Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fun: A Perfect Pair

Different students enjoy different kinds of books and learn in different ways, so pairing fiction and nonfiction books can be a great way to introduce and reinforce science concepts.

Text-book explanations of the scientific method can be dry, vague, or even confusing, but the books below bring the concept to life by showing the scientific method at work in vivid and compelling, real-life situations.

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith + Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From by Catherine Thimmesh
Using a diary format in which each chapter of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo reveals part of the story from a different character's perspective, Smith presents a fresh, witty tale in which three seventh graders face a tough year at their exclusive Chicago charter school. Not only are Elias, Shohei, and Honoria caught in a love triangle, they must deal with out-of-touch parents, and the pressures of school science fair.

Honoria is a serious participant in the fair and has undertaken the extraordinary task of trying to teach a pair of piranhas to prefer bananas over meat. When Elias stumbles on the brilliant plan of reproducing one of his brother's award-winning experiments, Shohei begs to be his partner. But the plan backfires and lands Elias in Student Court. Honoria's brilliant strategy for Eli's defense means a crisis of conscience for Shohei, who will have to admit that he has copied his experiment's results. Can their friendship survive?

Lucy Long Ago is an exceptionally accessible introduction to the mystery of human origins. Enhanced with stunning photos and computer-generated artwork, the text clearly explains how scientists asked questions and systematically went about answering them in their quest to learn about a 3.2 million-year-old hominid skeleton—known as Lucy—found in Hadar, Ethiopia.

Discussion Questions
--Ask students what the books have in common. [Examples of the scientific method being practiced.]
--How are the books different? [One is fiction. One is nonfiction.]
--Ask students which book they preferred and why.
--What mistakes does Shohei make in Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo? What mistakes does Elias make?
--How does scientist Donald Johnson employ the scientific method in Lucy Long Ago?

Another Perfect PairTry reading either of these books with The Snake Scientist by Sy Montgomery.

Doing More
Ask students to write a few paragraphs explaining why the steps of the scientific method and how it should be used are clearer to them after reading Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo and Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From. They should include specific examples from one of the two books.

Do you know another great book that could be paired with the ones I’ve discussed today? Can you think of related activities for students? If so, please add a comment below. This blog is all about sharing ideas.

1 comment:

  1. I like Jean Craighead George, who writes lots of ecologically based novels. For instance, "Julie of the Wolves" is about northern survival and "The Talking Earth" is about survival in the Florida Everglades in a hurricane. These are survivor stories that kids can sink their teeth into. When the books veer away from the facts, teachers can always ask kids to make a list of ten factual and fictional parts of the stories.

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