Author Archive for Jessie

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Arthur’s Funny Money


Arthur’s Funny Money, written and illustrated by Lillian Hoban, is a story about Arthur and his younger sister Violet. Violet is learning her numbers and asks Arthur for some help figuring out a problem.  He promises to help her but first needs her help to earn enough money to buy a shirt and cap for his Frisbee team.  Violet offers some suggestions to earn the money, like running errands or washing cars, but Arthur doesn’t like any of those ideas.   Arthur decides he’ll wash bikes to earn the rest of his money.  However, before he can start his bike washing business he needs to buy soap and a brush.  He uses the money he has to buy his supplies and then sets up his business. Some of his friends show up to get their bikes washed but some of them want deals and half prices washes because they brought their skateboard or they have a tricycle instead of a bicycle.  Arthur works out some deals and washes all their bikes and other wheeled things.  While he’s washing, Arthur has Violet keep track of the money he makes on a piece of paper.  After finishing all the bikes Arthur realizes he is out of soap so he and Violet go back to the story to buy more.  When they get to the store the soap is more expensive this afternoon then it was earlier in the morning.  Instead of buying it, they decide to go to another store and see if the soap might be cheaper there.   On their way, they pass the sports store where Arthur needs to go to buy his shirt and cap.  Violet thinks that Arthur might have enough money already to buy what he needs, so they go into the store to see.  The lady behind the counter tells Arthur he needs $4.25 to buy his shirt and cap.  He dumps out all his money and he and Violet check it against the list Violet recorded with all the money he made from washing bikes and he has $4.43!  He buys his shirt and cap and 5 licorice twists.  Violet reminds him she still needs help to solve her number problem.  So Arthur demonstrates the problem with licorice twists but is upset when he realizes that after helping her solve the problem he is left with only 1 licorice twist. But Violet shares the twists evenly with him and they both eat 2 and a half licorice twists for a job well done.

Curriculum Connections
Arthur’s Funny Money is suitable for grades K-3 and can be used to introduce and/or reinforce math or economic concepts. Arthur’s Funny Money can be used to explain how people need to work to earn money to buy the things that they want and how you have to make choices  about what you buy because you can not have everything you want(Va SOL K.6,7,1.8).  Opportunity cost can also be introduced with examples from the book(Va SOL 3.9).  Arthur’s Funny Money could also be used to help explain the difference between the use of barter and the exchange of money for goods and services(Va SOL 2.8).  In the area of math, Arthur’s Funny Money can be used as an introduction or as a reinforcement for the measurement of money(Va SOL K.7, 1.10a&b, 2.11a&b).

Additional Resources

  • This website has several lesson plans for 2nd grade that introduce money.
  • This lesson plan can be used with 1st – 4th grade, and explains the different between goods and services.
  • This activity, which can be used at different levels, has students choosing items they can buy based on the amount of change they have.

Book: Arthur’s Funny Money
Author & Illustrator: Lillian Hoban
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 1984
Pages: 64 pages
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-10: 0064440486

Teaching Ancient Civilizations With Children’s Literature: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears


Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon is a West Africa folk tale explaining the reason why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears.

One day, while Iguana is at the watering hole, Mosquito shows up and tries to tell him about a farmer growing yams as big as Mosquito is.  Annoyed, Iguana puts sticks in his ears so he no longer has to hear what Mosquito says. Python shows up at the watering hole and starts to talk to Iguana, but with the sticks in his ears Iguana can’t hear a thing Python is saying.  Python worries that Iguana is planning mischief against him seeks safety in Rabbit’s hole.  When Rabbit sees Python coming down her Rabbit hole she becomes worried she is going to be eaten and flees from her hole.  Crow sees Rabbit running for her life and decides he needs to spend the word about the ‘apparent’ approaching danger.  When Monkey hears Crow’s cries he runs through the trees trying to get away from the dangerous beast.  While running through the trees, Monkey hits a dead limb which falls on a nest and kills a baby owlet.  When Mother Owl comes back to her nest and finds her little owlet dead she stays in her nest all day and night.  Mother Owl has the responsibility of waking the sun each day, but because she is so sad over her owlet she does not hoot for the sun and the other animals fear the sun will never come back.  King Lion calls a meeting of all the animals and when Mother Owl does not come, he sends Antelope to fetch her.  When she shows up Lion asks her why she has not risen the sun she tells him about Monkey killing her owlet.  Monkey is then summoned and tells Lion about being startled by the crow and one by one the animals come forward and explain why they acted the way they did.  Finally Iguana shows up and explains he did not know Python was trying to talk to him because he had the sticks in his ears.  When Iguana explains that he only had the sticks in his ears because he did not want to hear the lies that Mosquito telling him.  The other animals want Mosquito punished and Mother Owl feels satisfied and she raises the sun.  Mosquito, who was hiding under a leaf during the meeting and heard the whole proceeding, flies away and is never found by the council of animals.  But, to this day because she has a guilty conscience, she goes around whining in people’s ears asking “Is everyone still angry at me?”.

Curriculum Connections
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears is suitable to be used with grades K – 3. This book could be used to present a picture time line of the sequence of events starting with Mosquito’s lie to Mother Owl losing her owlet (VA SOL 1.1).  This book would also be a great example of the West African oral tradition of storytelling (VA SOL 3.2).

Additional Resources

  • This website has several different lesson plans to use in different academic subjects.
  • This website has two extension activities for the book.
  • This website has seven different writing extension activities for the book.

Book: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
Author: Verna Aardema
Illustrator: Leo and Diane Dillon
Publisher: Puffin/Dial
Publication Date: 1975
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-3

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: Feathers and Fools


Feathers and Fools written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Nicholas Wilton is a story about two different flocks of birds living very close to each other.  The peacocks lived in the beautiful garden and the swans live on the clear blue lake.  One day a foolish peacock told the rest of his flock that it was good that peacocks do not swim or fly like the swans, otherwise they would surely drown and look silly flying around.  The other peacocks listened to his words but did not say another.  Then the foolish peacock opened his mouth again and this time said that he feared the swans.  He felt they had great strength and could run the peacocks out of their garden or force them to swim.  The other peacocks became upset and were very worried about their home and happiness.  The peacocks decided to gather up feathers and sharpen them into arrows so that they could defend themselves against the swans.  The swans heard of their plans and become fearfully.  They too started gathering feathers to make arrows to defend themselves.  Both flocks continued to gather feathers but as they added more feathers they become more and more frightened and anxious.  One day a swan was flying over the peacocks garden with a reed in her beak to make a nest for her eggs, the peacocks saw this and mistook the reed for an arrow and the peacocks rushed down to the lake where the swans where.  The swans saw them coming and got ready to defend themselves. The two flocks fought each other and not one survived.  As the sun began to set two eggs hatched and out stumbled a baby peacock and a baby swan.  They walked over to each other and declared they were the same seeing as they has feathers, two legs, two eyes, and a head.  They decided right there to be friends and went off together unafraid.

Curriculum Connections
Feathers and Fools is written for grades K – 3.  However, the book has violent imagery that really isn’t suitable for younger elementary.  It illustrates a great message for an older audience about unsupported prejudices and rash judgments. For younger grades it would be used to show how friendship sees past small differences.  If the story was told without the violent language, it would be suitable to use to teach students about treating others with respect ( VA SOL K.8c, 1.10a) and also about being kind to others (VA SOL K.8a)

Additional Resources

  • This lesson plan focuses on how to be a good citizen.
  • This lesson plan focuses on sharing for lower elementary.
  • This website has several awards and certificates that can be used to promote being a good citizen in the classroom.

Book: Feathers and Fools
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Nicholas Wilton
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 36 pages
Grade Range: K-3

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The Patchwork Path


The Patchwork Path is written by Bettye Stround and illustrated by Erin Susanna Bennett.  The story is told by Hannah, a ten year old girl, who is a slave on a Georgia plantation.  When the story begins, Hannah’s sister has been sold to another plantation and soon after that, her mother passes away.  Before her mother died she taught Hannah how to make a special quilt.  Each section of the quilt has a special meaning and gives directions to run to freedom.  There is a code that goes along with the quilt to remember what each section means.

The monkey wrench
turns the wagon wheel
toward Canada on the bear’s paw trail to the crossroads.
Once they got to the crossroads,
they dug a log cabin on the ground.
Shoofly told them to dress up in cotton
and satin bow ties and go to the cathedral church, get married, and exchange double rings.
Flying geese stay on
the drunkard’s path and
follow the stars.

The monkey wrench is the quilt itself.  One day in spring Hannah’s papa has her air out the quilt and that signals to the other slaves that they will be escaping tonight. The wagon wheel is Hannah’s papa because he is the wagon driver for the plantation so he knows all the roads, streams, and woods and knows where to hide while they are escaping.  Hannah and her papa escape that night and run through the woods until they get to a church where they hide under the floor boards until it is safe for them to come out again.  The next day they see a flock of geese flying North and they know they must follow the geese to get to freedom.  On their journey they find bear paw marks and that leads them to a safe cave to sleep in for the night.  They always walked in a zigzag pattern like a drunkard’s path because it would be harder for the Master’s dogs to catch their scent.  The Shoofly pattern on the quilt reminded them that if anyone ever came after them they should scatter like flies and then meet up at the spot that they were separated.  After a long journey Hannah and her papa finally make it to Lake Erie where they drew a log cabin in the sand to signal that they needed help to cross the lake into Canada.  That night a free black man found their sign and brought them new clothes.  The new clothes made Hannah and her papa look like they were already free and headed to church.  That night they board a boat for Canada and sail into freedom.  During their first winter of freedom Hannah makes a new quilt with scraps of their old slave clothing, sections of their other quilt, and new fabric too.  Hannah leaves one section blank so that when her sister Mary is reunited with them, they can finish the quilt together.

Curriculum Connections
The Patchwork Path would be a great book to read after student’s have had some experience with maps and directions.  It was recommended for grades K – 3, but I think that Kindergarten would be a little too young to use this book to illustrate using maps.  It would be better to show how student’s could make a simple map of a familiar area, like their neighborhood or home town and for older students, including a title, legend and compass rose with their map (VA SOL 1.5, 2.6).

Additional Resources

  • Students could use this coloring page as a map and then write a secret code about how to get to the “X”.
  • This website has printable pages to make a “Where I Live” booklet.
  • This website is an interactive map about the underground railroad. It has 3 different activities such as finding the shortest route for a person escaping from slavery in Georgia.

Book: The Patchwork Path
Author: Bettye Stroud
Illustrator: Erin Susanne Bennett
Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-3

Teaching Earth Science With Children’s Literature: Four Seasons Make A Year


Four Seasons Make A Year  written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Megan Halsey is narrated by a  young girl who lives on a farm.  The story takes the reader from the first day of spring through the first day of winter, while explaining what effect each season has on the farm.  In the spring, the fields need to be plowed, flowers begin to bloom, and the young girl plants a sunflower seed.  In the early summer, green sprouts appear on the field, bees and butterflies are back, and the young girl’s sunflower seed begins to grow.  As the summer goes on the young girl and her family pick corn, squash and summer flowers to sell at their stand and her sunflower has grown taller then she is.  When fall arrives the young girl goes back to school.  The pumpkins change from green to orange and her sunflower is heavy with seeds.  The leaves begin to change, the bees and the butterflies are gone and as fall continues, the girl and her family now sell pumpkins at their stand.  As it begins to look and feel like winter, the young girl notices squirrels gathering nuts and acorns and only evergreen trees still have their branches.  Finally winter has come and there is a big snow storm one night.  When the young girl awakes she finds out school has been canceled for the day!  She goes out to make snowman, ice skate on the pond, and feeds sunflower seeds that she saved to the cardinals and decides next year she will plant 2 sunflower seeds.

Curriculum Connections
Four Seasons Make A Year is a great book to use to discuss the seasons and the changes they bring.  This book could be used to discuss the changes in weather from season to season (VA SoL K.9a, 1.7a&b).  The appearance and migration of the birds, and also the growth and changes of sunflower plant would be a good example of the effects the seasons have on living things(Va SoL 2.7a).

Additional Resources

  • This lesson plan can be used along with the book.
  • This website has themed activities for the fall season.
  • This lesson plan is about the effects the seasons have on plants and animals.

Book: Four Seasons Make A Year
Author: Anne Rockwell
Illustrator: Megan Halsey
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-2

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: The Great Kapok Tree


The Great Kapok Tree written by Lynne Cherry takes place in the Amazon Rain Forest where two men arrive at the great Kapok tree with the determination to chop it down.  The older man points out this particular Kapok tree and walks out of the Rain Forest leaving the younger man to finish the job.  After a few swings of the ax, the man becomes tired and sits at the bottom of the tree and falls asleep.  While he sleeps, all different types of animals come down from the tree and whisper to the young man not to destroy their home.  A giant boa constrictor whispers that many generations of his family have lived in this tree.  A group of tree frogs make their way down to tell the man that chopping down this tree will leave many homeless.  Tree porcupines find the man to tell him that animals and humans need oxygen to live, and that trees produce oxygen.  When the man finally awakes he is surrounded by all the animals that came to visit him during his nap.  He gets up slowly taking in all the beautiful sights and smells, and begins to raise his ax to resume chopping.  But instead, he drops the ax and walks out of the rain forest.

Curriculum Connections
The Great Kapok Tree is a great book that would show students that animals need food, water, shelter, air, and space to survive (SOL Va K.7a).  With all the images of the animals, it would be a great visual aid to demonstrate that animals and their offspring are similar but not identical in appearance ( SOL Va K.7d). The Great Kapok Tree could also be used as an introduction to classifying animals and incests(SOL Va 1.5a,b,c).  The rain forest is also an excellent example of a habitat and what an animal needs from the habitat they live in(SOL Va 2.5a,b,&c).
Additional Resources

  • Here is a lesson plan that can be used with the book.
  • This website uses simple math games to learn about the rain forest.
  • This website has a webquest about the rain forest.
  • The last two pages of the book have a world map highlighting the locations of rain forests around the world, and is bordered by pictures of animals in the book and also in the rain forest.

Book: The Great Kapok Tree
Author: Lynne Cherry
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date:
Pages: 40 pages
Grade Range: K-2

Teaching Physical Science With Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus Plays Ball


The Magic School Bus Plays Ball ( A Books About Forces), written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Art Ruiz and Bruce Degan, uses a field trip to explain forces.

While the rest of the students are busy playing a baseball game, Dorothy Ann is reading a book about physics.  While she tries to make the others see how physics relates to the game of baseball Ralphie decides to use her book as home plate instead of reading it.  Then Ms. Frizzle shows up to take the students on a impromptu field trip to a baseball game inside Dorothy Ann’s physics book! Unlike their previous game this is a world without friction. Without friction, playing baseball is nearly impossible. Like when Wanda tries to pitch the ball, the force she uses to push the ball forward pushes her back to 2nd base.  Finally, Ms. Frizzle calls the game and everyone gets back to the bus.  However, while they were playing the book closed on top of the school bus and now they’re trapped.  To get them out, Dorothy Ann comes up with the idea of using the letter in the book to create a wedge to hold the pages up and allows them to leave the physics book and come back to the real world.

Curriculum Connections
The Magic School Bus Plays Ball is a great book to use as either an introduction to the idea of force or as part of an ongoing lesson.  The baseball game in the world without friction describes how one’s movements are impacted by the force of friction (Va SOL 4.2a,b,&c)  The building of the wedge at the end of the book is a good example of a type of simple machine (VA SoL 3.2b).

Additional Resources

  • This website is a great interactive tool that lets students experiments with forces in action.
  • A lesson plan for 4th grade that experiments with mass and friction and their efforts on speed and motion.
  • This website has different activities and worksheets to use.  I recommend the Push or Pull pdf and the Pushes and Pulls Vocabulary Flashcards.
  • The last page of the book also gives 2 different experiments to be used in the classroom or at home.

Book: The Magic School Bus Plays Ball ( A Books About Forces)
Author: Joanna Cole
Illustrators: Art Ruiz and Bruce Degan
Scholastic Paperbacks
Publication Date: 1998
Pages:  32 pages
Grade Range: 2-4

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist?


Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist? written by Herman Parish and illustrated by Lynn Sweat, tells the tale of the day that Amelia Bedelia volunteers to be a judge at the science fair after her boss, Mr. Rodgers, mistakenly calls her a rocket scientist.

While at the science fair Amelia Bedelia meets Dr. Dinglebatt, a professor, who will also be judging the science fair.  While looking at the student’s projects Amelia Bedelia comes across a leaf blower that is used to demonstrate how a flying saucer flies, however the student’s model flying saucer is stuck in the basketball hoop so Amelia Bedelia uses her bonnet instead.  Along the way Amelia Bedelia comes across a student, Jason, who forgot baking soda and vinegar for his model volcano, but lucky for him, Amelia Bedelia has some baking soda in her purse. While Jason goes to find some vinegar Amelia Bedelia decides to help him by adding the entire box of baking soda to the volcano.  When the vinegar is added, the volcano makes a huge mess all over the room. To clean it up, Amelia Bedelia uses the leaf blower but ends up blowing the toupee right off Mr. Dinglebatt’s head!  Mr Dinglebatt gets very upset with her and leaves the room. But he returns with a new invention inspired by Amelia Bedelia blowing his toupee off his head.  All is forgiven and every eats the delicious pie Amelia Bedelia baked earlier that morning.

Curriculum Connections
Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist? is suitable for 2nd though 4th graders and compliments Virigina SOL 2.1.  It is written in the third person view.  This book could easily be used to show how accidents and mistakes can lead to scientific discoveries.

Additional Resources

  • This pdf file has 7 pages of activities like comprehension, word searches and crossword puzzles, that can be used directly with the book.
  • This website offers three observation activities that could be used as an introduction to observation.
  • This is a worksheet to be used during in class experiments.

Book: Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist?
Author: Herman Parish
Illustrator: Lynn Sweat
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 64 pages
Grade Range: 2-4