Author Archive for John H

Teaching Fractions in 3rd Grade

The topic chosen is Fractions, built with a 3rd grade class in mind.

Text Annotations

Full House: An Invitation to Fractions

Dayle Ann Dodds (Author), Abby Carter (Illustrator)

A fun introduction to fractions, good for reading to younger students, with lots of repetition so students can join in with the text.  A story about a woman running an inn, which teaches about fractions in how she divides the rooms and desert for her guests.

Polar bear math : learning about fractions from Klondike and Snow by Ann Whitehead and Cindy Bickel.

Polar Bear Math follows two cubs, Klondike and Snow, who grow up in the Denver Zoo, all the while using their lives as material for lessons about fractions. For every page of story about the bear cubs there is a page containing a math lesson.  The lessons, vary from simple fraction, numerators and denominators, and comparing births. A lot of the lessons deal with the polar bear's growth rates, and mixing their formula with milk.

Apple fractions by Jerry Pallotta ; illustrated by Rob Bolster.

Apple fractions is a book that takes the time honored tradition of teaching with fractions and uses something as healthy as an apple instead of m&ms or jolly ranchers.  In the book, a group of elves show the readers how to divide apples into halves, thirds, fourths, etc.  At the same time, it teaches about different types of apples (golden delicious, granny smith, and so on).  The book is better served as an introduction to fractions than anything, as it will be too simple for higher level fraction users.

Funny & fabulous fraction stories : 30 reproducible math tales and problems to reinforce important fraction skills by Dan Greenberg.

Funny and Fabulous Fraction Stories is a great book for, as the subtitle says, reinforcing fraction skills.  Each page has a humorous introduction followed by either word problems or simple equations. Much of the book is a built as a workbook, but the contents can be used for students working with fractions for the first time as well as older students who need review and enrichment.

Hershey’s milk chocolate bar fractions book by Jerry Pallotta ; illustrated by Robert Bolster.

A good book for not only introducing fractions, but also for dealing with addition and subtraction.  It is good for beginners, but can also be easily adapted for use with older children by including mixed numbers, writing fractions in
simplest form, and even decimals/percentages.  And in case chocolate bars are too much candy or are melting, the book includes a cutout for manipulation.


Concentration – A game of memory, for one or two players, where you have to match different depictions of numbers.  There are different levels to choose from, one of which is fractions.  Match numbers, shapes, fractions, or multiplication facts to equivalent representations. The game can be used to practice facts by using the clear pane mode, or for an added challenge, play the game with the windows closed.

Melvin's Make a Match – A game of matching visual fraction models with their numerical counterparts.  The player chooses two potion bottles and Melvin the wizard lets them know if they got it right or not.   There is a hint button that guides students how to play, instead of giving them clues about the right answer.

Pizza Party – A 10 question, single player online multiple choice game that uses the classic "pizza pie" model for visualizing fractions.  Even though it is likely that this model is not the best for representing fractions, it is still ubiquitously used in the class as well as SOL tests.  So this game is a good review for visualizing fractions that's Soccer Shootout – A two player, competitive fraction quiz based on taking "shots on goal" by solving fraction addition and subtraction problems with like and unlike numerators and denominators.  The answers given need to be reduced to the simplest possible fraction or the answer is marked as incorrect.

Additional Resources

Fraction Webquest –  Created by Kim Daniels, Julia Johnson, and Caitlin Haney

A webquest that invites students to act as mayor of a small town, helping the citizens solve their problems using fractions.  There are 4 specific tasks in the webquest, which would be best done over two or three days.

Fractions – SMARTboard Activity by N. Dickson.  A 12 page SMART Notebook Lesson that contains various types of fraction practice for beginning learners of fractions (grades 1-3).   Requires SMARTboard and corresponding software.

Equivalent Fractions Video – a short (3:41) video lesson discussing equivalent fractions.  Requires Audio.  A great resource for review, or makeup (for instance if a student is absent when equivalent fractions are introduced).

Fractions PowerPoint – by Lucy Rodriguez – A 13 page powerpoint lesson that explains fractions using various models (including fraction strips, number lines, etc.  Also contains links to different activities.  Note – There are, among other things, two fraction powerpoints on the link below.  Choose the one by Rodriguez.

Fractions Basics Proper Improper Mixed Math Learning Upgrade

A cute, short (1:35) video that goes with an equally cute reggae song about fractions, which teaches about numerators, denominators, and the difference between Proper and Improper Fractions.

Teaching Earth Science with Children's Literature: Our Patchwork Planet

our patchwork planet

“No one knows for sure what the future will hold, but we do know that tectonic plates will continue to influence us, along with every other creature.”

Our Patchwork Planet, by Helen Roney Sattler, is an oversize book that reads as a 5th grade text-book  on tectonic plates and the Earth’s layers. The first few chapters feature many different world maps that illustrate the plates and their movement,  as well as diagrams of the Earth’s layers. The authors follow these with chapters on continent formation, earthquakes and volcanoes, and ends with a look into the future of Earth’s formation.

Curriculum Connections
The book would be a good resource for covering concepts and vocabulary dealing with tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes, and the basic structure of the earth’s interior (5.7c,d).  The vocabulary the students need to know (lithosphere, slip fault) is presented in the text and visually, while the non-buzzword word choice is not too challenging, making the book something a teacher could read aloud to 4th graders.

Additional Resources

  •  This BBC video on YouTube is called How Volcanoes Form but is actually a great 4 1/2 minute video on tectonic plates as well
  • This National Geographic video on YouTube, Earthquake Destruction, begins with some harrowing footage of earthquakes.  From there it explains earthquakes and their connection to tectonic plates.
  • Brainpop has a page on Plate Tectonics that is funny and informative.  You do need an account to view it however.

Book Details
Book: Our Patchwork Planet
Author: Helen Roney Sattler
Illustration: Giulio Maestro
Publication: National Geographic
Pages: 48
Grade Range: 4-6
ISBN: 978-0688093129

Teaching Life Science with Children's Literature: The Bug Scientists

bug scientists

The Bug Scientists
, written by Donna M. Jackson, takes a different approach by teaching students about insects but also about the men and women who study them in different ways. The book introduces us to insects and their attributes (body parts, survival methods), as well as a few different ways humans study bugs or use them in their study of other things.  For instance, we meet a forensic entomologist who uses maggots to solve murders.  Your 3rd – 6th graders will love some of the “gross” pictures and details, as well as the section on “amazing insects” at the end.

Curriculum Connections
The Bug Scientists
is a great way to teach children about insects in a way that acknowledges their initial reactions but tells a compelling story that bugs are wonderful and interesting creatures . The photos are big enough for classes to see during oral reading, and detailed enough for students to study on their own. This book is for grades 3-6, and it can be a good resource for learning about living systems, the insect class, and the invertebrate phylum.

Additional Resources

  • Students can learn more about classifying insects at, a bug bio site.
  • The students can learn more about the growth of butterflies here, which gives directions for insect science project experiment to determine how temperature affects the growth of butterflies.
  • This site has some good Q&A you can use with students when teaching about insects

Book: Bug Scientists
Donna M. Jackson
Publication Date:
48 pages
Grade Range:

Teaching Physical Science with Children's Literature: Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids

isaac newtown

Kerrie Logan Hollihan has written a great book called Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids that introduces students to the brilliant life and works of the famous mind of Isaac Newton.  Many people know of Newton through the anecdote about the apple, or from his laws of motion, but as this book shows there was so much more to the man.  Starting with his parents, Hollihan lets us meet the real Isaac Newton, with all his flaws, and goes in depth about his discoveries in physics, astronomy, optics, and mathematics.  Best of all, this book matches the information with 21 activities that students can perform, all of which Newton did himself.

Curriculum Connections
While the book’s notes recommend it for ages 9-12, after reading it I would say that 11-14 is more appropriate. It would be a perfect tie in for investigating and understanding scientific principles and technological applications of work, force, and motion (PS.10).  It is also a great biographical text for students to understand one of the greatest thinkers in history.

Additional Resources

General Information

Book: Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities
Author: Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Illustrator: Laura D’Argo
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 131
Grade Range: 5-9
ISBN: 978-1556527784

Teaching Process Skills with Children's Literature: Hidden Worlds

Hidden Worlds

Introduction and Summary
Hidden Worlds: Looking Through a Scientist’s Microscope
,written by Stephen Kramer with photographs by Dennis Kunkel, is not only a book about the wonders of the microscopic world, but about the life of a scientist as well.  The book has stunning photographs of microscopic views of all sorts of things, and with them are accounts of how Dennis uses microscopes to get a closer look at the world around him.  It also tells a story of how he became a scientist, and gives information on how students can follow in his path

Curriculum Connections

This book is a perfect way to teach kids about living systems, matter, and cell structures.  The photography gives views of things that would be hard to come by in the classroom.  There is quite a lot of text, so I would suggest the book for selected out-loud readings or for individual students to read on their own.

Additional Resources

  • The Virtual Cell Tour is a quick and interesting tool for more advanced study of cell structure.
  • Students can use The Virtual Electron Microscope to look at more microscopic images, and quiz themselves for fun on what they are looking at
  • There is also a flash quiz game called Microscope Mania for students to test their knowledge of the microscope.

Book: Hidden Worlds: Looking Through a Scientist’s Microscope
Author: Stephen Kramer
Photographer: Dennis Kunkel
Publisher: Sandpiper
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 57
Grade Range- 3-6
ISBN: 978-0618354054

Teaching Economics with Children's Literature: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

Henry Hikes Cover

Introduction and Summary
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
written by D.B. Johnson, is a short story about two friends trying to get to Fitchburg.  Henry (modeled after Henry David Thoreau) decides to walk while his friend works odd jobs to earn money for a train ticket.  The two have very different days based on that decision, but nonetheless they meet in Fitchburg by the end of the story.

Curriculum Connections
This book can teach children about how people can work to earn money in order to purchase goods and services.  The theme of the story is that it is often worth slowing down and enjoying nature, and that money cannot buy everything.  Still, the half of the story that focuses on Henry’s friend earning money is a good way to connect to learning about earning and saving money (VA SOL 1.9).

Additional Sources:

Book: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
Author:  D.B. Johnson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-2
ISBN: 978-0395968673

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children's Literature: Roman Town

Roman Town

"This book is about a Roman town.  It is not an actual town, instead it is composed of the many elements typical of Roman towns throughout the empire at the beginning of the 1st century AD.  Look around the town, and find out what it was like to be a tourist in Roman times."

Roman Town is a detailed and informative book written by Hazel Mary Martell.  It takes the reader through a tour of a Roman town, to places such as the ampitheater, the slums, the temple, and the baths to name a few.  In each place, the author makes comparisons and contrasts to modern life that can be found.  All this detail is matched with rich, elaborate illustrations that give a the reader an idea of what a typical Roman town would have looked like.

Curriculum Connections

I would recommend this book for grades 3-6.  There is a lot of detail and information within, so it is a book which the teacher can read to the students, or more advanced readers can read on their own.

This book can be used to address VA History SOL 3.1 – The student will explain how the contributions of ancient Greece and Rome have influenced the present world in terms of architecture, government (direct and representative democracy), and sports.

Additional Resources has a great video about The Fall of the Roman Empire.

This site has some great info about The Roman Colosseum.

PBS has a good site called The Roman Empire: In the First Century, which has a lot of information that would supplement this book quite nicely.

General Information

  • Book: Roman Town
  • Author:  Hazel Mary Martell
  • Illustrator: Mark Bergin
  • Publisher: Franklin Watts
  • Publication Date:  1998
  • Pages: 48
  • Grade Range: 3-6
  • ISBN: 0531153452

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Madam President

  Madam President Cover

"A President has to lead by example, even if it means cleaning her own room."

Madam President is a fun and clever book written by Lane Smith.  It follows a girl as she explains some of the duties of the president, but through the wonderfully modern illustrations the girl takes us through what those duties mean to a young lady at school and at home.  She vetoes tuna casserole in the lunchroom, and her goldfish is Secretary of Underwater Exploration.  Get your singing voice ready, as she also takes the school band through her own version of “Hail to the Chief”.  Don’t forget to turn all the pages, or you’ll miss the Secret Service cat’s last word.

Curriculum Connections

I would recommend this book for grades 1-4.  It is fun and not only teaches children about what a President’s job is, but it also subtly lets kids know that a girl can grow up to be anything she wants, including President of the United States.

This book is perfect for addressing the roles and powers of the executive branch of government, Virginia Civics and Government SOL CE.7b: The student will demonstrate knowledge of how public policy is made at the local, state, and national levels of government by describing the roles and powers of the executive branch.

Additional Resources

Here is a great game that kids can play on their own or in groups of two or three called If You Were President.  I would recommend this game for grades 3 and up.  Balancing the budget on the third slide is a little tricky, and it asks you to explain why different aspects (Military, Health Care, Education, etc) are important to you, and it ends by creating a newspaper article about President (your name here).

For the lower grades, here is a page of President Coloring Pictures.  They suggest it for President’s Day, but I say you can use it whenever you like.

And here are slide shows of Presidents and Presidential Pets.

General Information

  • Book: Madam President
  • Author:  Lane Smith
  • Illustrator: Lane Smith
  • Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
  • Publication Date:  2008
  • Pages: 40
  • Grade Range:  1-4
  • ISBN: 1423108469

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Maps and Mapping

Maps and Mapping

"I can’t imagine life without maps.
How would we find our way around the world?”

Introduction and Summary
Maps and Mapping, by Jinny Johnson, is an inside look at how we make and use different kinds of maps.  The book follows a fictional cartographer named Suki West, who wants to share her love of maps and globe with the readers.

The book takes us through the history of maps, why we need maps today, and teaches us how to use different types of maps.  Readers learn about the first maps, mapping the world, the difference between flat maps and globes, the difference between political, physical, and informational maps, mapping mountains, oceans, and even space!  Spread throughout the book are flaps and fold-outs that are very information and the kids will absolutely love.  (Careful here, some of the flaps are a little tricky, so it might be smart to show the kids how to fold and unfold them first).

Curriculum Connections
This book is a good way for students to learn about reading and using maps.  The students will develop map skills and learn to recognize basic map symbols, including references to land, water, cities, and roads. (VA SOL 1.4)

Followup Activity:  Have the students build both a physical and political map of their street, or the school playground, with cardinal directions included.  You can also show the children how to determine cardinal directions using the Sun and/or a compass.

Additional Resources

  • Kids can play this USA Map game.  They will place each state in its correct location as quickly as possible.
  • The students can also use Google Maps to help them locate places and use as a reference for building their own maps.  Make sure to show them how to go back and forth between political and physical maps.
  • This National Geographic for Kids game is a fun way to use and build their Geography knowledge.

Book: Maps and Mapping
Author/Illustrator: Jinny Johnson
Publisher: Kingfisher
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: 1st through 3rd