Writing is hard. But stick with it and don’t give up. This advice came from Nicola Davies, a British zoologist and writer, who visited Bishop Elementary School in late October through a grant from the Arlington Education Foundation. The international author of over 40 children’s books spent five days at Bishop School – meeting with each individual classroom to talk about creative non-fiction writing.
“Writing, rewriting, starting over; it is all part of the writing process. Even the world’s most famous authors find writing difficult at times” Davies confides. Her advice to third graders? Give your readers surprises. Don’t just write about things they already know. Do some research and find lesser known things about your subject to educate your readers. One morning, she brainstormed a short story about gorillas with a 3rd grade Bishop classroom. It is well known that silverback gorillas have massive chests, yellow teeth and can charge when angry. But did you know that they spend their days eating leaves, are very protective of their children and let them climb all over them?
Davies’ visit served to aid students in the large change the Common Core has brought about. Students are now expected to move from creative writers to critical writers, with a stronger focus on non-fiction writing. During her visits with students, she talked about how to look through sources, determine what is true, what is important and become a critical writer. The AEF grant has also funded the creation of text sets for grades 3-5 at Bishop. Text sets are a set of books about a subject from different genres. As students read and compare texts from different genres (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, picture books, etc.) about the same subject, they become engaged and critical readers and writers.
The workshops were tailored to each grade level’s curriculum. In Kindergarten she did Reader’s Theater, in Grades 1-2 Poetry Prose about the natural world, and in Grades 3-5 Writer’s Workshop on revising work. As a result of Davies’ visit to Arlington, the Thompson, Stratton and Dallin elementary school PTOs also invited her to visit their schools.
To learn more about Davies creative non-fiction books, visit her website at http://www.nicola-davies.com.