Monthly Archive for October, 2008

Teaching Geography With Children’s Literature: We’re Sailing Down the Nile


From visiting temples, to marketplaces, to museum halls to  Giza’s pyramids the book We’re Sailing Down the Nile is a journey your class will not forget! Laurie Krebs seamlessly meshes rhyming and informative text with Anne Wilson’s vibrant illustrations. The book starts off on a river boat that is traveling down the Nile River. The adventure takes the children to seven notable locations in Egypt along the Nile River. They stop at Abu Simbel’s monuments, Aswan, Kitchener’s Island, the Valley of the Kings’ tomb, Al-Faiyum Oasis, Egypt’s capital Cairo and end at The Great Pyramid of Giza.

Kreb’s writes the text repeating the phrase “Climb aboard the river boat! We’re sailing down the Nile. We’ll visit Abu Simbel in just a while (Page 2)” and substitutes in a new location every time it changes. This repetition makes the book easy to follow for students and the rhyming help captivate your students’ interest. The book provides simple wording of the text so children can easily understand it and even read it independently. Extra footnotes provide explanation to terms that children or teachers alike might need extra support on:

Kalila guides us to the souk *(marketplace). We buy some food to share. We’ll picnic on the Island (*Kitchner’s Island) with the others gathered there (Page 7-8).

One of the most impressive aspects about the book is the additional support given at the conclusion of the book. It gives a map and description of the journey, history of Ancient Egypt and a lot more helpful background information relating to Egypt. If you are looking for a great read-a-loud book to introduce your class to the geography and history of ancient Egypt this is it!

Curriculum Connections
We’re Sailing Down the Nile
is a great book to introduce geography and the culture of Egypt to your class. The cross-curricular extensions are also impressive as you could incorporate in story writing or a math lesson comparing different country sizes. It could also be used to develop student’s map skills with world maps. In Virginia this book would be suitable to fulfill the Geography Standard of Learning 2.4 a and b, which involves map skills and understanding the culture and environment of ancient Egypt.

Additional Resources

Book: We’re Sailing Down the Nile
Author: Laurie Krebs
Illustrator: Anne Wilson
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: 2-3
ISBN: 1846860407

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Shall I Knit You a Hat?

Aspects of geography affect our lives every day.  It is likely that each day we get up and use the weather report to decide what to wear.  We may also base our decisions on what to eat and what kind of transportation we rely on due to our location and its climate.  For example, if it’s snowy, many people prefer hot chocolate to ice cold soda for refreshments. When vacationing in Alaska, most would rather stay in a warm lodge than a bamboo hut.  Kate Klise presents a similar theme in her story Shall I Knit You a Hat?

Klise’s Shall I Knit You a Hat? is a story that describes the importance of making decisions based on the way people live in their environment.  This story follows Mother Rabbit and Little Rabbit as they prepare for a blizzard that is coming on Christmas Eve.

 “It will start snowing on Christmas Eve and won’t stop until the snow reaches the tallest tips of your ears.”
“My ears?” asked Little Rabbit. “But that will be very cold.”
“You’re right, ” said Mother Rabbit. “Shall I knit you a hat to keep your ears warm?”

To ensure Little Rabbit will be secure in the storm, Mother Rabbit knits a hat that will perfectly fit Little Rabbit’s tall ears. Because Little Rabbit enjoys his hat so much, he suggests that he and his mother make more hats to help keep his friends warm too.  They visit the horse, the goose with the long neck, the stylish cat, the dog, and the deer with antlers to make measurements for their hat.  Little Rabbit and his mother stay up all night knitting and sewing each individual hat.  The next day, they decide to use a sled to deliver their presents in the market due to snow on the ground.  Just as they hand out the hats, snowflakes begin to fall from the sky!  Luckily, all the friends have their new hats for the weather!

 Just look how this clever hat keeps my head warm and dry,” said the horse.

Curriculum Connections
Shall I Knit You a Hat?
is a great book to introduce how location, climate, and physical surroundings affect the way people live (Virginia SOL 1.6).  The illustrations, by M. Sarah Klise, also serve as a great tool for teaching about geography. The scenery describes the location, displaying tall hills, full of snow with many snowflakes falling down. Due to the climate and the presence of snow, the main characters are shown dressed in warm hats.  Little Rabbit and Mother Rabbit also choose to use a sled as their form of transportation in the story.  Through these examples, it is clear their daily lives are affected by their location and climate.  It may be interesting to read another story that compares this winter setting to a warmer one and discuss how the clothing, forms of transportation, and weather are different in the stories

Additional Resources

  • For more books written by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise, check out their website!
  • The Crayola website offers a great sewing craft that emphasizes the use of sewing in Shall I Knit You a Hat?  This activity, Love You ‘Sew’ Much Cards, also stresses the significance of gift giving.
  • Use this geography lesson plan to teach about Africa and how the weather affects the people who live there.  This lesson encourages students to question how geography affects their lives as well.

Book: Shall I Knit You a Hat? 
Kate Klise
Illustrator: M. Sarah Klise
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. 
Publication Date:
Pages: 32 pages

Teaching Geography With Children’s Literature: Celebrate the 50 States!


Have you ever been curious to know specific interesting facts of all 50 states! What makes each state unique and different from each other? Loreen Leedy provides tons of information on each of the fifty states in her book entitled Celebrate the 50 states! Leedy explains each of the fifty states in the same structure.  She uses half of a page that contains the state’s name, a representation of what the state looks like on a map with some key cities, the state bird and flower, scale of the map, ocean or lake and rivers, products from each state as well as other interesting facts about each of the states.  Here is an example.

Virginia: The first successful English colony was founded in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607.

Visitors come to Williamsburg to see how the colonists lived.

Illustrations include a dogwood, cardinal, ham, and some Jamestown artifacts. There is also a map of Virginia with some key cities (Richmond, Alexandra, and Norfolk).

Each of the state also includes information on the year it entered the Union and the state rank.  In addition, Leedy asks questions about each of the states.  To stay with our Virginia example, the question that is asked is “George Washington is known as the father of our country.  Why is Virginia nicknamed “Mother of Presidents”?  At the end of the book there is an answer key with all of the answers that children can flip back to.  If you were all wondering, Virginia is nicknamed the “Mother of Presidents” because eight presidents were born there, including Washington.  The last two pages of the book before the answer section include a full map of the United States with each of the states labeled so children can see the “big picture” and how all the states look in relation to each other.  This book is a great way to get children excited about learning all the states and the corresponding facts.  The illustrations are colorful and fun to look at.  In addition, Leedy includes interesting information that children would want to know as well as teaching about general geography information, such as reading maps and locating waterways and key natural resources or products each state makes.  

Curriculum Connections
This book offers a great way to introduce the study of the fifty states. Specifically in Virginia it can be used to locate the 50 states and cities most significant to the historical development of the United States as well as locating and describing the location of geographic regions as well as water features in the United States (Social Studies Standards of Learning USI.2 and USII.2). This book can also be used in studying basic elements of geography. For instance understanding basic map skills, learning map symbols, and describing how the location of a community, climate, and physical surroundings affect the way people live, including their food, shelter, transportation and recreation (SOL 1.4).

Additional Resources

  • This website is a great resource for teachers and kids to learn more about each of the states.
  • Here is a map students can print out and fill in of the fifty states!

Book: Celebrate the 50 States!
Loreen Leedy
Holiday House
Publication Date: 1999
32 pages
ISBN: 0823414310

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: This Is the Way We Go to School


How do children around the world get to school everyday?  How do these means of transportation differ from the way you get to school?

This is The Way We Go To School, by Edith Baer, depicts the different regions of the globe by the way that the children who live in these regions make their way to their schools every day. These different means of transport reflect the regional climates and physical features of the environment. Some children walk, some take the trolley, while others go by boat or skis.

And the famous Metro line suits Igor and Ilyana just fine. Go by Copter? By Skidoo? Somewhere, sometimes, some kids do.

Not only does the book explore different regions of the world and ways that people get around in these places, it also explores different cultures of the regions. The children who are presented have  names that are common in the areas that they live. Illustrations of children show them performing acts that may help students learn some of what life may be like for students that live in these countries. At the end there is a page that tells which country each child lives in. On the last page there is a map for students to connect the country with its proper place on the map, providing a greater image of where students are in the world and how far or near they are geographically to the students they have just read about.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to show students  a simple map where they can describe places referenced in stories and real-life situations(K.4). It could also be used to describe the location of his/her community, climate, and physical surroundings and the way they affect the way people live, including their transportation.(1.6)

Additional Resources

Book: This is the Way We Go To School
Author:  Edith Baer
Illustrator: Steve Bjorkman
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 1990
Pages: 35
Grades: K-2
ISBN: 0-590-43162-5

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: How I Learned Geography


Students learn best through lived or shared experiences. In How I learned Geography, Uri Shulevitz shares his first time learning about geography.

The story begins with the Uri having to leave his home and belongs because of a devastating war.  He and his family are forced to leave and travel very far to a land where the houses are made of clay, straw, and camel dung. Uri lived in house with another couple he did not know.  Food was extremely scarce. One day Uri father went to the bazaar to buy bread.  When his father returned he announced,

“I bought a map!”

Uri was very frustrated that he would have to go to sleep hungry.  The next day his father hung the map on the entire wall.  His fascination grew for the detailed drawings and the exotic names.  He would draw and make rhymes.  As repeated the names he was transported to the burning deserts, sanding beaches, and snowy mountains.  He saw temples with stone carvings animals of different colors.  Uri explored all types of lands and ate papayas and mangoes as he pleased.

He was learning so much about the world, things he would have never known about if it was not for the map. This map preoccupied him from his hungry and misery.  He eventually forgave his father because he saw he was right.

Curriculum Connections
How I learned Geography would serve as a great closer to a lesson about maps. This is a great tool for teacher to use when they want students to have an awareness that maps and globes show a view from above and in a smaller size this correlates to Virginia sol k.5 a,b .

Additional Information

  • Story Maps is an activity from National Geographic which allows students create a map from a favorite class book.
  • Map Skills is a lesson provides students with the opportunity to make a map of their school. Students then compare and contrast their perception of the school to their classmates perception.
  • Memorable Maps is a great lesson in which students draw a world map from memory. Nine months later they are then told to draw the world map and see how the picture has improved.

Book: How I Learned Geography
Uri Shulevitz
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date:
32 pages

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Atlantic


What brings warm weather to Ireland?  It’s the same thing that brings dry winds to Africa— The Atlantic Ocean, of course!  Atlantic, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, provides a wonderful introduction of world geography to children.  The story, narrated by the Atlantic Ocean, poetically explains:

I stretch from the icy poles,
North and South
I rub shoulders with North America
and bump into Africa
I slosh around South America and crash into Europe

Karas effectively explains some of Earth’s processes through illustrations and verse,

The moon
so far out in space
pulls at me
and then lets go
so my tides go in and out,
ebb and flood

Atlantic explains how the oceans have been around long before people named them, charted and studied them, and dirtied them.

Curriculum Connections
Atlantic is a great book to use when teaching geography.  This book includes facts about the Atlantic Ocean, including its relationship to other oceans and earth’s land masses.  With an emphasis on human and environment interaction, students are provided with a big-picture overview of the world.

In Virginia,  Atlantic can be used to teach social studies SOLs K.4 and 3.5, which state that students will locate land and water features and develop map skills by positioning and labeling the seven continents and four oceans to create a world map.

Additional Resources

  • This World Atlas is an interactive site which provides maps and information about every continent, ocean, and region.  It can also can be used on a micro level, providing detailed maps and information about every country and each state in the United States.  It is also available in Spanish.
  • This site, powered by Enchanted Learning, provides information about the oceans and processes that involve the oceans, such as the water cycle, tides, and waves.
  • Here is a lesson plan about the states on the east coast of the United States and their relationship to the Atlantic Ocean

Book: Atlantic
Author / Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 29
Grades: K-3
ISBN: 0-399-23632-5

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


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

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

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

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

Additional Resources

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

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

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Off We Go to Mexico!


Off We Go to Mexico! is a colorful book about the geography and culture of Mexico. It’s an engaging poem about taking a trip to Mexico and all the places one could visit and see. The writer, Laurie Krebs, does a perfect job of creating fun little poems about Mexican life and pairing it with simple Spanish words and phrases. Each page describes and illustrates a different attraction of Mexico through bright drawings with a cultural flair by illustrator Christopher Corr. Kids will love the detailed illustrations and the introduction to the Spanish language. For example on the page about the Mayan pyramids we have the poem,

We climb amazing pyramids from ancient Mexico
And wonder how they’re standing now
When built so long ago.

and then the corresponding Spanish words: “we climb – subimos, long ago – hace mucho tiempo” etc. Off We Go to Mexico would be a great book for a class with many Spanish speaking students to incorporate geography lessons and language lessons (even English language lessons).

The book covers about eleven different areas of Mexico before summarizing the information in the last pages with a map of the country with pictures and labels for each area previously discussed. This way kids can relate to the different places of Mexico and see where they are all located within the country in relation to each other. Also, the last pages of the book offer additional facts about modern Mexico, holidays, historical periods and a glossary for more Spanish phrases. All around an excellent choice of children’s literature to introduce the country of Mexico and integrate geography into reading.

Curriculum Connections
Off We Go to Mexico focuses mainly on Mexican culture and the many different places to see in Mexico. The map in the back brings all the information together and labels each area and it’s relative location in relation to cities and large geographic elements. It covers the VA SOL for Geography in 1-3rd grade. 1.4- recognizing basic map symbols, 2.5 – developing map skills by locating the equator and the seven continents, and 3.5 for locating different countries and historical areas on maps. The book could also be used to meet some language curriculum requirements for beginning level Spanish if supplemented by some additional lessons and practice.

Additional Resources

  • The author Laurie Krebs writes many books about different countries and cultures. She often visits local bookstores and schools with workshops and talks, check out her programs here.
  • Here is an entire unit curriculum for teaching about Mexico in the elementary classroom. It’s long, but you may want to check it out for one or several of the activities and ideas.
  • You can provide a map of Mexico to color and discuss. This site includes some more facts about the physical geography of Mexico to tie in more of the curriculum.

Book: Off We Go to Mexico
Laurie Krebs
Illustrator: Christopher Corr
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 1-3

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: Monday on the Mississippi


The Mississippi River runs through ten states, do you know which ten? In Monday on the Mississippi, Marilyn Singer takes us down the Mississippi in a week. There are two entries for each day, sometimes on the same state, and sometimes going through multiple states. Each entry has a little something about the surrounding area, mentioning something each place is famous for. Such as the first Friday entry, in Memphis, Tennessee:

At Mud Island, where their brothers admire the perfect miniature model of the Mississippi…two sisters want to sit quietly by the real thing, listening for Martin Luther, B.B., Elvis, and all the others that would’ve been, should’ve been, or never could’ve been.

Each page of the book is also covered in a bright illustration that pertains to the entry for that day. Along with the full-page picture, there is a square in the upper left hand side of each page consisting of a map of the state that entry takes place in. It shows the entire state, its border states, the capital, and the Mississippi River and our current location on it. If you look even closer at these state maps, you’ll notice that in each of the corners of the map’s borders is the state flag, tree, bird, and flower, presenting a great opportunity to start teaching kids about the different states.

Curriculum Connections
Monday on the Mississippi is more than just a great book about the Mississippi River, our country’s most well-known river. It gives teachers the opportunity to teach students about different states and their cultures and histories in those areas. Also, students are exposed to maps, seeing how they work representing different places and things, which completes the Social Studies SOL K.4 and K.5 for Virginia teachers.

Additional Resources

  • Here is a handout with a map of the Mississippi River and all the states it touches, as well as some questions pertaining to the Mississippi.
  • This site is filled with information on each state, and also has a map of the entire country, as well as each state.

Book: Monday on the Mississippi
Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Frane Lessac
Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date:
32 pages

Teaching Geography with Children's Literature: The Once Upon a Time Map Book


B.G Hennessy is an outstanding author which is truly committed to her books and illustrations. As stated on her website, “I like to start writing a book by asking a question.”  I found this to be an interesting approach to writing children’s books.  The Once Upon a Time Map Book is truly a wonderful and creative resource for children of all ages. The book has a total of six different fairy tail maps. On each page there are clues on how to get to a secret treasure. If you follow the clues correctly, you will find the treasure on each map. This is wonderful because there are also letters and numbers to have the students practice using a coordinate system to locate precise points on a map, compasses and keys. For example on the map of NeverLand the first few clues to finding the treasure are…

  • Moor your boat at Mermain Cove (E1)
  • Take the sandy path east. Where the path splits go south through the jungle.

As you can see the students follow the different clues and use the key and compass as resources to finding the treasure. This allows students to practice using their map skills in a fun, entertaining manner. Overall this book is provides an outstanding  way of learning to read maps that is fun and interactive for all types of learners.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used for pretty much any geography map lesson. Some VA SOL’s that this book would be perfect for are k.4, 1.4, 1.5, 2.5, 2.6. All these SOLs focus on maps, keys, compasses and the overall understanding of maps.

Additional Resources

  • The web page allows us to read some summaries of this book and different comments. I think its important to read different pros and cons to different books that you may be using in the classroom. I really got a lot from this site and feel that it is definitely a good additional resource.
  • B. G. Hennessy actually has a site of her own with different ideas for integration of her books into the classroom. I found this site to be very helpful and a wonderful tool for teachers which plan on using her books in the classroom.
  • This last site discusses fairy tales in general and how you can use the in the classroom. I felt that this book could be a very good closer for a fairy tale or literature lesson in the classroom.

Book: The Once Upon a Time Map Book
B. G. Hennessy
Peter Joyce
Publisher:  Candlewick
Publication Date: July 15, 2004
Pages: 16
Grades: k-5
ISBN: 0763625213