Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - End of the year 4th grade work 5.16.18

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017
Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I am excited because we're moving into a nonfiction cycle at school.  At this point in the year, our students are starting to do some big thinking.  Our 3rd graders are starting to talk about noticing author's opinions in a book and compare it to their own.  4th grade students are integrating information from multiple sources but they are doing it with the lens of looking at the danger of a single story.  This work is so important but thankfully I have the help of extremely smart and talented educators and teachers to help guide me through.  I've been leaning heavily on Melissa Stewart - looking through her blog, asking her questions, tweeting her about books.  Jess Lifshitz's brilliance has been making me think and wonder and I'm so grateful that she's allowing me to piggyback on the work she shares.  If you haven't already, be sure you visit/subscribe to their sites:
Melissa Stewart's blog
Jess' blog - Crawling Out of the Classroom

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the end of the year work we're doing in 3rd grade.  You can read it here.

This week I'm here to talk about our 4th grade work.  The main standards they are working on are:

RI.4.9-1 Integrate info from 2 texts on the same topic to write or speak about topic

RI.4.7-1 Interpret info presented visually, orally, and quantitatively

RI. 4.1-2 Refer to details when drawing inferences from text

I also know it's the end of the year and it is important to keep them engaged in their work.  This made me think of Jess' inquiry work and the danger of a single story.  Make sure you see what she has her 5th graders doing.  Since it's the end of the 4th grade year, I thought these students were ready to so some big thinking while integrating information from multiple sources.  

We started the same way Jess did, by watching the TED Talk by Chimamanda Adichie.  Our students watched the first several minutes and then talked about what this meant to them.  The majority of our students come from a white, middle class home.  This kind of thinking was unfamiliar to them.  We do have an ESL population, many who celebrate their heritage at home but leave that behind when they get to school.  I think the students were even surprised with the conversation they had.

Next we took time to dig into what a single story looked like.  The first week we concentrated on disabilities.  Now this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart because my daughter has a physical disability.  She has found huge success in the swimming pool, participating on a local swim team and swimming at US Paralympic events.  I think it was great for students to explore how people with disabilities can be successful in life, the same way able bodied people do.  We watched the videos that Jess had shared and then read some books and articles.  I was so glad to have the Sibert Honor winning Shane Burcaw book, Not So Different: What you Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability, to share with students.  We also had articles about a Paralympic swimmer (from and one about the local Lucky Fin Project (featured in NewsELA).

The second week we concentrated on our perceptions of Native Americans.  After discussing the image that comes to mind when we say Native people, teachers shared a screenshot of a google image search (we had to use a screenshot since an early image included someone giving Donald Trump a rude gesture.....).  To move past the single story, we're sharing the TED Talk by Matika Wilbur who is the person behind the website  On both the website and the TED Talk, she shares images of Natives and what defines them - educators, lawyers, family members, names.  I think they are powerful and help give new images for students to remember.  There are numerous books teachers are reading.  Titles came from Debbie Reese's blog and from friends Jillian Heise, Aliza Werner and Kristen Picone.

Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child
When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson
Fall in Line, Holden by Daniel W. Vandever
Mission to Space by John Herrington
Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief and Rosemary Wells 
Kamik series by various authors

As you can tell by some of the titles, discussing the requirement by Canadian and American governments for children who lived on reservations to attend schools that wanted to wipe out their heritage and culture in order to Americanize them, will be lightly discussed.  Teachers read I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis for their own background.

Students will also watch some videos with Native teens talking about misconceptions.  This video from Teen Vogue is structured with a statement (the misconception) and then female teenagers respond to them.  Another video to watch is from PBS where Native teens talk about who they are.  Both spark great conversations.

I also picked some passages from #notyourprincess and Dreaming in Indian by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale to share with students.  While these books are written for an older audience, they also have some passages that work well for this purpose.

During this second week, students will also start doing more writing.  They will be asking questions, probing why this single story exists and looking at the resources they needed to use to break the one sided view.  Finally, students will look at how they can be the generation that can change this view and what they can do.

Phew.  No rest for these students!  I love the level of participation this work requires.  We have invested students who are doing the heavy lifting and learning.  Who says this is the end of the year?


  1. I like this post, Michele, most personally because my oldest granddaughter will be in 4th grade next year and I'm interested in how her teacher(s) will approach nf writing and researching. She has done some of this this 3rd grade year, so I know more will come. Thanks for the titles. I've read a few, and put others on my list!

  2. I'll have to check those TedTalks.