One Writer’s Journey

May 25, 2017

Concept picture books: I had to broaden my idea of “concept”

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:43 am
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Concept picture books.  It isn’t a new phrase but I have to admit that only recently have I developed a full understanding of what this category of books contains.

For those of you not familiar with the term, a concept picture book explores an abstract idea or process.  Alphabet books are concept books.  Counting books are concept books.  Books about verbs are … concept books.  But it is really much broader than that.

To help illustrate this point, I will explain what a concept book is not.  A concept book is not a narrative.  A biography, such as Gary Golio’s Jimi: Sounds like a Rainbow is not a concept book instead it has a chronological structure and the story is told through a narrative approach.  Narrative.  Chronological.  Not concept.

It is easier to explain what a concept book is NOT because a concept book can use several different structures all of which are being taught in the schools.  Thank you to Melissa Stewart who explained this in her guest post on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s blog, Cynsations.  As explained by Stewart, these structures are:

Description:  Boats Float! by George Ella Lyon and Benn Lyon is a fun, super simple description of boats.

Sequence:  My favorite sequence picture book is Rotten Pumpkin by David Schwartz.  After Halloween, a jack-0-lantern is put on the compost heap and this book follows it through the stages of decomposition.  Fascinating!

Compare & Contrast:  This is a structure that fascinates me.  For an example check out Frog or Toad?  How Do You Know?  By Melissa Stewart.

Question & Answer: Does a Fiddler Crab Fiddle?  by Corinne Demas and Artemis Roehrig starts with a question up front and follows this pattern throughout the book, feeding the reader fun facts about fiddle crabs.

Cause & Effect: Changing environments or people pushed into new situations can make good cause and effect books.  See Spy by Marissa Moss.

Problem & Solution:  Environmental problems and solutions or health issues would easily fit this category.  See Germs Make Me Sick by Melvin Berger.

If a publisher is looking for concept books, study their list and look beyond the ABCs and 123s to give yourself a better chance to make a sale!


May 11, 2017

The Scientific Method: Don’t Use It and Date Your Book

observatory-2224991_1920I have to admit that I have kind of a dicy relationship with the scientific method.  Observe. Develop a hypothesis.  Test said hypothesis.  Develop new hypothesis.  I know it and I’ve used it but sometimes it feels . . . limiting.  This was an especially serious problem when my son was doing science fair projects.  They wanted the young scientists to use the scientific method.  But these same young scientists could do an observational experiment or a model.  Umm . . . guys?  These don’t entirely sink with that whole scientific method thing.

Today I read a post on Melissa Stewart’s Celebrate Science blog. If you write about science for young readers, you need to bookmark this blog.  This particular post deals with the list of practices that are reshaping how science is taught in the schools.

As explained by Sweet, in 2012, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine published  A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.  This document was written by a committee of scientists and engineers in order to provide recommendations to overhaul K-12 science education.  Why overhaul?  Because the scientific method is limited and doesn’t reflect the modern understanding of the natural world and how scientists do their work. This framework was used to develop the Next Generation Science Standards, released in 2013 and currently being implemented in schools nationwide. 

Instead of the scientific method, we now have a variety of practices.  It’s important to understand that not all of these practices are implimented in any given situation.  They are a listing of different ways that scientists and engineers answer questions and solve problems.

The practices are:

  • Asking questions (for science) and define problems (for engineering)
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations (for science) and design solutions (for engineering)
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

As my son, the budding chemical engineer, pointed out, this covers both discovery and development.

I’m not sure how this is going to play out in the long term but, as you write STEM related materials, be prepared to indicate which practices your book addresses.


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