Monday, September 28, 2015

Crash Course for Kids Videos: Great Resource for Elementary Science

You need to go to You Tube and check out the Crash Course for Kids Videos. I watched one tonight about landforms and it was terrific! The video was only about 3 1/2 minutes long. It was an engaging introduction led by host Sabrina Cruz. You can watch it below. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Anchor Charts for Transition Words in Narratives

In my second grade classroom, we are working on writing personal narratives. One of the keys, which I need to emphasize more, is focusing on transitions. I have gathered some anchor charts to help in this effort.

This anchor chart comes from Scholastic's website. There are also some graphic organizers here including a cute idea that will resonate with students.

This is courtesy of Elva Larralde on Pinterest.

Finally, this chart comes from Mrs. Reeve's 5th grade class. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Teaching Place Value in 2nd Grade

                                                          Photo courtesy of : Catfisheye

But it isn’t enough to understand what addition and subtraction mean and how they can be applied to solve word problems. Students in Grade 2 must also learn general and efficient methods for expressing the sum or difference of two multi-digit numbers as another multi-digit number (working within 1,000 at this grade; note that fluency is expected within 100, and single-digit sums must be known from memory by year’s end).

How would you count the marbles in this box? Would you count one by one? How about grouping by tens? When you teach place value, all of these questions come to mind. I highly recommend this article from EngageNY. It would be great to share with fellow educators and parents. Terrific explanation of what needs to happen with students who are learning about ones, tens, and hundreds.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Inventor's Secret: What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

The Inventor's Secret
written by Suzanne Slade; illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

What's his secret? Henry wondered. How did he make such a marvelous machine?

At the age of 12, Henry Ford saw an engine-powered buggy. It was the first time he saw, a vehicle that wasn't powered by a horse. This set Henry on his path for life. He later took a job in a machine shop so he could learn more about engines. As Henry was going through the bumps and bruises that come with chasing a dream, he kept coming back to Thomas Edison and his series of successful inventions that had captivated the nation. The electric light, the phonograph, and many others amazed Henry. He wondered, What's his secret? This led to a meeting in New York City. Henry worked his way in to the dinner where Edison was the guest of honor. After a long time waiting, Henry finally had the attention of the famous inventor. He sketched the engine as Edison peppered him with questions. Finally, the Wizard of Menlo Park slammed his fist on the table and told Ford to Keep at it! This gave Henry Ford the encouragement he needed to continue his quest to build a gas powered car.

One of the joys of nonfiction picture books is learning about historical events that were unknown to you beforehand. Another is being able to use that picture book to teach a life lesson. Keeping at it
sounds like pretty simple advice, but how often do we take it? If you are trying to teach the character trait of determination, I would recommend this book. I think a map where you contrast Thomas Edison and Henry Ford would also be a good activity to tie in with The Inventor's Secret. I appreciate that I now have a resource for teaching primary students about these two famous inventors.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Q&A with Brain Games Author Jennifer Swanson

Today I have an interview with Jennifer Swanson, author of the new Brain Games book. 

1. There are several challenges in the book. How challenging was it to write this book and what was the most challenging part of it?

This book was very challenging to write. The reason? I had to turn a very interactive video-based show into a 2-dimensional book AND make it as interactive and exciting as the show itself.  Whew! Not an easy job. But I think we (my editor and I) managed to do just that. This book is filled with challenges and brain teasers-- all things to get readers up and moving. When you read this book we want you standing on one foot, jumping up and down, turning around, and stretching your brain cells to answer all of the questions. The sidebars are filled with fun and interesting facts for readers to amaze their friends, teacher, and parents. It was challenging to write, but a total blast as well. 

2. Are you left or right brained? Can someone be both?  That's a difficult question.

I probably tend to be more left-brained because I'm a pretty logical thinker, but clearly I have my creative side with my writing. I absolutely think that you can be both left and right-brained.  It's a matter of blending your positive aspects. For example, there are people who write with their right hand but are more comfortable catching a baseball with their left hand. You can have someone who is great at math, but loves music.  Our brains are amazing things and they can handle tons of complex thoughts and actions -- even ones that seem conflicting. 

3. What was your favorite sidebar from the book?

There were so many.... I guess if I have to pick one, I thought this fact was really cool:  "Learning actually changes the physical map of your brain."  If I have to pick my favorite challenge it's the one on page 72 where you have to say the color of the word and not read it. No matter how many times I do that challenge, I still have to stop and think really hard for a few seconds to get it right. 

4. Were you familiar with the television show before writing the book?

Actually, I was not. Shhh... don't tell my editor but we were 'Mythbusters' fans-- still are. But I have to say once I got asked to write this book I sat down and watched every episode. Pretty soon my husband and my teenagers were right next to me on the couch. BRAIN GAMES is a really fun show!

5. What advice do you have for aspiring writers who want to write nonfiction?

Go for it!  Writing nonfiction is fun. You get to learn all this cool stuff and then find electrifying and interesting ways to present it to kids. Your job is to get kids EXCITED about Science - or whatever nonfiction topic you are writing about. Nonfiction is hot, hot, hot with publishers, too right now. So now's the time. Dive in and write nonfiction! 

6. What's on the horizon for you? Do you have an upcoming book or project?

As a matter of fact, I have a new book coming out with Charlesbridge next summer that I am very excited about. It's called: SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up!  It's a book about how  nanotechnology is changing the shape of sports. Nanotechnology is the science of the extremely small and yet sports manufacturers are using to create stronger, more durable swimsuits, track suits, baseball bats, tennis rackets, and even running shoes. It's  pretty awesome science!  The book will be out in June, right before the Summer Olympics where you will see many new nanotech products in action! 

Thanks for the interview, Jeff. I really enjoyed talking with you today.

I'd like to leave your readers with my favorite saying: Don't forget to notice the science all around you!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Best Chapter in Children's Literature

**My apologies for being a missing blogger. I've been very busy working on a project that I am excited about. I should be able to get back to a regular blogging schedule next week.

Tomorrow I get to read my favorite chapter of any children's book. It's chapter 11 of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Titled The Miracle, Charlie has found a dollar hidden in the snow. He's desperately hungry and goes to a shop to buy a needed chocolate bar. You can probably guess what happens next.

Do you have a favorite chapter?