I've been teaching first grade students the difference between fiction and nonfiction for the past couple weeks, and this week's lesson involved a reading of each type of story. It's no secret that I prefer fiction - I love made-up stories, especially fantasy, so I share that love often. But I may be doing things a little differently from now on.
published June 2008 by Candlewick
48 pages (hardcover), picture book
Sweet little old lady, Mrs. Collywobbles, is afraid of the "big, dark, scary wood" near her house - but luckily, she has her pet frog to keep her safe. Monsters leave the forest en route to Mrs. Collywobbles house (goblin, troll, ogre) but are gobbled up by her pet frog before they can make any trouble. In a surprising twist of events, Mrs. Collywobbles gives her pet frog a little kiss of gratitude and is transformed into a frog herself! Whatever will she do?
The kids loved this book - all three classes of first grade students ended this story with a chorus of "Read it again!" Of course it helped that I love this book and used all kinds of creepy, scary voices for the monsters. It was good choice for the fiction side of things because although little old ladies may have pet frogs, 1. their frogs don't eat monsters and 2. humans can't change into frogs. This was an easy concept for some students to grasp - others alluded to The Princess and the Frog, and I had to remind them that that was a made-up story too. But all in all, they were pretty good about telling each other why this book was fiction.
published October 1991 by Simon & Schuster
24 pages (hardcover), children's nonfiction
Frog is the story of the life of a frog, from egg to tadpole to full-grown frog. Each page has a single sentence with clear illustrations. It's a small book. It's simple. It's easy to understand.
And the students were mesmerized. I read each word slowly and fanned the book to show the illustrations. Not a peep from the children. They were leaning forward, completely captivated by what I was showing them, which totally shocked and confused me. It was so quiet in the library that when I finished the book, I used my whisper voice and asked if this was fiction or nonfiction and why. Students raised their hands and gave articulate responses. Well, knock me over with a feather! I'm only surprised because the previous story brought out the silliness in students and this one sobered them up so quickly. Bad librarian for being so biased! Nonfiction is interesting to the little ones, so I've witnessed. I'll have to bring more of it to my library lessons.