This blog is meant to provide a wide variety of children's literature that can be integrated easily into the classroom. The activities provide ways to use these books in the already structured classroom setting. Good books are important for children in all grades. This list includes some of my personal favorites for all different grades!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

(Atheneum Books for Young Readers-2008)
By: Laurie Halse Anderson
Grade: 5-7

Chains takes place at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. A thirteen year-old girl names Isabel is promised her freedom by her dying owner. Her owner was very compassionate towards her slaves and taught them to read and write. Miss Mary Finch, their previous owner in Rhode Island, had promised their freedom before she died, but she is instead, since there was no written proof, they were sold to a New York couple with her sister. As a result, her nephew inherited her estate and promptly sold Isabel and Ruth to the Locktons. Isabel and Ruth must do all they can do in order to get freedom, even if one of them spies on their owners for British secrets.This is a great book about determination and what it used to take to become free. The lives of these girls will hopefully make students be thankful for the lives they have.

Theme/Skills Taught: African American history, slavery, bravery, freedom/History of the Revolutionary war

About the Author: Laurie Halse Anderson says that no one who knew her as a child thought she would become a successful adult. She stuttered and needed a reading tutor growing up. In college, she avoided English because she hated the way they made her analyze books. She got her sense of story from eavesdropping on grown-ups telling stories. Initially, she worked as a journalist and completed work-for-hire writing projects to gain experience. But, after having children she grew a new love for literature. When Anderson first started writing for children, she had a day job. “I was sneaking in my writing in the morning and at night. Now that I’m a published author who’s had a lot of lucky breaks, I have a day job—designing my website, answering fan mail, speaking at schools and conferences. So I still sneak in my writing in the morning and at night.”  She feels fortunate to have had such an impact on children. If she had to predict how her life would have turned out, she would never have predicted her current success. For more information on Laurie

Pre-Reading Activities: A great way to introduce this story is to go over the title, "chains". The cover of the book gives some indication that the book is about slavery. Ask students what they already know about slavery? This is a great time to discuss "touchy" subjects to make sure the students know the facts about slavery. This could be used during a history unit to tie in real facts with this story.
Post Reading Activities:  
ELA & Social Studies: During a Revolutionary War unit, have the students create a diary of what goes on in the book, as if they are Isabel, Ruth, or Curzon (another way to summarize). This will be going on while they are reading the book and in each entry students will need to tie in something that accurately occurred in the war.  
Science: Research weather patterns and plant types in the region of New York City. Try to figure out what kind of seeds Isabel might have planted throughout the year to keep her garden going.
Math: Find the number of residents and slaves in New York City in 1776. What percentage of people were slaves? Create a graph to represent this information.

The Island of the Blue Doplins by Scott O'Dell

Island of the Blue Dolphins  
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children; 10th edition-1960)
By: Scott O'Dell
Grade: 5

Once indians lived on the island, but when they left and sailed east they left one young girl behind.  This story is about an Indian girl names Karana that has to learn how to survive the obstacles that she comes across while on the island. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building a shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery. It is a great story about making the most of what you have and not giving up. It would have been easy for a young child to be unaware how to survive if they were left alone. It is a good idea to teach students how to take care of themselves if anything may happen to them.

Theme/Skills Taught: Survival/Character Comparisons & Survival Techniques

About the Author: Scott O’Dell’s name was created as a mistake. He was born Odell Gabriel Scott, but while he was working as a newspaper reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News, an editor mistakenly wrote Scott O’Dell as his byline. The name stuck, and O’Dell legally changed it. After his newspaper days, he began writing books for adults. Beginning in the late 1950s, however, his focus shifted, and he started writing for young adults. He wrote over twenty-six young adult novels, three books for adults, and four nonfiction books. His most famous work is Island of the Blue Dolphins, which won the 1961 Newbery Medal, among other awards. More information about Scott
Pre-Reading Activities: Have students try to identify the components of courage. You might start them off by listing "resolve" and "inner strength." Ask students to help define these terms and to name other aspects of courage. Then challenge them to find examples to share with the class. They might find poems or short stories in which characters show inner strength, newspaper articles that describe people who have shown resolve, and so on. As students read, they can think about how Karana shows courage.

Post Reading Activities: Have the students create a relief map of the community (without businesses and restaurants) and have them put the ways they would be able to survive off the land on the map, like Karana was able to survive on the island. Then, the students will need to write how they were survive on the land and compare it to Karana's experience.

Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland

Ten Terrible Dinosaurs
(Demco Media-2001)
By: Paul Stickland
Grade: K-2

Ten Terrible Dinosaurs is a great book about numbers. The dinosaurs count down from ten to one, which is a perfect introduction to subtraction to very young children. I also like it to teach fluency. Rhyming is a great way to teach kids how to flow when they are reading. I love reading rhyming books out loud and have them figure out the end of the rhyme. Everyone feels involved and we are having fun learning!

Skills Taught: Subtraction & Rhyming

About the Author: Paul Stickland has illustrated many popular books for children. He lives in Somerset, England with his wife and their four sons. He is the author, illustrator AND pop up designer of many very popular children's books.Creator of over 50 books, including Dinosaur Roar, Ten Terrible Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Galore, The Christmas Bear, One Bear One Dog, A Number of Dinosaurs, Swamp Stomp,Truck Jam, Big Dig, Big Bug Little Bug and many more.He is really interested in using paper folding and pop up technology even outside his books. About Paul Stickland
Reading Activities: Before reading the book, you can go over (or count together) 1-10 to get them ready for the story. This book is relatively "simple" so I had an activity to do while reading the book: cover the number and have a student count the amount of dinosaurs. Have them complete the rhyme. That is always fun! It is great to show them the use of adjectives and how it can really bring a picture to life. Have them draw their favorite animals and describe it using as many adjectives as they can. Give them some examples to start.

Sophie and Sammy's Library Sleepover by Judith Caseley

Sophie and Sammy's Library Sleepover 
(Greenwillow; 1st edition-1993)
By: Judith Caseley
Grade: K-2
Sophie and Sammy's Library Sleepover is a really cute book about a sister who loves to read and a brother who destroys and throws books. Their mother takes Sophie to a library sleepover, which isn't really a sleepover. The kids and the librarian dressed in their pajamas and read stories, just for fun! It was so great and Sophie loved it except she wishes her brother Sammy went with her. When she gets home, she decides to have her own library sleepover with Sammy, reading him every book she knows how to read. Sammy grows a new appreciation for reading and Sophie says she is going to be a librarian when she grows up. It is an inspiring story especially for all those young students who have not developed the enjoyment factor from reading. It can be so much fun!

Theme/Skills Taught: Appreciation for reading/Presenting

About the Author: Judith was born in a small town in New Jersey in a converted army development where all of the houses were white. Her mother compensated by decorating the bedrooms with vibrant colors. She went to Syracuse University and majored in English, but when the reading became too much she switched to art. During her four years in college, she never took a course in illustration. Ten years later she was an author and illustrator of children's books. She takes small events from her life or the lives of her children and fictionalizes them. She doesn't mention which event inspired this book but a lot of her others are inspired by her children and it is so interesting how she creatively transforms their lives into a children' book.About Judith Caseley
Pre-Reading Activities: Do an interest inventory about their feelings about reading.Then, you can go over some of the results with the class because there are bound to be students who LOVE reading and those who think they HATE it. Each of the students can relate to someone in the story, which is why it is such a great read. Our goal is to get students to grow an appreciation for reading and this book teaches just that.

Post Reading Activities: Choose a book that you love to read and write a journal entry about what you imagine as you read it. One of the emphasis in the book is creating images in your head as you read because there will not always be picture books available (or assigned). It is great to teach kids to imagine things as they read and create a picture in their head so they can relate.

Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone by Cindy Neuschwander

Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone 
 (Charlesbridge Pub Inc-2003)
By: Cindy Neuschwander
Illustrated by: Wayne Geehan
Grade: 6-8
Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone is a math adventure about Sir Cumference who has to use math skills to determine where the cone is. It is a wonderful and very informational book about math concepts. It makes learning fun, which is what reading is all about! There were a few lines where I had to read it over twice to understand what they were saying, but that is the fun of a mystery. Doing this with the students would be really fun and educational.

Theme/Skills Taught: Adventure/shapes, faces, rounding & measuring

About the Author:
Cindy Neuschwander is a native Californian, born in San Diego, CA. Cindy graduated with a BA in International Studies from Willamette University and earned an MA from Stanford University. She has taught all grades in elementary school as well as high school. In addition to her teaching, Cindy is the author of eight published picture books for children with mathematical themes. Cindy began writing books in 1994. She had used math literature with her own classes in the early 1990’s and liked the way students responded to it. She wanted to use more of these books but found there were not many available so she started writing some of her own.Cindy Neuschwander's Bio

About the Illustrator: Wayne grew up in Manchester, Conneticut, on a street with lots of kids.During his down time he used to spend hours in the library, going through stacks and finding illustrated books to take home and read. He didn't always want to be an artist but he did like to draw. In high school he knew that he would be an artist because it was either go to college or be drafted. So upon graduation he moved to Boston where he enrolled in The Art Institute of Boston, an art school that primarily taught advertising design and illustration. He found his first job (after college AND being drafted) in Boston at a company that produced jigsaw puzzles and games. For the first fifteen years he illustrated jigsaw puzzles, games, book covers, and fantasy and science fiction stories. The second fifteen years he illustrated children's books for various publishers. Wayne Geehan's Bio

Pre-Reading Activities: Before the lesson, it may be important to go over key math concepts such as radias that students will need to know in order to really understand the book. In your notebook, write about a time you had to use math outside of school. This will be important because Sir Cumference has to use math to find the cone.It is important to teach students they will use math outside the classroom: grocery story, restaurant, shopping, etc.

Post Reading Activities: This would be an introduction to a lesson on shapes, faces, rounding or measuring. This book will get the students interested and ready to learn. Or possibly, the the book as a review to see how much the students have learned and can they apply the information. Write the problems in the board or a worksheet so students can work through the mystery as you read.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

With Love, Little Red Hen by Alma Flor Ada

With Love, Little Red Hen  
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers-2004)
By: Alma Flor Ada
Illustrated by: Leslie Tryon
Grade: 2-3

With Love, Little Red Hen is about a hen who moves into a new town with her seven chicks and wants to grow corn, but none of her neighbors will help. Little Red Riding Hood writes a letter to Goldilocks asking for her help. They decide to surprise Red Hen and help with harvesting the corn. Hen puts a letter on the scarecrow to invite whoever has helped to dinner. I love the end of the book because it is a picture walk left to  interpretation. This is a great book to teach kids about helping others and the struggles of getting acquainted to a new neighborhood.

Theme/Skills Taught:Helping others/letter writing

About the Author: Alma's grandmother taught her to read before she was three by writing the names of plants and flowers with a stick on the ground. She loved to read outdoors and especially in the trees! Her grandmother, uncle and father also loved to tell her stories, which is a great contributor to her story-telling abilities. One of the bedtime stories she made up for her nieces actually became a book. About Alma Flor Ada

About the Illustrator: Leslie began drawing almost as soon as she learned to walk. She would use the charcoal, colored pencils and ink from her father's art supply room next door! She wrote and illustrated her first full story when she was in 5th grade. This is a great point to discuss with your students. It is never too young to be successful. However, she did become a dancer first. The places she has lived and her husband, relatives and friends continue to encourage and inspire her. Leslie Tryon's Bio

Pre-Reading Activities: Go over the structure of writing a letter. Has anyone ever written a letter before? What might you have to write a letter for?
-Discuss what it would be like for a kid to move to a new school? You could use this in the beginning of the year to talk about helping others get acquainted.

Post Reading Activities: Have them write a letter to the teacher or to their parents about something they need help with, whether it is academic or not. Have them use the same structure (it may take a few rough drafts).

Sea Shapes by Suse MacDonald

Sea Shapes 
 (Sandpiper; 1st Voyager Books ed edition-1998)
By: Suse MacDonald

Sea Shapes is a great introductory book to shapes (including shapes that are not typical). It is a great book for younger kids to learn about shapes paired with their interest in the ocean and sea animals. It is a great book for art too because on the left side of each page it has pictures. For example, on the triangle page, the first picture will be a triangle and the second will be triangles in the sharks mouth to represent teeth. The back of the book also has sea facts about different creatures of the sea.

Theme/Skills taught: Shapes, Art, Counting

About the Author: As a child Suse loved to draw and imagine. When she began college she knew art would be a focus in her life. She loved doing art but where would she fit in the art world? After college, she got a job in a large New York studio illustrating science text books where she became fascinated by the commercial side of art. Five years later Suse and her husband Stuart moved to Vermont to operate a construction company but after ten years she decided to return to illustration. She attended two Boston art schools: the New England School of Art and Design and the Art Institute. As her studies progressed she became more and more attracted to children's books and started to get ideas. Her first book Alphabatics, jump started Suse's career. Since 1986 Suse has written and or illustrated nineteen books. Suse Macdonald's Bio
Pre-Reading Activities: What shapes do you think you can find in the ocean? Students will brainstorm and attempt to recall shapes they know.

Post Reading Activities: Have them draw an object using only shapes they learned about in the book. It would be interesting to see where their imagination will take them! Have them count the amount of shapes (ex. triangles)they find on a specific page.