Writing Under the Influence of Inquiry

Idea #3

This is part three in a series of ideas intended to nurture critical, creative, and curious thinking while also supporting composition development.  With these ideas, writers of all ages can develop understandings about texts and their characteristics, the writing process, and what it means to be a writer. 

Read a selected book to the class and tell the students that they will be writing a book like this one, that they will imitate the author’s craft.  The following list of books make good imitation models while supporting curricular ideas:

  •  Huckleberries, Buttercups, and Celebrations by Jennifer Greene and Antoine Sandoval.  Written in poetry-like vignettes, the book explains how the Salish people followed a seasonal calendar that is reflected in their names for each month.  Monthly activities showcase the resources and gifts of each season. After reading the book, the teacher can invite students to imitate the text by writing a poem or vignette from their own cultural heritage or daily lives to commemorate or illustrate the events from a month.  Many of the traditional activities from Greene’s book continue today among families and in the community, and many of them vary because of diverse cultural affiliation.  Still, Greene’s book offers an opportunity for a text-to-self connection and extends the opportunity for cultural learning.  As poems or vignettes are sha
    red, we learn about one another and about other cultures.  While the Salish talk of huckleberries, the Assiniboine may talk of June berries, and the Gros Ventre might speak about chokecherries.  The book not only works for making cultural connections but can be used in conjunction with a science unit on seasons or on weather.
  • Four Seasons Make a Year by Anne Rockwell. A child describes how the seasons change on her family's farm. Students can write similar books about how the seasons influence and affect their daily lives.
  • My First Day by Steve Jenkins.  Baby tigers can't even open their eyes and need mom to take care of them, but baby sea turtles run straight to the ocean as soon as they hatch--with only other baby sea turtles for company. This book describes what the first day of life is like for many different animals. Students can write similar stories about the day in the life of any creature.  Steve Jenkins’ books often focus on science and are inspired by questions asked by children.  Biggest, Fastest, Strongest; What Do You Do with a Tail like This? and Actual Size are others that would work equally well as imitation modelsIf you want to use the Bare Book project to support or to reinforce curricular concepts, creating a Science Facts or a Math Facts book is the solution.
  • Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris. Bread is a food enjoyed by people in all parts of the world. Its many shapes, sizes, textures, and colors are as varied as the people who eat it.  Morris encourages learning about geography, social studies, and multiculturalism in her books. Shoes, Shoes, Shoes and Hats, Hats, Hats are two other books that celebrate how we are all similar yet different.  Students can choose a similar topic and use it to say something about where they come from, what they do, and who they are. Writers can choose hats, shoes, bread or some other item with numerous and diverse categories to express something about themselves or about people in general.
  • Exactly the Opposite by Tana Hoban.  An excellent book for an emerging reader to read to a parent or younger sibling, this wordless book uses photographs only (no text) to explore the concept of opposites. For teaching concepts like shape, opposites, and size, books by Tana Hoban are ideal.  Some are wordless, but they all feature fabulous photography and stimulate rich learning discussions.  Hoban’s books work especially well for preK and primary school age children.
  • Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood. Wood’s protagonist, a cheerful boy, uses simple rhyming verse to compare his best characteristics to animals in the wild.  This book will assist in teaching the concept of similes or rhyme or will develop self-awareness or reinforce the concept of individuality.  You might begin by asking, What animal are you like?  How are you like that animal?  This is an all-about-me book with instructional purpose.
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. This book supports teaching across the curriculum.  For ideas in English, math, science, technology, and art, check out http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/library/books/the-day-the-crayons-quit .  Daywalt’s book is the perfect tool for introducing students to the art of persuasive or of letter writing, finding synonyms, calculating costs, discovering how we see color, or designing crayon wrappers. Using this book will teach your students how to effectively interpret evidence, make an argument, and analyze its effect. It will help empower your students to express an opinion, be involved in decision making, and become proficient users of the English language.  For an educator’s guide, complete with Common Core alignment for grades K-5, check out the portable data file at http://www.penguin.com/static/images/yr/pdf/CrayonsGuide.pdf

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