Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Darwin


Do you want your students to be as excited and interested about science as Charles Darwin was? Check out the book Darwin by Alice B. McGinty and illustrated by Mary Azarian, and let their curiosity roll.

In this beautifully illustrated book, children can follow the life of Darwin from his childhood to his death. We learn about his unstoppable curiosity as a student, his explorations as a naturalist, and how he discovered the theories of natural selection and evolution. McGinty clearly models his thinking process (a great model for students learning how to make observations):  “Charles was astonished. Some of these birds had long beaks. Some had short beaks. Some had thin beaks and some thick. How could they all be finches? Charles thought carefully about what his discovery meant. Why were there so many species of finches on these islands? Had all of them been around since the world began? Or had the finches come from the same ancestors and changed?” Almost each page has letters written by Darwin to his family, friends and colleagues  during his years of controversial research. Children will be able to learn how and why Darwin came to the conclusions he did through his tireless observations, trials, and errors. (We even see how world-famous scientists made mistakes sometimes)!

Curriculum Connections
In terms of process skills, this is a great book to include for instruction geared towards learning how to make observations and predictions. SOLs from the strand Scientific Investigation, Reasoning and Logic for grades 1-5 (1.1, 2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1) can all be covered with this reading. Specifically, McGinty’s book targets the portions of the SOLs concerning how students make inferences and hypotheses based on their observations, and how objects or events can be classified according to their attributes and/or properties.

Here are some activities/sites to check out when using this book in the classroom.

  • This site may answer some of your students’ questions (and spark their interest with some great pictures) in the “For Kids” section.
  • Darwin and Evolution for Kids provides more kid-friendly information on Darwin along with 21 activities.
  • Want a more simple activity? Have kids color in a picture of Darwin.

Book: Darwin
Author: Alice B. McGinty
Illustrator: Mary Azarian
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication date: April 2009
Pages: 48 pages
Grade range: 1-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-618-99531-8

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