Author Archive for Brendan

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth

Magic School Bus


Introduction and Summary:

Lord, have mercy! Ms. Frizzle is up to her old tricks again! In The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth, written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, Ms. Frizzle’s class has spent the last couple of weeks studying animals and their natural habitats, they are pretty excited when Ms. Frizzle announces, “We are going to study about our Earth!”. While the kids are excited about studying something new, they didn’t realize who Ms. Frizzle was. After a failed classroom homework assignment in which the class is required to bring in a rock to class, Ms. Frizzle takes them on another one of her wacky field trips; this time it’s to the center of the Earth! The class goes through each of the four layers of the Earth, collecting different types of rocks in both the crust and the mantle, before ending up on “one big volcano!” When the field trip ends, the class puts together a rock display, showing the different kinds of rocks they found, their classification and their uses. A wonderful book that teaches kids about earth science & geology while also incorporating wacky humor as well.

 Curriculum Connections:

 This book does much more than just teach children about the different types of rocks that exist in the world. It provides students with an in-depth look at the interior of the Earth’s surface. There are four layers- the crust, mantle, outer core and inner core-and the earth’s surface is constantly changing. Ms. Frizzle shows her students how different rocks and minerals are identified using a classification key(igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic) and also how the soil that we stand on is a natural resource. The students also get to understand the basic properties of rocks just based on direct observation: which rocks are rigid, which rocks are smooth, and even some rocks that float! The book is a geology/earth science encyclopedia that is just waiting for somebody to get their hands on, pick up, read & enjoy! (Virginia Standards of Learning: K.1, K.4, 3.7, 4.8, 5.1 and 5.7).

Additional Resources:

The Magic School Bus:  The home page of the delightful children’s book series. Filled with fun, adventure and learning, this website will keep students entertained for hours at a time.

Geology for Kids:  If you’ve ever wanted to learn about geology, the earth and rocks, then this is the website for you. It provides useful information for teachers to use in the classroom and it also has fun and unique games that children will want to play again and again.

Rock and Mineral Activities for Kids:  The name says it all. This website is filled with several activities for children to partake in that involve several different kinds of rocks and minerals.

General Information:

Book: The Magic School Bus Inside the Earth

Author: Joanna Cole

Illustrator: Bruce Degen

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.

Publication Date: 1993

Pages:  40

Grade Range: K-2

ISBN: 0-590-40760-0

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Move!



 Have you ever wondered how certain animals move? Move! , which was written by Steve Jenkins and illustrated by Robin Page, gives young children an introduction to vocabulary, animals and physical science by describing the many different ways that animals can move. This book doesn’t talk about common animals like dogs and cats, it focuses attention on less familiar animals like the road runner, the blue whale, the arctic hare and the jumping spider just to name a few. What makes this book even more interesting is that, when I read it, I had no idea how some of these animals moved! I didn’t know jumping spiders “dance to impress” or that “a roadrunner flies, but not too far.” If I can find these facts interesting, then there’s no way a child would not find these facts fun as well.

 Curriculum Connections:

 With this book, children can learn a great deal about physical science. For example, looking at the different types of animals out in the world and observing, accurately, how they move from place to place. While also observing animals, questions can be formed as well (if spiders jump, do other animals jump? Do all animals in the ocean swim? Can all birds fly?, etc.). While also observing the many different types of animals out in the world, questions can be asked, predictions can be made and conclusions can be drawn based on the observations the book provides. This may be a children’s book but it’s also a book full of science tips ! (VA SOLs: K.1, 1.1 2.1 and 3.1).


Additional Resources: 

Animals on the Go!:  This short video is an excellent clip for teachers and students that shows many different animals and the ways that they move from place to place.

Moving and Growing:  With this fun website, children can learn the science of what moving is all about and how both humans and animals move from place to place. A great science website for kids and teachers to use!

Moving Animals:  On this website, children have to match the animal body part with the animal that helps it to move. A great website for young children to learn about how things move.

General Information:

Book: Move!

Author: Steve Jenkins

Author: Robin Page

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company

Publication Date: 2006

Pages: 32

Grade Range: Pre-K thru K

ISBN: 0-618-64637


Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks

 Magic School Bus


Ms. Frizzle is at it again. The Magic School Bus at the Water Works, which was written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, takes a look at crazy Ms. Frizzle’s class as they venture on a field trip to the water works. What happens next shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read these books, as Ms. Frizzle actually takes her students into the water cycle so the class can get a first-hand look at how water forms, falls, goes through the purification process and then ends up coming out of the faucet at the very end. At the very end of this book, the students in Ms. Frizzle’s class draw up a chart showing the steps of the water cycle from beginning to end, a perfect visual example for students who pick up this book and also a great visual for teachers to show their students when reading this book out loud.

 Curriculum Connections:

With this book, children will get a first-hand look into the water cycle and how it functions. But this book does it in a fun way that is enjoyable for both teachers and students. This book shows the students how water flows through the purification system and how it flows down streams and rivers after falling from the sky. Also incorporated in this book are “10 Interesting Facts about Water” written by Ms. Frizzle’s students that provide such facts like materials that interact with water (solids, liquids and gases) and basic properties of solids, liquids and gases. Several of the facts are humorous as well as factual, which makes this book a great learning tool when teaching or learning about the water cycle (Virginia SOLs K.5, 1.3, 2.3 and 3.9).

Additional Resources:

The Magic School Bus Wet All Over:  This unique website provides numerous lesson plans for teachers. It actually makes teachers and students feel that they are actually inside the book itself, because of not only the content of the lesson plans but the objectives as well.

 The Magic School Bus:  The Magic School Bus’s own, personal website. Filled with fun, games and facts, this website will provide hours of nonstop entertainment for children to use for their own personal entertainment and for teachers to use in the classroom.

Water Works:  Have you ever wondered just how many things you can do with water? With this website, children are provided with all kinds of activities and experiments that involve water! A must for both children and teachers alike.

General Information:

Book: The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks

Author: Joanna Cole

Illustrator: Bruce Degen

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: 1988

Pages: 40

Grade Range: K-2

ISBN: 0590403605

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm

 Balloon Farm


“Harvey Potter was a very strange fellow indeed. He was a farmer, but he didn’t farm like my daddy did. He farmed a genuine, U.S. Government Inspected Balloon Farm.” Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm was written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Mark Buehner and the opening paragraph says it all. Told from the point of view of a small, curious farm girl, this book tells the story of a mysterious farmer who grows balloons instead of traditional farm crops like fruits and vegetables. The farmer doesn’t say much and looks like your normal, average farmer but for the little farm girl, curiosity kills the cat. She sneaks out to find out how he grows his balloons and once she discovers his secret, she is nothing short of amazed and frightened. But Harvey Potter’s winning personality doesn’t change the narrator’s opinion of him and after a visit from the government, Harvey Potter is allowed to continue growing balloons. This story is a wonderful story for young children to discover what a little bit of creativity can do to a person.

Curriculum Connections:

With this book, children learn what being a farmer is like. They aren’t the richest people in the world, but by using the resources that they have and the “can-do” spirit inside of them, they realize that even with a scarce number of resources laid out in front of them, they can make anything happen (SOL 2.9).  Also in this book, children understand how important it is to respect the personal property of others. Both the narrator and an irritable, older farmer trespassed on Harvey Potter’s farm to discover his secret about growing balloons. But unlike the farmer, the narrator always respected Harvey Potter and made multiple attempts to befriend him, which she did and also painted the picture of what it means to be a good neighbor/citizen as well (SOL 2.10, K8).

Additional Resources:

Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm Lesson Plan:  This website provides a fantastic lesson plan for teachers to use in their classroom and also contains a wonderful and fun activity that students will enjoy.

Balloon Crafts for Kids:  Have you ever wondered what kinds of things you can make with balloons? With this website, children will receive an enjoyable experience of making different kinds of arts & crafts while using balloons.

Balloon People:  Have you ever wanted your very own balloon person? With this website, you can create just that: a magical person using a balloon and other different crafts. Perfect for the small child who loves balloons or playing imagination.

General Information:

Book: Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm

Author: Jerdine Nolen 

Illustrator: Mark Buehner

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 1998

Pages: 32

Grade Range: K-2

ISBN: 0-590-63095-4

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: African Food and Drink

 African Food and Drink

African Food and Drink

Introduction and Summary:

Mmm! Delicious! Exquisite! If you have ever wondered what types of food Africans traditionally eat or what they taste like, then African Food and Drink by Martin Gibrill is the book just for you! This book may be old but it is perfect for children who are curious about the different types of African cuisine out in the world. The most interesting part about this book is that some of the pages contain recipes for actual African dishes, which is amazing. Some of these exquisite dishes include: Maharagwe (Spiced red beans), Bidia (a mixture of milk, cornmeal and water), Peanut Stew and best of all, Peanut Cookies!

African Food and Drink does not center only on the foods and drinks that Africans generally consume.  It also provides information on the cultures of many African countries like Mali, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, etc. It talks about African languages, “There are as many as 2,000 African languages spoken throughout Africa and it is not uncommon for individuals to be fluent in two or three of these; many of these languages have no written form”; Markets: “The market at Timbuctu in Mali, for example, is famous for the role it played as a trading center”; Fishing: “Mali, which is landlocked, catches nearly 7 percent of the region’s fish from the Niger River”; and even Religion: “There are three major religious influences in Africa: traditional religions, Islam and Christianity.” The book is more like an encyclopedia on Africa then it is on just food and drink. Perhaps it should consider changing its title!

Curriculum Connections:

Despite the age of the book and the fact that it is written mostly for kids from Kindergarten through second grade, this book does a fine job in  describing small parts of ancient Mali’s culture, including religion, education, geography and of course, food and drink (VA SOL 3.2, 3.4 and 3.8)!

Additional Resources:

Mali Scavenger Hunt: This creative website provides numerous amounts of teacher resource material and fun activities for students of all ages that relate to Mali, including geography, a map, economics, history, etc.

 The Art of Ancient Mali : This website sponsored by the Virginia Museum provides many cultural classroom activities that pertain to ancient Mali, a must for students and teachers. It also provides teachers with a lesson plan on the art and cultures of ancient Mali.

Africa for Kids: This unique website provides lots of information on a large number of African countries like Mali, Ghana, Egypt, etc. Filled with games, activities and history, this website will provide fun and facts for both students and teachers.

General Information:

Book: African Food and Drink

Author: Martin Gibrill

Publisher: The Bookwright Press

Publication Date: 1989

Pages: 48

Grade Range: K-2

ISBN: 0531182967

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Abraham Lincoln for Kids

Abe Lincoln

Summary and Overview
Who would have ever guessed that a homely looking, depressed and underestimated man who was self-educated and was born into major poverty would soon become the greatest President of all time? In Abraham Lincoln for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities , author Janis Herbert does a phenomenal job in providing little bits and pieces of information about the man responsible for creating equal rights among slaves and uniting our country during the bloodiest of all wars that we have ever faced. Filled with fun and interesting facts and activities for students and teachers, this book is a must for all students who want to explore the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Despite suffering major depression, Abraham Lincoln always provided a handshake for every one of his visitors and never hesitated to smile or laugh when around children, mostly his own. He even grew a beard at the request of a young girl who suggested it would get him more attention from the ladies and make him more handsome. He never hesitated to pay visits to the wounded soldiers in hospitals during the war and he always welcomed hundreds of visitors to the White House. Every time a person visited him, Lincoln always cracked a joke, making his visitors leave in a state of joy. Lincoln was a man on a mission and this book recounts his mission from beginning to end.

Lincoln has been quoted more than any other president in U.S. history and this book lists several of his most famous quotes, including:

“Let us not be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes right, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it!”

“We begin by declaring that all men are created equal. But now from the beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a ‘sacred right of self-government.'”

Curriculum Connections:

This book presents an enormous amount of information about the contributions contributions that Abraham Lincoln made to the American Public during the 56 years he was here on Earth (2.11, 3.11b). With this book, students learn that Lincoln was not just a homely looking man with a beard, mole and untidy black hair; students learn that Lincoln was one of our greatest leaders of all time, striving for the virtues of honesty, respect and genuineness. This book is an excellent learning tool for students not only in the classroom but in the outside world as well. Students learn a lot of life lessons with this book that they should adhere to very seriously.

Additional Resources:

Abraham Lincoln Online This unique website provides unlimited amounts of information about Abraham Lincoln. An interesting facet of this website is entitled “Today in Lincoln’s Life,” which allows students to step back in time to the days of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln for Primary Children: Perfect for elementary school students, this website is dedicated to Abraham Lincoln and provides fun and interesting activities for kids. With this website, students can take an Abe Lincoln treasure hunt, view photos of Lincoln and even test their knowledge of Lincoln with an Abe Lincoln quiz. Also a great website for teachers to plan their activities.

Apples4the Teacher:  Filled with puzzles, photographs, games and stories featuring our greatest president, this website provides hours of nonstop entertainment for both teachers and students.

General Information:

Book: Abraham Lincoln for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities

Author: Janis Herbert

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Publication Date: 2007

Pages: 160

Grade Range: 3-6

ISBN: 978-1556526565

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The River


Have you ever wondered how a river forms? Once it forms, where does it go to? What types of environments will it pass through? The story The River which is written by Brigitte Sidjanski and illustrated by Bernadette Watts tells the story from the point of view of five pine cones who drop down from a pine tree into the river, curious about what adventures lie ahead of them:

“Five little pine cones peep down from their branches and wonder where the dancing brook will go. Then the cones pop off and-plop!-down they fall into the running water. An adventure begins.”

As the pine cones journey down the river, they each become attracted to the perks that different types of environments have to offer and, one by one, they decide to separate from the other pine cones in order to stay in their new homes. Only one of the five pine cones completes the journey down river and ends up on the beach, where it is soon buried in the sand but later flourishes into a gorgeous pine tree. This book teaches young children a great life lesson: the road to achieve something you really want is a long and winding road. But if you continue along the path, don’t give up and just keep moving forward, you will eventually see the end of the tunnel and all your dreams will come true.

Curriculum Connections

This book is a great tool for kids to recognize and understand the many different types of environment that are out in the world today. The River incorporates bits and pieces from the Virginia Standards of Learning: Geography 1.6. In the book, the student is taught a very important lesson about how climate, location, physical characteristics, etc. attract people to certain areas around the world. Every person has different tastes, likes/dislikes, etc. and as the book showed me, none of the pine cones chose to stay in the same area as another. Every pine cone chose a different environmental setting to call home and this is exactly how things are today.

Additional Resources

  • ABC Teach: With this website, children and teachers are able to experience the fun and joy of learning about the importance of the environment and how to protect it. One of the best activities this website provides for students is word search puzzles in the shapes of different environmental products like flowers and raindrops.
  • PineConeLady:  This fun and unique website enables children to build different animals and crafts while using pine cones. With creativity, students can create four different kinds of animals that live in different environments and then the teacher can ask them in which environmental setting from The River that each animal belongs in.
  • Kids’s Planet-Defenders of Wildlife: This website is a must for all elementary school teachers that are looking to show their students the different types of wildlife out in the world and the environments that they inhabit. Providing creative and fun lesson plans, this site also provides hours of nonstop activities for children of all ages.

General Information:

  • Book: The River
  • Author: Brigitte Sidjanski
  • Illustrator: Bernadette Watts
  • Publisher: Penguin Group USA
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Pages: 26
  • Grade Range: Pre-school to 2nd Grade
  • ISBN: 0-698-40077-1