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”.
In March 2011, I had the honor of hosting a discussion of multiculturalism in children’s literature with award-winning authors Tanita S. Davis and Mitali Perkins, and Hannah Ehrlich of Lee & Low Books.
The idea for a group discussion came about after listening to Mitali speak at the Children’s Authors Breakfast at BookExpo America in May 2010. Mitali talked about literature being windows and mirrors. She drew on her own experiences as a reader of color to show how it has influenced her as an author of color.
“Windows and mirrors” was a new-to-me expression, and I love what it suggests: books are a way introduce worlds and characters beyond ourselves, and yet reflections of our own experiences.
To kick off that March 2011 round table, I started with this sentence: Reading widely is important for kids because ________.
Here are my panelists thoughts ..
Tanita: I would say “because reading widely shows the reader the commonality of the human experience.”
Mitali: Mine would be “the pen is mightier than the sword. The gift of literacy is power.”
Hannah: Wow, so many reasons! Reading widely is important for kids because it’s the greatest way to get people to understand from a young age that we are all more alike than we are different. Reading is such an amazing exercise in empathy, and reading widely helps children step outside the confines of their own experiences, sometimes for the first time, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Books about different places, times, or people help children appreciate different perspectives and train them to find common ground with even those whose lives, from the outside, may look very different. Of course reading widely also gives children a wider base of knowledge about the world and helps them to expand the range of what they can imagine, and that’s always valuable. But I’ve always thought that the biggest benefit of reading widely, for kids and adults, is that it teaches us to identify with others and understand them, and that makes us kinder people.
Tanita: Oh! Can I add another one? Recent reading has prompted another spate of thought! I would add this quote from Ursula K. LeGuin:
We like to think we live in daylight, but half the world is always dark, and fantasy, like poetry, speaks the language of the night.
Somewhere away on the other side of the sleeping globe are people whose language and culture and stories we haven’t yet discovered, and yet books can transcend that gap, and speak a language creates a bridge.
February is National African American History Month, aka Black History Month. This year’s theme At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality gives us a chance to share familiar stories (The Emancipation Proclamation and March On Washington), and more importantly, introduce kids to stories within those times that they haven’t yet discovered.
If you’d like to read the full discussion with Hannah, Mitali, and Tanita, visit the Family Bookshelf. In addition to writing books, Tanita, Mitali, and Hannah also blog about multiculturalism in books.
While reading is a great way to help a child grow in vocabulary, story sense, and imagination, it is what you DO with what is read that really encourages and supports critical and creative thinking skills!
Here are a few ideas of activities that can be used to support higher order thinking skills:
- Make a collage which might be found hanging in the bedroom of one of the characters and write a brief explanation of each item selected.
- Write diary entries that one of the characters might have written during the course of the story.
- Write a poem or a song that expresses one or more of the characters’ feelings.
- Create a piece of original artwork that interprets one of the themes in the book.
- Write and perform an original skit based on the book.
- Write letters that two of the characters might have written to one another about what was happening in their lives.
- Create an original board game based on the book.
- Write and record an original news broadcast about the events in the book.
- Draw a timeline of the book, complete with illustrations and commentaries about each event on the timeline.
- Create a cause-and-effect continuum of how and why the main character changes as a result of the events and situations that occur.
Did you notice the differentiation embedded in these activities?
Children would be able to utilize their strengths to demonstrate their learning …
Choice could even be involved if you gave an assignment similar to this one:
- Choose a title on Big Universe …
- Read the story ….
- Select and complete the activity that most appeals to you and/or best fits the story you read …
- Explain why you chose the activity and how you completed it
With the added explanation part, you are jumping into that metacognition area … asking children to really think about their thinking!
photo credit: monettenriquez via photopin cc
For many of us, this week is a chance to take a deep breath, look back at all that has happened these last 360-odd days, and also look forward to our hopes and dreams for the coming year.
Just as there is no denying the sight of Halloween decorations in August, there is no escaping all of the talk about New Year’s Resolutions.
And if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So with an eye toward literacy and reading, here are my resolutions for 2013. I’ll give you a hint – I’m going old school.
Write More – Longhand
As much as I love the ability to type and edit as I write, I find myself struggling to just let ideas flow. It is so easy to hit the backspace or delete buttons if I change my mind about a word or phrase. I’m thinking I need to spend more time with scribbling and ink in the margins.
It has also taken me away from my journal. For more than 20 years I wrote nearly every day. Now its been two years since I’ve put pen to pepper to express my personal thoughts.
Read More Widely
This is a resolution that is like “eat healthier.” The more I do it, the more I love it and the more I stretch myself as a reader. On my Google+ profile you’ll see that my bragging right is “I read ONLY children’s and Young Adult books.” I don’t plan to change that any time soon. I do plan to push myself into genres I’ve only tried once or twice: wordless books for older readers and graphic novels.
Read More Consistently and Visibly
I love to read in bed in the evening. It’s a wonderfully relaxing way to end my day. Rare is the day that I don’t pick up a book, even if it is only one page before I conk out. What I don’t do well, though, is read a book during the day when my daughter can see me. She sees me reading the newspaper, but in her mind that is like school: reading for a purpose. The news isn’t reading for fun.
So for the coming year, I’m going to keep a book or two on the coffee table in the family room … just like I have on my nightstand. I’ll select books in genres she likes or that look like they have laugh-out-loud moments.
Maybe – just maybe – she’ll ask me what I’m reading or pick up a book, too. That would be something to celebrate in 2013!
Do you have reading resolutions for the coming year? We’d love to hear about them!
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.
When looking at several different sites for something the other day, I came across this statement that really made me take notice, stop and think:
“Story maps or climax charts are old characters on the block of literary analysis, for good reason. Story maps visually present tension within a text and provide a fantastic, simple visual representation of rising conflict and the resolution there of. Creating a tangible depiction of the abstract concept of tension and conflict allows students to trace the rising / falling nature of the plot and naturally lead to critical reflection of the narrative.”
I remember being asked to fill out story map.
I remember asking my students to create story maps.
I am not sure that I ever realized what story maps led “to a critical reflection of the narrative” as is stated in the quote above.
In order to correctly complete a story map, it does (or should) require one to stop and actually think about the story that is being read.
In my mind, speed reading and being able to call all the words without understanding most of what is being read (or even anything that has been read) does not qualify as reading. I notice that when I say “reading” I pause before I say the word, then say the word slowly, and pause at the end.
When I think of a story map, literary analysis is not the skill that jumps out in my mind. Looking at and thinking about the statement above, I do see that skill in many ways. Even though students may try to fill out a story map without really reading the story, it is pretty evident when that happens since the story really needs to be read throughly and thought about prior to chart completion. To be able to fully create story maps, there is some level of inference involved.
Below are a few great examples of story maps and more information about them:
I can see reading a book on Big Universe and then completing part or all of the charts as a whole class or small group on an interactive white board or monitor as a form of guided practice to show how to complete one.
In my opinion, the explanations and discussion that should accompany story maps are as important as the completion of the map itself. Listening to these can provide some informal assessment to help the teacher gauge understanding and analysis.
Making an Alphabet List can be a great way to explore a topic!
I was able to create a partial alphabet list of books from this week’s featured publisher: Saddleback Educational Publishing.
Saddleback Educational Publishing offers thousands of High Interest Curriculum Materials for grades K to 12, adult, ESL and at-risk students. Our broad selection includes award-winning paperback books, reproducibles, read-alongs, workbooks and more in all subject areas.
I was pleased to find a nice collection of books about people, historical events, traditional classics, and even some science topics!
Non-fiction and Informational Text is so important for our students … especially with the focus on it in the Common Core!
A A Christmas Carol
B Black Beauty
C Charles Lindbergh
D Davy Crockett
E Elvis Presley
G Gulliver’s Travels
H Horse Called Courage
J Jackie Robinson
M Machines and Inventions
P Problems of a New Nation
R Romeo and Juliet
S Steve Jobs
T The Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression
W Walt Disney
Getting a student to write a well developed story is a challenge. Young writers need to be so focused on a variety of things as they write: spelling, punctuation, topic development, sequencing, and handwriting to start. Often, because they are working so hard on putting all these things together, they lose focus on the story itself, the plot. Often they can get so wrapped up in telling the story that they tell too much. Part of my approach to having students be able to write a focused narrative this year has been to have them first focus on and develop the climax.
Using a roller coaster graphic organizer to help them visualize the rising and falling action surrounding the climax, students first decide upon their climax and write it in at the top. That way they can start to see how their entire story needs to work around that important moment they have chosen. My own students are starting to see how a good story doesn’t have to span a lot of time or tell about every event, but it does need to stay focused and detailed.
After writing in their climax, they fill in their beginning sections of the plan. Once that is done, it is easy to see how all the other parts of the story center around the climax.
This has helped many students see how a story’s plot is developed. We have even practiced simply planning out narratives to get a feel for how good stories really do focus on that climactic moment. Here’s one you can try:
Find some paintings or photos with people in them. Have students look at and discuss the visual by describing the characters and setting they see. Then tell students to find the climax in the story surrounding the picture. Maybe the picture takes place just before or right after the climax (hence it illustrates the rising or falling action) or maybe it shows the climax of the story. Regardless, have students describe the climax of the story and then work their way around the climax by describing the rising and falling action. Finally, have the students fill in a roller coaster graphic organizer to help them further develop their ideas before writing the narrative up on paper.
The key to a really good story is the climax. How else can you help students to develop that important part of the story?
Big Universe Overview Webinar
Join us for a Webinar on October 10
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Please join us for a general overview of Big Universe. We will go over the basic features in our Read, Write, Share, and Manage sections. Also, benefits and common classroom uses will be discussed. Learn more about Big Universe in this free, 45 minute demo.
Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Time: 4:30 PM – 5:15 PM EDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
Join us for a Webinar on September 12th
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Please join us for this Big Universe Account Management Webinar. We will discuss adding and updating accounts, best practices and general overview information. Learn more about managing student and teacher accounts in this 45 minute demo.
Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Time: 4:30 PM – 5:15 PM EDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.