Archive for the 'teaching' Category

The Sun for 1st Grade

These students will understand basic relationships between the sun and earth.  They will learn that the sun is the source of energy and light and that it warms the land, air, and water.  Students will also be able to identify in which direction the sun rises and sets.  (VA SOL 1.6)


The Sun: Our Nearest Star
By:  Franklyn M. Branley and Edward Miller

006445202601lzzzzzzz.jpg This is a great educational book for younger children.  The pictures keep children interested and the content within is simple and informative.  There is information on the sun’s distance as well as energy that it provides.

The Sun is My Favorite Star
By: Frank Asch

sunfavorite.jpg This book follows the sun throughout the course of the day.  The narrator discusses the sun’s location and mentions how shadows form.  This book is also good for young children because the content is simple and the narrator is a young child as well.

The Sun
By: Seymour Simon

sunseymoursimon.jpg The best part about this book is the pictures.  These amazing detailed images give students the real thing and it provides them with more of an appreciation for how amazing the sun is compared to a drawing.

Sun Up, Sun Down
By: Gail Gibbons

gail.jpg This is a very simple book that provides basic information.  I would recommend using this book at the beginning of the lesson due to its simplicity.

Done in the Sun: Solar Projects for Children
By: Anne Hillerman
Illustrated by Mina Yamashita

donesun.jpeg This book is different from the others because it contains hands on activities for students regarding solar energy.  It is neat because these experiments and activities in the book can be completed in the classroom or at home.

Web Annotations

Astronomy For Kids
This website has animations and games designed for students.  They will be able to see the sun in relationship to the earth and moon.

Energy From The Sun
This website contains three different activities that students can do in class with simple materials.

Jobs of the Sun
This link contains instructions on how to create a chart to show how the sun provides different uses for us as people.

Solar Hot Dog Cooker
This link provides pictures and instructions on how to use the suns energy to create a solar oven to cook hot dogs with.

Resources for Teachers

Graphing Sunspot Cycles
A lesson plan examining Sunspot cycles

Sun Books
Instructions on how to make flip books on the earth and sun

Sun Photos
Compare and contrast pictures of the sun over different periods of time

First Grade Addition and Subtraction

This resource set is geared toward teaching first grade addition and subtraction. Students can use various manipulatives and activities to help students understand the concepts of addition and subtraction and recall basic facts up to 10.

Text Annotations

1. Domino Addition Author: Lynette Long Illustrator: Gioia Fiammenghi

This book clearly enforces the concept of addition using dominoes. Teachers can guide the entire class or students can work individually to compute basic addition facts using the illustrated dominos.

2. Elevator Magic Author: Stuart J. Murphy Illustrator: G. Brian Karas

This book uses common daily activity to teach basic subtraction skills. The main character takes a ride on an elevator to various locations, and as he makes stops, teachers can work with students to compute subtraction equations.

3. The Hershey's Kisses Addition Book Author: Jerry Pallotta Illustrator: Rob Bolster
This children's book introduces simple addition concepts using Hershey kisses and miniature clowns.

4. Animals Onboard Author: Stuart J. Murphy Illustrator: R. W. Alley

This rhyming picture book tells a story including five simple addition problems that teachers can do with their students as they read aloud.

5.  A Collection for Kate Author: Barbara deRubertis Illustrator: Gioia Fiammenghi

Collection week at school has snuck up on Kate, and she has nothing ready to share with her classmates. She watches her classmates share their collections and counts their items in hopes that she can find enough of something to share. This is a great interactive story to read aloud to your students.

Web Annotations

1. Math is Fun: This website provides lesson reinforcement for both addition and subtraction. Students are provided with extra explanation on these mathematical concepts with this interactive website.

2. Cool Math 4 Kids: This website provides both lesson reinforcement and basic fact practice for students.

3. This website provides students with the opportunity to practice basic addition skills. Write how many worms are on two leaves, and how many together!

4. This website provides students with the opportunity to practice basic addition facts. The sumstacker game asks students to drag dies from stack to stack until the sums of each stack equal the sums given.

5. This fun game is sure to catch and keep students’ attention! Addition Eaters and Subtraction Eaters are two games where you eat the addition (or subtraction) problems if the sum (difference) is a given number.

Additional Resources
1. Popcorn Addition– Students match pieces of popcorn with addition equations to the popcorn box with the correct number. Great for centers!
2. Addition & Subtraction FIle Folder Game– Students match addition and subtraction equation feathers to the correctly numbered turkey. Great for centers!
3. Fact Family Activity– Interactive activity for students to explore fact families. Students cut out fact family roof pieces to glue on their houses and write the corresponding addition and subtraction equations on the house.
4. Breaking Numbers Apart– This introductory addition lesson introduces students to the beginning addition concept of breaking apart one number into two pieces to create equations.

Teaching Fractions in 3rd Grade

The topic chosen is Fractions, built with a 3rd grade class in mind.

Text Annotations

Full House: An Invitation to Fractions

Dayle Ann Dodds (Author), Abby Carter (Illustrator)

A fun introduction to fractions, good for reading to younger students, with lots of repetition so students can join in with the text.  A story about a woman running an inn, which teaches about fractions in how she divides the rooms and desert for her guests.

Polar bear math : learning about fractions from Klondike and Snow by Ann Whitehead and Cindy Bickel.

Polar Bear Math follows two cubs, Klondike and Snow, who grow up in the Denver Zoo, all the while using their lives as material for lessons about fractions. For every page of story about the bear cubs there is a page containing a math lesson.  The lessons, vary from simple fraction, numerators and denominators, and comparing births. A lot of the lessons deal with the polar bear's growth rates, and mixing their formula with milk.

Apple fractions by Jerry Pallotta ; illustrated by Rob Bolster.

Apple fractions is a book that takes the time honored tradition of teaching with fractions and uses something as healthy as an apple instead of m&ms or jolly ranchers.  In the book, a group of elves show the readers how to divide apples into halves, thirds, fourths, etc.  At the same time, it teaches about different types of apples (golden delicious, granny smith, and so on).  The book is better served as an introduction to fractions than anything, as it will be too simple for higher level fraction users.

Funny & fabulous fraction stories : 30 reproducible math tales and problems to reinforce important fraction skills by Dan Greenberg.

Funny and Fabulous Fraction Stories is a great book for, as the subtitle says, reinforcing fraction skills.  Each page has a humorous introduction followed by either word problems or simple equations. Much of the book is a built as a workbook, but the contents can be used for students working with fractions for the first time as well as older students who need review and enrichment.

Hershey’s milk chocolate bar fractions book by Jerry Pallotta ; illustrated by Robert Bolster.

A good book for not only introducing fractions, but also for dealing with addition and subtraction.  It is good for beginners, but can also be easily adapted for use with older children by including mixed numbers, writing fractions in
simplest form, and even decimals/percentages.  And in case chocolate bars are too much candy or are melting, the book includes a cutout for manipulation.


Concentration – A game of memory, for one or two players, where you have to match different depictions of numbers.  There are different levels to choose from, one of which is fractions.  Match numbers, shapes, fractions, or multiplication facts to equivalent representations. The game can be used to practice facts by using the clear pane mode, or for an added challenge, play the game with the windows closed.

Melvin's Make a Match – A game of matching visual fraction models with their numerical counterparts.  The player chooses two potion bottles and Melvin the wizard lets them know if they got it right or not.   There is a hint button that guides students how to play, instead of giving them clues about the right answer.

Pizza Party – A 10 question, single player online multiple choice game that uses the classic "pizza pie" model for visualizing fractions.  Even though it is likely that this model is not the best for representing fractions, it is still ubiquitously used in the class as well as SOL tests.  So this game is a good review for visualizing fractions that's Soccer Shootout – A two player, competitive fraction quiz based on taking "shots on goal" by solving fraction addition and subtraction problems with like and unlike numerators and denominators.  The answers given need to be reduced to the simplest possible fraction or the answer is marked as incorrect.

Additional Resources

Fraction Webquest –  Created by Kim Daniels, Julia Johnson, and Caitlin Haney

A webquest that invites students to act as mayor of a small town, helping the citizens solve their problems using fractions.  There are 4 specific tasks in the webquest, which would be best done over two or three days.

Fractions – SMARTboard Activity by N. Dickson.  A 12 page SMART Notebook Lesson that contains various types of fraction practice for beginning learners of fractions (grades 1-3).   Requires SMARTboard and corresponding software.

Equivalent Fractions Video – a short (3:41) video lesson discussing equivalent fractions.  Requires Audio.  A great resource for review, or makeup (for instance if a student is absent when equivalent fractions are introduced).

Fractions PowerPoint – by Lucy Rodriguez – A 13 page powerpoint lesson that explains fractions using various models (including fraction strips, number lines, etc.  Also contains links to different activities.  Note – There are, among other things, two fraction powerpoints on the link below.  Choose the one by Rodriguez.

Fractions Basics Proper Improper Mixed Math Learning Upgrade

A cute, short (1:35) video that goes with an equally cute reggae song about fractions, which teaches about numerators, denominators, and the difference between Proper and Improper Fractions.

Counting Money: Second Grade

Throughout the elementary grades, students learn to work with and manage money. In second grade, the relevant money concepts are addressed in Standard of Learning 2.11. In this SOL, students should learn to count and compare a collection of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies whose total is $2.00 or less. Along with that, students should understand that different coin combinations can be used to make equal amounts. They should also learn about the correct usage of money symbols throughout this unit.



The Penny Pot by Stuart Murphy, Illustrated by Lynn Cravath

In The Penny Pot, the students are getting their faces painted at the school fair and Jessie wants to join in on the fun. She has a problem though – it costs 50 cents to get your face painted, and she only has 39 cents! At the table, there is a penny pot where students put their extra change, so Jessie waits and counts the extra change until she has enough money to get her face painted. This is a great book to help students visualize counting money. The pictures of the coins are authentic looking and will translate well to classroom activities with money.


The Big Buck Adventure by Shelley Gill and Deborah Tobola, Illustrated by Grace Lin

In The Big Buck Adventure, a young girl receives a dollar allowance from her dad and is dropped off at a store with hopes to spend her new money. The book explores several different ways that she could spend her money. Each combination of items is described in poem form and the pictures show the objects clearly marked with price tags. This is an effective way for students to see the use of money and prices in real life.


Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Ray Cruz

Alexander's grandparents gave him a dollar last Sunday, and he quickly realizes that he can spend that dollar in many different ways! The book Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday is a great way to show students how money that is spent is subtracted from the total amount. There are several fantastic lesson plans to go along with this book.


Pigs Will be Pigs by Amy Axelrod, Illustrated by Sharon McGinley

 After finishing off all of their groceries, Mr.Pig, Mrs.Pig, and their two piglets are still hungry but their piggy bank is empty – how will they be able to buy more food? They decide to hunt for their money around the house. Readers of Pigs Will Be Pigs are invited to count along as the pigs find money throughout the rooms of the house. In the end, the money is totaled and the pig family travels to a Mexican restaurant to eat. This book is fitting to the SOL because the students are able to watch the totals change as money is added, as well as look at the menu at the restaurant to see how it is spent.


How the Second Grade Got $8,205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty by Nathan Zimelman, Illustrated by Bill Slavin

 Students at Newton Barnaby School are on a mission – to fund a field trip to the Statue of Liberty. The second grade students in How the Second Grade Got $8,205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty embark on all sorts of projects to raise money – lemonade stand, car wash, candy sale, etc. As readers, students are able to follow the second grade class' journey and help total the money that the class is raising.


  • In the Dollar Store Game, students are told that they are buying different items from the dollar store – everything is a dollar or less! They are given an item that they need to pay for, and then using the variety of coins on the lefthand side, they must drag the correct amount to the cashier at the bottom of the screen.
  • In the Counting Money game, students are presented with a line of coins, including quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. As quick as they can, they must count the coins, add up the value, and type it into the box. They can then check their own answers by clicking on the "Check" button.
  • The game Piggy Bank is another way to reinforce students understanding that different coin combinations can be used to make equal values. Students are given a certain monetary amount and then as coins are dropped into a grid, students click on the coins they want to use to make that amount.
  • In this lunch food game, students are given a menu with different food items. They are then told how much a certain item is and must drag the right amount of money, in coin form, to the checkout in order to pay for their food.
  • In this interactive coin game, the students are given a money total at the top of screen. They then must drag a combination of coins to the top of the chute. As the coins roll down the chute into the jar, the students can watch the value increase until they have made the correct amount.

Additional Resources

  • This literature site details specific ways to integrate childrens books into math lessons, and more specifically into the study of money in the lower elementary grades. The site gives 8 examples of books related to money and then provides activities and ideas for lessons to go along with those books.
  • Money Money is a set of 11 lesson plans that essentially outlines the unit of exploring coins and money in the second grade. The lessons focus on the objectives that students will be able to identify coins, coin values, and the concept that equal amounts can be reached through different coin combinations. It includes a variety of types of lessons, many that are based on children's literature and that are very interactive.
  • The game Clean Up the Money uses a 24-space game board, which the players fill in with 6 nickels, 6 pennies, 6 dimes, and 6 quarters. Then they roll two dice to get an ordered pair. Whatever coin is on that ordered pair, they take and put in a pile. At the end of the game, the students must count their money to find a winner. The great thing about this game is that students will get lots of different coin combinations and it is a great way to integrate ordered pairs into another math concept.
  • The U.S. Mint website is chock full of lesson plans and information regarding coins, the history of money, and how money has changed over time. The lesson plans are sorted both by grade and by subject, and there are some great 2nd grade ones about counting money and making different combinations of coins.

Fraction Action



Students in third and fourth grade begin to explore the use of fractions in mathematics.  Students will recognize the numerator and the denominator, and understand how to compare different fractions. In third grade, the focus will be on fractions with “like” denominators, and they will move on to “un-like” denominators in fourth grade. Students will add and subtract fractions with denominators up to 12, and learn how to simplify fractions, as well as recognize equivalent fractions

Text Sources


Apple Fractions by Jerry Pallotta

This is a great book for students just learning to recognize and comprehend fractions. Pallotta uses an apple cut up by tiny elves to show halves, thirds, fourths, etc. Students see the differentsizes of fractions in a common and recognizable object, an apple. Though it may not be possible to do in a classroom, it is a great hands-on experience to have students cut an apple (with adult supervision) to match the fractions in the book.


Working with Fractions by David A. Adler

This is a wonderful book to read to a class to learn about different fraction concepts. The brilliant illustrations will keep students interested as fractions are thoroughly discussed. Adler does not only use concrete objects like a cake or pizza, but also includes situations such as music chairs: if you are playing musical chairs with 7 people, and 5 people sit down, then 5/7 of the children are sitting down. The book discusses the way fractions can be found everywhere.


Fraction Fun by David A. Adler

Fraction Fun is a great introductory book. Adler includes equivalent fractions and even adding fractions. Adler includes hands on activities, and his illustrations put students at ease with the new math. Students will compare fractions and see how fractions be equal, less than, or greater than other fractions.


Whole-y Cow: Fractions are Fun by Taryn Souders

This book keeps students engaged without realizing how much they’re learning. Silly illustrations fill the pages, as well as math riddles. Students will try to help the cow figure out math problems, and will discover a love for math along the way. This story can be read to children as young as five, but older students will still enjoy working on the math problems inside.


Give me Half! by Stuart J. Murphy

Murphy’s story is great for any students who’ve ever tried to share food with their siblings or friends. Following a brother and sister as they try to share their snacks, students are introduced to different fractions (because no one wants to split evenly!) They learn about equivalent fractions, and are introduced to the word “divide.” Murphy shows some equations such as: 1/2 + 1/2 = 1.

Web Sources

Identifying Fractions

This is a simple online activity for students who are just starting to learn fractions. Set up as an interactive quiz, the site shows students a bar with a portion colored in. Students will type in the correct fraction, and click ok. If they are correct, the quiz will move on to a new example. If they are incorrect, they will be told that their response was “too big” or “too small.” On the bottom of the page, it gives students instructions, as well as a brief overview of fractions. It identifies the numerator and denominator, and shows how to type the fraction into the quiz.


Balloon Pop Math

This fun site sets up fractions as a game. Balloons come onto the screen, and each balloon has a fraction and a model on it. Students must pop the balloon in order from smallest to greatest. This is a great opportunity to think on their feet.  The site is very easy to use, and the game has three levels, so students can be challenged if they are ready.

Comparing Fractions

This sight helps students practice the greater than, less than, and equal sign. Students must compare fractions and use multiple choice answers to decide if the fractions are equivalent or not. The site uses small fractions, and is very easy for students to understand. This could be used as an assessment, a homework assignment, or practice.


Fun with Fractions and Decimals

This is a fun start for students who are transitioning from fractions to decimals. Set up like the classic board game Shoots and Ladders, students must use multiple choice answers to convert a fraction into decimal form. If they get the answer right, they can “roll the dice” and move on the board. Just like shoots and ladders, they might move up a later, or risk sliding down a shoot. It’s an exciting and interactive way for students to practice math. It can even be used as partner game.

Kids and Cookies

One of my personal favorite resources for kids. This game allows students to pick how many cookies to have, and how many friends. Then, they must divide the cookies evenly between friends. The cookies do not always split up evenly, so students have cookie cutters with various fraction bars to cut the cookies up. It surprisingly involves a lot of critical thinking, as students have to decide how many cookies it is necessary to cut up. It allows the student a lot of freedom as they practice fractions.

Teacher Resources

Funny and Fabulous Fraction Stories by Dan Greenberg

This book is full of math stories and problems that students will love. The reproducibles are perfect for students in third or fourth grade who are learning to recognize fractions and use them in equations. There are worksheets, stories, and lessons for teachers to use with their class. The book is an incredible resource for teachers of many grades.


Pizza Fraction Fun Game

A great game to have in the classroom. There are seven games included in this set, all involving the introduction of fractions. It can be used for many different levels and skills. It is a great way to use such a recognizable thing like pizza without having to bring food into the classroom.

Fraction Tiles

This is a staple need for every math classroom. Fraction tiles are great to have because students can move them around and compare their physical sizes as they do math problems including fractions.  fraction_strips.jpg

Fraction Pie Puzzles

Another great activity for teachers to have available in their classroom. These puzzles have four circles that can be filled in with any pie slices – the trick is to use the correct fractions. Students will need to understand equivalent fractions, and they can practice their addition as they predict which fractions will complete the puzzle.

Introducing Division


This post includes a variety of resources (books, websites, lesson plans, games, printables, etc.) that can be used to introduce basic division concepts to students and aid them in committing the basic division facts (dividends to 144) to memory. The target grade level is third grade since these skills are first introduced at this level.  However, many of these resources could and perhaps should be used at the fourth and fifth grade levels to reinforce basic division skills, which are the basis for so many other higher-level math concepts.


The Great Divide, written by Dayle Ann Dodds and illustrated by Tracy Mitchell: Using a cross-country race as a plot line, Dodds demonstrates how dividing by two decreases the contenders in the race to the finish.  Eighty contestants start out on bikes in ten groups of eight but when half pop tires, only forty continue.  Forty becomes twenty, twenty becomes ten, and ten becomes five, at which point one contestant has to stop with a rock in her shoe and only four move on.  Though the plot is minimal, a surprise ending, likable characters, and fun illustrations keep children engaged while getting the mathematical concepts across.

Divide and Ride, written by Stuart Murphy and illustrated by George Ulrich: Murphy's book introduces division as eleven children sort themselves into smaller groups in order to go on different rides at a carnival.  Mathematical vocabulary such as "per", "divide", and "left over" is used throughout to introduce the concepts of "groups of", "sets of", and remainders.  The children in the story are racially diverse and even young children can relate to the idea of going to an amusement park and begin to see the patterns that emerge as the book continues.

How Hungry Are You, written by Donna Jo Napoli and Richard Tchen and illustrated by Amy Walrod: In the same vein as Pat Hutchins classic, The Doorbell Rang, Napoli and Tchen's book is a great introduction to simple division and the difficulties that can arise when sharing.  A rabbit and a frog decide to have a picnic.  Along the way, they meet up with a variety of other creatures who share in the food (creating the need to redivide) and contribute more food.  The story presents a great opportunity for reader's theater as the entire tale is told through dialogue of the various characters identified by rebus-like headshots at the beginning of each line.

A Remainder of One, written by Elinor J. Pinczes and illustrated by Bonnie MacKain: An army of 25 insects line up in multiple arrays in an attempt to create a formation that doesn't leave anyone out.  Rhyming text and simple illustrations combine to present the basis for a clear understanding of remainders and the use of arrays in division problems.

One Hungry Cat, written by Joanne Rocklin and Marilyn Burns and illustrated by Rowan Barnes-Murphy: A hungry cat bakes 12 cookies and invites over two friends to share them, but each time he divides the cookies into equal shares, he gets hungry, gobbles them up, and has to bake something else. Throughout the story, subtle math problems arise.   For example, how does one divide eight cookies onto three plates, or cut a square cake into three equal pieces? Answers to the problems are presented in the back of the book along with suggested activities for reinforcing the math lesson.  The cartoon illustrations add to the fun and kids will enjoy the slapstick while they figure out the math.


Everybody Wins, written by Sheila Bruce and illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye:  When Oscar and Emmy both contribute box tops for a contest and agree to split the prize of 100 frozen pizzas, they learn valuable lessons about how to divide and the costs and rewards of friendship.  As the book continues, so does the sharing as friends practice dividing other things among their classmates.  Additional activities to support the lessons in the book are listed on the inside back cover.

Division, written by Sheila Cato and illustrated by Sami Sweeten: Less of a story and more of a straight up math lesson, this book effectively uses authentic math problems to teach division.  A group of ethnically diverse children present a series of division problems using everyday examples that get progressively more difficult.  Equations are used to reflect the original word problem and the explanations are thorough and concise, building on prior knowledge.  Boxed areas provide further information and offer more practice equations, while colorful cartoons break up the text and illustrate the answers.

The Doorbell Rang, written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins: Pat Hutchins uses a dozen cookies to illustrate the partitive model of division as more and more children have to share the same batch of cookies. Two children are delighted when their mother bakes a tray of a dozen cookies and they find that by dividing them equally each can have six. But the doorbell rings repeatedly, friends arrive and the cookies must be re-divided again and again. When each child's share is down to one, a surprise visit from Grandma brings dozens more cookies for the elated multiracial children to share.

17 Kings and 42 Elephants, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Patricia MacCarthy: As 17 kings and 42 elephants make their way through the jungle, they encounter a variety of animals from crocodiles and tigers to hippopotomums and baboonsters.  Though the book has no formal plot and uses words both sensible and nonsensical, it holds great appeal to children because of the rollicking rhymes, joyous adventure, and beautiful illustrations.  From a mathematical perspective, the book can be used as a springboard for a division problem with remainders as students figure out how many elephants each king has if the kings share the elephants equally.

One Hundred Hungry Ants, written by Elinor J. Pinces and illustrated by Bonnie MacKain:  Rhymed verse is used to tell this whimsical story of 100 hungry ants setting out in one long line for a picnic.  When the littlest ant announces that the line is moving too slowly and suggests 2 lines of 50, followed by 4 lines of 25, 5 lines of 20, and 10 lines of 10 to speed things up.  By the time the ants reach the picnic, the food is all gone but students will have gained valuable background knowledge about both multiplication and division.


Divider Machine: Students attempt to answer basic division facts and obtain a score of 100 without making any mistakes by selecting the appropriate level of difficulty.

Division Derby: Choose from a series of racecar themed multiplication and division games for single or multi-players focused on basic facts.

Flashcards: Students can use this site to generate their own division flashcards by entering the highest level of quotients they are interested in working with.  The site also has a variety of division games for students to choose from to support their learning process.

Math Magician: Great site for building automaticity with basic division facts.  Answer 20 division facts in a minute or less and earn a certificate.

Mystery at the Peculiar Zoo: Students read and use the clues in a poem along with multiplication and division skills to figure out how many animals were stolen by the Zoo Bandit.  If you like this story, additional mysteries are available through this scholastic site as well.


Basic Division Facts Differentiated Learning Pack: This Scholastic resource, while worksheet driven, does provide a good opportunity for differentiating activities for students who are reading below, on, or above grade level.

Lesson Idea for Introducing Division: In this activity, students are placed in groups of five or six and provided with 30 pieces of dry pasta and a paper plate for each child.  Students are asked to share the pasta equally and talk about their results.

Dividing with Bricks: This worksheet is a simple way to support the development of division concepts while children divide sets of bricks (or any cubes) into towers.

All About Division Smartboard Lesson: This Smartboard Lesson provides an introduction to the math concept of division and provides students with the opportunity to practice dividing by 3's, 4's. and 5's.

Teaching About Electricity


Chosen books could be used to help students investigate and understand the characteristics of electricity, such as conductors and electricity, basic circuits, static electricity, transformation of electrical energy into light, heat and mechanical energy, electromagnets, and historical  contributions in understanding electricity. Selected books are aimed for elementary school students but for different grade levels.

The short sections in “Electricity” make the book useful for different levels and for multiple activities and lessons. “Switch On, Switch Off” is perfect for use in young classrooms. The text is extremely kid-friendly, leaving out any elaborate, overwhelming explanations. “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. “Wired” is a great resource to help upper elementary school students learn about an important part of physical science; electricity, because it describes in great detail how electricity is created and how it is transported to different places, while still being fun with its illustrations and catchy subtitles. “The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip” can be used to cover a wide range of science topics in regards to energy in grades 3-5. The book covers information on different sources of energy, magnetism, electrons and atoms, and explains the science behind how many things work.


Electricity, a DK Eyewitness book written and illustrated by Steve Parker, is a great introduction to electricity. The book is written in short sections with one topic per two pages spread. There are lots of pictures which makes the book very visually interesting. Each section discusses the science behind electricity and includes information about important historical scientists. Topics covered include Circuits and Conductors, Electromagnets, Discoveries using electricity, Electricity in the home, and more.

Students can learn more about electric circuits with the interactive Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits.

Teachers can explore static electricity with this experiment.

 “Switch On, Switch Off”

Light switches are everywhere! They are in every house: in the kitchen, the bedroom, the office, the bathroom…but are they really magic? When it’s time for bed and mom yells “lights out.” is it truly magic within that switch that allows the room to get dark? Switch On, Switch Off, written by Melvin Berger and illustrated by Carolyn Crolll, is an excellent resource for your children to begin exploring the magic within the light switch, or what is better know as electricity. The story begins just this way, with a child heading to bed, curious as to how his light switch operates. This commences the lesson where Berger youthfully explains circuits, generators, light bulbs, and plugs, thus demonstrating how electricity is produced and even used. With the help of Croll’s easy to understand illustrations, children can not only read about electricity, but they can see pictures that enforce how the process works. The author even offers a live experiment that children can do to create their own electricity using just a magnet, compass and a piece of wire.

Electricity Circuits and Conductors is a great interactive tool for children to experiment with electricity conductors.

Electricity and Magnetism is a help site for children to utilize if they have questions or need clarification about the concepts. Within  specific sections under various topics are games, activities,histories, and helpful hints.

Electricity Teaching Resources is a site to be used by teachers wishing to explore electiricty with students. The site contains, activites, games, teaching strategies, physical science links, quizzes, tests and more!

“Flick a Switch”

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 written 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.

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 Michael Faraday, whose work with electromagnetism made the generators in power plants possible.

Benjamin Franklin was an inventor. This website helps students understand Benjamin Franklin’s contributions. Drawings were done by other students and they all wrote a sentence about who Ben Franklin was. This a way for students to learn from their peers as well as to see other points of view on Ben Franklin.


Wired, written by Anastasia Suen and illustrated by Paul Carrick, is a physical science book for students related to electricity. The book starts out by explaining the importance of electrons and describing how electricity is made at the power plant. It goes on to explain the different types of vehicles used to transport electricity to surrounding areas and cities (transformer towers, feeder line, secondary wires, ect.) As one reads the book, he or she can see that the author is explaining the process of how electricity is created and moved to other places step by step. The pictures start out showing the power plant, and end up illustrating the ways electricity is used around the house in lamps, computers, breakers, and more. The book ends with a few tips for children on how to “Be Smarter About Power!” and lists some websites and other book resources where children can find more about electricity.

“The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip”

The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip, takes Ms. Frizzle’s students through the concepts of electricity in an exciting field trip. The field trip begins when the power goes out at school and Ms. Frizzle takes the students on a journey to find out the problem. Power lines are down in the streets and the students begin their exploration at a power plant. The students travel through steam and a turbine and enter into power lines. From there they travel to the library, explore inside a light bulb, continue on to a restaurant and Phoebe’s house, and then return back to the school. Throughout the storm many topic of energy are covered such as; how to make an electromagnet, different sources of energy, how a motor works, how a TV works, how a switch works, how steam works, and how to make a mini-power plant. It also discusses electrons and atoms.

The Florida Project Learning Three has a great resources for teachers to use with The Magic School Bus and the Electric Filed Trip on activity. The packet includes discussion questions, vocabulary words, vocabulary practice, worksheets, comprehension questions, sequencing practice worksheets, and writing exercises.

Hotchalk has a good three week unit for students to learn about electricity. Topics include: renewable energy, wind turbines, testing electric currents, and energy resources.





Shaking It Up: Earthquakes!

Even though we may not feel it, the ground beneath us is in almost constant motion.  There are hundreds of earthquakes each year; however, many are not felt or occur far away from civilization.  Tectonic plates move along fault lines creating earthquakes which in turn form the landscape of our planet.  This constant changing of the earth’s crust is examined in VA Science SOL 5.7.  Although earthquakes are often considered dangerous and scary events to be taken very seriously, the scientific concepts discussed in the materials that follow give students an insight into the earth in which they inhabit.

A Project Guide to Earthquakes
Written by Claire O’Neal

Inside A Project Guide to Earthquakes, you will find thirteen experiments that elementary aged students will enjoy.  This book is targeted for upper elementary students and guides their interests in the science of earthquakes through hands-on activities.  It is a newer book (10/2010) and would be a good resource for teachers to use as they explore geology in the classroom.

Earthquake Games
Written by Matthys Levy and Mario Salvador, Illustrated by Christina C. Blatt

This book is best used for upper elementary and middle school students.  Included in the book are many activities that engage the student in learning about the awesome power of earthquakes.  This is a great book to use for both earthquake and volcano experiments.  Activities presented in Earthquake Games need to be supervised by an adult, and adult assistance may be needed to decipher some of the confusing page layout.  Solid information on geology, earthquakes, and volcanoes is given in this book and the games, experiments, and activities really enhance students’ interest in these topics.

Hands-on Science Projects
Written by Chris Oxlade

This is yet another very practical, experiment laden book for teachers and students to learn about not only earthquakes but many other geological and meteorological phenomena.  With a target age range of 9-12 years-old, this collection of over 50 experiments gives students a great resource from which to activate their knowledge of these subjects.  By having students interact with the scientific concepts presented, the experiments and activities in this book help teachers reach the full range of learning styles.  Also, by preforming the projects themselves, students can take ownership in their learning.

Earthquakes with Max Axiom
Written by Katherine Krohn, Illustrated by Tod Smith and Al Milgrom

This graphic novel will draw students into scientific concepts with its action-packed drawings and fast-paced action.  Earthquakes is included in a series of graphic novels centered around the main character, Max Axiom.  Again targeted at upper elementary, this book gives plenty of statistics, important events, and interesting facts about the topic while still staying with it’s comic-book like style.  The Max Axiom series is a great resource for students who are below level, struggle with, or are uninterested in reading.

…If you Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake
Written by Ellen Levine, Illustrated by Pat Grant Porter

  This book was written to give students insight into what life would have been like before, after, and during one of the largest earthquakes ever.  Along with wonderful illustrations for visual learners, this book can either be read aloud to students or students themselves can easily read and comprehend the content.  A great cross-curricular learning resource, this book encompasses science, sociology, history while building on reading skills.  Students are placed into the disaster through vivid linguistic imagery and given questions and answers that help children get a visualization of what it may have been like to be involved in the earthquake.

Earthquakes for Kids

This website is presented by the United States Geological Survey and contains links to student focused activities, games, and facts.  The site can be navigated by either teacher or student and contains resources for both as well.  Due to the amount of information contained within the links, this tool would be best used by having the teacher guide the student step-by-step through a process that would be most beneficial to the scope of learning.  However, the site can also be used by the student alone in spare time to explore areas of interest that may lead to furthering knowledge.

Weather Wiz Kids

Perfect website for older elementary students to navigate. Earthquake information, science, terminology, and images bring to life the concepts involved in earthquakes.  There are also plenty of other links to further information on each section so that students can get more in depth knowledge on a particular interest.  While the site is directed towards children, teachers can benefit from the lesson plan links offered at the bottom of the page and other topics linked on the left column.

Dragonfly TV

Dragonfly TV is a production of PBS Kids that is geared towards involving kids in the knowledge through videos, games, and other interactive resources.  This particular link leads the teacher and/or the student to a video in which two young girls discuss earthquakes where they live.  Along with factually laden information given by peers, this video shows the girls preforming actual science as well.  Although the video is a little lengthy for the classroom, the other links on the page will give teachers more great resources to interact students with the concept of earthquakes.

Earthquakes 101

A short video (about 2 1/2 minutes long), made by National Geographic (a well recognized institution) gives students vivid images and plenty of factual information.  Although the tone of the video is a bit serious and focuses on the severity and destructive nature of earthquakes, it is a good introduction to the concepts and science behind earthquakes.  The imagery shown in the video will enhance visual learners ability to grasp the geological concepts presented.

Kid Scoop Special Report: Earthquake in Haiti 

  This website gives students a current event experience with earthquakes.  There are several other resources on this site to accompany the actual story of what happened including ways kids can help raise money and awareness.  Hopefully the links and suggestions on this site will further a student’s knowledge, understanding, and questioning about the topic of earthquakes as well as the human condition/social awareness.

Plate Tectonics Activity

An interactive model of the different ways tectonic plates move, this will help students visualize the effects of earth movement.  By actually moving the the earth themselves, students are much more interactively involved in the scientific concept of plate tectonics.  Also, this activity gives students an idea of the spacial-relations involved with earthquakes by appealing to their senses of touch, sight, and using motor skills/hand-eye coordination.

Earthquake Legends Throughout the World 

From the California Department of Conservation, the California Geological Survey has put together a list of legends that explain the phenomena of earthquakes.  This multicultural list can be used as a cross-curricular tool tying the earth science unit of earthquakes and plate tectonics to the telling of legends and myths in the english department.  Also, there is the multicultural connection that can be made with students who have family connections to one or more of these legends.

California Real Time Earthquakes

What a cool resource!  This map shows a real time map of earthquakes in California, perhaps the most active state in the country.  Students can see the amount and frequency of earthquakes throughout the state and can click on the individual quake to find out more information about each specific occurrence.

Shaken! Earthquake Rocks Central Virginia

This report gives students a localized notion of earthquakes.  Although the information contained within the report is well above elementary level reading and comprehension, this resource is still a useful tool for teachers.  There are good maps for students to explore and some of the information will help to teach about plate tectonics.  By using information that is local to Virginia students, their interest will be piqued and perhaps students will develop more questions from which the teacher could build the learning process around.

Learning About Plants

 All the books listed below are great resources teachers and readers can use in and out of the classroom to learn about the different parts of a plant. In these books, not only can you find important information, but ideas for projects. These books will be great to use while teaching Virginia Science Standards of Learning 4.4 a, b,  and c.

Plants (Make it Work Science) by Andrew Haslam, Claire Watts and Alexandra Parsons. Photographed by Jon Barnes

The book Plants takes an in depth look at how plants work. The great photographs illustrate the different activities and experiments that you can do at home or at school. Each activity has a list of supplies (most which are readily available), and clear, direct directions. From working with seeds to observing fruit decay, there are many unique and creative activities that will help students understand the different parts of the plant and how they work. The book defines what it means to be a scientist, what is botany, and how scientists collect data. It encourages children to conduct experiments using the scientific methods as well as record all their data. It also includes home made game instructions.

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston Illustrated by Sylvia Long

A Seed Is Sleepy is a great book for young students who are learning about plants and how they grow. The author uses adjectives  to help describe certain plant characteristics (A seed is secretive,  A seed is thirsty… and hungry) Simple statements like these are easy for students to understand and even make connections to. The author also describes difficult terms with easy simple explanations. The illustrations are detailed and interesting and all the plants and seeds are labeled. Both the book and illustrations  do a good job demonstrating the variety of seeds, their colors, their sizes, and even the plants they grow into.

The Science Book of How things Grow by Neil Ardley

Similar to Plants (Make It Work Science), this book offers students various activities and experiments to perform easily at home or school. It explains each step carefully with step by step photographs and uses readily available materials. Each experiment provides a bit of background knowledge, the experiment, as well as a short description relating the experiment  and connecting it to the real world. For example, the activity “Root Power” experiments with the strength of roots by growing marigold seeds in an eggshell (as the plant grows, the roots break the egg shell). The author includes a photograph and description of a tree breaking through a cement sidewalk. This is the type of detail that helps build deeper understanding.

Pumpkin Circle: The Story of  a Garden by George Levenson and photographs by Shmuel Thaler
“The pumpkin seed makes the pumpkin plant, and the pumpkin plant makes pumpkins.” This story follows the life of a pumpkin, detailing each aspect of its life. In this book the pictures do most of the talking. Kids can see the seed in the flesh of the pumpkin, seeds being eaten as a snack, different types of seeds side by side, a seed being planted, the sprouts, and finally the seed in the soil with the roots spreading through the earth. Levenson narrates in easy to read sentences. As the garden of pumpkins grows, kids can see the large pumpkin leaves, the flowers, and even the insects the live along side the pumpkins. The pumpkin is finally ready to be made into a jack-o-lantern. Students can watch it slowly decay and return to the earth. Included in the back pages are instructions to grow your own pumpkin. I recommend this book to all young scientists especially for English Language Learners.

A Fruit Is A Suitcase For A Seed by Jean Richards, illustrated by Anca Harington

This book is a great introduction to seeds, plants, and fruits. Jean Richards compares fruits and seeds to suitcases, the seed being what is inside each fruit/suitcase. Readers can learn about what seeds are, how they travel, and different examples of fruits and seeds. The book includes colorful watercolor illustrations of seeds, fruits, and animals. This is a great book for beginning readers because it is simple and easy to comprehend.

Great links for kids

The Great Plant Escape Match the clue with the part of the plant

How Does Your Garden Grow? become a virtual gardener

Plant Word Search Find each word on the list

Plant Parts Match the plant parts with the correct definition

The Life Cycle of Plants Review games/activities

Links and resources for teachers

Parts of a Plant worksheet

Plants in Motion Time lapse movie and activities

From Seed to Plant Lesson plan

Plants and Seeds Lesson plan

Native Gardening Comprehensive guide to local plants



The common meaning of the word hibernate is the state that an animal sleeps for the entire winter, to protect themselves and help themselves survive when the temperatures are cold and food is hard to find.  There are several forms of hibernation and examples of animals that hibernate are bears, frogs, and groundhogs.  The concept on hibernation is covered in SOL 1.7, 2.5, 2.7, and 3.4.

Animals Hibernating:  How Animals Survive Extreme Conditions, by Pamel Hickman

This fun and informational book defines the two groups of hibernators:  true hibernators and deep sleeper. The true hibernators save energy during winter by greatly lowering their body temperature and breathing and heart rates (chipmunks) Some true hibernators include such as insects, toads, snakes, whose bodies partly freeze and then thaw again in the spring.  The deep sleepers such skunks and raccoons, go into a deep sleep for several weeks or months during winter-their breathing and heard rate drops but their body temperature lowers only slightly. In addition, this book provides activities to find out how our heart rate compares to bats and why maple syrup is like a hibernating frog.

What Do Animals Do in the Winter? How Animals Survive the Cold, By Melvin and Gilda Berger

This child’s book describes how groundhogs hibernate in the winter by sleeping for six months in nests found inside tunnels.  Also, this book describes how bats hibernate in caves by hanging upside down.

Extreme Animals:  The Toughest Creatures on Earth, by Nicola Davies

This book on page 19 describes the hummingbird as a “truly tough” creature on Earth because it lets their body temperature drop 35 to 55 degree F below normal.  The hummingbird does this every night to save on food.  Also, bats are “truly tough” too, because live off their own body fat until spring – so bats hibernate and let their bodies get really cold.  In addition on page 20, there is a description of the “frogsicles”- instead of hibernating the wood frogs  freeze and become brittle as glass, but they are not dead.

Every Autumn Comes the Bear, by Jim Arnosky

This colorful children’s book describes how a bear comes every autumn and prepares to hibernate for the winter, the other animals know what to expect from the bear.

Bear on the Train, by Julie Lawson

This book tell the story of a bear up jumps on a train car, eats grain, and falls a sleep during the snow the wind, and the rain.  A boy named Jeffrey sees the bear come into the small town and shouts at him to get off the train.  Jeffrey sees the bear for several months during the winter and the bear remains asleep.  It is not until the spring that the bear smells something different, open his eyes, and gets off the train.

Children website on hibernation.  This kids website give a definition of true hibernation and gives examples of animals that hibernate and a description of each. This kids website defines torpor shortened sleep time and provides five examples of animals that sleep and eat to survive in the winter.  This childrens website provides a memory games that after pairs of hibernating animals are matched, a picture of an animal that hibernates will appear.

This website provides a story about “sleeping through a dark cold winter” and talks about “true hibernation.  The websites talks about animals about such as dormouse, hedgehogs, pet tortoise, frog and newts.

This website provides a detailed kids friendly description of hibernation, with links to the animals that hibernate.  Also, this website provides additional links regarding the subject of hibernation.

Resources for teachers.  Excellent resource for teacher and includes links to website on activities regarding hibernation.  Website shares easy songs, poems, and provides links to fun and educational websites for kids. This website provides fun finger plays, songs, and activities to do with children, including an idea for a hibernation celebration.  Also, a link to the Booklet – Hibernation theme folder for Grade 1.  This teacher resource provides a lot of information and in a link to books and activities on hibernation.  This website provides hibernation theme ideas including books, songs, finger play, art and crafts. This website discusses “How do animals spend the winter?” Website goes detailed information regarding on hibernation and “How do animals know it is time to hibernate” and a corresponding project to with the class.