Author Archive for Jenna P

Resources for Teaching Fifth Grade Geometry

In fifth grade, students begin to identify, compare, and analyze the properties of geometric shapes. The Virginia Standards of Learning include topics such as angle classification, size comparison, transformations, lines of symmetry, two and three-dimensional figures, and the overall relationship between shapes. The text and web resources listed below will help you keep the students interested and engaged while also supporting instruction.

Text Resources


Grandfather Tang’s Story
written by Ann Tompert۬ and illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

Grandfather Tang tells a story about fox fairies from Chinese folklore who use geometry and magical powers to alternately change into predator and prey in a shape changing game. As he tells the story, he makes the animal shapes with tangrams. The illustrations have an oriental brushwork appearance and include both the animal and the tangram representation of the animal so students can create the changes with their tangram sets.


The Warlord’s Puzzle
written by Virginia Pilegard۬ and illustrated by Nicolas Debon

In ancient China, an artist hopes to avoid punishment for breaking a beautiful blue tile into seven piece by suggesting that the Chinese warlord hold a contest to see if anyone can put it back together. A poor fisherman’s boy quietly plays with the geometric shapes and solves the tangram puzzle. A tangram template is provided making this useful in introducing geometric concepts.


A Cloak for the Dreamer
written by Aileen Friedman ۬and illustrated by Kim Howard

A tailor asks his three sons to make colorful cloaks from small pieces of cloth sewn together. The older sons use square and triangular pieces and make fine cloaks. But the youngest son chooses circles and his cloak will not keep out the wind. The father uses geometry to solve the problem cleverly. This story fits with a unit on tessellations or a unit on shapes within shapes.


Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland: A Math Adventure
written by Cindy Neuschwander and illustrated by Wayne Geehan

Radius, the son of Sir Cumference and Lady Di of Ameter, ventures on a heroic quest to earn his knighthood. He first proves his ability to make a “knightly right angle,” as Sir D’Grees has trained him, and then doubles the right angle to make a straight angle. So he is sent off with the family medallion, in the shape of a circle (cardboard medallion included), to rescue the missing King Lell. Falling bridges, a cryptic riddle, a crocodile-infested moat, and a winding labyrinth all must be mastered before finding the king and his twin dragons, known as “Pair of Lells.” Sir Cumference has something to offer a wide range of readers. Some will be too young to understand the math and the word puns but will enjoy the story of a knight rescuing a king. Others will puzzle over the math and how to use the protractor (medallion) to solve the riddle. This group will be helped by the somewhat primitively painted pictures, which give clues to these angled decisions and enhance the story of a brave knight on his quest.

What's Your Angle Pythagoras?
written by Julie Ellis and illustrated by Phyllis Hornung

Pythagoras always seems to be in trouble, but it’s only because he’s so curious. You never know where you’ll find him. He could be up in a tree with the birds, spying on workmen, or messing about with maps. He is deep into his latest adventure, and trouble, when he discovers a pattern that gets him on everyone’s good side.

Web Resources

  • PBS Kids has educational online games for all of their television programs including Sagwa the Siamese Cat! Sagwa Tangrams will be fun for the students and help them practice their shape relationships! There are five easy as well as five hard puzzles to choose from!
  • Cyber Chase is another great PBS Kids program dedicated to making learning fun. Their website is full of great online games and the math topics that correlate with each. In Point Out the View, each member of the Cybersquad is looking at a bunch of blocks from a different place in the room. The player must show what each person sees from their point of view. Because what you see depends on your point of view, different people looking at the same objects can see them differently!
  • MATHO is similar to an interactive BINGO game. Your gameboard is a MATHO board with shapes and angles on it. A problem appears below the gameboard in yellow. Solve the problem and look for the answer on your gameboard. If you find your answer, select it and hit Enter. If you do not find your answer, click on Enter and you will be given a new problem. When you answer correctly, a marker will color your square. You have Matho when you get 5 colored squares in a row. The game is timed, so choose quickly!
  • Banana Hunt!  Given a specific angle and a full circle, drag the monkey to that exact angle. If you select the correct angle given, then the monkey will find all of his bananas! For every degree off, the monkey will lose a banana. How many bananas can you find in ten searches? Angles are not labeled so this is practice for those who know their angles well!
  • Protractor Measures!  Slide and rotate the protractor by degrees to match it to the given angle. Use the protractor to measure the angle and enter the degree measurement to move on to the next problem. This is a very realistic activity.

Additional Resources

  • This site offers online timed quizzes for every topic in fifth grade geometry (check out the other grades and subjects too!). These quizzes are relevant, kid-friendly, and record a score for teacher use once completed. If a wrong answer is chosen, an explanation of the correct answer is provided! The students may also stop at any time by choosing “submit and finish.”
  • This site offers amazing interactive lessons! Working With Angles(16) and Slides and Flips(17) are most relevant to fifth grade geometry. The lessons start off with real-world examples and continue with narrated visual diagrams. Although it moves at a brisk pace, the student has the option of pausing or going back. During the lesson students are engaged with labeling, sorting, and shifting instruments. Students will have a lot of fun using a virtual protractor to measure angles. If one of my students were to miss a vital lesson, this would be my go-to place to give him/her a good foundation of knowledge.
  • Teach the students a few songs to help them remember their geometry terms! For only $2.99 you can order the CD of all 14 songs!

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Saguaro Moon


        “Planet Scouts is a club for kids who like to study nature.
We always keep a nature journal. I started this new
journal to record all the desert life I discover.
I bring it with me whenever I go exploring!”

Explore Arizona’s Sonoran Desert through Megan’s journal in Saguaro Moon: A Desert Journal, written and illustrated by Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini. While being quite kid-friendly, Saguaro Moon also offers a ton of great facts about many desert animals and plants. This book is full of lots of scientific names, measurements, and beautiful watercolor paintings.

Curriculum Connections
This book would be a valuable tool in introducing students to scientific journals. In Megan’s journal, she classifies the organisms she comes across in the desert initially by common name, scientific name, and size/length using two different units of measurement (5.1 b,c) Sometimes Megan makes Fact Cards in her journal about a plant or animals’ habitat, diet, range, measurements, and tips on how to interact with them (5.1d, 6.1c)  She will point out the slight differences between closely-related species (6.1a), and she even clears up some common misconceptions. What a great way to introduce students to scientific observation and classification!

Additional Resources

  • Planet Scouts! You can become a Planet Scout too! Learn how to keep your own journal and read about the adventures of other Planet Scouts. The Mission of the Planet Scouts is to bring literature, art and environmental science together in a way that encourages direct, meaningful interaction between people and their natural surroundings.
  • Saguaro Cactus Seek and Find! Discover cool facts while comparing the plants, animals, and people of the Sonoran Desert with those of the Central Australian Deserts.
  • Explore the Desert ThinkQuest! Learn about the geography of deserts, animal adaptations, characteristics of desert plants, and the future of the deserts! You can even take a quiz to test your knowledge.

General Information

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Promise Quilt


The Promise Quilt, written by Candice F. Ransom and illustrated by Ellen Beier, takes place in the rural South during the Civil War. When Addie loses her father to the war, her mother stuggles to feed the family and Addie’s dreams of attending school have to be put on hold. When the war was over, the school had no money to purchase books for the children and was going to close down. Addie’s mother has a brilliant idea to earn money: she stitches a quilt to auction off for money in town. There is one problem: there is not enough material to finish the quilt. Addie makes the difficult decision to  surrender her father’s red shirt that she loves to the quilt. Although she lost her beloved memory of her father, she was able to afford to get books for the school.

Curriculum Connections
This story is a good introduction to the idea of making decisions and the opportunity cost associated with choice. There is also an example of using money in smart ways. Addie finds one of her father’s silver coins and instead of spending it carelessly or saving it as a memory she chooses to buy seed that will feed her family. Addie learns the lesson that she can’t have everything she wants.
SOLs: K.7,  1.8,  2.9

Additional Resources
Incorporate this story in a math lesson!

Book: The Promise Quilt
Candice F. Ransom
Ellen Beier
Walker & Company
Publication Date:
Grade Range:

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: The Hunterman and the Crocodile


 Introduction and Summary

There’s a lesson to be learned from the folktale, The Hunterman and the Crocodile, written and illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite. This tale involves the relationships between man and nature, and the importance that respect plays in these relationships. When the crocodiles ask Donso, a West African hunterman, to take them to the river, Donso is skeptical because of the way the crocodiles have acted towards man in the past but he agrees to take them anyway. Once in the river, the crocodiles turn on Donso and ask why they shouldn’t break their promise and eat him? Donso calls to many animals for help, but they all refuse saying “Man does not respect others” and “Man does not deserve my help.” Finally a rabbit decides to help him, but when he finds himself in another predicament he must call on the crocodiles for help and make a compromise. By the end of the tale, the hunterman learns “the importance of living in harmony with nature and the necessity of placing Man among -not above- all living things.”

The Author’s Note at the back of the book includes an excerpt about the author’s native town and life in West Africa. He recalls how the traditional stories she was told as a child have influenced his life.  Baba Wague also adds some fun translations from his native language, Bambara. For example, “Wague” means “Man of Trust” and
“Awnithe” means “Hello”!

Curriculum Connections

This book would be a fun read for second and third graders learning about the storytelling in West African Mali civilizations. This tale also incorporates a simple Civics topic such as respect for society and your neighbors.


History   3.2   The student will study the early West African empire of Mali by describing its oral tradition (storytelling)

   2.10  The student will explain the responsibilities of a good citizen, with emphasis on (e) practicing honesty and trustworthiness

Additional Resources

Learn about West African instruments here, and if you’re feeling crafty, try making your own intruments!

If the students find ancient african civilizations really interesting, then try including the Kingdom of Kush, the Iron Capital of the Ancient African World!

General Information

Book: The Hunterman and the Crocodile
Author: Baba Wague Diakite
Illustrator: Baba Wague Diakite
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 26
Grade Range: 2nd-3rd Grade
ISBN: 0-590-89828-0

Teaching Civics with Children’ Literature: Grody’s Not So Golden Rules


Introduction and Summary

Grody’s Not So Golden Rules, written and illustrated by Nicole Rubel, is a funny story of a boy/dog who imagines what life would be like if he followed his own set of rules. As Grody lists his rules, the reader is clearly shown the consequences of such bad behavior. The creative, hilarious illustrations make this a fun read for kids, while cleverly promoting core values. By the end of the story, the children will see the reasons behind the rules we have at school and at home.Grades K-2 would really enjoy this book!

Curriculum Connections!  

           SOLs K.8 and 1.10 are covered by this book.

Respect, responsibility, and rules are the three “R”s that Grody reveals the importance of throughout the story. This is necessary knowledge for good behavior in and out of the classroom.

Additional Resources!

  • Activity: Have the students make a table where they can write each of Grody’s rules, the consequences of that rule, and what the students believe to be the right thing to do!

General Information!

Book: Grody’s Not So Golden Rules
Author/Illustrator: Nicole Rubel
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 30
Grade Range: K-2
ISBN: 0-15-216241-0

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The Armadillo From Amarillo

“An armadillo from Texas wondered,
“Where in the world am I?
What’s out beyond these tangled woods?
What’s out beyond the sky?”

Introduction and Summary
The Armadillo From Amarillo
 by Lynne Cherry is a beautifully illustrated tale of an armadillo’s journey around Texas hoping to discover more about where he is through a world perspective.

Sasparillo the armadillo lives in Texas, longing to discover his place in the world and the surrounding environments he has never seen. The curious armadillo witnesses some of the cities, historic sites, wildlife, and geographic features of Texas on his travels.  His eagle friend teaches him the meaning of terms such as city, state, country, continent, earth, and planet. There are also a multitude of beautiful oil pastel/watercolor scenes of maps, the environment, and Earth!

Curriculum Connections
This story is a great introduction to maps with its pictures of many perspectives and variations (physical/climate/political). The students will be able to recognize basic map symbols and reference land, water, cities, and roads. The student will also describe how location, climate, and physical surroundings affect the way people live, including their food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and recreation. (SOL 1.4, 1.5, 1.6)

Fun Activity:  Have the students construct a simple map of a familiar area such as the school yard, using basic map symbols and a map legend!

Additional Resources

** The back of the book contains an excerpt all about armadillos! For those of us who haven’t grown up around the Texas area, this is a great resource to provide students with information about this unique animal!

Book: The Armadillo From Amarillo
Author/Illustrator: Lynne Cherry
Publisher: Harcourt Brace & Company
Publication Date:
Grade Range:
1st through 3rd