Thursday, January 17, 2013

Do Fiction and Non-Fiction Share a Common Core?

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January 14, 2013
Do Fiction and Non-Fiction Share a Common Core?
by Carolee Dean
YALSA Panel  


This past November I gave a presentation with four other authors (Kersten Hamilton, Betsy James, Carolyn Meyer, and Vaunda Micheaux Nelson) at the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Literature Symposium in St. Louis.

Arch The purpose of our panel was to discuss a pilot project we've been conducting at local high schools where we share our research with students to get them excited about the research process. Later in our session we discussed how the Common Core Standards place greater emphasis on non-fiction and made several suggestions for incorporating non-fiction into the reading of fiction in the classroom. 

Social and Contemporary Issues - Exploring Hot Topics

Many contemporary works of fiction may serve as a springboard for exploring non-fiction sources. In my young adult novel, Take Me There, one of the topics I explore is the death penalty. There is an excellent NPR audio recording called "Witness to an Execution" which may be found at Sound Portraits

Another site I highly recommend for exploring a variety of controversial topics is This site offers viewpoints on various debatable issues.  It provides the history of a topic, presents both sides by quoting a variety of sources, and also evaluates the quality of those sources. Graphs and charts related to the subject are often available. For more details about using these sources in the classroom, visit the YALSA page on my blog.

Another young adult novel I recommend is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Not only is the prose style beautiful and poetic, but the book may be used to explore topics such as body image, peer pressure, and the influence of the media on eating disorders.

Rx by Tracy Lynn is about teen abuse of prescription drugs. The class could discuss the over prescription of pain medication, how this affects teen abuse of prescription drugs, and what should be done about it.  

Weaving History and Fiction

After studying a culture or a specific time period in history, discuss the social/cultural, political and religious implications. Consider issues like rules for marriage, women's rights, political structure, elements of warfare, crime and punishment, freedom of speech, etc. Then use that knowledge to:

1. Have students make a list of rules for a fantasy or dystopian society based upon the historical context being studied. This could tie into the reading of a novel like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for an example of a dystopia. Check out Kersten Hamilton's Tyger, Tyger series or Listening at the Gate by Betsy James for examples of fantasy. Also, note how the latter two authors weave Celtic mythology into their stories.

2. Ask students to create a picture book based on historical settings or events. Read students a variety of picture books with historical settings such as Sadako by Eleanor CoerrAlmost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Elsie's Bird by Jane YolenPink and Say by Patricia Polacco, Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, or Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

Using Science as a Springboard for Science Fiction

1. Read a novel such as Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and discuss what research the author had to do to create a fictional world where children scavenge old oil tankers for parts and fuel. Relate it to a debatable topic such as the importance of alternative energies.

2. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer explores cloning. Students could discuss medical ethics and health care. Are all advances in science and medicine good? What happens when they're not?

3. Encourage students to take a scientific topic and ask the question What If? Then use that question as the basis of a short story.

4. Ask students to take a scientific principle and use it to explain a sci-fi concept like time travel or a fantasy concept such as the origin of werewolves.

For more information about our panel, visit the YALSA page  on my blog.

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Meet the Spellbinders
CaCarolee Deanrolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/library conferences. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and a master's degree in communicative disorders, and she has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a
Comfort Paperback Cover
speech-language pathologist.

Her first novel, Comfort,was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, was named the Best YA Novel of 2002 by the Texas Institute of Letters, and was on the TAYSHAS (Texas Library Association) reading list. Take Me There is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
Her upcoming paranormal verse novel, Forget Me Not, will be published by Simon Pulse in October of 2012.
Take Me There Cover
She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Act of Haiku."Forget Me Not

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Caroline Starr RoseCaroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She's taught English and social studies to upper elementary and middle-school students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Back in New
Mexico, Caroline now writes middle-grade novels and picture books full time. 

To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to my website.


Kim Bio PhotoKimberley Griffiths Little is the recipient of the Southwest Book Award, The Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, and the author of the highly acclaimed, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, published by Scholastic Press. Look for her books at the Scholastic Book Fairs, as well Circle of Secretsas two more forthcoming novels in 2012 and 2013.
She lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer and their three sons. Kimberley is a favorite speaker at schools around the country, presenting "The Creative Diary", a highly successful writing workshop and has been a speaker at many conferences.

Please visit her website to download free Teacher's Guides and Book Club Guides. 
Follow me on Twitter 

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February 2, 2013
Montgomery Book Festival
Houston, TX 
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