Author Archive for Susie

Teaching History With Children’s Literature: Virginia


Virginia by Erik Bruun and illustrated by Rick Peterson is a must read if you are teaching Virginia History.

The narrator of the story is a young boy teaching the history of Virginia to his peers. It includes all the basic facts covering the early settlement, who lived here past and present, the regions, capital, Civil War, and so much more. There is a ton of information here and it is presented in a way that will keep your student’s attention. The book is a bit long to read straight through, since it provides so much information. I believe it would be best to read parts of it while teaching a unit on Virginia. The book also provides interesting facts in a question/answer format at the bottom of each page. For example, “Where was Jackson buried?” “Who had the fastest feet in Richmond?” “What is the state bird of Virginia?”

Curriculum Connections
Virginia is a great book to use when teaching a unit on Virginia studies or when looking for facts about different States. Virginia is part of a series called “State Shapes” This series will add to your units when teaching the States in US history. Virginia can be used in connection with VA SOL of Virginia Studies and US 1.6.

Additional Resources

Book: Virginia
Author: Erik Bruun
Illustrator: Rick Peterson
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 45
Grade Range: 3-6
ISBN: 1-57912-103-9

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: I Could Do That!


I Could Do That! by Linda Arms White and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter is the story of Esther Morris who led the way in getting voting rights for women in Wyoming, and was the first woman to hold public office in the United States.

 “In 1820, six-year-old Esther McQuigg studied her mother making tea. ‘I can do that,’ she said. ‘Make tea?’ asked Mama. ‘The older girls do that.’ ‘But I want to learn,’ said Esther, and she did.” This became Esther’s slogan so to speak. When there was a need she wanted to fill it. Whether it be making tea, helping support her family, opening a business, taking care of the sick or later becoming politically active, she did what she could. Esther was not easily discouraged. She didn’t care if she was “too young”, or “a woman” this didn’t matter. She didn’t let these small things stand in her way. It was this determination that led her to open her own business when she was only 19, and later lead the movement to get women the right to vote. Though she was the first female judge and the first woman to hold political office in the United States she was not able to vote in national elections. Women were not given this right until eighteen years after her death.

Curriculum Connections
I Could Do That! is suitable for 2nd and 3rd graders and compliments Virginia SOL 2.12, 3.10 and 3.11.While the reading level is quite easy for a third grader the story is applicable as it reinforces the ideas of determination, hard work, and civil rights. 

 Additional Resources

  • In the back of the book there is a list of several books that can be used as additional resources.
  • A third grade lesson plan teaching the Bill of Rights.
  • Women’s Suffrage Timeline: This is mostly useful for teachers, as it gives a concise timeline of the Suffrage movement.
  • Make ballot boxes or a voting booth with your students and hold class elections, in-class elections along side local or national elections.
  • Good Citizen lesson plan

Book: I Could Do That!
Linda Arms White
Illustrator: Nancy Carpenter
Publisher: Melanie Kroupa Books
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 40
Grade Range: 1-4
ISBN: 978-0-374-33527-4

Teaching Geography With Children’s Literature: Me On The Map


Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney and illustrated by Annette Cable introduces the idea of maps and explains that they are all around us.

“Just think…in rooms, in houses, on streets, in towns, in countries all over the world, everybody has their own special place on the map.”

Sweeney begins explaining mapping in a very small way, “This is Me. This is me in my room. This is a map of my room.” She continues expanding to house, street, town, state, country, and finally world. With each example there is a map. Sweeney then explains, through the narration of a little girl, how to find her “special place on the map”. The second half of the book is the little girl going from the big picture of a globe and back-tracking all the way to her bedroom. She first finds her country, then her state, then her town, then her street, her house and finally her bedroom.

Curriculum Connections
Me on the Map is suitable for kindergarten through 2nd graders and compliments Virginia SOL 1.4 and 1.5. First grade students can easily read this story, and it is a great story to read to your class before having them draw their own maps. It will help them recognize how maps work and how they can either be large scale and show the whole world or they can be detailed and show a small place such as their bedroom or backyard.

Additional Resources

  • A geography activity that helps students recognize differences in communities.
  • An interactive activity to help students with geographical vocabulary through the use of riddles. Ex: I run but I have no legs. River.
  • Map making lesson/activity. Making a treasure map to find a treasure hidden in the classroom.

Book: Me on the Map
Author: Joan Sweeney
Illustrator: Annette Cable
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-2

Teaching Economics With Children’s Literature: Money: A Rich History


Money: A Rich History by Jon Anderson illustrated by Thor Wickstrom is a history of money explained from the perspective of a child, Bill Green. Bill's teacher asked her students to write a report on any subject. Since Bill loved money it was only natural that he research and report about his favorite subject.

Bill learns a lot along the way. He begins explaining how today we work for money and then we go and spend it.  His report takes the reader through the history of the system of money and explains that money wasn't always used as the medium of exchange. He explains that before money was used people traded things, usually natural resources. There is a chart showing what some countries used as money. For example Guatemala used corn, Norway used dried cod and in India they used almonds. He also explains that money is used for exchanging what you have for what you want. Later people began using gold as a medium for exchange, evolving into coins and finally paper currency. He also briefly explains how money is made and even what happens to it when it is old and can no longer be used.

Curriculum Connections
Money: A Rich History is suitable for 2nd through 4th graders and compliments Virginia SOL 2.7. It is written from the perspective of a child. This book can easily be used for lessons explaining how money is used and what it represents. It can also be used as a spring board for discussing natural resources of different countries.

Additional Resources

  •   This website offers several activity ideas. I recommend #34024 and #91287.  
  • A Power Point presentation of a lecture about economics. It’s an overview that can be used as an introduction to economics. It might be best to use this Power Point presentation in sections rather than all at once. I think students will find the story telling presentation style more interested than a standard ppt lecture.
  • A lesson plan distinguishing the differences between needs and wants and how this relates to economics.

Book: Money: A Rich History
Jon Anderson
Illustrator: Thor Wickstrom
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 30
Grade Range: 2-4
ISBN: 0448432056

Teaching Life Science With Children’s Literature: The Woods Scientist


The Woods Scientist by Stephen Swinburne is a biography of Susan Morse. All the photography represented is by Susan Morse. Susan is a forester, habitat ecologist and professional tracker who educates others on the importance of preserving the forests and the wildlife who call it their home.

Swinburne takes students on an adventure as they follow Susan through the forest. She points out various markings on trees that were made by deer, moose, bears and other animals. She draws attention to the droppings of animals and explains that this is an important part of seed dispersal. Through these observations she highlights the interdependence of wildlife and nature.

Curriculum Connections
 The Woods Scientist is a great resource for 4th and 5th graders who are interested in learning more about animal behavior, their habitat and the influences human activity has on ecosystems, habitats, life cycles and behavior adaptations. (VA SOL 4.5)

The reading level is that of a 4th or 5th grader but some 3rd graders who are advanced readers and have a special interest in wildlife will also find this book interesting.

There is a glossary of terms included that will be helpful for students.

Additional Resources

Title: The Woods Scientist
Stephen R. Swinburne
Illustrator: Susan C. Morse
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 48
Grade Range: 4-5th grade

Teaching Physical Science With Children’s Literature: It’s Not Magic, It’s Science!


It’s Not Magic, It’s Science! by Hope Buttitta, illustrated by Tom LaBaff and Orrin Lundgren is a great book told from the perspective of a boy named Tim. Tim loves showing off his magic in front of his friends and he begins this book by explaining that magic really is science.

“Since it looks strange to see a magician wearing a lab coat (just look at Lucinda!), most scientists who perform their tricks dress up and act out a fun personality.”

Tim first lists the materials needed for each magic trick followed by detailed steps of what the magician/scientist must do. He then explains the science behind the illusion. “These tricks work because of science, from Newton’s laws of motion and Bernoulli’s principles about fluids to simple electricity, and more. So after you amaze your audience with the magic you can triple wow them with the science.”

It’s Not Magic, It’s Science! is a great book to use to demonstrate various laws of motion, fluids and electricity. Each “trick” is easily explained so that a third or fourth grade student could easily read, understand and perform them.

Curriculum Connections
It’s Not Magic, It’s Science!
is an extremely versatile book containing 50 tricks exemplifying numerous scientific concepts such as: laws of motion, fluids, simple electricity, simple machines, pressure, sound waves, and more. (VA SOL 1.2, 2.2, 3.2, 4.2, 5.2) This book will add excitement to science lessons from kindergarten through sixth grade. First and second graders will be amazed by your magic show and excited to learn the secrets behind the trick. Older students will enjoy learning the tricks inside and out and performing them for the class. I suggest having students follow up their performance with an explanation of the science for a well-rounded activity. The glossary found in the back of the book is an added bonus.

Additional Resources

Book: It’s Not Magic, It’s Science
Author: Hope Buttitta
Illustrator: Tom LaBaff and Orrin Lundgren
Publisher: Lark Books
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 80
Grade Range: useful for grades 1-6, but 3rd-4th grade reading level
ISBN: 978-1579908836

Teaching Process Skills With Children’s Literature: Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau


Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Eric Puybaret takes children on a journey through the life of a curious boy who later became an inventor, film maker, explorer and marine conservationist.

“From the very beginning little Jacques loved water-the way it felt on his hands, his face, his body. And water made him wonder. He wondered why ships floated. Why he floated. And why rocks sank.”

It was this curiosity that led him to push the limits, and explore a part of our world yet to be known. “…people all over the world discovered the wonders of the sea for the very first time, with Jacques, Philippe, Didi and their adventurous crew.”

Jacques eagerness to breathe under water brought us the invention of “aqualungs”, “rubber suits to keep themselves warm and flippers to help them kick better.” (Scuba diving)   He even “created a waterproof case for his camera”.

Curriculum Connections
is suitable for 2nd and 3rd graders and compliments Virginia SOL 2.1 and 3.1. While the reading level is quite easy for a third grader the story is applicable as it reinforces observation, prediction and questioning skills and inspires children to look beyond the surface and consider things that have not yet been discovered. Students are motivated to explore and question how and why things happen. They are encouraged to follow Cousteau’s example, observe what is around them, and develop their curiosity to explore the unknown.

Additional Resources

  • Cousteau Kids offers additional reading material about Cousteau’s accomplishments, and provides a wealth of knowledge concerning environmental projects, expeditions, conservation news, environmental issues, society activities, books and movies. Children can subscribe to the bi-monthly magazine. There are also packages for teachers which include classroom subscription and student activities.
  • This website offers observation activities and other scientific investigations for various grade levels.
  • An experiment allowing students to observe differences between salt water and fresh water.

Book: Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau
Jennifer Berne
Illustrator: Eric Puybaret
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: April 2008
Pages: 40
Grade Range: 1-3
ISBN: 978-0811860635