Friday, October 16, 2015

The Nonfiction Minute: A Teacher's Best Friend

First, let me give a big congratulations to Michelle H. who won the CWIM giveaway!  I know you will enjoy it.  

You know, it isn’t often that something truly innovative comes along in education or publishing.  But when it does, look out!  My post today is about one such unique project called The Nonfiction Minute  (NFM).   Check out the website at

Each school day on The Nonfiction Minute website, a fascinating 400-word nonfiction article is published.  Each article is written by one of two dozen award-winning nonfiction authors.  The articles cover subjects that are as different as each author and include topics in history, sports, popular culture, space, math, government, music, and everything in-between.   Related photographs accompany each article.  NFM articles can be used to teach content, as well as reading and writing.
But, wait, there’s more. 
Every Nonfiction Minute has an audio file of the author reading his or her own article.  In this way, young readers or struggling readers can listen as they read along.   This feature allows the NFM to work across all age groups from primary grades through adulthood.   
But wait, there’s more.
The Nonfiction Minute is FREE!  That’s right ladies and gents, FREE. 

This revolutionary idea is produced by a group of nonfiction authors known as iNK Think Tank.  Each article is written by a professional nonfiction author, then edited by a top-tier professional nonfiction editor, Jean Reynolds.
To be fair, I must declare my disclaimer:  I am a member of iNK Think Tank, and I write for The Nonfiction Minute.  However, the few articles I’ve written are a small part of the 170 Nonfiction Minutes that will appear in the line-up this school year.  I’m part of an ever-growing audience of NFM readers.  Every day, the articles written by my fellow authors fascinate me.  They capture the imagination of the reader with expertly crafted text in only 400 words.      

Vicki Cobb, award-winning author and founder of iNK Think Tank says:

"The Nonfiction Minute illustrates a variety of voices.   Authors are not homogeneous.  Readers will get to know each author as they read the article then hear the author speak.  This too is a learning experience as it demonstrates to students how various authors look at the facts and filter what to use.  Kids will see there is a big difference between what they read in a textbook and what they read in The Nonfiction Minute."  

This is the second school year for the NFM.  Since the beginning there have been around 300,000 page views, from 90,000 unique visitors.  Readership is growing fast as more teachers find out about the NFM.  At present, there are around 1200 page views per day.  
Responding to the needs of teachers who commented they would love to have advance notice of the coming week’s topics on the NFM, Authors on Call provided a way to do just that.  Now teachers can receive an email on Thursday of the previous week that lists the article topics for the next week.  This way, teachers have time to plan how they can incorporate NFM into their teaching plans.  To sign up for advance notice, teachers simply sign up through the website to receive the email--which is, again, FREE.
Great teachers all across America are finding ways to use the NFM with their students.  Here are two examples from teachers I know in Arkansas that demonstrate how one article can be used in a variety of ways.  These two teachers used a recent NFM I wrote titled “The Near-Death Experience of Football.”  The article deals with the deadly 1905 football season when America considered banning the game, and President Teddy Roosevelt called coaches to a meeting in hopes of saving football.   The same article, two different teachers, two different age groups:   
Melissa L., a media specialist in a tiny rural school, explained how she used this NFM with her 5th grade students:   

"I have a big screen tv at the front of my library (got it before we began purchasing Smart Boards) which is connected to my computer.  So I pull up the website at the beginning of each period along with any other peripheral webpages on info that I think may come into our discussion afterwards (for instance, this week I pulled up what the Ivy League Schools are on Wikipedia and we looked at their names and the years they were founded as well as Google images of football uniforms around the early 1900's - which led to a discussion of the dangers of even SIMPLE injuries in the days before "modern medicine.").  I also pull up a tab with a page for the author that has an image of the books that he/she has written - to introduce the kids to that person before we begin the Nonfiction Minute.  Then I turn up my audio and enlarge the words on my screen as big as I can so that at least the closest ones can read along (as I scroll) while the author reads aloud.  When done I then close that screen and have the discussion with questions about what we just listened to and learned - and any peripheral discussion (as I just mentioned).  In all it takes 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class."

The next example is from Cassandra S., an 8th grade English teacher:  

"I'm using this article and another one like it to discuss Teddy Roosevelt's involvement with saving football (leading to a discussion and writing prompt about presidents exerting personal preferences into national policies) which will then lead us to discussing Andrew Jackson's controversial decisions upon election and again...accountability for presidents and their personal motives. (This second portion is to supplement my struggling readers in the American History class while focusing on argumentative writing in mine)."

What I love about the above samples is that each teacher used the same NFM and found creative, effective ways to use it that fit the needs of her students.  Perhaps best of all, these amazing teachers guided their students in a way that encouraged them to use critical thinking skills.
Gone are the days when nonfiction equals boring.  Finally, nonfiction texts are available that are fun, fascinating, and free.  We the authors of The Nonfiction Minute hope great teachers around the country will use our work to promote a passion for learning. 
So, spread the word about this truly innovative project. 
Teachers and students will enjoy every minute.   

Carla Killough McClafferty 


Linda Baie said...

This sounds fabulous, & I will certainly pass the post on to colleagues. Thanks very much for the detailed post.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Thanks for the comment, Linda. It really is an innovative project and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Dorothy Patent said...

Nice post, Carla, and great that these two teachers took the time to let you know how they used your Minute in the classroom. I'm always impressed by the creativity of teachers in figuring out how to utilize resources in new ways that fit their needs.

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

I agree Dorothy, I'm impressed with teachers who use available tools to fit the needs of their students.

Any other teachers out there that want to share how they can / will use The Nonfiction Minute?

Esther Hershenhorn said...

I love this singular resource, Carla!
Thanks for sharing it with our readers.
I share it with teachers on a daily basis.
It's brilliant!

Carmela Martino said...

What an amazing resource, Carla. Thanks for letting all of us know about it.