Author Archive for Melissa

Teaching First Grade Math: Addition and Subtraction

The following information includes resources that will be helpful when teaching basic addition and subtraction facts.   The information covers the Virginia Standards of Learning  for math 1.5.  With the help of these resources, students will develop strategies helpful for fact recall, develop an understanding of the addition and subtraction relationship, and develop fluency with basic number combinations for addition and subtraction.  These books and websites should be used in combination with instructional activities and assessments.

Recommended books:


12 Ways to Get to 11 written by Eve Merriam and illustrated by Bernie Karlin

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 __ 12 What happened to 11?

Is it in the magician’s hat? Maybe it’s in the mailbox or hiding in the jack-o’-lantern? Don’t forget to look in the barnyard where the hen awaits the arrival of her new little chicks. Could that be where eleven went?

Eve Merriam and Bernie Karlin take young readers on a counting adventure as they demonstrate twelve witty and imaginative ways to get to eleven.


Elevator Magic written by Stuart J. Murphy and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

When the elevator goes down, the subtraction starts and so does the magic. Ben sees crazy things every time the door opens. Ride along as he subtracts his way down to the lobby, and decide for yourself if it's elevator magic.


Math for All Seasons written by Gregory Tang and illustrated by Harry Briggs

Your challenge is to find the sum without counting one by one. Why not count? It’s much too slow –Adding is the way to go! Make clever groups before you start –Then add them in a way that’s smart! MATH FOR ALL SEASONS will challenge every kid — and every parent — to open their minds and solve problems in new and unexpected ways. By looking for patterns, symmetries, and familiar number combinations within eye-catching pictures, math will become easier, quicker, and more fun than anyone could have imagined!


The Hershey’s Kisses Addition Book  written by Jerry Pallotta and illustrated by Rob Bolster

What better way to introduce simple addition concepts than with delicious Hershey¹s Kisses? To illustrate math concepts, this book features a cast of miniature clowns struggling under the weight of life-sized Hersheys Kisses.


The Action of Subtraction written by Brian P. Cleary and illustrated by Brian Gable

The author has used the format of his popular Words Are CATegorical books (Millbrook) to look at mathematical functions. Subtraction is explained in rhyming text and simple, silly cartoons with excellent examples that range from angry bulldogs, hornets, and bowling pins to pieces of birthday cake, sports time-outs, and stuffed animals. The text is actually a rap that would be fun for students to memorize and perform. The illustrations are colorful and attractive, and an explanation of the equals sign is included. Despite a bit of filler at the end, this book has value in the mathematic section of libraries and will find a place in classrooms with teachers who want to appeal to a variety of learning styles.

Web annotations:

The Little Animals Activity Center: Offers adding and subtracting at 3 levels.

QUIA: Addition facts to 18 :  Choose flashcards, matching, concentration or word search to practice these facts.

Princess Math: Choose your operation ( + , – , x , / ). Pick a Tiara and a Gown. Make sure the numbers for each fit the equation on the upper right. Each level adds new tiaras and gowns. Pass all ten levels and enter your score. You win 3 minutes to dress up the princess any way you like!

Cross the swamp: choose add/subtract or mult/divide and # level to help the monkey cross the swamp.

Fact Families: click and drag the given numbers to create fact families.

Additional resources:
  Cookie Cutter Addition : This lesson plan uses play dough and cookie cutters to teach math.

Let's Learn Those Facts:
In this lesson, students display their knowledge of properties of objects for sorting and creating patterns. They also demonstrate an understanding of the commutative property and model addition and subtraction of whole numbers using different representations

Teaching Addition:   Lesson on Addition for a first grade classroom.  At the end of this lesson the students should be able to add different objects together to find out how many objects there are total
The students should be able to explain up to 3 different reasons that being able to add is important.  The lesson uses manipulatives and explains different ways we can use addition in our everyday lives.

Teaching subtraction with base 10 blocks:
Base 10 blocks can make abstract ideas like place value and regrouping visible and tangible for your primary school students when the time comes to teach subtraction.

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: What is Money?


What is money? written by Mary Firestone and illustrated by Enoch Peterson is an easy to read book about why money is used, currencies of the world and how bills and coins are made.  If explains to us that without money, people have to barter or trade so money makes it easier to get what you want.  We learn that buying is like trading and that people trade their time and skills for money and then trade money for things.  The book is written in a kid friendly manner, has great real pictures and includes fun facts on many of the pages.    There is a hands on activity at the end of the book as well as a glossary, a couple of additional book suggestions and directions for how to find safe, fun internet sites related to this book.

Curriculum Connections:

This book would be perfect to use in the introduction of money.  It could be used with younger kids to explain that people work to earn money to buy things they want (Va SOL K.7 b) as well as slightly older kids to distinguish between the use of barter and the use of money in exchange for goods and services (Va SOL 2.8).  This would be a good book to have in the classroom as a resource and could probably be read by second graders.

Additional Resources

  • Visit Dollar the Dragon to learn more about banks, checks, savings, atms, and more.
  • The FDIC learning bank is a website for students, teachers and parents to learn about the FDIC with your tour guide, Carmen Cents, the pig.
  • Donut Dinero is a lesson plan which includes bartering activities.
  • Needs and Wants provides background information as well as activities.

General Information:
Book: What is Money?
Author: Mary Firestone
Illustrator: Enoch Peterson
Publisher: First Fact Books
Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 24
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 9780736826426

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: Tutankhamen’s Gift


Tutankhamen’s Gift, written and illustrated by Robert Sabuda, is the story of a young boy named Tutankamen.  Tutankamen, a small, frail boy who did not excel at physical activities, was a member of the royal family of the great Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III.  The story tells of Tutankamen going to school, playing and watching his father’s craftsmen build temples to glorify the many gods that he and the Egyptians worshiped.  When Amenhotep III died, the pharaoh’s eldest son, Amenhotep IV, assumed his father’s power.  Unfortunately he was not like his father and was not liked by the people.  When Tutankamen’s brother, Amenhotep IV, mysteriously died, the small, meek 10 year old, Tutankamen, became pharaoh.  Tutankamen “ruled over the people..with kindness and a true heart until the end of his days”.

Curriculum Connections:

This book would be an interesting introduction to Ancient Egypt.  It discusses the pharaohs, the temples, and the many gods they worshiped.  It mentions the Nile River, the children’s education and some of the people’s customs.  It combines simple text with artwork true to the historical period in which Tutankamen lived.  (Va SOL SOL 2.1 and 2.4a).

Additional Resources:

Ancient Egypt: About the Nile a video clip about the Nile River and the ancient Egyptians.

Pharaoh: Lord of the Two Lands is a site that includes a story, artwork to explore, and a challenge.

Build your own scale model of the Great Pyramid.

General Information:
Book: Tuthankhamen’s Gift
Author: Robert Sabuda
Illustrator: Robert Sabuda
Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company
Publication Date: 1988
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 2-4
ISBN: 9780689318184

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: A Lesson for Martin Luther King, Jr.


A Lesson for Martin Luther King, Jr, written by Denise Lewis Patrick and illustrated by Rodney S. Pate tells the story of young Martin as a second grader.  Martin returns home from his first day of school very excited.  He and his best friend Bobby were going to different schools and he wanted to share his excitement with him.  Throughout this short book, Martin is disappointed that Bobby doesn’t have time to play with him anymore.  Bobby finally explains to Martin that they can’t play anymore because Martin is colored and Bobby is white.  “Papa says colored and white can’t mix.”  Martin doesn’t understand and after his father tries to explain to him, Martin asks “Can’t I change the rules?  Can’t I change people’s minds?”  Martin’s father smiles and he answers “yes, you can.” The book ends with “I will try, Daddy,” Martin said.  “I will try.”

The last page includes a timeline of his life.

Curriculum Connections:

This book could be used to  introduce Martin Luther King, Jr to young students.  It could be used to explain to young students why we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr day (Va SOL K.1) as well as to help explain to students the contributions that he made that helped to improve the lives of other Americans (Va SOL 2.11 and 3.11 b)

Additional Resources:

Freedom, Freedom, Let It Ring is an easy song for your students to learn and is sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

Writing Prompts for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day lists several ideas to get your students writing.

Martin Luther King, Jr: A Clothesline Timeline  is a fun lesson plan and activity used to depict the events in the life of MLK, Jr.

General Information:

Book: A Lesson for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Author: Denise Lewis Patrick
Illustrator: Rodney S. Pate
Publisher: Alladdin Paperbacks
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 31
Grade Rabge: K-3
ISBN: 9780689853982

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Giant Steps


Giant Steps, written by Elizabeth Loredo and illustrated by Barry Root, uses cardinal directions to tell the story of five giants playing hide and go seek.   While the unlucky fifth giant counts, the other four giants take giant steps that lead to the four corners of the globe.  They run north, nouth, east and west until the fifth giant call FREEZE!  When he sees another giant running, he grabs the sun and throws it at the giant.  Unfortunately that fifth giant is unlucky, misses and is it again.  “And that’s a lucky thing for those giants to the north, south, east and west.  On account of he’s the only giant that can COUNT.”

Curriculum Connections:

This book would be a fun resource to use in geography to introduce map skills and cardinal directions (VA SOL 1.4 b).  A map of the United States could be displayed.  The teacher could point out Virginia and explain where it is in relation to others states (VA SOL 1.4 c).  This would be a good time to introduce the compass rose to the class.   Using the map, the students could try to determine where the giants may have ended up by running north, south, east and west.

Additional Resources:

  •  Treasure Hunt is a fun activity for students.  They would be asked to hide an object and then create a treasure map that leads to the object and includes a compass rose and a map key.
  • Mystery State is a worksheet that shows the state of Virginia.  Students are asked to use a map of the USA to determine which state is shown then complete information at the bottom of the sheet pertaining to that state.

General Information:

Book: Giant Steps
Author: Elizabeth Loredo
Barry Root
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2004
Grade Range:
K – 3

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: The Sun: Our Nearest Star


The Sun: Our Nearest Star, written by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by Edward Miller does a wonderful job of explaining our daytime star, the sun.  The book includes a beautifully illustrated analogy of the size of the sun compared to the size of the earth as a beach ball compared to a pea.  The book explains how far away the sun is by how long it would take a space ship to travel to the sun compared to the moon and how long it takes light to reach the earth from the sun compared to the light from the other stars.

We learn from the book, that “without the sun,  earth would be cold and dark.  No Plants would grow, no animals, no bugs, birds or flowers.  Nothing could live here.  The sun keeps us alive.”  There is an introduction to solar energy and then we are left with the fact that the sun has warmed our planet for millions of years and will continue to for many more millions of years.

The book is filled with vibrant illustrations that help to the relay the scientific concepts presented by Branley and includes two activities to help students find out more about the sun.

Curriculum Connections
The Sun: Our Nearest Star
would be great to use as an introduction to the solar system.  It could be used in the early grades to teach about the relationships between the sun and the earth and the role of the sun in providing energy and light to warm the land, air and water.  (Va SOL 1.6a) With older students this book could be used to introduce the sun as an important source of solar energy and renewable energy.  (VA SOL 3.11a,b)

Additional Resources

  • Lesson Plan: The Sun: Our Local Star includes a reading comprehension passage and questions.
  • The Sun  is an interactive website that includes links to vocabulary, a song about the sun and a question from the information provided.
  • Star Stuff First Grade  is a collection of lesson plans related to the Virginia SOLs.
  • Tour the Planets card game.

Book: The Sun: Our Nearest Star
Author: Franklyn Branley
Illustrator: Edward Miller
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 2002
Pages:  25
Grade Range: K – 3
ISBN: 9780060285340

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Are You a Ladybug?


Are you a ladybug? written by Judy Allen and illustrated by Tudor Humphries takes us through the life cycle of a ladybug.  Allen begins by showing us what a ladybug’s parents look like.  She then goes on to tell us that the mother lays eggs, the babies inside grow and then brake out.  At this point they may wonder if they are ladybugs because they don’t look anything like a ladybug.The babies are not the same shape or color as their parents.  As time goes on, the babies eat and grow.  Their skin becomes tight, it cracks and they wriggle out of it.  They do this over and over again until they finally emerge as the same shape as a lady bug but very pale and with no spots.  “Slowly, slowly, slowly, your color grows stronger.  Your black dots appear.  Congratulations, you’re a ladybug!”

Curriculum Connections
This book would be a fun resource to use when introducing life cycles to students and for teaching students that not all babies resemble their parents when they are born.  Many children know that butterflies start out as caterpillars and that frogs start out as tadpoles but I bet that most of them don’t know that a ladybug doesn’t start out as a ladybug.  It would be interesting to show pictures of a few baby insects (including a ladybug) and animals to the class and ask what they will grow up to be before reading this book.    With younger children the book would be used to show that animals need to eat to survive, that they change as they grow and have varied life cycles.  It would also be used to teach students that offspring of animals are similar but not identical to their parents.  (VA SOL K.7 a, c,d).  It could be used with older students to teach that animals undergo a series or orderly changes as they mature and grow (VA SOL 2.4 a).

Additional Resources

  • This  lifecycle page contains the pages to create the lifecyle of a ladybug book.
  • This  sequencing page contains a useful assessment activity.
  • This butterfly lifecycle mobile looks like a fun craft.  It shows the complete metamorphosis of a butterfly from egg to larva (caterpillar) to pupa to adult (the butterfly).

Book: Are you a ladybug?
Author: Judy Allen
Illustrator: Tudor Humphries
Publisher: Kingfisher
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 31 pages
Grade Range: K – 2
ISBN: 9780753452417

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Forces Make Things Move


Forces Make Things Move by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Illustrated by Paul Meisel takes a concept that can be difficult to understand and explains it on a child’s level.  The pushing and stopping of a toy car is used to explain force.  Bradley explains that it takes a lot of force to move heavy objects such as a real car or a couch and just a little bit of force to move objects such as a leaves or papers that don’t weigh very much.

She then explains friction and gravity, two types of forces.  She relates both of these forces again to the toy car.  There is a really cute page that shows us what Earth would be like without gravity.  The spilled milk fell to the ceiling rather than the floor.  The cat is on the ceiling licking the spilled milk.  Food, utensils and even the pet dog are floating around in the kitchen. There is even an experiment at the end of the book to find out more about friction.

Curriculum Connections
Although the book is suggested for 1st – 3rd grade, force seems to be a difficult concept to understand.  This book would be a great introduction to force at the 4th grade level by helping to explain the characteristics and interaction of moving objects including changes in motion relating to force and mass and that friction is a force that opposes motion (VA SOL 4.2 b,c).  The teacher could begin by reading to book to the class and then conducting the experiment at the back of the book to reinforce what they have learned about friction.  The book could then kept in the classroom library as a fun reference.

Additional Resources

  • Battleship online game: Sink your opponent’s ship by answering questions correctly.  A review of essential knowledge relating to the fourth grade science unit on “Force, Motion and Energy.”
  • A hands on lesson plan: May the Force be With You will help students understand that the greater the mass of an object, the greater the force needed to change its motion.
  • Try this friction experiment: it uses a shoe, a rubber band and a ruler as well as some different items to create friction, such as aluminum foil, sand paper and cooking oil.

Book:  Forces Make Things Move
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Illustrator: Paul Meisel
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 33 pages
Grade Range: 1-4
ISBN: 9780060289072

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Skunkdog


Skunkdog, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Pierre Pratt is a heartwarming story of a pet dog, Dumpling, who is unable to smell.  Without a sense of smell, she was not able to relate to other dogs.  She had no friends and was lonely.  She moved to the country with her family and ended up with a very stinky friend, a skunk.  Although Dumpling’s family wasn’t happy about this, Dumpling and the skunk soon became best friends.  Dumpling’s family bought a lot of tomato juice.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used while teaching the five senses, the corresponding sensing organs and sensory descriptors used to describe common objects.  Students will be taught that humans have senses that allow them to seek, find, take in and react or respond to information in order to learn about their surroundings (VA SOL K.2 a,b).  Since we will be using this book with a kindergarten class, the teacher would need to read the book to the class.  As the book is being read, the teacher could ask the class questions about how a skunk smells and other smells that they like or like.   The teacher could then pass around some items such as coffee, chocolate, lemons, garlic or peppermint for the class to smell and describe.

Additional Resources

  • 5 senses lesson plan: Pop popcorn and have the students guess what it is by the sound and the smell.  Pass out the popcorn and have the students describe how it feels, looks and tastes.
  • Ten activities for teaching about the five senses: Activities such as feely bags, sound boxes and spicy gingerbread men.
  • Engaging science activity: Make colored, scented play-dough.  It encourages children to use several senses and it is really fun.

Book:   Skunkdog
Author: Emily Jenkins
Illustrator: Pierre Pratt
Publisher: Frances Foster Books
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 30 pages
Grade Range: K-2
ISBN: 978-0-374-37009-1