When I looked over all of my fall assessments and I added that to observations of students over the last month or two, I knew that I needed to spend time on Nonfiction Reading. Even by 4th grade, my students have not really found nonfiction that they love. They read nonfiction only when they have to. I have spent years building a decent collection of nonfiction books--books that are not connected to any content unit that we study, but just great nonfiction books. Even though I've tried to incorporate lots of nonfiction since August, I knew December would be the month that we really dug in.
Then I went to hear Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts at NCTE. And I was reminded, as I was often at the convention, that I need to SLOW DOWN. I have somehow pressured myself with a teaching pace this year that I know is not good for kids. So, in December, I am taking lots of time to help kids fall in love with nonfiction reading and to think about the kinds of writing that might go along with that. Kate mentioned a yearlong study of notetaking and that idea was so freeing for me. I am going to spend reading workshop minilesson time, writing workshop time and content time, really discovering all that nonfiction reading and writing has to offer. A study on writing around nonfiction (notetaking and more without any finished product) will be part of this month's work.
Some goals for the month include:
-falling in love with nonfiction as a genre
-noticing different ways that authors approach nonfiction writing
-finding nonfiction authors and series to love
-developing tastes as nonfiction readers
-playing with notetaking with nonfiction--taking notes on thinking
-trying out various notetaking techniques and discovering how/when it makes sense to use them
-discovering nonfiction beyond text (websites, videos, slideshows, etc.)
-finding topics of interest (new and old)
-how we approach assigned reading differently from choice reading
As part of this study, I have decided to read aloud/think aloud a book from a series I love. I love the Scientists in the Field series and I recently purchased The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity (Scientists in the Field Series)
by Elizabeth Rusch. I know almost nothing about the Mars Rovers but loved that this was the topic of a new book in this series. So, I've decided to read aloud this book over the next week or two, without having really looked at it much at all. I want my students to see my true thinking when reading a book that is interesting to me (a little) --one that I have very little background knowledge with. This is a longer book so I am thinking my thinking, my notetaking, my questions, the resources I look to for more information will be authentic. This will be just one piece of our week but one that will be interesting for all of us, I think. This is also a longer nonfiction book so I am thinking the whole idea of stamina with a topic will come up---reading beyond short articles for more information. This is probably not the best place to start with my reading on a new topic. So I may pull up some articles --Wonderopolis has a few related articles that might help. (I'm also revisiting Chris Lehman's new book ENERGIZE RESEARCH READING AND WRITING--it is good to revisit it after I heard him speak at the convention.)
Another part of this week will be exploring lots of nonfiction books--getting their hands on books that have been sitting on the classroom shelves. I am hoping by the end of the week, they have discovered the genius of Steve Jenkins and Nic Bishop. I am hoping that a few kids have fallen in love with the Face to Face series. I am hoping that we build some baskets around certain topics of interest.
This week is all about rediscovering nonfiction as readers. I don't think it will be hard--there is lots of great nonfiction to fall in love with. I just need to give kids time to dig in with some minilesson support along the way.
Below are some tweets from Chris and Kate's session. Lots to think about.