Author Archive for Liz V

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America


If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America, written by Anne Kamma and illustrated by Pamela Johnson, is a comprehensive book that answers many of the questions students may have about slavery.

What was it like to be a slave in America?  Where would you sleep?  What would you eat?  Could you get married or go to school?  How hard did you have to work?  When did slavery end?  If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America answers all these questions and many more in language that is easy for students to comprehend.  It is written in second person language so that students are easily engaged in the information.  Each page provides an illustration that truly conveys the many injustices that African Americans faced during times of slavery.  This is an excellent book to use when discussing the Civil War and slavery.  It could be shared with a whole class by the teacher or students could easily explore it on their own.

“Where did American slaves live?”
“Most lived on farms called plantations.  Some plantations were small farms with only a few slaves.  Others were big, with hundreds of slaves.  Most were in between.”

“What would you wear?”
“Every winter, owners handed out new clothes to their slaves.  But often owners didn’t give them enough clothes to wear, even though it was the slaves’ hard work that made the owners rich.”

“What would your name be?”
“Your father and mother might name you Sally or Ned, after a favorite grandparent.  Or Kagne or Cuffy, after an African ancestor.  Some children were named after of the week they were born on, just as many children in Africa were.  Sometimes the owner gave children the names he wanted them to have.”

Curriculum Connections:
If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America really addresses all aspects of the lives of African American slaves.  This book correlates nicely with the Virginia History and Social Science Standards of Learning VS.7 which covers the issues that divided the nation and led to the Civil War, including the roles of whites and enslaved African Americans.

Additional Resources:
Runaway Slave Project
:  This is a project for older students.  The goal of the project is for students to pretend that they are a runaway slave, traveling on the underground railroad.  Students must use their research to describe their path, write a journal, and create a map of their journey.  This site provides a nice list of resources for students to use for research.

Slavery Is…:  This is a project that a fourth grade class did in 1998.  It is an activity that could be recreated in a classroom or simply shown to students to encourage them to think of their own definitions of slavery.

Underground Railroad activity:  This activity from National Geographic is like a ‘choose your own adventure’ online.  Students are told that they are slaves traveling on the Underground Railroad and are given different choices to click on such as approaching a safe house or hiding in the woods.

Harriet Tubman Reader’s Theater:  This is a reader’s theater for students to act out about Harriet Tubman’s life.

General Information:
Book:  If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America
Author:  Anne Kamma
Illustrator:  Pamela Johnson
Publisher:  Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date:  2004
Pages:  80 pages
Grade Range:  3-8
ISBN:  049567068
ISBN-13:  9780439567060

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Zip, Zip…Homework


Zip, Zip…Homework written and illustrated by Nancy Poydar

Zip, Zip…Homework by Nancy Poydar tells the story of Violet – a young student with a new backpack.  Violet gets a new backpack just for homework with lots of pockets.  She practices zipping, snapping, and velcroing all the pockets in her backpack every night – just in case she gets some homework to put in them.  Finally, Ms. Patience, Violet’s teacher, assigns homework.  Unfortunately, Violet loses it and instead of admitting her mistake, she chooses to lie and gets caught.  In the end, Ms. Patience teaches Violet a valuable lesson about being truthful.

“When recess time came, Ms. Patience said, ‘Violet, the truth is more important than homework, you know.’  Violet never imagined Ms. Patience saying that.  ‘I kept the truth zipped up,’ said Violet.  ‘But did you lose the truth?’ asked Ms. Patience.  ‘No,’ said Violet, and she told Ms. Patience the truth.”

“That night Violet told her parents the truth.  It was her special homework assignment, and it was harder than the homework she didn’t do the night before.”

Curriculum Connections:
Zip, Zip…Homework is a great book to read to younger students when discussing some qualities of a good citizen – practicing honesty and trustworthiness, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and demonstrating self-discipline.  This book correlates nicely with the Virginia History and Social Science Standards of Learning for K.8, 1.10, and 2.10.

Additional Resources:
Trustworthiness lesson:  This pdf document provides an idea to teach younger students about trustworthiness by asking leading questions and having them draw pictures.

Honesty worksheet:   This link includes a free worksheet of questions about honesty.

Responsibility lesson plan:   This lesson plan encourages students to take responsibility for their actions instead of making up excuses.  There are some nice questions and discussion prompts included in this lesson.

Character Counts Values Jar:  This is an idea for a whole class incentive to be good citizens.  Anytime a teacher catches a student being trustworthy, honest, caring, respectful, responsible, or generally a good citizen, a color-coded marble will be placed in a jar.  Once the jar is full, the class will be rewarded.

General Information:
Book: Zip, Zip…Homework
Author: Nancy Poydar
Illustrator: Nancy Poydar
Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
Publication Date: September 2008
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-2
ISBN-10: 0823420906
ISBN-13:  978-0823420902

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Somewhere in the World Right Now


Somewhere in the World Right Now, written and illustrated by Stacey Schuett, shows the reader events taking place around the world at the same time.

“Somewhere, the night wind sighs and murmurs.  The moon shines through a window.  A little girl is dreaming of tomorrow.  But somewhere else, right now, tomorrow is already here.  Dawn is breaking.  A rooster crows and people are waking up.”

Somewhere in the World Right Now takes the reader through events that are happening at the exact same time all around the world.  In  Kenya, elephants are sleeping standing up.  In Madagascar, a little girl is dreaming of tomorrow.  In China, the day has already started – people are going to work and children are heading to school.  Each page has a map of the area being discussed as the background.  This book does a nice job of illustrating different parts of the world and also introduces the topic of time zones.

Curriculum Connections:
Somewhere in the World Right Now is a fun book to read when introducing map concepts to students.  It can be used in lessons discussing the way a community, climate and physical surroundings affect the way people live, basic map recognition and reading, and describing different geographic regions.  These topics correlate with the Virginia History and Social Science Standards of Learning K.4, 1.6, 3.5, 3.6.

Additional Resources:
Continents Lesson Plan: This lesson plan helps students learn the names and locations of each continent by creating their own world map.

Where on Earth are you? Lesson Plan:  This lesson plan introduces basic map skills and map history to students.  It also includes some worksheets and activity ideas.

Time Zone Bulletin Board: This short article includes an idea for creating a bulletin board with clocks made during a time zone lesson.

Literature Mapping: This link provides a month long activity idea for students to plot locations on a world map of different stories as they read them.  There is a nice list of suggested books included.

General Information:
Book: Somewhere in the World Right Now
Author: Stacey Schuett
Illustrator: Stacey Schuett
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: November 1997
Pages: 40
Grade Range: K-5
ISBN-10: 0679885498
ISBN-13:  9780679885498

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: My Rows and Piles of Coins


My Rows and Piles of Coins written by Tololwa M. Mellel and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis is set in Tanzania in the 1960s and tells a story of helping loved ones and saving money.  It was awarded the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000.

My Rows and Piles of Coins tells a story of a Tanzanian boy, Saruni, who helps his mother at the market.  In turn, she rewards him with ten coins for his help.  Instead of purchasing a toy or food at the market, Saruni puts his coins in a money box and counts them each night.  He hopes to purchase a bicycle in order to help his mother run errands and bring larger loads to the market.

“I emptied the box, arranged all the coins in piles and the piles into rows.  Then I counted the coins and thought about the bicycle I longed to buy.” (Mollel 1999, p. 11)

Curriculum Connections:
My Rows and Piles of Coins lends itself nicely to the discussion of earning and saving money, helping others, and making decisions about wants versus needs.  This book correlates well with the Virginia History and Social Sciences Standards of Learning K.7, 1.8, 1.9, 2.9, and 3.9.  It is appropriate for all elementary school grades.  My Rows and Piles of Coins could also be used in a math lesson about money.

Additional Resources:
Where’s the Best Buy Activity: This is an interactive game that encourages children to select the best price for a toy from three different options.

Piggy Bank Wrapper: This sheet is provided by the American Savings Education Council.  It is a wrapper that can help students turn a coffee can into a piggy bank.  The wrapper has space for children to write their name, the item they are saving for, and the amount of money they hope to save.

Piggy Banking: This is another interactive game.  Students are asked to perform tasks and are then paid for their effort.  Students must count coins to deposit in their piggy bank as well.

Want Versus Need Lesson Plan: This lesson plan uses the book The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills.  Students work in groups to cut out pictures from magazines and categorize items according to wants versus needs.

General Information:
Book: My Rows and Piles of Coins
Author: Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrator: E. B. Lewis
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: August 1999
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 1-5
ISBN-10: 0395751861
ISBN-13: 978-0395751862

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: What Makes Day and Night


What Makes Day and Night is a Stage 2 Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science book written by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by Arthur Dorros.

“The earth is always turning.  It never stops.  Round and round it goes.  And it goes very fast.  About 1000 miles an hour.  As the earth turns we are always moving from day to night.  And from night to day.”

“If you were on the moon, you would also have a day and night.  But the moon spins very slowly, so days and nights are long.  Places on the moon have two weeks of daylight and then two weeks of darkness.”

What Makes Day and Night is a great book that emphasizes the fact that day and night are caused by the rotation of the earth.  The reader is shown some nice diagrams that illustrate this fact and there is a suggestion for students to do an experiment modeling night and day with a lamp.  Along with simple text, the illustrations in What Makes Day and Night are nicely done and provide useful explanations for the topic.  The last page of the book provides additional information and activity ideas for students to do that further discuss the topic of day and night and the earth’s rotation.

Curriculum Connections:
What Makes Day and Night obviously lends itself to discussion of day and night.  It does a great job discussing the rotation of the earth and includes many illustrations of the earth as it looks from space.  In Virginia, this topic is covered in the first grade and can be found in the Science Standards of Learning 1.6.

Additional Resources:
Day and Night Lesson Plan: This lesson plan includes a two day unit discussing the rotation of the earth and day and night with students.  This lesson plan utilizes What Makes Day and Night to introduce the topic and has students perform an activity from the book in which they model day and night using a lamp.  A worksheet is also available for this lesson.

Why do we have night?: This is a hands on lesson, using food to model the earth.  Students will work in small groups to learn about the earth’s rotation and night and day.

NASA Lesson Plan:  This lesson plan is nice because it is broken into two sections – a lesson for kindergarten and an extended lesson for first and second graders.

Rotating Earth: This animated earth goes from day to night and back again.  Students have the ability to pause the animation to look at different parts of the earth.

Book Information:
Book: What Makes Day and Night
Author: Franklyn M. Branley
Illustrator: Arthur Dorros
Publisher: Collins
Publication Date: 1986
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-10:  0064450503
ISBN-13: 978-0064450508

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: The Wolves Are Back


The Wolves Are Back: written by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor

In 1926, it was ordered that all wolves living in Yellowstone National Park be killed.  This resulted in the wolf population disappearing and the rest of the animal and plant populations in the park being thrown off balance.  In 1995, ten adult wolves were put into Yellowstone in the hopes of restoring the natural balance of nature in the park.  Jean Craighead George tells the story of these wolves from the perspective of a wolf pup and his father.  Not only does the book describe the lifestyle of the wolves, but The Wolves Are Back does a great job describing the ways that the loss of one animal population effected the whole animal and plant system in Yellowstone National Park.

“The wolf pup heard a flycatcher call.  The Lamar Valley had not heard this flycatcher while the bison were there.  Bison break and trample young trees to keep back the forest so there will be grass.  Now the wolves hunted the bison and drove them back from the river.  Without the bison, the aspens grew.  With the trees restored, there were limbs for the flycatcher to perch on.  They sat there and sang.  The wolves were back.”

Curriculum Connections:
The Wolves Are Back is a great story to read with students when discussing animals and their habitats, life cycles, plants and animals and their dependence on each other in an ecosystem, food webs, the ways in which habitats change, predators and prey, and population and community.  This book could be tied in to lessons dealing with the Virginia Science Standards of Learning 2.5, 3.5, 3.6, and 4.5.

Additional Resources:
Jean Craighead George’s Website: This site includes a biography of Jean Craighead George, a complete list of her works, videos of Ms. George as well as sound recordings of animals, tips for writing your own story, and a short Question and Answer section.

Food Web Lesson Plan: This lesson plan includes information about food webs and chains and has a section discussing what happens when there is an imbalance in an animal population (as discussed in The Wolves Are Back).  A worksheet and answer key are also included.

Food Web Game: Students can choose between a meadow, arctic, or pond food web and must put plants and animals in the correct order to make the food web flow.

Wolf Habitat Lesson Plan: The activity in this lesson plan is geared towards encouraging students to define a habitat, describe what animals need in order to survive, and to discuss factors that may cause a population of animals to increase or decrease.  This plan includes a very physical and engaging activity and integrates the use of graphs.

General Information:
Book: The Wolves Are Back
Author: Jean Craighead George
Illustrator: Wendell Minor
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: April 2008
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 2-6
ISBN-10: 0525479473
ISBN-13: 978-0525479475

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Move It! Motion, Forces, and You


Move It!: Motion, Forces, and You, written by Adrienne Mason, illustrated by Claudia Davila, is a great introduction to motion and force for students.  The book is filled with concise descriptions of force in the form of pushing, pulling, throwing, kicking, lifting, and stopping.  Force is described in situations that students are familiar with:

“To throw a ball to someone far away, you need to use a lot of force (a big push).  To throw to someone closer, you need less force.  The more force you use to move something, the greater the distance it will move” (p.12).

Move It! also discusses gravity and friction.  This book is very student-friendly as it uses pictures of children engaged in games and playground activities to depict the use of force.  In addition to the descriptions of force, there are fun activities throughout the book, as well as a section of additional information and activities for parents and teachers at the end.

Curriculum Connections
Move It! Motion, Forces, and You is a wonderful resource in the teaching of motion and force.  The book nicely correlates with the Virginia Science Standard of Learning 1.2.  According to this SOL, students are expected to grasp the concept of moving objects exhibiting different kinds of motion.  This includes pushing and pulling and its effect on objects, as well as the observation of motion in toys and playground activities.

Additional Resources

  • Football Activity: This is an easy activity to get students talking about force and motion using rubber balls and straws.  The summary section of this link also provides good information for teachers to share with students.
  • Washer Lesson Plan: This is a lesson plan dealing with force using scrap paper and metal washers.  There is also a very good homework worksheet at the end of the lesson.
  • Push/Pull Worksheets: This link will take you to three easy worksheets dealing with pushing and pulling forces.

Book: Move It!: Motion, Forces, and You
Author: Adrienne Mason
Illustrator: Claudia Davila
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: August 2005
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-10: 1553377583

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Five Creatures


Five Creatures: written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Tomeck Bogacki.

“Five creatures live in our house.  Three humans, and two cats.  Three short, and two tall…Four who like to eat fish…Three who don’t like taking baths…Four who can open cupboards…”

Five Creatures is a book that encourages students to classify members of their families.  The little girl in Five Creatures tells the reader about her family that consists of three people and two cats.  She classifies the members according to their likes and dislikes, their appearances, skills, and habits.  The book does a nice job of discussing ways in which family members are different and sweetly concludes with, “And five who sit together in the evening by the fire”.

Curriculum Connections:

This book can be used in the classroom to discuss classification.  It seems that this book may be best suited for a first or second grade classroom but discussion could be easily adjusted in order to use it in a kindergarten or even third grade classroom.  This book correlates well with Virginia Science Standards of Learning K.1, 1.1, 2.1, and 3.1 which all discuss classification of objects.  Additionally, Five Creatures could be useful when studying graphs.  The classifications discussed in the book easily lend themselves to picture graphs, Venn diagrams, and simple bar graphs.  Graphing is also a requirement in the Science Standards of Learning in Virginia K.1-3.1.

Additional Resources:

Kindergarten Classification Lesson Plan: This page includes easy sorting/classifying activity ideas for younger students.

Fingerprint Lesson Plan:  A lesson plan for older students that involves classification of fingerprints.

Scavenger Hunt Lesson Plan: An outside scavenger hung idea that concludes with students classifying their findings.

Magazine Classification Activity:  An activity idea that has students classify magazine cutouts.

Earth Day Game:  A quick online game that encourages students to classify trash to clean up for Earth Day.

General Information:

  •  Book: Five Creatures
  • Author: Emily Jenkins
  • Illustrator: Tomeck Bogacki
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Publication Date: April 2001
  • Pages: 32
  • Grade Range: K-3
  • ISBN-10:  0374323410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374323417

2nd Grade Money

Second grade students are expected to count and compare pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters up to two dollars.  They are also expected to master using a cent symbol, dollar symbol, and decimal point when working with money.  While play money is a good resource for students to work with in this unit, there are also a variety of books that introduce money and coin combinations and online resources that allow students to play interactively with coins and money amounts.

Text Annotations


The Penny Pot written by Stuart J. Murphy, illustrated by Lynne Woodcock Cravath :  This is a nice book about a little girl that wants to get her face painted at a carnival but does not have enough money.  Her friends leave their extra money in a penny pot and she is able to add to her money.  Realistic pictures of coins, counting on, making change, adding.  Recommended for ages 7 and up.


The Coin Counting Book written by Rozanne Lanczak Williams:  Short rhymes and real pictures of coins starting with pennies and moving up to half dollars and finally, to a dollar.  This book also talks about coin combinations and labels each coin numerically with its value and the cent symbol.  Recommended for ages 5 to 9.


Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday written by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz :  Alexander’s grandparents give his brothers and him a dollar each and he has big plans for spending it.  Through some funny situations, Alexander slowly loses his dollar.  Coin values, subtraction of money, saving money.  Recommended for ages 4 to 8.


Jelly Beans For Sale written by Bruce McMillan:  This is a very colorful book about students selling jelly beans – one bean for one cent.  Realistic pictures of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in various combinations.  Encourages student participation while reading.  Recommended for ages 4 to 8.


Making Cents written by Elizabeth Keeler Robinson, illustrated byBob McMahon:  This book does a great job of covering many topics dealing with money through a story of children building a treehouse.  The book follows them as they buy different items needed to build their treehouse.  Coins, coin combinations, U.S. currency, foreign currency, how kids can make money, spending, and more.  Recommended for ages 9 to 12.

Web Annotations

HIP Pocket Change:  The U.S. Mint’s website for students.  The Circulating Coins section of the site lets students click on coins from penny to dollar coins and gives them information about that coin, a picture of it, fun facts about money, and a coloring page.

Garage Sale Wizard:  Students must choose between three buyers that want the same thing at a garage sale.  Each buyer shows what they are willing to pay for the item in coins and students choose the person willing to pay the most.

Coin Combo Game: Arcade style game.  Money falls and stacks up.  The goal is to keep the stack of money blocks as low as possible.  Students are asked to click on combinations of coins to make a certain amount.  When the student gets the right amount, the blocks disappear.  Target amounts increase as students move up in levels.

Discovering Coin Values:  Students are given an amount of money in decimal form.  They must pick up coins and slide them down a chute into a cup to match the amount.

Second Grade Money Game:  Students are shown a menu with different food items on it.  They are given the price or items to buy and must drag the correct coins onto the item to pay for it.

Additional Resources

Money Instructor:  Requires signup, but limited membership is free.  Basic Money Skills link provides resources for teachers including lesson plans, printable play money, worksheets, money coloring pages, and a history of money.

Busy Teacher Cafe Money Unit: This site offers a long list of lesson plan and activity ideas, money song lyrics, book suggestions, center activities, and links to online games.

Education World:  This page links to numerous money lesson plans for various grade levels.  There are also links to additional lesson plans on other websites.

School Express Beginning Money:  Fifteen printable money worksheets.  Some sheets have students count coins, others have them count numerical values, find a missing coin from an equation, or compare amounts.

HIP Pocket Change:  The U.S. Mint’s website.  There are lots of links for teachers – lesson plans, online activities, book suggestions, printable resources, project ideas, and more.