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Posted on February 19, 2013 by Suzan Woodard in Integration Ideas, Literacy, Reading Lists, Uncategorized.
Tags: Astronomy, February 19 Google Doodle, Music and Literacy, Music in the Classroom, Nicolaus Copernicus' birthday, Online Science Books for Kids, Planet Jive, Song About Planets
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Google Doodle marks a noteworthy astronomer’s birthday today. Big Universe supports the sciences 24/7 with 1000-plus online math and science books for children.
Did you see the Google Doodle today? It’s awesome and animated. I sincerely love it when the beauty of science and the accomplishments of scientists and researchers are lauded. Thank you, Google.
Although I’m a writer by trade, I’m a science enthusiast to the core of my being. Big Universe does a great job of supporting science literacy. We have more than a thousand math and science books for kids online – at all reading levels. The website’s search tools make it easy to find what you are looking for.
Today’s Google Doodle marks the 540th birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus, the founder of modern astronomy. Back in his day, the rest of humanity thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus, however, insisted that the Earth revolved around the sun along with the planets. His idea was not well received. Years later, Galileo and his trusty telescope confirmed Copernicus’ theory.
Big Universe’s “Rourke’s World of Science Encyclopedia, Volume 7” is an excellent place to start exploring the topic of space. The book’s whole focus is astronomy. Or click this link to the Planets page on Big Universe Learning for other leveled-reading options.
One more thing. I have a song to pass along. Please tell your students that it’s a late valentine from me to them. It’s an educational song on Youtube that’s sure to get stuck in their heads. It’ll help your kids memorize the planets in our solar system. Who can resist a catchy song, right?
Here’s the link for Planet Jive and the lyrics:
Mercury now is the one closest to the shining sun.
Venus, Earth and then comes Mars orbiting that burning star.
Jupiter is next to them, largest in the solar system.
Saturn keeps on orbiting, see how the rings keep circling.
Uranus looks blue and green. It’s cold, at minus 353 degrees.
Neptune is the bluish one, its atmosphere is hydrogen.
Pluto is the furthest out, the smallest planet there’s no doubt.
Nine planets orbiting the sun make up our solar system.
*Note: Interested in reading more about using music in the classroom? Click the following links to articles by Big Universe blogger Elizabeth Peterson: “Music in Our Schools” or “The Arts and Literacy: Part Two”.
A heartwarming book about Valentine’s Day by Big Universe’s publishing partner Starbright.
Big Universe Learning has plenty of books about different holidays, and Valentine’s Day is no different.
Author Miriam Cohen and illustrator Ronald Himler collaborated on “Bee My Valentine,” a picture book published in 2009 by Starbright Publishing.
Aimed at 5- to 8-year-olds, the storybook deals with social and emotional learning, diversity awareness, self-awareness and with emotions such as sadness and compassion – all parts of adapting to the school environment.
Although instructed to be fair and kind, some first-graders in the book overlook one of their classmates during the annual Valentine’s Day card exchange. Readers will see how classmates rallying around another student can cheer him up and turn a not-so-good-day into a terrific one.
The 32-page book has a Reading Level of Lexile 450. The ISBN is #9781595723864. A 2.9 Reading Quiz is available too. The story is part of the “We Love First Grade! ™ series.
The publisher offers a second Valentine’s Day Book, titled “A Sweetheart for Valentine” by Lorna Balian.
In this story for ages 3-8, villagers find a giant baby whom they decide to raise together. They name her Valentine. They care for her until she is grown, but then wonder if they will be able to find a sweetheart big enough to sweep her of her feet. This 32-page hardback book (ISBN 978-1-932065-14-5) can be ordered for $15.95 by clicking through to the publisher’s website.
On this Valentine’s Day, you also may like to read a popular collection of Valentine’s Day poems. Go to my blog “Kid Friendly Poems for Valentine’s Day” You will also find classroom activities in my blog “Valentine’s Day Printables for the Classroom.”
Big Universe promotes strong family literacy practices.
Big Universe, a champion of literacy, reminds schools and program administrators that only two weeks remain to nominate educators for the 2013 Toyota Teacher of the Year award for family literacy. The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) will accept applications through Feb. 13 for the award, which is worth $20,000 for the recipient’s literacy program. The winning teacher will also receive a free trip to the National Conference on Family Literacy to be held April 28-30 in Louisville, Ky.
Those nominating an educator should fill out the NCFL’s online application. Schools and community organizations may nominate no more than two candidates for recognition.
Applicants will be assessed on the following criteria:
- Service to families and communities with high literacy and socioeconomic needs.
- Service through a family literacy program, Title I school, preschool, library, or other literacy-minded community group.
- A record of high performance, plus a novel idea to expand their program to better engage parents in their children’s education.
A runner-up will be given a scholarship to the NCFL conference, as well as a $2,500 grant for his or her family literacy program. NCFL has teamed with Toyota to promote literacy in the United States since 1991.
Big Universe promotes family literacy through its engaging online educational community and has done so since the platform launched in 2006. The website engages and motivates students while meeting the diverse needs of educators, parents, and even adult ESL readers. Big Universe also supports the new Common Core State Standards Initiative by aligning with College and Career Readiness anchor standards in reading, writing, language, speaking, and listening.
Big Universe has dozens of books to inspire math mojo.
Why are children in the United States having trouble keeping up with their global peers in regard to mathematics? Students in grades 4-8 have been scoring below their international counterparts on a consistent basis, according to studies by the American Institutes for Research. This trend is reflected even more dramatically by the time U.S. kids traipse the halls of high school.
Some children love math, while others never develop that crush. For many, the intrigue wanes quickly. Why? And, what can we do about this disheartening trend?
“For those of us who have been intoxicated by the powers and possibilities of mathematics, the mystery isn’t why that fascination developed but why it isn’t universal,” said New York Times reviewer Edward Rothstein in an article about MoMath, the exciting new $15 million Museum of Mathematics that opened Dec. 15th in Manhattan.
The math museum – the first of its kind – may be small potatoes in the big scheme of things, but its announcement on my news feed was a little ray of sunshine on a dreary day in South Carolina.
MoMath’s target audience is for grades 4-8. It’s a “proselytizing museum,” says Rothstein, designed to convince visitors that math can be jolly good fun – engaging at the very least. I imagine the museum would be a good field trip destination for elementary and middle school students; however, I suspect my husband, a Furman University math professor, would enjoy the place, too.
Dr. Jo Boaler – Stanford University math education professor and former Marie Curie Foundation chair in England – also addresses mathematics’ sullied reputation in her book “What’s Math Got to Do with It?” In her publication, the award-winning math education researcher offers parental advice, study strategies, and thoughtful classroom approaches to show how “parents and teachers can help children learn to love their least favorite subject.” Boaler is a prolific writer; her works include “The Elephant in the Classroom” and writings about gender, teaching style and learning.
While adults – yes, even teachers – often become jaded math victims, Boaler believes kids start off with a natural fascination for counting, observing patterns, and playing number games. Building blocks, dice, interlocking cubes, matching games, puzzles, and numerical patterns found in nature are just a few of the ways kids develop spatial reasoning and foster an understanding of numerical correlation.
Inspired teachers, creative picture books, well-written text books (sans “recipe math”) and relevant hands-on work can go a long way in putting a positive spin on a subject so foundational to a solid education. Big Universe offers numerous online books to supplement classroom teaching in this area. Check them out:
A Few of the Math Titles on Big Universe
If you like what you see online, consider purchasing a hard copy of your favorites for your classroom reading corner. (Think of it as a Christmas gift that will keep on giving!) Each online picture book on Big Universe has a “Buy Print Book” tab option on its main page, which will connect you with the book’s publisher.
Posted on December 19, 2012 by Suzan Woodard in Literacy, Personal Experiences.
Tags: Connecticut Tragedy, Dealing with death, Kids and Grief, Literacy, Mort and Brigitte Harris, Online Children's Books, Reading, Wayne State University, writing
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I’ve been away from blogging for BigUniverse.com for several months due to family tragedy, and I have missed taking my daily online stroll through the virtual bookshelves of this charming educational resource.
Reading, writing and the wonderful world of children’s books are near and dear to my heart. Picture books were an integral part of my formative years and were the launching pad to chapter books, the classics, a college education, and a journalism career.
In recent months, the gift of reading and writing has come full circle. While picture books offered entertainment and knowledge to me as a little child, reading and writing have been a source of comfort following the loss of my mother this summer. Like the warm lap of my mom during my childhood, reading Psalms has brought peace to my heart as an adult. Starting a journal provided therapeutic expression through written language. Reading notes of condolence underscored the fact that I was not alone in my loss, and booklets on grief reassured me that grieving is a process.
One of the things I have done as part of that process is to read the last two novels my mother read. (She was a voracious reader!) Reading those books brought me some of the same enjoyment that she experienced. It was a little something she could still share with me.
My mom, 84, did not start out as a mass consumer of books, magazines and Internet news. She told me dozens of times how she struggled with reading when she was younger. “Back in the day,” literacy intervention for at-risk readers was not as sophisticated as contemporary methods. My mother, however, was tenacious and bright. She figured out the reading thing on her own, so she never needed adult literacy services, but it’s nice to know that such help exists.
Wayne State University in Detroit just received $2.5 million to support the university’s community outreach adult literacy program, according to a recent Associated Press article. The funds were a gift from Mort and Brigitte Harris to endow an adult literacy office in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College. How cool is that?
Big Universe also is a resource for readers of all ages and levels. From wordless stories, audio books and illustrated graphic tales to humorous reads, Big Universe is an education website that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. In fact, Big U currently has 478,000 members in 171 countries. Its impact encircles the globe – like the arms of a loving mother who teaches and provides for her children.
NOTE: This blog was written before the Connecticut school tragedy. Although I touched upon my personal journey through grief in this blog, the sadness of the horrific event that took place a few days ago at Sandy Hook Elementary cannot be calibrated or compared. Human words – though powerful – will never adequately explain the catalyst for this heart-wrenching event or provide all the solace needed by those affected. God alone can provide this. For those left behind, please accept my deepest sympathy and my humble prayers for your comfort, peace and resolve to carry on.
Please consider reading the 2010 blog titled “Dealing with Death through Books,” a piece that highlights books and resources for children facing grief and loss. - Suzan
Big Universe Learning salutes Waldo at 25.
Birthdays! Everyone loves birthdays, right?
So, guess who is turning 25 years old?
Can you believe it? Waldo, the children’s book character, has been blending into his surroundings for a quarter of a century!
Yup, our friend Waldo – “Wally” to many – was globe-trotting more than a decade before Matt Lauer of The Today Show parlayed his “Yoo-hoo, where am I?” shtick to the bleary-eyed masses. (Waldo even conquered “flat” before “Flat Matt” photo ops became all the rage.)
Yup, Waldo was a young man ahead of his time! He had the hipster look locked up 20 years ago – with black-rimmed glasses, skinny pants, and his I-don’t-care-enough-to-care-that-I’m-wearing-a-LOUD-red-and-white-stripey shirt and matching beanie. He did Bieber bangs before Justin was a twinkle in his parents’ eyes, and I suspect he invented coffee, too.
Best of all, Waldo and his creator got millions of kids interested in reading books. British illustrator Martin Handford first drew “Wally” into crowd scenes back in 1986 at the bidding of his art director at Walker Books. The next year, the first book in the “Where’s Wally?” series was launched in the United Kingdom. The books were published in the United States under the title “Where’s Waldo?” by Little, Brown and Company and later by Candlewick Press. Since then, an estimated 55 million Waldo books have been printed worldwide.
In the following 25 years, Waldo has inspired video games, a TV show and a comic strip, as well as a bazillion Waldo-themed social events. In New Brunswick, N.J., in 2009, 1,052 Rutgers University students, alumni and community members set a Guinness World Record during a fund-raiser after dressing like the elusive character. The following year, Dubliners rallied in Ireland to smash that record with 3,872 red and white look-alikes in Dublin’s Merrion Square.
If you are in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this month, you can look for Waldo in one of 20 businesses in the Houghton/Hancock area by participating in the “I Found Waldo” contest. The businesses will give out token cards, buttons, books and other prizes. Participants who collect at least 80 percent of the contest cards (16) will be eligible to win a six-volume set of Waldo books.
Proprietors in Naperville, Ill.; Hudson, Ohio; and even my city, Greenville, S.C., are among the those across the nation taking part in the “Where’s Waldo? on Main Street, USA, campaign sponsored by Candlewick Press and the American Booksellers Association. Some of my favorite local shops are taking part: The Elephant’s Trunk, Palmetto Olive Oil Company, Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery, and Fiction Addiction book store (which is moving off Woodruff Road to Woods Crossing Road this month).
Where will Waldo show up next? I can’t say, but I do know that the co-hosting spot next to Matt Lauer is a revolving door: Katie, Meredith, Ann, Savannah, TBA. Perhaps Waldo would stick. He and Matt could duke out dibs on NBC’s travel budget!
Where’s Big Universe Learning? Right at your fingertips, 24/7. A vast source of online children’s picture books, Big Universe has 24 publisher partners and 4,504 books available covering all academic subjects. The award-winning learning community’s science, social studies, language arts and math books have been read 4,387,980 times by 333,682 members from 169 countries. Teachers, students, parents, homeschoolers and other members have created 58,518 books online using the site’s authoring tool.
Illumination Arts and Big Universe partner to showcase a book lauding the love of a father.
“I will be your Daddy for as long as you want me to. But, I will be your Father forever.”
That’s the text on the last page of an inspirational book on Big Universe Learning, titled “Your Father Forever.” The beautifully illustrated online picture book for children is published by Illumination Arts, an “elegant pioneer in the field of awareness literature for young children.” The book’s illustrations were done by Raquel Abreu and the text was written by Travis Griffith.
The tender poem expresses a father’s unconditional love and support for his kids. With an F&P Guided Reading Level N, Grades 2-3, it’s a perfect read for Father’s Day (June 17th). In the United States, Father’s Day always falls on the third Sunday in June.
If “mushy” makes your reader squeamish, try “Come on, Dad! 75 Things for Fathers and Sons to Do Together.” The Lobster Press book offers a list of creative ideas on how fathers and their sons can spend time together.
Or, encourage your student’s summer writing by using the writing platform on Big Universe to create a book for dad. Big Universe member “O.F.S.” did just that. It’s titled “My Dad.”
My father is 85. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Posted on May 28, 2012 by Suzan Woodard in Literacy.
Tags: Deaf, Department of Education grants, Dr. Amy Lederberg, Dr. Susan Easterbrooks, Georgia State University, Hearing Impaired, Learning to Read, Literacy, National Research and Development Center for Literacy, Teacher Development Resources
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Big Universe Learning Applauds Literacy Research Grants.
I was excited to read about the literacy and early intervention research going on at a college in our neighboring state. I think a lot of the teachers involved in the Big Universe online community will be interested too.
A pair of professors at Georgia State University (GSU) has been developing new curriculum and intervention protocol for pre-K and kindergarten students with hearing loss. Dr. Amy Lederberg and Dr. Susan Easterbrooks from the GSU College of Education hope soon to have comprehensive professional development resources for other teachers working with this population.
A $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Special Education Research will help them see this dream come to fruition. The curriculum in the works will offer methods to teach the alphabet, phonological awareness, storytelling, narrative structure and other literary components. The developers want to be able to offer a companion curriculum for non-speaking deaf children, as well.
“We hope to have an even more successful intervention that will focus on both meaning-based parts of reading – how to read and understand a book – and code-based parts of literacy, which has to do with learning letters and being able to take apart words and put them back together again,” said Dr. Lederberg, a professor of educational psychology and special education, in a GSU news release written by Claire Miller.
While the Department of Education grant is exciting, an even bigger grant to the Atlanta school just has been announced. The National Center for Special Education Research of the Institute of Education Sciences – a research arm of the U.S. Department of Education – has awarded $10 million to fund the creation of the National Research and Development Center for Literacy and Deafness. It will be the first nationally funded center to improve the reading skills of deaf and hard of hearing children.
I tip my hat to you, Dr. Lederberg, Dr. Easterbrooks and fellow researchers. Your hard work and vision are going to make a difference in a lot of classrooms and in the lives of many hearing impaired children.
Big Universe’s wide variety of online children’s picture books provides tons of reading options for special population students, including kids dealing with hearing loss, autism, Asperger’s and other literacy challenges.
Children's Books on BigUniverse.com for Memorial Day.
Two years ago, I wrote a Memorial Day-themed blog. Big Universe Learning had lots of books that would make perfect companion pieces for those exploring the history of our nation. I reread the blog this morning, and although the message is two years old, there is little I would change.
It’s still important to teach our children about their heritage. Part of character development involves promoting their ability to adopt an attitude of thankfulness and to understand what paying tribute entails. The main players in the “Hunger Games” series were called “tributes,” and the citizens of different districts expressed their gratitude and respect to lead character Katniss Everdeen by pressing three fingers to their lips and silently lifting their salute of tribute high.
So, in my heart I do the same. I am praying for a loved one, who is on his second tour in Afghanistan. He wants to come home. He’s ready to see his wife and three children after a yearlong separation. I salute you, sir, and am reposting my 2010 Memorial Day Big Universe blog “Memorial Day Books: Lessons to be Learned” in your honor.
“It’s Memorial Day Weekend – a great opportunity to teach our children about service, honor, commitment, bravery and patriotism. It’s a chance to explain that not all heroes wear sneakers.
While the swimming, grilling and family time are all great fun and have their place, take the time to teach your children about being thankful for freedom and grateful to those who have served in the military on behalf of our nation and for the freedom of others around the world.
My brother Barry served in the Navy, my father is a World War II veteran, and my grandfather volunteered as an ambulance driver in France with the American Ambulance Field Service during the “Great War.”
My brother-in-law is a Marine pilot and flew two tours in Iraq, and my niece Jenny and her husband are Marines, too. The sons and daughters of many friends are in Afghanistan or stationed elsewhere around the globe. While an undergrad, my husband was the recipient of the Arthur G. Morrell Memorial Scholarship. It was established in memory of a young Marine Harrier pilot, who died serving his country.
To all of you…thank you from the bottom of my heart.
If this strikes a chord with you, I encourage you to take time to talk to your children. Help instill an appreciation for those who serve our country now and for the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Place a flag. Write a letter. Say a prayer.
Here are some excellent children’s books just added to Big Universe’s online picture book library that will help your child learn some history and geography, increase his or her vocabulary, and understand what it means to pay tribute.
- “Arlington National Cemetery” by Jennifer Burrows. Interest level: 9-12. Grade 4-5. Reading Level: S. (Rourke Publishing)
- “World War I Memorial” by Maureen Robins. Interest level: 9-12. Grade 4-5. Reading level: S. (Rourke)
- “World War II Memorial” by Maureen Robins. Interest level: 9-12. Grade 4-5. Reading level: S. (Rourke)
- “USS Arizona Memorial” by Maureen Robins. Interest level: 9-12. Grade 4-5. Reading level: S. (Rourke)
- “Korean War Memorial” by Jennifer Burrows. Interest level: 9-12. Grade 4-5. Reading level: S. (Rourke)
- “Vietnam War Memorial” by Jennifer Burrows. Interest level: 9-12. Grade 4-5. Reading level: S. (Rourke)”
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melodie Beattie
Posted on May 23, 2012 by Suzan Woodard in Literacy, Personal Experiences, Reading Lists.
Tags: Bellwether, Hilton Head Island, Loggerhead, Online Children's Books, Rourke, Sea Turtle, Summer Fun for Kids, Summer Reading List, Summer Reading Slide, Turtles
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Turtle books for kids on BigUniverse.com.
Going to the beach? That’s where I am! A little in-state “vaca” is doing me a world of good…and I’ve only been in earshot of the Atlantic for 24 hours. The sun is setting, so the water is turning battleship gray with slivers of pink glinting off the swells. The lights along the shoreline will be doused soon too – a nod of respect to the sea turtles coming ashore here on Hilton Head Island.
On any given night from now until fall, Loggerheads will lumber ashore to scoop out sand hollows in the dunes to lay their eggs. In about two months, hatchlings will make their way into the surf – as long as manmade lights don’t beckon them to their demise. Loggerhead babies are drawn to the ocean by the reflection of starlight on the water, but they can easily be fooled by porch lights and lamps along walkways. “Kill the Lights. Don’t Kill the Turtles” is a well-known slogan in these parts.
Only about one in 10,000 hatchlings will make it to adulthood. And thus, their endangered status makes “Do Not Disturb” postings necessary at the high tide line. Nesting spots are taped off, and dogs have to be leashed
Hilton Head is full of islanders and vacationing families with young children relishing their newfound freedom. But just because school is out, learning doesn’t have to stop. The spontaneity of summer allows time to nurture imaginative play, encourage physical activity, and explore interests in more depth.
Vacation offers a wide range of learning opportunities. Local history, culture and geography are great jumping off points for playful learning. Parks and local wildlife reserves provide nature pamphlets and children’s programs. (Check out the Coastal Discovery Museum website.) Pair that with companion reading, crafts and games and children can avoid the mental regression and summer reading slide so often associated with this annual break from the classroom.
We have 24/7 Internet access here at the resort, so it would be a cinch for parents to access the wide variety of children’s books on Big Universe Learning. I took a quick survey of its online shelves and found tons of picture books about ocean habitats, salt marsh life and our topic du jour: TURTLES.
Bellwether Media publishing’s “Sea Turtles,” written by Ann Herriges, and Rourke Publishing’s “Sea Turtles” by Cindy Rodriguez are two nice examples. The Bellwether book is perfect for the K-second-grade crowd, and the Rourke book is good for third- and fourth-graders. Other books on www.biguniverse.com include the following:
Children’s Books about Turtles