Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Unpacking the Back Matter #1

Let's take a closer look at the video that April Pulley Sayre posted in October 2013 about the process of researching and writing The Bumblebee Queen, a wonderful nonfiction picture book that she wrote in back in 2006. The video was created in 2008. 

Two questions guide my thinking as I watch this five-minute video:  

  • What can children learn from watching this video that helps them grow as researchers, as well as readers and writers of nonfiction?  
  • What can teachers learn from watching this video that helps them to use this book in the classroom as a mentor text for research and writing?

Everyday experiences can prompt your research. You don't have to go further than your front yard, or the school garden, or a local park for inspiration. 
If everyday experiences can prompt student research, how can you provide your students with the opportunity to explore the world around them, at home, and at school?  
Your interests matter! Sayre's childhood reading still influences her today, both in her hobbies and passions as well as her work as an author.
What are your students' interests? How can you tease out research projects rooted in their passions, and what they already know something about? 
What you learn from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors, is important and useful. 
Sayre was influenced by her husband, her mother, and her grandmother. How can you harness the expertise in your school? The local community? The families of your students? 
Research isn't something you only do by reading, though reading is important. Scientific research also involves a lot of watching, noticing, and observation.
If research isn't something you do only by reading, how do you give students the opportunity to watch, notice, and observe?
Taking notes is important! 
Taking notes is important! How can I model different ways of doing that for my students?
What you write the first time is just a draft. Rewriting is really important. 
Can you show students drafts and revisions of books? Use the resources on author's webpages. Showing the difference just one revised page makes can make a difference in student understanding.  
Other people can help you with your writing, particularly people who know you well, like your classmates. 
How can I make better use of writing groups in my classroom?
An editor is a bit like a teacher, helping you understand the genre you're writing in, and think about your audience. 
How are you like an editor? What can you learn from their style that will help you in your work with young people?  

When you research a topic, it's good to have an expert on the topic read what you have written so that you don't get anything wrong.

What experts can you get to "vet" student research? Are there other teachers in your district, or older students in advanced placement classes that can serve as experts if professionals are unavailable? 
Illustrations are not just "fun." You need to do enough research to make sure the illustrations are correct, based on your research. 
How do you connect research and illustration more fully, so that illustration is fully a part of student text production, not just the "fun" at the end? 
Sometimes, just when you think you are done with your research, new questions pop up! 
How do you sustain inquiry?  

It takes a lot of people to publish a book.  
How can you harness local resources to publish student texts and make them available in the school or local library? 


  1. thanks! I've always loved this book - and the bees in the garden.

  2. What a useful post and video. This is just the kind of inside view of nonfiction researching and writing we need to share with children.