Monday, January 28, 2013

what's new in nonfiction?

The American Library Association announced a number of awards this morning (including - among others - the Caldecott, Newbery, Belpré, Geisel, and Printz Awards), and The National Council of Teachers of English announced the Orbis Pictus Awards last week. I get pretty excited when the announcements are made, though I am usually woefully behind on my reading and rush to get the books ordered so I can be prepared to discuss them with other nerdy bibliophiles.

For this post, I’m going to focus on high-quality nonfiction resources, so I’ll focus on the Orbis Pictus and Sibert Awards, as well as some awesome nonfiction resources out there for you.

The NCTE Orbis Pictus Award recognizes excellence in nonfiction for children. The award’s name honors Johannes Amos Comenius and his work Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures, the 1657 children’s book considered to be the first of its kind. Children’s books that are reviewed for the award include biography, (excluding textbooks), historical fiction, folklore, or poetry, and must have been published in the United States during the previous calendar year.  The Orbis Pictus winner this year went to Monsieur Marceau: Actor without Words by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Gérard DuBois. The 2013 Honorable Mention books include: Citizen Scientist: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns, photographs by Ellen; Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd; The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch; Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edward Fotheringham; and We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson.

The Robert F. Sibert Award is awarded by the American Library Association, and named in honor of Robert F. Sibert, the long-time President of Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc. of Jacksonville, Illinois. The 2013 winner of the Sibert Award is Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, written by Steve Sheinkin. Three honor books were also selected, including: Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, written and illustrated by Robert Byrd; Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95, written by Phillip M. Hoose; and Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, written by Deborah Hopkinson.
So, these are some places to go to find high quality nonfiction. But what do you do with them once you have them in your classroom?

The thoughtful teachers at the blog Teach Mentor Texts have started a new regular feature on their site: Nonfiction Wednesdays. This is a place they discuss some current nonfiction for children, as well as some uses for each text. The site in general is a fantastic resource, and I’m very excited about the Nonfiction Wednesday addition.

There are many great lesson plans at Read Write Think to help teachers plan to incorporate nonfiction into their teaching.

The Teaching Channel has some videos posted to help teachers see how different instructional strategies can be used with nonfiction. Here’s a link to one on using an inquiry-based model to discuss nonfiction.

Another place for good resources are the professional organizations for your content area. Check out posts I've written about all content areas here.

Nonfiction has gotten a lot of buzz the last couple years with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, standards that MN has adopted and added to for the new 2010 MN ELA Academic Standards. There has been some misinformation and misinterpretation of the CCSS, particularly around the recommendation for nonfiction texts. Carol Jago, past president of NCTE,discusses the misinterpretation here in an article for The Washington Post. It’s good food for thought about the role of all teachers, both ELA and all other contents, to meet the requirements for the CCSS.


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