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November 2013

Inside This Issue

From The Editor

What do you think of when you think research? If you think boring, think again! This month we borrowed the title from our feature article by Chris Lehman for our subject line because we love what he has to say. His article has some great ideas for energizing research reading and writing in your classroom. In addition to the feature article, we include book recommendations to support budding researchers as well as a list of our top 10 bestselling nonfiction titles from 2013.

Reinvent Research (Remove the Yawns)
By Christopher Lehman, Booksource Advocate

Information is everywhere. The amount produced in the three-year period from 1999 to 2002 was equal to the amount produced in the entire history of the world (Darling-Hammond, 2010). Our children are growing up in a time where it is essential to be an informed, engaged and critical learner.

That said, I know many of us struggle with the stacks and stacks of student projects, poster boards and slide presentations that feel more like lists of rehashed facts, then committed learning. Colorful collages of “life cycles” are full of plagiarized facts or lifeless paragraphs. Slide presentations about “Ellis Island” that seem to be directly lifted from the notes we gave them. Essays that nearly all look the same. These are not only a bore to read and a bear to grade, but are also an incredible disservice to our children and young adults.

When research and informational writing become only a means to copy down facts and shove them into paragraphs—the same facts a smartphone could look up in less than a second—then students are given repeated practice in low level skills. They build a habit the world does not need them to have. The good news is that it is not too difficult to move students from passive collectors of information to thoughtful researchers who engage critically and passionately with ideas. It begins with us.

Research Is As Research Does

In my book, Energize Research Reading And Writing, I offer seve
ral shifts and lesson ideas for the way we teach the process of research to students which move them to be active and curious learners. The first of which is recognizing that research is something we all do all of the time: what to make for dinner, what book to read next, helping your mother deal with an illness, a solution to your pet’s fleas, who to vote for, where to go on your next trip, etc. These things are research. The habits you have are the same ones anyone who specializes in particular types of research have—be they scientists, authors, or deep sea divers.
“Wait,” you might be saying, “in high school I stood at a card catalog for hours at a time, spent eight weeks on a ‘research project’.” So did I (and it was awful). That is not the type of research practice our students need today. Nor the type the Common Core is expecting (Writing Standard 7). Nor the type I am suggesting here.

Changing the Ways We Teach Research Skills for a New World
The ways we naturally research, especially when we do it well, are the exact habits we need to teach our students:

  • In life, we rarely start with a fine tuned question. Instead, we tend to start with a general topic, hunch or broad inquiry. Such as: “I want to know more about whales, they are so majestic,” “Which cell phone should I upgrade to?,” or the always confounding, “Birthday gift for dad.”
  • In life, we are never handed the just right set of the just right sources (though how many times do we wish we were?). Instead, we begin broadly reading, viewing and experiencing. Have a newborn? You must have more parenting books, websites and uninvited advice stacked up than you can carry. Only through the process of digging-in do you start to find which sources to trust (or not), which questions are more worth asking than others and where you most want to direct your energy.
  • In life, we don’t copy down line after line from sources and people. Instead, we think. When we set out to learn we organize, question and synthesize the information we gather. That tropical vacation spot on television sounded perfect, until you read a website talking about the rainy season. We don’t plagiarize because we are thinking about our thinking.
  • In life, we don’t have packets to fill out or graphic organizers to follow to prove we did our work. Instead, we are active with our research—we tell others, blog or go enact our new learning. We talk about the sides of a political issue we dug into. We go buy that super, perfect, impressive new phone. We swaddle our baby and shush in her ear.
The structure of any research study, long or short, becomes powerful when built around a natural process of learning. Research is not a product, I argue, it is a process. The stronger our students’ process becomes, naturally their products will develop as well.             
Give Your Students Choices and Time for Curiosity
If our students are to research in more authentic ways, then we need to provide more authentic experiences.
Provide Choices of Topics and a Wealth of Texts
As I describe in Energize Research Reading And Writing, whether offering students the opportunity to explore any topic or limiting them to a topic within a content area you are studying, say for example US Government, providing choice is an essential component of engagement and independence.
That said, gone are the days where your classroom library can have a random collection of “nonfiction” books. Instead, plan to organize texts within topic areas so your students can lead their own, deep studies. When you collect texts, look for a range of levels and coverage (broad “all about” books and ones that offer specific slices). This way you can teach your students to both choose topics and make real-world decisions about which texts to select and how to use them. Here is an example:


Read First

Read Second
Read Later
Abraham Lincoln Abe’s Honest Words by Doreen Rappaport because it is short, a full overview, and supported by beautiful illustrations.
Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L Swanson because…well because it’s awesome. Also because it takes just one slice of this topic.
Skim the glossary of Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman because it is lengthy, but also in-depth on a variety of topics.
Whales And Dolphins from Kingfisher’s Explorers series because it provides an easy to navigate, all-about overview.
Whales by Seymour Simon because it continues an overview, but provides more domain-specific vocabulary and concepts.
Skim the glossary of The Secret World Of Whales by Charles Siebert because it covers many unique topics and facts.
Our Universe
The Universe by Seymour Simon because it offers an overview of the topic.

Get interested in one slice of the topic after reading the first book, and move to A Black Hole Is NOT A Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCrisofano.
    The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, And Black Holes by Ellen Jackson because it becomes more technical and specific.
    US Government
    How The U.S. Government Works by Syl Sobel because it provides a student friendly overview. Skim D Is For Democracy by Elissa Grodin because it is organized alphabetically not by content, yet provides a wealth of information and engaging illustrations.
    Skim (though many students can’t put down) What Are My Rights? Q&A About Teens And The Law by Judge Tom Jacobs because it sneaks in facts about the law while giving answers to teen’s questions.

      Ask Booksource for other engaging titles about these and many more topics!

    Of course, go beyond texts as well, to help students include Internet sites, hands-on experiments, television and even interviews. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels offer terrific suggestions on making multi-sensory texts sets in their book Comprehension And Collaboration: Inquiry Circles In Action.
    Provide Time for Curiosity
    In addition to resources, provide the time students need for curiosity. The heart of research is wondering about life. This should not just be confined to one long project, but instead grab small moments throughout the school week to stop and wonder. I suggest learning more about Genius Hour (there are tons of resources online) or National Center of Families Learning’s Wonderopolis.
    When research looks and feels more like the ways we authentically learn and explore, our students are more engaged, their work becomes more rigorous and thoughtful and we build a better future for all of us.

    Christopher Lehman is an international consultant, educator, author and popular speaker. He can be found online at his blog ChristopherLehman.com, twitter @iChrisLehman, and in guest posts in EdWeek, SmartBrief’s Smart Blog on Education, among others. You may also find him cooking something yummy in someone’s kitchen when he has a free moment. His recent book, co-authored with Kate Roberts, Falling In Love With Close Reading: Lessons For Analyzing Texts—And Life is available now.

    New Nonfiction Picture Books that Students Will Love
    By Brandi Ivester, Collection Development Specialist

    When it comes to picture books, it seems that fiction gets all of the glory. But, fantastic nonfiction pictures books are becoming more plentiful every publishing season. With Common Core State Standards encouraging us to incorporate more nonfiction into the classroom, this is great news. And while we often think of picture books as being synonymous with elementary aged students, they can also work well for higher grades. Nonfiction picture books have the power to transform difficult topics into easy-to-understand and engaging information. Below you will find a sampling of some of the best of the best in new nonfiction picture books.
    Eruption: Volcanoes And The Science Of Saving Lives
    Grades 4-7

    This is one of two new titles in the Scientists In The Field series that was released this summer. (The other title is the The Tapir Scientist.) While both titles meet the high standards we have come to expect from this series, Eruption appealed to me more because of its focus on the connection between science and humanity. The book goes beyond teaching readers about how and why volcanoes erupt to demonstrating how volcanologists’ work saves the lives of those who live near volcanoes. Real-life stories, stunning photographs, diagrams and sidebars make this book accessible and engaging. Students will not only learn more about volcanoes, they’ll discover why volcanologists’ efforts are so worthwhile.
    Classroom Connection:
    This title is a great resource to include in an earth science lesson and presents an opportunity to practice an important comprehension strategy: determining importance. Volcanologists learn about volcanoes so they can predict them more accurately and save thousands of lives. Have students research the effect that a specific type of scientist has on society. Why are their efforts important? In addition to determining importance, ask students to evaluate the argument and claims in the text to validate or dismiss the information the author presents (ELA anchor standard 8).

    The Secret Pool
    Grades K-4
      Beautiful text and illustrations help readers learn about events that take place during the spring cycle of a vernal pool. Told from the water’s perspective, each page introduces a creature that relies on water to survive. The short text and lively illustrations make this title an excellent choice to read aloud as part of a life science unit or just for fun. The unobtrusive sidebars include additional information creating a rich experience for students to savor on their own. The vocabulary exemplifies onomatopoeia and borders on poetic.

    Classroom Connection:
    Author Kimberly Ridley personifies the water of the vernal pool while still being scientifically accurate and unbiased. Have students personify other essential water sources and discuss the role of the organisms that depend on them. Students can compare and contrast their findings to those of Ridley and each other. Because of its unique point of view, this book also lends itself to ELA anchor standard 6. And, it’s poetic vocabulary is ideal for analyzing the structure of the text (ELA anchor standard 4).

    When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc And The Creation Of Hip Hop
    Grades 1-5

    Clive Campbell, aka DJ Kool Herc, invented a technique for ext
    ending musical interludes, which are the best part of a song for dancing. This innovation, combined with influences from his early childhood in Jamaica, brought about the birth of hip hop. Laban Carrick Hill focuses on the way music united the Bronx community in a manner that is appropriate for younger grades. Theodore Taylor III’s illustrations bring the text to life—you can almost see the break dancers moving on the page! While recommended for grades 1 through 5, hip hop lovers in middle school and high school will enjoy this title too.

    Classroom Connection:
    DJ Kool Herc’s innovation created a new genre of music. Many students may be actively creating their own art and music. Have students discuss innovation and share personal creative experiences. A timeline and bibliography in the back of the book provide numerous hip hop resources. Reluctant researchers who love this music may be inspired by some of these to begin their own project, which would tie in great with ELA anchor standard 7.

    Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up The World
    Grades 2-5
    This biogra
    phy of Nikola Tesla finds the perfect balance between storytelling and science to capture interest without going over the heads of young readers with difficult terms and concepts. As a child Nikola Tesla was always fascinated with inventions and electricity. After college, Tesla moved to America to share his innovation of alternating current (AC) electricity generators with Thomas Edison, but instead of working together the two become bitter rivals. After winning the job of lighting the Chicago World’s Fair, Tesla and his AC power became widely used. Eventually he was able to make his childhood dream a reality and used Niagara Falls to provide electricity to Buffalo, New York.

    Classroom Connection:
    The back of the book contains several diagrams explaining the inventions and innovations in the story. This would be a great title to introduce a science unit on magnets and electricity or to get students excited for science fairs of their own. To support ELA standard 8, students can also recreate the Tesla/Edison debate by having students research the difference between alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) and choosing sides based on their research.

    Liberty Rising: The Story Of The Statue Of Liberty
    Grades K-4

    This picture book biography of the Statue of Liberty focuses on her creators and the collaboration between citizens of the United States and France. Those interested in engineering will appreciate the trial and errors that the architects used to learn what would and wouldn’t work for the colossus. The bold pastel illustrations only show pieces of her until the final fold-out pages, emphasizing how cooperation and planning the small pieces made such a large project possible.

    Classroom Connection
    You can use this title in a social studies lesson and focus on the collaboration between two great nations. The designer wanted this to be a gift from the people of one nation to the people of another, not from one government to another. Have students discuss the difference and debate if this goal was accomplished. A list of resources for further reading is included in the book. For engineering and/or art lessons, students can explore the planning and design involved in building, transporting and reassembling such a large structure. Students can collaborate to build and transport their own statues as gifts to other classes.
    Brandi Ivester is a Collection Development Specialist at Booksource. She is currently reading The House Of Hades by Rick Riordan.

    Book Recommendation: Buddha Boy
    Grades 7-12
    By Ruth Hall, Independent Education Management Consultant
    Bullying can happen anywhere and to anyone—even to the kids at Edward Rucher, a rich, suburban high school. If you are looking for a way to help your students understand the impact of bullying I recommend Kathe Koja’s Buddha Boy. This incredible story of the power of true friendship and of finding the inner strength to conquer prejudice and fear will provide teens with much to discuss. Written from the perspective of Justin, an average student who always tries to stay under the radar, the author uses Justin’s love and appreciation for art as the catalyst for change.

    Initially, Justin’s goal is to pass through high school as a bystander—unnoticed by the popular kids. This changes when Justin is paired in a class assignment with Michael Martin, a practicing Buddhist whose religious teacher named him Jinsen or "fountain of God." The kids at Edward Rucher call Jinsen "Buddha Boy" and the jocks bully him because Jinsen has a shaved head, smiles a lot, wears oversized clothing, looks like a Buddhist monk and begs at lunch. As he gets to know Jinsen, Justin questions his own beliefs and begins to be more accepting of someone who is different.

    Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among kids that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. No matter how hard he tries to fit in, Jinsen is taunted, his work is destroyed and he is powerless against the bullies. This raises vital ethical issues, especially concerning Jinsen who is bullied, the kids who bully him and the way school authorities appear to do little to deter it. This pervasive mind-set dominates the Edward Rucher High School culture and negatively affects everyone.

    As the author implies, bullying can affect everyone—those who are bullied, those who bully and those who witness bullying. Justin’s internal struggle to remain a bystander or do the right thing is difficult. When Justin gets to know Jinsen, he discovers that the amazingly gifted artist was once a delinquent who was as violent as the school bullies—until his parents died and he was rescued and mentored by a Buddhist art teacher. This teacher showed Jinsen how to find truth and beauty in art and religion.

    Justin and Jinsen share a love of art. Through their work together, Justin begins to understand the value of true friendship, becomes curious about Jinsen’s beliefs and questions his own beliefs. But being friends with Buddha Boy is not easy for Justin, as he is forced to choose between being friends with the jocks who repeatedly bully Jinsen and being an outcast. What follows is a growing friendship as Justin learns who Jinsen really is and what he really believes despite being dubbed "Buddha Boy" by the bullies. In Buddha Boy, Kathe Koja introduces two memorable characters who remind readers of the true meaning of friendship.

    Ruth Hall is an Independent Education Management Consultant who is assisting with the creation and review of Booksource’s teacher resource materials. She is currently reading Home by Toni Morrison.
    Book Recommendation: Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike Of 1909
    Grades P-5
    By Emma Williams, Collection Development Lead
    The opening of this nonfiction picture book biography sets the stage for a fantastic introduction to a little known figure in U.S. history. The first watercolor and pencil spread depicts a huge ocean liner set on a blue sky backdrop with the Statue of Liberty and the Upper New York bay. The narrative begins, “A steamship pulls into the harbor, carrying hundreds of immigrants—and a surprise for New York City.” That surprise is Clara Lemlich, an immigrant from Eastern Europe who arrives just in time to shake some things up in regards to workers’ rights.
    Clara comes to America only to be put to work in a garment factory. For long hours and little pa
    y Clara sews women’s clothing. At night, Clara attends school to pursue her real dream: to learn to read and write English. Clara “knows in her bones” that this way of life is not right. So, she starts to listen, learn and plan as some of the male workers in the factory start to talk about worker strikes. She feels that women should be a part of the strike since they make up most of the workforce at the garment factories. At a huge union meeting of men and women workers, Clara is the only person to call for a general strike. This begins the Uprising of 20,000 in 1909, sometimes referred to as the Revolt of the Girls, as many of the workers are young women and children. The strike proves to be successful when most of the bosses of the garment factories raise salaries and shorten the work week.
    A wide range of books about workers’ rights, women’s rights and early 1900 immigrant experiences exist for young readers. The challenge is getting students interested in the topic. Brave Girl can offer the initial bait with its moving storyline and heartfelt prose. Try using it as a read aloud to build background knowledge and spark interest. Then, let your students choose what direction to take. Below are some suggestions to start your text set:

    As students explore books with similar themes, encourage them to analyze how the books compare to one another and the various approaches the authors take (ELA standard 9). Remind them that good researchers dig deep and evaluate the argument and specific claims in the text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence (ELA standard 8).

    Emma Williams is the Collection Development Lead at Booksource. She is currently reading Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

    Booksource’s Top 10 Nonfiction Titles

    To quote Chris Lehman’s article above, “When research looks and feels more like the ways we authentically learn and explore, our students are more engaged, their work becomes more rigorous and thoughtful and we build a better future for all of us.” Incorporating dynamic nonfiction titles into your classroom library is the first step to doing just that. Here is a list of our top 10 bestselling nonfiction books published in 2013:

    1. The Beatles Were Fab (And They Were Funny)
      (Grades 1-4, Lexile AD860)
    2. Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers' Strike Of 1909
      (Grades P-5, Lexile AD760)
    3. Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up The World (Grades 2-5)
    4. Lincoln's Grave Robbers (Grades 5-9, Lexile 930)
    5. Lives Of The Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (And What The Neighbors Thought) (Grades 4-7)
    6. Papa's Mechanical Fish (Grades P-3)
    7. Primates: The Fearless Science Of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, And Birute Galdikas (Grades 7-12)
    8. Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA And The Quest For Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, And Parachute Rope (Grades 5-12, Lexile 860)
    9. That's A Possibility! A Book About What Might Happen (Grade 2-5)
    10. We've Got Your Number (Grades 5-8)


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