Author Archive for Mallary

Teaching Kindergarten Math: Shapes

The following Instructional Resource Set focuses on the recognition and mastery of two dimensional geometric shapes at the Kindergarten level.  In its entirety, this comprehensive plan places emphasis specifically on Virginia Standards of Learning  K.11-K12.  With these resources, in addition to lesson plans and activities, children will learn to recognize the four basic geometric shapes (circle, square, rectangle, and triangle) but are also faced with less traditional shapes such as diamonds, hearts, octagons, and ovals.  Children also learn to compare sizes of geometric shapes and positions relative to one another.  The books, websites, and online activities listed below aid in teaching these concepts to students.

Text Annotations: Children's Literature

Shapes, Shapes, Shapes by Tana Hoban


Hoban is well known for her wordless, yet instructionally brilliant children's books and this book is no exception!  If children have never been introduced to one of these unique books, they will be in for a treat as they sit down to this one.  Children can become an author, putting their own words to each page; or, teachers can be the author, taking children which he/ she reads to on a geometric journey.  Each page includes interesting and beautiful urban landscapes, portraits, and still life, thus relaying to children that shapes are all around them, every day, in every way!  Children will have fun studying each page, looking hard to find shapes within each one.  A plethora of circles, stars, triangles, trapezoids and more are embedded within each photograph.  The great thing is that before the book even begins, Hoban provides readers with a key of shapes to look for as they delve into each page.  A shape lesson can begin to take form before the teacher and the students even turn to the first page!

When a Line Bends, A Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene


How does a shape even become a shape?  Where many shape books for children never really answer that question, this book serves as a phenomenal introduction to the line being the basis for all shapes.  Perhaps a line is a jump rope laid out straight, or lots of little black ants in a row?  Whatever it is, when it bends, a shape begins!  Through pictures and catchy rhyming verse, the traditional square, circle, triangle, diamond, rectangle, octagon, and oval are presented for children.  Even the less traditional star, heart, and crescent get some attention too!  No matter how popular, every shape has its own verse and double-page spread loaded with visual examples for children to see. This book could be utilized as an enhancement to any geometric shape lesson, or simply a really cute read-aloud with which children will easily fall in love.

Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh


Ellen Stoll Walsh, once again, proves she is a master of children's concept books with this cute companion to her classic concept books, Mouse Paint and Mouse Count.  Here, three quirky little mice are on the run from a big, scary cat!  In their adventure to hide, they discover shapes and work as a team to create larger things out of the smaller geometric figures.  The clever mice are curious as to what they can create with two circles, or a square, or perhaps, even eight triangles?  How about a wagon, or a house, maybe even a cat?!  Children will love to follow the story line of this enticing book, thus permitting them the opportunity to further learn shapes and colors.  Teachers can easily extend this book into a true lesson by using large, cut-out shapes for children to find as the mice do too!

A Circle Here, A Square There  by David Diehl


Yet another wonderful book to use in the classroom to help children identify shapes as common elements in every day life.  Every page of this book displays the single word for each shape in large, bold print with accompanying pictorial examples beneath. A square is represented by a beautifully wrapped gift, the circle by a delicious scoop of ice cream.  These are just a couple of the book's very relatable examples for children to see.  Among the book's other shapes are the heart, oval, diamond, crescent, and even an octagon.

The Wing on a Flea: A Book about Shapes by Ed Emberley


In this fun rhyming book that serves as a renovated version of the 1961 edition, shapes are presented to children as things they eat, see, or play with in their daily lives.  Children will be completely mesmerized by clean-cut shapes, cheerful colors, varying sizes and the world that is created by combining them all together.  Each shape is taught apart from every other, however, that does not stop the author from utilizing a combination of every shape in all pictures.  All geometric figures are displayed as solid colors on a black background, thus allowing children to see the shapes clearly with no distractions.  "Look and you can see that a wing on a flea is a triangle!"

Web Annotations: Children’s Website

The Story of Shapes presents a furry, quirky animal telling the story of shapes and providing descriptions for each as he draws them on a chalkboard for childre nto see!

The Shape Train asks that children identify the correct shapes in order to get the train to take off from the station.  This can also be done using colors, whereby the child must choose the correct colors to get the train to take off.  For a more advanced activity, the child can choose to mix colors and shapes!

Purpy’s Shapes allows children to have fun with Purpy while finding some his favorite shapes.  Children are first asked to match objects that are seen in every day life to corresponding geometric shapes.  Secondly, they must find a given number of shapes in a presented picture.   If the child succeeds at this task, he/ she is then presented with a kid-friendly explanation of how circles and squares are “squished” to get ovals and rectangles.  Each time a child gets a page correct, he/ she must locate an increased number of shapes in a new picture!

On this site, Kids Online Resources Presents Learning is Fun, children are shown shapes first, then asked to drag their mouse over real-life objects that match the given shape.  Once correct,  the child gets the opportunity to create large, sometimes silly, pictures or objects out of that shape.

With I Spy Shapes children are presented with various scenes, which include several shapes throughout the picture.  Children must locate the shapes and click on them with the mouse as a number ticker keepts track of the shapes found.  The picture is completed and the children are praised when all are successfully located!

Additional Resources

Hummingbird Education Resources: Lesson Plans

From catchy songs to cute in-class crafts, this site offers a comprehensive listing of various ways for teachers to implement and teach the shapes in Kindergarten classrooms.

With Shapes Recognition Practice several downloadable printables, listed from easiest to hardest to aid in differentiated learning, are presented to teachers to utilize in reinforcing the learning of shapes, sizes, and relative positions.

Step by Step Childcare Presenting Shapes

From edible ideas using common shapes to a list of children's literature, this is a great site for teachers providing multiple methods to enforce the recognition of shapes.

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Story of Money


The Story of Money, written by Betsy Maestro and illustrated by Giulio Maestro, provides a thorough history of how simple pieces of paper eventually came to be the accepted means of payment around the world known as "money."  The book also highlights the act of trade whereby explaining the ancient procedures of bartering and use of commodities such as salt, grain, and tobacco as means of exchange.  In other words, long ago, people would exchange items they could spare for other items they desired (VA Economics SOL 1.8, 2.8).  Such is the case when the "Sumerians melted silver and formed it into small bars, [and] stamped [them] with exact weight [to] let people know how much silver they were getting or giving in return for goods or labor" (15).  In this, the barter system ultimately paved the way for money.  The authors uncover the many forms of money that have been connected with human history—past, present, and even, future.

Curriculum Connections

The authors do an excellent job at presenting a complicated subject in an easy to understand, entertaining way for children.  The book allows children to take a journey through time, thus clearly showing the evolution of money from what it was in the beginning to what it is today.  Just as the text progresses and modernizes throughout the book, so do the brilliant watercolor images.  Children see people working on the rivers, living in huts and wearing traditional dress as they exchange goods for "money" years ago.  As the pages draw to an end, children see images that have become familiar to them today.  Large cargo ships carry goods in and out of American ports and people wait in line at the bank for the ATM.  In all of these examples, children are introduced to the idea of consumers, suppliers, and the need to work together in order to satisfy needs (VA Economics SOL 3.7).

Additional Resources

  • This website for kids allows children to practice using coins so as not to “Break the Bank.”  They can research money history, play games, and create change! 
  • This interactive site presents children with a scenario of winning money then asks them choose ways in which to save their money.  The various paths kids take, demonstrate different outcomes, thus showing children the value of money.
  • This lesson plan for teachers to utilize when teaching money allows children to understand and master the practice of trading goods for money in the “Barter Bag.”

Book: The Story of Money

Author: Betsy Maestro

Illustrator: Giulio Maestro

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: April 25, 1995

Pages: 48 pages

Grade Range:  Ages 7-10

ISBN: 0688133045

Teaching Ancient History with Children’s Literature: Ancient Greece and the Olympics


Ancient Greece and the Olympics, written by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Sal Murdocca, is part of the infamous Magic Tree House Series that aims to realistically take children on a voyage through ancient history.  This particular journey to Greece begins with an introduction to the country's history and its people, then moves to the country's religion, its daily life and its culture.  All of these integral elements serve as the foundation for the major focus of this book.  Children are granted with a thorough understanding of Greece's background so as to see how the concept of the Olympic games originated within this magical culture of gods and goddesses.  "The ancient Greeks believed that strong bodies and sports pleased [these] gods, so they honored [them] with sporting events and contests, [thus] the Olympics began as a festival to honor Zeus, [ruler of all the gods]" (69).

Curriculum Connections

This book does a fabulous job uncovering history for children with vivid images, quirky captions, and easy to understand examples, but it also serves as a superb reference tool.  Children could easily utilize this guide when studying, writing about, or researching Ancient Greece and/ or how the country contributed to the creation of the Olympics Games as we know them today (VA SOL 3.1).  The authors provide frequent summaries recapping what prior pages have revealed, pronunciations of unfamiliar vocabulary, as well as italicized and bold terms with definitions that are crucial to the book's understanding.  For example, as the authors describe Athens, they tell readers that "Ancient Athens was divided into about 300 city-states, or poleis (POE-lace)" (14).

Additional Resources

This kid friendly site offers simple summaries, interactive activities, fun facts, and quizzes for children all about Ancient Greece.

With this website, children can learn about the Ancient Greek influence on the English language as they "Go for the Gold" in the Olympic Games. 

This site presents teachers with a mini-unit on theOlympics in Ancient Greece.  Each day is planned out as students meet the Olympians, prepare for various Olympic games, experience the traditional "Opening and Closing Procession" and so much more! 

Book: Ancient Greece and the Olympics: A Nonfiction Companion to Hour of the Olympics

Authors: Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce

Illustrator: Sal Murdocca

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 8, 2004

Pages: 128

Grade Range: Recommended Ages 6-10

ISBN: 978-0375823787

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: A Very Important Day


A Very Important Day, written by Maggie Herold and illustrated by Catherine Stock serves as an exceptional introduction to the naturalization process.  Two-hundred nineteen people from thirty-two counties around the world travel to the same courthouse downtown New York to be sworn in as citizens of the United States of America.  It was a very important day.  Family and friends of the individuals waiting to be sworn in fill the building as the judge begins the oath of citizenship.  Upon repeating the oath, the judge declares his congratulations and says to all two-hundred nineteen new citizens, “You are carrying on a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of our country, for almost all Americans have come from somewhere else; may citizenship enrich your lives as your lives enrich this country, welcome, we are glad to have you.”  They all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and some recieved symbols of this great land, small American flags.  It was a very important day.  Now, all can vote, serve on juries, compete for government jobs, and travel freely outside of the United States.

 Curriculum Connections

As a tool in the classroom, this book would work well as students can easily relate to the vivid imagery of other children from other countries playing in the snow, eating pancakes with mom and dad, and racing friends outside.  In this, American children can see that other children, no matter where they come from, are similiar to themselves.  There is only one temporary difference–their home lands.  This can all change through the process of naturalization, which students will learn about throughout the course of this book.  The child from Mexico, the child from Ghana, and the child from Russia, carrying diverse customs from around the globe, are naturalized as they come together to become citizens of this great nation (VA SOL 3.12).   

Additional Resources

A Very Important Day is designed to work hand-in-hand with the actual book, presenting a game for children to play matching citizenship terms to the correct definitions. 

This site, comprised of a unit’s worth of lesson plans and activities, is great for teachers to utilize and refer to when teaching citizenship. 

C is for Citizenship, as part of, is an informative tool for children to refer to when learning about civics.  It is subdivided into several kid friendly categories such as becoming a US citizen, how to be a good citizen, etc…   

Book: A Very Important Day
Author: Maggie Herold
Illustrator: Catherine Stock
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: August 14, 1995
Pages: 40
Grade Range: First-Third

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: My Granny Went to Market


Rather than rely on the “traditional” map book to teach geographical concepts, why not utilize a book where characters venture to different destinations around the world, thus bringing the lesson to life by allowing readers to follow the adventures on a globe or map in the classroom?  In My Granny Went to Market, written by Stella Blackstone and illustrated by Christopher Corr, young readers are granted this opportunity to join Granny as she journeys around the world to collect treasures native to each land.  Not only are children exposed to foreign areas and the signature goods each has to offer, they are also presented with a sense of directionality that is required to get from one land to the next.  For example, readers “spiraled south to Kenya” with Granny where she bought six booming drums.  This is a good introduction to the four common directions used on compasses and maps that children will need to understand as more advanced geographical concepts are presented in higher grades.  With a one-page legend documenting all of Granny’s purchases and an ending map that highlights all of her routes across the world, children are again introduced to additional geographical concepts that they need to know.
Curriculum Connections:
As an instructional tool, this book presents the idea of travel and geography realistically, yet at the same time, very simplistically for  children to understand.  The vividly colored illustrations give off the feeling of Mexican folk art.  It is a wonderful introduction to geographical concepts such as legends, directions, and maps (SOL 1.5).  For the very youngest children, the book serves the purpose of relating foreign places to where they are in the world by use of positional terminology (SOL K.3) and also describing these lands that are often referenced in stories and real life situations (SOL K.4 b).  For older children, the end-map could be a guide for them to create their own map of Granny’s journeys (SOL 2.6).

Additional Resources:

With this interactive site, children can navigate through a neighborhood using directionality, thus further teaching and enforcing the purpose of a compass rose.

Children can travel around the world to various locations that were discussed in the book to learn more about the people, the culture, the climate, the location, and so much more!

This site, great for both teachers and/ or parents to use, guides children as they can concoct their own map using their own personal landmarks, terms, and routes.

Book: My Granny Went to Market: A Round-the-World Counting Rhyme
Author: Stella Blackstone
Illustrator: Christoper Corr
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: March 2006
Pages: 12
Grade Range: Recommended K-2
ISBN: 9781841487922

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: On Earth


G. Brian Karas’ book On Earth is dedicated to explaining the Earth’s daily and yearly cycles, as well as the Earth’s orbit, rotation, and tilt that contribute to these cycles.  Karas also sheds light on how and why we have the given seasons and what makes the day time light, and night time dark. Though the concepts are complex in nature, the book aims to describe them in a simple, poetic way in order to help children form a general understanding.  This gentle, child-friendly method is exemplified often throughout the book.  Take for example, Karas’ explanation of night where he states that “at night we turn away from the sun and see a universe of stars and planets while we dream of what we can do tomorrow.”  The information is not presented in a typical fashion, whereby all parts are connected.  Instead, to assist in child comprehension, Karas utilizes a step-by-step approach so as to focus on elements loosely and individually.  The author’s main goal appears clear: Have young readers think big concepts that are old in time.

Curriculum Connections
On Earth
is an exceptional tool for use in early elementary classrooms.  The text is simple and pleasing, while the illustrations are vibrant, detailed, and helpful.  As previously stated, children are forced to begin thinking about complex concepts and procedures.  Chances are, these topics will be confusing and overwhelming to begin, but in the way Karas presents the information, the book is a great place to start.  The distinctively colorful, sometimes sideways pictures are intriguing and draw readers in, while the diagrams and text work to explain the brilliant images with simple words and phrases.  The book does a great job introducing elements that contribute to the understanding of the relationship between Earth and sun, changing of the seasons, how day turns to night, etc…(Virginia Standards of Learning 3.8 a).  Young children can also relate to the occurrences in the book.  For example readers see other children going to school as the seasons change…just as they do, celebrate birthdays as years progress…just as they do, and stand by small trees in their growth stages…just as they do.  The more a child can relate, the more easily he/she can understand the difficult concepts.

Additional Resources

  • This link provides teachers with a helpful, fun lesson explaining how Earth’s rotations contribute to day and night.  Children will love this experiment and it can work with all age groups!
  • This interactive extended dictionary for kids helps children to actually see the solar system and click on various elements for an in-depth explanation.  It provides facts, pictures, and definitions.  In addition to highlighting Earth and the sun, it can also be helpful for lessons on outer space as it extends well beyond the two basic elements.
  • This site provides a fun activity for children to utilize online to better understand Earth’s rotation, its position, time between rotations, etc…It is interactive and presents the correct answer automatically after children give the questions a try first!

Book: On Earth
Author/Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
Publisher: Puffin Books, A Division of The Penguin Group
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-3
ISBN: 978-0-399-24025-6

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Tell Me, Tree


Tell Me, Tree, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons, presents a close-up look for children at many important characteristics, purposes, and behavioral traits of trees.  Gibbons exposes readers to an abundance of different types of individual trees, as well as the parts, functions, and growth methods of a trees in general.  She even touches on photosynthesis and how trees are helpful to humans, animals, and the environment.  Each page begins with, “tell me, tree,” and is followed by an insightful explanation about a various aspect of trees.  For example, page seven reads, “tell me more, tree” and is followed with an illustration of the inside of a tree trunk, whereby stating that underneath the bark is a thin layer called phloem, that carries food from leaves to the branches, roots, and trunk.  Gibbons completes this vividly colorful, instructional book with directions for children to create their very own tree identification book.

Curriculum Connections
This book is perfect as an instructional tool in the classroom due to the over-sized, dramatic images that are labeled in detailed and easy to understand.  It can also be used as a reference source, or even a dictionary, for children when completing experiments, projects, or in-class work that focuses on plant life.  The book helps readers to see the importance of trees in everyday life as children in the book are seen observing, using, and appreciating trees and plants.  In thoroughly highlighting plant life, plant characteristics, and photosynthesis, Tell Me, Tree works to help students see the diversity among plants and trees, as well as the important role that plants play in every day life (Virginia Standards of Learning 4.4 a, b, c, and d).

Additional Resources

  • This Photosynthesis Lesson  is a great online tutorial for kids, giving them the opportunity to read text and fill in the blanks to test knowledge.
  • Children can use this interactive tree key to better understand how to identify trees.
  • Children can go to this page to find exciting plant experiments they can easily conduct to discover interesting facts about plants.

Book: Tell Me, Tree
Author/Illustrator: Gail Gibbons
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 30 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-3
ISBN: 0-316-30903-6

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Switch On, Switch Off


Light switches are everywhere!  They are in every house: in the kitchen, the bedroom, the office, the bathroom…but are they really magic?  When it’s time for bed and mom yells “lights out,” is it truly magic within that switch that allows the room to go dark?  Switch On, Switch Off, written by Melvin Berger and illustrated by Carolyn Croll, is an excellent resource for young children to begin exploring the magic within the light switch, or what is better known as electricity!  The story begins just this way, with a child heading to bed, curious as to how his light switch operates.  This commences the lesson where Berger youthfully explains circuits, generators, light bulbs, and plugs, thus demonstrating how electricity is produced and even used.  With the help of Croll’s easy to understand illustrations, children can not only read about electricity, but they can see pictures that enforce how the processes work.  The author even offers a live experiment that children can do to create their own electricity using just a magnet, compass, and piece of wire.

Curriculum Connections
Due to its text-book like specificity and instructional images, Switch On, Switch Off is perfect for use in young classrooms.  The text is extremely kid-friendly, leaving out any elaborate, overwhelming explanations.  For example, in explaining how circuits are split into many other circuits as they enter a house, Berger compares them to small roads coming off of a big highway.  In addition, the pictures are all labeled, allowing children to better understand the core elements necessary for the creation of electricity.  Berger’s book can be tied to Virginia Standards of Learning 4.3 a, b, c, d and e, which may effectively serve as an introduction to basic information about circuits, conductors and insulators, the transformation of electricity, as well as simple electromagnets.  This is a great starting point for children to begin discovering the concept so they can be more familiar in expected later grades.

Additional Resources

  • Electricity Circuits and Conductors  is a great interactive tool for children to experiment with electricity conductors.
  • Electricity and Magnetism is a help site for children to utilize if they have questions or need clarification about the concepts.  Within specific sections under various topics are games, activities, histories, and helpful hints.
  • Electricity Teaching Resources is a site to be used by teachers wishing to explore electricity with students.  The site contains activities, games, teaching strategies, physical science links, quizzes, tests, and more!

Book: Switch On, Switch Off
Author: Melvin Berger
Illustrator: Carolyn Croll
Publisher: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
Publication Date: 1989
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-3, Could be extended through upper elementary
ISBN:  0-690-04786-X

Teaching Process Skills with Children's Literature: Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!


Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!, written by Kathleen Kudlinski and illustrated by S. D. Schindler, aims to show children that many theories about dinosaurs have been created throughout the years based on fossils and other various evidence.  However, and more importantly, it also shows that many of these theories that were once believed to be true, later turned out to be disproved by contradicting evidence.  Scientists discussed in the book made small mistakes, such as the one made regarding the Iguanodon fossil that was thought to be a spike on the dinosaur’s nose, but later turned out to be the animal’s hands.  On the contrary, they also made HUGE mistakes that concerned not just one, but the entire species of dinosaurs, like the one regarding their legs.  At first, scientists thought that dinosaurs “could only waddle clumsily on all fours” with elbows and knees that pointed out to the side like a lizard.  Evidence we have today proves that these huge creatures had legs that were straight under them, thus causing some to be “as fast and graceful as deer.”  Boy, were they wrong about dinosaurs!

Curriculum Connections
As an instructional tool, this book is a realistic, yet very kid friendly, introduction to the formulation of thought that drives the creation, and sometimes dissolution, of scientific theory.  It relates strongly to the Science Standard of Learning 3.1 parts (a) (b) and (j).  Scientists worked constantly to uncover new elements that would solidify what was already thought or not thought about the behavior, bones and characteristics of dinosaurs.  Predictions were made based on fossils, feathers, tracks, and other findings.  Through repeat observation, scientists could sometimes further make more concrete conclusions.

Additional Resources

  • Museum of The Rockies: A great site displaying additional resources relating to the continued discoveries made about dinosaurs.  It consists of blogs, books, DVD’s, other children’s books, and websites about dinosaurs.
  • Learning from the Past: A great website for educators to link this book with others like it.  In doing so, the site works to highlight ways to learn from the past.
  • Biology For Kids: This site can be helpful for teachers and students to better understand the process of scientific discovery.  In sharing Boy, Were Wrong About Dinosaurs! with children, this site can aid in explaining reasoning, questioning, evidence, and the creating and disproving of theory.

Book: Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs!
Author: Kathleen Kudlinski
Illustrator: S. D. Schindler
Publisher: Dutton Children’s Book
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 27 pages
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 0525469788