Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Behind the Books: Time to Chill

At NCTE with Cynthia Levinson and Leslie Bulion
Usually November is a pretty quiet month for me, but not this year. I've spoken at three national conferences, presented at four schools live and two via Skype, taken part in a fantastic Twitterchat hosted by the Columbia University Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project, did a round of revisions on my next National Geographic Reader, reviewed copy edits on my next Q&A book for Sterling, worked on a video that is supposed to accompany my February 2014 picture book Feathers: Not Just for Flying, and, oh yeah, tried to be a good wife to my very patient husband.

But now, as I look ahead to December, I can breathe a huge sigh of relief. Except for one school visit, a professional development program for teachers, and two book signings, my calendar is wide open. That's great news because I came home from NCTE with a glorious new book idea that I can't wait to explore. Boy, do I ever have a reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Teaching Science with Kidlit: NGSS Performance Expectation 1-LS1-1, Part 2

1-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs. [Clarification Statement: Examples of human problems that can be solved by mimicking plant or animal solutions could include designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants; keeping out intruders by mimicking thorns on branches and animal quills; and, detecting intruders by mimicking eyes and ears.]

Like I said last week, this is a very meaty PE, so we’re going to look at it bit by bit. Today’s focus in on how animals find, catch, and eat food. Let’s face it, this is a fun topic, and there are lots of great books to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites.

A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson

Just One Bite by Lola M. Schafer

(Lola has a brand-new book called Swamp Chomp. I haven’t read it yet, but my guess is that it would also be perfect for a lesson on this topic.)
 
Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson
 
Eat Like a Bear by April Pulley Sayre
 
Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre
 
Pinduli by Janell Cannon
 
Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins

Activity 1
Invite students to select some of the animals they’ve learned about and make a book of their own. Titles might include: How Animals Find Their Food, How Animals Catch Their Food, How Animals Eat Their Food.

Activity 2
After students have buddied up, give each pair a large, square piece of construction paper and put out variety of art supplies. Assign each team one of the animals they read about (frog, giraffe, octopus, whale, parrot, elephant, butterfly) and one of the three food-related actions (finding, catching, eating). Encourage the buddies to work together to create and label an image that shows how their animal uses its body parts to accomplish the assigned action.

When the students are done, use their drawings to create an Animal Lunch Quilt on the wall outside your classroom. Write the following questions above or below the quilt:

·   Can you find an animal looking for food? What body part is that animal using?

·   Can you find an animal catching or grasping food? What body part is that animal using?

·   Can you find an animal eating food? What body part is that animal using?

Then invite students in other classrooms to visit the quilt and test their knowledge about what animals eat.

 
 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: Why did the fly fly?
A: The spider spied-her.

Q: Why do spiders spin webs?
A: They don’t know how to knit.

Q: Where do insects go shopping?
A: At a flea market.

Q: What do you get if you cross a daddy longlegs with an elephant?
A: I'm not sure. But if you see one walking across the ceiling, RUN!

Q: What’s a scorpion’s favorite TV show? 
A: Survivor.

Looking for more super silly jokes about the weather? Check out Creepy, Crawly Jokes About Spiders and Other Bugs.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Behind the Books: Entry Point


A book’s entry point is the place where an author chooses to begin telling a story. For example, in Bomb, Steve Sheinkin uses an en media res approach to engage readers. He presents a fast-paced, intriguing scene in which an American who has been spying against his own country is on the verge of getting caught by the FBI. This thrilling scene sends readers a strong message: If you invest your time in reading this book, you won’t regret it.

Here are two other books with great entry points:

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

The Hive Detectives by Loree Griffin Burns

Can you think of others? I’m searching for more.

 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Teaching Science with Kidlit: NGSS Performance Expectation 1-LS1-1

This is a very meaty PE, especially if we want to do justice to the clarification statement. I’m going to focus on uses for external parts for the next few weeks. Then I’ll bring all my suggestions together with ideas that are directly relevant to the engineering part of the PE.

1-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs. [Clarification Statement: Examples of human problems that can be solved by mimicking plant or animal solutions could include designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants; keeping out intruders by mimicking thorns on branches and animal quills; and, detecting intruders by mimicking eyes and ears.]

For starters, I’m going to share some ideas that can help kids understand how an animal’s body parts help it live and grow. The obvious book choice here is What Do You Do with a Tail like This? by Steve Jenkins.

Here are some other book ideas:
Snail’s Spell by Joanne Ryder
No One But You by Douglas Wood 
My Five Senses by Aliki
Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin
Dig, Wait, Listen by April Pulley Sayre

Mining the Book
Introduce What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by showing the front cover and asking students what animal they think the tail belongs to. After they make a few guesses, flip the book over to show the back cover. Now that they can identify the animal, ask them how they think the lizard might use its tail. Can they think of any ways the tail might help a lizard find food or stay safe? Record the class’s guesses on chart paper.

As you read the book, stop after each of the pages with a question about an animal body part. Encourage students to guess which animal each part belongs to. Then turn the page and read how the animals use that external body part. (In some cases, the main text doesn’t provide all the information first graders will need to understand the concept, but you can turn to the longer descriptions in the backmatter for clarification.)

To keep track of how animals use their external body parts, work with your students to create a series of data tables like the ones shown below. (In a few cases, the book lacks critical information. When you see an asterisk (*), ask students if they have ideas about how to complete the data table based on their prior knowledge. You may need to fill in details for them.)

Nose
Use
Platypus
To dig in the mud (for food)
Hyena
To find food
Elephant
To take a bath
Mole
To avoid getting lost (and find food )
Alligator
To breathe (by lifting just its nose above the water’s surface)

Ears
Use
Jackrabbit
To keep cool
Bat
To get a picture of the world (by listening to sounds echoing off nearby objects)
Hippopotamus*
To hear
Cricket
To hear (one another so they can find mates)
Humpback whale
To hear (other whales trying to communicate)

Tail
Use
Giraffe
To brush away flies
Skunk
To warn enemies that they are about to get sprayed
Lizard
To escape from enemies
Scorpion
To sting (animals it wants to eat)
Monkey
To hang from tree branches (so it can reach food)

Eyes
Use
Eagle
To spot animals (that it can catch and eat)
Chameleon
To look two ways at once (so it can spot food and enemies)
Four-eyed fish
To look above and below water (so it can spot food and enemies)
Horned lizard
To squirt blood (at enemies)
Bush baby
To see (so they can find food)

Feet
Use
Chimpanzee
To eat food
Blue-footed bobby
To dance (to attract a mate)
Water strider
To walk on water (in search of food)
Gecko*
To walk on ceilings to find food and escape from enemies
Mountain goat
To leap (out of the way of falling rocks or snow)

Mouth
Use
Pelican
To catch food
Mosquito*
To suck blood (so it can produce healthy eggs)
Egg-eating snake
To eat food
Anteater
To catch food with its tongue
Archerfish
To catch food

When the data tables are complete, divide the class into six groups and assign each group one of the animal body parts discussed in What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?. Encourage each group to consider whether the animals in the book depend on the external body part to live and grow or if it just makes their lives easier or better. When each group comes to a consensus, one member should write either an L (live and grow) or an E (makes life easier) next to each entry in the data table for their assigned body part.

Review Activity
Create a worksheet with the following sentence frames:

A _________________ (animal 1) uses its tail to ________________
(job 1). But a _________________ (animal 2) uses its tail to
________________ (job 2). A _________________ (animal 1) uses
its _________________ (body part 1) to find food. But a

_________________ (animal 2) uses its _________________
(body part 2) to find food.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Fun: Gross Out!

What the heck is a limpet? It’s a small snail with a dome-shaped shell.

Latia limpets make their home on the rocky bottoms of New Zealand’s small streams. To safe at night, they make glow-in-the-dark mucus. Really. It’s true.

When a hungry fish tries to pry a limpet off a rock, the snail releases a gob of glowing slime. As the greenish-yellow goo flows downstream, the attacker chases the moving light. Bye-bye predator.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Behind the Books: Hooking Young Readers

I’m not sure where I first heard the term “hook,” but it’s something I always think about when I start a new book. The way I see it, the “hook” of a book or an article is the lens through which an author decides to discuss his/her topic.


For example, there are lots of books about insect life cycles, but What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae stands out from the crowd because Bridget Heos plays off a classic book for human parents.

When a book has a really strong hook, it is often reflected in the title. Here are some great examples: 

A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano

An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston Hutts

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Suzy) by Barbara Kerley

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae by Bridget Heos
 
Zombie Makers by Rebecca L. Johnson


These titles make you want to read the book. They immediately tell readers that if they pick up the book, they won’t be disappointed. The mission of the beginning of a book or article with a strong hook is to quickly and clearly explain what the author’s lens is and convince readers that it’s worth viewing the topic through that lens.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: What’s a tornado’s favorite game?
A: Twister.
Q: What did the tornado say to the car?
A: Wanna go for a spin?

Q: Why did the tornado cross the playground?
A: To get to the other slide
Q: Why do hurricanes travel so fast?
A: Because otherwise, they’d be called slow-i-canes.

Q: What did the hurricane say to the island?
A: I have my eye on you.

Looking for more super silly jokes about the weather? Check out Wacky Weather and Silly Season Jokes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

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

Expanding on last week’s post, here are some books and activities that focus specifically on one aspect of K-ESS3-3—watery worlds and the creatures that call them home.

Here are some books that I recommend:
Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Merwil Lamstein
Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! by April Sayre

Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach

365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental

A Place for Fish by Melissa Stewart

A Warmer World by Caroline Arnold

Activity
After dividing the class into small groups, set out art materials and provide each group with an 11 × 17 piece of paper. Invite group members to work together in creating a model of the local water environment and the animals that live there. They may also want to add buildings or other familiar landmarks near the body of water.

Encourage students to use additional art materials to show how people in your community can help to protect the animals and the water environment they depend on. When the class has finished their murals, work with your students to display them  in community buildings, such as the library, churches, and the town hall.