Too often research papers are simply regurgitated encyclopedia entries. After reviewing many dry research papers, David Somoza began to expriement with an adventure writing model, based on books written by Peter Lourie.
In Writing to Explore, David and Peter demonstrate how to teach adventure writing, which integrates nonfiction and fiction and motivates students to write with imagination, curiosity, and a hunger to learn everything about their topic.
The book starts with a solid foundation in the basics of good writing: setting descriptions, creating atmosphere, and developing character. The authors then explore the specific elements of adventure writing -- from setting the stage to conducting research; from combining history and geography to effectively utilizing technology. The result is an adventure-based paper that is "rooted in real places, supported by facts, and developed with detailed description of images from real locations."
Teachers will find handouts, sample activities, student writing examples, research sources, and tips to help them create a nonfiction writing program based around the adventure writing model. Research papers don't have to be boring to read or to write. This book will show you how to get vibrant papers from your students -- papers that teach both reader and writer something new.
Review from School Library Monthly Online
ESSENTIAL READS FOR FEBRUARY, IN WHICH I GUSH EXCESSIVELY ABOUT WRITING TO EXPLORE
The February column of SLM’s Essential Reads column is now online. This month, I’m rather humbled to be featured with a recommendation next to Gary Hartzell, whose work on librarians and principals has been so influential.
My pick is David Somoza’s Writing to Explore (Stenhouse 2010), which is hands-down the best professional book I’ve read in some time. He, in collaboration with nonfiction author Peter Lourie, reimagines the same-old state report we all struggle with. Using Lourie’s work as a mentor text, he leads his students on an amazing multisensory journey, replacing the report with an adventure essay. Along the way, he helps his fourth graders learn to navigate consumer web sites as they work to figure out which planes or trains they’ll take, where they’ll sleep, and where they’ll eat (including what they pick from the menu). He provides scaffolding that guides but does not construct; one notable example is one in which students paste evocative inspirational images into a Word document, along with citations and captions.
If you, like me, have done too many boring, middle-grade state reports in your life, and if you have yearned for a spark of new energy in the way kids tackle research, and if you’ve worried that databases aren’t always the best route to interesting research-based writing for kids, and if, perchance, you even have adventure as a genre for middle-grade students (as we have four fourth graders here in Michigan), you need to get this book.
I picked up a copy at NCTE and have already loaned it out to a teaching team who was excited about its premise. You can, for a short time, read the entire text online, but I warn you: you may stay up until 3:30am to finish it and immediately order your own copy. When’s the last time you did that with a professional book?
Fair warning: for those of you out there who want to read books that prominently feature the librarian, you won’t find that here, although the ideas are just begging to be adopted by a teacher-librarian team. However, when I finished said book at 3:30am and wrote a frenzied email to the author asking this question, he kindly reported that he did work extensively with the librarian in his school to build foundational skills with students, but that time limitations precluded her from collaborating with him on this long-term project. My humble advice to you, if you are worried about that, is get over it and show how it can be done with a team.
To deny yourself this Valentine to your professional self would be sad indeed.
As my mother is fond of saying at the end of her email messages, “Here endeth the reading.”