First Grade Students Welcome Author Stacy McAnulty
Acclaimed author, Stacy McAnulty, got up early Tuesday morning, November 19, and drove from her home in Kernersville to entertain and instruct first grade students at Morris Grove Elementary School and then Estes Hills Elementary School, and from all appearances, everyone had a grand time, talking about the Universe series of books, and nonfiction writing in general.
Media specialists Gretchen Westman (MGES) and Laura Fox (EHES) combined forces to apply for a Public School Foundation grant to bring McAnulty to their schools. Their shared goals for the author visit were numerous and multi-faceted, beyond providing an energy-packed session about the moon, the sun and the stars. They wanted their first grade students to better understand the process of researching and writing informational text, and to help them recognize that genre of writing comes in many forms. Through McAnulty’s books, they wanted to help students explore the concept of narrative nonfiction. And again, they had fun!
Westman said, “She was fantastic, and I was so proud of all our students,” who managed to sit for over 45 minutes, fully engaged and eager to ask and answer questions. Westman said the teachers told her “how excited the students were to meet a working author and how engaged they've been with the format of her books. One thing that stuck out to me was how amazed they were to hear how many times she edits and revises. That's a powerful thought when we're working to help students develop persistence and problem-solving skills.”
Fox said, “The nonfiction books in this series include: Earth: My first 4.54 billion years, Moon: Earth’s best friend and Sun: One in a billion. As part of the grant, each classroom received copies of all three books. Teachers are using the books during their science unit on the Earth-Moon-Sun system.”
Fox read Earth to all of the EHES first grade classes. “Students gave the book a star rating, and wrote and illustrated their favorite part of the book. We also talked about how these books are examples of narrative nonfiction in which Earth is a character in the book. While the book reads like a story, Earth shares facts about our planet.”
McAnulty took time and care to explain, with humor and specific examples, how she starts with a concept and builds each book through extensive research, feedback from her trusted readers and plenty of revisions. When she mentioned that she had been pleased that one book only required seven revisions, a student exclaimed dramatically, “Seven times?”
Talia Smart, events manager at Flyleaf Books, accompanied McAnulty to both schools and distributed books that had been purchased (some as gifts) for children. “I was really impressed by the kids' responses to the question, ‘How can we be kinder to the Earth?’ It’s super open-ended, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much the kiddos already seemed to know about environmentalism, from cleaning up litter, to carpooling, to buying metal straws and decreasing plastic consumption.”
After McAnulty finished her presentations for the day, she tweeted a photo of a Post-It note from the MGES media center board created in preparation for her visit. “Love this!” she tweeted. “My books are ‘kinduve funee.”
After the author visit, the plan is to help students create a class slideshow. Each student will contribute a slide on a nonfiction topic similar to the style in Ms. McAnulty’s books. They will share the completed slideshows between the two schools, which will fulfill another of the project goals, to provide students an opportunity to communicate with their peers across the district .