Monday, July 23, 2012

Conference Recap #2: Nonfiction Biographies

As some of you may (or may not) know, I attended a literacy conference this past weekend. You can catch up on another session I attended here

As a graduate student, I was required to participate in an action research project. My research revolved solely around the importance of nonfiction in the classroom. My goal was to encourage students to pick nonfiction on their own. I attempted several research-based strategies and found some success, but it was tricky to get all of my second graders to enjoy nonfiction. For example, we had nonfiction read alouds every Monday and spent an entire month writing our very own nonfiction books based on Gail Gibbons. 

The best part of the project (I can say this now that it's over) was finding research to support what I was doing in my classroom. I found oodles and oodles of articles written about the importance of nonfiction and how dominant fiction is overwhelmingly in the classroom. For me, personally, I was always reading fiction stories aloud because those are the ones I enjoyed the most. I, too, had a perception of nonfiction that it was boring and girls just wouldn't care for it. I was very wrong! Through my research I found several nonfiction titles about math, science, social studies that made perfect read alouds that were engaging for all of my students. Plus, these stories opened up doors of communication with my class. Maybe someday, I'll devote a blog post to my research project. It was a year full of blood, sweat, and tears. Trust me. 

Now, you're obviously aware that I think nonfiction is the At the conference, I attended a session presented by an educator from Eastern Kentucky University.  She is on the NCTE's Orbis Pictus nominating committee and introduced me to several fascinating titles. Her session was specifically about strategies to use with biographies. 

Biographies, huh? One genre of nonfiction books that I have skated around. I have a few in my classroom, but I have never used them in read alouds or suggested them to students. Here are a few of my favorites that she presented:

Lincoln Through the Lens by Martin W. Sandler

Hangin' with the Lincolns. 
Side note: I'm a big fan of Abe Lincoln. My bf and I even went to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Illinois. After reading Bill O'Reilly's book, "Killing Lincoln", it was the perfect field trip. 

Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by Chris Van Wyk

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau 

Those were my favorites from the list. Then, I started searching for biographies on my own. Here's a few that I think sound pretty interesting!

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life With Chimps

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet

Harry Houdini: The Legend of the World's Greatest Escape Artist by Janice Weaver

Me...Jane. by Patrick McDonnell

One of the keynote speakers rattled off several authors that she was a fan of. I quickly jotted them down and here are the nonfiction authors she recommends.

Nic Bishop (several titles by him)

Sneed Collard III

Do you love nonfiction as much as I do? What nonfiction books do you use in your classroom?


  1. I'm so jealous of your professional development goodies and knowledge! Working on my Masters for professional development was not nearly as fun. :)

  2. Talk about a great conference! I had to open up Amazon side by side to your post so I could add everything to my wishlist. Thanks for sharing the book recommendations.
    The Teaching Thief
    P.S. I love Beaks! I used it last year when we were learning about adaptions. My kids loved it too!


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