Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.
Last winter, when the Ohio State football team played against Oregon for the national championship, my husband and son were so locked into the whole experience, I think there were times that they forgot to eat and sleep.
About the game itself, I was ambivalent at best; at worst, I was a bit irritated that an entire state seemed to have lost its collective mind over a football game.
But for my own personal purposes, I was perfectly fine with the obsession happening in my own house. Why? Because my son and his father were like little buzzy bees as they prepared for the big game. They were talking, listening, pondering, thinking, predicting, inferring, and reading. Hours and hours were spent reading blogs about the two teams; searching online for sports reporters who were weighing in on game predictions; and studying information about the players on each team.
My seven-year-old son is an emerging reader. Seeing him so fiercely absorbed in something and learning how to seek out information, read it closely, and respond to it with another person doing the same thing was thrilling to me. Were they studying a classic children’s novel? No. But the reading they were doing was good stuff. It was well written, thoughtful, and carefully presented. The writers they sought were knowledgeable about the game and thoughtful in their discussions about it. In the weeks leading up to the game, I saw my son’s confidence as a reader grow.
But their football obsession did more than contribute to my son’s reading progress. In essence, my husband was teaching my son about research. Finding good resources and reading through them to determine their effectiveness isn’t easy to do, especially for a seven-year-old. But I kept overhearing my husband teaching this very skill as they searched, searched, and searched some more for all the information they could find about the game.
For example, when they discovered a particular piece of information and found it to be lacking in breadth or legitimacy, my husband explained why it wasn’t a good source and guided them somewhere else. “I don’t think this reporter knows very much about football. Let’s look for someone who has more expertise,” he would say. Or, “This guy is from another conference which mean he is going to be biased against Ohio State. That’s why his opinion seems off to us.” From these conversations, I could hear my son learning about finding good resources when doing research, and how to consider how bias or perspective might alter the validity or applicability of a resource.
So while I have no real use for football in my life, beyond the fun of an occasional tailgate and seeing my son and his father bond over something they both love, I am thrilled that loving the sport leads to making my son a better reader and a strong researcher. For that, I’ll take a football game any day.
This week we look at creative approaches to nonfiction. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio.
Free for All
Katie Doherty uses Nonfiction Graffiti Walls to build interest in nonfiction among her middle school students:
Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy has suggestions for getting started with nonfiction read alouds:
A rare Supermoon will occur in just a few days. Ruth Shagoury and Meghan Rose at Lit for Kids give their picks for fiction, nonfiction, and informational links to celebrate this event:
For Members Only
Franki Sibberson shares some of her favorite nonfiction books with more than one entry point:
This week’s video is the start of a first-grade lesson on the differences between fiction and nonfiction. This is the first video in a three-part series:
In an encore video, Aimee Buckner leads a lesson on narrative nonfiction in fifth grade:
That’s all for this week!