Thursday, March 29, 2012

STEM Friday: From Flower to Honey

From Flower to Honey
written by Robin Nelson
2012 (Lerner Publishing)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Go to the STEM Friday blog and check out the links.

Look at the cover to the left. The colors of the photograph and the header are quite attractive. You can't help picking up this book. When you open it, you read a statement and a question, "Honey is a sweet treat. How is it made?". Now you are off on a series of steps that will culminate in a container full of honey. The journey begins with nectar inside a flower. The photograph of the flower is gorgeous. Bees come to the flower and suck up the nectar with their tongues. The bees head back to the hive where they will spit the nectar into a hole. When the nectar dries, you have honey. Beekeepers remove the honeycomb from the hive and place it in a machine that spins it. This squeezes the honey out. The honey is then placed into jars and sent away to be sold.

The text in From Flower to Honey is on a second grade level which makes it fairly simple to follow. A lesson on sequence could easily be developed from this text. There are also headings on each page of text which makes this a good resource for teaching main idea and nonfiction text features. I think a unit on bees would be a great idea. There are so many topics (pollination, animal communication, etc.) that are connected to them. The photographs and background colors also help to make From Flower to Honey a book that stands out.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Off to Class

Off to Class
written by Susan Hughes
2011 (Owl Kids Books)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Booktalking

It's easy to take the opportunity to obtain an education for granted. My wife and I are educators so the school day is a big focus of our lives every weekday. It doesn't often occur to me that we are fortunate that my two children can go to school each day. Off to Class, a collection of stories about schools around the world, will open your eyes to the desire of so many to have what I take for granted. The book is broken into three chapters with each chapter featuring several extraordinary schools. Chapter 1 is about schools that use their resources wisely and introduces readers to the concept of sustainability. Chapter 2 features schools that provide an education to students who normally may be forgotten or prevented from an opportunity to go to school. Chapter 3 talks about schools that are nontraditional in their approach to the school day. The first story is about Mohammed Rezwan who is an architect in Bangladesh. Monsoon season in Bangladesh creates floods that deny access to schools for many children. To combat this problem, Rezwan opened a boat to serve as a school. There are now 90 such boats which pick up students for three hour sessions. Solar panels on the boat create the electricity needed to power computers and a printer. It is this "can-do" spirit that permeates these stories. My students read about these boat schools in Time for Kids and were quite impressed.

Off to School is a terrific resource for students to compare their culture with other cultures. They will see how important an education is to people around the world and how this connects us as a planet. I really like the inventiveness of people like Mohammed Rezwan and Arnoud Raskin, who developed a classroom on a cart for the street children of Cartagena, Colombia. There is nothing wrong with studying inventors like Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers, but I think it would also be great to focus on modern inventors who are solving problems in different global areas.

Other reviews of Off to Class:
Jean Little Library
Jen Rothschild
Wrapped in Foil

Thursday, March 22, 2012

STEM Friday: Energy

written by Matt Mullins
2012 (Scholastic)
Source: Orange County Library

Check out STEM Friday at Archimedes Notebook

If you teach force and motion in science, you will want to find a copy of Energy. Don't let the size of the book fool you. Matt Mullins has provided a comprehensive overview of the subject in this small book. He starts off the first chapter with an explanation of atoms and what is inside them. This is followed by information about potential energy and kinetic energy. One of the strengths of Energy is the author's connections of ideas to every day items. A rubber band helps illustrate the concept of potential energy vs. kinetic energy. Chapter two reveals several types of potential energy. Topics include gravitational, elastic, chemical, and nuclear energy. Moving objects get their due in the third chapter. Types of kinetic energy that are explored include sound, radiant, thermal, and electrical energy. Within this chapter you have a section on renewable vs. nonrenewable sources of energy. The final chapter explains how energy is constantly changing form but the amount of energy never changes. I really like the sequence on page 38 where an apple on a table leads to several different changes of form. In the back matter is a list of resources (books, websites, museums) that can be used for further research.

If you are new to teaching force and motion, Energy is a great primer for the subject. Each section would be a good introduction to your sub-units within the subject of force and motion. This book provides several good ideas for demonstrations in the classroom. It would also be a useful resource for talking about global warming as well.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: A Spider's Life

A Spider's Life
written by Ellen Lawrence
2012 (Bearport Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Emu's Debuts

One of the great things about reading a spider book is that you can study your subject firsthand while you are reading the book. I like reading about kangaroos and lions, but chances are I won't be seeing them in my backyard but I have plenty of spiders available for observation. Since spring officially arrives this week (we had winter for about 1 day in my part of the world), spiders will start showing up all over the place. Combine this observation opportunities with a good book like A Spider's Life and you have a classroom of budding scientists. One of the nice things about this book is that it is written from a young person's point of view. This provides a model for young writers to follow. On the left side of each two page spread is a chronological narrative entry featuring an aspect of the life of the featured jumping spiders. For example, at age ten weeks our spider splits out of his exoskeleton to make room for a bigger one. The right side of the spread has a large photograph complete with labels. A combination of "fast facts" and questions are included as inserts in these spreads. The big photograph of a jumping spider attacking a fly will be particularly popular. The back matter includes a jumping activity where students learn that jumping spiders can leap up to 50 times their body lengths. I also like the vocabulary section where photographs are attached to each definition.

When our teachers present a unit, they make sure that plenty of books are available for students to peruse during their independent reading time. A Spider's Life would be great for the spider or life cycle units. It would also be a good fit as a daily nonfiction read aloud. You could read one or two entries a day as a complement to your fiction read aloud books. When your students are creating their nonfiction text feature books, you could show this book as a model for how students can create inserts and labels. There are plenty of possible uses for A Spider's Life.

Natalie Babbitt NPR interview

On my way to church this morning I heard a great interview with Natalie Babbitt on NPR's Sunday morning show. She said some very wise things about children and writing for children. Her new book, The Moon Over High Street, is now available.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

STEM Friday: Planes (iPad book app)

written and illustrated by Byron Barton
2012 (Oceanhouse Media)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday at Hands-On-Books

Touching down on an iPad near you is Planes. This book is an engaging book app for preschool and kindergarten students. It starts with several pages about different airplanes. You have jet planes, seaplanes, crop dusters, and other flying vehicles featured in brightly colored pages with one sentence descriptions. If your child is a non-reader, an enthusiastic narrator is available to help carry the reading load or you can touch individual words if you are just learning to read. Students will enjoy manipulating the airplanes and other items that appear on the screen. I'm not exactly a child and I had fun. Later in the book, you get several pages that focus on what happens with a plane after it lands on the ground. Students will learn terms like control tower and cargo plane. This section would work well with a lesson on sequence.

 Before reading Planes with a class or a small group, I would create a circle map and ask students what they know about planes. Drawing upon that background knowledge will enhance the experience for young readers. A plane that writes messages is featured in the book, so I might ask a child what they would like to write in the sky or why someone would want this done. Very young children will enjoy listening, reading, and manipulating Planes. Be prepared for several repeated readings, which is what you want for our youngest fans of text.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You Choose

You Choose
written by Pippa Goodhart; illustrated by Nick Sharratt
2012 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

How many choices do we make every day? The number is probably in the hundreds at least. It would be an interesting mathematical and sociological exercise to carry a counter for a couple of hours and tally the number of selections you make and think about why you made those choices. You Choose is a picture book that illuminates, for primary age children, this idea that decisions are made all the time and that the world is wide open with opportunity. For example, the first question asked of readers is "If you could go anywhere, where would you go?". The two page spread shows a brightly illustrated panorama of choices. You could visit a jungle or perhaps the beach. A city may be your choice or a castle by a cliff. On the next two pages, you can choose who you would like for family and friends. I'm passing on the hungry wolf in a dapper purple suit. As the reader continues on, choices are presented for housing, transportation, and food. Other sections include pets, occupations, and recreation. At the end of the day, you can choose from over 20 different beds in which to rest your mind that is fatigued from all the choices of the day. The sleigh bed looks like a winner to me.

You Choose would be a great book to read before creating an "All About Me" booklet. The topics in the book would be good for this kind of booklet. I would also use it to help create circle maps. You could pick transportation as a topic and ask students to suggest items for the map. Then you could pull out this book and add items to the map. All of the topics in this book could be units in a kindergarten or first grade class. As I mentioned earlier, You Choose presents an opportunity for a rich discussion on why we make choices. It could be tied in to a lesson on behavior and making good choices. You Choose is a humorous and vibrant look at the possibilities that life presents.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: Perimeter, Area, and Volume

Perimeter, Area, and Volume
written by David A. Adler; illustrated by Edward Miller
2012 (Holiday House)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Rasco from RIF

The fictional 3-D movie, Monsters in the Neighborhood, serves as the setting for the fun measurement lesson contained in Perimeter, Area, and Volume. If you measure the height of the monster stars, you are looking at one dimension. Not surprisingly, Frances Stein leads in this category. In the movie, the monsters build a fence to keep out nosy neighbors. The dimension of length comes into play as they try to figure out the perimeter of their yard. When it is time to watch this cinematic creation come to life, other measurements are needed. Is the movie screen big enough for Frances? You will to measure the area of the screen to find out. This is measuring two dimensions, length and width. Popcorn, anyone? Now we're talking about three dimensions, height, width, and depth, in order to find the volume of the jumbo popcorn box. After the successful movie premiere, the monsters need to go home but it is raining. Once more, measurement of three dimensions is needed for proper fitting monster raincoats and the end to an enjoyable evening of measuring and movie watching. Perimeter, Area, and Volume presents a unique perspective on distance and capacity measurement that will entice students to think about how these measures connect to their lives.

The obvious use of this book would be as a math read-aloud. You could break it up over several days as you focus on different measurements. For older students, radius, circumference, and pi are touched upon in the section on one dimensional measurements. I like how Adler explicitly points out that the names of measurements change as you add dimensions. Inches go to square inches when measuring area and then to cubic inches when measuring volume. A writing and art assignment could involve creating monsters that would go on to be the stars of their own math problems. Perimeter, Area, and Volume is an entertaining approach to learning about crucial math concepts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

STEM Friday: Sir Cumference and the Viking's Map

Sir Cumference and the Viking's Map
written by Cindy Neuschwander; illustrated by Wayne Geehan
2012 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday at Practically Paradise

Radius and his cousin Per are riding through a forest in Angleland without a map. Being lost, they decide to set up camp on a hill before the sun sets. Per pulls away some branches which reveal a door. Hearing the voices of highway robbers in the distance, Per and Radius decide to go inside the house. Opening a barrel, they find a map with two axes that had been designed for Xaxon Yellowbearyd, a fearsome Viking. It is a grid map with a starting point of 3,0. Staying one step ahead of the vicious highway robbers, Per and Radius follow the number clues for the X axe and the Y axe. Their journey leads them to a misty lake where they encounter the ghost of Xaxon Yellowbearyd. He leaves them with a chest filled with the "treasure of the greatest measure".

The Sir Cumference series of books are known for their good humor and clever storylines that exemplify a math concept. This seventh book in the series is more of the same, which is great news. Students will enjoy sorting out the puns and connecting their math knowledge about coordinate geometry with the information in the story. You could combine writing and math by asking students to create a coordinate treasure map and write a story to go along with it. My students really like these smartly written books, and they are valuable resources in explaining math concepts.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Monkey's Friends

Monkey's Friends
written and illustrated by Ruth Brown
2012 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Monkey went for a walk one day and met some friends along the way.

Monkey's Friends is a fun read-aloud romp through the jungle for preschool and kindergarten students. Ruth Brown sets up the text nicely for students to be able to predict which word is going to be on the next page. When they see "smile" on one page, students can use background and phoneme knowledge to predict that "crocodile" will be on the next page. Each rhyme answer appears on a cut page that enhances the effect of reading as a game. In addition, the illustrations are phenomenal which aid students attempting to predict. Brown uses different techniques like leaf prints to show several textures in each scene. The illustrations help in decoding as a beginning reader uses the pictures to read the text. I can see Monkey's Friends as a perfect bedtime story as well. It is a fairly short text that will hold up to many repeated readings. This book is the kind that you want to read with a preschooler who will immediately pick up on the rhythm and quickly memorize it themselves. Then they will be the "reader" at bedtime. A rumble through the jungle with Monkey is a delightful reading experience.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nonfiction Monday: The Hole Truth! (Underground Animal Life)

The Hole Truth!
written by Dee Phillips
2012 (Bearport Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out Nonfiction Monday at 100 Scope Notes

 A new series from Bearport Publishing features four homes of animals who live underground. These books are geared for K-2 readers who will enjoy the photographic close-ups of these animals. Their teachers will like the extensive use of text features. Each book starts off with an introduction to the home and the animal. Extra facts, inserted on leaf shapes, are present in each two page spread. Labels and maps are two other text features that you will find in these spreads along with a box that gives readers a brief task that can help in assessing their comprehension. Detailed diagrams give you a look inside the animal's home. Sections on feeding habits, predators and escape methods follow next. The "awww" factor will kick in when readers learn about the babies of the particular species. A photograph of a groundhog pup is hard to resist. The narrative part of each book ends with a two page spread on the sequence of events that lead to the animal leaving their home and striking out on their own. In the back matter, you will find an activity called "Science Lab" where readers are given a task to complete. In the groundhog book, students will keep a diary logging the events of that animal's life. The prairie dog book features a measurement activity. Other information in the back matter includes key vocabulary, a glossary, and a link to more resources.

When you are working with primary students on how to write informational text, a book in a series like The Hole Truth! is a valuable resource. The amount of text is not overwhelming for an older first grader/beginning second grader. It is a step up from their leveled readers which is just enough of a challenge for them. Books like these make great templates for a student writing a booklet or just a single sheet of text. You can also compare books of this genre to see what is similar and what is different in how an author presented the information about the animal. I'm sure I've said this before, but I'll say it again: Informational texts like The Hole Truth! are underrated in their value to a classroom or a school media center. The text is accessible, interesting, and a good primer for more challenging material to come.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

STEM Friday: Wisdom, the Midway Albatross

Wisdom, the Midway Albatross
written by Darcy Pattison; illustrated by Kitty Harvill
2012 (Mims House)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Check out STEM Friday right here! Leave your links below.

On Midway Atoll, a gooney bird is born. Not every chick in the rookery survived, but this tough bird did. As the years go by,  the intrepid gooney managed to soar above a tsunami that swept across the Pacific and persevere through the daily travails of an ocean bird. About 1956, she found her way back to the atoll and picked a mate. Research scientist Chandler Robbins caught her and banded her in December of that year. For many years, this gooney migrated and raised chicks. Many dangers could have felled her. Plastic in the ocean water and long fishing lines led to the deaths of many albatrosses, but not this one. Forty-five years after he banded her, Robbins came back to Midway Atoll and caught the amazing gooney once again. At 51 years old, she was one of the oldest known wild birds and was given a new name, Wisdom. She continued to come back and lay eggs. A winter storm came across the island in 2011 and wiped out several thousand chicks, but Wisdom and her newest baby bird survived. One month later, the tsunami triggered by the Japanese earthquake overran parts of Midway Atoll. Somehow, Wisdom and her chick were still standing.

This is a fascinating story. You get a mix of history and science with equal parts of positive character traits. We often use books about humans to teach children about qualities like determination, but Wisdom would be just as good an example. I also like the environmental angle. My wife has urged me for years to cut the plastic rings on six packs of soda (and I have listened!), but now we can put a face on why this is important. Reading Wisdom in the classroom could encourage children to think about what gets thrown away and how we need to protect our animal friends. You also get information about the tagging of animals and the life cycle of birds which would be good to share during science.
You can use the back matter to further enhance your teaching of these subjects. An intriguing story combined with wonderful watercolor illustrations, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross is the kind of unbelievable story that makes nonfiction special.

At Chapter Book of the Day, you will find a review of A Black Hole Is Not a Hole .
Archimedes Notebook has a review of Wisdom, the Midway Albatross and an interview with illustrator Kitty Harvill.
You will find a review of Meltdown! by Fred Bortz at Simply Science. Included in the post are blog tour sites for next week.
Wisdom, the Midway Albatross is reviewed at Laurie Thompson. With three reviews on our site today, you know this book is a keeper!
Just in time for spring, Roberta at Wrapped in Foil is featuring new leveled readers from Kingfisher.