guest post by Alison Formento
When I write for magazines or newspapers I must fact check all information I include in an article or essay. I conduct interviews and research whatever topic I’m writing about and it’s no different when I write my nature picture books. My books are considered literary non-fiction. There are fictional elements in my stories in which the trees, bees, or seas talk, but every fact shared has been thoroughly researched and verified by scientists and experts, such as apiarists (beekeepers) for my book These Bees Count! and oceanographers for These Seas Count!
My new picture book These Seas Count! was an exciting book to research since our world’s oceans and seas are fascinating and a vital part of keeping our Earth healthy. Scientists have guessed that there are perhaps a million yet-to-be discovered marine life forms. A million! We know so many amazing sea facts such as there are phytoplankton too small to see which help make our air breathable and there are whales the length of several school buses who can communicate in their own language, but imagine what else we don't know yet about marine life. Our oceans and seas are a place of mystery and wonder and we must care for them as we would a garden in our own backyard.
In my research, I discovered underwater coral called Sea Fan and used that as the name for the boat in These Seas Count! Here’s a way students can use research to make a splash in their own writing.
1. Students draw an ocean, beach, and sky scene. Drawing a scene can help inspire creative thinking, especially for those students who may have a hard time getting started on a writing project.
2. Free-write names of sea life that make the beach or ocean its home. Example, write “Whale” in the water part of the picture or “Gull” in the sky part of the picture. The goal is to fill the page with as many of these words as possible to use in drafting an essay.
3. Research books, magazines, educational websites, and ocean links to find a sea creature that you’ve never heard of before, such as the new Zombie Worm recently discovered in the
Antarctic Ocean. There are links to several wonderful educational ocean websites on the Educator’s Guide for These Seas Count! (found on my website) including this one: http://oceana.org/en/explore/marine-wildlife.
4. List at least five facts on one new sea creature. Include this new creature on drawing.
5. Use ocean drawing to inspire writing. How does that new creature, like the Sea Fan or Zombie Worm interact with other creatures on the ocean drawing?
6. Write about this creature using the five facts discovered through research. Share information as if writing for someone who has never been to the ocean.
7. Make a splash using personal knowledge of the ocean, along with newly discovered facts, to draft an essay that is both interesting and fun to research, to write, and to read.