Friday, April 12, 2019

NSTA Handout: Cross Curricular Connections for Science Books

Everyone knows that books about how plants grow and how animals use their unique body features and behaviors to survive can enrich science lessons, but they can also be used lots of other ways.

Today, I’m in St. Louis at the National Science Teachers Association’s annual conference, participating in an amazing event that was the brainchild of science educator Carrie Launius. Thanks to months of hard work, Carrie and her team have put together the largest gathering of children’s science writers that I’ve ever seen. Linking Literacy is an incredible opportunity for 30+ authors to share ideas with science educators from all over the country.

Here are some of the Cross Curricular Connections I’ll be sharing for my recently published books A Seed Is the Start and Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs.

Reading Activity: Comparing and Evaluating Texts
The Nonfiction Smackdown!, developed by Waltham, Massachusetts, school librarian Judi Paradis, involves reading two nonfiction books on the same topic. The books can be two narrative titles, two expository titles, or one of each. Students evaluate and compare the titles and record their thinking on the Nonfiction Smackdown! Worksheet. The worksheets can be hung around the room or placed in a folder, so that classmates can use the information to help them select books.

Kinesthetic Activity: Demonstrating the Ways Seeds Move
During dispersal, seeds can fly, spin, or glide. They can also hop, creep, or shoot through the air at incredible speeds. In this activity, students crinkle up a piece of paper and pretend it’s a seed. Then they model all the different ways seeds can move away from their parent plant.

Writing Activity: Observing and Describing Seeds
A seed’s external structures may provide hints about how it disperses. This engaging activity (Kids love using a hand lens!) encourages students to look closely, record their observations with words and pictures, and make predictions.

Science + Engineering: Designing a Machine that Can Disperse Seeds Efficiently and Effectively
This activity encourages students to develop a deep understanding of seed dispersal and then think outside the box as they design a machine that mimics the seed’s actions.

You can find more activity ideas in the Educator’s Guide and Readers Theater Script that go with this book.

Geography and Math Activities: Maps & Stats PosterBecause Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs includes some little-known animals from all over the world (okapi, zorilla, hoatzin, naked mole rat), my editor and I thought it would be useful to create a visual that highlights where they live and provides some key stats, such as size, weight, habitat. This poster can be used to discuss the relationship between geography and climate. Students can also compare the animals in various ways and make bar graphs highlighting their differences.

Writing Activity: Exploring Animal Body Features and Behaviors
Option A: Invite children to draw a picture of the animal they think should get the Coolest Characteristic Award and then write a few sentences explaining why.

Option B: Encourage students to draw a picture of the animal that surprises them the most or that they like or connect with the most, and then write a few sentences explaining why.

Reading Activity: Identifying Main Ideas and Supporting Details
The students at Pownal Elementary School in Pownal, Maine, introduced me to this activity idea. After working as a class to identify the book’s main idea, their teacher wrote it on a piece of paper and hung it on the wall. Then each student used words and pictures to highlight one of the book’s supporting details.

Kinesthetic Activity: Students Put Themselves in Another Animal’s “Shoes”
Encourage students to imagine how other creatures, such as a Galapagos tortoise, survive in the world. What would it be like to have claws instead of fingers and a heavy shell on your back? To find out, invite students to create physical models of animals’ key body features and move through the classroom as that animal would.

Writing Activity: Crafting Voice in Nonfiction
My website includes a half dozen video mini-lessons for teaching the craft of nonfiction writing. The newest draws on examples from Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs and Seashells: More than a Home to show simple ways students can use word choice and punctuation to craft a strong voice, be it lively or lyrical, that matches their approach to a topic.
You can find more activity ideas in the Educator’s Guide and Readers Theater Script that go with this book.

And for even more engaging ideas for integrating science, reading, and writing, check out Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction to Teach Life Science. There’s one book with 20+ lessons for K-2 and another book with 20+ lessons for grades 3-5.

Have a great weekend, Everyone!

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