Monday, April 29, 2013

Having Fun with Common Core: The Power of Visuals

CCSS ELA Reading Informational Text #7 is all about the role visual elements play in conveying information to the reader.

Integration of Knowledge & Ideas #7


Grade 1

Grade 2

With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear.

Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.

Explain how specific images contribute to and clarify a text.

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Use information gained from maps, photos, and other illustrations and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding where, when, why, and how key events occur.

Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (charts, graphs, diagrams) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.

Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

You can use almost any group of nonfiction picture books to address the goals for K-2 . But among the assortment of titles you choose, I’d like to suggest that you include some by Steve Jenkins. Jenkins images do a lot of the work in his books.

Two other books I highly recommend for early elementary students are The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton (illus. Tony Persiani) and Redwoods by Jason Chin.

In The Day-Glo Brothers, the colors start out muted and build in intensity as the brothers get closer and closer to perfecting their paints. The climax spread has the brightest day-glo brothers you can imagine.

The text in Redwoods is very straightforward, so the art steals the show. Each painting shows the young reader’s imagination at work as he reads the same text we read. It’s one of the most clever books I’ve ever seen.

Next week, I’ll make some suggestions for upper elementary.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: Why was the farmer dirt poor?
A: He didn’t have any cent-ipedes in his soil.

Q: What did the mother soil name her baby?
A: Sandy.

Q: What did the soil do after school? 
A:  It had a claydate.

Q: Why was the humus upset?
A: Because everyone treated him like dirt.

Q: What do rocks say when they agree with one another?
A: My sediments exactly.

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Behind the Books: More Kids Say the Darnedest Things

A few weeks ago, I had a blast Skyping with three groups of students at Y.A.L.E. School in Cherry Hill, NJ. And I just received a thick packet of letters in which the kids described three reasons they liked the program.

Some made a list. Others wrote it all out, sentence building upon sentence. Some were written longhand. Others were typed. Some followed the assignment, and some just wrote whatever came to mind. So much diversity in thoughts and presentation!

Here are a few of the highlights:

“I’m going to read ALL your books because I REALLY like science. It’s my favorite subject in school.”

“I liked getting to see a real author, which was you. I liked learning about the most dangerous insect, which is the mosquito.”

“I am your number one fan. Really.”

“You should be careful. Don’t get too close to any of the Deadliest Animals you write about.”

“You are a really good author and you should keep on writing books.”

“The main thing I learned is that one of your books has a mistake in it and some are out of date.”

“I learned that when you go to places around the world, you can be a better person.”

“You are a genius. You have a great accent.”

“You have the biggest bookcase I’ve ever seen. I bet it would take a while to read all those books.”

“Your book Snakes inspired me to start drawing snakes.”

“I think your research for your books is flawless.”

“You were calm, cool, and collected. And very funny. But also informative.”

“It was great to finally talk to a colorful author like you.”

“Sadly, I have to end this [letter] now because my teacher is getting really annoyed with me.”

Monday, April 22, 2013

Having Fun with Common Core: Yep, More Tricky Six

Because CCSS for ELA Reading Information Text #6 has significantly different goals at each grade level, I’ve taken a few weeks to suggest appropriate books. Today I have some ideas for grade 5.

The goal for grade 5 states. “Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.” As you teach this lesson, you will undoubtedly look at a variety of different sources, but here are two fun books to get your class started:

Mosquito Bite by Alexandra Siy& Dennis Kunkle

Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley (illus. Edwin Fotheringham)

Each of these books looks at an event or situation from two points of view—one presented on the right-hand pages and one on the left-hand pages.

In Mosquito Bite, right-hand pages tell the story of children playing hide-and-seek at dusk. The left-hand page presents the mosquito’s point of view. In the process we learn why mosquitoes need to drink blood. It’s a great way for kids to consider another creature’s view of the world.

Those Rebels, John & Tom is a dual biography of two of our nation’s founders. Through it, we learn that the two men had very different personalities and different strengths, and that is what allowed them to work together so effectively.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Fun: Gross Out!

“Caution-Do Not Read Before Eating.” Don’t you just love that? I sure do.

It’s the title of a delectable review of my book Animal Grossapedia over at the Librarian’s Quest blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Have a great vacation week. I'll see you back here on April 22--Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Behind the Books: A Place for Posters

Last week I spend two glorious days in Salisbury, Maryland, for the Green Reads Festival. I had a blast presenting to a group of very enthusiastic fifth graders at Fruitlands Intermediate School. I was grateful to receive a Green Earth Book Award honor for A Place for Bats, and I was thrilled to speak to a attentive group of teachers and education students at Salisbury University.

But my favorite part of the entire trip was taking a look at these awesome tri-fold posters created by students who were inspired by A Place for Butterflies and A Place for Frogs.
The Butterfly Explorations team wrote poems and created art that reflect the ideas presented in A Place for Butterflies. Those students are real wordsmiths.
After reading A Place for Frogs, the A Frog's Life team created a giant pond mural in their classroom and each student made a frog. The photos and art on this poster tells the story of their investigation. I’m so impressed by all their hard work.

Thanks so much to the Nature Generation and the hard-working faculty in Salisbury University’s Education Department for making the Green Reads Festival a tremendous success.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Having Fun with Common Core: Even More Tricky Six

CCSS for ELA Reading Information Text #6 is unlike other standards. It has a very different focus at each grade level.

For grade 4, it reads “Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.” I suggest The Extraordinary Mark Twain by Barbara Kerley  (illus. Edwin Fotheringham) as a lesson starter.

This book has two layers of text, and the second layer is something special—bits and pieces of Suzy’s diary reproduced in what appears to be a small journal built right into the book. Your students will really enjoy it before they move on to looking at other journals or other kinds of firsthand accounts.

Next week, I'll discuss grade 5.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Fun: Super Silly Science Jokes

Q: What happened to Eryops when it jumped in the water?
A: It got wet.

Q: What did the reptilomorph call the giant dragonfly?
A: Lunch.

Q: Why did the sauropod cross the road?
A: Because chickens hadn’t evolved yet.

Q: How have dragonflies greeted each other for millions of years?
A: With a bug hug.

Q: How did mammals win out over reptiles?
A: By a hair.

Looking for more super silly jokes from long, long ago? Check out Dino-mite Jokes about Prehistoric Life.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Behind the Books: They Get It!

I admit it. I read and obsess over reviews of my books.

For the most part, reviewers have been kind to my books. Sometimes they even bestow a star, and I’m delighted. And once in a while, I read a review and think: Wow, he/she really gets it! That’s what happened when I saw this Booklist review of A Place for Turtles.

“Turtles have lived on Earth for more than 220 million years, but modern environmental stressors make their existence in several regions of the world a tenuous one. Using examples of specific turtles and the regions where they live, Stewart blends a storybook-style narrative with factual marginalia to present a wide range of ecological challenges in this newest installment in the A Place for . . . series. Interposed with colorful and highly detailed acrylic illustrations, topics such as pollution, invasive species, and ecosystem destruction are all mentioned. Maps cover virtually all parts of the United States and detail the types of turtles indigenous to each region. While the topic of the book is clearly turtles, the narrative raises points of conversation on a host of environmental issues and will get young minds thinking about the interconnectedness of organisms, ecology, and the impact of human actions on the world around them. A classroom-friendly blend of story and fact.”

This review perfectly encapsulates the vision I had for this series when I write the first book more than a decade ago.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Having Fun with Common Core: More Tricky Six

I can’t believe that I ended up here at CCSS ELA standard 6, grade 3 on April Fool’s Day. It’s totally perfect.

When I started doing presentations about putting the RIT standards into practice, this was the point where I had to sheepishly grin and say, “I got nothin’.” For months, this standard had me stumped.

Then my friend, writer and school librarian Sam Kane, forwarded me a link to this article in Booklist. It discusses how Common Core categorizes text types (expository, persuasive, procedural, narrative) and recommends recently-published science books in each category.

My book, A Place for Bats, was included in the persuasive category. I was stunned. I didn’t think I was trying to persuade anyone of anything. I was merely laying out the facts and letting the reader decide.

But then I thought about it a little more.
Do I want people to protect bats and their environments? Yes.
By the end of the book, are kids going to understand that? Well . . . yes.
Are they going to take action? Maybe. Maybe not.
Then I remembered that pesky CCSS ELA RIT #6, grade 3. “Students should be able to distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.”
Um, duh! I had written six books perfect for this standards and I hadn’t even realized it.
See why this post is perfecrt for a day dedicated to fools?
Anyhow, after having that startling moment of insight, it became much easier to pick out other books that would work well for this standard. Besides all my A Place for . . . books, I recommend:
City Chickens by Christine Heppermann
Write On, Mercy: The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren by Gretchen Woelfle