A nonfiction resource—popular with both teachers and students—will begin posting new essays on September 8 for the upcoming school year. The Nonfiction Minute features posts by a diverse array of award-winning children’s nonfiction authors toward helping teachers meet the challenge of exposing their students to more nonfiction.
The lineup of posts this fall will include “What is a Light Year?” by math and science expert David M. Schwartz; “Something is Rotten in Rome,” by Sarah Albee, a former editor for Sesame Street; and “September 11,” a poem by hands-on science presenter Vicki Cobb.
An audio file accompanies each brief post so less-fluent readers can listen or read along. Some of the essays include photos and videos, and each one introduces readers to the author and his or her work.
A different selection for each school day, a total of 170, will be published for 2015–16. But instead of posting them one by one, inkThinkTank, the nonprofit organization that created the site, will publish the whole week’s worth on Saturday afternoon so teachers have time to prepare how they will integrate the essays into their instruction. In a week with a holiday, four posts will be published instead of five. Older posts will be archived and searchable by topic.
The Nonfiction Minute was created to provide educators and students with easy access to “real-world material,” according to the site, which received 300,000 page views by 90,000 unique visitors in 2014. Many students also visited the site independently and left comments on what they read, says Cobb, who is also president of inkThinkTank. The organization is seeking funding to support the project in the future.
“As librarians, we have always known the value of nonfiction and work hard to collect and promote fascinating nonfiction to our patrons,” says Karen M. Sterling, a library media specialist at Pennridge North Middle School in Perkasie, PA.
Fiction books have long been prominently displayed in libraries and bookstores, Sterling says, adding that giving students greater access to nonfiction selections has been a greater challenge. Last November, Sterling created a professional development opportunity in which teachers at the school met virtually with four of the Minute authors. The teachers then brainstormed several ways to use the essays in their classrooms, including practicing close reading strategies, expanding “listening vocabulary” for English language learners and using the essays to develop “researchable” questions.
She has also worked on ways to organize the Minutes so students and teachers can more easily find what they need. “Whether a student thinks they prefer science, or history, or art, or math, the authors of the pieces in the Minute consistently demonstrate that exploring what we love and see around us is fascinating,” says Sterling. “By providing each Minute in audio all students have access, and if, as we have done in many of our classrooms, students and faculty read them regularly, the ‘voice’ of each author begins to shine.”