Brain Research: Music May Enhance Mathematical Skills




The reproducible lessons in this series focus on practical vocabulary terms, skills, and concepts in relevant situational settings. Struggling students learn over 3,000 high-utility words in 28 self-contained thematic lessons. Additionally, each lesson activates prior knowledge and continually reinforces fundamental language arts skills and concepts. These reproducible books include teacher notes and tips, answer keys, reference guides, lessons, unit reviews, and more.
Introduce words that name the instruments in the band within an easy-to-read patterned text.
Arts & Music, People & Places
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 Stem Jobs In Music
STEM jobs in music range from developing new effects to recording performances. Sound engineers, technicians, and acoustic engineers are just a few of the ways you can contribute to the music industry without ever picking up an instrument! Learn about how music therapists use music to study its effects on the human brain and how audio engineers use technology to fine tune the music you listen to every day. So, next time you listen to your favorite song, you will have a better understanding of how many people were involved in the process! This book will allow students to understand how structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.


Families can get moving! The start of the school year is an excellent time to start a family exercise routine. Children enjoy playing sports and participating in physical activity. Running or walking is a healthy and free activity for families. Walking around a different street each night offers children an opportunity to observe the family friendly neighborhoods and possibly meet new friends. Families can implement a nightly 30-minute brisk walk during the fall that they can keep as a habit well into the new year. Families that walk together, talk together!

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 5.17.21 PMTeach Children About Staying Clean And How To Prevent The Spread Of Germs

Children should be advised to learn good health habits at a young age. Good teeth brushing habits are one way children can learn to improve their oral health. The Squeaky Clean Club teaches about the benefits of hand washing. Winter brings the cold and flu season. Teaching children how to help prevent the spread of viruses by washing their hands, helps empower them to make healthy habits at a young age.

Patricia Armentrout (author)
ISBN: 9780983340751
Blue Door Education
A fun and informative book about keeping your body clean and germ free. Great photos and illustrations.


3140Fabulous food is a part of everyday life. Parents can encourage good eating habits by including a variety of dishes that include fruits and vegetables at every meal. Families can integrate reading, math and health into their daily life by reading recipe books and cooking dishes together. One author even found a way to make fruit filled cookies a hit in the book, Cool Cookies. Parents can choose to make cookies with fruit ingredients such as banana-apple cookies.

Teach Kids The Value of Running

Baseball, basketball, football, soccer…they all involve running! Spirited and energetic kids reep big rewards from participating in group sports. Improving cardiovascular health and developing muscular strength is a benefit of being on a team. Practicing running makes running easier. Practice create excellence.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 5.29.34 PMDan’s Big Race

by Rebecca Gauthier (author), Mike Eustis (illustrator) © 2012
Read Now Bookshelf
ISBN: 9781620468395
Using illustrations and text, readers can identify the sequence of events leading up to a class running race and make connections to the experiences of the main character.



Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 5.29.38 PMI Am Active

by Tammy Jones (author), NA (illustrator) © 2009
Read Now Bookshelf
ISBN: 9781607191391 AR: Book Level 0.0 / Points 0.0 / Quiz NA
Do you like to run and jump? Do you like to catch and throw?


Supporting Middle School And High School Students

PencilMiddle School Writing and The Common Core State Standards

Students in middle school are expected to write informational, explanatory, opinion and argument writing pieces. The Common Core State Standards clearly outline what is expected of students at each grade level.

Middle School Students Learn About The Elements of an Opinion and Argument

When teaching students how to write an argument piece, students should be exposed to the elements of an argument. The definition of an argument is a reason or reasons why you are for or against something. Educators and parents can identify these elements in text. Teaching students to use content specific words also increases their academic vocabulary. When students make a claim, they need to think about evidence. Evidence is an essential part of argument writing.

  • Claim-The position or assertion that supports an argument
  • Evidence-Facts or reasons that support the claim
  • Warrant-Reasoning that connects evidence to the claim

In middle school students need to make a:

  • Counterclaim-The opposing position
  • Rebuttal-Logical reasons for the rejection of the counterclaim

Middle School Students Can Read Books About Arguments

A book that contains information regarding arguments about the climate is Climate ChangeMyths and Controversies takes a look at some of the most popular arguments against climate change and why they are only myths. Teachers and students can read this text and examine some of the popular arguments. Find these online books on Big Universe.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 8.49.51 AMWriting an Opinion Paper 

Meg Greve (author)
ISBN: 9781627179300
Rourke Publishing
Writing an opinion paper isnt writing about factual information, but writing about what your opinion on a topic is. The challenge is to appeal to other peoples feelings and emotions, while leaving yours out. This type of paper can be more challenging than you think. Organizing your thoughts, writing a list of reasons that support your opinion, and which reasons can be proven with facts and which are simply how you feel. Learn how to frame your paragraphs, formatting, and transition words that help you make your opinion clear and persuasive! This book will allow students to ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
Other, Reference & Study Aids
Interest Age:
Ages 6-8, Ages 9-12
3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade
Social Studies
English (US)







Life Long Learning: Professional Development For Teachers


For most teachers, professional development classes are the norm. For many this is a state requirement for re-certification and/or district contracts.  Professional development is a great way to learn innovative ways of teaching.  By keeping current in the education field, you can develop new skills and thinking that help you become a better teacher.  Big Universe supports teachers by providing ongoing professional development opportunities and resources.

Great resources for teaching from reading to writing or even technology on Big Universe.

From the publisher, “Thirty-six activities and lessons (Lessons 37-72) teach students information literacy, understand how the information is organized, identify the best sources of information for a given need, locate those sources, evaluate the sources critically, and share that information. Includes: Defining Types of Information; Sharing Information; Defining Media; Creating Newsletters; Defining Technology; Blogging. 16 graphic organizers & assessments.”  This is one example of the volumes available as a resource to you!
From the publisher, “There is no such thing as too much writing practice. This two-part program builds skills incrementally from bright idea to polished final product. These stimulating lessons will enable students to actually enjoy the writing process. Includes Traits of Writing correlation. The Enhanced eBook edition available gives you the freedom to cut and paste any portion of the text into your own document; to project the eBook contents on a whiteboard; and more! Topics Include: Sentence & Paragraph Completion, Cloze Exercises, Using Literal & Figurative Language, Similes & Metaphors, answering Essay Questions.”


On Demand Learning- Big Universe Professional Development Videos. 

Topics include reading, writing, curriculum and instruction.

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Blog Interactions

We are here to help you!  Reach out to our experts and other teachers by posting questions or comments on our blog.  What professional development classes have you taken this summer? How has it made you a better teacher?




Writing a Research Paper

There are certain steps you can take when writing a research paper that will make the finished product a lot easier! Many people, such as scientists and businesspeople use research skills to make products better or more useful, and to teach others how to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Picking a topic, gathering and organizing your information, and putting it all together are discussed in this title. By following these steps, you are guaranteed to get an A on your next research paper! This book allows students to determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.



For  more information on the Writing Process visit the Big Universe blog.

Question Stems To Facilitate Critical Thinking

question-MarkCritical thinking is essential in the technology driven society that we live in today. Educators and parents can help students to facilitate critical thinking by using the question stems.

These are some of the questions and question stems that families and educators can utilize to foster higher level thinking skills.


Question Stems For Critical Thinking

What would happen if…?

What is a new example of…?

How could … be used to…?

What is the counterargument for…?

Why is … important?

What is the difference between… and…?

What are the implications of…?

Explain why / Explain how?

What is … analogous to?

How are … and … similar?

How does … affect…?

Why is … happening?

What is the best … and why?

Do you agree or disagree with the statement…?  What evidence is there to support your answer?

What are the strengths and weakness of?

What is the nature of…?

What is the solution to the problem of…?

What do you think causes…?  Why?

What is another way to look at…?

The question stems help to develop the 21st Century Skills. The 21st century skills are needed to succeed in the information age. Educators can help students to develop competence through an engaging and rigorous educational program. Students must acquire a variety of traits and abilities to succeed in college and their careers. The 21st century skills are a variety of learning, literacy and life proficiencies that the workplace demands.

Using Fiction to Help Teach Facts


Learning formulas, performing calculations, memorizing dates and seemingly random facts, cramming loose bits of information into a the brain. Those are the daily rituals performed by students in the hopes that they can remember what they have learned at least long enough to pass the test. To make the lessons more permanent, help students make a connection by using fiction to reinforce the rote facts. Pair novels, short stories, fables, or poems that are relevant to the concepts and facts that are being introduced to help give students another path to access the information and aid retention. Students can even write their own fiction as a way to further cement concepts.

Using literature also allows teachers to push the limits of student’s learning by allowing them to imagine and play with the ideas in the fictional setting of a story.

Here are three fact heavy subjects with ideas and resources to help pair fact with fiction to transform memorizing into learning.

History and Historical Fiction

History has the reputation of being a boring subject in the eyes of many students. How can things that happened so long ago be relevant today? This is the perfect reason to integrate fiction in history lessons. Read or assign a novel, story or poetry that is either from the time period or set in the time period being studied. It is, of course, best to pick a work with children as the main characters.


Out of the Deeps
Anne Laurel Carter (author), Nicholas Debon (illustrator)
ISBN: 9781554690633
Like many children throughout Canada’s history, Savino had to quit school when he was twelve to work and help his family. In Out of the Deeps, Savino spends his first day at the mine working alongside his father and Nelson, his father’s pit pony. When Savino’s headlamp goes out deep in the coal mine, Nelson leads Savino out of the danger. In 1944 the miners received their first paid holiday and insisted that their pit ponies receive a week’s holiday too. In Out of the Deeps, Anne Laurel Carter captures a boy’s first day at work in the mines and a special pit pony’s first glimpse of daylight.


1492 New World Tales
Richard & Judy Dockrey Young (authors)
A collection of authentic stories from the years around 1492. These tales have been carefully crafted to sound as exciting and mysterious as they were when first told five hundred years ago by sailors around a lantern on a ship, shared by explorers reclining around a campfire, enjoyed by Native Americans in a grass hut, whispered inside a stone palace in the Totonac city of Zempoala, or fondly remembered by an adventurer back home in Europe.
Additional resources

Historical Fiction/Non-fiction pairings for the Middle Grades:

Teaching History with Comic Books:

National Geographic Book Pairs:

Math and Number Stories

Math class is notorious for memorization and rote lessons. Students spend each math class crunching numbers and trying to remember which formula or operation to use to solve the assigned problems. With just a small infusion of fiction, math can come alive and give students additional tools to aid in the recall and application of the facts.


Multiply on the Fly
Suzanne Slade (author), Erin E. Hunter (illustrator)
ISBN: 9781607181484
From pirate bugs to spittlebugs to lovely Luna moths, children will love learning about the world’s insects in Multiply on the Fly! Following in the footsteps of What’s New at the Zoo? and What’s the Difference, this rhythmic book teaches multiplication in a way that will make children “bug” you for more. Teeming with fun facts, readers will multiply with a variety of insects, including daring dragonflies, hungry honeybees, and stealthy walking sticks.


Pythagoras and the Ratios
Julie Ellis (author), Phyllis Hornung Peacock (illustrator)
ISBN: 9781570917769
A Math Adventure! Julie Ellis and Phyllis Hornung Peacock team up once again to explore Pythagorean ratios in this humorous sequel to What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? Pythagoras and his cousins want to win a music contest, but first they must figure out how to play their instruments in tune, something that’s never been done before. While trying to fix the problem, Pythagoras makes an important discovery–notes that sound pleasant together have a certain mathematical relationship. When Pythagoras applies this ratio to his cousins’ pipes and lyres, the result is music to the ears. This book is good for your brain because: Mathematical problem solving, Ratios, Measuring, Musical Theory, History of Instruments.
Additional resources

Best Books on Math for Kids: (by grade)

Science/Technology and Science Fiction

Science and Technology while not always not as number intense as math includes concepts that are foreign to most students. They simply have no context within which to place the theoretical basis for most sciences. Adding fiction to the science curriculum can also help students explore the more thoughtful ideas and the creative imagining that are exactly how scientists work.


Solar System Forecast
Kelly Kizer Whitt (author), Laurie Allen Klein (illustrator)
ISBN: 9781607185413
Below-freezing temperatures, scorching heat, and storms bigger than the planet Earth are just some of the wild weather you will encounter on your trip through the solar system! Get your fun facts along with your forecast for each major planet, as well as a moon (Titan) and a dwarf planet (Pluto). Get ready for some out of this world fun with Solar System Forecast!


Forensic Scientist
Tim Clifford
ISBN: 9781606943717
Use forensic science to solve a mystery in this graphic high interest book.
Additional resources

Fiction for teaching science concepts to elementary students:

Storytelling in Science:

National Punctuation Day (September 24th) Grammar lessons that your students will love.

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National Punctuation Day is a great way to get your students excited about writing.  The best way for your students to become better writers is for them to write!  These are proven resources and ideas that can be used in any classroom.  Each is broken down into the various grade levels to encourage writing.


Extension Activity:  Start your own newspaper or classroom newsletter.  Assign jobs to all your students.  Sample jobs: writers, editors, photographers, and interviewers.
Middle School
The Enhanced eBook edition available gives you the freedom to cut and paste any portion of the text into your own document; to project the eBook contents on a whiteboard; and more! 100 Reproducible Activities It’s no secret: practice builds skill, and skill builds confidence. By focusing on essential elements of grammar, these reproducible exercises are the ideal supplement to your language arts program. Good Grammar! covers all the bases in a variety of skill-specific lesson formats. The annotated table of contents makes it easy to locate and prescribe instant remediation. Topics Include: Anatomy of a Sentence, Sentence Structure and Syntax, Subjects and Predicates, Compounds: subjects; Predicates and Sentences, Eight parts of speech, Nouns: Singular and Plural; Proper and Common, Self-assessment and Proofreading, Subject-verb agreement, Personal Pronouns and Antecedents, Adjectives and Adverbs: Comparative and Superlative, and more…
The reproducible lessons in this series were designed for students who still have trouble understanding what they read, writing a simple report, or finding the appropriate words to express themselves. A systematic, incremental teaching method promotes progress by steadily building confidence in six core topics. These reproducible books include teacher notes and tips, answer keys, reference guides, lessons, unit reviews, and more.
Real Life Experiences
Start a blog or use the Big Universe writing tool.  This way your students have an world wide audience.
We would love to hear from you.  How will you celebrate National Punctuation Day?

Career Exploration Activities For Students

career2Researching Jobs For The Future

Hands-on learning fosters excitement and engagement when researching jobs and professions. Students in elementary, middle and high school can prepare for the future by reading about different types of careers and creating poster board job summaries.

Students can use many resources to compile facts and data for the poster board presentations. Some sources of information include:

  • Books
  • Online books
  • Magazines
  • Interviews
  • Job Search Handbooks
  • Career day presentations
  • Visits to job locations and workplaces
  • Colleges and universities
  • Job resource centers
  • Internet searches
  • The library
  • Classroom presentations from teachers and students
  • Career exploration surveys and interest forms
  • Other information sources



Online Resources To Help Students

Students can read colorful and engaging titles about careers and the workforce. These books offer a great opportunity to enrich student’s vocabulary and content knowledge. Educators can utilize online resource guides to plan engaging lessons that require critical thinking. Big Universe offers thousands of titles in many different languages on a multitude of topics. Find texts in multiple genres as well as teacher resource guides on the Big Universe website.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 6.22.37 PMCareers


Job Search HandbookScreen Shot 2015-05-06 at 6.20.14 PM

Combining practical content with visual appeal, the 21st Century Lifeskills handbooks read more like a magazine than a book. Highly readable with full-color photographs, a smaller trim size and an eye-popping layout, these 120-page handbooks are great for teaching life skills to a twenty-first century population. The 10 handbooks in this series will provide readers a thorough and non-threatening introduction to the multi-dimensional competencies, concepts, and vocabulary they need to achieve independences–including community resources, job searching, money management, job etiquette, health, moving and more. Used along or in conjunction with the 21st Century Lifeskills worktexts, these handbooks offer students a unique and visual way to achieve real-world literacy.
For information on having a career day visit Career Day.

Using History to Hook Readers

Learning about historical events can be a fun way to introduce and review higher level reading skills. Finding relevant and engaging resources can help you hook your students on history. Here are some examples of skills that could be taught while using history books.

Perspective/Point of View Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Copyright date Critical Thinking Skills


Learning about point of view can help the reader discover the author’s purpose. Knowing the author’s frame of reference can also help students see opposing views.

Sample Book on Big Universe

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.26.45 PM   The Queen in King’s Clothing

Steve Provost (author), Nicholas Jackson (illustrator)    ISBN: 9781620461884

From the Publisher : Beautiful illustrations engage struggling readers as they learn about an Egyptian pharaoh and identify sequences of events. This history book contains informational text and an alternate perspective from the pharaoh’s close adviser.

Copyright Date

Knowing historical events and placing that in relation to the copyright date can help determine the relevancy of the book. If the book was printed prior to a major historical event, it changes the accuracy of the book.

Sample Book on Big Universe

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.04.34 PM   Between the Wars

Christine Dugan   ISBN: 9780743906661

From the publisher: The years between World War I and World War II were years of change and reform. The role of women changed and the social status of African Americans began the slow process of reform. Industry continued to grow as the demand for cars increased. When the Great Depression occurred in 1929, life in America changed drastically as many people found themselves poor and homeless.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

This can be a tough concept to teach. Most history text books are secondary resources. Journals, however, are primary resources. Primary sources provide first hand information.

Book found on Big Universe.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.11.26 PMAmerican Immigrants Yesterday and Today

Tony Losongco (author), Paul Klepac (illustrator)

From the publisher: Readers learn to compare and contrast the experiences of new Americans during two historical periods of immigration. Students use maps, illustrations, photographs, and a fictional diary entry to interpret information.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.18.47 PM   Irish Potato Famine

Joseph R. O’neill (author)   ISBN: 9781617851773

From the publisher: This title examines an important historic event, the Irish Potato Famine. Readers will learn the history of Ireland leading up to the famine, key players and happenings during the famine, and the event’s effect on society. Color photos and informative sidebars accompany easy-to-read, compelling text. Features include a timeline, facts, additional resources, web sites, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.

Critical Thinking Skills

Students can be taught valuable critical thinking skills when they learn basic historical events. They can put things in chronological order and discuss various attitudes and perspectives.

Sample Book

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.23.43 PM   American History 1 & 2

ISBN: 9781612476759

This two-part book program offers activities to supplement standard U.S. history classroom textbooks. Lessons can stand-alone or coordinate with any text. Activity pages include basic concepts, graphs, maps, vocabulary comprehension, and nonfiction informational excerpts that help make meaningful connections with historical concepts, facts, and ideas. Reproducible Books include table of contents and answer keys.

Introduce the genre: Historical Fiction

Sample Book on Big Universe

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.45.26 PM   The Soldier

From the Publisher: When Leyla draws, shes in another world, not in this war-ravaged country. Her school has been destroyed. There are occupying forces in her village. Americans. Each trip to the water pump must be taken with care. She wont even look at the soldiers. But then she sees a woman, a soldier. And she does something unexpected, then courageous.