Author Archive for Megan

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: We the Kids

The Constitution of the United States of America is one of the most important documents in our country’s history. It currently resides in a museum, people write books about it, and some of the most important people in our history helped write it and sign it. Why is it then that most kids do not understand a single word of the document? We the Kids by David Catrow has one line per page of the phrases of the Preamble to the Constitution and a full page at the beginning explaining each phrase. Catrow explains the fourth phrase of the preamble with short words in kid friendly terms: “Insure domestic tranquility: To make sure we can all have a nice life and get along with one another.”

Also serving as the illustrator, Catrow uses kids, as well as a dog, to illustrate the phrases. Catrow explains at the beginning of the book that the dog’s motions and gestures represent the phrases on each page. The pictures are beautifully hand drawn and exhibit exactly what kids would think of according to the definitions. It is a colorful book, with lots of diversity, fun images, and a cartoon feel that makes U.S. history seem more real and interesting than “an old, brown crackly-looking thing with curly handwriting that’s almost impossible to read,” according to Catrow.

Curriculum Connections
We the Kids
is a great source for learning about the preamble to the United States Constitution. It is a great introduction to the Constitution in general or any other ancient document that students may learn about (Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, etc.). It is a great introduction to the learning of government and primary sources vs. secondary sources. In Virginia this book coincides with SOLs CE.1, CE.2, CE.3, USI.1, and CE.1.

Additional Resources

  • The American Revolution is a great site that includes activities and quizzes through every step of the Revolutionary War, including the meetings of the Continental Congress and the construction of the American flag.

  • We the Kids is a site that includes a video about the preamble to the Constitution, activities for pre- and post-viewing as well as questions and objectives in learning about the preamble.

  • Constitution Day has a list of books, movies, and interesting facts for all ages about the Constitution for September 17 (which is Constitution Day).

Book:We the Kids
David Catrow
Publisher: Dial
Publication Date:
Pages: 32 pages

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Look What Came From Egypt


Miles Harvey’s Look What Came From Egypt explains in detail with photographs and captions the numerous art, food, and styles we use in today’s society that originated in Egypt. The book is broken up into separate sections including inventions, fashion, food, toys and games, animals and musical instruments. Each section contains explanations for why the Egyptians started using a particular item and normally an ancient picture of the item or idea is shown. The book is written very simply for kids of all ages and connects students across time and space to show they are not unlike kids from other countries. Harvey explains how some food has been passed down from generations and across the seas, “People have been eating pancakes for about 4,600 years. The first cooks to make this delicious meal lived in ancient Egypt.” Each description is straightforward, yet engaging and interesting.

The book uses photographs of paintings, objects, and food to depict all the toys, games, instrument, food and other things that the Egyptians originally invented or developed. Captions accompany the pictures to make recognition easier as well. The photographs are easy to see and make the book seem more appealing and vivid. Harvey makes sure the reader feels transported to ancient Egypt while reading about these styles and inventions.

Curriculum Connections
Look What Came From Egypt
explains all the different styles and inventions that survived through ancient Egypt and are now used around the world in present day. This book can be used to learn about Egypt, that some things change over time, and how countries influence each other. In Virginia, this corresponds to SOLs K.2, 2.1, and 2.4.

Additional Resources

  • Ancient Egypt is a series of responses by various teachers about the different lessons they taught on the subject; includes activities such as stuffing mummies, mummifying apples, and making mini books on Egypt.
  • Country of the Week-Egypt includes a 10 day lesson on Egypt including map, anthem and national symbol activities. Includes information of how to make lapbooks and different ways to experience the ancient Egyptian culture.
  • Ancient Egypt for Children includes cross cultural activities in order to integrate Egypt into all lessons. Includes information from preschool to grade 6 and includes math, social studies and science activities.

Book: Look What Came From Egypt
Miles Harvey
Publisher: Franklin Watts
Publication Date:
32 pages

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: There’s a Map on My Lap


Tish Rabe uses Dr. Seuss’s age old character The Cat in the Hat to teach about maps, reading maps and anything about a map that students will want and need to know in There’s a Map on My Lap. The story is written in true Seuss-fashion with a flowing rhyme scheme and comparisons that will help children understand difficulties such as the distortion a globe makes or how a scale works. Rabe introduces how a map looks taken of a globe by comparing it to an orange.

Peel the skin off an orange
and lay it out flat.
A flat map of the earth
will look something like that.

Rabe introduces and explains topics such as scale, direction, map making, latitude and longitude, legends, paths and puzzles. Almost every page has an information square that explains the term the Car uses in his rhymes and asks questions that can easily be posed to the class. Illustrator Aristides Ruiz uses old fashion cartoon drawings that replicate the Seuss-age drawings to make the book very fantastical, colorful, yet strangely understandable and realistic. The terms are clearly illustrated and explain the words on the page and each different place the Cat goes displays a new map of what the city, sea or bedroom map (or plan) may look like.

Curriculum Connections
There’s a Map on My Lap
uses all aspects of geography and may making to explain concepts such as legends, direction, population, and and scale. Each different topic is a couple of pages long and goes into detail about how to make a scale for a map, how to remember coordinate directions and several pages of the United States and the different state lines. There are multiple pages on many different aspects of geography that can be used in separate lessons (topics include: longitude, latitude, scale, directions, legends, coordinates, various types of maps, population density, different routes to take, measurement using string, and the United States). In Virginia, these topics correspond to SOLs K.4, K.5, 1.4, 1.5 and 2.6.

Additional Resources

  • Introduction to Maps is a website about that includes reading maps, map information and reproducibles about maps.
  • Pedagogy is website that includes a lesson plan about making maps after reading There’s a Map on My Lap!. It also includes follow up and extension activities using map vocabulary.
  • There’s a Map on My Lap is a Word document that includes geography information, websites, and additional resources for students in grades K-6.

Book: There’s a Map on My Lap
Tish Rabe
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date:
48 pages

Teaching Economics with Children's Literature: You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur with a Dime


Harriet Ziefert’s You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur with a Dime is a wonderfully illustrated book that highlights how young children save, earn and spend money. Illustrator Amanda Haley uses simply line drawings with bold colors to highlight the main character, Pete, and the other objects in the foreground. The drawings a simple, yet show the characters’ expressions well and give the book a very realistic feel that children will definitely connect with.

The language in the book is best for young children and will not cause any confusion. Ziefert explains in the story different ways Pete earned his money, saved his money and counted his money. On several pages there are also thought bubbles in the corners that have questions for teachers to ask their class for more interaction while reading aloud. The book switches between a narrative form and speech bubbles and uses words on the page that many young children will like to read aloud or point out to the teacher. The book also contains pages in the back about class activities with money and spending, as well as interesting facts about money and the history of coins.

Curriculum Connections
As young as kindergarten and first grade, students begin to study economics through buying and selling goods and services, saving money, using money and making choices. You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur with a Dime includes different ways the students can learn about these topics, with the inclusion of a math curriculum as well. Pete buys goods, offers his services, saves money and contemplates what to buy to include most of the necessary economic information needed for the younger primary grades. For Virginia, this book covers social studies SOLs K.7b, 1.7, 1.8, and 1.9 in economics as well as math SOLs K.4, K.6, K.7, 1.3 and 1.10.

Additional Resources

  • Labor, Choice, and Sales Tax is a lesson plan for third grade that talks about working, tax and saving money to buy objects. It is designed for third grade, but can be modified for younger grades as well.
  • Counting Money is a site that includes other books about money, additional websites about counting money, coins and math related activities.
  • Family Money Matters is a lesson plan designed for preschool to kindergarten (which can be extended for 1st or 2nd grade) about price tags, consumers, sorting objects based on price, and the various jobs in a store.

Book: You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur with a Dime
Author: Harriet Ziefer
Illustrator: Amanda Haley
Publisher: Blue Apple Books
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: K-3
ISBN: 1593545916

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Sun Up, Sun Down


Sun Up, Sun Down takes the reader through a day in the life of the sun and some of the possible weather changes that may affect the weather. Writer and illustrator Gail Gibbons uses a sense of fun and fascination to present basic facts about the sun and various other weather patterns.

"The sun wakes me up. It rises in the east and shines through my window." Gibbons uses a narrative story telling form, taking the reader through the sun's and the main character's day. From the moment the story begins the main character serves as a typical child asking questions about the sun and informing readers about certain characteristics of the sun; such as it is too bright to look into and it helps plants grow. In the back of the book, Gibbons even includes "Some Sunny Facts" that will help intrigue young readers to read further into the subject.

Doubling as the illustrator, Gibbons uses generic, yet bright colors to fill the pages. The pictures clearly illustrate what the words on the page are saying and help demonstrate some concepts that children may find tricky: such as how far away the sun is, which way shadows face, prisms and rotations. The words are clearly separated from the pictures, which leaves clean lines to read and more space for the picture to develop.

Curriculum Connections
The reading level of Sun Up, Sun Down is more advanced and I would recommend it for grades 3-5, however, the ideas and pictures are equally appropriate for younger students if the book is read to them. Gibbons presents Earth study information in this book such as shadows, prisms, rotation, sun facts, rain and agriculture. The pictures can help students determine certain characteristics of the sun in relation to the Earth, as well as a weather related segment and light (such as rainbows, bending light and prisms). In Virginia, this book relates to science SOL 4.7 a-c.

Additional Resources

  • Whatever the Weather includes numerous facts about how to dress for the weather, different aspects of the weather, activities, weather forecasting, poems, charts, songs, and games. An all inclusive website, including additional children's books, for a variety of ages.
  • Let the Sun Shine! is a lesson plan for younger primary students that uses Sun Up, Sun Down to learn about different activities to do in the sun. Includes coloring activities and suggestions for assessment.
  • Start with the Arts includes several drama type activities for students to act out different aspects of the sun and celestial bodies. Includes ways to differentiate activities for all students, small ways to role play and ways to learn at home.
  • Hello, Sun! offers a variety of websites for all grades about the sun, shadows and time. Also has websites to movies about the sun and math lessons using geometry in relation to the books about the sun. Also has a list of other book similar to Sun up, Sun Down.

Book: Sun Up, Sun Down
Gail Gibbons
Publisher: Voyager Books
32 pages

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Growing Vegetable Soup

From shovels and seeds to vegetable soup, Growing Vegetable Soup takes readers on a journey from the garden to the kitchen. Author and illustrator Lois Elhert uses colorful pictures and large print to transform a learning experience into a story.

Ehlert’s use of color in Growing Vegetable Soup adds a touch of fantasy to a scientific and realistic story. The illustrations are pieced together with simple shapes that describe the words on the page. Each picture has labels to help with vocabulary and spelling. The illustrations play off as a collage, but the colors work together in a way to show off the important words on the page.

The end of the story focuses on the scientific fact that vegetables grow annually and can be used in the end, "At last it's time to eat it all up! It was the best soup ever€¦and we can grow it again next year." Elhert emphasizes each step and includes important information such as watering, sunlight and weeding. Her subtle use of words can be ignored for younger readers or pointed out and studied at more age appropriate grades.

Curriculum Connections
Starting in kindergarten students begin to learn about life science and the way plants change, grow and go through a typical life cycle. Into first grade, students begin to learn more in depth about how to care for plants and the necessities for sustaining life. Growing Vegetable Soup can be used to explain from the very beginning how plants grow and change and the important elements that help plants grow and thrive. The labels and specific instructions provide vocabulary/spelling lists about plants and the pictures provide instructions about how to care for plants. In Virginia, this book applies to science SOL k.6a and k.6b (living things change as they grow, and they need food, water and air to survive; plants and animals live and die (go through ha life cycle), as well as 1.4a (plants have needs-food, air, water, light and a place to grow).

Additional Resources

  • Let's Read offers a full lesson about vegetables that includes taste testing of vegetables, multiple drawing/touching techniques that keeps activities hands-on and a hand-out for students to participate in activities at home.
  • First School gears its activities towards kindergarten and hands-on activities using different vegetables seen in the book. There are also various crafts, language arts/spelling lessons, and references to other books on similar subjects.
  • Lesson 5: Yum Yum seeks to teach kindergarten and first graders the parts of a flower/plant and includes computer, extension and home activities.

Book: Growing Vegetable Soup
Author/Illustrator: Lois Elhert
Publisher: Voyager Books
Publication Date: 1990
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: kindergarten-first grade
ISBN: 0152325808

Teaching Physical Science with Children's Literature: Trucks Trucks Trucks

Join Matt while he explores the different uses and kinds of trucks in his bedroom. Peter Sís has written and illustrated Trucks Trucks Trucks about the different motions that the primary character Matt uses to pick up his room using his toy trucks.

Trucks Trucks Trucks is a simple, yet creative book that shows the different actions of trucks through line drawings in white, yellow and blue accents. Page by page Matt plows, pushes, and rolls through his room while the trucks become gradually bigger until they are life sized and Matt becomes the driver. The book shows direction and motion well to through Matt's movements and efforts.

The layout of the book is very simple, with a question on the first page and then one word on each subsequent page. While it may not be the most difficult reading level book, it connects to the overall subject of physical science and demonstrates the vocabulary and spelling through large print and clear pictures. The beginning line opens the book into a fantasy science world for Matt, "Matt, will you pick up your trucks?".

Curriculum Connections
The reading level of Trucks Trucks Trucks is geared more towards kindergarten or pre-k, however, the book can be used for a physical science lessons in kindergarten and first grade involving straight, circular and back-and-forth motion. The book also shows through pictures and vocabulary that pushing or pulling an object can change the movement. Matt demonstrates the motion through words such as plowing, pushing, rolling, scooping (up and down), sweeping (circular motion), and lifting. In Virginia this relates to science SOL K.3a (attraction/nonattraction, push/pull, attract/repel, and metal/nonmetal) and 1.2a (objects may have straight, circular, and back-and-forth motion) and 1.2c (pushes or pulls can change the movement of an object).

Additional Resources

  • A Turtle Book Lesson Plan offers coloring pictures, additional books, and has additional modes of transportation that move in ways that show straight and circular paths.
  • Books of Common Thread Project includes a list of books that serve a similar purpose as Trucks Trucks Trucks and gives a short abstract and reflection on how the book can be used in a science or language arts lesson.

Book: Trucks Trucks Trucks
Peter Sís
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 23 pages
Grades: K-1
ISBN: 0688162762

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Join the polar bear while he learns all about animal sounds at the zoo. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? is the “auditory” version of Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You See? is a colorfully decorated book that takes children from animal to animal learning about different animal and people sounds. Eric Carle’s pictures seem flawless and give children a more fantasy feel when reading the book. The illustrator uses simple shapes and colors that children could easily begin to copy, trace, or color in to practice their own art skills.

In addition to the art, the repetitive nature of the book brings a read-aloud quality to the story and encourages students to participate in the reading experience, while simultaneously learning about the different noises of elephants, zebras, peacocks and many more. The book begins and ends with the similar tell-tale lines, “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear? I hear a lion roaring in my ear.”

Curriculum Connections
This book could be useful for kindergarten and first grade. Students begin to work with their five senses in kindergarten and Polar Bear can help with auditory and visual awareness as well as practice with sensory description of the pictures and sounds. Into first grade, students can use this story to help with predictions based on patterns about which animal may come next and which sounds match the animals on the final pages. In Virginia this relates to science SOL K.1c (objects are described both pictorially and verbally) and K.2 a and K.2b (students will investigate the five senses and sensory descriptions).

Additional Resources

  • DLTK’s Book Break offers coloring pages of the animals in the book and suggestions to make puppets or felt board characters to act out while reading the story.
  • Illustrator Eric Carle’s website offers suggestions from teachers around the United States about how to use Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You See?. Some activities include an endangered species book/lesson, class books about what they hear with portraits, and recordings to reinforce listening and auditory skills through sounds in the book and around the classroom.
  • Nichols Elementary School offers a lesson plan with multiple activities that relate to the story and include language arts, science and art. A few examples are matching animal sounds to pictures, identify different sounds using body parts (clapping, stomping, etc.), and mixing paints to color pictures of animals in the story.

Book: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
Bill Martin Jr.
Eric Carle
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 24 pages
Grades: K-1
ISBN: 0805053883

Computation Podcast – Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin


In this podcast, Megan Ney introduces listeners to the book Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin by Pam Calvert.

Pam Calvert uses the age-old fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin to tell a fascinating story involving multiplication of whole numbers and fractions. Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin provides students with concrete examples and simple explanations of multiplication that combines well with the 18th century illustrations and story.

Related Books
Alice in Pastaland: A Math Adventure Book by Alexandra Wright
Rabbit Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale by Ann McCallum

More Information
You can download a teacher’s guide for the book.

Counting Book Podcast – Mouse Count


In this podcast, Megan Ney introduces listeners to the book Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh.

Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh is a great counting book for kindergarten through 2nd grade. It incorporates different counting methods, such as counting on and counting back, and uses well drawn illustrations for students to see exactly what they are counting. Most of all the book is actually a story and the children will remain intrigued with the plot until the very end while still learning about math during the whole book.

Related Books
How Many Feet in the Bed by Diane Johnston Hamm
Splash by Ann Jonas
Counting Crocodiles by Judy Sierra

Additional Information
You can read a book review and download activity ideas at A Mouse for All Readers.
The Kansas State Library site idea for has an idea for constructing mice for use with the book.
LearnNC has a brief lesson based on this book.