Monday, March 21, 2016

More divergent thinking

Most of you will know how excited I get with books that offer a different spin on their topics or in how they present their material aka divergent thinking. I facilitated a workshop last October with students about the range of resources available, different types found in fiction and nonfiction and with their assistance created a Pinterest board listing some of their recommendations for books with divergent thinking characteristics. (See also blog from October.)

So today I’m recommending two more books that I think also showcase qualities of divergent thinking.

First up is I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton. No super surprising twist about the topic in this book.  Yup, it’s about spiders. As the author explains she’s trying very, very, very hard to learn to ‘love’ them which is hard work and taking a toll on the spider population. But by learning more about spiders, their characteristics and what they’re good at (mostly eating lots of other insects) the author does eventually come to better appreciate them.  Next up, learning to love cockroaches.

Both the illustrations and font type-face add to the book’s humour. Unless you’re already comfortable around spiders the book is easy to relate to. I, too, can appreciate qualities of spiders but its best if they stay out in the garden. I will try the catch-and-release approach to those that do take up residence in the house but once they reach a size of large proportions (Yes, I’m thinking of you dearly departed ginormous cane spider in Hawaii) I just kind of lose it.

So we have information, humour, and relatability to draw us in and engage our interest.  I’d recommend this for early elementary grades and see it tying in to the Alberta Education science curriculum for grade 2.

A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long is my next recommendation.

This is part of a series that I think is brilliant. Here are the other titles:
An Egg is Quiet
A Butterfly is Patient
A Rock is Lively
A Seed in Sleepy

All of these take a phenomenon from nature and give it an attribute you wouldn’t necessarily connect to that particular natural occurrence. I particularly like A Rock is Lively as you don’t think about a rock as being all that lively – for most of us they’re pretty static. Check out the book to find out more.  And what a great activity to have students model their own work by matching atypical attributes to nature’s wonders.

In A Nest is Noisy we’re introduced (or reminded) about various animals who build nests, mostly egg laying creatures such as birds, fish, and insects but also prairie dogs, primates and squirrels who do not lay eggs. So how are nests noisy? They’re filled with the busy-ness and the getting-on-with of life of rearing the young. The range of construction materials is fascinating including everything from typical twigs, leaves and grasses to mud, bubbles, and saliva. Army ants use their own bodies to create bivouacs or ‘living nests’.  Besides trees, nests are found in water, underground, in sand and shallow, rocky streambeds. The illustrations are beautifully rendered in watercolour with lots of attention to detail but typically displayed on single coloured backgrounds to highlight the nests and animals.

I recommend all of Aston's and Long's books across the elementary level in science (animals, building materials, sound), language arts and art.


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