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The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho

In the classroom, often times student struggle when trying to differentiate fiction from nonfiction. Sometimes, I will give students a group of books that they have to sort into two groups: fiction or nonfiction.

A similar activity can also be done with informational fiction titles. “Informational fiction presents facts and information within a fictional story.” In The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, the grandmother and the main character, Dayeon, are fictional characters. But as Dayeon learns to face her fear of the ocean, readers learn about the haenyeo tradition which centers around elderly women diving “in deep waters up to thirty meters.”

After the fictional story arc, Tina Cho includes nonfiction back matter about the haenyeo tradition. She uses quotes from her interview with various haenyeo to organize the information in the back matter.

So, another way to help readers learn the difference between fiction and nonfiction, would be to give them an informational fiction title such as The Ocean Calls and ask them to read the whole book including the back matter. Then, ask them to identify whether Dayeon’s story is fiction or nonfiction and explain why. After explaining that the story is fictional because it has made up characters, ask readers whether the back matter is fiction or nonfiction and to explain why. In the back matter, readers can identify the quotes from real people and learn the facts about the tradition and the dangers these brave women face every time they dive deep.

For those of you who wish to learn more about the author, Tina Cho, who is also a kindergarten teacher in Iowa, you can listen to me interview her on my podcast Chalk and Ink: The Podcast for Teachers Who Write and Writers Who Teach.

Interview with Middle School Teacher and Novelist, Ernesto Cisneros Chalk and Ink: The Podcast for Teachers Who Write and Writers Who Teach

The honest and hopeful Ernesto Cisneros talks about opening the door to the Latino culture, how his students are a key component to his publishing success and encourages all teachers and students to dream big because the world needs each of our voices to be heard. If you would like to connect after this episode, you can find Ernesto at and on Twitter @Author_Cisneros and you can find me at and on Twitter @KateNarita. Happy listening!
  1. Interview with Middle School Teacher and Novelist, Ernesto Cisneros
  2. Interview with Instructional Coach and Picture Book Author, Valerie Bolling
  3. Interview with K-12 Librarian and Children's Book Author, Jolene Gutierrez
  4. Interview with Elementary Librarian, Author and Marathon Runner Lisa Rogers
  5. Interview with Author, Blogger and Teacher Educator Melissa Stewart

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