January 14, 2020
When I chose connect as my one little word, I was thinking about the connections between individuals and grade levels, types of writing and units of study, I wasn’t thinking about how a book or books can connect so many of those things. I also wasn’t thinking about books and how they can connect across lessons and ideas either. Since I started with this lovely photo of a hen-in-the-woods fungus, perhaps I should start closer to the beginning.
As part of another blog team I write with, I chose a year’s worth of books to review. (My last review, Fungus is Among Us by Joy Keller) Another writer had recommended this book as it was published in early fall and I preordered it. I had chosen to review it in January as many grades as starting or leaving nonfiction reading and writing and also fitting in poetry during these winter months. This book has a lot! It’s a picture book and also contains loads of facts. It has an easy story line and also a biography insert. It has a bibliography and it RHYMES! Just the perfect mentor text to showcase many ways of writing nonfiction.
This story isn’t actually a book review. It’s what happened next. As is my habit, a few weeks before my review date, I send out an email asking who would like to hear a new book. I don’t offer much additional information. Usually I have a few takers and in this round two classrooms of third graders invited me to read. As I was planning my lesson, I was thinking about poetry writing and the aspects of good nonfiction writing. I read through the book several times, enjoy more each time. Then it occurred to me that I have photos of fungus in my phone… How many photos of fungus do I have? I wondered. Quickly before I visited my first class, I created a quick album of fungi in my phone, a half-a-dozen pictures or so. I read the book to a third grade, telling them that I was reviewing it. Asking them to think like nonfiction readers and writers. What did they learn from this nonfiction teacher? What might they try in their own writing?
The class was immediately taken with the fungi. They had lots of ideas in their pre-reading moments thinking about where they had seen fungi and what they knew. Surprisingly, many of them had some ideas. Definitely plenty to think about as we read. We read this brilliant book noting the author’s craft in the beginning, her incorporating of text features, the parallel structure, the author’s notes. At the end, I gave the students an opportunity to respond to my initial questions. Their responses were very enthusiastic.
Planning on reading the book to another third grade later in the week and bolstered by their response, I went back through my phone and discovered I had nearly twenty five photos of different types of fungi. A little odd, I know. Putting them into an album I noticed that you can make a slideshow in your phone, so I did. I returned to my first read aloud class and during their snack showed them the slideshow. They were thrilled.
In another class, I was gifted the opportunity to teach a few lessons in the beginning of the third grade nonfiction writing unit. In the first lesson, the teaching point is that we are all as nonfiction writers essentially teachers. Instead of the unit’s example of cockroaches, I used my old interest and new-found knowledge of fungi to organize my oral teaching example.
This fungi things got legs… . The next lesson I taught was about using your flash draft to organize several table of contents ideas to plan for your nonfiction chapter book. Again, I wrote quickly about fungi and used that writing to demonstrate several possible ‘table of contents’.
So this little book, Fungus is Among Us, has been quite helpful. One book, so many uses. It’s interesting.