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
add a comment
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.”
What are things we can do to build good readers and good test takers all year long?
No matter how you may feel about tests … right now that is something students do.
The suggestions I am going to share below are not tied to specific test practice.
I am a firm believer that if students have good content knowledge and thinking strategies, they will do well.
And what is better than developing good readers while helping encourage good test taking?
Here are some suggestions I found in Strategies That Works by Harvey and Goudis:
- Build in lots of time every day for kids to read … just read!
- Teach comprehension strategies
- Flood the room with nonfiction
- Teach the elements and features of a particular genre
- Teach signal words
Those 5 suggestions don’t really look like the test-taking strategies that are so common in many classrooms ….
What are ways you are already doing these things in class?
What are ways you could use Big Universe Learning to help with these 5 strategies?
- There are lots and lots of things for children to read on Big Universe Learning! You can search for topics, titles, authors, keywords, publishers, and interests!
- The best way to teach comprehensions strategies is to introduce, practice, and review them as you read … and you can do lots of reading using Big Universe Learning!
- I don’t think you can do a search for books on Big Universe without seeing titles of nonfiction books! Most of the nonfiction books in my class library would have fallen into the “boring book” category, but that is not the case with the nonfiction books available on Big Universe! You can even search for fiction and nonfiction books that go together!
- One of the activities I often did at the beginning of the school year in my classroom was to have students help me organize my classroom library. We would talk about elements and features of specific genres as we worked together to decide how to categorize the books. As I have mentioned before, there are lots of books available on Big Universe, so the same type of discussions and mini lessons could take place using these books. What if you did a scavenger hunt challenging students to find examples of books they would put in certain genres?
- No matter what kind of reading one does, real reading or test reading, signal words are important since they tell the reader when to really pay attention to what is getting ready to happen. Point them out as you share books you find on Big Universe. You could create a class list and then allow students to add to the list when they encounter signal words when they read … and there are lots of books to read on Big Universe!
Let’s all work to help our students become better readers and thinkers using whatever materials we have!
And strengthening reading and thinking will help with tests too …
photo credit: HikingArtist.com via photopin cc
Did you know that one in every ten households in the United States is an adoptive family?
The rise in international adoptions adds an extra dimension to a family’s way of life, because their child brings with them a cultural heritage that may not be the culture they grow up in. Most families of adoption – like many biological families – do not want to rob their children of their cultural identity. Rather, they take concrete steps to celebrate it. We can do that in classrooms, too!
Bilingual children’s books offer a way to introduce and bridge cultures. Your child or student may already speak at least some of his/her native language. If that’s the case, then bilingual books can help you learn the language, not only improving communication, but showing them that you think their culture is important.
Books that have all the text in one language – whether it is English, Mandarin Chinese, or Arabic – are not bilingual books. They are foreign language children’s books. These are wonderful books if you already know a language, but they may be a bit daunting (or downright discouraging) if you aren’t familiar with it.
así que vamos a hablar en español los libros bilingüe
(Let’s talk bilingual books)
There are two two types of bilingual picture books.
Some bilingual books tell the story with parallel text. In these books, the English and (let’s say Spanish) text are presented together on the same page, with an illustration on the facing page.
If you have had some training in the language, these books can help dust off the rust quickly, and you’ll be reading comfortably in no time.
The second type of bilingual book is a story where specific vocabulary words are inserted into the sentence, and you use the illustrations to help with the translation. “The vaca wandered from the farm.” Vaca is Spanish for cow, and the illustration would likely have a cow walking out from her pen.
This style of presentation introduces the language through context, and is very useful when you want to begin building a vocabulary. You may learn simple phrases like “good luck,” but you don’t have enough immersion to create complete sentences.
Given the portability of books these days, many bilingual books come with CDs. All of the titles in the Teach Me … series (Teach Me Tapes.com), for example, have parallel text and come with a book and CD. Hearing the language spoken correctly can help you and your child, too. I’ve not done any exploring, but I imagine there are read-to-me capabilities in children’s book apps, too.
With bilingual stories, you can share more than just the languages of your family’s heritage. You often learn about other cultural traditions and history. Myths, legends, and folklore are the foundation of every society’s storytelling tradition. Whether you are reading (or listening to) a native story in English or another language, you are celebrating all that makes your child unique and yet also part of a global world.
Glückwünsche! Felicitazioni! Congratulations!
On BigUniverse.com you can choose from among nearly 60 bilingual children’s books and easy readers, and hundreds more in traditional romance languages like French and Spanish to Arabic, Chinese, and Slavic languages.
Photo Credit: http://triblocal.com
All the arts can be integrated with literacy. For this post, let’s take a look at drama and movement.
Think about the elements of a story: character, setting, plot. In theatre, a story comes alive, complete with props, scenes, costumes and actors. However, you don’t have to put on a full out production to make this happen. Using tableau is one of my favorite ways to incorporate drama techniques quickly into what we are doing in the classroom. For tableau, a group of students create a freeze frame using just their bodies to encapsulate a moment in time. Think of a prompt you can ask of your students. Have them create a tableau to show
- the beginning action in a story.
- the climax of a chapter or story.
- the relationship between and among characters.
- the problem or conflict in a story.
- the solution of the story.
- the epilogue in a story.
Characterization is another way to use drama in literacy. Have students become and act like a character from the story. Bring to your students’ attention how the person would look (facial expression, body language), act and talk. You can assign students to become different characters and have them interact with one another. Again, giving them a prompt can help with this. Be creative and ask students to do things straight from the book as well as make things up. Have characters
- discuss a scene in the story.
- discuss a current event.
- work together on a problem (like building something or coloring the same picture).
- go to a coffee shop and order some food.
Movement and dance can also tell a story. The story can be as simple as an individual moving through the growth of a plant from seed to flower or as complex as a dance that tells the story of a girl’s search for love.
Movement can also be used when responding to a piece of literature (story, poetry or lyrics) or as you gather your thoughts to create a story. Think about the use of time, space and energy as a means to express the elements of a story. Time refers to the speed of the movement (even beat, accents, syncopation), space refers to the various ways to move (straight line, curvy, twisted, etc) and examples of energy are strong/weak, heavy/light and bound/free. These are concepts you can practice as a warm up before students try using them in response to literature. Try one of these:
- Move to a steady tempo: walk, skip, bounce, hop
- Move in a line: straight, curvy, zig zag
- With your feet planted, move your body in circles, curves, etc.
- Move around the space as if you are heavy/light, strong/weak, etc.
When responding to literature, students should have a good understanding of the story so that they can move appropriately. Here are some ideas:
- Students can show the action of a scene through movement. (Is the scene exciting or adventurous, dull or relaxing?)
- Students create a dance for a character in the story. (How would the character move at this time in the story?)
- Students create a dance that shows the sequence of a scene, chapter of story. For this, there will be a beginning, middle and end to their dance.
Enjoy the variety of ways drama and movement can enhance your students’ appreciation for and understanding of the stories you read and learn.
Music is a powerful tool for so many things. It can be something we use in our schools to help motivate our students as well as set the tone for our classroom.
Listening to music is a great way to bring music into your day, but what I find from other teachers is that they don’t know where to start when it comes to picking out just the right music. Depending on what you do and teach will affect what type of music you wish to use.
Let’s focus on reading. Some people love reading to music, others do not. You may want to test the waters in your classroom to see what your students prefer or ask them their opinion on the matter.
Of course you need to consider what type of reading your students may be doing. If they are free reading for enjoyment, they may welcome music more readily than if they are reading a selection on which they will be tested. Others may need some music in the background to help them focus in a testing situation.
Here are some options of music and sound you can consider when choosing to play music while reading.
1. Instrumental Music – If you choose music, the best type to consider is instrumental, or music without lyrics. The words that make up lyrics can get in the way as your mind will wander between the words you read and the words you hear.
There is a multitude of instrumental music you can use from classical pieces to popular songs. Don’t assume just any instrumental piece will do, though. You must consider the tempo (speed) and dynamics (volume) of the piece. Usually, a slower, peaceful piece will suit a quiet reader’s needs more so than something more intense, loud or fast. So, stay away from rocking guitar solos and intense Beethoven symphonies. You may search your own music collection or a variety of playlists online for titles that are collected to soothe, relax and create a peaceful atmosphere.
2. White noise is another option for sound while reading. It doesn’t have the potential distract-ability that music does as it does not have a melody or other layers of instrumentation. Sometimes I find that even instrumental music can be distracting for people who are attuned to music and have a good ear to listen actively.
White noise can be helpful in situations where there may be random noises outside your classroom or office that tend to break your concentration. I work in an open concept school and white noise or a variation of it can be helpful to drown out the unpredictable noise from the hall.
3. Soundscapes are another way to create an isolated atmosphere without melodious music. These can be anything from a soundtrack of an ocean’s crashing waves to the sounds recorded in nature to the constant sound of children playing and laughing.
4. Silence is always a great alternative. Although hard to come by, it is a great way to produce an area where readers can focus on reading.
Of course the objective in bringing sound (or the absence of it) to a classroom or small group of readers is to help them focus. Each group and each individual student may need something different. Have fun experimenting with a variety of musical genres and other sounds as well as silence and have students start to identify what may help them to read.
Science class and Picture/Trade Books ….
Do you think those go together?
- Did you know these books make science topics easier for you and your students to understand?
- Did you know these books can have a more reader-friendly tone and use familiar language?
- Did you know these books can provide information in a more exciting way?
- Did you know these books reinforce learning after a lesson is taught?
- Did you know these books help a child see science as a part of his or her everyday life?
- Did you know these books can change a child’s attitude toward science?
What are some of your favorite picture/trade books to use along with Science Topics?
Here are some questions to consider when choosing quality science literature:
- Is the science concept recognizable?
- Is the story factual?
- Is fact discernible from fiction?
- Are the illustrations accurate?
- Does the story promote a positive attitude toward science?
- Will children read or listen to this book?
You are in luck since there is a whole category devoted to Science and Technology on Big Universe Learning!
photo credit: St Stev via photopin cc
Do you have favorite characters from the books you have read?
I laugh when I think about Penelope in Penelope and the Monsters and smile remembering Becca and her imaginary adventure in The Patch.
I also remember the stories my dad told me when I was growing up that always had the same character in them … it was a mischievous little girl who go into all kinds of crazy situations and she always learned a lesson in the end!
As I was looking through Journeys: The Teaching of Writing in Elementary Classroom by Carolyn L. Piazza, I came across a Character Fact Sheet. Since Piazza’s book is about teaching writing, I know the point of the fact sheet is for brainstorming for full character development, but when I first saw it, I started thinking of ways it could be used to explore the characters in the books children read.
The fact sheet I found is a list of questions used to create a detailed character sketch. Looking at the questions, I think that some of them could be answered easily about some characters after reading a book … Let’s call those the “look and find” questions. There are other questions in the list that would require a making inferences and a bit more thinking … Let’s call those the “read and think” questions.
There are many uses for both types of questions. I think the “look and find” questions can be a good indicator of a child’s ability to read and remember details. They can also provide a little look at fluency since it is much easier to know where to “look and find” when reading the story doesn’t involve focusing so much on decoding the words. In my mind, the “read and think” questions encourage critical thinking that goes beyond what is explicitly stated by the author. Those involve knowing the story and the characters on a deeper level.
Here are a few of the questions from the Character Fact Sheet in Piazza’s book:
- What is your character’s name?
- What does you character look like?
- What types of things does you character like to do?
- What types of things does your character dislike?
- What problems does your character face?
- What might your character say?
- What might your character think?
- How would your character react to others?
- Why is your character interesting to know?
- What sort of emotions might your character feel?
- What is your character’s biggest fear?
You could even have children answer some of these questions using the Write Section of Big Universe Learning …
I wonder what kind of questions could be added to a Character Fact Sheet?
What might be a good brainstorming activity for children …
This is another great image to represent Balanced Literacy and how the individual pieces of it work so well together.
Look in each section and notice how reading, writing, vocabulary, and learning play such an important role.
I am sure that your Core standards may differ from the ones mentioned in this image, but the basics are the same since they are pieces students put together in the learning puzzle.
Think about the ways Big Universe Learning can be used in each of these areas as well ….
- Explicit Instruction
- Small Group
- Silent Reading
- Partner Reading
- Read Aloud
- Response Writing
- Discovering New Words
- Defining Words in Context
What are ways you can or do you things from Big Universe Learning in Balanced Literacy?
image from http://www.forestlake.k12.mn.us/teaching__learning/literacy/
Since Charlesbridge is the publisher being spotlighted this week on Big Universe Learning, I read the previous blog post about them and then went to check out the books from that publisher that are here on Big Universe.
To find a complete list, I went to the search area in the sidebar of the READ section. Clicking on the Publisher link there led me to the publisher logos. After selected the Charlesbridge logo, I was transported to a page full of books they published.
The more I looked, the more books I recognized as one that I have on my Big Universe book shelf as well as ones that I have written blog posts about before ….
I am a big fan of the books from Charlesbridge Publishers!
Here are a few of my favorites and the blog posts that mention them: