Author Archive for Hilary

Teaching History With Children’s Literature: …If You Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grow up with one of America’s greatest leaders?  The book, If You Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln by Ann McGovern explores questions like these and so many others in this creative book about Abraham Lincoln’s life. The thought provoking questions that begin each section of the book, involve students in the text and are a great way to facilitate class discussion. McGovern does an exceptional job in providing factual information in a simple yet conscious manner, describing what Abraham Lincoln’s life was like. The book is divided into 30 questions that all describe the environment, jobs, buildings and schooling were like in that time period. The book chronologically examines the frontier of Kentucky and Indiana where Lincoln was a young boy then onto New Salem and Springfield, Illinois where he spent almost twenty five years until he finally moved to Washington D.C. to serve as President of the United States. As Lincoln grows up, the reader can see the advancements in transportation, communication, machinery and standards of living:

When Lincoln was a boy, he had never heard of rubber balls and balloons. Now we could buy these toys for his sons. More and more farmers were buying new machines to make their work easier. One man running a machine could do as much work as ten men (Page 72).

This shows the changes that were happening while the future President Lincoln was growing up. Other questions like would you work hard on the frontier? or what kind of school would you go to? will give the insight about conditions of the 1800s all the way to the mid-1860s when Lincoln was elected President. The mention of specific dates are another strong point of the book that can help students conceptualize on a time-line what was happening. Overall, the books provides an interesting way to introduce the life of an important American leader and what qualities contributed to him being such a prominent figure in our history.

Curriculum Connections
If I Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln
would be a great book to introduce your class to the story of an American leader. One could use this book to begin discussion of his contributions to our nation when he served as President of the United States. In Virginia, this would directly relate to the History Standards of Learning 1.2 where the student is responsible for describing American leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s contributions to our country and how their story of how they came into a position of influence. This book also would lend itself to constructing a sequenced, picture timeline of Abraham Lincoln’s life (History 1.1 SOL).

Additional Activities 

Book: If You Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln
Author: Ann McGovern
Illustrator: George Ulrich
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 1976
Pages: 80 pages
Grades: 1-3
ISBN: 590451545


Teaching Geography With Children’s Literature: We’re Sailing Down the Nile


From visiting temples, to marketplaces, to museum halls to  Giza’s pyramids the book We’re Sailing Down the Nile is a journey your class will not forget! Laurie Krebs seamlessly meshes rhyming and informative text with Anne Wilson’s vibrant illustrations. The book starts off on a river boat that is traveling down the Nile River. The adventure takes the children to seven notable locations in Egypt along the Nile River. They stop at Abu Simbel’s monuments, Aswan, Kitchener’s Island, the Valley of the Kings’ tomb, Al-Faiyum Oasis, Egypt’s capital Cairo and end at The Great Pyramid of Giza.

Kreb’s writes the text repeating the phrase “Climb aboard the river boat! We’re sailing down the Nile. We’ll visit Abu Simbel in just a while (Page 2)” and substitutes in a new location every time it changes. This repetition makes the book easy to follow for students and the rhyming help captivate your students’ interest. The book provides simple wording of the text so children can easily understand it and even read it independently. Extra footnotes provide explanation to terms that children or teachers alike might need extra support on:

Kalila guides us to the souk *(marketplace). We buy some food to share. We’ll picnic on the Island (*Kitchner’s Island) with the others gathered there (Page 7-8).

One of the most impressive aspects about the book is the additional support given at the conclusion of the book. It gives a map and description of the journey, history of Ancient Egypt and a lot more helpful background information relating to Egypt. If you are looking for a great read-a-loud book to introduce your class to the geography and history of ancient Egypt this is it!

Curriculum Connections
We’re Sailing Down the Nile
is a great book to introduce geography and the culture of Egypt to your class. The cross-curricular extensions are also impressive as you could incorporate in story writing or a math lesson comparing different country sizes. It could also be used to develop student’s map skills with world maps. In Virginia this book would be suitable to fulfill the Geography Standard of Learning 2.4 a and b, which involves map skills and understanding the culture and environment of ancient Egypt.

Additional Resources

Book: We’re Sailing Down the Nile
Author: Laurie Krebs
Illustrator: Anne Wilson
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: 2-3
ISBN: 1846860407

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Go-Around Dollar


Ever why there are so many intricate designs on the dollar ? What about how long a dollar circulates before becoming too worn out? All of these questions and more are explored in Barbara Adams’ The Go Around Dollar. This informative fictional narrative is a great way to introduce American money to your class.

The Go Around Dollar, presents itself as a story that tracks a dollar bill as it is passed from person to person. Matt, the first child finds a dollar on the ground and then purchases Eric’s shoelace with that same dollar bill. The dollar bill then changes hands to a a storekeeper where Eric purchases bubble gum and then a girl named Jennifer receives that same bill as change. Jennifer purchases a hat at a flee market where a boy named Rob takes possession and gives it to his sister Kathy in return for doing a chore. The book follows various transactions that can be made with a dollar bill and how eventually they become so worn out they get replaced by the government. The dollar bill’s journey ends up when it is framed at an ice cream store.

The most notable and impressive feature about the book is the factual information about dollar bills  located on each corner. The facts range anywhere from who get to be on a dollar bill to what they are used for to how people even make counterfeit money. An example of these short information pieces would be:

 A portrait of George Washington, first president of the United States, is on the front of every one-dollar bill. Only people who are no longer alive can have their pictures on American money (Page 4).

The illustrations are extremely well done and provide excellent support to the storyline and travels of the dollar. The book also includes a helpful diagram that labels important part of the dollar bill in very simple terms. Using this book as a read-a-loud for your class would be a phenomenal way to start a unit on economics and give them the background they need in a more interesting way.

Curriculum Connections
This book would be a great way to introduce your class to economics or money in general. One my favorite parts of the book is how many activities and lessons that would nicely complement the book. You could have students write their own story similar to this or relate it to an activity in your mathematics lessons. In Virginia, this could relate to the SOL for History and Social Science 1.8, as it can explain to students that people make choices about what to purchase because they cannot have unlimited funds to buy everything. Students can learn what you can purchase with the money you have and that you need to be selective in what you buy.

Additional Resources

  • Here is a great website to provide lesson plans, worksheets and activities that apply to a variety of grade levels!

  • You can teach kids how to easily count money and become familiar with our currency with hand-on activities.

  • Here are some real-life ways that money plays in our everyday life- how to earn money, make money and spend money are a few questions explored at this helpful site.

Book: The Go-Around Dollar
Barbara Johnston Adams
Illustrator: Joyce Audry Zarins
Publication Date: 1992
32 Pages
Grades: 1-3
ISBN: 0027000311

Teaching Earth Science With Children’s Literature: Fossils Tell of Long Ago


“Magic School Bus” with a splash Jurassic Park for kids crossed my mind when I read this classroom friendly book about fossils! The book Fossils Tell of Long Ago, by Aliki, provides an in depth look at the different types of fossils, how they form and even a simple in class activity to do!

Aliki unfolds the book as a story that explains the formation of fossils to a group of students who looks like they are at a museum learning about fossils. The book clearly explains some of the scientific vocabulary associated with fossils but never gets so technical that a young student would be lost:

“Millions of years ago a fly was caught in the sticky sap of a tree. The sap hardened and became a fossil called amber. Amber looks like yellow glass. The fly was perfectly preserved in the amber (Page 20).”

The text is also nicely complemented by illustrations that further clarify the text. Throughout the book the students examine fossils of fish, plants, dinosaurs and even fossils found in the Arctic and in amber. Not only does the book explain the formation of fossils but it explains how they are used, where they can be found and who finds these “stones”. One of the most impressive aspect of the book is that is has some repetition that drives home the key concepts about fossils but never becomes boring or unnecessary. The book ends with a quick activity that could be done in your class, where students make imprints of their hands in clay. If you are familiar with the “Magic School Bus” series, this book gives off a very similar vibe with both the layout and approach but seems to more manageable for a younger student to read.

Curriculum Connections
This book can provide students with an introduction to fossils and how animals lives are impacted by the land environments around them. Students can learn about the change over time that occurs in natural things. In Virgina this would address the SOL where students need to understand that change occurs over time at both fast and slow rates and that these changes can be noted and measured in natural things (Science Standards of Learning K.9 a, b).

Additional Resources

Book: Fossils Tell of Long Ago
Publication Date:
 32 Pages

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Machines


Simple machines can sometimes pose a more then simple problem in trying to find the appropriate book for your classroom. The book Machines, by Janet Pallazzo-Craig has solved this problem with a phenomenal book that provides real life examples your students can relate to.

This classroom-friendly chapter book provides a fun way and easy way to learn about the different machines in the world around us. The most impressive part of the book is the way the author simplifies the vocabulary associated with simple machine and compound machines into terms your students will comprehend.  The real photographs accompanied with labeled diagrams will also solidify the students’ understanding of the material. In addition to exploring the six simple machines, the text explains compound machines which most books on this topic fail to do. The number of comparing and contrasting activities are endless!  The interactive questions and bold text also make the book appealing.

An example of a simple question built into the text that can engage the class is:

Did you know that a can opener is a compound machine? It is made of these simple machines working together: Lever (The hinged handle), Wheel and axle (The turning knob), Wedge (The sharp blade that cuts the metal.

Curriculum Connections
Machines, would be the perfect book to introduce students to simples machines and how they function. The book gives examples found in school as well as at home and provides extensive explanations about simple and complex machines where students might have no prior knowledge. If teaching in Virginia this book would directly address SOL 3.2 which investigates the understanding of simple machines and their uses.

Additional Classroom Resources

  • Great link for additional resources as well as additional activities for your classroom. This can help further reinforce concepts from the book or give students additional research opportunities on the topic.
  • Simple Machines offers free powerpoints, templates and clip art to provide visual aids and spice up your lesson plan.
  • This site provides field trip ideas for your class as well as hand-on activities to explore the simple machines around your students.

Book: Machines
Author: Janet Palazzo-Craig
Illustrator & Photographs: Bill Melvin
Publisher: Macmillan/McGraw Hill
Pages: 14 pages
Grade: 3-5
ISBN: 978-0-02-285897-1

NOTE: This book is a Macmillan/McGraw-Hill leveled reader and is only available through the textbook company.

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: You Can’t Smell a Flower with Your Ear!


Have you ever struggled to come up with a fun and creative approach to teach the 5 senses to your students? Well, look no further because Joanna Cole, the author of the book, You Can’t Smell a Flower with Your Ear! has done exactly that. The fun and bright illustrations by Mavis Smith add a friendly and inviting touch to the book as well.

The book’s text provides a fun way to learn about the 5 different senses. It provides examples that children could easily relate to and experience in every day life. The most impressive part of the book are the fairly complex concepts that Cole nicely simplifies into terms that your students will comprehend:”Nerves-like wires-carry messages about the picture from the back of your eye to special places in your brain (Pg. 13).” The illustrations also nicely compliment and further explain key ideas in the text by providing diagrams for each major sense. The book goes through all of the 5 senses and gives a “try this” portion where students could actually test out how each of their sense are being activated.

 An example of a “Try This” would be:

“Dim the lights. Look at your eyes in a mirror. Are your pupils big? Now turn on a bright light. Did you see your pupils get smaller? Your pupils get bigger and smaller to let in just the right amount of light (Page 11) .”

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to introduce students to different properties that could be observed by using their sense of sight, touch, hearing, feeling and smell. In the state of Virginia it would address the Standard of Learning 1.1 in the Science Standards of Learning, which looks at the differences in physical properties using the senses and how inferences can be made about a familiar object or event.

Additional Classroom Resources

  • The Lesson Plans Page has a lesson plan with an activity that could further reinforce concepts from the book.
  • InstructorWeb provides some worksheets to be printed out that deal with the five senses.
  • Education World offers 10 great activities that could be used with your class to teach the five senses.

Book: You Can’t Smell a Flower with Your Ear!
Author: Joanna Cole
Illustrator: Mavis Smith
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Publication Date: 1994
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 1-3 (might be a challenge for struggling 1st grade readers)
ISBN: 978-0448404691