Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Part 3 B

This is the fourth post in a three four post series highlighting how to use more nonfiction in the primary/early intermediate classroom. The first three posts can be found here:

Part 1: Everywhere you look . . . let there be nonfiction!

Part 2: The importance of the nonfiction read aloud

Part 3: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together 

3A Generating excitement, making choices and having time to read

Here is the the 3B of Part #3 (Yes, really Part 4, I know!)

3B Reading and working with the texts 

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

This post will address these questions:

  • How to begin locating and recording facts from nonfiction text
  • What kinds of activities can students do in pairs or small groups with nonfiction text?
  • Which books are great for students beginning to read and interact with nonfiction text independently?

While I am going to share a number of activities you can use to have students interact with nonfiction texts, I do want to gently remind teachers that we need to ensure there is a balance between independent free choice reading of nonfiction texts and using nonfiction to begin learning research skills and other skills involved in finding and reacting to information in nonfiction books. Yes, it is important that our students know that nonfiction books are a place to go to find information. But, we also need to make sure students associate nonfiction reading with pleasure reading. Don’t overdo the “work” with nonfiction at the expense of the pure enjoyment and time to just explore!

While I do additional work in small groups to give students more practice, I teach a lot of information about the structure of nonfiction texts as a whole group while I book talk nonfiction books and share read alouds. It is something that we work on all year. So when I am launching the activities that I describe below, we have already been learning about:

  • how to navigate a nonfiction book
  • different ways to read nonfiction books i.e. not needing to start at the beginning
  • what are the text features
  • how to use the text features
  • various nonfiction genres

I find that if we launch right into activities where students are expected to find specific information, some students who need more time to explore, become discouraged. A more self-paced activity works better where students can look at a variety of texts or one text in more depth. One of the first things I do when we begin interacting with nonfiction text is what I call “fact search blitzes.”

I make a sheet for students to fill in that has a frame that looks like this (repeated down the page:

On page __________ of  ____________________ (title), I found out that __________________________________________________________.

We put out bins and displays of books and the children select a title and search through for an interesting fact. Some students are very independent and work without much support recording multiple facts. Other students need a lot of guidance finding titles and selecting information to share. I try to have lots of adults in the room when we first do this activity so everyone feels successful. There is usually quite a buzz of excitement and students who want to share their learning instantly. I love the chatter as they work. Sometimes we cut up our sheet and separate the facts into categories on large chart paper like Animal Facts, Facts about our World, etc.

What is great about this activity is that there is no right answer and everyone can work at his or her own pace. Students get to really explore the nonfiction titles in the classroom collection and dive in to some books in more detail. They also begin to learn to extract interesting information from the page. And, everyone gets talking about what is learned!

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

Small Group Work:

Our Teacher Librarian, Ms. S works with my class everyday during Reading Workshop. I also try to organize some of my Resource Teacher support to happen at this time. This allows one of us to work with small groups to practice working more independently with nonfiction text on specific days of the week. We work in the hallway, the library or a different area of the classroom.

Here students are looking for nonfiction features from  a variety of texts and discussing purposes of the features in the book. This group was delighted that some nonfiction books have quizzes, jokes and puzzles!

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for ThatStudents enjoy working with a partner to explore specific texts. After I worked through this process with the small group, students worked with a partner and a specific text to go through the same process. Working with a partner with lots of time to discuss the topic and share the reading made the experience much more interesting. With less time, I have the pairs do step one and two orally. Note – this process takes a few class periods.

  1. Before you start reading, list everything you know about this specific creature (could be any topic but we were reading books about animals and insects)
  2. Next, make a Wonder Web to record all the questions that you have.
  3. Now read the text and chart important facts (I tell them that this is part of being a “fact detective”)
  4. Go back to your questions and check off the ones that you answered.
  5. What is left on your list? How could you find out more information to your unanswered questions?

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for ThatI shared some of the “talk” I overheard while these students worked with these Backyard Book titles in this post. I am a firm believer in discussion and sharing both learning and thinking when working with nonfiction books!

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

Another activity I have students do when working with magazine articles or specific nonfiction titles allows them to practice a number of skills: accessing prior knowledge, generating questions, reading for information and determining importance.

First students talk about and chart what they know about a particular topic.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

They share all of the things that they wonder in a large web.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

This is a chart we created together to help us think about what kinds of questions we might want to ask and also to help with determining important facts (see below).

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

After the group (or pair) read through the article/book, their task is to decide on what they think are the five most important facts. I love the arguments  discussions that occur. The “talk” is where the most learning happens, I always think.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

I mentioned using the Knew/New chart format in the second post in this series. This idea is from Adrienne Gear and her Nonfiction Reading Power book and it is something I use frequently with my students.

Here, students spent time reading titles from our National Geographic Readers collection. With their partner they noted down information on their charts – under new for something new they learned and under knew for information that they already knew. We then did a Gallery Walk to explore the information shared on all of the charts.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Reading and Working with the Texts There's a Book for That

After working with nonfiction books and doing these kind of activities multiple times, students are more comfortable moving into small research projects, collecting information to do specific kinds of nonfiction writing and searching for information to support their learning on a particular topic. At this age (late primary) it is all about practice, practice, practice!

Selecting books for students to read for independent/partner work with text:

I look for the following things when I am searching for titles for independent practice:

  • full colour interesting photographs and/or realistic, engaging illustrations
  • labelled diagrams and close up photos with labels
  • easy to use features like maps, life cycle charts, comparison charts
  • navigation ease via table of contents, index and headings
  • new words defined on the page or easy to find in the glossary
  • fact boxes for skimming and scanning
  • text complexity – words on the page, organization, easy to follow headings
  • “interest meter” for students this age (changes with each group of children)
  • is it part of a series or a collection so familiarity of structure can be a bridge to other books in same series

Here are a number of titles that my students can manage on their own when working with the text to pull information. A note – I have been teaching mostly Grades 2 and 3 for the last 15 years and many of my students are English Language Learners. These books are great for partner work, buddy reading and individual practice. I also often use magazines from the Owl Kids family: Owl, Chickadee and Chirp. I’m sure there is a similar magazine series in the U.S. and other countries. My students love these magazines and I have bins of back issues discarded from the library or donated to the school.

Many of these titles are part of a series or nonfiction collection. I have only showcased one or two titles. If there are any questions about any of these titles, please ask in the comment section or contact me via twitter @CarrieGelson I know how challenging it can be to find books that our primary students can manage on their own – especially for readers who are just building their confidence. Many of these titles have great images and text features to help support successful reading.

Nonfiction Titles for Reading Independently  -  Reading and Working with the Texts

Nonfiction Titles for Reading Independently  -  Reading and Working with the Texts

Nonfiction Titles for Reading Independently  -  Reading and Working with the Texts

Are there any titles your primary students manage well independently? Please share in the comment section!

Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Part 2

This post is part of a 3 part series about using more nonfiction titles in our Elementary classrooms. A link to the first post is included here:

Part 1: Everywhere you look . . . let there be nonfiction!

The intention with each of these posts is to share a practical “how to” list of how to read more, celebrate more and use more nonfiction picture books in the late primary/early intermediate classroom. For reference, last year I taught a Grade 2/3/4 class.

Teaching with a passion for nonfiction picture books:

Part 2: The importance of the nonfiction read aloud

The message of this post is simple: read more nonfiction titles aloud more often!

Wanting to do that is the easy part. Finding the time in our busy schedules is another thing! Here is how I have managed to find more time to share more nonfiction in my classroom.

 Teaching with a Passion for Nonfiction Books: Part 2  The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

Set aside designated time to read nonfiction titles 

Block nonfiction read aloud into your weekly schedule. Don’t trust that you will alternate fiction and nonfiction read alouds. Sharing picture books and poetry and novels needs designated time as well. If you are already doing those things well, you see many benefits to reading fiction aloud and you won’t want to give it up. When you actually schedule time to read aloud nonfiction, it won’t be instead of anything else. Nonfiction can play the starring role. I have two 40 minute blocks of time a week for nonfiction read aloud. This is at minimum – I often fit more time in during other parts of the week.

Of course, that still doesn’t answer this question: What are things you might give up in your schedule to fit in more nonfiction time? I always think we can be strategic to find time for things that we value. Thinking about some of these things might help.

  • Build oral language skills (listening, speaking, retelling, summarizing, asking questions, etc. ) during your read aloud session. The listening and speaking component of Language Arts needs dedicated time in our schedules. Why not build a lot of these skills while sharing nonfiction titles? We often use nonfiction read aloud time to really develop these skills. This is when we do much of our “turn and talk” time with a partner or a small group. Students have the chance to share out to the whole group, listen attentively, build on other comments or questions and practice predicting and inferring. We also work on summarizing, listening for specific information and asking questions. All of this talk time to review makes a huge difference in how much information students recall. I have the students do some of the following things with their “turn and talk” partner or small group as we work through a nonfiction title over multiple read aloud sessions:
  1. Share what you already know about this topic. Sometimes I have the students share facts (questions are okay too) back and forth one fact at a time to really practice turn taking. For example, if we are going to read a book about elephants, the exchange might sound something like “They are huge” “They live in Africa” “They have a trunk” “They use their trunk to drink” “Is their trunk like a nose? Do they even have a nose?” “Their skin is wrinkly and grey” “I think they eat leaves”
  2. Talk about some things you are wondering.
  3. Answer specific questions based on an image on the page i.e. Look at this picture of the hippo in the water, why do you think hippos spend so much time in the water?
  4. List at least 3 (or more) new facts we learned yesterday about __________ (refer to specific section of the book)
  5. What is the most interesting thing you have learned so far?
  6. Explain _________ to your partner. Partners, was any important part missed? For example: Explain the differences we have learned about crocodiles and alligators.
  7. What are you hoping we will still find out?
  8. Listen to the next heading (or chapter title) what do you think we might read about in this section?
  9. Which of our questions never got answered?
  • Use your nonfiction read alouds to support curricular themes in science and social studies. This is huge. I launch every unit/theme with a book, often multiple books! Enhance the rich learning that nonfiction titles help us support through discussion, reflection writing, vocabulary building and opportunities to retell and summarize our new learning in a variety of ways.

Here are some examples of the “work” we do with nonfiction titles in my classroom. We are reading great books and covering curriculum!

After reading When the Giant Stirred: Legend of a Volcanic Island by Celia Godkin and some sections from a variety of nonfiction books about volcanoes, students completed a labelled diagram of the parts of the volcano.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

We then completed a paper bag volcano experiment where small groups had to follow a series of oral and posted instructions.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

As we read, we keep track of questions we are wondering so we can revisit as we read and when we are finished the story. Students love to notice, “Now we know the answer to that one!” Reading No Monkeys, No Chocolate written by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young (with illustrations by Nicole Wong) took us multiple read aloud sessions. There was so much to learn in this book!

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

I love when another adult can work collaboratively in the room with me. As we read aloud, we ask the children to provide us with any key words from the text after every few pages and one of us notes them down on chart paper. Both of us can then circulate during “turn and talk time” instead of one person trying to balance all of the pieces of guiding the lesson. These key words help the students when they are doing reflective or summary writing.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

We also often list questions from the students during the read aloud and then code them when we are finished reading. Did our questions get answered? Do we need to do some research? Or can we infer to figure out the answer. R = Research I = Infer FO= Found Out If we want students to do writing, we might provide prompts like those listed below and have them look at our questions on chart paper to help guide their responses.

  • I discovered . . .
  • We found out that . . .
  • Now that I know _________, I think ___________
  • I am still wondering . . .
  • I still have some questions.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

Sometimes, my Resource Teacher (RT) comes into support writing when we have already read a story aloud and done a lot of the thinking work. I have different students take turns summarizing what happened in the book. This allows the RT to be caught up with the information and provides the opportunities for different students to practice summarizing and sharing key points.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

One of our favourite activities to do with nonfiction titles (especially if we are reading more than one text on the topic) is to fill out a Knew/New Chart. This idea is from Adrienne Gear and her Nonfiction Reading Power book (which is amazing if you don’t have it!) We filled out this chart after reading both Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau written by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Éric Puybaret and The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jaques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

Read aloud some more!

Get creative about using nonfiction titles throughout your week. It’s easy to find ways to share more nonfiction titles to support things you are already doing.

  • Use specific nonfiction titles for those ten to fifteen minute times that happen upon you in the classroom. Kids actually cleaned up and are ready before the bell? The presentation is late in the gym? The play finished early? Use that “found time” to share nonfiction titles. I always have two or three titles in a bin beside our carpet area ready to do just that. Many of these books can be shared a page at a time with lots of success. Some of my favourites for this purpose? Titles by Steve Jenkins feature big here!

Found Time? Read some nonfiction! The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

  • Model ways to buddy read with nonfiction titles. Are your kids big buddy readers to a younger class? I like to model how to share various books with my students so their buddy reading time is more successful and fun. I often choose nonfiction titles to do this. First, I get to share these as read alouds and then my students, in turn, share them. My favourites for this purpose?

Nonfiction Titles perfect for buddy reading The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

  • Inspire an art project! Launch an art project with a nonfiction title. Some of my favourite books to do just that:

Use nonfiction to inspire an art project The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

A few recent of art projects inspired by nonfiction books.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

This image (above) was complimented by Nicola Davies author of One Tiny Turtle (that inspired this book) Below some students are painting their turtles.

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

Teaching with a Passion for nonfiction: Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

And how can I end this post without sharing some of my very favourite nonfiction to read aloud? Here are some titles that I have used with a lot of success in my primary/early intermediate classroom. Rich, rich learning opportunities!

 Fantastic Nonfiction to read aloud Part 2 The importance of the nonfiction read aloud There's a Book for That

I know there are many teachers out there doing amazing things with nonfiction texts in their classroom. This post is hardly a comprehensive list of everything that can be done with the read aloud and is not intended to touch on how to teach specific nonfiction genres. Please share your own ideas and links in the comment section! Let’s continue the nonfiction conversation.

Next post? Part 3: Interacting with nonfiction: getting students reading, thinking and talking together 

3A: Generating excitement, making choices and having time to read

3 B: Reading and working with the texts 


Celebration: Bookish Things

celebrate link up

Celebration honoured. This is the loveliest of reasons to share. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week.

This week I am celebrating bookish things. Unfortunately, my family and I have been ill for much of the week – so my week started with a bang and ended much quieter. Book lovers know though that illness creates opportunity for much reading!

#1 Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend Western Washington’s Children Literature Conference (#wwuclc). What an absolutely fantastic and enlightening day!

First of all I was thrilled to meet #NerdybookClub members: L to R Lorna WheatonAdam Shaffer, me, and Shannon Houghton). I know all of these people through twitter and blogging but had never had the opportunity to meet in person. It is amazing how sharing love a love of literature and being passionate about sharing that #booklove has the power to connect. We had much to talk about and share! Hoping that we can all meet again at the next literacy conference in Washington (#wwuclc15)

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

I also did some book shopping. Surprise, surprise! But how could I resist? Our hotel was right across from Village Books and the very same Village Books was selling books by all of the author/photographer/illustrators at the conference.

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

I had wanted to share many things about this conference but being ill has sapped much of my energy. I will let these names speak for themselves: Jennifer Holm. Steve Sheinkin. Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Nic Bishop. I will say that I was completely engrossed in each presentation, in awe of the stories and the passion. I haven’t had such an inspiring or entertaining day for some time. 

I was also honoured to have the chance to introduce photographer/author Nic Bishop. I have been telling my students stories he shared in his presentation all week. My stomach hurt from laughing at his explanations for just how he has taken some of the pictures he has. Before this, I was as curious as my students. We had spent time with Nic Bishop books– many fun ones – Butterflies and Moths, Lizards, Spiders, Frogs, Snakes. I asked the children to explore the books with these questions in mind:

How were these photographs taken?

What skills (besides photography) would the photographer need?

What would be the rewards in this kind of work?

What would be the challenges?

Here are some samples of their questions and observations:

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

#2 Kirby Larson If you don’t know that Kirby Larson is pretty amazing, let me just remind you. Yes, because she writes some incredible books. But also because she sends some pretty significant mail. There is a story here that I can’t completely share. I will just say that this package contained a book that was for a child who needed it for many different reasons. Three adults were able to bear witness to the opening of this package. And . . . wow. Books are gifts. Which makes authors beyond the beyond. Thank you Kirby.

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

#3 Adrienne Gear is my very lovely book loving Vancouver friend who eats books and adores them as voraciously as I do. But she also shares her incredible teaching talent with others through her Reading Power books for teachers. Adrienne’s literacy workshops are some of the most inspiring and feel good (because she is so charming) workshops I have ever attended. This week, Vancouver Kidsbooks hosted a book launch for Adrienne’s fourth book: Nonfiction Writing Power. Check out Adrienne’s website. Buy her book. I happily have all four in my professional collection. Congratulations Adrienne!

Here is the invite from Kidsbooks for Adrienne’s launch and includes images of all of her books:

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

#4  Books, books, books! When life gives you time in bed, take time to read. I’m sure that’s a saying somewhere . . . Well time I had, so in two days of resting I finished one novel and read 5 more. What could be better than that? I will review these titles in my upcoming #IMWAYR post

 Celebration: Bookish Things There's a Book for That

Hoping all of you had much to celebrate this week!

Monday January 20th, 2014

It’s Monday! What are you reading?


Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. One of the very best ways to discover what to read next!

This week I had serious plans to read a number of novels. These plan got put on hold when I went to the library Tuesday evening and came home with stacks and stacks of nonfiction picture books. I fell into a kind of nonfiction reading marathon. I share some of these titles here and some I will share on Wednesday for Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday hosted by KidLit Frenzy.

Here are the picture books (fiction and nonfiction) that I loved this week: 

Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills written by Renee Watson and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Not only a glimpse into the life of Harlem Renaissance singer Florence Mills but a story of courage, commitment and the power to make change. Really enjoyed this picture book biography.

 Harlem's Little Blackbird #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Sophie’s Squash written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

This book passed the “it’s so funny/charming I can’t help giggling” test when I read it aloud to my son. Cute, cute, cute. Charming and then some. A beautiful story about a child who does things a little differently. Not enough books celebrate persistence, creativity and passion in children so well. And whoa . . . the ending! LOVE.

Sophie's Squash #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jaques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

After reading Manfish to my class, I had to read this title! We spent Friday afternoon reading this book and filling out a Knew/New sheet to reflect our learning. (Thanks Adrienne Gear! Love all of the BLMs for reflecting about thinking/learning) Another fantastic picture book biography sharing the life of the inspiring Jacques Cousteau.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jaques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

My students adding some pictures to their thinking:


This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration written by Jaqueline Woodson and illustrated by James Ransome

Lyrical and lovely. A story of family across generations as they move to the big city from the South. The Great Migration represented the movement of African Americans from rural Southern towns to the cities in the North. This migration was inspired by the hope and promise of better treatment, better opportunities and better education. This story weaves a rope through one family’s experience and tells a beautiful story of connection, love and new beginnings.

 This is the Rope #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Carmen Segovia

A delightful winter story – full of humour, charm and spectacular surprises. Read my students’ reviews here. The illustrations are absolutely stunning.

 Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Raven and the Loon written by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley and illustrated by Kim Smith

In the time of before, both raven and loon had all white feathers. They decide to make beautiful coats for each other. The process and the result does not play out perfectly smoothly. An energetic and entertaining Inuit tale.

The raven and the loon #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Umbrella by Ingrid and Dieter Shubert 

I adored this wordless fantasy title. A little bit of fear, a big bit of adventure and the largest bit of flying over stunning landscapes all over the world. I want my own copy of this book . . . Or at least a red umbrella that can take me travelling!

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts About Peace by Anna Grossnickle Hines 

Well to begin with – these illustrations are vibrant, saturated with colour and interesting design. I read a few poems, really liked some, kept reading and soon realized, I liked a lot of these poems. And the why is the important part. They aren’t generally preachy and unrelated to the everyday. They are about the here and now. There are poems that reflect mindfulness (being in the moment), poems that talk about anger, poems that talk about PTS after experiencing war. A lot in this little book of poetry. Some of my favourite lines?

I have never fired a gun

but have shouted words

that pierced and stung.

#IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee

How have I not read this book sooner than this? I adore Marla Frazee. Adore. So I’m not sure how I had yet to pick this title up. Now it is heading off to school with me tomorrow to provide some Monday morning giggles for my students! Let’s just say when a “pee tree” is the cause for a happy ending, this title is guaranteed to have high levels of kid appeal.

 Boot and Shoe #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali

Quite a title. The whole process of creating this book between two illustrators who didn’t share a language and talked via an online translator was fascinating to my students. The images are powerful and full of symbolism at every turn. This title is inspired by the true story of Orundellico (named Jemmy Button) who was taken from his home in Tierra del Fuego to England to experience “civilization.” I think this book is so well done and don’t want to say anymore – go into it with eyes wide open

 Jemmy Button #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore created Libraries for Children written by Jan Pinborough and illustrated by Debby Atwell

Well. . . Anne Carroll Moore now has superhero status as far as I am concerned. Loved this story of how one woman acted as a champion for children’s access to books, libraries and beautiful spaces.

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

I also finished one novel:

Prodigy by Marie Lu

I am quite hooked into this fast paced dystopian tale. Drama. Psychological twists and turns. Unexpected outcomes. I plan to read the final book in this trilogy during the next few weeks.

 Prodigy #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

What’s next? I think I will return to my list of novels from last week that I need to get to – Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick and The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour. 

Reading Goal updates:

2014 Chapter Book Challenge: 5/100 novels complete

Goodeads Challenge: 46/650 books read

#MustReadin2014: 3/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 17/65 complete

Happy Reading everyone!

A Butterfly is Patient

The amazing team of  Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long deliver another picture book masterpiece with their third book A Butterfly is Patient.

This year we have shared An Egg is Quiet (as part of our learning about birds) and A Seed is Sleepy (to supplement our plants/seeds/gardens learning) With both titles we used a modified version of Adrienne Gear‘s Knew-New Connections from her Non-Fiction Reading Power book to represent our learning.

Students were excited to share this book as many had learned about butterflies or even hatched butterflies in their Kindergarten or Grade 1 years and so they had a lot of prior knowledge to connect to their new learning and they were able to represent all of this background knowledge under “I KNEW this already!

A butterfly is helpful (fantastic pollinators)

What is lovely about representing our knowledge on a sheet like this is that it is very open ended. It allows students to document their own learning from exactly where they start. There are no “right” answers. Some facts ended up on “This is NEW to me!” and for others, these same facts were included on, “I KNEW this already!” Being familiar with the sheet allowed students to start organizing their thinking as we read. There were comments like, “Wow. I didn’t know that!” or “Hey that is what we learned last year. Remember how we talked about . . . ” When it came time to write, everyone had lots to say!

Describing prior knowledge and new learning.


Another student example of all the new things he learned today.


Some other student examples from “I KNEW this already!”

*Butterflies help plants make new plants (pollinate)

*I knew that some butterflies have spots that look like eyes on their wings

*They molt (shed their skin)

*I knew they started out as an egg

*Butterflies make chrysalises. They don’t make cocoons

Information shared for “This is NEW to me!”

* I found out that they taste with their feet

*I did not know that butterflies can be poisonous

*I didn’t know that a peacock butterfly can make a hissing sound by rubbing its wings

* I discovered that they drink water from mud puddles

* I didn’t know that butterflies could get water from wet soil

Ice Bear: In the Steps of the Polar Bear

Today we read the Ice Bear (In the Steps of the Polar Bear) written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Gary Blythe. Our goal: to move away from quick questions and begin asking more deep thinking questions.

Polar Bar, Nanuk, is perfectly suited to the Arctic climate and landscape. For many generations, the Inuit people have learned how to live and survive in the Arctic habitat by watching the great Ice Bear. Nicola Davies tells us how polar bears survive in the Northern landscape weaving facts on each page into the beautiful story she tells in such lovely poetic text.

As I read this story aloud, we stopped on each page to share our questions and Ms. Hibbert recorded them. Our curiousity filled three pages of chart paper!

 Deep Thinking Questions: Ice Bear There's a Book for That

We then looked at all of our questions and coded them. FO: Found Out (we discovered the answer in the story as we read on) R: Research (to find the answer, we will have to do some research)  I: Infer (we need to infer to figure out the answer – using our background knowledge and our reasoning)

Coding our questions  Deep Thinking Questions: Ice Bear There's a Book for That

As we looked at the three charts, we noticed that we had very few questions coded FO (Found Out). This is exciting as it means we are asking fewer quick questions and more complex or deep thinking questions. Using Adrienne Gear‘s Non-Fiction Reading Power we have been learning to distinguish between quick and deep thinking questions. For our purposes here – quick questions are questions that we find the answer to (often down the page or a page or two later), where there is only one answer and where once we know the answer, our thinking stops. Deep thinking questions, on the other hand, inspire more questions, often have more than one answer or require us to do research, more thinking and/or talking to come to an answer at all.

Ms. Hibbert and I were also excited to see students asking multipart questions i.e. Do babies have fur? If not, how do they keep warm? or How often does a polar bear eat and does this affect how much it eats at a time? It was also fantastic to see questions inspire other questions between the students. At one point, Shae-Lynn was sitting right beside my chair with her hand up waiting to share her question and listening to others. “Oh!” she suddenly exclaimed, “Now I have three questions!”

Students then went back to their tables to write and draw about their learning and to share what they were still wondering.

 Deep Thinking Questions: Ice Bear There's a Book for That

Some students began reading the books they were looking at for ideas on how to draw a polar bear and talked with each other about what they noticed.

All of a sudden, the research began happening as students realized that they were finding the answers to the unanswered questions we had included on our charts.

 Deep Thinking Questions: Ice Bear There's a Book for That

“Hey Ms. Gelson look what Carmen and I discovered!” Catriona summoned me over. She went on to show me the section in the book they had found that talked about polar bear fur in the water. They discovered that the guard hairs are oily and waterproof and hollow. This answered our question about how polar bears can be such good swimmers and whether or not they had fur that wouldn’t get too wet and heavy.

Look! Read here!  Deep Thinking Questions: Ice Bear There's a Book for That

Some learning shared in student writing:

* Male polar bears weigh more than females. I wonder if they eat more than females as well.

* I think the baby polar bears are more white than the Moms and really cute.

* I know that polar bears are as fast as a snowmobile. Bears eat seals. They use their sharp claws and kill the seals quickly.

* A female polar bear can have 1 to 3 baby cubs at a time

*I found out that when there is zero seals, polar bears will eat grass, dead birds and fish.

Charlie and Kiwi

Right at the time I decided to do a unit on birds in the classroom, this amazing book caught my eye – Charlie and Kiwi. . . an evolutionary adventure – created by Peter H. Reynolds and the NewYork Hall of Science.

I purchased a copy for my son who is intrigued by concepts of evolution and on a shopping trip to Kids Books with Ms. Sheperd-Dynes, Seymour’s Teacher Librarian, I convinced her (wasn’t a hard sell!) to buy a copy for our library. Two copies of this fantastic book meant that when Ms. Hibbert came in on a Thursday afternoon, we could each take half the class and share the book. Smaller groups and an interactive read aloud session means more opportunities for students to share questions, opinions and connections to other learning. We strive to provide many opportunities that allow students to develop oral language skills: listening, speaking in turn, adding to what someone else has said, responding to a question, etc. This book inspired lots of talk!

Story Summary: Charlie needs to write a report about a bird for school. He wanted to choose a bird that nobody else would choose and decided on a kiwi bird. But when he announced his selection to his classmates, they were a little confused. How could this strange flightless creature with whiskers be a bird? Charlie needed to know why the kiwi was so different from other birds and why? The next thing Charlie knows, he is zooming through space with his stuffed kiwi bird heading back in time to meet his Great x 5 Grandpa Charles who happens to be an expert on birds! This time Grandpa, Charlie and kiwi travel back in time to 30 million years ago. Charlie learns how the kiwi bird was just right for life in New Zealand and how and why it had likely evolved to be this way.

Grandpa Charles explains. “Little changes in each generation add up to big changes.”

Then the time travellers are whizzing back through time to meet the very first birds 150 million years ago! Charlie learns that the first birds were actually dinosaurs (with feathers!) So the many diverse birds that we have on the planet today all descended from the first birds – dinosaurs and changed and adapted to survive in different environments. Charlie returns to class armed with this new knowledge and a fossil of an early bird and explains to his class how all birds came from the same ancestor: the dinosaur!

Student reactions: Students then had the opportunity to think about what they had learned and share their learning on a Knew-New Connections sheet (adapted from Adrienne Gear‘s Non-fiction Reading Power text)

Here is some of what they shared:

I KNEW this already!

* Birds lay eggs.  Shae-Lynn

*I knew that most birds fly. Reiko

*I already knew some birds don’t fly. Purity

*I knew that kiwis were birds, not just fruit! Catriona

* Birds eat with their beak. Markus

This is NEW to me!

* Kiwis have a good sense of smell. Khai

* These birds have big feet. Jacky

* Kiwis eat bugs at night. Shae-Lynn

*Dinosaurs lived 150 million years ago! Carmen

* I didn’t know that kiwis say keee weee keee weee. Truman

* I learned that Kiwi Bird whiskers help them hunt in the dark. Raelyn

*Kiwis evolved from birds that flew and changed because of danger in the air and better eating of bugs. Catriona

* I thought a kiwi was a fruit, but I found out it was a bird. Mai

This Knew-New Connections response sheet is an ideal way for students to express their new learning and connect their prior knowledge to new information.

We are hoping that Peter H. Reynolds is going to create more books like this! We learned so much!

An Egg is Quiet and so Much More

We are studying birds but I am very mindful of student interest as we decide on what to learn more about. Last week we read a book about birds and their nests and students were fascinated by the stunning blue of a robin’s egg. Most students wrote about it when asked to write about something new they had learned. So. . . I decided that Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long‘s exquisite book An Egg is Quiet was a must read.


Students were fascinated to learn many new things about eggs – including that many creatures hatch out of an egg, not just birds (reptiles, insects, fish, etc). Sylvia Long’s gorgeous illustrations had everyone mesmerized. With many pages we just gazed at the pictures and chatted to our neighbour about our observations and questions. Sharing was fascinating and we all learned to look at eggs a little differently from each other.

Colours, specks, stripes! Eggs can be so different! We saw eggs that looked like chocolate (a paradise riflebird), eggs that looked like they were covered with sand (a scarlet tanager), eggs that shone (Atlantic salmon) & eggs that looked to be entwined in vines (a common murre). Then . . . fossilized eggs and tubular eggs and eggs that are perfectly round (Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle).

After sharing the book together, students completed a modified sheet from Adrienne Gear‘s Reading Power Non-Fiction book: connecting new learning to what they already knew (New-Knew Connections)

This is Catriona‘s completed sheet:


Carmen shared what she already knew.


Markus shared his new learning:


What I love about this activity is that sharing on the Knew/New sheet allows students to honour prior knowledge, acknowledge new knowledge and start from anywhere. There are no right answers or essential facts – just a sharing of a knowledge base being extended. We spent over an hour with this book and doing our writing and everyone was very engaged. Later, I saw students reading the sheets posted up on the bulletin board and talking about what other students had chosen to highlight. An exciting afternoon learning about how unique, beautiful and fascinating eggs can be!

A wall of learning shared!

A wall of learning shared!

Connecting Stories

Our reading group has been busy reading picture books and writing and drawing about their connections.  We love using this BLM Connecting Stories from Adrienne Gear‘s Reading Power book to help us explain how the story is connected to our own lives.

Jenny read Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes. This is a lovely book about Wemberly who worries about everything!  Now Wemberly is starting school.  This book helps us feel better about starting school, making new friends and growing up.  Jenny writes:

In the story, when Wemberly went to school, she saw someone else just like her. She had a stuffy and she was shy just like Wemberly.

This reminds me of when I had the first day of school. I was shy and then I met Maria. And then when Jocelyn came, we all became friends. And we all made other kids laugh.

Annie read The Best Book to Read by Debbie Bertram.  The fun, rhyming text takes us  along on an adventure to the public library.  How to choose a book when so many are available?  Annie writes about her connection:

In the story, it was a boy who had a field trip to the library. He found lots of books that he wants but he can’t choose some.

This reminds me of  . . . I went to the library and I didn’t know what book to choose. I was confused about choosing books!

Scott chose to read Froggy’s Sleepover by Jonathan London. As expected, Froggy has all kinds of funny escapades on his sleepover at Max’s house.  Lots of giggling happens when someone reads this book about silly sleepover fun! Scott writes:

In the story, Froggy went to a sleepover with Max. They play pillow fight. I think Froggy was happy when they were play fighting.

This reminds me of when I went to a sleepover with my best friend. We play pillow fight too. I feel happy when I played. I connected to Froggy’s happy feelings.

Ms. Hong brought us a lot of books from the Connect bin in the library to add to our classroom collection so that we have many choices when we are choosing books to read. Thanks Ms. Hong!  Everyone is enjoying recognizing how they share feelings with the characters in these stories. This helps us to understand the story better.  We look forward to reading more of these books in the next few weeks.