Author Archive for Lexi

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: My Senator and Me


Do you know how a bill is made into a law in our country? In My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye-View of Washington, D.C. we are shown a day in the life of a senator. For an extra little twist though, the story is told by Senator Edward Kennedy’s dog, Splash, who accompanies Senator Edward Kennedy to work in the Capitol every day. After a brief introduction about himself and his becoming the Kennedy’s dog, the rest of the story goes into a day of accompanying Senator Edward Kennedy to work. On this particular day, Massachusetts’s senator is in the process of passing his bill concerning education. First he must meet with his staff at the Senate Office Building, then head over to a press conference at the Capitol. After which there is a short break for a relaxing game of fetch with Splash. Then it’s back to work, off to a conference committee meeting, but only after stopping for a quick photo with a class. Finally it’s off to the Senate reception room where the senator will cast his vote and then announce the passing of the bill on T.V. before heading home for the day.

This is a great story to give students an idea of what our senators do for us in the government. Senator Kennedy took the opportunity to present a few of the monuments of Washington D.C. within the story as well. While mentioning these important monuments he also makes sure to tell a little of its history, such as:

…the Kennedy Center, where people go to hear music, see plays, and watch the ballet. It was named for my Senator’s brother, John F. Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of the United States and a great supporter of the arts…the Lincoln Memorial, where millions of people from all over the world go to remember Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President, who led our country during the Civil War…

Filled with wonderful pictures on every page and a fun story line from a dog’s point of view, My Senator and Me is a great story to read to kids for both entertainment and information of how a part of our government system works.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used to teach students about a branch of our government, which pertains to SOL 3.10 for Virginia teachers. It is a great source to teach students about senators and how bills are passed, two very important parts to our government system.

Additional Resources

  • Take an interactive tour of the Capital after reading about it with your students.
  • Show your students pictures from all over our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.

Book: My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington, D. C.
Author: Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Illustrator: David Small
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 56 pages
Grades: 1-5
ISBN: 0439650771

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Abraham Lincoln


What American doesn’t know about our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln? He is an important part of our history, with his own memorial and the penny dedicated to him! In Abraham Lincoln, Amy L. Cohn and Suzy Schmidt go through Abe’s whole life, starting all the way back from when he was “born on a cornhusk mattress one cold Kentucky morning” to where we recognize him now, “there, in the building made for him.”

The rest of the story tells of his life growing up in the country, being a lover of reading, a hard worker, and making his way all the way to the White House. It is a great story that lets students know about such a great man’s whole life, not just his main accomplishments that they are required to know. By learning about other characteristics of Lincoln’s life, students can realize that he was just a normal guy like everyone else that worked hard to have such a great, positive impact on our nation.

To add to the story, David A. Johnson does a great job on all the illustrations, which occur on each page, opposite of the text, giving the students a visual to go along with the information that they are learning about Abraham Lincoln’s life. Having drawings of Lincoln as a child and a growing boy, rather than the typical picture of him at a much older age, is another way to help children put into perspective the normal human being Lincoln was, rather than just the old glorified president that we have praised and solely recognized him for.

Curriculum Connections
Abraham Lincoln
is a great story to use in the classroom to present Abraham Lincoln to students, an important figure that all students must learn about at some point in school. For Virgina teachers, learning about Abraham Lincoln, along with other great leaders like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington Carver, is part of SOL K.1a and 1.2. This is a good story to use to cover part of that necessary learning point for students.

Additional Resources

Book: Abraham Lincoln
Author: Amy L. Cohn & Suzy Schmidt
Illustrator: David A. Johnson
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: K-5
ISBN: 0590935666

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Monday on the Mississippi


The Mississippi River runs through ten states, do you know which ten? In Monday on the Mississippi, Marilyn Singer takes us down the Mississippi in a week. There are two entries for each day, sometimes on the same state, and sometimes going through multiple states. Each entry has a little something about the surrounding area, mentioning something each place is famous for. Such as the first Friday entry, in Memphis, Tennessee:

At Mud Island, where their brothers admire the perfect miniature model of the Mississippi…two sisters want to sit quietly by the real thing, listening for Martin Luther, B.B., Elvis, and all the others that would’ve been, should’ve been, or never could’ve been.

Each page of the book is also covered in a bright illustration that pertains to the entry for that day. Along with the full-page picture, there is a square in the upper left hand side of each page consisting of a map of the state that entry takes place in. It shows the entire state, its border states, the capital, and the Mississippi River and our current location on it. If you look even closer at these state maps, you’ll notice that in each of the corners of the map’s borders is the state flag, tree, bird, and flower, presenting a great opportunity to start teaching kids about the different states.

Curriculum Connections
Monday on the Mississippi is more than just a great book about the Mississippi River, our country’s most well-known river. It gives teachers the opportunity to teach students about different states and their cultures and histories in those areas. Also, students are exposed to maps, seeing how they work representing different places and things, which completes the Social Studies SOL K.4 and K.5 for Virginia teachers.

Additional Resources

  • Here is a handout with a map of the Mississippi River and all the states it touches, as well as some questions pertaining to the Mississippi.
  • This site is filled with information on each state, and also has a map of the entire country, as well as each state.

Book: Monday on the Mississippi
Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Frane Lessac
Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date:
32 pages

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Mitten


Mittens are a great way to keep ourselves warm during the winter. Apparently, in The Mitten, a few wild animals seem to agree! Jan Brett has done a wonderful job of adapting this Ukranian folktale and creating wonderful illustrations to go along with it for us to enjoy. After Nicki’s grandmother knits a pair of new mittens for Nicki, he proceeds to promptly lose one and some animals decide to move in.

While the story may come off as slightly unbelievable, having so many animals all squeeze into such a tiny mitten, it is still a great story to entertain and teach children about economics. There is also great little part of science thrown in, with the mention of different characteristics of each animal, such as “the rabbit’s big kickers” or the fox’s shiny teeth.

Another great aspect of this story is the wonderful illustrations. Every page is completely filled with pictures. There is always the main picture that goes along with the story of that page, as well as two pictures on the sides that show either where Nicki is or where the next animal to come is. Along with these three pictures are beautiful embroidery-like pictures to bring back the Ukranian aspect of the story. Jan Brett also did a wonderful job researching the Ukranian culture and architecture which is obvious in the characters clothing and house.

Curriculum Connections
This story is a great book that can be read to a large age range of students and pertain to a wide range of lessons. It is a great way to approach the economic lesson of scarcity, which covers the Social Studies SOL 2.9 for Virginia teachers. Teachers can also use this book to take advantage of other learning opportunities for students. There are many ideas already out there for teachers to use to correlate this story with fine arts, phonics, math, English, and other subjects.  Also, the story is a great way to present another culture to students, showing the differences and similarities they have with others from around the world.

Additional Resources

  • A fellow teacher has already created a blog filled with tons of different ideas to further incorporate The Mitten into multiple venues of lessons for your class.
  • Here is another helpful site with some crafts, and phonetic worksheets, as well as more links related to the animals mentioned in the book.
  • Have students use the Internet to connect this story to English lessons.
  • Make The Mitten into a play or just have some more fun with it by using these animal masks.
  • Here is an already created lesson plan on how to teach economics with The Mitten.

Book: The Mitten
Jan Brett
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date:
36 pages

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Everybody Needs A Rock


Some may say a rock is just a rock. But after reading Everybody Needs A Rock you will realize that is just not true! Bryd Baylor’s story tells of how everyone needs to have their own rock and the ten rules that must be used in finding one’s special rock. This is a great book that can be used to present many different subjects to a class, such as scientific investigation, earth science, or an appreciation for nature, just to mention a few!

While Everybody Needs A Rock may not be the quickest approach to teaching children about rocks, it does provide a creative standpoint that requires the reader to stop and contemplate nature and its importance, especially rocks. The ten rules bring up issues such as where rocks are located, how it might be on a mountain, or “even an alley, even a sandy road.” Then there are multiple rules that require the use of more of the senses than the typical sighting of a rock. The characteristics of rocks are also addressed, all the different sizes, shapes, and colors that rocks appear as. Another important concept that is presented within the ten rules of picking a rock is self-confidence, which doesn’t quite fit in the science category like the other concepts, but is also a very important concept that everyone needs to grasp.

Along with Baylor’s creative viewpoint that appears in the writing is Peter Parnall’s creative pictures found on every page. The pictures are more of abstract sketches in just two colors, black and brown. While it may not sound like the most thrilling book to entertain children, it does provide an unique opportunity for kids to be subjected to a less traditional sense of art.

Curriculum Connections
There are many directions a teacher can take when using Everybody Needs A Rock as an introduction to a new topic. For Virginia teachers, this is a great way to fulfill the Science SOL 4.8c, which requires students to investigate and understand important Virginia natural resources, especially minerals, rocks, ores, and energy sources. As mentioned before though, there are other paths that can be perused as well, such as the senses, and scientific investigation.

Additional Resources

  • Here is an already prepared five day lesson plan filled with activities for students to do after reading Everybody Needs A Rock.
  • Use this recipe to make Sedimentary Rock Snacks for the class to enjoy.

Book: Everybody Needs A Rock
Author: Byrd Baylor
Illustrator: Peter Parnhall
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks
Publication Date: 1974
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: K-5

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: A Place To Live


Have you ever stopped to consider your community and all the surrounding communities? About each particular one, who it consists of, and how it functions, as well as how they are all related to one another? That is just what Jeanne Bendick does in A Place To Live. This is a great book that brings up many of the issues that must be discussed in relation to lessons on life science, particularly for first and second graders.

There is a lot of material that is covered in the book, from communities and living environments to survival needs and the circle of life. While these are all important concepts that all students should know about, its 62 pages may be a bit too much to incorporate into a quick lesson plan, which is why the format Jeanne Bendick wrote the story in is so great. While the story is written so as to flow from beginning to end, it is also split up into chapters that can be read and comprehended on their own. Just what a teacher may need when wanting to present just a small lesson plan about plant needs one day and habitats another! Jeanne Bendick also does a good job in involving the reader by ending most of the sections with questions to the reader. Such as in the section Living Thinks Live Together.

Maybe the only plants in
your neighborhood
are flowers growing in flowerpots,
and weeds growing in empty lots.
But every plant that grows there
shares the neighborhood with you.
What plants do you share your
neighborhood with?

While the illustrations may not be the most thrilling to be found in a book, incorporating just the colors of green and black within the pages of the book, there are still pictures on every page of the book. This helps to keep the children’s attention while not overwhelming them and taking away from the content of the book.

Curriculum Connections
A Place To Live is a good starting point for teachers who are preparing lessons on plant or animal environments or needs and their relations with one another. Virginia teachers will be able to cover parts of the science SOLs, such as 1.4 and 1.5, pertaining to the life needs of both plants and animals, as well as 2.5, which consists of living systems. This book also brings up the issue about the environment and what would happen if we didn’t take care of it. This presents a great opportunity to teachers to discuss what we can do to protect our environment and be environmentally friendly!

Additional Resources

  • For those classes that don’t have the opportunity to go take a nature walk, here is a virtual autumn leaf scrapbook to show your students.
  • Perhaps having your own animal habitat in the classroom will help your students have a better understanding about life science.
  • Have your students try to Build-A-Prairie on this interactive site and see if they can successfully create an ecosystem! This can help them to better understand the different ecosystems of our earth.

Book: A Place To Live
Author/Illustrator: Jeanne Bendick
Publisher: Parents’ Magazine Plus
Publication Date: 1970
Pages: 62 pages
Grades: K-2
ISBN: 9780819303851