Thursday, September 24, 2009

Teaching Nonfiction Writing

Once again, during school visit season, my mind turns to inspiring young writers. A new tool for educators teaching young writers is S Is for Story: a Writer's Alphabet, written by Esther Hershenhorn and illustrated by Zachary Pullen. This picture book, just released by Sleeping Bear Press, is a great addition to any classroom. I can imagine elementary classrooms sharing a spread each week as they develop their writing skills. Reading the book aloud would be a terrific way to get fired up for Young Author conferences and writing projects.

Each spread has a rhyming stanza about writing. But I have to confess it's the sidebars that sing for me. They give tips for better writing, historical tidbits about writers, writing quotes, and insights about authors such as Pam Muñoz Ryan and Dr. Seuss. The sidebars cover mainstream topics such as question words and revision but also embrace writing's more subtle aspects: expression and voice. "D is for drafts" is, of course, my favorite. Because I'm all about drafts. Lots of drafts. Is there a draft in here? The draft page illustration is Abraham Lincoln working on a draft. Pullen's illustrations are gorgeous. Author Hershenhorn is best known for her fiction and for sharing her knowledge of writing as a speaker, professor, and writing coach. But, hey, Esther, are you listening? Based on your warm, friendly, sidebars, I think you should have a go at more nonfiction.

Of course, the best way to teach a young writer is by giving them excellent models, as well. The books written by INK Bloggers are great platforms for reading and discussion. Teaching books such as the professional books written by Lola Schaefer and Jeff Anderson can jump start writing lessons. And for educators who dare, modeling writing is the best teacher. Don't be afraid to make your own mistakes in the process. Show your drafts to your students. Real writers make lots of mistakes. It's just that we stick with the writing, draft-by-draft, to make our final manuscripts as perfect as we can. Even then, we are glad for the support of other writers and editors who help us improve.


Lori Calabrese said...

Oh Wow! What a fun book. I want to scoop this one up--the illustrations are just amazing.

Thanks for pointing this out, April!

All the best,

Nancy Bo Flood said...

Thank you, April, I was looking through a bookstore yesterday and saw that alphabet book and thought, "it does look inviting." I shall bo back and get it. I agree, showing how authors develop and discover through drafts engages young writers. Sometimes they enjoy trying to find the changes, laugh at our scribbles and corrected mistakes. They begin to experience the process. Also, I think showing - not telling - how a story line emerges. An encouraging post, thank you. Nancy Bo Flood