Category Archives: Nonfiction

Incorporating Field Research into Writing Instruction

Writing Instruction

Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision by Sneed B. Collard III,  and Vicki Spandel

Inexperienced writers often consider research a waste of time. Rather than reading books, watching a documentary, or talking to an expert, they prefer to dive into writing like a penguin chasing a sardine. The problem with this approach is that a writer may dash off a rousing first paragraph only to find she doesn't know enough about her topic to add even one more good line. Thoroughly investigating a topic can solve this problem — and do much, much more. 

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The 6 Comprehension Strategies Every Reader Must Learn

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Kids’ thinking matters. When students begin to understand that their thinking matters, reading changes. Throughout the school day, kids are actively questioning, discussing, arguing, debating, responding, and generating new knowledge. We can’t read kids’ minds, but one way to open a window into their understanding is to help them bring their thinking to the surface by talking and writing about it.

The Primary and Intermediate Comprehension Toolkits emphasize responsive teaching with lessons that explicitly teach the language of thinking. With this metacognitive scaffolding, teachers are able to gradually release to kids the responsibility for comprehending the wide variety of nonfiction texts they encounter. Toolkit lessons strengthen the specific kinds of thinking proficient readers use: six comprehension strategies that research has shown are part of an effective reader’s mental toolkit. The Comprehension Toolkit guides you through the explicit instruction of these six comprehension strategies:

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Writing Engaging Characters for Nonfiction

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Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision: A Professional Writer Shares Strategies, Tips, and Lessons by Sneed B. Collard and Vicki Spandel


Have you ever watched a film that you enjoyed, but afterward had trouble describing— or, worse yet, never thought about again? Unfortunately, many Hollywood movies fall into this category.

They seem well-constructed and crackle with gee-whiz action, yet leave the audience empty and disappointed. Most often, the problem boils down to one issue: there’s no person or thing in the movie that we actually care about. Instead of being character driven, these movies are plot-driven. They are defined by events instead of characters that we actually identify with.

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Taking the Fear Out of Jumping Into Inquiry

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Let's face it, the idea of jumping into student-directed inquiry can be overwhelming. Fears over releasing control to students—and visions of students losing control—can seem like too much to handle to even consider dipping one’s toe into the waters of inquiry. But the truth is, successful student-directed inquiry is a highly structured, adaptable framework that honors kids questions about the world and fits any curriculum. There is no need for it to be scary.

In the following video, author Harvey “Smokey” Daniels talks about how doing inquiry correctly can turn that trepidation into fulfillment and fun for both teachers and students alike.

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The Four Essential Elements of Engaging Science Stories

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The Following is adapted from The Stories of Science: Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening into Science Instruction, 6-12

In The Stories of Science, authors Janet MacNeil, Mark Goldberg, and Melissa London describe how many of the elements of good science stories are meant to grab and hold the attention of the audience. (After all, what value is a story with no audience?) As they put it "In the movie The Never Ending Story, a boy reads a magical book and finds himself falling into the fantasy world described by the author. This is exactly what we want the audience to do when they read, hear, or see science stories."

In the book, the authors point to several strategies are used to lure readers into a story (and keep them there). Here are the four essential elements of engaging science stories:

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When World, Community, or School News is Upsetting

rhendi-rukmana-193672Excerpted from The Curious Classroom by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels

When you live with thirty other human beings for 180 days in a row, sad things and bad things can happen. Individual children or the whole group will encounter struggles, worries, losses, changes, or emergencies. It’s not whether, but when.

Many of these happenings are predictable and expectable. A class pet dies. Then someone breaks a bone. Someone moves away. Someone has a sick parent or grandparent. Someone’s family is in a car crash. There’s a bullying incident on the playground. A big storm rages through town. There’s scary news on TV and adults are agitated about it.

Here are some ways to support students when dealing with these crises in your classroom:

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