Author Archive for Laura Y

Trees, Trees, Trees….

     Trees have always provided us with essentials to life: both food and oxygen. As technology has advanced trees have been used  more and more, for shelter, medicine and tools.  Trees improve our air quality, conserve water, preserve soil, and support wildlife. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” Trees control climate by moderating the effects of the sun, rain and wind. Clearly, trees are a very important resource to humans and the entire world. As more and more forest land is cut down, we need to educate the next generation about the importance of trees. These resources can be used for SOLs from all grade levels  having to do with plant structure, life cycles, needs, recycling, animal habitats, and erosion (k.6b, 1.4 a-c, 1.7a, 2.4b, 2.7b, 3.4a, 4.4a, 5.7e,f).


The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest by Lynne Cherry

This book is a great story about a man who is going to chop down a Kapok tree in the rainforest. He decides to take a nap and while he is asleep all the animals that live in and depend on this tree- snakes, butterflies, a jaguar, and a child, come to him and whisper all the reasons not to cut down the tree. It really shows the interconnectedness of all living things. When he wakes up and sees all the animals around him he decides not to chop down the tree and walks out of the forest. This beautifully illustrated book speaks to the importance of conservation as well as related subjects such as endangered animal species.

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Trees By Jim Arnosky

Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the TreesThis book is one of a great series of guide books for kids on nature. Crinkleroot is a loveable, wise, old man who explains about trees along his walk through the woods. He details the difference between hardwoods and conifers, and gives detail skecthes of the different types of leaves. He tells about why we need a rich diversity of different types of trees to provide shelter and food for animals. He even talks about the role that dead trees take in the forest, as well as how seedlings and saplings grow and factors affecting their development. With rich watercolor illustrations, and information dense text, this succint book will engage and activate curiosity in students. Also check out, I Was Born in a Tree and Raised by Bees and Crinkleroot’s Guide to Walking in Wild Places by the same author.

Forest Explorer: A Life Size Field Guide By Nic Bishop

 When encouraging outdoor exploration, Forest Explorer is a must. This field guide built for miniature naturalists, shows real, oversized photographs of common animals and insects living in the forest. It has a critter index in the back with pictures, tips for things to look for in all seasons, and many other hints that excourage students to get out there and get dirty exploring the forest!

Nature’s Green Umbrellas by Gail Gibbons

Product Image

This book, using great watercolor illustrations entice students to become a part of the rainforest while learning with straightforward text. The ecology of the rainforest is discussed, with simple definitions of terms and labeled animals. Global warming  and the danger of destruction of the rainforest and its potential impact on the world are discussed as well. The author also suggests methods for reducing damage to the rainforests from cutting. This is a great book to give students an introduction to the rainforest and the issues associated with it.

 A Tree is a Plant  by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Stacy Schuett

From the Lets Read and Find Out leveled readers series, this book shares a breif overview of general tree knowledge and then focuses on the apple tree to show  its parts and functions, as well as its seasonal changes. The author uses direct and simple language. Impressionistic illustrations engage the eye while also show the functions of the plant  like with arrows indicating the water intake route. This book features large pictures, with a diverse group of kids in the outdoor scenes. Extension acitivities are included in the back like a transpiration experiment and measuring the age of a tree.

Student Resources:

A Walk in the Woods is a great website acitivity with visual pictures, sound, and text educating kids on different things they can find in the woods. This would be a great precursor to a real walk in the woods. This would give hte kids some great ides on what to look for.

What Tree is That? This interactive tools allows students to practice identifying features of different trees when given a mystery tree sample.

Exploring the Secret Life of Trees This interactive presentation goes through the basic stucture of trees and what they need to survive. The student learn about the root system and have to stack soda cans to represent how deep roots grow. With the same host- Pierre the acorn, also try Trees are Terrific.

Dichotomous Tree Key is an interactive site where kids can choose the feature of their tree and see what species they end up with. This illustrates all the factors that are considered when trying to identify tree types.

SmokeyKids has information and several interactive features and games having to do with forest fires, prevention and how they put forest fires out. I especially like the Smoke Jumpers game, where students put fires out before they burn all the trees.


Teacher Resources:

Real Trees 4 Kids Printable Teacher guides

This website created by the National Christmas Tree Council has leveled lessons for all age groups having to do with tree farming and trees in general. There are many great actvitities, especially in the grades 3-5 section such as classifying trees, growing cycles, and recycling. More childrens’ literature suggestions are found here as well.

Tree Cookies/My Life as a Tree This a great classic lesson showing students how to count how old a tree is. They can also see for themselves the cambium, bark and hardwood. They then will create their own tree cookie on a paper plate to represent their own lives (with the same number of rings as their age). They will label all the parts that would be on a real tree cookie, but also major events of their life on the appropriate ring year. This could also be a great brainstorming activity for a narrative writing assignment.

 Tree Kit by University of Illinois has many many lesson plan ideas to do with all things related to trees. There are three units with over 15 lessons/activities to explore. One I liked in particular is Dead and Alive showing how the animals and plants around a dead tree still use it to help them flourish.

Tree Chain Game This lesson explores all the things that seeds need in order to germinate and grow into a seedling and then into a tree. Student learn that they have to have a certain order. They then play a game where each student is assigned a “need” or a “seed” card. The “seeds” have to run between two areas playing a memory type game to try to collect all their needs in the correct order. Once they find their next need that student has to run with them making a chain until all the needs are collected.


Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Christopher Newport

  Captain Christopher Newport

Captain Christopher Newport (1561-1617) was a major figure is the Virginia Company’s voyage to the New World and the establishment of England’s first permanent settlement there. Previously, Captain Newport was a successful sailor with Sir Frances Drake, seized fortunes from the Spanish and Portuguese as a privateer for Queen Elizabeth I, where he lost his arm. As the Admiral of the voyage to establish Jamestown, Newport lead the three ships to the New World choosing the site to establish the settlement. He lead the initial explorations for King James, and established peaceful relations with Chief Powhatan. Newport then kept Jamestown alive during their crucial adjustment period, where all other settlers had died, out before by going on four resupply voyages. During the last of these missions, where the ship SeaVenture became shipwrecked in a hurricane in Bermuda, Newport arranged the 150 colonists on board to reconstruct two ships so they could continue on to provide Jamestown the much needed provisions.

Curriculum Connections
The study of the leader Captain Christopher Newport connects to Virginia Studies SOL VS.2 & 3,as he played an integral role in the establishment of Jamestown.

Literary Resources:

The Jamestown Journey

The Jamestown Journey by Bentley Boyd is an easy and captivating read for students in comic book style. Using humor and clever illustrations this graphic novel will engage even the most reluctant readers. This book highlights Christopher Newport’s adventures before leading the voyage to plant Jamestown, comparing him to a pirate! It also gives an overview of the reasons Jamestown was financed- to find gold, how John Smith never really married Pocahontas, and how the colony traded tobacco leaves in place of coins.

 The Adventures of Young Sam Collier

Surviving Jamestown: The Adventures of Sam Collier  written by Gail Langer Karkowski and illustrated by Paul Casale is a great historical fiction book who’s main character is the apprentice to John Smith. Following Sam’s adventures students can learn about the voyage to Jamestown, Captain Newport and his role in choosing and replenishing supplies for the settlement, and much more about the events that took place. This book also includes great full page pencil illustrations. As this book is appropriate for grades 5-7 it may be appropriate for a group of good readers who need a challenge, for less advanced readers this may be best presented as a group read aloud.

Captain Christopher Newport

Captain Christopher Newport by . Bryant Nichols, a great resource for all the facts and detail about Christopher Newport’s life including his early years as a sailor and a privateer, leading the initial Jamestown voyage and his heroic Sea Venture rescue. This book navigates all his adventures, showing how he was such and integral part of expanding the English empire not only to the New World but to Persia and India, as well as all over the world. As a true leader of men Christopher Newport is highlighted, as he is so often downplayed in Jamestown history.Excerpts of this book could be used to show more detail about the captain, bringing him more to life in the minds of the students.

The Story of Jamestown

The Story of Jamestown by Eric Braun is a good graphic novel on Jamestown giving a good overview of the topic. This book could be used at the beginning of the unit. The class could create a KWL chart and then read this book on their own to wet their appetites on what Jamestown was all about and what events took place. This book shows Captain Newport’s role in founding Jamestown which can be discussed  as you go more in depth in the unit.

Blood on the River

Blood on the River: Jamestown 1607  by Elisa Carbone  is another great historical fiction novel about Sam Collier the page assigned to Captain John Smith. His account of the events leading to the settlement of Jamestown and of its early struggle for survival accurately depict in great detail an overview of everything the students need to know. Captain Newport’s character, a voice of reason,is the leader of the voyage and choosing the site, and then later returning with provisions and a dose of sanity when everything seems to be going to pieces. This is great book for independent reading during language arts, a great way to expand the study of Jamestown across subjects.

Web Resources:

Interactive Jamestown fort map and the Powhatan village of Werowocomoco map.

From the National Geographic website, this interactive map is full of interesting facts about the colonists as well as the native indians. Kids can explore with a magnifying glass and then click on certain areas to learn more with videos and other resources that give more facts and details.

The Jamestown Adventure

Students get to be the captain of the Jamestown voyage by choosing the site of the settlement,who will be forced to do labor, what crops to plant, how to interact with the natives and more. At the end of the game they are scored on how well they did in several different criteria  with an explanation on what we know now, and what choices the Jamestown settlers made that cost them many lives.

 Jamestown Rags to Riches

This game allows students to answer multiple choice questions, seeing how far they can make it to 1,000,000, in Who Wants to be a Millionaire-style. This is a great quiz/test review game.

Jamestown 400: Explore Jamestown

Students can click on different tabs to explore aspects of the Jamestown Settlement each of which has audio telling them about the voyage, the James Fort, the Indian village, the Chesapeake bay. Featuring maps and visually attractive, interactive features, this is a great site for students to explore on their own.

Virtual Jamestown

This site includes tons of info on Jamestown including primary documents, virtual panoramas, and time lines. A great place to explore more in depth on what the town, structures and area was like, the sequence of events and what the official documents sounded like.

Additional Resources:

Historic Jamestowne, the archeological site that  is jointly administered by APVA Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service, provides lesson plan ideas for educators. These lesson, meant to be in conjunction with a tour of the site, are useful whether you make it in or not.

“You Shall Do Your Best Endeavor”

Students will read and interpret an original document instruction the settlers on what type of site they should choose for the colony. In small groups the students will read the document and then answer questions based on what they gleaned from it.

“Finding the James Fort”

The students will read original documents and discuss how archaeologists were able to find the exact location of the Jamestown Fort and why the exact location was left out on original maps of the area.

Lorri Glover Lecture on the Sea Venture

Clips can be shown of Lori Glover talking about Christopher Newport’s role in saving the shipwrecked Sea Venture, delivering the goods to the colonists who may have died out with out these provisions.

Addition and Subtraction in 1st Grade

Addition and Subtraction are to very basic computation skills children will use everyday for the rest of their lives. Laying a good foundation is crucial to building on for more complex math skills down the line. These resources pertain to VA SOL 1.5: The student will recall basic addition facts with sums to 18 and the corresponding subtraction facts. Included are books, online activities, and additional teacher resources to use in teaching and guiding practice of these addition and subtraction facts.


Twelve Ways To Get To 11
by Eve Merriam, illustrated by Bernie Karlin

12 Ways To Get To 11

When counting to twelve we discover 11 is missing! Throughout the rest of the book we explore ways to make 11 with various objects in various settings from acorns to sailboats and  babies to chicks. We find a wide array of number combinations and just how many ways to can make up another number.
What’s New at the Zoo
by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by John Waites

What's New at the Zoo

Through and adventure through the zoo, we add and count all the animals. This book covers basic addition skills, uses rhyming and lyrical text, and has wonderful watercolor illustrations to boot. The back section also gives notes for educators and lesson ideas.

Domino Addition
by Lynette Long

Domino Addition

Page by page we walk through the dominoes, adding them up to twelve, introducing this tool that can be used in many addition and subtraction activities. The visual images are great in this book,  allowing all the children to clearly and vividly see the facts you are illustrating. Fact families are also introduced. This book is a great lead in to a variety of activities and will keep students engaged.

Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday
by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz

Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday

Following Alex through the week, seeing how he spends all his money, we see subtraction principles in action. Money is also introduced. Alex is relatable and kids will really enjoy following him throughout this series of books covering various educational topics.  While teaching subtraction use this book, just omit the decimals, as they may still be too advanced.
Panda Math: Learning about Subtraction from Hua Mei and Mei Sheng
by  Ann Whitehead Nagda in collaboration with the San Diego ZooPanda Math

Through awesome pictures of the panda cubs, we explore subtraction in real life math situations. Interesting facts are used to illustrate subtraction problems, such as how much weight Hua Mei gained in three months or how much less time they eat bamboo compared to the wild. A fascinating subject and great way to relate math to kids.

Web Resources

 Number Eaters

This game is like a pac man game, you move your character to sums of a  number. For example the prompt €˜Sums of 2' would mean you could move to spaces named €˜1+1' or €˜2+0'. It puts a time pressure on student like pac man when the other villain is coming to eat your character. You have to move fast, starting with simple sums, moving to harder sums. This game comes in addition,  and subtraction as well as other functions.

Froggy Addition Game

This game covers basic addition facts, quizzing students on number sentences, giving three choices for answers to click on. It tell the right answer if you got it wrong and congratulates when correct. It also keeps score.

Balloon Pop Subtraction

This game uses popping balloons to quiz basic subtraction facts. The number sentence is at the top and three choices for the answer are at the bottom. You can figure out what the answer is by popping the same balloons for the number being subtracted.  Great for students starting out with subtraction.

Math Addition and Subtraction Game

This game is marked K, but it can be great for 1st grade as well. It is a timed game  that presents the number sentences and multiple choice answers in words and numerals randomly. It also shows the amount of apples in two rows on for each number being added or subtracted.

Alien Addition

This game shows a number sentence at the top and you have to click the space ship with the correct answer before they fly away! It uses a timed element to make more of a challenge. Student really have to know their facts!

Additional Resources:

Cookie Cutter Addition:  This lesson uses play dough and cookie cutters to create shapes inorder to illustrate number sentences. Children can also have practice formin numbers using play dough.

Teaching Addition:  This lesson helps the connection of addition to our everday lives.  Students will add objects together as well as come up with 3 ideas as to why addition is important for us to know.

Teaching subtraction with base 10 blocks:  This lesson uses a valuable manipulative in teaching subtraction: Base-10 Blocks. They can help show visually place value and regrouping in subtraction problems.