Author Archive for cmansilla

Learning About Plants

 All the books listed below are great resources teachers and readers can use in and out of the classroom to learn about the different parts of a plant. In these books, not only can you find important information, but ideas for projects. These books will be great to use while teaching Virginia Science Standards of Learning 4.4 a, b,  and c.

Plants (Make it Work Science) by Andrew Haslam, Claire Watts and Alexandra Parsons. Photographed by Jon Barnes

The book Plants takes an in depth look at how plants work. The great photographs illustrate the different activities and experiments that you can do at home or at school. Each activity has a list of supplies (most which are readily available), and clear, direct directions. From working with seeds to observing fruit decay, there are many unique and creative activities that will help students understand the different parts of the plant and how they work. The book defines what it means to be a scientist, what is botany, and how scientists collect data. It encourages children to conduct experiments using the scientific methods as well as record all their data. It also includes home made game instructions.

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston Illustrated by Sylvia Long

A Seed Is Sleepy is a great book for young students who are learning about plants and how they grow. The author uses adjectives  to help describe certain plant characteristics (A seed is secretive,  A seed is thirsty… and hungry) Simple statements like these are easy for students to understand and even make connections to. The author also describes difficult terms with easy simple explanations. The illustrations are detailed and interesting and all the plants and seeds are labeled. Both the book and illustrations  do a good job demonstrating the variety of seeds, their colors, their sizes, and even the plants they grow into.

The Science Book of How things Grow by Neil Ardley

Similar to Plants (Make It Work Science), this book offers students various activities and experiments to perform easily at home or school. It explains each step carefully with step by step photographs and uses readily available materials. Each experiment provides a bit of background knowledge, the experiment, as well as a short description relating the experiment  and connecting it to the real world. For example, the activity “Root Power” experiments with the strength of roots by growing marigold seeds in an eggshell (as the plant grows, the roots break the egg shell). The author includes a photograph and description of a tree breaking through a cement sidewalk. This is the type of detail that helps build deeper understanding.

Pumpkin Circle: The Story of  a Garden by George Levenson and photographs by Shmuel Thaler
“The pumpkin seed makes the pumpkin plant, and the pumpkin plant makes pumpkins.” This story follows the life of a pumpkin, detailing each aspect of its life. In this book the pictures do most of the talking. Kids can see the seed in the flesh of the pumpkin, seeds being eaten as a snack, different types of seeds side by side, a seed being planted, the sprouts, and finally the seed in the soil with the roots spreading through the earth. Levenson narrates in easy to read sentences. As the garden of pumpkins grows, kids can see the large pumpkin leaves, the flowers, and even the insects the live along side the pumpkins. The pumpkin is finally ready to be made into a jack-o-lantern. Students can watch it slowly decay and return to the earth. Included in the back pages are instructions to grow your own pumpkin. I recommend this book to all young scientists especially for English Language Learners.

A Fruit Is A Suitcase For A Seed by Jean Richards, illustrated by Anca Harington

This book is a great introduction to seeds, plants, and fruits. Jean Richards compares fruits and seeds to suitcases, the seed being what is inside each fruit/suitcase. Readers can learn about what seeds are, how they travel, and different examples of fruits and seeds. The book includes colorful watercolor illustrations of seeds, fruits, and animals. This is a great book for beginning readers because it is simple and easy to comprehend.

Great links for kids

The Great Plant Escape Match the clue with the part of the plant

How Does Your Garden Grow? become a virtual gardener

Plant Word Search Find each word on the list

Plant Parts Match the plant parts with the correct definition

The Life Cycle of Plants Review games/activities

Links and resources for teachers

Parts of a Plant worksheet

Plants in Motion Time lapse movie and activities

From Seed to Plant Lesson plan

Plants and Seeds Lesson plan

Native Gardening Comprehensive guide to local plants

Counting on Number Sense

 Number sense is an intuitive feel for numbers and their relationships. Since number sense is something that develops over time, it is imperative that teachers provide students with a variety of materials and resources. Literature is a great way to  provide many different experiences with numbers.

Virginia Mathematics Standards of Learning: K.1- K.5, 1.1-1.6

Let’s Count Goats by Mem Fox Illustrated by Jan Thomas

Let’s Count Goats a charming, silly book about- you guessed it- counting  goats. This is Mem Fox’s latest book, and if you have never read any of her books, you will instantly be drawn in by the the rhythm, rhyme and humor of this book. What is special about this book is that it has many layers. The most important is that you wont find any numerals! Mem designed this book to be interactive, allowing the readers to practice one to one correspondence by calling out each goat by number. The reader then has to count goats when directed by the story. Another interesting aspect is that that the number of goats isn’t sequential. While a page might have 6 goats, the next page might have one goat. For example:

“Here we see a show off goat playing on the bars. (1)
But can we count the ROWDY goats careering round in cars? (4)”

In every page of the story, you find goats doing silly things: goats playing trumpets, playing with their toys, eating, drinking, and even a goat going under while another is going over. Simple tasks or events that kids can relate to.

The illustrations compliment the story very well. The use of bold brilliant colors are very eye catching and attractive, while the silly expressions on each goat’s face just adds to the humor of the story.

Since Mem believes that children should be read to as babies and even before they are born, I recommend this book to any child, in or not yet in school. This book is not only useful as a number sense book but can also be used in language arts when exploring poetry, rhythm, and rhyme.

My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Bill Grossman creatively weaves a story about a little girl who eats and eats and eats! While performing in a magic show, this little sister eats all sorts of creatures and things! Grossman creatively reinforces number sense in his writing by using a cumulative poem structure.

My little sister ate 3 ants.
She even ate their underpants.
She ate 2 snakes. She ate 1 hare.
We thought she’d throw up then and there.
But she didn’t.

As children read, they recount all the things she ate. Though she seems to consume these creatures effortlessly, by the end of the book, she is faced with her most challenging plate yet: 10 peas!

Count Your Way Through Iran by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson Illustrated by Farida Zaman

Books like these are great for developing number sense but also to introduce students to different cultures. On the left pages you will find the numeral, the Arabic numeral, and the pronunciation. Under the number you find a short paragraph that correlates the number in some way to an aspect of Iranian culture, from the Two Towers of Silence, to the musical instrument tar, which has six strings! The beautiful watercolor illustrations are on the right. As teachers, it is important to pick books that are diverse and interesting. I recommend this book, and the companion books in the series.

This book is part of a series of “Count Your Way Through…” books which include China, IndiaRussia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Korea, Israel, Ireland, Africa, Brazil, Afghanistan, just to name a few. They are all written by Jim Haskins (and co-author).


Mouse By Mouse: a Counting Adventure by Julia Noonan

“One mouse sits alone and blue. Her friend joins her, that makes two.” One by one these cute little mice get together to have a tea party, play, rescue little mouse 5 who is stuck in a soda bottle, go swimming, and finally after spending the day together, ten little mice  all go to sleep. The illustrations are animated and fun; kids can count the mice who have their numbers labeled on the front of their colorful dresses or shirts, which keeps the readers engaged! This book helps develop one-to-one correspondence and stable order.

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

“You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem.” This is the big problem for one little girl. She discovers that once she starts, she can’t stop! From calculating how much time she has to get ready for school, to figuring out how many slices of pizza she should eat at lunch, she can’t seem to look at anything with out it becoming a math problem. She believes her math teacher, Ms. Fibonacci has put a MATH CURSE on her! Fractions, addition, multiplication, distance, time, measurement, and so much more, this book explores different mathematical concepts in a fun, silly way. The book is also interactive. The authors pose different unsolved math problems that the reader can solve themselves. The illustrations are creative, and unique.

We All Went on Safari: a Counting Journey Through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns

This book follows a group of Maasai people as they travel through Tanzania, exploring and counting different animals that they find along the way. On each page, you can find beautiful watercolor illustrations, a numeral and the equivalent number of animals, along with the written Swahili number. In the back of the book you find information about the Maasai people and culture, a list of the different animals explored, and a list of number written in Swahili, the pronunciation, and the English translation. Additionally, you find color dots that you can practice counting on. Also included in the back is information about the country of Tanzania and a map with all the surrounding countries.

Games to help students with number sense

Big Count Bayou Count all the bayou critters and match with the right number

Rock Hopper Help Rock Hopper jump to the large rock using a number of jumps

Billy Bug Help billy eat his food by taking him to the right spot by using coordinates

The Number Game Read the number word and find the corresponding numeral

Fishy Count Count how many fish

Links for teachers

BBC Number Time  Printable worksheets (addition/subtraction, number ladders, number sequence, writing numbers, number stories)

Climb The Ladder Number sense activity (includes instructions, and templates)

Second Grade Locker Room  Number sense activity ideas (includes domino place value, paper plate relay and place value game)

The 100th day of School Unit Plan Ideas (include 2 lesson plans and related materials and resources)

Learning about Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made history by simply and courageously refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. During a time of public, educational, and social segregation, Rosa Parks was one of many who paved the way for equal freedoms and rights in our country today. The Civil rights movement helped to bring change, creating laws that made sure that all citizens had the same rights no matter their race. (United States History II9.a) By reading about her accomplishments, children can understand that just one person can make a big change.

Listed below are some books based on Rosa Parks that illustrate her life and accomplishments.


Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. Illustrated by Bryan Collier

At home with her family, Rosa Parks gets ready to start her day. She doesn’t know yet that the choices she will make will unleash a chain of events that spark a boycott and fuel a movement. After working all day, sewing Sunday suits and blouses, Rosa heads home. She finds a place to sit, but not before long, she is being yelled at by the bus driver to move but Rosa refuses to move.

Excerpt: “She thought about her mother and her grandmother and knew they would want her to be strong. She had not sought this moment but was ready for it. When a policeman bent down to ask her: Auntie, are you going to move?” all the strength of all the people joined in her. Rosa Parks said no.”

Seeing what has just happened inspires people to act and not before long, a great leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. is standing before the masses gathering people to protest peacefully.

The illustrations colorful, created with a variety of materials and beautiful to look at.

This Caldecott Honor book.


Back of The Bus by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Riding in the back of the bus with his Mama, a little boy plays with his marble. When the marble slips away, it is Rosa Parks who rolls it back to him. She is smiling and sitting towards the front of the bus. As the bus gets crowded, it comes to a stop, and he overhears some yelling. His mama hushes him. He can hear the bus driver threaten to call the police. Sitting there waiting, he plays with his marble. His mama scolds him to put it away, so he hides it in his pocket. He gets the feeling that something is wrong. The little boy knows Rosa Parks doesn’t belong there but she refuses to move. As the police take Rosa Parks away, everyone is watching out the window…..

This story is written from a little boy’s perspective. This unique point of view can help children make connections to their own feelings and interpretations. It has colorful illustrations that help set the mood and tone of this book.

BOYCOTT BLUES: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation.

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Dog Tired, the story teller, sings the Boycott Blues.


This story begins with shoes.

This story is all for true.

This story walks. And walks. And walks.

To the blues.

Dog Tired narrates Rosa Park’s story: While she is sitting in the bus, Jim Crow, “with his bony wings”, comes to “peck, peck, peck” but Rosa Parks wont get up. (In this story, Jim Crow becomes a character- a bird that pecks and pecks trying to keep people segregated.) She refuses to move. That night, Martin Luther King Jr. tells the gathered crowds that they will peacefully fight for justice and boycott the buses. From then on people walked, some rode taxis, and rode bikes, but they wouldn’t ride the bus. Not until the Supreme Court got rid of Jim Crow.

The author weaves the blues in and throughout the story.

 IF A BUS COULD TALK: The Story of Rosa Parks.

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks. By Faith Ringgold

Marcie, a young girl, on her way to school, gets on an unusual bus. As she sits down a voice calls out to tell her that seat is reserved! Alarmed, she isn’t sure where the voice is coming from- soon enough- she realizes it is the bus! The bus Tells Marcie about Rosa Park’s life, her family, and her life as a young girl. Rosa grows up, gets married, and works as a seamstress. On her way home after work, she gets on a bus, and when she is asked to get up from her seat, she refuses. She is taken to jail, but her actions have inspired many to boycott the buses. The bus continues to narrate Rosa parks life. The bus pulls up and stops at Rosa Parks Boulevard. Suddenly Rosa Parks gets on the bus! Inside, she greets the riders on the bus and together they celebrate Rosa’s birthday. Marcie finally arrives at school ready to share her story with her class.


A Picture Book of Rosa Parks by David Adler. Illustrated by Robert Casilla

Davis Adler recounts Rosa Parks life and upbringing in this children’s biography. Adler recounts her upbringing, growing up under Jim Crow,  going to a segregated school, and living in a community where the Ku Klux Klan made their presence known. The author recounts her heroic actions and accomplishments.

This is a great book for any young student to use for fact gathering or even a reference for a paper. There are colorful illustrations on every page to help guide students through the text.

Great Resources for Kids

Kids Konnect

A brief summary of Rosa Parks life. Includes links to videos and images.

Stand Up For Your Rights /PBSkids

Learn more about Civil Rights Movement. Explore games, audio interviews, and images.

Martin Luther King Jr

Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. You can find games, coloring pages and other activities.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Explore different biographies, read newspaper articles, explore a time line and read first hand accounts.

Biography Channel

Watch some great videos about Rosa Parks life.

Great Resources for Teachers

Taking A Stand With Rosa Parks Lesson Plan

A lesson designed to help students learn about people who shaped history by reading their biographies and researching the age in which they lived.

Scholastic for Teachers

Resource site with biography and vocabulary words.

Mr. Donn’s Lesson Plans

The stories  are designed for students to read and respond to through discussion. Lesson plan extends and involves writing. This is geared towards older students, but the stories can be read to younger students.

Scholastic for Teachers 

Here you can find list of books, activities, and free printables.