Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fish Art, Fish Writing: Nonfiction As a Springboard

Every year I visit schools nationwide. I have the pleasure of meeting educators who embrace nonfiction picture books as springboards for art, math, science, and writing. Their creativity is inspiring. These master teachers build on "teachable moments" that arise in the classroom. They can take a thread from a book and weave it into a whole unit. Just take a look at what some of them have done with the subject of fish. These projects are linked to my books Trout Are Made of Trees and Trout, Trout, Trout: a Fish Chant.

Stuffed paper fish, created by students in Nappanee, IN, seemed to leap off the walls. Each fish was accompanied by fish poems. See their clever theme: swimming in poetry! Another school I visited used the fish subject as a jumping off point for the subject of fish tales, i.e. tall tales. Each student made up an outrageous story about fish.
The next photo shows fish stories created in cartoon blocks. Kids love creating cartoons. Writing in this way helps students learn about narrative pacing and focus. (In the revision process, some novelists draw their scenes just so they can see what characters and events predominate.) Don't forget that a cartoon narrative can be nonfiction, too.

Knox County, Ohio students not only did three-dimensional fish art, they learned about specific species. You can see an anglerfish in one of the pieces.

Other Ohio students prepared "scaled fish drawings." The scale, chosen by the teacher was 1cm = 10cm. The students were responsible for researching a species of fish and then drawing it to size.

It is clear that nonfiction texts are rich with possibilities for curriculum connections and just plain fun. Is it possible that fiction books often set us to wondering about what was in the mind of the author, but nonfiction books can set us to exploring the entire world beyond?


Anonymous said...

I loved this post. I use a fish writing exercise, too, but nothing to the extent of these. I'm inspired! I wished to see the cartoons up closer, because I could tell from afar that the kids had gotten intensely involved in their work here. I can only imagine your thrill when you see that happening. And I do believe your audiences will see fish -- and any topic they're interested in -- differently after your visit. Thank you, April!

Anonymous said...



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