Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mentor Text Highlight: Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night Written By: Joyce Sidman and Illustrated By: Nick Allen

     I love adding new mentor texts to my recommendations for teaching! This week in third grade, I highlighted the book Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Nick Allen. Nick Allen's official website highlights this work at Ken Speckle Letterpress. You can preview portions of the text on Google Books. I have my own copy that I am happy to lend out! :) Here is a book preview from publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

     There are many avenues to take when incorporating this text into a lesson. It's considered a type of "hybrid nonfiction," which means that it explains factual information in a different format besides just straight listings of facts. This book presents facts through hypothetical observations of various nocturnal animals. With my particular lesson, I started out by explaining (with great enthusiasm) how this book had recently was announced as one of the four Newbery Honor Awards for 2010! I also discussed how neat this book was to win an honor because typically the awards go to chapter books, and so it must be pretty special. I talked with the students about how Sidman's author's voice sets a tone for the feel of the text with the preview on the inside flap. I read it with intrigue, and the students and I talked about how she set a vibe and made the reader curious before even reading the table of contents or any of the poems.

     Next, I had the third graders take out their Writer's Sparks Inspiration Notebooks which they received in September.  They opened to a new page in the "Sparks from Reading and Writing" section because it was a time to "read like writers" as author Katie Wood Ray would say. (If you are not familiar with Ray's modern classic professional text Wonderous Words, please come by and check out a school copy in my resource room. It's amazing!)  The students set up their page with a template which was written on chart paper. It consisted of:
  • Title of Poem
  • Facts (this is where they listened like observing scientists)
  • Visualizations (powerful words and phrases that created great imagery as we listened)
  • Still Curious About (questions the students had that still lingered after having their curiosity peaked by the poem)
     As you can see in the photo of the chart below, the example we walked through together was the poem called "Snail at Moonrise." I read it twice, once to allow the poem to soak in their imaginations and visualize the description. The second time, the poem was shown on the overhead camera so the text was there to quote from. Since the students are accustomed to "reading like writers" as this point of the year, they ran with it. It's so rewarding to hear the rich inferential, higher level thinking that these students share with each other in Think-Pair-Shares!  After everyone shared curiosities with neighbors and the classroom, I read the paragraph on the neighboring page. The paragraphs that accompany the poems are true nonfiction sections which dispense facts. Many of their curiosities were satisfied after hearing it. (A few were not, which let to an eager craving to research the questions!)

     You can learn more about the works of this author by viewing Joyce Sidman's official website. She dedicates one of the pages to her website to giving writing advice to young and old!!! Sidman also has a page of "Poem Starters" which are a great source of inspiration for lessons in poetry units in April. Be sure to check it out!

     I have a special spot in my heart for authors who want to share their experiences and wisdom about the writing process. In particular, I think it is so powerful when an adult author speaks in a voice of respect to young authors. In the classroom writing communities we have fostered all school year together, it is so important to tie in messages of encouragement and inspiration!

    For an author study and additional selections, I recommend these titles from Joyce Sidman. She has a distinct style of writing, and you can really hear her style of voice as if she is right there reading the text aloud to you in person! If you click on the titles, you will go to Sidman's excellent teaching guides. They are really worth exploring! 


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