Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Behind the Books: Even More on Text Structure

Last week, when I wrote about circle stories, I included my own book, No Monkeys, No Chocolate, in my list of sample titles. Believe it or not, the idea that the book featured a circular structure was a revelation. Honestly, it never occurred to me until a Kirkus reviewer called it a “clever circle story” in his/her starred review.

The whole time I was working on the book I classified it as a cumulative story, a la The House that Jack Built, in my mind. I worked hard to make each step in the process as clear and engaging as possible.

Basically, I thought of the whole book in terms of conceptual scaffolding—carefully assembling a series of building blocks, one spread at a time, with the overall goal of convincing readers that the title was, indeed, true—if there were no monkeys in the world, our favorite dessert would disappear, too. Poof!
 
I worked so hard to carry readers along on a voyage of discovery from the provocative title to (what I hoped was) a satisfying pay off at the end that I never realized the book starts and ends in the same place—with cocoa beans.

There are lots of other great nonfiction books that make good use of a cumulative structure. Here are some of my favorites.

Here Is Antarctica by Madeleine Dunphy (illus Tom Leonard)

Here Is the African Savanna by Madeleine Dunphy (illus Tom Leonard)

Here Is the Coral Reef by Madeleine Dunphy (illus Tom Leonard)

Here Is the Tropical Rain Forest by Madeleine Dunphy (illus Michael Rothman)

Here Is the Wetland by Madeleine Dunphy (illus Wayne McLoughlin)

Here Is the Southwestern Desert by Madeleine Dunphy (illus Ann Coe)

Here Is the Arctic Winter by Madeleine Dunphy (illus Alan James Robinson)

Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox (illus Nancy Davis)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Teaching Science with Kidlit: NGSS Performance Expectation K-ESS3-3

Let’s focus on yet another kindergarten PE that is lumped under Earth & Space Science, though it really has significant overlap with life science concepts. This week, my suggestions are related to land environments. Next week, I’ll look at water environments.

K-ESS3-3.Communicate and discuss solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment.

Here are some books that would be perfect for addressing this concept:

Where Once There Was a Wood by Denise Flemming

A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

Dumpster Diver by Janet S. Wong

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

Finding Home by Sandra Markle

Discussion
Young children can often see and evaluate the actions of others, but they may have trouble understanding the impact of their own behaviors. And yet, they need that awareness before they can get involved in meaningful conservation. To help students develop their thinking in this direction, encourage them to discuss how they might be harming the environment without even realizing it. They can use some examples from A Place for Butterflies as thought starters. Then encourage students to suggest ways they might change their behavior to help protect animals and preserve natural environments in your community.

Activity
Invite students to pretend they are the butterfly in Where Once There Was a Wood or one of the butterflies in the Great Kapok tree’s tropical rain forest home. Ask the children to describe what it feels like to flit through the air. Then ask what they wish people would do to help them live and grow. Consider recording a few children’s responses with the video setting on a digital camera. The videos can be replayed later on your SmartBoard.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Fun: Gross Out!

On hot days, your body keeps cool by cranking out a steady supply of clear, salty sweat. As the sweat evaporates, or turns into a gas and rises into the air, the heat on your skin goes along for the ride.

But a turkey vulture can’t make sweat. So it stays cool by peeing on its legs. As the urine evaporates, body heat escapes through the scales on the bird’s legs. What a great trick!

For more gross facts about our animal neighbors, check out Animal Grossapedia. But be sure not to read it right after lunch!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Behind the Books: More on Text Structure

I’ve been thinking a lot about nonfiction text structures lately. I spoke about it at the New England Reading Association conference in Portland, Maine, in September, and I’ll be part of a panel discussing this topic at NCTE in Boston in November.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, CCSS directly mentions four different nonfiction text structures, but there are others that are worth thinking about. One of my favorites is a circle story, which is a great structure for students to use in their own writing.

In a circle story, the reader begins and ends at the same place, which is very satisfying.

Here are some examples:

Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley (phots by Nic Bishop)

Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Coral Reef by Jason Chin

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre(illus. by Steve Jenkins)

Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre (illus. by Kate Endle)

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart (illus. Constnace Bergum)

When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart (illus. Constnace Bergum)

An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston Hutts (illus. Sylvia Long)

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Aston Hutts (illus. Sylvia Long)

A Butterfly Is Patient by Dianna Aston Hutts (illus. Sylvia Long)

A Rock Is Lively by Dianna Aston Hutts (illus. Sylvia Long)

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart (illus. Nicole Wong)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Awesome Autumn!

Today is the most beautiful autumn day I've ever seen, so I had to take a picture. The foliage is at its height in our front yard, and look at that gorgeous blue sky. You can also spot the GIANT pumpkin my husband scored on Saturday.

Integrating Science and Language Arts: NGSS Performance Expectation K-ESS2-1

Expanding on the post from October 7, here are some books and activities that focus specifically on one aspect of K-ESS2-1—the role humans can play in altering an environment, either accidentally or on purpose, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Here are some books that I recommend:

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore

On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole

Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winters

Activity 1
Work with your class to make a helpful change to the environment around your school by planting a wildlife garden. Encourage the students to watch the garden closely to see if it attracts insects, birds, and other animals.

Activity 2
This activity builds on Activity 2 for the PE’s sister lesson. (See my Oct. 7 post.) Ask students to observe a tree in the schoolyard, around their neighborhood, or at a local park at least three times over a few days. Then ask them to draw two pictures. The first drawing should show at least one way the tree makes life better for one or more animals that live in the same environment. The second drawing should show how the animal(s) would be affected if people cut down the tree.

When students have finish their drawings, ask them what they think would happen if another person planted a new tree. How long do they think it would take for those changes to happen?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: Why did the comet head toward the edge of the Solar System?
A: It needed some space.

Q: Why do some asteroids come so close to Earth?
A: They like the view.

Q: What do astronauts use change the radio station when they’re on the Moon?
A: A lunar tuner. 

Q: What does the Sun do when it’s thirsty?
A: It gets out its sun glasses and melts a comet.

Q: What did the alien say as his spaceship passed Mars?
A: Red alert! Red alert!

Looking for more super silly jokes about the space beyond Earth? Check out Out of this World Jokes About the Solar System.

 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Behind the Books: A Small Miracle


Some people think violets are weeds and yank them out of their gardens. But violets are my favorite flowers.

I love their deep purple color, and I love how they fearlessly pop their little flowerheads out in early spring. To me, they are a sign of hope and new beginnings.

So my heart leapt up when I spotted this hardy survivor in my yard yesterday. Some people might shake their heads at this violet and think it's confused, but to me, it's a small miracle. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Holiday Hike

Since my husband had Columbus Day off, we decided to climb Mount Wachusett in central Massachusetts. We weren't the only ones.

We shared the trail with this hickory tussock caterpillar. The tiny tike was looking for a warm, cozy spot to spend the winter.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Fun: Gross Out!

Delicate. Lovely. Graceful. These are some of the words you might use to describe a butterfly. Right?

But consider the madrilenial butterfly: Nectar isn’t the only thing it sips with its straw-like proboscis. It also feeds on the blood of any dead animal it can find. Yuck!

For more gross facts about our animal neighbors, check out Animal Grossapedia. But be sure not to read it right after lunch!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Behind the Books: Thinking About Text Structure

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about “gamification” as a nonfiction text structure and included this visual of text structures specifically mentioned in the Common Core ELA standards.


Grade 4

Grade 5

Describe the overall structure (chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or info in a text or part of a text

Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/ solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or info in two or more texts

Following that post, I received lots of questions about books that were good matches for each of the four structures specifically mentioned in the CCSS. So here are some lists for you:

 
Chronology
Picture book biographies are a great place to find this structure in books that can easily be read aloud.

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer


The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton (illus. Tony Persiani)

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley (illus Brian Selznick)

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli (illus Kadir Nelson)

Marvelous Mattie by Emily Arnold McCully

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola

Pop: The Invention of Bubble Gum by Megan McCarthy

Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass (E.B. Lewis)

What to Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley (illus. Edwin Fotheringham)

 
Comparison
Neo Leo by Gene Barretta

Now & Ben by Gene Barretta

Timeless Thomas by Gene Baretta

Those Rebels, Tom & John by Barbara Kerley

Move! by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Alligator or Crocodile? How Do You Know by Melissa Stewart

Butterfly or Moth? How Do You Know? by Melissa Stewart

Frog or Toad? How Do You Know? by Melissa Stewart

Insect of Spider? How Do You Know? by Melissa Stewart

Salamander or Lizard? How Do You Know? by Melissa Stewart

Shark or Fish? How Do You Know? by Melissa Stewart

Cause/Effect
Frog in a Bog by John Himmelman

A Place for Butterflies by Melissa Stewart (illus Higgins Bond)

A Place for Fish by Melissa Stewart (illus Higgins Bond)

A Place for Frogs by Melissa Stewart (illus Higgins Bond

A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart (illus Higgins Bond)

A Place for Bats by Melissa Stewart (illus Higgins Bond)

A Place for Turtles by Melissa Stewart (illus Higgins Bond)


Problem/Solution
All fiction books adhere this structure, so they may be the best way to teach it. Some people also put nonfiction Q & A books in this category.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Teaching Science with Kidlit: NGSS Performance Expectation K-ESS2-1

This week, I’m focusing on another kindergarten PE that is lumped under Earth & Space Science, though it really has significant overlap with life science concepts.

K-ESS2-1. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs. [Clarification Statement: Examples of plants and animals changing their environment could include a squirrel digs in the ground to hide its food and tree roots can break concrete.]

Here are some books that would be perfect for addressing how animals can change an environment.
Mole’s Hill by Lois Elhert

At Home with Gopher Tortoise by Madeleine Dunphy

Turtle's Race with Beaver by Joseph and James Bruchac 
Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? by Anne Rockwell 

Wiggling Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer

Activity 1
Encourage your students to create a comparison mural that shows the ways animals in two of the books listed above changed their environment. For example, the fictional character Mole in Mole’s Hill and the gopher tortoise featured in At Home with Gopher Tortoise both dig underground. Why does each animal dig tunnels and how does that affect the creatures that live in the area?

It’s hard to find books that show how plants can change their environment, but this activity will do the trick:

Activity 2
Ask students to observe a tree in the schoolyard, around their neighborhood, or at a local park at least three times over a few days. Then ask them to draw a picture that shows at least one way the tree makes life better for one or more animals that live in the same environment.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: What do rocks eat for desert?
A: Marble cake.

Q: How does the mantle find out what’s happening on Earth’s surface?
A: It reads magazines.

Q: What does Earth have in common with an apple?
A: They both have a core.

Q: Why did the emerald raise his hand?
A: Because the answer was crystal clear.

Q: What did the rock say when the wind refused to go to bed?
A: You’re wearing me down.

Looking for more super silly jokes about the weather? Check out Mountains of Jokes About Rocks, Minerals, and Soil.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Behind the Books: More Questions About the Power of Story

Last week, I questioned the methodology of a recent study that makes this bold claim: “Stories are about 22 times more memorable than facts alone.

I’ve been giving the study more thought and I’ve decided that the researchers, Arya & Maul, should do more than just choose their texts more carefully. They should also test subjects at a variety of grade levels.

The 2012 study included 209 students in grades 7 and 8. I think they should also look at students in grades 3 and 4.

What I’ve seen firsthand and heard echoed by educators is that, generally speaking, nonfiction seems to be a more popular choice among elementary readers than middle grade readers. And we all know that the most popular nonfiction at, let’s say, grades 2-4 are fact-filled, browse-able titles like The Guinness Book of World Records.

I strongly believe that elementary-aged children gravitate toward facts because it’s their “job” to understand the world. On the other hand, tweens and teens are in a different place developmentally. It is there “job” to find their own placer in the world. Given this, it would make a lot of sense for them to gravitate toward narrative nonfiction and fiction.

But here’s what I think it really comes down to. Every kid is different, so I think it’s critical to expose all children to a wide range of texts and see what works best for each individual.

As I clearly state in this post last February, I’m not claiming that story never works. I’m saying that it doesn’t always work. There’s no single, easy answer.

Sure, narratives can be a powerful way to present ideas and information. But expository text can be just as powerful. We need both.

Study cited: Arya, D. J. & Maul, A. (2012). The role of the scientific discovery narrative in middle school science education: An experimental study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 1022-1032.