Thursday, November 19, 2009

Broad Connections in Literature: Pairing Nonfiction with Fiction

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will hop on a plane bound for Philly to attend one of my favorite conferences of the year—NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English). There are many fun events on the schedule, from the ALAN Breakfast to the Children’s Luncheon and all things in between, but first up will be a panel presentation on making interdisciplinary connections for readers by pairing nonfiction with fiction, and vice versa.

With Teri Lesesne presiding as moderator extraordinaire, four authors will discuss how to make the most of our books in the classroom. One of the exciting things for me as a reader is to lose myself in a time or place that is new to me. And the more connections I can make to that time or place—or topic—the more vivid my understanding becomes. Here’s a sneak preview of our panelist pairings.

For the scientists among you, try having kids read Loree Griffin Burns’s Tracking Trash while exploring 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Jules Verne), Flush (Carl Hiaasen), and The Highest Tide (Jim Lynch) to help kids come to grips with conservation issues. To make broader connections between historical fiction and real life events, Jenny Moss pairs her historical fiction novel, Winnie’s War, with nonfiction titles such as The History of Everyday Life by Elaine Landau and Epidemic! The 1918 Influenza Pandemic by Stephanie True Peters.

Kate Messner will share her new middle-grade novel, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., which introduces readers to botany and the poetry of Robert Frost, as well as touches on themes of organization of time management and how that affects kids. Some of Kate’s pairings for The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. include Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost, Identifying Trees by Michael Williams, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey.

And in Almost Astronauts, the historical context of what life was like for women in the 50s and 60s grows ever more broad if we make literature pairings that deepen the ideas being introduced. So, if you have a reader who likes learning about women trying to be astronauts when they were not yet allowed, or is intrigued by themes of discrimination, or just wants to get their hands on more material about space and aviation, try also giving them novels like Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages, Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce, or Promise me the Moon by Joyce Annette Barnes.

And if you’re in Philly tomorrow, please come by for unabridged version of our talk!

1 comment:

Michelle Markel said...

Great ideas here. Everything is interconnected, and should be taught that way!