Author Archive for Kim

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Liberty!


We tend to remember exactly what we were doing when monumental events occur. Liberty! pinpoints the actions of a young boy on the day he witnessed and participated in the unveiling of one of our national symbols, the Statue of Liberty.

Allan Drummond’s book uses facts from the ceremony as a framework for a personal account of the event. Drummond begins the book with a note to readers that explains historical information of the day that the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York. Using these facts, Drummond creates a fictional story of a young boy whose was responsible for providing the signal for the revelation.

While highlighting the building of the Statue of Liberty, Drummond also emphasizes the relations between the United States and France and the presence of the woman’s suffrage movement.

We passed plenty of boats–all sizes–some flying the American flag and some flying the flag of France. And all around us people cheered and yelled, ‘Liberty!’ and ‘Freedom!’. A big steamship sailed into the harbor from the ocean loaded with immigrants just arriving from Europe, coming to America to find liberty and freedom for a better life. And near the island there was a ferryboat full of women shouting, ‘How long must we wait for liberty?’

Once the young boy accidentally uses the signal which unveils the statue, Drummond concludes by using this national symbol to instruct students of the universal rights of individuals to freedom and equality to believe and say what each individual wishes.

Curriculum Connections
can be used for civics instruction by teaching topics of national symbols and by explaining the responsibilities of a good citizen. This book can introduce students to national symbols which represent the beliefs and practices of the United States. Also, Drummond’s focus in the end of the story helps to explain the responsibilities of a good citizen (In Virginia this corresponds with SOLs 1.10 and 2.10).

Additional Resources

  • This site provides many lessons on civics topics including the Statue of Liberty. The lesson includes background information and activities for students such as a crossword puzzle, quiz, grammar worksheet, bingo, and maps that all relate to the Statue of Liberty.

  • Mrs. Crites’ Fourth grade website includes links for activities about the Statue of Liberty in addition to ideas for teaching other American symbols and civics topics.

Book: Liberty!
Author:Allan Drummond
Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: 2002
Pages:40 pages
Grades: 1-2
ISBN: 0374343853

Teaching History With Children’s Literature: Lincoln and Douglass An American Friendship


There are many children’s books pertaining to the Civil War, but these books often explain the Civil War from only one perspective. Nikki Giovanni’s book Lincoln and Douglass An American Friendship weaves the stories of a famous President and an escaped slave. Comparing the childhood experiences and adult lives of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, Giovanni portrays and unlikely friendship that has a major impact in abolishing slavery.

The setting begins at the White House at the reception of Lincoln’s reelection with the President anticipating the arrival of his friend Douglass. The times it takes for the two to meet through the crowds simulates the great struggles both faced in order to finally unite at the White House. Alternating in pages, Giovanni provides information on how each man educated himself and their early hatred of slavery in the south.

Douglass worked as a ship caulker on the Baltimore shore. He longed to sail to freedom on one of the ships that he often watched heading out to sea. The first time Lincoln hauled farm produce down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, the journey opened his eyes to the world around him.”

In addition to providing the childhood experiences which leads Lincoln and Douglass to meeting at the President’s reception, Lincoln and Douglass includes biographical information of other abolitionists like John Brown and Mary Ellen Pleasant. Emphasizing the failed attempt at Harper’s Ferry and the general struggles in abolishing slavery, this book puts into perspective the extensive time it took for the emancipation of slaves.

Giovanni’s text of the two men is supported through Bryan Collier’s cut-paper collages and illustrations. The combination is subtle and it is only through looking closely that the overlapping is noticeable. Even though appearing simple, these illustrations greatly support the text. In the excerpt above about Lincoln, Collier uses a rural scene with trees in the background which are covered with the faces of slaves. Through both Giovanni’s text and Collier’s collages, readers will gain an understanding of two important men in the quest to end slavery.

Curriculum Connections
Lincoln and Douglass
is a great way to introduce a class to the abolitionist movement during the Civil War. By explaining both biographies and their personal struggles in dealing with slavery, readers will understand one of the reasons that led to the division of the nation prior to the Civil War (In Virginia this correlates with VS.7). In addition to using this book for a Civil War study, it is can be used to understand the personal history of these men to celebrate Presidents’ Day or Black History Month.

Additional Resources

  • These Graphic Organizers can serve help students compare and contrast Douglass and Lincoln after the reading.
  • Social Studies for Kids has links to many subjects of the Civil War including slavery, battles, reconstruction, the Underground Railroad, medicine, and emancipation.
  • Students can learn more about Abraham Lincoln by investigating quick facts, short stories, timelines, photographs, quotations, and puzzles about him.

Book: Lincoln and Douglass An American Friendship
Author: Nikki Giovanni
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: 2008
Pages:40 pages
Grades: 3-5
ISBN: 0805082646

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World


Children love going on scavenger hunts in the quest for specific objects. In her book How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Marjorie Priceman takes children on an exploration around the world in gathering all of the necessary baking ingredients needed to make an apple pie.

Starting off with character’s problem of not being able to buy the ingredients at the market, Priceman takes students through the process of finding a solution. Traveling with her audience around the world, students will be introduced to the location of specific countries as well as principle commodities associated with the country as they track their travels across the world.

“You can’t miss it. Sri Lanka is a pear-shaped island in the Indian Ocean. The best cinnamon in the world is made there, from the bark of the native kurundu tree. So go directly to the rain forest. Find a kurundu tree and peel off some bark. If a leopard is napping beneath the tree, be very quiet.”

Priceman’s illustrations aid in the explanation of the countries with the incorporation of architecture, animals, transportation and monuments that are found in each geographical destination. Additionally, Priceman includes pictures of travel time and a travel track on maps to help put in perspective the distance between continents, countries and the extensive time it take for travel from one place to another. These travels will cement geographical knowledge of continent, country, and ocean locations.

Curriculum Connections
Priceman’s book uses the task of gathering baking materials to introduce students to the location and characteristics of other countries. Broadening students’ awareness of other continents, this book can help students develop map skills of locating the continents and specific countries (correlating to components of Virginia Standards 2.5 and 3.5). This book is a fun way for students to “visit” new places and learn how to track their travels on a map.

Additional Resources

  • Students can explore these geography games which provide multiple games and activities for each continent.
  • To extend students’ understanding of the countries traveled in gathering the materials for the apple pie, this website provides activity extensions for the traveled locations of the book including Italy, England, France, and Vermont.
  • This sites provides additional ideas for student exploration after the reading of the book as well as a list of related books.

Book: How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
Author: Marjorie Priceman
Publisher: Dragonfly Books
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 40
Grades: 1-3
ISBN: 0679880836

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Follow the Money!


Many children keep a piggy bank full of coins in the hopes of saving enough money for a special purchase. While they understand the concept of saving their money for future purchases, we often rarely think of where the money travels with each following exchange. Loreen Leedy’s book Follow the Money! personifies coins as their representable presidents as they document their travels with each monetary exchange.

In her book, Leedy uses a cartoon format to demonstrate the exchange paths of currency. Each picture has a caption at the bottom explaining the process of buying a good and receiving change. In addition, Leedy includes cartoon dialog bubbles for the coins who elaborate upon the facts by telling a fun story of the locations they travel with each purchase.

Students will gain a sense of how money continuously circulates with every purchase individuals make. Follow the Money! also highlights the necessary mathematical operations with each exchange. With every purchase Leedy includes the math off making change. The combination of currency information and mathematical calculations will demonstrate the process of exchange of money while still interesting and entertaining students with the coin characters’ tale of all the places they visit.

Curriculum Connections
Follow the Money!
can help demonstrate to young readers the concept of continuous monetary movement with each purchase.  In Virgina this book can correlate with the standard 1.9 which shows that people save money for future purchases. While this book targets a younger reader to demonstrate how one coin is used by many people through multiple exchanges, it can also be used above kindergarten and first grade by using it as an introduction of incorporating money into a math lesson.

Additional Resources

  • After reading Follow the Money! as a class, students can complete this webquest to further investigate details of our money.
  • For additional ideas of introducing to money, teAchnology provides many lessons plans that utilize money.
  • The United States Mint offers games, cartoons, and other activities for kids in expanding their knowledge of our currency.

Book: Follow the Money!
Author and Illustrator: Loreen Leedy
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 30
Grades: K-3
ISBN: 0823417948

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: One Well: The Story of Water on Earth

So often we are caught up in our own world and don’t necessarily think about how our actions affect others and the environment. One Well: The Story of Water on Earth, written by Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Rosemary Woods, helps to introduce and remind students that resources are continuously recycling by documenting the stages of the Earth’s water cycle.

In their book Strauss and Woods simplify the water cycle by suggesting that all water on earth comes from one well. This metaphor illustrates the process of water changing states in completing the water cycle. On each page different consumers of the water is highlighted including plants, animals, people.

The amount of water on Earth doesn’t change–there’s no more water now than when the dinosaurs walked the Earth. The same water just keeps going through a cycle over and over again. This constant movement of water is called the water cycle.

While each page covers different background content necessary to understand how water is recycled into the one well, the informational facts and that are presented on the illustrated pages can help put into perspective the total amount of water used by various household tasks, organisms, and countries.

  • In North American homes, the bathroom is where about three-quarters of all water is used. One flush of the toilet uses nearly 3.5 gallons.

  • In one year, an area of rainforest the size of a football field pumps over 19,700 gallons of water vapor into the atmosphere–more than enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.

  • China and India are home to over one-third of the world’s population, yet they only have access to one-tenth of the world’s freshwater.

Through this book students will understand how water is repeatedly reused due to the water cycle. Additionally the concept of ‘one well’ and the various statistics about the use of water students will become more aware of the interdependence that extends across the Earth.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used for upper elementary grades to introduce  the steps of the water cycle and reinforce the interdependence between all living things. In Virginia this correlates specifically to standards 3.9bcd which concentrates on the processes involved in the water cycle, the need of water for all living things, and that water conservation is necessary with the unchanging water supply.

Additional Resources

  • This site is a great reference to water cycle interactive games including animations, short plays, diagrams, poems, games, and printables.
  • To better understand how our actions affect others throughout the world students can complete an ecological footprint to discover their direct influence on the planet.
  • Here students can find useful tips of how to conserve water within their homes.

Book: One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
Author: Rochelle Strauss
Illustrator: Rosemary Woods
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 3-5
ISBN: 1553379543

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Cactus Hotel


Expanding students’ knowledge from their own environment to the various other environments of the country and the world can often be a challenge.  Students are often unaware of the different characteristics and species that compose other habitats.  Brenda Z. Guiberson’s book Cactus Hotel, illustrated by Megan Lloyd, details the life cycle of a cactus and the characteristics and species that compose a desert habitat.

The gradual progression, spanning from the unintentional planting of a fruit seed by an animal to the  use of a two-hundred and fifty year old decaying cactus by animals for protection, emphasizes the multiple stages and adaptations that occur throughout the plant’s life-cycle.  With each page Guiberson introduces the reader to a new step in the life cycle of the plant.  This organization helps to demonstrate to students the extensive time frame it takes for plant growth in addition to the adaptations the plant and other species must make in the desert environment.

Guiberson and Lloyd demonstrate in their book the interdependence among a habitat by showing how the cactus is not just a component of the environment but it also houses many species in its “hotel” throughout its life cycle.  This connection to a hotel stay, along with the vocabulary used, allows students to comprehend what a cactus or other organism provides to the overall habitat.

Everybody wants to live in the cactus hotel.  Birds lay eggs and pack rats raise their young. Even insects and bats live there. When one animal moves out, another moves in. And every spring they come for a special treat of nectar and juicy red fruit.

This book will help familiarize students with a particular environment that they may be unfamiliar to, but all students will benefit from the additional connections that Cactus Hotel provides through explaining in detail and with examples how all species and organisms depend on one another in an environment.

Curriculum Connections
Guiberson and Lloyd’s book is great for a wide range of children from first grade through fourth grade.  This book gives details that could be further explored in the upper elementary grades with a study of adaptations, life-cycles (In Virginia 4.5) and specific dry-land environments (3.6d).  When used in first and second grade classrooms Cactus Hotel correlates to the standards relating to the life needs of plants and animals (1.4, 1.5) and the interdependence among these needs (2.5).

Additional Resources

  • A hands-on experiment where students can investigate how a cactus adapts its size based on the amount of water available.
  • A to Z Teacher Stuff provides lesson plans, activities, and experiments for a desert habitat unit.
  • This site contains various science videos (including habitats and the desert) which students can watch followed by corresponding quizzes, vocabulary, activities and games.

Book: Cactus Hotel
Author: Brenda Z. Guiberson
Illustrator: Megan Lloyd
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: First Grade-Fourth Grade
ISBN: 0805029605

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Hello Ocean

While growing up children are constantly curious and active in exploring their surroundings.  Pam Munoz Ryan and Mark Astrella’s book Hello Ocean illustrates a common summer trip to the beach through all five senses.

Hello Ocean is a descriptive book using great imagery to emphasize the differences between the five senses. Ryan’s book not only introduces students to the differences in the senses, but it also incorporates additional elements of figurative language such as alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia, metaphors, rhyme and rhythm.

I hear the ocean,
a lion’s roar,
crashing rumors
toward the shore,
water shushing and rushing in,
then whispering back to the sea again.

While Ryan uses challenging vocabulary for beginning readers, Astrella’s realistic pictures help to illustrate possible unfamiliar terms.  This will help students to better understand the uses of all five senses, especially if they have experienced a similar summer trip. And yet, even without past experiences to draw upon, the pictures accurately illustrate Ryan’s text and help with the understanding of the new concept.

Curriculum Connections
Hello Ocean could be used as an introduction to a kindergarten class, but is better suited for a first or second grade classroom. Used in a kindergarten classroom, students will be able to see the relationship between the text and the accompanying pictures.  With this connection, the students will begin to understand what each of the five senses can detect in all surroundings.

In an older elementary classroom, students will be able to gain more than just an introduction of the senses. Ryan’s language helps to introduce new elements of writing (metaphor, rhyme, alliteration) that can be extended as part of a language arts lesson. In Virginia, the corresponding Standards of Learning for Kindergarten are K.1c and K.2a, while in first grade the Standard of Learning is 1.1a.

Additional Resources

  • Author Pam Munoz Ryan’s website offers various links for further exploration into how we use our five senses and how animals differ using their senses. Ryan’s web page also links to other sites that provide activities of the five senses including the use of optical illusions, braille, and a sense testing game.
  • Teacher Planet provides an outline for a unit on the senses. The unit plans contains lessons plans for all of the senses in addition to extension activities and printables for further clarification of how we use each sense. 
  • Enchanted Learning provides teachers with printable worksheets that can help students with learning how to classify objects based on the sense that would be most likely used in observation. These printables challenge students by encouraging them to observe objects using different senses.

Book: Hello Ocean
Pam Munoz Ryan
Mark Astrella
Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication Date:
February 2001
32 pages