Author Archive for Sue

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Lewis and Clark and Me


Lewis and Clark and Me, written  by Laurie Myers and illustrated by Michael Dooling, tells the extraordinary account of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Territory through the eyes of Lewis’s dog Seaman.  Myers based her story on the explorers’ actual written accounts and ends each chapter with an appropriate excerpt from Lewis’s journal.  I found Seaman’s “first-person” narrative  of his adventures extremely engaging.  What a great way for a child to learn history.


Lewis and Clark and Me can be used to enhance the study of the westward expansion era in United States history (VA SOL USI.8) in the fifth-grade classroom.  This book would be a good way to capture the imagination of the student who finds the usual presentation of history dry and boring.

Additional Resources 

  • National Geographic’s excellent interactive journey log documents each leg of Lewis and Clark’s expedition through journal entries, photos, drawings and maps.
  • If you are both a history-lover and a dog-lover, you will enjoy this PBS description of Seaman’s journey with Lewis and Clark which is taken from historical accounts.
  • Lewis and Clark collected many new plants, animals, and minerals on their journey and packed them in specimen boxes.  Students can make their own specimen boxes and collect nature samples in an activity that provides a good cross-curricular connection with science.

Book:  Lewis and Clark and Me
  Laurie Myers
Illustrator:  Michael Dooling
Publisher:  Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date:  August, 2002
Pages: 80
Grade Range:  K-5
ISBN-13:  9780805063684

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Teammates

                                         Book Cover

  Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play major league baseball.  Teammates, by Peter Golenbock, not only chronicles the struggles Robinson endured in his pioneering position, it also describes the unfair treatment black Americans experienced during the era of legal segregation in the United States.   The illustrations are an effective combination of historic photographs and original drawings by Paul Bacon.  The story’s final episode, between teammates Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, both men of character, is a wonderful  demonstration of the power of acceptance.


  Teammates demonstrates that individuals’ actions can have historical impact that improves the lives of other Americans (VA SOL 2.12).  This book can also be used to discuss the relationship between good citizenship and respecting and protecting the rights of others (VA SOL 2.10, 2.12, 310, 3.12).

Additional Resources

  • Read an interview with Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, (conducted live in 1998 from student questions) for a personal perspective on Jackie Robinson’s life and legacy.
  • Use Teammates to connect civics to reading instruction in this lesson plan for guided comprehension from  An anticipation guide and reflection sheet are included.
  • Students can color this printable picture of Jackie Robinson that includes a brief biography.

Author:  Peter Golenbock
Illustrator: Paul Bacon
Publisher:  Voyager Books, Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: Reissue in March, 2010; originally in March, 1990.
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 2-5
ISBN-13: 9780152842864

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman


Young Tameka wants her favorite uncle, Ray, to visit her in California.  Ray is too busy with his job in South Carolina to travel to Tameka’s home; so, he sends Oliver K. Woodman, a hand-crafted wooden man, in his place.  The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman, written by Darcy Pattison and illustrated by Joe Cepeda, recounts Oliver’s cross-country trek in which he depends on the kindness of strangers to reach his destination.  Pattison’s whimsical story is wonderfully told through postcards and letters.  Cepeda’s lovely pictures, painted with oil over acrylic on board, make not only Oliver, but the entire story come alive.


The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman includes a United States map which charts Oliver’s journey from coast to coast.  This creates a good tie-in to geography lessons for any elementary level class (VA SOL’s K.3-5, 1.4-6, 2.4-6, and 3.6).  This book could serve as the inspiration for a joint Social Studies/English project where the student uses correspondence and geographic research to document an imagined trip.

Additional Resources

  • Spark your creativity with ideas from Helping Your Child Learn Geography, a U.S. Department of Education website.
  • Teach letter-writing skills by starting a pen pal program with people across town, across country, or across oceans.  Consider these suggestions before you begin.
  • National Geographic’s Geospy game is a fun way for kids to learn the locations of countinents, countries and states.

BookThe Journey of Oliver K. Woodman
Author:  Darcy Pattison
Illustrator: Joe Cepeda
Publisher:  Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: March, 2003
Pages: 56
Grade Range: K-5
ISBN-13: 9780152023294

Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Goods and Services

                                                      Product Details

The basics of economics–goods, services, producers, and consumers–are presented in Goods and Services by Janeen R. Adil.  The simple text provides kid-friendly examples of goods and services:  an eye doctor provides a service when she checks a child’s vision; she provides goods when she sells glasses.   The straightforward photographs show children and adults as producers and consumers in everyday situations:  Joe sells his old toys at a yard sale, then he takes the money he makes to buy school supplies he needs and a book he wants.  The book ends with a glossary of terms.


Goods and Services will provide first-graders with a good introduction to the basic vocabulary of economics:  goods, services, producers, and consumers (VA History and Social Studies SOL 1.7).  Second- and third-graders can read this book for review before a unit on economics.

Additional Resources

  • Janeen R. Adil has written other basic books about economics for young children including Supply and Demand and Scarcity.
  • Learn how everyday goods, such as crayons and sneakers, are made by watching videos at How People Make Things, a PBS Kids webpage.
  • Younger students will enjoy deciding whether a producer provides a good or a service in this matching activity from the Council for Economic Education.
  • Students can practice counting out coins from their piggy banks to purchase goods from The Market in this on-line activity.

BookGoods and Services
Author: Janeen R. Adil
Illustrator: Multiple photo sources
Publisher: Capstone Press
Publication Date: January 1, 2006
Pages: 24
Grade Range: K – 3 
ISBN-13: 978-0736853958

Teaching Earth Science With Children’s Literature: Every Season



What is your favorite season?  Is it summer when you can swim in the ocean? Is it autumn when you can jump in a pile of leaves? Or maybe winter when the weather is just right for sipping hot chocolate?  Every Season by Shelley Rotner & Anne Love Woodhull, photographs by Anne Love Woodhull, will spark lively classroom discussions about the four seasons.  The spare text complements the abundance of vibrant photographs which are sure to appeal to young children. 

Curriculum Connections

Use Every Season to illustrate that the changes in season, cause changes in weather, which cause changes in the activities of plants, animal and people (VA Science SOL K.9 and 1.7).

Additional Resources

Spring–When you think of spring you think of rain. Make it rain in your classroom with this        activity that demonstrates the water cycle

Summer–Students can observe how change occurs over time by making  grass head monsters.

Autumn–You can save memories of fall and study the differences between objects by doing leaf  rubbings.

Winter–Young children can practice their reading and mouse skills while they enjoy building a snowman.

BookEvery Season 
:  Shelley Rotner & Anne Love Woodhull
Illustrator:  Shelley Rotner
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date:  May 2007
Pages:  32
Grade Range:  K – 1
ISBN-13:  9781596431362

Teaching Life Science With Children’s Literature: Pick, Pull, Snap!: Where Once a Flower Bloomed


There are many tiny city farms scattered across London where urban school children can  experience farming up-close.  The children can pet sheep, feed goats, see how fruits and vegetables are grown, and, if they are lucky, harvest some of the produce.  If we had city farms here, the book I would read to my future students before a field trip is  Pick, Pull, Snap!:  Where Once a Flower Bloomed  by Lola M. Schaefer.  What do peaches, raspberries, peas, corn, peanuts and pumpkins have in common? They all begin with a flower.  Lindsay Barrett George’s lifelike paintings take centerstage as they illustrate a flower being pollinated; the developing fruit; and finally, after you  fold-out the page, a child picking, pulling, or snapping the ripe fruit.

Curriculum Connections

It’s the detailed pictures–a bloom left on the end of a peapod, a cross-section showing seeds in fruit, a cut-away showing a tangle of peanuts underground–that make Pick, Pull, Snap! a great tie-in to any elementary grade-level life science unit on plants. (VA SOL 1.4, 2.4b and 4.4a & b).

Additional Resources

  • What better way to teach about plants than to grow them in your classroom?  What Plants Need to Grow  will give you all the details, including lessons plans, reproducibles and answers to FAQ’s.
  • If your classroom conditions aren’t right for growing, consider the other end of the plant life cycle–composting.  Composting for Kids, a Powerpoint with photos of children doing the work, shows just how easy composting is.
  • Pick, Pull, Snap! takes you from seed to fruit.  Now go from Fruit to Seed with this classroom activity that ends with a delicious, healthy snack.

Book:  Pick, Pull, Snap!:  Where Once a Flower Bloomed 
:  Lola M. Schaeffer
Illustrator:  Lindsay Barrett George
Publisher:  Harper Collins Publisher
Publication Date:  March 2003
Pages:  32
Grade Range:  K – 5
ISBN-13:  9780688178345

Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Flick a Switch: How Electricity Gets to Your Home


You flick a switch to turn on a light or to turn on your computer.  You know electricity makes it happen; but, where does the electricity come from?  The path electricity takes from the power plant to homes and businesses is described in Flick a Switch:  How Electricity Gets to Your Home by Barbara Seuling with illustrations by Nancy Tobin.  This book uses straight-forward language and bright, kid-friendly drawings to help children understand the science and technology behind generating electricity.   Simple activities that use everyday items to demonstrate electrical circuits are included.

Curriculum Connections
Flick a Switch will help lower elementary students picture how electricity travels from power plants to their homes.  Fourth and fifth grade physical science lessons can incorporate this book into electricity units about conductors, insulators, electromagnetism, and historical figures who contributed to our understanding and use of electrical power (VA SOL 4.3).

Additional Resources

  • Benjamin Franklin took a huge risk when he experimented with lightning.  You want your students to play it safe.  Find a list of electrical safety tips for children at the back of the book Wired by Anatasia Suen or online at Power Kids.
  • When you hear the name Thomas Edison you think light bulb.  When you hear Ben Franklin you think electricity.  But what do you think when you hear Michael Faraday?  Learn more about Faraday, whose work with electromagnetism made the generators in power plants possible.
  • Watch a video that uses a lemon as a “battery” and children holding hands as “wire” to demonstrate conductors and circuits.

BookFlick a Switch:  How Electricity Gets to Your Home
Author:  Barbara Seuling
Illustrator:  Nancy Tobin
Publisher:  Holiday House Inc.
Publication Date:  September 2003
Pages:  32
Grade Range:  1 – 5
ISBN-13:  9780823417292

Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: I Have a Sister: My Sister is Deaf


In I Have a Sister: My Sister is Deaf by Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson with illustrations by Deborah Ray, a girl describes the everyday-life of her younger sister who is deaf.  The two girls share many of the same activities, but they experience them differently:  the younger sister does not like the “feel” of a barking dog; she watches TV with the sound turned off; she loves playing the piano but cannot hear the tune to sing along.

The poetic ring of the title carries throughout the book, making it a wonderful story to read aloud.  Some children, who are used to storybooks with vivid pictures, may not be immediately attracted to Ray’s soft, black-and-white drawings; however, each time I read this book to my own children when they were young, the pictures (and story) drew thoughtful questions and observations from them.

Curriculum Connections
This book  is an excellent companion to kindergarten science lessons about the five senses and how people use them to interact with their environment (VA SOL K.2).  The younger sister who is deaf relies heavily on her sense of touch to feel sound vibrations.  Students can have similar experiences by touching a radio while it is playing or touching their own throats while speaking.

Additional Resources

  • Find more activities that demonstrate that sound is produced when objects vibrate at the SEDL website.  
  • Students my be surprised by what they can learn about their surroundings when they stop talking and just listen.   Have they noticed the clock ticking before?  Were they aware of footsteps in the hall?  This activity can sharpen students’ observation skills.  Neuroscience for Kids has other great ideas for classroom activities that let students learn by listening.
  • Kindergarteners can have fun playing an online game that has them decide when they have to use their sense of hearing.  A big yellow smiley face lets the student know he or she got the right answer.

Book: I Have a Sister: My Sister is Deaf           
Jeanne Whitehouse Peterson
Illustrator: Deborah Ray
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Publication Date: May, 1984
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-13: 9780064430593

Geometry Resources for Fourth Grade

Most of the books recommended here highlight recognition of geometric shapes.  All of them have a cross-curricular connection with social studies, science or art.   One of the web activities for students focuses on identifying polygons.  The rest promote visualization and spatial relationship abilities.

Books with a Geometry Theme

In A Triangle for Adaora, by Ifeoma Onyefulu, a boy promises to find his young cousin a triangle.  In their search, they come across many shapes, including oval-shaped cowrie shells, crescent-shaped plantains, and a square colander made of woven coconut palms.  Illustrated with the author’s photographs, this book provides a wonderful tour of everyday life in a small African village.  Great math-social studies connection.  Locate.

A greedy, materialistic king covets the beautiful quilts that a generous quiltmaker only gives to the needy in this fable by author Jeff Brumbeau.  Will the king find happiness once he finally owns one of the special quilts?  The Quiltmaker’s Gift is densely illustrated with Gail de Marcken’s bright, detailed watercolors. I look forward to incorporating this book and my great-grandmother’s quilts into a lesson on geometric shapes.  Locate.


Nature-loving children will enjoy Icky Bug Shapes by Jerry Pallotta.  Each shape is introduced by industrious leafcutter ants and illustrated by various insects.  There are plenty of insect facts for the science-lover.  The realistic drawings by Shennen Bersani make these bugs interesting and not icky at all.  Locate.

This book had me dreaming about sending my future students on a shape scavenger hunt around our local art museum.  The  Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Museum Shapes spotlights geometric shapes found in the museum’s collections.  While a field trip may not be possible for my students, I can imagine setting up our own art-shape scavenger hunt closer to the classroom. Locate. 


Mummy Math by Cindy Neuschwander takes Bibi and brother Matt on an adventure through an Egyptian pyramid.  When they get lost, they follow clues based on geometric solids to reach their goal.  Illustrations by Bryan Langdo.  Locate.

Websites with Geometry Activities for Kids


 1.  Can you visualize the shape you get from two partially overlapping shapes?  Check your answers interactively.



 2.  Create polygons on an interactive  Geoboard. 



3.  Explore polygons interactively at Polygon Playground.


4.  Practice identifying polygons at home.  Be ready for your next quiz by playing Polygon game I and Poygon game II .



5.  Make your own tangrams interactively.

 Additional Resources for Teachers

1.  How to use manipulatives like geoboards, tangrams, and pattern blocks when teaching geometry to upper elementary students.

2.  Learn about tiling and tesselations. Experiment with symmetric sketching using Kali.

3.  Students practice identifying geometric shapes and then go on a real world Geometry Scavenger Hunt.