Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Awesome America: Time for Kids

Awesome America
written by Katy Steinmetz
2016 (Time Inc. Books)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Discover how America has changed through the centuries, learn about the documents that are the basis for American democracy, and revisit the great moments that changed America with introductions to great Americans. 

In less than a week, the United States will turn 240 years old. That's a lot of candles on the cake. The story of America is an amazing one. It is full of powerful events, personalities, and stories. It is a unique tale that Awesome America tells in a little over 200 pages. This book does not take a chronological tack, but instead divides its chapters into different sections that cover cultural, geographic, and historical aspects of this country. Chapter 4 is all about the 50 states. Beautiful photographs of four iconic areas greet you in the beginning of the chapter. From there, each state is afforded a fun fact section that gives nicknames, some kind of official state entity (my state has an official carnivorous plant), and claims to fame. Chapter 5, The Land, gets my vote for photographic star of the book. Many different land forms are featured including purple mountain majesty (Denali) and flowing volcanoes (Kilauea). If you are a history buff, there are chapters featuring the presidents, the history of the Civil Rights movement, and influential Americans. The influence of American culture (movies, music, sports, etc.) is featured extensively in chapters 11 and 12. Like a great 4th of July fireworks event, Awesome America ends with a showy display. A twelve page timeline starts at BC with native people crossing a land bridge and ends with the election of President Obama in 2008. In between, there are events that chronicle the growth of America.

I love books like this because you can sit down in a cozy chair, look up from your book, and realize that two hours have passed by in the blink of an eye. History lovers will be engrossed by the combination of facts and photographs that highlighted familiar and new information to me. I didn't realize that Thomas Jefferson had invented a swivel chair because he didn't want to get up every time he needed to turn his chair. Awesome America is a comprehensive look at the red, white, and blue.

Click on this link for a curriculum guide to help in your instruction.

Monday, June 27, 2016

History Pin

What is historypin? It's a way to collect archival material and place it on a map. Here's a brief note from the creators: Anyone can pin photos, videos or sounds to the Historypin map. Compare images of then and now. Group them into collections. Share them with friends. Invite other people to participate.This past weekend, I contributed to a map of NC State University. My assignment was to write a brief history of D.H. Hill Library, find a photograph of it that I had permission to share, and pin it to our group's map.
Groups can contribute to the history of their community by posting historical photos and pinning them to their location. Families can post photographs of ancestors and family homesteads and add them to a map. I think for upper elementary school and higher students, this would be an engaging way to learn about the history of a community. It's a non-profit group that's interested in building social connections in places large and small. Check it out and see what has been pinned in your community.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Bubbli is an app for your iPhone that creates a 360 picture with audio. After downloading the app, I practiced this evening in my town. It's like painting a picture inside the lines as you move the camera around and try to fill in space with your surroundings. Audio is available so you can add a narrative. In our class, we told a short story to go with the picture. If you have e-pals, this would be a great way to show off your school. You can click below on the arrow and see a better view.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Nibbles the Book Monster

Nibbles the Book Monster
written and illustrated by Emma Yarlett
2016 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

But Nibbles' favorite thing of all to nibble on is books.

Nibbles more than lives up to his name. Soap, socks, and rubber ducks are subject to his munching madness. Top of the charts for him are books. So much so that he manages to eat his way out of his own book. Who does that? Good luck trying to find Nibbles as he slips between books in a library. Having a bestseller for brunch is not the biggest problem. Nibbles is involving himself in familiar stories and creating huge amounts of havoc. Goldilocks has a hair raising experience when Nibbles beats her to the tiny bowl of porridge. The Three Bears are horrified, not at the sight of the blonde haired intruder, but at the mess made by this mini monster. He even left a hole in the wall on his way to Little Red Riding Hood's house. Young readers will love that they can put their finger through the hole created by Nibbles. Another hole is created as he saves Grandma from the clutches of the Big Bad Wolf. After frustrating both Jack and the Giant, Nibbles presses his luck a little too far and is taken back to his own crate by a surprising source. But when the chewing commences again, the reader of the book knows exactly what has happened.

Young readers will adore Nibbles because he connects them to familiar stories in a unique way. They love stories that have been turned on their head. Children spend many hours reading books whose outcome can be predicted from a mile away. Naughty Nibbles keeps them on their toes because of his unpredictability. That makes reading a fun experience and why you should check out this chewing charmer.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Goose Chase and Fotobabble: Jeff tries out new apps

Yesterday morning, I went on a wild goose chase on N.C. State's campus. For an hour and a half, our team of three followed clues on my smartphone and provided evidence of finding the answers to those clues. Some clues needed an uploaded photo, others simply required a GPS check-in, and another set of clues needed typed in answers. Point values were assigned to each clue. 

I had a blast racing around campus taking photos and locating places. I could see a class having a goose chase at their school with students writing clues for classmates. 

Fotobabble allows you to attach audio to a single photo and publish it. This app reminds me of Voicethread. You can share your photo and audio to Facebook and Twitter. I used the photo above and attached my reading of a bio poem. 

Fotobabble would be great for a poetry or biography unit. It was very easy to use so it should be student friendly.