Monday, March 26, 2012

An Invitation to Use Nonfiction in the Classroom

Good morning!  Last week was busy with school visits, and everyone was hyped up because of the gloriously warm weather.  Spring sprung so fiercely it jumped right into summer, and the kids' internal clocks jumped right along with it.  Even so, I had several great discussions about how to take a boring, assigned subject and make it exciting for them, and led some rowdy but imaginative storytelling to create new adventures of Joshua the Giant Frog. 

But I wonder when I leave a school if what I have said, or what we have done as a group has made an impact. Do teachers refer back to anything I said days or weeks later?  Do classes revisit the tall tales we wrote together to expand, revise or illustrate?  Do my books ever get pulled off the shelves again? 

In light of the new core curriculum's focus on 50% nonfiction, I would like to think that FOR THE BIRDS might be used to introduce lessons on scientific observation, a bird unit, or even an art lesson.  FARMER GEORGE PLANTS A NATION might have been read in February to celebrate President's Day, but it is even more appropriate to launch a spring project of planting seeds, experimenting with soil, light and moisture conditions.  Farmer George celebrates Earth Day!

I would love to know what librarians and teachers do with my books.  Are they useful?  Do they inspire lessons?  Or do writers have to help bridge the gap between the old standards and the new?  Teachers are way too busy with the everyday chaos of kids to keep up with new curriculum ideas, like finding ways to use nonfiction in the classroom, that are tossed out every few years.  I know many writers provide activity sheets on their websites, but should we do even more? 

If a teacher uses one of my books, I invite them to let me know.  I would be happy to answer questions kids might have. We could even Skype (I need the practice).  The point is, I want to make a connection between my books and your kids.  After all, that is why I write - to make a difference.  We are all in the same business of teaching kids.  Teachers do it in person, and writers do it in print.  I'd like to blur those lines and invite you  into my world just as teachers and librarians have so graciously done for me over the years.  I love visiting schools. Now I want to extend that visit to make a lasting impression. So I pledge to provide more help on my website and in person, when possible, so it will be easy to use nonfiction in your classroom.

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