Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Orange

written by Rebecca Rissman
2012 (Heinemann/Raintree)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Playing by the Book

Let's go to the park to play out in the sun.
Bring your orange basketball. Shooting hoops is fun!

At the beginning of each school year, our kindergarten students are learning how to recognize and write the names of colors. To support them, staff members wear the designated color for the day. With my graying red hair, I'm quite a sight in an orange shirt. Let's face it, at my age I'm quite a sight in many other shirts but let's not digress too far.

Heinemann/Raintree published a series of books last year called Colors All Around Us. Using rhyming text and brilliantly colored photographs, children are asked to think about where they could locate these colors in their world. Below is a sample from Red:

Before I read Orange to my preschool or kindergarten class, I would make a circle map and ask them to list items that they know are orange. As we read the book, we can check off items already listed or add items. Some of the objects in this book include the sun, a basketball, a butterfly, and flowers. Then, after finishing the reading, we can see if we can add any other items. With the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyming (with one exception that I will note later), you can use this text for a shared reading experience and have students say the last word in the fourth line. After a couple of readings, I also noticed that there are several sound words (flutter, slurp, yum) in this book so you could teach a lesson on onomatopoeia.

I think this series is a good one to share with preschool and kindergarten classes. It's a fun way to talk about colors and connect them with items in our world. I do have two tiny things to point out however. Good and food do not rhyme. I've seen this before in a different text. I would have used mood to rhyme with food instead. My second point, which is highly subjective on my part, is that one item that almost all kids recognize is missing from Orange. My favorite orange item, other than the fruit, is a dish of macaroni and cheese. I know we are trying to be health conscious, and I applaud that, but can we show a little love for mac and cheese?

Despite my extreme nitpicking, Orange would be a vibrant nonfiction addition to a preschool or kindergarten library. Now if you really want to take this to the extreme, show the photo below to your children on Orange Day. It is TNT pro basketball reporter Craig Sager in one of his resplendent suits. The photo is courtesy of the aptly named Tumblr site Craig Sager's Suits.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

STEM Friday: Capybara: The World's Largest Rodent

Capybara: The World's Largest Rodent
written by Natalie Lunis
2010 (Bearport Publishing)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out STEM Friday for more nonfiction links

Being the world's biggest in anything is a huge deal. As the world's largest rodent, the capybara (kap-i-BAR-uh) is a 110 pound plant eating machine that resides mostly in South America. It is almost double the weight of the next largest rodent, the North American beaver. Water is important to this creature as it uses it to stay cool since it lives in a place that is warm year round. Protection is another service provided by water. Capybaras live in groups of 10 to 30 and when the lookouts see danger, they bark and warn the other capybaras to head to the water. The ability to stay completely underwater for 5 minutes and to stay in the water mostly submerged for hours helps stave off prey like the jaguar. This enormous rodent is a model of group work. Females work together to watch the young. Communication is key as "they bark, grunt, chirp, and whistle" to make sure everyone in the group is informed. It's not easy being a large rodent in the world of caimans and jaguars, but the capybaras survive by relying on one another.

Students like to read about unusual animals and the capybara fits the bill. A good comparison activity would be to use a Venn diagram and compare this animal with its smaller fellow rodent, the beaver. The back matter in the book includes other rodents and their measurements so you could make further comparisons. An interesting contradiction is featured near the end of the book and this would make for a great discussion. Ranches that raise capybaras for their meat are actually aiding in the animal's survival. It would be a good thinking exercise for students to wrap their brains around how this could be true.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: What Was the Battle of Gettysburg?

What Was the Battle of Gettysburg?
written by Jim O'Connor; illustrated by John Mantha
2013 (Grosset & Dunlap)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Shelf-Employed

** This may be the latest ever post for Nonfiction Monday. I've been out of town and involved in professional development sessions so time has been at a premium.

My family surprised me for Father's Day. They blindfolded me and took me away in the car. When I got to take off the makeshift mask, I found out that I was on my way to Gettysburg. If you love history, this is close to hallowed ground for you. Central Pennsylvania is a beautiful part of the world. The photo below is one I took in the soldier's cemetery. This year is the 150th anniversary of the battle so plenty of special events are taking place as part of the commemoration of what took place from July 1st - July 3rd in 1863.

If you can't make it to Gettysburg, or need a primer before you go, What Was the Battle of Gettysburg?, would be a good book to read. The first section explains why the United States was at war with itself in the first place. I like how Jim O'Connor is able to offer an explanation that has enough details for the reader to understand, but not so many that a young reader will be bogged down. O'Connor has a good sense of who will be the audience. The next section is about how the war came to Gettysburg. Confederate general Robert E. Lee wanted to strike into Northern territory so as to draw away Union troops that were winning victories in the Confederacy. Gettysburg is a town that has been compared to a wagon wheel with the many roads as the spokes. 
Each day is given its own section. Critical decisions are featured in each day with the culminating event being Pickett's Charge on July 3rd. Gettysburg is a place of courage, controversy, and heartbreaking tragedy. The author illuminates this with the revelation that his grandfather's uncle fought and died in this battle. A letter from this soldier is included in the back matter. 

If you have students who love history and military events, this would be an excellent resource for you. The text is easy to digest, yet you get a full picture of why this is such an important event in American history. One of the understandings that you come away with after reading this book is that it would not have taken much for this battle to have switched victors and therefore change the course of where we are right now. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Poetry Friday: To My Father by William Hamilton Hayne

Check out Poetry Friday at Reflections on the Teche
Happy Father's Day to my fellow fathers! Along with husband, it's the best job I have ever had.

To My Father
It matters not that Time has shed
His thawless snow upon your head,
For he maintains, with wondrous art,
Perpetual summer in your heart.
written by William Hamilton Hayne

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Opossums

written by Mary R. Dunn
2011 (Capstone Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Practically Paradise

Here's what I know about opossums: 1) They can play dead. In the South we call it "playin' possum." 2) Opossums have long tails. Better to hang on a tree branch and look cute. 3) The cute thing comes in handy since these critters are actually mean as fire. Have you ever seen an opossum's teeth? The words "razor sharp" come to mind. Don't mess with an opossum. 4) Opossums are nocturnal. I find this to be a positive since I am not. Lessens my chances of meeting one on my turf. So this is the extent of my knowledge about these creatures. What did I learn after reading Opossums?

1) There are opossums that weigh only 1.4 ounces. This is tee-tiny. 2) Opossums eat rodents. I would place a check on the Plus/Delta chart for this characteristic. 3) Opossums live only one to two years in the wild. Wonder how much human interaction plays into this? 4) Sixty kinds of opossums. My guess would have been much lower. Like one. The mean one.

Opossums is a good nonfiction choice for a late first grade - early second grade reader. It's not very long, but it is excellent practice for reading nonfiction and using it to fill in graphic organizers and/or compare to your background knowledge. A first grader could use this book to help write an opossums book or a page of a book about nocturnal animals. Here is a link to more information from National Geographic:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Poetry Friday: Goodbye Bears

Check out Poetry Friday at The Opposite of Indifference

Today is the last day of school. I tried to summarize my thoughts with the poem below. 

Goodbye Bears
180 days have passed by
180 responses “Why?”
180 Band-Aids pressed on
180 pencils mysteriously gone
180 apologies to friends
180 recesses with too quick an end
180 books that brought us a smile
180 math problems that took a while
180 giggles at lunch
180 pairs of shoulders hunch
180 waves goodbye to classmates met
1 tired teacher who will never forget
©Jeff Barger 2013

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Monster Bookmarks from Tally's Treasury

This is a great idea for a craft from Tally's Treasury. My students had so much fun making these bookmarks. Check it our cyclops bookmark below.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Everything Money

Everything Money
written by Kathy Furgang
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Orange County Public Library

Check out Nonfiction Monday at Jean Little Library

Money is something that can be used as an exchange for goods and services. As long as both parties agree upon the form of payment, money can come in many forms. 

When I went on my trip to Denmark last year, I learned quickly about using a different currency. Thinking a 12 ounce Coke for three dollars was a bargain will do that to you. With the emphasis on financial literacy in the current social studies curriculum, a book like Everything Money is a valuable resource. The word everything in the title is not an accident. This is a comprehensive, yet kid friendly, view of the subject. Pages 12 and 13 feature a cool timeline about the history of money. It talks about different forms of money (shells, coins, silk, wampum, etc.). An important recurring piece in this book is a section called Explorer's Corner. National Geographic Explorer Fred Hiebert shares his expertise and experiences in these interesting pieces. Above the timeline, he talks about finding a set of coins in Egypt. Turns out the coins were used as part of a necklace and not as currency. Other chapters deal with topics like saving money, spending money, and cool things you can do with money like collect coins or fold bills in origami designs. Our art teacher knows about this since she did a cool folding of bills in the form of a tie (as in "tying the knot") for a wedding shower last week. Of course you are going to see excellent photography since this is a National Geographic book. My favorite piece is the art gallery of money on pages 30-31. Did you know there is currency in Antarctica? It's not legal, but it makes for cool collecting. Surprise, surprise, it has penguins on the dollar bill.

The design of this book is similar to the layout of the magazine where you have several inserts accompanied by a photograph next to each insert. I think kids who like to collect and/or like history will enjoy this book. A student that wants to create a nonfiction book about money would find this book helpful. For older students, I would have Everything Money handy for lessons dealing with economic topics. You will be able to use it several times throughout the year as it covers a wide range of issues. This book could also be used to tackle big ideas like the distribution of wealth or the meaning of being rich.