Author Archive for Cory

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: …If You Lived in WILLIAMSBURG in COLONIAL DAYS



…If You Lived in WILLIAMSBURG in COLONIAL DAYS by Barbara Brenner is an informational book which describes the everyday life of colonists living in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.   This story is set up in a Question and Answer format, beginning with an introduction.  While this book could be read straight through, it has a table of contents at the beginning listing the highlighted questions in the book, so that if a child wanted the answer to a question without having to read the entire book, they could easily find the answer.  Each page has a question about colonial life in Williamsburg at the top, and a page or two of description answering the question and describing life in the colony.  The questions are very accessible, and can help children relate to the colonists, by asking questions like “Did girls and boys learn the same things?” to help them see the differences between today’s experiences and the children of Colonial Williamsburg.  The book also asks questions highlighting important facts and vocabulary, such as:

“Who shopped in Market Square?  Housewives came to buy groceries.  Slaves came to shop for their masters.  Sometimes, a few Pamunkey Indians would show up with pottery to sell… Occasionally black people were brought to Market Square for a terricle reason – to be sold at auction as if they were horses or cows.  Inagine how you would have felt, seeing your father or moher bought by a stranger.  You would have known that you were likely to be separated from your family, perhaps forever.”

Curriculum Connections:

This book can be used to support Virginia Studies SOL VS.4e, as it helps to describe colonial life in Virginia.  By showing some of the colonial norms, such as the clothes the colonists wore, where they lived, and the types of food they grew and ate, students can begin to see the differences between life then and life now.

Additional Resources:

Library Thinkquest provides a variety of online games and activities for children to explore Colonial times further.

The Colonial Williamsburg website provides games, activities, as well as information for parents and teachers about visiting Williamsburg.

PBS provides a lesson idea that helps students “translate” Colonial English to Modern Day English to help them understand the differences between the two languages.

General Information:
Author:  Barbara Brenner
Illustrator:  Jenny Williams
Grade Range:  4-6
Pages:  80
Publisher:  Scholastic Paperbacks
Publication Date:  October 1, 2000
ISBN-13:  978-0590929226

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Starry Messenger


Starry Messenger, written by Peter Sís is an extremely child friendly biography of the famous philosopher and astronomist Galileo Galilee.  This book could be used with a wide variety of children of different ages and reading levels.

The main story line is easily followed by younger children, and is accompanied with extra information and quotes written in cursive for older students.  The illustrations, also done by Peter Sís, are interesting, yet very complex and filled with extra information for older students to pick out using the knowledge they acquire from the extra facts.

Starry Messenger begins by describing the world that Galileo lived in, giving more information about beliefs and traditions of the time:

“For hundreds of years, most people thought the earth was the center of the universe, and the sun and the moon and all the other planets revolved around it.  they did not doubt or wonder if this was true.  They just followed tradition… In those days, Italy was a country where many great artists, writers, musicians and scholars lived…In the city of Pisa a little boy was born with stars in eyes.  His parents named him Galileo.”

Some of the extra information provides more fact filled tidbits for older children to consider when reading the story:

“Italy was a quilt of city-states, each with its own laws and government.  A common religion, the Catholic faith, was one thing they all shared, and the Church was a powerful influence…Until the age of eleven, Galileo was taught at home by his father.  Then he was sent to the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria di Vallonbiosa where he studied Latin, Greek, religion and music.”

Starry Messenger also helps explain to children an important aspect that is often glossed over:  the importance of the traditions of the ancient world, and that those traditions were so important to the leaders of the country, i.e. the Church, that Galileo was disowned for his beliefs because they were different.

“Galileo was afraid.  He knew that people had suffered terrible torture and punishment for not following tradition.  It could happen to him… Galileo was condemned to spend the rest of his life locked in his house under guard.  But he still had stars on his mind and no one could keep him from thinking about the wonders of the skies and the mysteries of the universe.”

Curriculum Connections 

VA SOL Science 1.1b and 1.1f: The student will conduct investigations in which b.) simple tools are used to enhance observations and f.) predictions are based on patterns of observation rather than random guesses

VA SOL Science 2.1a, 2.1g and 2.1h: The student will conduct investigations in which a.) observation is differentiated from personal interpretation, and conclusions are drawn based on observations and g.) unexpected or unusual quantitative data are recognized and h.) simple physical models are constructed.

Additional Resources

  • Peter Sís’ own website provides multiple lesson extension ideas and lesson ideas for many standards of learning in subject areas such as geography and history.
  • TeacherVision provides a lesson plan for older students, grades 6-8, including measuring with scales and using pendulums like Galileo used in his studies.
  • 400 Years of the Telescope expands upon the biography of Galileo, as well as gives extra information about the telescope.

Book: Starry Messenger
Peter Sís
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date:
September  2000
Pages: 40 pages
Age Range: 4-8
ISBN-13: 978-0374470272

Computation Podcast – Rock, Brock and the Savings Shock


In this podcast, Cory Widdowson introduces listeners to the book Rock, Brock and the Savings Shock by Shelia Bair.

Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock is a colorfully illustrated book that teaches children the benefits of saving money, and the implications for spending it irrationally. The reader can keep track of the money being saved by doubling, which is a stepping stone towards multiplication. Some benefits this book has for the classroom, are the charts in the back of the book which also track savings, as well as tips for children to save their money, to become “millionaires” like Rock and Brock do by the end of the story.

Related Books
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa Mollel
Allowance Magic: Turn Your Kids Into Money Wizards by David McCurrach

These books can both be used to reinforce the money strategies used by Brock, as well as learning how to keep from spending frivolously like Rock.

More Information
MoneyInstructor has a nice introductory lesson on money.
See this short article about teaching children and teens about money.
The U.S. Mint site for kids, H.I.P. Pocket Change has lots of money games.

Counting Book Podcast – The Baker’s Dozen: A Counting Book


In this podcast, Cory Widdowson introduces listeners to the book The Baker’s Dozen: A Counting Book by Dan Andreasen.

The Baker's Dozen: A Counting Book, by Dan Andreason, is an intricately illustrated counting book appropriate for students in kindergarten or first grade. The reader can count on by ones with the baker as he makes tarts and other tasty morsels as he rushes to prepare his shop for the day. The pictures in this book will encourage children to count each of the pastries being named per page, and could also be used for teaching elapsed time. A major plus to this book is the inclusion of the word for the number and the numeral on each page, and a counting chart is located in the back of the book.