Monday, May 28, 2012

YALSA Nonfiction Awards

Below is the text from the YALSA nonfiction awards, from

This is one award among many.  I encourage you to check out the whole list at their site.

Nonfiction Award
nonfiction awardnonfiction awardnonfiction award
The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year. The award winner will be announced annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media Awards, with a shortlist of up to five titles named the first week of December.
Seals for the winning titles, finalist titles, and nominated titles can be purchased from the ALA Online Store.


2012 Winner

The Notorious Benedict Arnold
The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, & Treachery written by Steve Sheinkin, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. ISBN: 978-1-59643-4686-8
Treating history as mystery, Sheinkin takes readers through means, motive, and opportunity as he outlines Arnold’s path towards treason. This well researched (with liberal use of primary sources) cradle to grave biography emphasizes the political, social, and military issues within the Colonial army and how Arnold ambitiously maneuvered his own career through grit and determination.
“In this illuminating biography, Sheinkin proves that spoilers don’t matter—it’s not whether or not Arnold betrayed his country, but why,” said YALSA Nonfiction Award Chair Jennifer Hubert.

2012 Finalists

Sugar Changed the WorldBootlegWheels of ChangeMusic Was It
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 978-0-61857492-6
Blending facts with a fascinating personal narrative, this true tale of the sugar trail provides readers with an intimate and troubling portrait of the white grains that sweeten everything from their coffee to their bubblegum. The authors use both their own family histories and as many individual accounts as possible to demonstrate that sugar changed the course of commerce, government, slavery, invention and immigration. This complex and challenging history is supported by sharp black and white photos (with links to color images) and detailed source notes.
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition written by Karen Blumenthal, published by Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. ISBN: 978-1-59643-449-3
This impeccably researched account of the history of the Temperance movement provides an interesting look at the societal issues and historical figures behind the passage of the 18th Amendment. Blumenthal also describes the unintended consequences of gangsters (including the famous Al Capone) committing alcohol-related crimes, as well as adults and children ignoring the law to bootleg and smuggle during the 13 years it was in effect. Black and white photos, archival materials, and a glossary enhance this engaging and readable work.
Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) written by Sue Macy, published by National Geographic Children’s Books. ISBN: 978-1-42630-761-4
With the invention of the bicycle, women began by riding sidesaddle but quickly switched to riding astride sleek two-wheelers as they left their restraining corsets and petticoats in the dust with bloomers their preferred bicycling outfit. Adventurer or activist, young or old, African American or white, many women quickly adopted this new mode of transportation. As the period photographs, colorful advertisements, sidebars, and primary source material proclaim, bicycles empowered women to seek the freedom they’d long been denied.
Music Was IT: Young Leonard Bernstein written by Susan Goldman Rubin, published by Charlesbridge. ISBN: 978-1-58089-344-2
Rubin entices readers with her lively account of the challenging and passionate life of young Leonard Bernstein, beginning with his childhood in Boston and concluding with his brilliant conducting debut, at the age of twenty-five, at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic.  A short epilogue relates the remainder of Bernstein's memorable life.  A timeline, brief biographies of friends and colleagues, a discography, a bibliography, sources of quotations, photo credits and permissions, and an index add to the informative value of this fascinating glimpse into the formative years of a musical genius.

Previous Winners


Winner: Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel
They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; 
Spies of Mississippi:  The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers; 
The Dark Game: True Spy Stories  by Paul Janeczko; 
Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw, published by Charlesbridge
Learn more about the 2011 award.


Winner: Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman.
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone,
Claudette Colvin: Twice toward Justiceby Phillip Hoose, 
The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum by Candace Fleming, 
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker.
Learn more about the 2010 award.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Middle-School Guided Reading

I'm going to talk a little bit about Guided Reading, an old teaching model that has been used for years in elementary classrooms.  The basic premise is homogeneous groups, working with the teacher, while the rest of the class is working in "stations."

Here are some links to pages about Guided Reading:

Short Summary of the Strategy from Saskatoon Public Schools

Scholastic Publication on Research base for Guided Reading

Overview of Guided Reading from Michigan State University

Here's a quote from the last link (Michigan State University):

What are the Other Students Doing While I’m Teaching Reading Groups? 
There are a variety of options. Students could be reading independently or in small Literature Circles / Book Clubs. Or they could be working in center activities related to reading. Whichever you choose, it is a routine that needs to be taught well in the first few weeks of school in order to be successful.
To me, this sounds a lot like "As long as they're busy, it doesn't much matter."  This is the biggest criticism of Guided Reading as a whole, in my opinion.  I don't think that most teachers do this, but it would be easy to just give the rest of the class busy-work, and focus on the "teacher group."  As long as students were diligently working on the "busy-work," it wouldn't seem to matter much, would it?

There are criteria to keep in mind for stations to be effective:

  1. Station work has to be independent work, so it can't be new material or too challenging, or students won't be able to do it without interrupting the teacher (which is bad).  So keep it relatively easy.
  2. The work must also be engaging enough to keep students focused for the duration of the station, usually at least 20 minutes.  
  3. Some assessment of this station work must occur, and must occur consistently, or students won't put any serious effort into completing it.  
The challenge with middle school students is that they are both less patient and more perceptive than typical elementary students with work that lacks a clear sense of purpose.  For example, unless you have built value into silent reading (or if you have a class full of focused readers, a rarity in middle school), you probably won't be able to get a group of students to focus on reading independently for any length of time with so much else going on in the room, and without the direct observation of the teacher.  Designing a good station can take a lot of time, and it often produces material from the students that requires additional time to read and respond to.  

So, in a middle-school setting, what do you need to do to make this work?  Here are some things that my co-workers and I have found (or have learned from others):
  • Create a consistent structure for students to use in the station, and follow it for a long time.  For example, use a Making Words book for a vocabulary station, and have students complete a vocabulary activity several times over several weeks using different words.  
  • Pre-teach station activities as much as you can, so that students are comfortable with the work before they attempt to complete it in the stations.  
  • Students often enjoy the stations if there is a chance to work with peers, and adding even a small element of "fun" increases the effectiveness enormously.  Having students analyze picture books, for example, can be very effective.  
  • Grade only one station, but don't let students know in advance which station will be graded.  
  • Practice the procedures as much as possible early in the school year, and follow them consistently.  Follow the same procedure for grouping and rotations.  Groups should change (flexible grouping is important), but the way that you tell the students what group they are in and what they are doing should stay the same.  I also use a timer and a signal to announce a change in rotation (a $5 Wal-Mart bicycle horn).  
  • Make sure that you have a procedure for early finishers.  
  • Be creative with the stations.  Nonfiction reading, for example, can be a very cool station.  We had success with material from our science books that we never managed to get to - the books were readily available, familiar to the students, and reasonably engaging.  
I'm sure I will think of more to say here, and I'm not pretending to be an expert on guided reading in middle school.  But if you're curious or considering using it in the upper grades, it's a powerful instructional strategy when used well.  It just takes a lot of prep time.