Saturday, March 24, 2012

SOLS #24: Ohio's Great Blue Heron

When I started this challenge, my original intent was to get back in the habit of writing AND to try some of the types of writing we create in our classroom.  I've been fascinated by literary nonfiction.  I've been wanting to give a piece of literary nonfiction a try.  Tonight I'm collecting interesting facts about herons.  Maybe I can turn this into a piece of literary nonfiction.   Mandy, at Enjoy and Embrace Learning, gave me the final push with her post about manatees.  

"Some people criticize nonfiction writers for "appropriating" the techniques and devices of fiction writing. These techniques, except for invention of characters and detail, never belonged to fiction. They belong to storytelling." Tracy Kidder

Visit ODNR 

In the last several years I've noticed many more herons in Ohio.  Now it is possible they've been this common all along.  Perhaps I've just started to take note of the bird as it gracefully moves through the sky.  However, I'm thinking it is quite likely there is a change in the number of herons in our habitat.   

Here's What I've Noticed:

  • When I see a heron it is always alone.
  • Herons wait patiently in the shallow parts of water for prey to mistakingly stop by.
  • Indian Lake has a lot of herons.
  • I don't remember seeing herons as a child.
  • The heron appears to be flapping its wings slowly, but yet covers a distance quickly.
  • Herons have long skinny legs.  
  • Herons have long necks.
  • Occasionally, when excessive water makes a temporary pond in our backyard, a heron will be spotted.
  • Herons appear to have a long wingspan. 

In Our Field

Here's What I Wonder:

  • Has the heron population increased in Ohio in recent years?  If so, why?
  • What are the migration patterns of herons?
  • Do herons in Ohio always nest in a rookery?
  • Did we have a heron nest in our field last summer?
  • Do herons return to their nests?
  • What do herons eat besides fish?
  • How long do they live?
  • What does its foot like?  Does it use it help capture prey?


A Few Heron Facts

  • The great blue heron can stand about 4 feet tall (about the size of my first graders). 
  • The heron only weights 5-6 pounds.
  • The great blue heron is the largest heron.   
  • The plumage on the heron is black, brown and white, but appears bluish-grayish.
  • Herons make a rough croaking noise.  
  • Herons catch their prey with their long bills.
  • It's wingspan is 65-80 inches (as big or bigger than a person).  
  • Herons hunt day and night.
  • They have special "rod-type photoreceptors" that help them to see at night.
  • Herons eat fish, amphibians, reptiles, small animals, and other birds.
  • Herons nest in trees.
  • The heron is black, brown and white though it appears bluish-gray. 
  • The males gathers nesting material and the female builds the nest. 
  • The blue heron's foot is 6-8 inches long.  Stop here to for a look.  
  • Stop here to listen to the heron.  


  1. Your subsections are powerful: Noticings, Wonderings, Learnings. Very cool...I'm glad you shared your thinking. (I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my mind about nonfiction + narrative + argument.)

  2. My favorite is the wondering section. I love how learning something can make our brain automatically begin to wonder, if we listen for the questions. Love this.

  3. Literary nonfiction is becoming one of my favorite genres. This is something I can see kids getting a hold of and taking off. Loved the wonderings because I wondered some of the same things. Did you take the photos? They are amazing.

  4. Love it! I think nonfiction has been a neglected genre, and I'm thrilled it's finding its day in the sun. Can't wait to see what you do with this information.

  5. Wow! I love the way you used the KWL format (with new and improved headings) because it illuminates how we can model the use of such a chart in a piece of polished writing. Brilliant! We have a lot of blue herons in our rural part of Ontario, too. In fact, years ago they nested on an island on the river behind my house, so that we could sit out on the back porch and watch them fly, back and forth, every day. They are magnificent creatures. I love the way they drift in the sky for such long periods, having no need to flap flap flap those powerful wings.

  6. Dear Cathy, There is so much power in trying the same kind of writing that we ask our young writers to do, isn't there? I LOVE teaching the genre of literary nonfiction. It gives the kids so much freedom and there are so many wonderful mentor texts out there. Now, I'm going to have to be on the lookout for herons in my backyard. :)

  7. Thanks for sharing your process with us from "What I notice," to "What I Wonder" and "A Few Heron Facts." I can't wait to see how it turns out! I've been thinking lately how in order to dig deep in our reading we have to love it first or at least wonder. The same is true for writing. Befor we can write deeply about something and find the truth in it, we have to love it and wonder about it.


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