Author Archive for Kari R.

Teaching First Grade Math: Shapes

These the following resources can be used to teach first grade math, specifically geometry and shapes.  The resources could be used to teach children about constructing and modeling plane shapes found in the environment (circles, squares, triangles and rectangles) VA SOL 1.13  This blog will present five children’s shape book annotations, five kids website annotations and three additional resources for teachers to use when teaching about shapes in first grade.

Text Annotations


Ship Shapes written by, Stella Blackstone and illustrated by Siobhan Bell is a wonderful kids book about shapes.  In this adventure children are challenged to explore shapes in the sea and on ships.  The book is creatively illustrated in the style of a patchwork quilt with many shapes cut out of fabric.  I think this book would be a great way to get kids thinking about shapes in their environments.  The illustrations are exciting and fun and the text is written creatively to challenge children about their ideas of shapes.


I Spy Shapes in Art is written by Lucy Micklethwait, the illustrations are reproductions of many famous artists.  The book uses the repeating phrase of, “I spy with my little eye a…rectangle.” and then challenges the reader to find the shape in the famous painting on the next page.  For this example the reader is challenged to find the rectangle in the painting entitled The Snail by Henri Matisse.  The text is simple and would be great for a read aloud and to be put in a center later.  Introducing children to famous artists such as David Hockney, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol and others is a great way for kids to see the link between art and math.  It also gets kids thinking about shapes in a creative way as well.


Square Head by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Todd McKie is a fun simple children’s book about shapes.  “George was a squarehead, a box from cheek to cheek.”  He disliked circles, ovals and spheres.  He had a square room and a square house and George was stuck inside his own squarehead.  In George’s world there were square cats and dogs and birds and he liked it that way.  One night George went to sleep and had a dream that allowed him to experience all kinds of shapes throughout space.  He discovered that the Earth was round and there were other wonderful shapes besides squares.  This book is a funny way to introduce shapes and have a discussion as a read aloud and talk about all the other shapes besides squares that the children have learned about and find in their world.


Triangle for Adaora: An African Book of Shapes written by, Ifeoma Onyefulu.  As two cousins travel through their village in search of a triangle they encounter many other shapes along the way.  Each shape is discussed and the author presents an opportunity to to learn about the shapes and their uses in the village for example the drum (a circle) is used to let people know it’s time to gather for a meeting.  The book presents the images in real color photos and not only does it provide the children with opportunities to learn about shapes in their environment but they also get to learn about cultures and traditions in another part of the world.


Shapes, Shapes, Shapes written and illustrated by, Tana Hoban is a great children’s book about shapes.  Some say this is the best of her many books written for children.  This book is great because it has pictures of real things where children can become more familiar in recognizing shapes in their environment.  Tana Hoban has a fun simple style about her books which makes them useful for a wide range of ability levels and good for class discussions and center activities.

 Web Annotations for Kids

  • Egypt Matching Game – This is a great game by Scholastic where kids can play an interactive matching game.  It is related to Egyptian artifacts and different shapes.  It’s a good activity for students to recognize items in their environment as shapes.
  • Super Shape Building – This game allows students to build things interactively with shapes online.  Students are challenged to go on a shape scavenger hunt through Umi City with Geo and then help him find all of the super shapes to build their own umirrific vehicle.
  • I Love Shapes – This game from PBS kids features Curious George and his love for shapes.  Another great interactive site that allows kids to familiarize themselves with various shapes while playing with Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat.
  • The Kids Page – From Radio Disney, this matching game could be used to differentiate with lower ability level students or to reinforce shape recognition.
  • Shapes Cave – Here’s another website with interactive games.  Kids have to follow the directions and and click on the correct shapes.

Additional Resources

  • Math Active – This is a great site for teachers with tons of lesson plans and interactive games about shapes and other math content areas that could be extremely helpful in planning lessons and having games for students to play independently or at centers.
  • Scholastic for Teachers – This site is great for teachers to use for teaching math in grades K-2.  It includes games, links to assessment resources, learning activities and national standards correlations.
  • Illuminations – Here is another website that links to a student activity but is an excellent resource for teachers to use in finding activities and games, lessons and other web links.

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top


 Introduction and Summary 

Written by, Joanna Cole and illustrated by, Bruce Degen, The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top is a great book of adventure to be enjoyed by children of many ages.  Ms. Frizzle is at it again.  This time the class is trying to construct an enormous globe but they find that some of the pieces are missing.  Apparently there is an island so new that it hasn’t been discovered yet so it wasn’t in the globe kit.  The class decides to search for the mystery island so they can name it.  You can probably guess what happens next.  That’s right, the magic school bus stretches and spins and pulls and takes the class to the bottom of the ocean to discover where and how this new island is forming.  It turns out to be a volcano erupting and the class arrives just in time to learn how the process can eventually form a new piece of land.  The students name the island and write  a book about their experiences.

Curriculum Connections

This very recognizeable text is a nice way to introduce an adventurous spirit in the classroom.  Its great companion literature when introcucing  Earth sciencet topics with students.  It could be used when teaching about volcanoes or how the Earth is constantly changing due to natural events.  The book serves as a nice, playful introduction to some potentially complicated topics. (5.6, 5.7)

Additional Resources

This Scholastic interactive site is could be a nice place to direct students for independent center time activities on the internet.

Here’s a place to look for lesson plan ideas related to The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top and volcanos.

This National Geographic site has great pictures of real volcanoes so students can see what the eruption looks like in action.

General Information

BookThe Magic School Bus Blows Its Top

AuthorJoanna Cole

IllustratorBruce Degen

Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.

Publication Date:  1996

Pages:  32

Grade Range:  2-5

ISBN:  0590508350


Teaching Life Science With Children’s Literature: The Tiny Seed


Introduction and Summary

Eric Carle’s , The Tiny Seed,  is a fabulous book about the life cycle of a tiny little seed as it finds it’s way through the world high in the air, far away, across the ocean, past hungry birds, endures the winter and spring and ends up growing into a beautiful giant flower that the whole community admires.  Eric Carle’s way with words and amazing collage illustrations turn the life cycle of a seed into a very exciting story and at the end of the giant flower’s life we see the process start all over again.        

Curriculum Connections

This book is a great resource to use when instructing elementary school students on life science.  The book could be used to build background knowledge or as a refresher on what students may have already learned.  It’s a useful resource when instructing on the basic needs and life processes of plants.  This book provides many ideas to get creative with your class when teaching the plant life cycle. (K.7a, 1.4a, 2.4b)

Additional Resources

Eric Carle collage instruction sheet.  This site provides instructions on how to create a collage in the style of Eric Carle.  The students could work in groups as they each create a different scene from the book that depicts the life cycle of a plant.  The project could be used as a class display and serve as a reference for later instruction.

How a seed grows into a plant.  This is a great interactive site that kids could use independently at a technology center in the classroom while learning about the life cycle of a plant

Here’s a good site for teacher ideas of how to incorporate The Tiny Seed into a lesson.  It comes from a Project Learning Tree Workshop in Florida.

 This is a great site provided by Agriculture in the Classroom.  It provides a worksheet directly related to Eric Carle’s book The Tiny Seed, a hands on activity and a list of words to songs about plants and how things grow.

General Information

Book:  The Tiny Seed

Author:  Eric Carle

Illustrator:  Eric Carle

Publisher:  Aladdin Paperbacks

Publication Date:  1987

Pages:  36

Grade Range:  K-4

ISBN: 0689842449

Teaching Physical Science With Children’s Literature: If You Find a Rock


 “If you find a rock, a nice flat,

rounded rock that sits just right in the crook of your finger,

then you have found a skipping rock.” Or, “Maybe you find a soft white rock

a rock that feels dusty in your fingers.  Then you have a chalk

rock, and you use it to make pictures on the pavement.”

Introduction and Summary

If You Find a Rock written by, Peggy Christian and photographed by, Barbara Hirsch Lember is a whimsical children’s book about the hidden elegance and uses of rocks.  This book inspires natural curiosity and discovery and encourages us all to slow down, relax and discover the natural wonders of rocks.  The author describes many different types of rocks that one might find on a nature walk.  They are described by their shape, size, color and other physical characteristics as well as ideas of what the kind of rock you find might be good for.  Children  have never been able to help collecting rocks and this book gives them a way to classify thier collection.  You might find a splashing rock or a skipping rock or a wishing rock or a resting rock, this book celebrates rocks and where they might be found.

Curricular Connections

This would be a great book to use as a read aloud for young students when introducing physical science.  The book describes rocks, where you find them and what you could do with them in many different ways.  It also describes many physical attributes and characteristics of different kinds of rocks.  This book is definitely a good classroom conversation starter.  The book does not use many scientific terms so it’s a good jumping off point when introducing how physical properties of an object can be described.   It leaves room for the teacher to discuss physical properties like color, shape, texture as well as size and weight of objects.  (K.4 a, b, c, d)

Additional Resources

Here are some useful sites that may accompany this book well.

Try this site that has lots of great information on how to classify rocks and where they come from.  This site can be used with older students or as teacher background knowledge.

This is a nice interactive site that can be used with older kids and to provide background knowledge for younger children.

This is a great site to use for a teacher resource.  It provides a compilation list of many, many websites that a teacher may look through to get information on teaching about rocks.

This website provides ideas for lesson plans about rocks.  It includes four days of plans on different topics related to the physical science of rocks.  The ideas include, What are rocks and how are they formed?, My life as a rock., How do rocks cycle on the Earth?, How can rock properties help to identify rocks?  The site also includes resources for teacher background knowledge and links to other books that may be used with the lessons.

There are so many great sites that have to do with rocks and here is another one.  It is complete with another list of books about rocks that would be appropriate for young readers and activities to build curiosity about rocks.

General Information

Book:  If You Find a Rock

Author:  Peggy Christian

Illustrator:  Barbara Hirsch Lember

Publisher:  Voyager Books Harcourt, INC.

Publication Date:  2000

Pages:  32

Grade Range:  K-4

ISBN:  9780152063542

Teaching Process Skills With Children’s Literature: The Science Book of Color


Introduction and Summary

 “Imagine a world without color.  It would be like living in an old movie.

Color makes our world a pleasure to look at.”

The Science Book of Color by Neil Ardley  with photography by Pete Gardner is a great children’s book for introducing the concept of color and science experiments.  This is a short book written in terms easy for kids to understand.  The photographs are intriguing and very relevant to each experiment.  You might not think that there can be too many things to experiment with color but there are for sure and this book proves it.  With experiments about making vegetable dye to simulating a sunset, this book is a great beginner scientist resource.   It contains many science experiments that are very reasonable for a classroom or home project and many of the experiments require minimal adult assistance.   Although most appropriate for upper elementary grades, this book can be used for lower grades as well with more adult assistance.  Another great thing about this book is that in the beginning, the author lists ways to, “be a safe scientist”, which includes rules and expectations for a good and safe experiment.

Curriculum Connections

This book would be a great resource to use for many grades and to have in a class library to inspire interest in experiments.  The Science Book of Color would be especially useful for use with instruction on helping kids to  understand the nature of science and scientific reasoning and logic. The book has page after page of interesting, simple and fun science experiments all having to do with color.  This book would be great to use when teaching how to follow through with an experiment and follow all the steps to get an end result.  It would also be good to use for having kids determine a set of questions they want the answers to and developing an experiment to find those answers. (VA SOLs, 6.1i, 4.1l, 1.1d and 1.1j)

Additional Resources

Here are some great web resources that might be helpful when teaching about process skills.

This one has links to many science experiments similar to the book.  These are great to do at home and are simple enough for younger children.

This site has a list of frequently asked questions about color and their answers. This site would be much better used with older students.  Again this site can be used at home or at school.

Here’s another great one for kids with cool science projects and interesting information about things like, “why is a school bus yellow?” etc. and other questions that young children ask about color.

General Information

Book:  The Science Book of Color

Author: Neil Ardley

Illustrator: (photographer), Pete Gardner

Publisher:  Gulliver Books, Harcourt Brace & Company

Publication Date: 1991

Grade Range: 2-5

ISBN: 0152005765

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Little Blue Truck Leads the Way


 “Wooeee… went a siren.  Coming through!  Busy police car, things to do!”
“Up roared a taxi. Screech went the brakes.  Stop! yelled Blue. For goodness’ sakes!”.

Little Blue Truck Leads the Way is a children’s book written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Jill McElmurry.  It’s pages are filled with rhymes and wonderful illustrations that describe Little Blue’s trip and depict occupations you would see in a city while teaching a lesson on manners.  As the Little Blue Truck, (who comes from the country), strolls through the city it encounters a police car, a double decker passenger bus, a grocery truck, a street sweeper, a limousine carrying the Mayor, and a taxi.  The Little Blue Truck also passes an art gallery, coffee and tea store, fast food restaurant, a bank, a hardware store, and a grocery stand.  In the city everyone is in a hurry, “beeping” and “screeching” to be the first to go.  Little Blue stops to give the Mayor a ride whose limousine breaks down in traffic.  The Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, and one at a time, everyone gets to where they want to go.

Curriculum Connections
Little Blue Truck Leads the Way could be used as a read aloud to compliment economics instruction when describing the work that people do and the names of their jobs (K.6).  As the Little Blue Truck makes it’s way through the city it encounters examples of many different occupations allowing for interesting class discussions.  The book also allows for discussion on the difference between some aspects of city life and country life and on manners.

Additional Resources

  • For additional resources on teaching economics to Kindergarten and a printable worksheet students try this website.
  • Here’s another great activity for kids about jobs in the community.
  • Want to add creative drama to your lesson?  Try these easy cut out and color hats to have students wear and pretend they have the profession of the hat.  Police officer  and  Fire fighter.  These can get the juices flowing, there are many more ideas teachers can use for creative drama and children’s literature.
  • Try this site for both building background knowledge and activity ideas.

Book:  Little Blue Truck Leads the Way
Alice Schertle
Jill McElmurry
Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: 
40 pages
Grade Range: 

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet


 “A is for Chinese Acrobats performing with beauty and grace.  We clap and admire their physical strength, as they land in a very small place.”
“B is for Beijing…”

 D is for Dancing Dragon:A China Alphabet, written by Carol Crane and illustrated by Zong-Zhou Wang is a wonderfully illustrated children’s book that celebrates the wonders of ancient Chinese culture.  The author takes the reader through an alphabetic history of China from A to Z.  Suitable for many ages, the author brilliantly writes in rhyming facts about China for the younger readers while providing enriching information that more advanced, older readers will surely enjoy as well all on the same page.  As we read on, “F is for the “Four Treasures of Study” (explaining the Chinese written language), G is for the Great Wall…, I is for Chinese Inventions…, Z is for Chinese Zodiac” and so on, the book demonstrates through playful rhyme and colorful illustrations how ancient China has influenced the present world in terms of architecture, inventions, the calendar and written language.

Curriculum Connections
D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet could be a great resource to use when introducing ancient civilizations and their contributions to the modern world.  The book even has a map at the front so students can determine China’s physical place in the world and make a connection to it’s physical relationship to the United States.  This book correlates well with the Virginia Standards of Learning (2.1).

Additional Resources

  • Try this teacher friendly site to get  activity ideas to accompany the reading of D is for Dragon: A China Alphabet.
  • For more lesson plan ideas and fun activities for grades 2 & 3.
  • National Geographic Kids has great interactive activities on line to reinforce teachings of ancient China.

Book:  D is for Dancing Dragon:A China Alphabet
Carol Crane
Zong-Zhou Wang
Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date:
Grade Range: 

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek


Introduction and Summary

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek is a great children’s  historical fiction written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by John Hendrix.  Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek is, “an old tale of two boys who got themselves into more trouble than bear cubs in a candy store” as the author puts it.   Austin Gollaher, is Abraham Lincoln’s childhood friend who saved young Lincoln’s life a long time ago “on the other side of yesterday” and who the history books forgot.  It is a story about childhood adventure, friendship, helping others and the important lesson of how our actions effect others.  This book is amazingly creative both in it’s story and it’s illustrations.  Through the book’s creativity the reader can really start to hear, see and feel the story.  Near the end, the pages tell us how the Lincoln’s move from Kentucky, (where the boys had their adventures), to Indiana and how Abe Lincoln goes on to the White House.   Here the moral of the story really comes to life when the author asks us to,”Remember Austin Gollaher, because what we do matters, even if we don’t end up in history books.  Yes, let’s remember Austin Gollaher, who, one day long ago, when no one else was there to see, saved Abe Lincoln’s life.  And without Abraham Lincoln, where would we be?”

Curriculum Connections

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek could be used creatively during 1st grade civics instruction when discussing helping others, taking responsibility, valuing honesty and truthfulness, recognizing the purpose of rules and practicing self control.  The book demonstrates these values in a way that kids can really connect with even though the events took place so long ago. (Va. SOL 1.10)

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek could also be used as a companion source when teaching 2nd graders about the importance of Americans who improved the lives of others and learning to identify such Americans as Abraham Lincoln. (Va. SOL 2.11)  The author really provides a good talking point at the end when she asks, “Without Abraham Lincoln, where would we be?”

Additional Resources

General Information

 Book:  Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek
Author:  Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:  John Hendrix
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date:  2008
Pages:  34
Grade Range:  1-3
ISBN:  9780375937682


Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Me On The Map


Me On The Map, written by Joan Sweeney and illustrated by Annette Cable, is a colorfully illustrated introduction to the subject of maps and geography.  It is a story about a little girl and how she locates her physical place in the world .  Her curiosity of her place on the Earth leads her to illustrate maps of her room, her house, her street and step by step she maps out the world complete with all seven continents.  After she finishes, the little girl explains her steps to the reader while she backtracks through all of her maps to show how she found her very own “special place on the map”.  She ends with an understanding  that…”in rooms, in houses, on streets, in towns, in countries all over the world, everybody has their own special place on the map”.  It is a great little book and a nice way to introduce the skills of mapping to young students.

Curriculum Connections
The book, Me On The Map, may serve as a great resource when introducing geography to elementary school students in lower grade levels.  There are many opportunities to use this book as a reference when implementing activities about mapping to young students.  This book can be used to enrich learning of simple maps, describing places in real-life situations, teaching students how to show the position of objects, a view from above and scaling items to a smaller size.  Me On The Map could also be used when students are developing map skills and identifying shapes of the United States and Virginia and when students are learning to construct maps of familiar areas using basic map skills.  Me On The Map, makes many connections to the VA SOL (K.4,K.5, 1.4 c and 1.5).

Additional Resources

  • National Geographic Map Machine   This online resource from National Geographic lets you plug in a specific location on the globe to discover, you can also zoom in showing details such as street and zoom out giving students the big picture of the Earth.  This is an awesome site for anyone but especially young students to gain a perspective of their physical place in the world.
  • World Mapper  Allows students to view animated maps of different areas of interest, there are over 700 maps to view and 366 are available as PDF posters to print and hang in a classroom.
  • Map drawing skills A helpful lesson plan for ages (7-11) and (5-7), gives ideas on how to teach map drawing skills starting with mapping student’s own classrooms.
  • Me On The Map Lessons 

Book:  Me On The Map
Author: Joan Sweeney
Illustrator:  Annette Cable
Publisher:  Crown Publishers, Inc.
Publication Date:  1996
Pages:  32 pages
Grade Range:  Pre-K – 1st grade
ISBN:  0517885573