Author Archive for Chris Y

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

The following resources are relevant when teaching about Ulysses S. Grant and his contributions to the United States of America (VA SOL United States History to 1865 USI.9 d).  He was a war hero during the Civil War, leading the Union Army in victory over Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army.  He would go onto become the 18th President of the United States, serving from 1869 until 1877.

Relevant Children’s Literature


Ulysses S. Grant: Union General and U.S. President
Written by Brenda Haugen

Ms. Haugen does an excellent job of detailing the life of Ulysses S. Grant in this biography.  Aimed at young adults this book is suitable for strong elementary readers; the lack of illustrations and detailed writing style will deter young/inexperienced readers.  Nonetheless, the work does a terrific job of giving the audience a strong foundation of knowledge about the life of Mr. Grant both in regards to his time in the military as well as his two terms as President.  Perhaps the most valuable segment of the book is the detailed, easy-to-follow time line which can be used in any classroom teaching VA SOL USI.9 d.


Ulysses S. Grant: Eighteenth President 1869-1877 (Getting to Know the US Presidents)
Written and Illustrated by Mike Venezia

Venezia’s mixture of lively text and humorous illustrations makes his book a must-read for the young learner.  Aimed at the upper elementary grade levels (ages 9-12) Venezia does not shy away from Grant’s alcoholism and corrupt Presidental cabinet; however, he treats both situations with respect and sensitivity.  Parents and teachers should not be alarmed by this books subject manner, Venezia does an excellent job of keeping his work mature yet interesting.  This book is the most effective work available for teaching children about Ulysses S. Grant — it details all the courageous actions he undertook to help his country while at the same time not turning a blind eye to the imperfections of the man.


Ulysses S. Grant (Let Freedom Ring Series)
Written by Susan Gregson

Susan Gregson has written an informative biography of General Grant, suitable for ages 9-12.  To insure accuracy Ms. Gregson consulted one of today’s most prominent Grant scholars, John Y. Simon, during the writing and editing of the work.  What this book does better than the other works available is provide many photographs of Grant.  Evidence shows that when a child is shown a picture of someone they can relate to them better than if they merely read or see cartoons portraying that same person.  The value of actual photographs is immense; they allow children to see the actual man and, consequently, make President Grant seem more like an actual person — it allows the children to relate to the man.  Moreover, teachers can use the photographs provided in a primary source activity.


Ulysses S. Grant (Profiles of the Presidents)
Written by Jean Kinney Williams

Ms. Williams work is one of the more detailed biographies available for young readers.  When compared with similar works, this one is more detailed and covers a greater variety of information.  Nonetheless, the book is easy to follow in large part because of the inclusion of a glossary, index, fast facts about Grant, and a parallel time line of world events.  Teachers should take advantage of the well-written glossary when teaching students vocabulary.


Ulysses S. Grant (Presidential Leaders Series)
Written by Kate Havelin

This work is interesting because it focuses more on Grant’s failures than his successes.   The tone of the book, however, is not pessimistic but rather manages to be uplifting.  Ms. Havelin details how Grant had to constantly overcome his failings before finding immense success on the battlefield and in politics. Unlike many books on Grant, this particular one does address his alcoholism.  But like Mr. Venezia’s work above, Ms. Havelin addresses the issue with maturity and understanding.  What is unique to Ms. Havelin’s work is that she does defend President Grant to a great extent, arguing the rumors about his rampant overuse of alcohol (particularly during his presidency) has been greatly exaggerated.

Relevant Websites for Students

 USA 4 Kids

This website provides students with some fast facts about the president (ex., where was he born, where did he die, who did he marry, what political party was he a member of) while also including a brief, but comprehensive biography.  This website is valuable because of its brevity, which will make it approachable to students.  When given a book of over 100 pages many children panic; however, this website provides a lot of information in a short amount of reading.  I would encourage teachers to have their students read this website for homework, perhaps assigning a fill-in-the-blank sheet to go alongside. Also, teachers could use the brief biography provided as a template for interactive note taking.

Grant the Artist

One of Grant’s lesser known attributes was his artistic talents — this website shows a few of Grant’s paintings. Teachers could also pull this website up during class and show the paintings on a projector.  I would encourage students to view this website because it shows a different side of the man they will be studying.  It is important to recognize that there is more to Grant than his time as General and then later as President.  Some may argue this is irrelevant to the SOLs; however, students will benefit from knowing the President in a more complex manner.   It will help them think deeper on Bloom’s taxonomy, one of the ultimate goals of education.

 President Ulysses S. Grant Word Search Puzzle

This word search does a great job of incorporating important vocabulary. Teachers can make the activity even more worthwhile by having students explain why each word is in the word search (for example, when the student finds Methodist they would have to explain Grant’s religious beliefs).  Students are bombarded with lots of reading, particularly in the social sciences, so this activity provides a fun alternative.

The Political Machine

The Political Machine 2008 is an award-winning videogame which allows the player to create a politician (or choose from a real one) and run for the office of President.  There is a fee of $9.95 to download the game but for those parents who can afford the cost, the game is remarkable.  Students will learn the tasks and responsibilities of the President, but chances are they will be having too much fun to notice. Additionally, the studio behind the game has included facts and lessons about every President, including Grant.  Learning cannot stop at 3:00 when school ends — it must continue at home.  The Political Machine will make children want to learn.   I can speak personally on the matter because my 12-year old brother cannot stop raving about the game.  It amazes me how much he picks up from the game (for example, when he learned that I was researching President Grant he asked me, “Did you know he was born in Ohio? Or that is what the game said…”).  The game is rated E10+, meaning suitable for ages 10 and up.

Ulysses S. Grant Game

This quiz is too difficult for use within a classroom; however, for students truly interested in Grant this quiz offers a great place to learn interesting trivia.  In a diverse classroom with a variety of different skill levels, this game could be offered to advanced students who have already grasped the basic material and want to learn more.  Also, a teacher could challenge his students to go home and take the quiz once alone and see how they did and then to ask for help from their parents and see if they could do better.

Helpful Resources for Educators

Ulysses S. Grant Timeline (Simple)
Ulysses S. Grant Timeline (Advanced)

I have linked two separate timelines above.  The first, labeled simple, can be modified and made into a great homework assignment: print out the timeline, white-out over a few of the important Grant entries, make copies, and then have the students fill in what is missing.  To make the assignment easier, leave the dates and provide a word bank if necessary.

The second, by PBS,  is much more thorough and could be assigned as a reading assignment.

Facts About Ulysses S. Grant
More Facts About Ulysses S. Grant

These websites contain a wealth of interesting trivia about Grant.  As a teacher you could use a fact to begin or continue a lesson in a more captivating manner.  Instead of saying, “Okay, now we are going to learn about Ulysses S. Grant,” you could say, “Did anyone here know that former President Ulysses S. Grant was actually born named Hiram Ulysses Grant but he did not like the initials H.U.G.?”  Fun facts will help keep the students interested and engaged.

Background for Teachers

For teachers who do now know much about President Grant, the linked article is comprehensive, relatively brief, and will give the reader a good foundation of knowledge.  It is important when teaching Grant to understand the controversy surrounding the man, particularly his alleged alcoholism and well-cited corruption, in case parents are worried how you will approach teaching these facets of his life and career.

Resources of Virginia

Resources of Virginia

This blog contains information about useful books, online activities, and relevant materials for teaching about Virginia’s natural resources.  Although Virginia Science SOL 4.8 explicitly references this content, the material overlaps with many elementary grades and SOLS.  The texts and websites, however, were chosen for students between grades 3-5.  If anyone has knowledge of texts, activities, or teacher materials that they believe would be helpful to my readers please comment at the bottom of the post.

Text Annotations 

Virginia Facts and Symbols
by Bill McAuliffe


“Easy-to-read text covers major state symbols such as the state flag, seal, bird, tree, flower, animal, and more.  A “Fast Facts” section highlights the state’s capital city, largest city, physical size, population, natural resources, farm products, and primary manufactured goods.  Generally, a map or photo faces a right hand page of information written in short paragraphs.  Photos are current and simple, featuring the animal, flower, or famous building, with a modest caption.  The series has been updated to reflect new census data but otherwise duplicates the earlier editions.  A concluding page features three “Places to Visit,” to give readers a sense of what features or sites the state is proud of or known for (Williamsburg, Luray Caverns, and the Mariners’ Museum).  In the end matter, other factual nonfiction books are recommended, a glossary rounds up five or six specialized words, an omnibus website managed by the publisher gives access to further facts, and a very short index is included.  The series encourages report writers to locate information quickly and the layout makes comparisons among states easy.  This book is a good beginning resource for highlighting a state and its features.” — Review from Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database

Buy it here

Dogwoods: The Genus Cornus
by Paul Cappiello


This title is a great source of information for Virginia’s state flower — the dogwood. The book features the best photographs of dogwoods that one can find.  Too dense and technical for the elementary reader; nonetheless, many sections can be used for reading aloud.  The included glossary is a great guide for horticulture-related vocabulary.

 Buy it here

By Patrick Merrick


Patrick Merrick’s book provides students with superb photos and pertinent information for the Virginia state bird.

“K-Gr 3-Children will flock to these attractive titles.  Brilliant, full-color close-ups, many from the National Audubon Collection, appear on every spread and are accompanied by interesting and useful facts.  The information goes beyond common knowledge, covering the birds’ life cycles from birth to maturity.  The photos provide a larger-than-life scale so that it is possible to see minute details of birds in the nest, feeding their young, and in their natural habitats.  The large font and wide margins make these books easy to read. – Kim Donius, Alfred-Almond Central School, Almond, NY.” — taken from

Buy it here

Good Night Virginia
by Adam Gamble


This book covers a vast array of topics, particularly in regard to Virginia’s resources and geography.  Additionally, information is blended seemlessly into the illustrations. Adam Gamble writes with simple sentences which are easy to comprehend, yet full of useful facts.  A great resource for your classroom– highly recommended!

Buy it here

Virginia Geography
by Bentley Boyd


 Written in the style of a comic book, Bentley Boyd’s work is accessible to the young reader.  Do not let the brevity of the work fool you; this work is full of information regarding the resources of Virginia.  Students will learn while reading; however, they will be enjoying themselves too much to realize.

Buy it here

Web Annotations (for Students!)

What Is a Watershed?
Watch how watersheds are formed! 

This website gives a easily comprehended explanation and illustration of how a watershed is formed.  For students who struggle to learn without visualization, this website will prove invaluable for VA Science SOL 4.8.  The students will enjoy watching the virtual formation of a watershed.

Digging For Words
Play here

A fun crossword activity for students.  The words are all related to minerals, rocks, and ores and the activity acts as a prefect supplement (i.e., a fun homework assignment) for a lesson on soil and/or rocks.

Discover How Rocks are Formed
Watch here!

The website has illustrations showing how rocks are formed over long periods of time.  Easier to understand than a textbook, and certainly more fun!

Virginia Trivia-Online Quiz, Attempt the quiz

Sporcle is an online website which allows users to generate their own quizzes.  The particular quiz linked above is focused on Virginia trivia.  Although the quiz is not devoted solely to Virginia’s resources, it nonetheless includes questions about the state’s geography, animals, plants, water resources, forestry, and more.  The site is kid-friendly, interactive, easy-to-use, and free.

Dumptown Game
Play the game

The game, created by the EPA, allows players to see how small changes in lifestyle can make huge differences in our society.  As Dumptown’s new City Manager it is your job to allocate available resources (such as recycle bins) to cut down on the trash accumulating in the city.  For students who enjoy playing video games, this online game will provide a lot of fun and learning.

 Additional Resources (for Teachers!)

Greener Loudoun


This website, written by a native of Loudoun County, VA, includes numerous articles on how we can live in a more environmentally conscious manner (and why we should).  Whenever he is unable to write on a topic he finds pertinent, he links to some other credible site which does.  What makes this website so valuable is the fact that it is written by a citizen of Virginia — all of the articles focus on the impact of climate change on a local level.  Climate science is difficult even for experts to understand; therefore, it is all the more impressive that this site enables its readers to understand the effects of a changing climate with a Virginia-centric bias.  I would highly recommend teachers to skim this website for local examples to use within their lessons — it will make the material more applicable to students.

Rockingham County Public Schools

This school’s website provides a wealth of resources for teaching VA Science SOL 4.8.  Of particular interest are the interactive smartboard activities which can be downloaded and used in your classroom.

 Virginia Department of Environmental Quality 

A dense, informative website with lots of data about Virginia’s forest.  For up-to-date statistics and easy-to-comprehend charts it is impossible to beat this source.  Of course, the information will need to be adapted to an elementary level.

Also, check out the VA DEQ’s guide to minerals and energy resources.

Virginia Native Plant Society 


The Virginia Native Plant Society provides conservation policies and easy to use brochures.  I recommend contacting the society to set up a visit to the University of Virginia’s Blandy Experimental Farm located in north-western Virginia — a fun, free, and informative trip for students.  (Everyone within reasonable proximity should visit the balloon festival at Blandy in October of every year.  There are massive amounts of activities for young students and excellent regional food tasting for adults.)