Saturday, October 3, 2015

When Will It Rain?: Noticing Weather Patterns

When Will It Rain?
written by Martha E.H. Rustad; illustrated by Holli Conger
2015 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

"I see another pattern!" Katie says. "The days when it rained were cloudy."

Mr. Davis and his class are starting a weather project. They're going to observe the weather and record what they see. Mr. Davis explains that they are looking for patterns. The students observe variables such as cloudiness, precipitation, temperature and wind speed. One of the patterns noticed by the class is the increase in the amount of precipitation for the spring and fall. I'm guessing there aren't many snow days in Mr. Davis's school district. A guest, television meteorologist Penny Perez, visits the class to talk about her job. She also shares weather instruments like a barometer and an anemometer.

I really like the approach of this book. Students will make connections with the actions of Mr. Davis's class. Primary students know about patterns and predictions. They love to fill out charts and will want you to do so after reading this book. You can use the instructions in the back to create a paper cup anemometer too. Finally, I appreciate the vocabulary in When Will It Rain? Terms like precipitation and forecast are big words for the K-2 crowd, but with proper scaffolding these words will become part of the class vocabulary.

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?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ebola: Fears and Facts

Ebola: Fears and Facts
written by Patricia Newman
2015 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

There is no room for optimism as long as you are dealing with an Ebola virus. It's not about low numbers. It's about zero. We have got to get to zero.

Dr. Bruce Aylward - World Health Organization

The word Ebola strikes fear into people and rightfully so. The virus, transmitted by bodily fluids and not airborne, kills half of the people that come into contact with it. So why read an excellent informational text about this dreaded disease?

First, gaining knowledge is necessary in dealing with a panic inducing topic. Author Patricia Newman guides readers through the beginnings of the scientific world’s awareness of the disease. You learn why the virus spread so quickly in central and western Africa, what is being done to combat it, and why it is so important to continue to monitor it. The text is just right for fourth grade and above and you don’t have to worry about graphic photographs. Second, there are several superb text features (charts, diagrams, and maps) that can be used in lessons on nonfiction reading. For example, on page 27 is a chart that compares Ebola to other viral infections (Bird flu, HIV, SARS). This chart compares the origins of the infections, target areas of the body, and five other categories. Finally, this is the story of a heroic battle to save lives. Brave doctors, nurses, and local citizens risk their health in service to others. 

Ebola: Facts and Fears is a terrific resource that can be used by students and adults to learn about a disease that has grabbed the world’s attention. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Brain Games: The Mind-Blowing Science of Your Amazing Brain

Brain Games
written by Jennifer Swanson
2015 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Your brain is the most complex supercomputer on the planet. It's a compass, a storehouse, and a time machine all rolled into one.

My youngest daughter enjoys the television show Brain Games on the National Geographic Channel. It's a reality show that uses interactive games to teach you about the brain. With the success of this show and Pixar's Inside Out, a lot of people have the brain on the brain. But do you know how the brain works? I have some basic knowledge, but not much beyond that. With this kids companion to Brain Games, I can be an expert. It is a thorough treatment of all the connections and functions that our brains have. Understanding the science of the brain is a challenging matter, but author Jennifer Swanson makes it easier by introducing sections with games that are what you would see on the television show. This gives you a connection for the hard science that follows in the section titled What Exactly is Happening. Pretty neat trick. You also get fun facts that illuminate the information presented. For example, in the section on neural pathways and how the brain makes our senses work, you learn in a sidebar how king snakes can hear sounds by feeling vibrations in their jaws. I also understand my two dogs much better now that I have read the sidebar about the importance of smell to my canine critters. Another engaging section of the book are the brain breaks. Appearing at the end of each chapter, these are mostly visual cranium contests that students will enjoy. I would put individual brain breaks on a SmartBoard and have the class try and solve them. Two more challenges are also included with the back matter.

When a student talks about their brain hurting, you can now ask "Left side or right side?" "Your hypothalamus or your frontal cortex?" If you want to be a true brainiac, pick up a copy of Brain Games.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writing short vowel words resource

I was looking to create a center for Reader's Workshop. I wanted to focus on word study and ran across this terrific resource from Anna at The Measured Mom. Students use printed initial consonants, blends, and digraphs (onsets) to attach to a vowel and other letters that follow (rimes). Players gain the rime by rolling a die. What's especially nice about this resource is that it is FREE! In the age of TPT, this is a nice surprise. Thanks, Anna!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I'm New Here

I'm New Here
written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

I say the new words again and again. 
They feel like rocks in my mouth. 
My tongue twists and stumbles on their edges.

It's not easy being the new kid in class. All eyes watch you. Your newness breaks up the humdrum of the classroom routine. Now imagine being new in a place where you don't understand the language. That is the challenge for three students in I'm New Here. Maria is from Guatemala. Recess in her old home meant free flowing conversations. Now she is overwhelmed by strange sounds. Jin has come from Korea. He loved writing stories in his native land. Writing in English is a challenge. The symbols are now letters instead of pictures. Fatimah, from Somalia, was a great fit in her old class. She has to learn different routines and ways in her new class. Loneliness and confusion are some of the feelings facing these students. The nice thing about kids is that they can make all sorts of connections. Through art, reading, and soccer, these students make new friends.

What a great book to share at the beginning of the year! I have three students who are new to our school and will be sharing it. Being aware of the difficulty of being new will help the rest of the class to make friends. I'm New Here would also be a good mentor text when talking about immigration. Pair this with the wonderful wordless book Here I Am which also focuses on the theme of being new from another country. I'm New Here is a valuable resource for building a community in your classroom.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play

Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play
written by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook;
illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Team shirt, goalie gloves.
A ball to kick away.
Long socks and shin guards.
What sport does she play?

When I was 8 years old, my favorite part of getting dressed for baseball games was putting on the stirrups. It was a unique piece of clothing and made me feel like a big league player. Of course, I didn't exactly hit like a big league player, but it didn't matter because you got a free soda after every game. I played several sports in my youth and putting on the uniform was always a big deal. In Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play, equipment and uniform are used to identify different sports. Readers use the illustrations and an accompanying couplet to identify the sport. One of the stated skills required of K-2 readers is to be able to use the illustrations and details in a text to find the key idea. This book makes it fun to practice. You will get a loud response before you turn the page to reveal the answer. Seven sports are represented which makes reading the book an opportunity to create a graph. "How many of you like this sport?" you could ask. A bar or pictograph could easily be drawn to illustrate the data. A great pre-reading activity would be to list different sports and ask readers to list equipment and/or uniform pieces that are needed to play the game. Then you can check the list after you read to see if any additions need to be made. If you have a Sports Day in your classroom, this would be a fun mentor text to read as well. Be a sport and read Clothesline Clues to Sports People Play!