Archive for the 'book review' Category

Instructional Resource Set: Geometry

This blog focuses on the Virginia Math SOL 3.14 that covers a portion of the geometry unit taught in the third grade.  Students will become familiar with plane and solid geometric figures and their specific characteristics.  You find included below several books that would be a good addition to this unit, some good websites that students can access to deepen their understanding of geometric shapes, and some resources that will be helpful to the classroom teacher.The following are excellent books to incorporate into the lessons on geometry:

  • The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns and illustrated by Gordon Silveria.  Burns creates a main character that is a friendly triangle that decides life would be better if he had more sides and angles.  He continually changes into new shapes, until he becomes very big and almost round.  He finally decides what will make him happy is to go back to being a triangle.
  • Captain Invincible and the Space Shapes by Stuart J. Murphy and illustrated by Remy Simard.  Murphy takes readers through the adventures of Captain Invincible and his space dog, Comet.  As they make their way back to earth, they ward off a meteor shower, poisonous gas cloud, a flying saucer, and a galactic beast with their multitude of space gadgets that are made out of solid geometric shapes.
  • Finding Shapes with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Museum by Jill Anderson and illustrated by Amy Huntington. Sebastian and his friends are on a search in the museum to find art ideas that will help them decorate his new bedroom.  They find all kinds of artwork that includes plane and solid shapes. Anderson includes a nice graph of the shapes which includes a drawing, description, number of sides, and number of corners of each specific shape. Although this book is a bit on the juvenile side, it is still engaging and may be a good resource for the weaker readers in the class.
  • Sir Cumference and the First Round Table and Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone by Cindy Neuschwander and illustrated by Wayne Geehan.  These are two books in the series by Neuschwander that is set in the era of Camelot.  Sir Cumference is continually challenged with situations that require him and Lady Di of Ameter to use various skills.  During their adventures various geometric shapes are discovered in ordinary items around them, giving readers a good review of the characteristics of these shapes.
  • Geometry by Lucille Caron and Philip M. St. Jacques. Caron and St. Jacques walk the reader through a great deal of information about geometric shapes and vocabulary.  The information is clear and succinct, yet very informative.   Although this is not a literature book, I recommend it be included in the resource set because it is a good differentiation tool.  More advanced students who desire to dig deeper into the study of geometry may enjoy the challenge of this book, and students will find it to be an easy accessible resource book for any type of research on geometry in grades 3-5.

Students may enjoy utilizing the following sites throughout this study:

  • PBS Cyberchase On-line Tangram Games are quite user friendly. Students are on a page that displays a shape (i.e. a rabbit) which they are to create using the tangram pieces provided.  The game includes tools to rotate the pieces and move them into place.  This will be most helpful once the students have had exposure and experience working with actual tangram pieces.
  • Investigating the Concept of Triangle and the Properties of Polygons: Making Triangles is a site with interactive geoboards to help students identify simple geometric shapes, describe their properties, and develop spatial sense.
  • Polygons Around a Point is an on-line game that allows the student to use regular polygons to surround a point in a plane.  He/she will be able to make designs and decide how to best cover a surface by using regular polygons.
  • Tangrams on-line is another fun tangram puzzle site that allows students to choose various puzzles to solve with tangrams.
  • This on-line shapes matching memory game is a good level for students who are in the beginning stage of geometry and learning their plane shapes.

Teacher Resources:

  • MathSteps “Identifying and Classifying Polygons” is a good lesson plan with several pages of work that walks you through introducing and developing the concepts.
  • The Educator’s Reference Desk website offers a lesson on the beloved book by Marilyn Burns, The Greedy Triangle.  The lesson also incorporates the use of geoboards with the students, which is always a fun activity.
  • This lesson plan will have students act and think like architects as they team up to build their dream home with plane and solid shapes that they create.
  • Nancy Powell’s Web Pages have many good ideas for SmartBoards. This link is specifically to her geometry page, but you may want to look through the rest of her site for good ideas in other areas too!

Math Instruction for Second Grade Addition and Subtraction


Once students have had success with number sense and concept of number in grades K and 1, it is time to introduce addition and subtraction.  The VA SOL for thread 2.5, states the students will recall addition facts with sums to 20 or less and the corresponding subtraction facts.  It is important that both addition and subtraction are taught together to help students learn the concepts and understand the process rather than just producing an answer without an understanding of why it works this way.  This setup and delivery of this skill is vital to the future success of any student in the undertaking of more challenging math concepts in the future.

Text Annotations:


 Addition Annie

Author: David Gisler

Illustrated by: Sarah A. Beise

In this short story Annie likes to count and counts everything in sight.  Each page of the book is a math problem involving addition problems using numbers under 10.  The back of the book contains a word bank totaling 30 commonly used words for this specific age group.  This book would be best suited for children at the end of first grade who possess strong math ability or students entering second grade.


 The Hershey Kisses Addition Book

Author: Jerry Pallotta

Illustrated by: Rob Bolster

With this delicious book, the reader will find themselves surrounded by chocolate math problems.  In addition, there is a little history about the creation of the Hershey’s Kiss.  The book continues with a discussion of addition vocabulary, the commutative property, and some of the basic rules of addition.  Towards the end of the book, it starts to delve into adding three numbers and basic subtraction which would be an attempt to persuade the reader to read the next book in the series regarding subtraction.  This book is suited for any child learning about the addition process and would be a complementary activity within the days lesson discussing addition.


Math Fables

Author: Greg Tang

Illustrated by: Heather Cahoon

In Greg Tang’s Math Fables, Tang uses poems to paint pictures of stories that include math problems.  While the addition in this book is basic, yet appropriate to this SOL, it utilizes numbers under 10, the message sent to the reader is loud and clear.  By the end of the book he includes some information on higher math discovering addend combination that equal 10.  This is a wonderfully illustrated book that the children will enjoy reading in groups or independently.




Math Fables Too

Author: Greg Tang

Illustrated by: Taia Morley

This is the second book of the addition series from author Greg Tang.  This book incorporates the same poetic verse that includes math addition problems within the poem.  The addition problems themselves are at a beginner level but are still good examples of the addition process.  Like all other Tang books, the illustrations are brightly colored and are a lot of fun for all ages to enjoy.  In the back of this book, Tang includes some animal facts regarding the animals within this book, thus providing some cross curricular study in animal science.


Subtraction Action

Author/ Illustrator: Loreen Leedy

This book involves subtraction problems that the characters of this book require solving while attending a school fair.  The teacher in the story, Miss Prime, shows the students how useful the ability to perform real world yet fictional subtraction type problems.  The book is best suited for students towards the middle to end of second grade.  Later in the book, some of the problems do involve regrouping and some money (decimals) problems which might be a challenge for beginner students learning about subtraction.  The book has an answer key and provides a short explanation behind the answers to the problems it asks throughout the story.


Web Annotations


In this website from, the game is titled Math Mayhem and is a speed challenge with other Internet players in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.


This website from is an addition game called MATHO that is a timed exercise that is fun for kids.  When the questions are answered correctly, pictures are revealed.


Also from is a subtraction game titled Hidden Picture.  In this game the goal is to answer the subtraction questions correctly to identify the picture behind the answer tiles.


This website asks the question, “Are you a Math Magician?“.  The player is assigned to complete 20 math problems as fast as they can.

Cool Math Games has a game titled Feed Fribbit Addition and Feed Fribbit Subtraction.  This takes some hand eye coordination but is fun to play.  Fribbit is hungry and needs flies marked with the answers to math questions.  The object is to get Fribbit to eat the fly with the correct piece of the problem.

 Additional Resources

Tina Cho has created a lesson titled Candy Corn Subtraction and in the lesson, she has the kids complete subtraction problems using the segments of the candy corn.  She provides the candy corn templates and the instructions to go along with it.  This lesson can be used in the fall season around Halloween, or certain can be used any time of the year.  What child doesn’t like candy corn?

From the site, William L. Gaslin, Charles Lund, & Martin M. Gaslin have provided an example of addition and subtraction problems from a deck of cards.  The web page is titled Disclose.  This card activity can be differentiated for those that need additional assistance or for students that work better in homogeneous groups.  It can also be played with two players or running through the deck a student can practice basic facts.  The website provides a printable deck of cards if you do not already have one. has a page titled, Max’s Math: Card Castle Adventures and the lesson idea involves using a rhyming poem to answer basic math facts.  The site is flexible as it includes audio of the poems that the teacher can let the students listen to.  The site also provides a printable version as well.  This will accommodate auditory and visual learners alike.

Another page titled,  Addition Facts provides a lesson activity focusing on the commutative property of addition and subtraction.  The focus is to teach addition and subtraction together as opposed to teaching them seperately.


Third Grade Fractions

This blog post addresses books, websites and additional resources that align with the third grade standard of learning 3.3. In this SOL, students should learn how to divide up objects and sets to represent fractions and mixed numbers and write the names of fractions and mixed numbers. Additionally, students should compare fractions using the greater than, less than or equal to signs. Many of the books on fractions are intended as a review, or an introduction to a fraction lesson, while the additional resources and websites tend to be more complex and focus on more difficult fractions. Books 


Apple Fractions

By Jerry Pallotta and Illustrated by Rob Bolster

Apple Fractions introduces students to the world of fractions through a simple visual tool, the apple. This book discusses fractions based around dividing an apple up into eight parts. It uses and mentions specific apple types (like Golden Delicious and GrannySmith) in its realistic illustrations. This book is a simple way for students to understand beginning fractions like 1/2, 1/4, 1/6 and so on.


The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar Fraction Book

By Jerry Pallotta and Illustrated by Rob Bolster

This book, written and illustrated by the same people who brought you Apple Fractions, uses a Hershey’s chocolate bar as a template for learning fractions. Hershey’s bars make for an easy fractions lesson because they come already divided up into 12 parts. This book compares various twelfths to the whole bar and even introduces beginning fraction adding and subtracting. This book would be a great resources for a classroom because, like the Apple Fractions book, this book could easily turn into a classroom activity using the same manipulative that the book uses (a candy bar, or an apple).


Eating Fractions

By Bruce McMillan

Eating Fractions takes the concept of using food to discuss fractions a step further in that it uses a variety of different foods that students could encounter throughout the day. This book is unique in that it is a departure from the standard pizza or pie fraction model and instead uses foods like corn, bananas and other non-standard fraction shapes. Through his photographs, McMillan demonstrates halves, thirds and fourths in a simple, fun and easy to understand layout and storyline.


Fraction Action

By Loreen Leedy

Fraction Action describes a teacher teaching her classroom about introductory fractions. Students learn about basic fractions like 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4 using drawings of pies and pizzas, but the unique thing about this book is that it also addresses part of a set fractions. Students learn along with the class of children (animals) in Fraction Action which combines humor, a few do it yourself problems and fun illustrations to explain basic fractions.


Fraction Fun

By David A. Adler and Illustrated by Nancy Tobin

Fraction Fun is more explanatory than most fraction books. It provides an easy to understand definition of fractions and explains it using the typical pizza explanation, but diverts from that visual by also discussing coins and their fractional values in terms of weight and monetary value. This book is therefore intended for an older audience who would have some knowledge of weights and money, but could easily be understood, and enjoyed, by most third graders because of the simple explanations and fun illustrations.


Mrs. Thonus’ Third Grade Stars- Fraction Fun

This website, designed and produced by a third grade teacher, provides fun websites and activities for students who are learning about fractions. She provides a link to a powerpoint about fractions and links to some online fraction games. These links cover a range of fraction topics such as identifying and naming fractions, comparing fractions and beginning adding fractions. This websites is very clear and easy to navigate and would be perfect for students looking for fraction activities to do online.

Fractions by Zeebo

Zeebo is a little circle fraction drawing who explains fractions to students through his website.  This website includes sections like “fractions, what are they?”, “fractions, mixed numbers”, “fractions, equivalent fractions” and many more sections icnreasing in difficulty. The first section, “fractions, what are they?” would be best for most third grade students, but the varying levels of difficulty on this site would be a good tool for differentiation. In the different sections Zeebo uses simple geometric graphics to explain the topic and asks students comprehension questions about the information that he has presented. This site is easy to navigate and provides excellent explanations of a sometimes tricky topic.

Kids Konnect Fractions

This website provides links to a plethora of fraction information and games. Topics on the site include fractions tutorials, Egyptian fractions, fraction games about pizza, soccer, shapes, cookies and much more. For older or more advanced students, the site has information on comparing and changing fractions to decimals. This website would be an excellent classroom resource because there are so many activities and online lessons for students to explore all from one centralized site. This site may be overwhelming though, so any student navigation of this site should be teacher led and guided.

Kids Online Resources- Fractions

This website is more of an online activity than an informational site. Students click on subsections like “what is a fraction?”, “fraction practice” and “equivalent fractions”. This website goes into more difficult fractions like fifths and sixths, in addition to the basic halves thirds and fourths. Students can do a tutorial about fractions and then practice their knowledge through an exploration of equivalent geometric shapes. This site uses bright colors, sounds and moving shapes to make learning about fractions interactive and fun.

BBC Bitesize Fractions

This website, produced by the BBC, explains the concept of a fraction through words, pictures and numbers. It discusses equivalent fractions, converting fractions to decimals (for the older students), comparing fractions and improper and mixed fractions. There is also a fraction game that asks students to compare fractions with different denominators by ordering them in size, a game where students can create and play with making their own fractions of a cylinder, and a fractions quiz where students can test what they have just learned.

Additional Resources

Vector Kids Fractions

This game asks students to name the fraction represented by a piece of pie. This game is a fun way for students to practice naming fractions; it provides supports and scaffolds for students who may need extra help by providing a simple picture and by giving students the total number of pieces to keep students from having to do too much counting and possibly getting confused.


Funny and Fabulous Fraction Stories

By Dan Greenburg and Jared Lee

This book uses humorous stories to introduce students to identifying and manipulating fractions. Some of the material in this book may be too complex for third grade students, such as the stories about changing fractions to decimals, adding, subtracting and dividing fractions and ratios of fractions. Many of the stories, however, are basic enough to be good for reinforcing students’ comfort with fractions. This book is a great way to learn across the curriculum since it combines funny and entertaining stories with math problems that students can do individually or as a class.


Pizza Fraction Fun Game

By Learning Resources

This kit comes with cardboard pizzas cut into slices to use as manipulatives in a variety of provided games designed to get kids to create fractions, compare equivalent fractions and beginning adding fractions.  The pizzas are realistic and the games are easily adaptable for a many skill and grade levels so that this resource can be used over and over again as students learn more about fractions.

Shepherd Software Matching FractionsThis game asks students to match a written fraction with a picture and vice versa. It gets students to practice both naming and identifying fractions. The levels go up in difficulty from basic fractions like 1/2 and 1/5 to more difficult fractions like 7/8 to mixed fractions like 2 1/2. The simple graphics and clear directions make this a good activity for students to do as part of a center or on their own time.

The Exciting World of Fractions (Instructional Resource Set)



This instructional resource set was developed to meet the criteria of Virginia Standard of Learning 2.3.  This number and number sense math Standard of Learning states that second grade students will identify the part of a set and/or region that represents fractions for one-half, one-third, one-fourth, one-eighth, and one-tenth, and write the corresponding fraction.  Although this instructional resource set was designed for a second grade unit on fractions, it can be adapted for first and third grades as well.

Below you will find information regarding the 5  books I thought were best to help kids understand this wacky world of fractions, as well as some great online resources for students that will allow them to further explore this topic.  This blog also contains additional resources for supporting instruction.  You will find songs, videos, links to websites, sample lesson plans, and more!  Check out each link and enjoy!

Text Annotations


Fraction Fun by David A. Adler and illustrated by Nancy Tobin contains colorful, fun, and informative illustrations all the while providing a clear and concise definition of what a fraction is – it is part of something else, part of a whole!  This book uses the whole pizzas and individual slices to demonstrate the different aspects of a fraction, namely the numerator and the denominator.  When you are using this book in a lesson or a unit, read it on a “Pizza Friday” when the kids can reference the examples first hand – and enjoy the yummy side of fractions!


Apple Fractions by Jerry Pallotta and illustrated by Rob Bolster directly corresponds to the portion of the SOL about fractions as part of a whole.  Bolster’s illustrations of pieces of apples throughout the book serve as a great model of a fraction in a real life setting.  The best part about this book, other than the fun elves found chopping up the apples, is the fact that it shows the fraction in number form as well as written out in a complete word.  I love that students will be able to see 1/2, relate it to the word “one-half” and understand what that concept means. 


Piece, Part, Portion by Scott Gifford and illustrated by Shmuel Thaler is a 3 for 1 book.  This book touches on fractions, decimals, and percents – a must-have for elementary classrooms!  The text and illustrations in Piece, Part, Portion, wonderfully demonstrate that each of those three mathematical ideas describes the same concept: they are all part of a larger whole.  This book also provides examples of how we use fractions in everyday life and just don’t realize it.  Ask your kids if they agree that one shoe is 1/2 of a pair of shoes.  If they are hesitant or resistant to that idea, flip through the book to show them the example in the text!  Although parts of this book may be better understood in a 3rd grade classroom, it still serves as a great instructional tool!


If you are wondering how to introduce fractions to your second grade class, look no further!  The expert teaching of Mrs. Prime, the friendly hippopotamus in the book Fraction Action by Loreen Leedy, serves as a great help!  Mrs. Prime teaches fractions to her class, a bubbly group of fun animals by cutting a sandwich in half, selling lemonade,  and using other real life applications of food, art, and everyday objects.  For a class of active kids, animal lovers, or students who want to learn fractions, this book is perfect!


The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins will make your students hungry for more information about fractions!  This cute book depicts a make-believe story about a mother, adorable referred to as Ma, who makes a dozen cookies for her two kids.  Ma’s kids are thrilled when they smell and see the cookies because they think they get to eat all twelve cookies.  As soon as the kids can share that thought, the doorbell rings and a friend comes over.  Ma offers cookies to all three of the kids, but, as soon as she puts the plate on the table, the doorbell rings again and more kids come over!  This pattern continues until there is one cookie left.  The kids decide to split the remaining cookie in half because they decide that is the most fair way to split up the treat.  Check out this mouth-watering book for more fun situations involving fractions!

Web Annotations – Let your students check out these interactive websites!

Fishy Fractions is a great interactive game with catchy music that centers around a pelican eating surprises out of the ocean in the shapes of fish, circles, and other objects.  Students will have to match fractions or pie graphs to the written name or the correct mathematical representation of a fraction.

This Red Fish Fraction Introduction video does a great job of slowly, accurately, and creatively introducing the basic parts of a fraction!  I would suggest students watch this short minute and thirty second clip at the beginning of their fraction unit.

This Jamaican Jam Session Cartoon video uses pie to explain that each part of a pie is part of a fraction.  Our fun eclectic singer explains that a fraction has a denominator that goes beneath the line and the denominator, in the case of this video, shows how many slices the whole pie contains.  Our friend goes further to explain that a fraction also has a numerator and the numerator goes about the line.  In the case of the Jamaican Jam Session video, the singer explains that the numerator represents the number of slices he has.  This mesmerizing video will have you singing about fractions all day!

Fraction Flags  is an online website that lets kids, especially artists, flourish and express their creativity.  Who ever said fractions couldn’t be fun to learn about?  This website allows kids to draw and design different flags using different combinations of halves and quarters.

The Naming Fractions interactive game shows pictures of different shaded shapes and lets the students fill in the numerator and denominator!  This game is a great way for students to see where they are in their knowledge of fractions.

Additional Resources – Teachers, check out these resources!

This Fraction Activity  online game can be used by students or teachers!  If you have access to a SmartBoard I would suggest using this game in the classroom as an introduction to fractions.  Each student can come up and insert numbers from a small bank of numbers to create a new fraction.  Students can choose to have their fractions represented by pizza, numbers of people, gallons of water, or a chocolate bar.  This is a great hands on activity to get the kids up and moving, and most importantly, understanding that fractions represent part of a portion or part of a whole.

This Cookie Fraction lesson plan is designed as an activity to follow the reading of The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins.  Not only does this lesson provide kids with a hand on experience to different fractions, namely halves, thirds, fourths, eights, and tenths, this lesson also fosters group work and cooperation.

Still hungry for more fractions?  This Fraction Pizza lesson plan can serve as a great follow up to a few of the previously mentioned books that incorporated pizza in their illustrations.  This lesson plan can also be great for teaching an introduction about adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators.

This M & M’s lesson plan  is designed to improve students’ understanding of fractions by using the tasty candy M & M’s.  In this lesson, students will sort their candy by color, and then write out, both long hand and numerically, the fraction that represents how many of their M & M’s are that color.  This lesson is a fun way to help students understand what fractions are and how to use them.

Number Sense Instructional Resource Set

Teaching number sense to kindergartners can be fun. Books, manipulatives, and games can all make learning about numbers much more interesting. Hopefully the following information will provide useful resources to teachers and parents when they teach counting forwards, counting backwards from 10, writing numerals and recognizing numbers.  (VA SOL K.2, K.4)  

Great books for teaching number sense:


One Gorilla      Author/Illustrator: Atsuko Morozumi

A lovely counting book with beautiful illustrations. Children will enjoy finding and counting all the animals scattered on each page. This is a good book to teach one-to-one correspondence.


Ten Black Dots       Author/Illustrator:  Donald Crews 

This is a very creative counting book that can open the door to many math activities in the classroom. The author starts the book with 1 dot as a sun and ends with 10 dots as balloons stuck in a tree.


Ten Sly Piranhas     Author: William Wise         Illustrator: Victoria Chess

This is a great read-aloud book for a kindergarten classroom. Children will love to learn to count backwards from 10 to 0 while listening to the rhyming story of a very hungry fish.


Ten, Nine, Eight     Author/Illustrator:  Molly Bang

This is story about a dad getting his daughter ready for bed. This book is very easy to follow and teaches children how to count down from 10 to 1.


1 Hunter      Author/Illustrator:  Pat Hutchins

This book is about a hunter looking for animals. The children will love to count the animals and look for the ‘hidden’ animals, anticipating the next page. This is a wonderful book to introduce the numbers 1-10.  

5 Great websites with math games for kindergarteners

  • 123 Order has students pick the next number in a sequence of 3 numbers.
  • Count Chickens is another fun game in which kids count animals and then choose the correct number out of 3 choices.

    2.   Chevron cars has kid-friendly connect the dots, all in the shape of cars.


  • Game 1: Sheep Counting- The player has to move the sheep from left to right until there are the same number of sheep in each paddock.
  • Game 3: Counting- The player has to count the objects on the screen, then enter the number in either numerical and/or in word format.
  • Game 6:Representing Numbers- The player has to move a crayon with a word number to the corresponding digit of a Flying Girl.
  • Game 11:Numbers- The player has to move a frog across a pond using the next highest number.

    4. Fishin’ Mission is a really cute game that kids will love. They are to catch a specific number of fish and put them in the fisherman’s net.

    5. Big Sea Count Counting Game will be a favorite with kindergartners. The students will help Cora and Gavin count things in the sea. 

4 Additional resources to support number sense instruction

  1. Kidscount1234 is an amazing website with counting games and activities that children will love.
  2. Kidzone has numerous worksheets that can be useful to reinforce concepts.
  3. Calicocookie details how math journals can be used to teach math in Kindergarten classrooms.
  4. Hubbards Cupboard has many resources to teach number sense. I especially like the math tubs and the counting bags.

Classification of Living Things

Scientist have tried to classify living organisms into groups since Aristotle’s time.  Over time this classification system has changed and evolved as we have learned more about organisms.  Advances in technology have fueled many of these changes.  Scientist are now studying the genetic makeup of organisms.  With this new information, scientist believed that the long held system of 5 kingdoms needed to be reevaluated.  In 1990, it was suggested that the name “domain” be used to describe a rank higher than kingdom. The proposed three domain system includes the kingdoms, Protista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia under the Domain Eukarya.  The Kingdom Monera was separated into the two domains, Domain Bacteria and Domain Archaea.

This blog is intended to address the needs of educators teaching the classification of organisms using physical characteristics, body structures, and behavior of the organism (Virginia Standards of Learning 5.5).  With over one million different species on earth there is an abundance of books available.  I have tried to find a few excellent examples of books and other resources to get you started.

Book Reviews:

Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth,
By Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Margot Thompson

This book is a great introduction to classification.  In a short 39 pages this book covers the traditional 5 kingdoms.  On a two page spread the book gives a colorful overview of each kingdom.  There is a brief description of the kingdom along with examples and a graphic that depicts the size of that kingdom compared to the remaining kingdoms.  The book breaks down the animal kingdom into invertebrates and vertebrates and the five classes of vertebrates.

The Animal Kingdom: A Guide to Vertebrate Classification and Biodiversity
By Kate Whyman

This book is 45 pages full of great information.  But don’t let the size deter you.  The introduction to each class of vertebrates contains a bulleted box that lists the characteristics of that vertebrate.  You can quickly cover the basics by looking at the pictures and bulleted boxes.  This book also contains a great introduction to what is a living thing and classification.  Herbivores, carnivores and the human impact on the animal kingdom are also briefly covered.
bug Bugs Up Close
By Diane Swanson and Photographed by Paul Davidson

Of all the different kinds of invertebrates, insects are the class we are all familiar with.  This book quickly describes the characteristics of insects and then devotes a page to each characteristic.  Photographer Paul Davidson provides amazing close-up photos of different types of insects.
book Amphibians: Water-t0-Land Animals
By Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Kristin Kest

Just like the cover, this book is filled with rich, colorful illustrations of amphibians.  The text is easy to read and brief.  Throughout the book are inserts with additional information and trivia facts.  At the end of the book is a scientific classification chart and glossary.  If you like this book, then you may like one of the other five that is in the series.

crab  Crab Moon
By Ruth Horowitz and illustrated by Kate Kiesler

In this fictional story, a young boy and his mother go to the beach in the middle of the night to see horseshoe crabs spawning.  This book would be a great way to introduce invertebrates to students.  After reading the story, students can discuss the characteristics of invertebrates and arachnids and how they are mentioned in the story.  The book also contains a fact sheet about horseshoe crabs.

Web sites for kids:

Animal Classification.  This site offers a brief description of the characteristics of mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and birds.  The descriptions are four to six bulleted points that are done colorfully and with pictures.  There is a Classification Game that is an excellent review of the different characteristics of the animals discussed.

Classifying Critters.   At this web site, there is a brief explanation of how scientists classify living things and an interactive quiz on vertebrates.  The quiz shows you a picture of one animal and asks that you identify an animal that would be in the same category as the first.  After you identify the correct animal, you are then given a multiple choice question.  The question is, what characteristics do these animals have in common?

Plant and Animal Differences.  To play this game you must quickly sort and drag the items to the correct box.  As the items go by on a conveyor belt you must sort them by bird, mammal, insect, or plant.

A Touch of Class game.  In this game you are given a grid with 16 shadow pictures of living things. You are asked to click the pictures that correspond with the statement at the top of the page.  Some examples of statements are: “things that have a tail” or “things that have a backbone.”

Video. Select the video titled “Form and Function.”  This video discusses how scientists look at animal’s structure and behavior when comparing them.  After watching this video, viewers should have a better understanding of how animals that look similar can be classified differently.

Teacher Resources:

Lesson plan.  Science NetLinks offers a two-part lesson plan on classification.  In addition to the lesson plans, the site also discusses the misconceptions and the difficultly that most students have in understanding classification. This site also offers assessment and extension activities.

Introducing Classification.  This site offers a brief explanation and history of classification along with descriptions of the 5 kingdoms and examples.  There is also a section that compares the kingdoms and an activity for students that can be printed.

Teacher overview.  At this site educators can review the characteristics of the main kingdoms.  The kingdoms are then broken down into further subgroups and examples of each are given.   Click on “Printable Worksheets” and you will find a 10 question assessment based on the information found on this site. This link takes you to a slide show about classification and discusses the three domains.  Look around the site and you will find great pictures and quizzes that can be used.

Trees, Trees, Trees….

     Trees have always provided us with essentials to life: both food and oxygen. As technology has advanced trees have been used  more and more, for shelter, medicine and tools.  Trees improve our air quality, conserve water, preserve soil, and support wildlife. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” Trees control climate by moderating the effects of the sun, rain and wind. Clearly, trees are a very important resource to humans and the entire world. As more and more forest land is cut down, we need to educate the next generation about the importance of trees. These resources can be used for SOLs from all grade levels  having to do with plant structure, life cycles, needs, recycling, animal habitats, and erosion (k.6b, 1.4 a-c, 1.7a, 2.4b, 2.7b, 3.4a, 4.4a, 5.7e,f).


The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest by Lynne Cherry

This book is a great story about a man who is going to chop down a Kapok tree in the rainforest. He decides to take a nap and while he is asleep all the animals that live in and depend on this tree- snakes, butterflies, a jaguar, and a child, come to him and whisper all the reasons not to cut down the tree. It really shows the interconnectedness of all living things. When he wakes up and sees all the animals around him he decides not to chop down the tree and walks out of the forest. This beautifully illustrated book speaks to the importance of conservation as well as related subjects such as endangered animal species.

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Trees By Jim Arnosky

Crinkleroot's Guide to Knowing the TreesThis book is one of a great series of guide books for kids on nature. Crinkleroot is a loveable, wise, old man who explains about trees along his walk through the woods. He details the difference between hardwoods and conifers, and gives detail skecthes of the different types of leaves. He tells about why we need a rich diversity of different types of trees to provide shelter and food for animals. He even talks about the role that dead trees take in the forest, as well as how seedlings and saplings grow and factors affecting their development. With rich watercolor illustrations, and information dense text, this succint book will engage and activate curiosity in students. Also check out, I Was Born in a Tree and Raised by Bees and Crinkleroot’s Guide to Walking in Wild Places by the same author.

Forest Explorer: A Life Size Field Guide By Nic Bishop

 When encouraging outdoor exploration, Forest Explorer is a must. This field guide built for miniature naturalists, shows real, oversized photographs of common animals and insects living in the forest. It has a critter index in the back with pictures, tips for things to look for in all seasons, and many other hints that excourage students to get out there and get dirty exploring the forest!

Nature’s Green Umbrellas by Gail Gibbons

Product Image

This book, using great watercolor illustrations entice students to become a part of the rainforest while learning with straightforward text. The ecology of the rainforest is discussed, with simple definitions of terms and labeled animals. Global warming  and the danger of destruction of the rainforest and its potential impact on the world are discussed as well. The author also suggests methods for reducing damage to the rainforests from cutting. This is a great book to give students an introduction to the rainforest and the issues associated with it.

 A Tree is a Plant  by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Stacy Schuett

From the Lets Read and Find Out leveled readers series, this book shares a breif overview of general tree knowledge and then focuses on the apple tree to show  its parts and functions, as well as its seasonal changes. The author uses direct and simple language. Impressionistic illustrations engage the eye while also show the functions of the plant  like with arrows indicating the water intake route. This book features large pictures, with a diverse group of kids in the outdoor scenes. Extension acitivities are included in the back like a transpiration experiment and measuring the age of a tree.

Student Resources:

A Walk in the Woods is a great website acitivity with visual pictures, sound, and text educating kids on different things they can find in the woods. This would be a great precursor to a real walk in the woods. This would give hte kids some great ides on what to look for.

What Tree is That? This interactive tools allows students to practice identifying features of different trees when given a mystery tree sample.

Exploring the Secret Life of Trees This interactive presentation goes through the basic stucture of trees and what they need to survive. The student learn about the root system and have to stack soda cans to represent how deep roots grow. With the same host- Pierre the acorn, also try Trees are Terrific.

Dichotomous Tree Key is an interactive site where kids can choose the feature of their tree and see what species they end up with. This illustrates all the factors that are considered when trying to identify tree types.

SmokeyKids has information and several interactive features and games having to do with forest fires, prevention and how they put forest fires out. I especially like the Smoke Jumpers game, where students put fires out before they burn all the trees.


Teacher Resources:

Real Trees 4 Kids Printable Teacher guides

This website created by the National Christmas Tree Council has leveled lessons for all age groups having to do with tree farming and trees in general. There are many great actvitities, especially in the grades 3-5 section such as classifying trees, growing cycles, and recycling. More childrens’ literature suggestions are found here as well.

Tree Cookies/My Life as a Tree This a great classic lesson showing students how to count how old a tree is. They can also see for themselves the cambium, bark and hardwood. They then will create their own tree cookie on a paper plate to represent their own lives (with the same number of rings as their age). They will label all the parts that would be on a real tree cookie, but also major events of their life on the appropriate ring year. This could also be a great brainstorming activity for a narrative writing assignment.

 Tree Kit by University of Illinois has many many lesson plan ideas to do with all things related to trees. There are three units with over 15 lessons/activities to explore. One I liked in particular is Dead and Alive showing how the animals and plants around a dead tree still use it to help them flourish.

Tree Chain Game This lesson explores all the things that seeds need in order to germinate and grow into a seedling and then into a tree. Student learn that they have to have a certain order. They then play a game where each student is assigned a “need” or a “seed” card. The “seeds” have to run between two areas playing a memory type game to try to collect all their needs in the correct order. Once they find their next need that student has to run with them making a chain until all the needs are collected.


Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

The following resources are relevant when teaching about Ulysses S. Grant and his contributions to the United States of America (VA SOL United States History to 1865 USI.9 d).  He was a war hero during the Civil War, leading the Union Army in victory over Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army.  He would go onto become the 18th President of the United States, serving from 1869 until 1877.

Relevant Children’s Literature


Ulysses S. Grant: Union General and U.S. President
Written by Brenda Haugen

Ms. Haugen does an excellent job of detailing the life of Ulysses S. Grant in this biography.  Aimed at young adults this book is suitable for strong elementary readers; the lack of illustrations and detailed writing style will deter young/inexperienced readers.  Nonetheless, the work does a terrific job of giving the audience a strong foundation of knowledge about the life of Mr. Grant both in regards to his time in the military as well as his two terms as President.  Perhaps the most valuable segment of the book is the detailed, easy-to-follow time line which can be used in any classroom teaching VA SOL USI.9 d.


Ulysses S. Grant: Eighteenth President 1869-1877 (Getting to Know the US Presidents)
Written and Illustrated by Mike Venezia

Venezia’s mixture of lively text and humorous illustrations makes his book a must-read for the young learner.  Aimed at the upper elementary grade levels (ages 9-12) Venezia does not shy away from Grant’s alcoholism and corrupt Presidental cabinet; however, he treats both situations with respect and sensitivity.  Parents and teachers should not be alarmed by this books subject manner, Venezia does an excellent job of keeping his work mature yet interesting.  This book is the most effective work available for teaching children about Ulysses S. Grant — it details all the courageous actions he undertook to help his country while at the same time not turning a blind eye to the imperfections of the man.


Ulysses S. Grant (Let Freedom Ring Series)
Written by Susan Gregson

Susan Gregson has written an informative biography of General Grant, suitable for ages 9-12.  To insure accuracy Ms. Gregson consulted one of today’s most prominent Grant scholars, John Y. Simon, during the writing and editing of the work.  What this book does better than the other works available is provide many photographs of Grant.  Evidence shows that when a child is shown a picture of someone they can relate to them better than if they merely read or see cartoons portraying that same person.  The value of actual photographs is immense; they allow children to see the actual man and, consequently, make President Grant seem more like an actual person — it allows the children to relate to the man.  Moreover, teachers can use the photographs provided in a primary source activity.


Ulysses S. Grant (Profiles of the Presidents)
Written by Jean Kinney Williams

Ms. Williams work is one of the more detailed biographies available for young readers.  When compared with similar works, this one is more detailed and covers a greater variety of information.  Nonetheless, the book is easy to follow in large part because of the inclusion of a glossary, index, fast facts about Grant, and a parallel time line of world events.  Teachers should take advantage of the well-written glossary when teaching students vocabulary.


Ulysses S. Grant (Presidential Leaders Series)
Written by Kate Havelin

This work is interesting because it focuses more on Grant’s failures than his successes.   The tone of the book, however, is not pessimistic but rather manages to be uplifting.  Ms. Havelin details how Grant had to constantly overcome his failings before finding immense success on the battlefield and in politics. Unlike many books on Grant, this particular one does address his alcoholism.  But like Mr. Venezia’s work above, Ms. Havelin addresses the issue with maturity and understanding.  What is unique to Ms. Havelin’s work is that she does defend President Grant to a great extent, arguing the rumors about his rampant overuse of alcohol (particularly during his presidency) has been greatly exaggerated.

Relevant Websites for Students

 USA 4 Kids

This website provides students with some fast facts about the president (ex., where was he born, where did he die, who did he marry, what political party was he a member of) while also including a brief, but comprehensive biography.  This website is valuable because of its brevity, which will make it approachable to students.  When given a book of over 100 pages many children panic; however, this website provides a lot of information in a short amount of reading.  I would encourage teachers to have their students read this website for homework, perhaps assigning a fill-in-the-blank sheet to go alongside. Also, teachers could use the brief biography provided as a template for interactive note taking.

Grant the Artist

One of Grant’s lesser known attributes was his artistic talents — this website shows a few of Grant’s paintings. Teachers could also pull this website up during class and show the paintings on a projector.  I would encourage students to view this website because it shows a different side of the man they will be studying.  It is important to recognize that there is more to Grant than his time as General and then later as President.  Some may argue this is irrelevant to the SOLs; however, students will benefit from knowing the President in a more complex manner.   It will help them think deeper on Bloom’s taxonomy, one of the ultimate goals of education.

 President Ulysses S. Grant Word Search Puzzle

This word search does a great job of incorporating important vocabulary. Teachers can make the activity even more worthwhile by having students explain why each word is in the word search (for example, when the student finds Methodist they would have to explain Grant’s religious beliefs).  Students are bombarded with lots of reading, particularly in the social sciences, so this activity provides a fun alternative.

The Political Machine

The Political Machine 2008 is an award-winning videogame which allows the player to create a politician (or choose from a real one) and run for the office of President.  There is a fee of $9.95 to download the game but for those parents who can afford the cost, the game is remarkable.  Students will learn the tasks and responsibilities of the President, but chances are they will be having too much fun to notice. Additionally, the studio behind the game has included facts and lessons about every President, including Grant.  Learning cannot stop at 3:00 when school ends — it must continue at home.  The Political Machine will make children want to learn.   I can speak personally on the matter because my 12-year old brother cannot stop raving about the game.  It amazes me how much he picks up from the game (for example, when he learned that I was researching President Grant he asked me, “Did you know he was born in Ohio? Or that is what the game said…”).  The game is rated E10+, meaning suitable for ages 10 and up.

Ulysses S. Grant Game

This quiz is too difficult for use within a classroom; however, for students truly interested in Grant this quiz offers a great place to learn interesting trivia.  In a diverse classroom with a variety of different skill levels, this game could be offered to advanced students who have already grasped the basic material and want to learn more.  Also, a teacher could challenge his students to go home and take the quiz once alone and see how they did and then to ask for help from their parents and see if they could do better.

Helpful Resources for Educators

Ulysses S. Grant Timeline (Simple)
Ulysses S. Grant Timeline (Advanced)

I have linked two separate timelines above.  The first, labeled simple, can be modified and made into a great homework assignment: print out the timeline, white-out over a few of the important Grant entries, make copies, and then have the students fill in what is missing.  To make the assignment easier, leave the dates and provide a word bank if necessary.

The second, by PBS,  is much more thorough and could be assigned as a reading assignment.

Facts About Ulysses S. Grant
More Facts About Ulysses S. Grant

These websites contain a wealth of interesting trivia about Grant.  As a teacher you could use a fact to begin or continue a lesson in a more captivating manner.  Instead of saying, “Okay, now we are going to learn about Ulysses S. Grant,” you could say, “Did anyone here know that former President Ulysses S. Grant was actually born named Hiram Ulysses Grant but he did not like the initials H.U.G.?”  Fun facts will help keep the students interested and engaged.

Background for Teachers

For teachers who do now know much about President Grant, the linked article is comprehensive, relatively brief, and will give the reader a good foundation of knowledge.  It is important when teaching Grant to understand the controversy surrounding the man, particularly his alleged alcoholism and well-cited corruption, in case parents are worried how you will approach teaching these facets of his life and career.

Counting on Number Sense

 Number sense is an intuitive feel for numbers and their relationships. Since number sense is something that develops over time, it is imperative that teachers provide students with a variety of materials and resources. Literature is a great way to  provide many different experiences with numbers.

Virginia Mathematics Standards of Learning: K.1- K.5, 1.1-1.6

Let’s Count Goats by Mem Fox Illustrated by Jan Thomas

Let’s Count Goats a charming, silly book about- you guessed it- counting  goats. This is Mem Fox’s latest book, and if you have never read any of her books, you will instantly be drawn in by the the rhythm, rhyme and humor of this book. What is special about this book is that it has many layers. The most important is that you wont find any numerals! Mem designed this book to be interactive, allowing the readers to practice one to one correspondence by calling out each goat by number. The reader then has to count goats when directed by the story. Another interesting aspect is that that the number of goats isn’t sequential. While a page might have 6 goats, the next page might have one goat. For example:

“Here we see a show off goat playing on the bars. (1)
But can we count the ROWDY goats careering round in cars? (4)”

In every page of the story, you find goats doing silly things: goats playing trumpets, playing with their toys, eating, drinking, and even a goat going under while another is going over. Simple tasks or events that kids can relate to.

The illustrations compliment the story very well. The use of bold brilliant colors are very eye catching and attractive, while the silly expressions on each goat’s face just adds to the humor of the story.

Since Mem believes that children should be read to as babies and even before they are born, I recommend this book to any child, in or not yet in school. This book is not only useful as a number sense book but can also be used in language arts when exploring poetry, rhythm, and rhyme.

My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Bill Grossman creatively weaves a story about a little girl who eats and eats and eats! While performing in a magic show, this little sister eats all sorts of creatures and things! Grossman creatively reinforces number sense in his writing by using a cumulative poem structure.

My little sister ate 3 ants.
She even ate their underpants.
She ate 2 snakes. She ate 1 hare.
We thought she’d throw up then and there.
But she didn’t.

As children read, they recount all the things she ate. Though she seems to consume these creatures effortlessly, by the end of the book, she is faced with her most challenging plate yet: 10 peas!

Count Your Way Through Iran by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson Illustrated by Farida Zaman

Books like these are great for developing number sense but also to introduce students to different cultures. On the left pages you will find the numeral, the Arabic numeral, and the pronunciation. Under the number you find a short paragraph that correlates the number in some way to an aspect of Iranian culture, from the Two Towers of Silence, to the musical instrument tar, which has six strings! The beautiful watercolor illustrations are on the right. As teachers, it is important to pick books that are diverse and interesting. I recommend this book, and the companion books in the series.

This book is part of a series of “Count Your Way Through…” books which include China, IndiaRussia, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Korea, Israel, Ireland, Africa, Brazil, Afghanistan, just to name a few. They are all written by Jim Haskins (and co-author).


Mouse By Mouse: a Counting Adventure by Julia Noonan

“One mouse sits alone and blue. Her friend joins her, that makes two.” One by one these cute little mice get together to have a tea party, play, rescue little mouse 5 who is stuck in a soda bottle, go swimming, and finally after spending the day together, ten little mice  all go to sleep. The illustrations are animated and fun; kids can count the mice who have their numbers labeled on the front of their colorful dresses or shirts, which keeps the readers engaged! This book helps develop one-to-one correspondence and stable order.

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

“You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem.” This is the big problem for one little girl. She discovers that once she starts, she can’t stop! From calculating how much time she has to get ready for school, to figuring out how many slices of pizza she should eat at lunch, she can’t seem to look at anything with out it becoming a math problem. She believes her math teacher, Ms. Fibonacci has put a MATH CURSE on her! Fractions, addition, multiplication, distance, time, measurement, and so much more, this book explores different mathematical concepts in a fun, silly way. The book is also interactive. The authors pose different unsolved math problems that the reader can solve themselves. The illustrations are creative, and unique.

We All Went on Safari: a Counting Journey Through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns

This book follows a group of Maasai people as they travel through Tanzania, exploring and counting different animals that they find along the way. On each page, you can find beautiful watercolor illustrations, a numeral and the equivalent number of animals, along with the written Swahili number. In the back of the book you find information about the Maasai people and culture, a list of the different animals explored, and a list of number written in Swahili, the pronunciation, and the English translation. Additionally, you find color dots that you can practice counting on. Also included in the back is information about the country of Tanzania and a map with all the surrounding countries.

Games to help students with number sense

Big Count Bayou Count all the bayou critters and match with the right number

Rock Hopper Help Rock Hopper jump to the large rock using a number of jumps

Billy Bug Help billy eat his food by taking him to the right spot by using coordinates

The Number Game Read the number word and find the corresponding numeral

Fishy Count Count how many fish

Links for teachers

BBC Number Time  Printable worksheets (addition/subtraction, number ladders, number sequence, writing numbers, number stories)

Climb The Ladder Number sense activity (includes instructions, and templates)

Second Grade Locker Room  Number sense activity ideas (includes domino place value, paper plate relay and place value game)

The 100th day of School Unit Plan Ideas (include 2 lesson plans and related materials and resources)

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
was a civil rights leader that played an important role in the 19th century women’s suffrage movement. Although she died fourteen years prior to its passing, her work was pivotal to the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The resources posted below are intended to be used in an elementary level classroom to teach students the significance of Susan B. Anthony’s life and work.
(VA Social Studies SOL 2.11)

Text Annotations-
If You Lived When Women Won Their Rights
by Anne Kamma
A story that allows readers to find out what life was like for girls during the suffrage movement. Along with Susan B. Anthony, you meet other figures of the movement such as: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Alice Paul.

Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women’s Rights
by Deborah Hopkinson
A quick and easy to read book about the like of Susan B. Anthony. It follows her from her Quaker upbringing to her teaching career and beyond.

Susan B. Anthony: Champion of Women’s Rights
by Helen Albe Monsell
This is a great book for higher level readers. It follows Anthony throughout her life and the difficulties she had in.

Susan B. Anthony: A Photo-Illustrated Biography
by Lucile Davis
This is a book that shows the life of Anthony in photographs. It is a great resource for early readers that is simple and to the point.

Susan B. Anthony
by Martha E. H. Rustad
This is a great book that provides a time line of the important events in Anthony’s life. It also provides a summary of what was covered on the last page.

Web Annotations-

Not For Ourselves Alone- The Story of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
This is a site that can used to explore what it was like to be a kid back in the early 19th century.

Girls Explore Susan B. Anthony
A short, easy to understand biography on Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony- Garden of Praise
Provides a slide-show on Anthony’s life.

Kids.Net.Au- Susan B. Anthony
This site provides a short bio on Anthony’s life along with interactive links.

Women’s Fight for the Vote: The Nineteenth Amendment
This site provides an overview on the creation and passing of the 19th Amendment.

Teacher’s Resources-

Susan B. Anthony Coloring Pages
This site provides many different printable pages to use as handouts in the study of Susan B. Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony Resources
This site provides different links to information about Anthony and a few lessons plan from multiple grade levels to use in the classroom.

Susan B. Anthony Day
This is a lesson plan that is intended to be used on Susan B. Anthony’s birthday, February 15th, which is now a commemorative day to remember the great leader and work she did for the women’s right movement.

Susan B. Anthony House
This is a link to Anthony’s home located in Rochester, New York. It is now a historic landmark and tourist destination that provides information on Anthony’s life.