.

Teachers, school librarians, reading specialists, and literacy coordinators appreciated what I was doing. They used my resources. They emailed me with questions. They asked me to participate in Twitter chats. And they invited me to their schools. We shared ideas, and together, our understanding of nonfiction, especially expository nonfiction, grew.

Melissa Stewart in the classroom

This year I saw tangible evidence that educators’ efforts are paying off. When I visited schools, teachers no longer nervously asked me, “How can we teach nonfiction?” Instead, they proudly exclaimed, “Look at how we’re teaching nonfiction!” Then they showed me the amazing projects their students had completed.

Here are some the great ideas educators have shared with me.

Nonfiction Smackdown!
Mrs. Paradis, teacher-librarian
Plympton Elementary School, Waltham, MA

Students in grades 3-5 read two nonfiction books on the same topic. Then they evaluate and compare the two titles, recording their thinking on a worksheet like this one. When students are done, they can share their responses with classmates. Or the worksheets can be posted, so that other students can use the information to help them make book choices.

March Madness

March Madness Nonfiction
Mrs. Moody, instructional coach
Williams Elementary School, Oakland, ME

During the month of March, students in every grade level participated in classroom read-alouds of sixteen nonfiction picture books. Then the children voted on their favorites. Here’s more info about this fun, whole-school activity.

Text Feature Posters
Mrs. Teany, kindergarten teacher
Memorial Elementary School, Medfield, MA

After reading a variety of age-appropriate books written by me, K-2 students created fabulous text feature posters, using the ones in my books as mentor texts. Take a look at these terrific examples.

A caption and labels highlighting a butterfly’s body parts.

A caption and labels highlighting a butterfly’s body parts.

Hurricane Watch

Labels on a gripping drawing of a hurricane.

Dragonfly Zoom bubble

A “zoom bubble” showing a close-up view of a dragonfly’s head next to a complete body image with very colorful wings.

Poisonous

Comparing a frog and toad, highlighting that frogs have teeth but toads don’t. (top) Fact boxes with information about two frogs, one is poisonous and one isn’t. (bottom)

You can see more samples in this fun video created by Mrs. Groden, the teacher-librarian at Memorial Elementary School.

Text Structure Swap
Fourth grade teaching team
Kennedy Elementary School, Billerica, MA

After reading No Monkeys, No Chocolate, the students made book maps to get a stronger sense of the architecture of the main text, which has what I call a cumulative sequence structure (my mentor texts were traditional cumulative tales, such as The House that Jack Built and I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.)

Then each child chose one example from the text and rewrote it with a cause and effect text structure.  What a great idea!

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Experimenting with Text Structures
Second grade teaching team
Wealthy Elementary School, East Grand Rapid, MI

Image-L_260pxWhile growing bean plants, students read a wide variety of age-appropriate nonfiction books about plants and plant growth. Then each child wrote about the beans using the text structure of his or her choice. The range of samples included using:

  • sequence structure to describe their plant’s growth sequence.
  • compare and contrast structure to explain the differences they observed between their seed and seeds placed in low-light conditions or deprived of water. 
  • cause and effect structure to describe how low light or lack of water affected seeds.
  • how-to structure to explain how students cared for their seed.
  • description structure to document the appearance of their plant with meticulous attention to detail.

Wow! I was blown away.

Radical Revision!
Kennedy Elementary School
Billerica, MA

As teachers listened to me describe the 10-year process of revising No Monkeys, No Chocolate, they hatched a plan for a project I love. They’re asked first graders to write a piece of nonfiction. Next year, when the students are in second grade, teachers will share the No Monkeys, No Chocolate Revision Timeline on my website and ask the children to revise the piece they wrote in first grade. Good idea, right? But it gets even better. Both drafts will be placed in a folder, and the students will revise the piece again in third, fourth, and fifth grade.

Imagine how different the final piece will be from the original! It will allow children to see tangible evidence of their growth as writers and give them a true sense of how long it can take to write a book.

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Authentic Illustration
K-2 teachers, Middle Gate Elementary School
Newtown, CT

As teachers listened me describe the process of making When Rain Falls, they came up with a great idea. After students have written nonfiction about a topic of their choice, children in another class at the same grade level will illustrate the text. Then the original writers will critique the artists’ work. Did they make any factual errors in their drawings? This activity mimics the process nonfiction authors go through when they review sketches created by an illustrator.

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Science and Stories Laboratory
Ms. Beecher, Literacy Coordinator
Pasadena (CA) Unified School District

Using Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science as a guide, Ms. Beecher worked with the staff at Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Elementary School to design an innovative Science and Stories Laboratory that immersed students in a fabulous multi-week adventure of reading, writing, and exploring. Take a look at this fun video to see some of the highlights.

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Like teachers all across America, I’m more than ready for summer break. But I’m also looking forward to seeing even more terrific ideas for teaching informational reading and writing next year. It’s a great time for nonfiction!

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Books about Chocolate

February is National Chocolate Month, so how could we let it pass by without an homage to chocolate … in books? Far less costly on the dental bill! “In 2009, more than 58 million pounds of chocolate were purchased and (likely) consumed in the days surrounding February 14th — that’s about $345 million worth. (Kiri Tannenbaum, “8 Facts About Chocolate,” Delish) Were you a part of the national statistic? Here are a list of 12 books about chocolate to feed your craving.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake  

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake 
written by Michael Kaplan
illustrated by Stephane Jorisch 
Dial Books, 2011

Betty Bunny wants chocolate cake. Her mother wants her to learn patience. Betty Bunny would rather have chocolate cake. This is a funny, droll book about a spunky girl for whom waiting is a challenge. The illustrations are filled with humor, too.

Candy Bomber

 

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot”
written by Michael O. Tunnell
Charlesbridge, 2010

When the Russians maintained a blockade around West Berlin after World War II, US Air Force Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen arranged to have chocolate and gum dropped over the city by handkerchief parachutes.  Russia wanted to starve the people of West Berlin into accepting Communist rule, but the Air Force continued its sanctioned delivery of food and goods for two years. Halvorsen would drop the candy for the kids of West Berlin with a wiggle of his plane’s wings so they’d know it was him. A true story with a lot of primary documentation.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
written by Roald Dahl
illustrated by Quentin Blake
Knopf, 1964

Inspired by his schoolboy experiences of chocolate makers sending test packages to the kids in exchange for their opinions alongside tours of the chocolate factories with their elaborate machinery, Roald Dahl created what might be the most famous book about candy, and chocolate in particular, in the world. As children vie for a golden ticket to enter the chocolate factory, Charlie Bucket finds the fifth ticket. Living in poverty, it’s quite a sight for him, especially when the other four winners are ejected ignominiously from the factory, leaving Charlie to inherit from Willy Wonka. This book celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2015.

Chock Full of Chocolate  

Chock Full of Chocolate
written by Elizabeth MacLeod
illustrated by Jane Bradford
Kids Can Press, 2005

A great way to talk about math and process and writing instructions, cookbooks are appealing to those kids who can’t get enough of the Food Network. This book has 45 recipes featuring chocolate with easy-to-understand instructions for dishes such as S’more Gorp, Dirt Dessert, and Candy-Covered Pizza.

Chocolate Fever  

Chocolate Fever
written by Robert Kimmel Smith
illustrated by Gioia Fiammenghi
Coward McCann, 1972

Henry Green loves chocolate. He eats chocolate all the time in every form and shape. He’s so enamored of chocolate that he contracts Chocolate Fever. Henry runs away from the doctor and straight into a zany adventure filled with humor and action. A good read-aloud.

Chocolate  

Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets
of the World’s Favorite Treat
 

written by Kay Frydenborg
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015

This book on chocolate for middle grade readers covers chocolate from its light to dark aspects, from the way it was discovered to the slaves that were used to grow and harvest it. This book addresses the history, science, botany, environment, and human rights swirling around the world’s obsession with chocolate.

Chocolate Touch  

Chocolate Touch
written by Patrick Skene Catling
illustrated by Margot Apple
HarperCollins, reissued in 2006

John Midas loves chocolate. He loves it so much that he′ll eat it any hour of any day. He doesn′t care if he ruins his appetite. After wandering into a candy store and buying a piece of their best chocolate, John finds out that there might just be such a thing as too much chocolate. This take on the legend of King Midas is written with humor and action. First published in 1952, this is a charming story.

Chocolate War  

Chocolate War
written by Robert Cormier
Pantheon Books, 1974

In this classic young adult novel, Jerry Renault is a freshman at Trinity who refuses to engage in the school’s annual fundraiser: selling chocolate. Brother Leon, Archie Costello, the Vigils (the school gang) all play a part in this psychological thriller. Cormier’s writing is game-changing.

Milton Hershey  

Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier
(Childhood of Famous Americans series)
written by M.M. Eboch
illustrated by Meryl Henderson
Aladdin, 2008

As a young boy, Hershey had to drop out of school to help support his family. He was a go-getter. Working in an ice cream parlor gave him ideas about sweets and selling chocolate to the public. He started his own business, work long and hard to perfect the chocolate his company sells to this day, and learned a good deal about economics, marketing, and running a company. An interesting biography for young readers.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate  

No Monkeys, No Chocolate
written by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
illustrated by Nicole Wong
Charlesbridge, 2013

A good look at the ecosystem and interdependence of a chocolate tree and the lively monkeys that chew on its pods as they swing through the jungle, distributing seeds. Readers look at the one tree’s life cycle, examining the flora, fauna, animals, and insects that contribute to the making of cacao. Two bookworms on each page comment on the information, making this information even more accessible.

Smart About Chocolate  

Smart About Chocolate: a Sweet History
written by Sandra Markle
illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper
Grosset & Dunlap, 2004

A book sharing many facts about the history and making of chocolate, it’s short and engaging. Illustrated with cartoons and dialogue bubbles, photos and charts, this is a good survey of chocolate. Includes a recipe and suggestions for further reading.

This Books is Not Good For You  

This Book Is Not Good for You
written by pseudonymous bosch
Little, Brown, 2010

In this third book in the series, Cass, Max-Ernest, and Yo-Yoji work to discover the whereabouts of the legendary tuning fork so they can get Cass’s Mom back after she’s kidnapped by the evil dessert chef and chocolatier Senor Hugo. High adventure with a fun attitude.

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Bookstorm™: Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed Bookstorm

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallThis month, we are pleased to feature Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey, with photographs and book designed by the incredible team at National Geographic. This book is not only fascinating to read, it’s a beautiful reading experience as well.

It’s not often that a book offers us a glimpse into the childhood of a woman who has followed a brave, and caring, career path, but also follows her through more than 50 years in that chosen profession, describing her work, discoveries, and her passion for the mammals with whom she works. I learned so much I didn’t know about Dr. Goodall and her chimpanzees, Africa, field work, and how one moves people to support one’s cause.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Untamed, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. The book will be comfortably read by ages 9 through adult. We’ve included fiction and nonfiction, picture books, middle grade books, and books adults will find interesting. A number of the books are by Dr. Jane Goodall herself—she’s a prolific writer. We’ve also included books about teaching science, as well as videos, and articles accessible on the internet.

Jane Goodall and Her Research. From Me … Jane, the picture by Patrick McDonnell about Jane Goodall’s childhood, to Jane Goodall: the Woman Who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson, there are a number of accessible books for every type of reader.

Primate Research. We’ve included nonfiction books such as Pamela S. Turner’s Gorilla Doctors and Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wick’s Primates, a graphic novel about the three women who devoted so much of their loves to studying primates: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas.

Chimpanzees. Dr. Goodall’s research is specifically about chimpanzees so companion books such as Michele Colon’s Termites on a Stick and Dr. Goodall’s Chimpanzees I Love: Saving Their World and Ours are suggested.

Fiction. Many excellent novels have been written about primates and Africa and conservation, ranging from realism to science fiction and a novel based on a true story. Among our list, you’ll find Linda Sue Park’s A Long to Water and Eva by Peter Dickinson and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

World-Changing Women and Women Scientists. Here you’ll find picture book biographies, longer nonfiction books, and collections of short biographies such as Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh, Silk & Venom by Kathryn Lasky, and Rad American Women: A to Z by Kate Schatz.

Africa. The titles about, or set on, this continent are numerous. Learning About Africa by Robin Koontz provides a useful and current introduction to the continent. We also looked for books by authors who were born in or lived for a while in an African country; Next Stop—Zanzibar! by Niki Daly and Magic Gourd by Coretta Scott King Honoree Baba Wague Diakiteare are included in this section.

Animal Friendships. Children and adults alike crave these stories about unlikely friendships between animals who don’t normally hang around together. From Catherine Thimmesh’s Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships to Marion Dane Bauer’s A Mama for Owen, you’ll be charmed by these books.

Animals In Danger of Extinction. We’ve included only two books in this category but both of them should be stars in your booktalks. Counting Lions by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Stephen Walton, is a stunning book—do find it! Dr. Goodall contributes a moving book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink.

Teaching Science. If you’re working with young children in grades K through 2, you’ll want Perfect Pairs by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley. For older students in grades 3 through 6, Picture-Perfect Science Lessons will inspire you.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.

Downloadables

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Melissa Stewart: A Different View

9_30BubblesRecently, I spent several weeks struggling with a work in progress. Day after day, the words just wouldn’t flow.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s no way to force a stubborn manuscript. I just have to focus on something else until my mind somehow sorts things out. Sometimes I begin work on a different book, but in this case, I decided to tackle a long-neglected task—organizing my digital photos.

As I sorted images, I stumbled upon this fun photo of my nieces when they were 6 and 8 years old. What are they doing? They’re discussing the rainbow patterns in the soap bubbles they just blew—a pursuit I approve of whole heartedly.

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Seeing this photo reminded me of another experience I had with my nieces the same summer. We were out in the backyard doing somersaults and cartwheels (Well, they were doing the gymnastics. I was the delighted audience.) when my younger niece suddenly stopped mid-tumble—butt in the air, head between her legs.

“Wow,” she said. “I never looked at the sky like this before. It’s beautiful. Try it, Aunt Mis.”

Sure, I wanted to uphold my status as her favorite aunt, but I was also curious. So I walked out onto the grass and mimicked her position. And do you know what? She was right. The sky really was extraordinarily beautiful.

My other niece joined us, and all three of us stayed in that position, just gazing at the stunning  blue sky for quite a while—until the blood rushed to our heads.

Thinking about that day reminded me that looking at something from another point of view—turning it upside down or inside out—can help us appreciate it in a whole new way. Inspired by that memory, I decided to read portions of my troublesome manuscript while lying on my back with my head dangling upside down off the edge of the bed.

Sounds crazy, right?

But guess what. A few hours later I was suddenly struck by an idea, an insight. Something had shifted in my mind, and I was able to see my writing in a whole new way. Eureka!

For the last few days, I’ve been revising like mad. I’m still not sure if this new approach will work, but I’m feeling optimistic.

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Teaching K-2 Science with Confidence

Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction and Nonfiction Books to Teach Life Science, K-2
Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley
Stenhouse Books, 2014

Authentic science always begins with a question, with a fleeting thought, with a curious person. That curious person has an idea, wonders if it is valid, and then tries to find out. Because wondering is at the heart of discovery, each Perfect Pairs lesson starts with a Wonder Statement that we’ve carefully crafted to address one Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectation. It is followed by a Learning Goal, which clearly specifies the new knowledge and essential understanding students will gain from the lesson. Together, the Wonder Statement, Learning Goal, and fiction-nonfiction book pair launch students into a fun and meaningful investigative process. (Perfect Pairs, pg. 8)

Perfect PairsMelissa Stewart, you and educator Nancy Chesley created Perfect Pairs for teachers because you felt that children’s literature could be a fun and effective starting point for teaching life science to students in grades K-2.

In your introduction, you state that “many elementary teachers do not have a strong science background. Some even report being intimidated by their school’s science curriculum and feel ill-equipped to teach basic science concepts. Building science lessons around children’s books enables many elementary educators to approach science instruction with greater confidence.”

Why does this matter to you?

Because students can tell when their teachers are comfortable and confident, and when they’re having fun. If a teacher has a positive attitude, his or her students are more likely to stay engaged and embrace the content.

So many adults are turned off by or even afraid of science. They say, “Oh, that’s hard. That’s not for me.” But science is just the study of how our wonderful world works. It affects everything we do every day. I hope that Perfect Pairs will help teachers and students to see that.

What type of science education did you receive that propels you to provide this aid to educators?

I do have a degree in biology, but my science education really began at home with my parents. My dad was an engineer and my mom worked in a medical laboratory. From a very young age, they helped me see that science is part of our lives every day.

As a children’s book author, my goal is to share the beauty and wonder of the natural world with young readers. Perfect Pairs is an extension of that mission. Nancy and I have created a resource to help teachers bring that message to their students.

For each lesson, where did you start making your choices, with the topic, the fiction book, or the nonfiction book?

We began with the NGSS Performance Expectations, which outline the concepts and skills students are expected to master at each grade level.  Each PE has three parts—a disciplinary core idea (the content), a practice (behaviors young scientists should engage in, such as asking questions, developing models, planning and carrying out investigations, constructing explanations, etc.), and a cross-cutting concept (pattern, cause and effect, structure and function, etc.) that bridges all areas of science and engineering. Here’s a sample PE for kindergarten: “Use observations to describe [practice] patterns [crosscutting concept] of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. [DCI]

Just Like My Papa and Bluebirds Do ItNext, we searched for fiction and nonfiction books that could be used to help students gain an understanding of the target PE. The books became the heart of a carefully scaffolded lesson that fully addressed the PE.

In Lesson 1.7,How Young Animals Are Like Their Parents,” you paired Toni Buzzeo’s fiction title Just Like My Papa with Pamela F. Kirby’s nonfiction title, What Bluebirds Do. For this lesson, the Wonder Statement is “I wonder how young animals are like their parents.” Your lesson focuses on Inheritance of Traits and Variation of Traits, looking at similarities and differences.

With each lesson, you provide tips for lesson preparation, engaging students, exploring with students, and encouraging students to draw conclusions. What process is this establishing for teachers?

We hope that our three-step investigative process (engaging students, exploring with students, and encouraging students to draw conclusions) is something that teachers will internalize and adopt as they develop more science lessons in the future. The first step focuses on whetting students’ appetites with a fun activity or game. During the second step, teachers read the books aloud and work with students to extract and organize key content from the fiction and nonfiction texts. Then, during the final step, students synthesize the information from the books and     do a fun minds-on activity that involves the NGSS practice associated with the PE. The practices are important because research shows that children learn better when they actually “do” science.

This Wonder Journal entry shows what a student thinks a young bluebird might look like, pg 149.

This Wonder Journal entry shows what a student thinks a young bluebird might look like, pg 149.

In many cases, you’ve not only provided questions that teachers can ask their students, but you’ve included the answers.  Is this the only possible answer to the question?  

In many cases, we’ve included answers to help the teacher learn the science before working with his or her class. Many elementary teachers have a limited science background and need the support we’ve provided.

Our answers may not be the only ones that students suggest, but they are the ones teachers should guide their class to consider because they develop student thinking in the right direction for the concepts we are targeting in that particular lesson.

Establishing a STEM bookshelf in your classroom is one way to promote reading these books as a special experience.

Establishing a STEM bookshelf in your classroom is one way to promote reading these books as a special experience.

I appreciate the photos and examples and kids’ drawings you’ve included throughout the book. How did you go about collecting these visuals?

Nancy tested all the lessons in the book at Pownal Elementary School in Maine. She took the photographs as she was working with the students, and the student work in the book was created by those children. I love the photos because you can tell that the children are really enjoying themselves.

Students play the seed-plant Concentration game, pg. 225

Students play the seed-plant Concentration game, pg. 225

You provide more than 70 reproducibles to accompany the lessons in your book, from Wonder Journal Labels to Readers’ Theater Script to sample Data Tables to drawing templates. How did you decide which items to provide to teachers using your book?

Writing can be a challenge for K-2 students. We created the Wonder Journal Labels to minimize the amount of writing the children would have to do. The goal of the other reproducibles was to help teachers as much as possible and reduce their prep time. It was important to us to create lessons that were easy and inexpensive to implement.

Lesson 1.7 Wonder Journal Labels, pg. 299

Lesson 1.7 Wonder Journal Labels, pg. 299

To Melissa and Nancy, I express my gratitude for thoughtfully preparing this guide, Perfect Pairs, that will make science lessons an approachable part of lesson planning. Thank you!

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Skinny Dip with Melissa Stewart

Feathers

Charlesbridge, 2014

What keeps you up at night? 

Nothing. I fall asleep the instant my head touches the pillow, and I’m probably the world’s soundest sleeper.

Describe your all-time favorite pair of pajamas.

When I was in college, I spent a term at the University of Bath in Bath, England, and rented a room at a house nearby. Because heating oil is so expensive in Great Britain, most people keep their homes very cool in winter. My little room at the top of the house was freezing. Luckily, my mom found a pair of adult-size pajamas with feet and sent them to me along with a very warm hat and mittens. I was so grateful.

What’s the first book you remember reading? 

Mr. Mysterious and Company by Sid Fleischman. I’m thrilled that I was able to meet Mr. Fleischman and tell him how much his book meant to me.

What TV show can’t you turn off? 

The Voice.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal? 

I’m not very athletic, but I do like miniature golf. I don’t think that’s an Olympic sport, but it should be.

 

 

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Melissa Stewart: A Fresh Look at Expository Nonfiction

No Monkeys No Chocolate

No Monkeys, No Chocolate Allen Young, co-author illustrated by Nicole Wang Charlesbridge, 2013

by Melissa Stewart

Narrative nonfiction. The words have a nice ring to them, don’t they?

Expository nonfiction? Not so much.

Rhymes with gory, purgatory, derogatory, lavatory. Gesh, it’s no wonder expository nonfiction gets a bad rap. And yet, plenty of great nonfiction for kids is expository. Its main purpose is to explain, describe, or inform.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a golden moment for expository nonfiction because, in recent years, it’s gone through an exciting transformation. Once upon a time, it was boring and stodgy and matter-of-fact, but today’s nonfiction books MUST delight as well as inform young readers, and authors are working hard to do just that. The expository books we’re creating feature engaging text, often with a strong voice, as well as dynamic art and design.

Here are ten of my recent favorites:

  • A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano
  • Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sarah Levine
  • Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge
  • Bugged: How Insects Changed the World by Sarah Albee
  • Creature Features by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
  • Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart
  • Frogs by Nic Bishop
  • Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate
  • Neo Leo by Gene Barretta
  • Tiny Creatures: The Invisible World of Microbes by Nicola Davies
Feathers

Feathers
Sarah S. Brannen, illustrator
Charlesbridge, 2014

There is also a second kind of expository nonfiction books. Some people call them data books. I prefer to call them fast-fact books to distinguish them from the facts-plus books listed above.

Facts-plus books focus on facts as well as overarching ideas. In other words, they present facts and explain them. Fast-fact books focus on sharing cool facts. Period. They inform, and that’s all. Examples include The Guinness Book of World Records and The Time for Kids Big Book of Why. These are the concise, fact-filled books that groups of boys love to read together and discuss.

Some people don’t have a very high opinion of fast-fact books, and to be sure, they don’t build reading stamina or critical thinking skills. BUT they do entice many reluctant readers to pick up a book, and IMHO that alone makes them worthwhile.

Why do students need to be exposed to a diverse array of expository texts? Because it’s the style of nonfiction they’ll be asked to write most frequently throughout their school years and in their future jobs. Whether they’re working on a report, a thesis, a business proposal, or even a company newsletter, they’ll need to know how to summarize information and synthesize ideas in a way that is clear, logical, and interesting to their readers. Today’s expository children’s books make ideal mentor texts for modeling these skills.

 

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From the Editor: Welcome

by Marsha Qualey

Welcome to Bookology.

WelcomeWhat began almost a year ago as a conversation among colleagues has now taken shape and arrived on your virtual doorstep: an e-magazine dedicated to nurturing the essential conversation about the role of children’s books in the K-8 classroom.

That meeting was convened by Vicki and Steve Palmquist, owners and founders of Winding Oak and perhaps more familiar to many of you as the founders and heartbeat of Children’s Literature Network, an organization they rolled up last year after providing 12 years of leadership as well as an unparalleled online platform for communication between children’s book creators and the adults who love those books.

Vicki and Steve wanted to create a similar online presence, one that would not only highlight the work of Winding Oak’s many clients, but which would also invite a larger network of readers, writers, illustrators, teachers, and librarians into the conversation.

A quick guide to what you’ll see each month:

A Bookstorm ™.  Each “storm” begins with one book. From there we spin out a cross-curriculum array of subjects and provide titles for each category. Common Core, STEM/STEAM, state standards—any curriculum structure will be served by the Bookstorm™ bibliography. But we also go beyond a simple list, and each month much of the Bookology content we present will emanate from the Bookstorm™ titles.

Columns.  Whether written by one of our regulars or a guest writer, these posts are intended to share the voices of people immersed in the world of children’s literature. We are especially delighted to launch “Knock Knock,” a blog collective from Winding Oak’s many clients that will appear on alternate Tuesdays. Heather Vogel Frederick gamely accepted the assignment to write the inaugural column; she’ll be followed up later this month by Melissa Stewart and Avi.

Interviews and articles. We will be visiting with illustrators, writers, teachers, librarians and others in order to expand what we all know and understand about children’s literature. We’ll also be offering a lighter, more humorous getting-to-know-you interview venue: Skinny Dips, in which we ask about almost anything except the creative process.

We will scatter about the magazine features and incidentals we hope will be of interest, such as Literary Madeleines—discoveries that even the veteran readers on the staff savored—and Timelines, quick at-a-glance looks at seminal books in a genre or subject. Contest, quizzes, and book-giveaways will also appear throughout the month.

What you won’t see are book reviews. While many of our articles and columns will of course discuss and recommend books, those recommendations will always be in context of a larger topic. There are plenty of book review forums available, and we weren’t interested in adding to those voices.

And for now you won’t see “Comments” sections. This is ironic of course in view of our stated mission of nurturing a conversation; we’ll open those, and soon. In the meantime, should you have a comment or suggestion or request, send me a note.  marsha.qualey@bookologymagazine.com

Thanks for your time and interest. Now please go explore Bookology.

 

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Bank Street’s 2010 Choices

We eagerly await the annual list of books chosen by the Bank Street College of Education as books that work well with children from birth to age 14. Each year, the Children’s Book Committee reviews over 6000 titles each year for accuracy and literary quality and considers their emotional impact on children. It chooses the […]

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Monday Morning Round-Up

From Wendell Minor comes this news (applause, please),  “It′s official: the original art from Look to the Stars will be included in the permanent collection of The New Britain Museum of American Art, and the original art from Abraham Lincoln Comes Home will be included in the permanent collection of The Norman Rockwell Museum. Watch […]

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Monday morning roundup

Hey, Joyce Sidman, your new book, Ubiquitous, has done the Most Unusual … five starred reviews! In 2009, only 13 books received five starred reviews (if you’re curious, check out the Seeing Stars 2009 document, stored on Radar, the CLN members’ home page). Booklist, The Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal […]

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