Monthly Archive for November, 2008

Nonfiction Monday – Who Lives Here?

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The Who Lives Here? series, written by Deborah Hodge and illustrated by Pat Stephens, examines animals in their natural environments and explains how those animals are uniquely adapted to their habitats. The books are organized by habitat, and include titles on Desert Animals, Polar Animals, Rain Forest Animals and Wetland Animals.

Both Desert Animals and Wetland Animals open with a Table of Contents that begins with a page that defines that habitat (What is a Desert? and What is a Wetland?) and ends with a page containing animals words (pictorial index) and information for parents and teachers. In between are 9 double-page spreads, each introducing a different animal.

The opening pages that ask the question “What is a __?” provide a good basic introduction to the habitat. Here is how the What is a Desert? page begins.

A desert is a very dry place. Almost no rain falls here. Most deserts are found in hot parts of the world, under a blazing sun. Deserts can be sandy or rocky. Only a few are cold.

Deserts are home to many interesting animals. Their bodies are built for living in hot places, where this is very little water to drink.

The facing page briefly describes the growth that occurs when rain does fall, a bit about the plants, and the need for animals to find shade.

Here is an image of similar pages from the Wetland Animals book.


Once the background information has been covered, these books are all about the animals. Each one covers an amazing array. In Desert Animals readers meet the following animals:

  • Fennec Fox
  • Elf Owl
  • Sidewinder
  • Addax
  • Sand Cat
  • Scorpion
  • Bactrian Camel
  • Gila Monster
  • Roadrunner

In Wetland Animals readers meet these animals:

  • Hippopotamus
  • Mallard Duck
  • Capybara
  • Bullfrog
  • Crocodile
  • Beaver
  • Flamingo
  • Anaconda
  • Moose

Each set of animal pages includes a description of the animal and a sidebar with facts about the animal and itsadaptations, as well as an illustration that covers a full one and a third of the double-page spread. Here is an example.

Fennec Fox

(Main Spread, p.6)
The fennec fox lives near desert sand hills, called dunes. These furry foxes are the size of small dogs.

Tiny fox pups are born in an underground den. The mother cares for her babies while the father hunts for food.

(Sidebar, p.7)
The fox digs a hole in the sand called a burrow. It hides here during the heat of the day. Whew!

A fox hunts in the cool desert night. It pounces on its prey — the jerboas and other small animals it eats.

Sharp hearing helps a fox find its prey. The big ears also give off heat to keep the fox cool.

Each of these animal entries is packed with information. The text is easy to read and the illustrations in the sidebar support the text by providing close-up views of the adaptations described. The animal words section on the last page of each book provides a search-and-find opportunity for readers. Six close-up views of a body part are accompanied by a name, page number, and the question “Can you find pictures of these body parts in the book?” The idea here is for students to revisit the pages and think about how the body part helps the animal adapt to its environment.

The final section on the last page of the book provides background information about the environment. Though short, this is very important. Nowhere in the text does the author explain that the animals described come from deserts or wetlands around the world. It would be very easy for a reader to make the assumption that all these animals actually live in the same place. However, hippos and capybaras don’t even live on the same continent. The same is true for Bactrian camels and gila monsters. Teachers and parents reading this with young children will need to make it clear that while the animals depicted live in the same type of environment, they do not necessarily live in the same part of the world. This is precisely the information provided in this final section.

Despite this one concern, I found the books to be useful resources for studying how a variety of animals adapt to their environments. The accessibility of the language and detailed illustrations will make them appealing to readers as well.

Books: Desert Animals and Wetland Animals
Author: Deborah Hodge
Illustrator: Pat Stephens
Kids Can Press
Publication Date:
24 pages
Source of Book: Review copies received from Raab Associates.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen's blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: I Pledge Allegiance


Bill Martin Jr. and Michael  Sampson are two men which came together in 1978 after meeting at a conference in Arizona. Both men have a passion for children's books and have written many award winning books together. In 2004 Bill Martin Jr. died, but this hasn't stopped Michael Sampson from publishing books that they had worked on together. Michael Sampson plans on publishing a poetry collection that Bill Martin and Michael Sampson have been working on for years in early 2009€¦ make sure to check that out!

I pledge allegiance is a wonderful book for early elementary students which introduces the Pledge through text and pictures. It starts off with the word "I" and has a picture of a child, one single child. This book really allows students to see what each word in the Pledge of Allegiance means. One of my favorite pages talks about the words "the republic" I enjoyed this explanation because this can be very difficult for children to understand but there are tons of people standing around in red and blue and it states€¦

The United States of America is a republic, which means that we the people elect leaders who make out laws.

I found this to be an easy way of explaining a typically difficult vocabulary. As a teacher this book is a wonderful depiction of what the students are expected to say at the beginning of every day. Instead of just saying the words, its important that each student understands what those words that they say everyday really mean.

Curriculum Connections
Students will know and understand the words in the Pledge of Allegiance. They will also recognize the American Flag once they are done reading this book. This touches on the VA SOL k.9.

Additional Resources

  •  The Flag this is a wonderful lesson plan that kinda goes a long with the book. It relates the words to pictures for the students to truly understand what they are saying. I would use this lesson plan in my classroom.
  • Classroom activities are very important for a lesson on the pledge of allegiance. This site goes through a 5 day lesson on the pledge of allegiance.  It relates math, art, literacy, music and cooking throughout the 5 days.
  • This site has the pledge of allegiance through coloring pictures for students. I think this is a wonderful way for students to express their artistic view through coloring.

Book: I pledge allegiance
Author: Bill Martin Jr and Michael Sampson
Illustrator: Chris Raschka 
Publisher:  Candlewick
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 40 pages
Grades: K-2
ISBN: 0763616486

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: The Bill of Rights


Student’s need to learn their rights. In “The Bill of Rights” by Norman Pearl students are given the opportunity to learn what are the Bill of Rights and how they came to be.

The book begins with an explanation of what the Bill of Rights is. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, is the narrator and explains that the Bill of Rights are in the Constitution. He goes on by stating that the Bill of Right is a list of some of the most important rights Americans have.

The Colonies were not pleased with the nations government so the Colonies sent delegates to Pennsylvania to write the Constitution. The delegates worked hard creating the Constitution which described how the government is set up. The delegates wanted Americans to have guarded freedoms as well. The list of first ten freedoms were added to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights . All ten amendments was are guarded no matter who is elected president. The first is the freedom of speech and freedom of press. The second protects the right to bear arm. The third and fourth protects the right to privacy. The fifth to eighth protect all people accused of crimes. The ninth and tenth explain that Americans have other rights than the ones listed.

The book explains that everyone can see the Bill of Rights in Washington D.C. The books wants the reader to know that these ten right are not the only ones and more amendments are now part of the Constitution. There is a glossary at the end that gives the definition of all the terms not explained the book.

Curriculum Connections
The Bill of Rights
would serve as a great closer to a lesson about the rights that student and all Americans have This is a great tool for teacher to use when they want students to describe the individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and equality under the law this correlates to Virginia sol 3.11 b .

Additional Information

  • Equal Rights is an activity allowing students to understand when only on group is given the right to vote.  The girls are given the right to vote and boys explain how they the laws affect them.
  • Under Wich Amendment Am I Protected? is a lesson that gives students real life situations and shows them which amendment would protect them. This lesson would be great after the teacher has taught the Bill of Rights.

Book: The Bill of Rights
Norman Pearl
Matthew Skeens
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Publication Date:
24 pages

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: Rosa


Have you ever been curious at the story of Rosa Parks? Nikki Giovanni tells the story of how Rosa Parks refused to get out of her seat along with a brief synopsis of the civil right’s movement and the final ruling by the supreme court that “segregation on the buses, like segregation at schools, was illegal” in her book Rosa.

The book starts off by describing Rosa as a good citizen, taking care of her sick mother and being the best seamstress in Montgomery.  Giovanni describes Rosa leaving work early and getting on the bus.  She pays the 10 cents at the front, gets off the bus, and goes to the back door to enter the bus from the rear.  The section for blacks was full so Rosa went to the neutral section in the middle, reserved for both whites and blacks.  An officer yells at Rosa to give up her seat but she refused to get up.  The officer threatened to call the police, but Rosa refuses to get up.  Here is an excerpt from what happens next:

As Mrs. Parks sat waiting for the police to come, she thought of all the brave men and women, boys and girls who stood tall for civil rights.  She recited in her mind the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education decision, in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that separate is ‘inherently unequal.’  She sighed as she realized she was tired.  Not tired from work but tired of putting white people first.  tired of stepping off sidewalks to let while people pass, tired of eating at separate lunch counters and learning at separate schools.  She was tired of ‘colored’ entrances, ‘colored’ balconies, ‘colored’ drinking fountains, and ‘colored’ taxis.  She was tired of getting somewhere first and being waited on last.  Tired of ‘separate’, and definitely tired of ‘not equal’.

Giovanni continues to explain how a group of women snuck into Alabama State and made posters all night long that read “no riders today; support Mrs. Parks; Stay off the buses; walk on Monday.”  Giovanni tells the story of Emmett Till, of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and how people walked and walked.  And finally on November 13, 1956, almost a year after the arrest of Rosa Parks, the supreme court ruled that segregation was wrong.  “The integrity, the dignity, the quiet strength of Rosa Parks turned her no into a YES for change.”

The book is very well written and contains beautiful illustrations.  Students would definitely love reading this book and would gain a lot of information from doing so.

Curriculum Connections
This book offers a great way to teach students about Rosa Parks and give an introduction to the Civil Right’s Movement.  The book brings up important decisions, people, and events in civil right’s history as well as describing the individual story of Rosa Parks.  The book is very simple and well written and students would enjoy reading it.  In Virginia, this book could be used to identify the contributions of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as describing the individual rights to equality under the law (Standards of Learning for Civics 3.11).

Additional Resources

Book: Rosa
Nikki Giovanni
Bryan Collier
Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date:
 40 pages
ISBN: 0439898838

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Capital


The capital of the United States of America wasn’t always Washington DC.  Read about how our nation’s capital has moved and changed as well as how the capital city, Washington DC has grown and changed. Capital explains the detailed history of the important buildings in Washington DC, such as the White House:

James Hoban, the architect, had designed a large, gracious, and comfortable mansion that was quite grand by the standards of eighteenth-century America.  Critics, however, claimed it was ‘big enough for two emperors, one Pope, and the Grand Lama.’

Lynn Curlee’s book Capital is particularly precise and structured.  At the end, Curlee notes,

The word ‘capitol’ refers to the building in which a state legislature meets.  ‘Capitol’ refers to the building in which the U.S. Congress meets.  The word ‘capital’ refers to the city or town serving as the seat of government.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used to teach about Washington DC and the development of our nation’s capital.  In Virginia, it can be used to teach SOL 1.11, which states that students will recognize the symbols and practices that honor and foster patriotism in the United States.

Additional Resources

  • Lesson Plans about George Washington and his work to establish the capital.
  • A map of the Capitol Complex

Book: Capital
Author/Illustrator:  Lynn Curlee
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:
Pages: 40
Grades: 1-5
ISBN: 0-689-84947-8

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: Vote!


Elections, elections, elections have been the pressing news topics recently with the President Campaign just ending. What better way then to teach students about the importance of voting with the book Vote! by Eileen Christelow. The book does an outstanding job in explaining all about voting, the importance of it and how it actually works in children friendly language.

The book begins by using a town that is looking to elect a new major. The text follows the process of a campaign starting by explaining voting and ending with the inauguration of the new mayor, even adding in a recount. Christelow gives background information of the history of voting, registration process, different political parties. fundraising and how the ballots are counted:

If you want to vote, you need to register. Where? At your town office. Or you can download a registration form from the Internet or you might even find a both set up at a shopping mall or at a political rally (Page 17).

The colorful, comic like illustrations provide excellent support for the text and have relevant bubble captions. One of the most impressive aspect of the book is additional information included. It includes a vocabulary sheet in simple language, a timeline of voting rights, information on political parties and additional references. This book would be a great way to introduce your class to voting and all of the processes involved in a way that tailors to questions children would have or be unsure of. The book is simple, informative and a fun way for your class to learn about their civic duty and how every vote counts!

Curriculum Connections

This book would be a great way to introduce the civic duties of citizens they have as they get older such as voting. It talks about our responsibility to be active in voting as it impacts the schools, town and laws being made and how each person has a voice. In Virginia it would relate to the Standard of Learning for Civics, where students can explain the responsibility of being a good citizen by taking part in the voting process of classroom decision making (1.10 f, 2.10 b)

Additional Resources

Book: Vote!
 Eileen Christelow
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 48 pages
Grades: 1-3
ISBN: 0618247548

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: My Senator and Me


Do you know how a bill is made into a law in our country? In My Senator and Me: A Dog’s Eye-View of Washington, D.C. we are shown a day in the life of a senator. For an extra little twist though, the story is told by Senator Edward Kennedy’s dog, Splash, who accompanies Senator Edward Kennedy to work in the Capitol every day. After a brief introduction about himself and his becoming the Kennedy’s dog, the rest of the story goes into a day of accompanying Senator Edward Kennedy to work. On this particular day, Massachusetts’s senator is in the process of passing his bill concerning education. First he must meet with his staff at the Senate Office Building, then head over to a press conference at the Capitol. After which there is a short break for a relaxing game of fetch with Splash. Then it’s back to work, off to a conference committee meeting, but only after stopping for a quick photo with a class. Finally it’s off to the Senate reception room where the senator will cast his vote and then announce the passing of the bill on T.V. before heading home for the day.

This is a great story to give students an idea of what our senators do for us in the government. Senator Kennedy took the opportunity to present a few of the monuments of Washington D.C. within the story as well. While mentioning these important monuments he also makes sure to tell a little of its history, such as:

…the Kennedy Center, where people go to hear music, see plays, and watch the ballet. It was named for my Senator’s brother, John F. Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of the United States and a great supporter of the arts…the Lincoln Memorial, where millions of people from all over the world go to remember Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President, who led our country during the Civil War…

Filled with wonderful pictures on every page and a fun story line from a dog’s point of view, My Senator and Me is a great story to read to kids for both entertainment and information of how a part of our government system works.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used to teach students about a branch of our government, which pertains to SOL 3.10 for Virginia teachers. It is a great source to teach students about senators and how bills are passed, two very important parts to our government system.

Additional Resources

  • Take an interactive tour of the Capital after reading about it with your students.
  • Show your students pictures from all over our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.

Book: My Senator and Me: A Dog’s-Eye View of Washington, D. C.
Author: Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Illustrator: David Small
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 56 pages
Grades: 1-5
ISBN: 0439650771

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: The Pledge of Allegiance


Saying the pledge of allegiance is something most children do every morning at school.  However, do they truly understand the meaning of these words, or do they simply have it memorized to their brain?  How many times have you heard a child say the words incorrectly?  Scholastic’s The Pledge of Allegiance both teaches students the words to the pledge of allegiance and connects it to the meaning behind them.

The Pledge of Allegiance goes through the pledge, from beginning to end, displaying a phrase on each page. Accompanying this phrase, Scholastic shows a photograph(s) that represent it.  The first page begins, “I pledge allegiance.”  This page also displays four children who have placed their hands over their heart.  My favorite part of this book however, is the last few pages.  Here Scholastic includes two pages that describe the photos and why their importance to the United States and the pledge.  There is also a page that answers important questions about the pledge of allegiance.

What Does the Pledge of Allegiance Mean?
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…
When we “pledge” allegiance,” we promise to be loyal to our country.

There is also a section on the American flag.  This section lists a number of days that citizens of the United States should especially display the flag.  Scholastic features pictures of the first United States flag and the flag today as well.   Here students can learn about the differences and similarities between the flags and what each part of the flag represents. Finally, The Pledge of Allegiance features a Did You Know… section about the United States flag.

When a flag gets too old to display, it is burned in a special ceremony.

Through the use of bold photographs and their descriptions, The Pledge of Allegiance will surely capture the attention of students.

Curriculum Connections
The Pledge of Allegiance
is a great book to introduce, teach, or reinforce the importance of the pledge of allegiance.  Students will learn how to respect the flag and our country by learning the pledge and understanding its meaning (VA K.9 and 1.1).  This book also shows many important American symbols.  Most importantly, students can gain an overall sense of their responsibilities as an American citizen.  The Pledge of Allegiance truly fosters a sense of patriotism in the classroom.
Additional Resources

  • Check out this site for lesson plans, songs, poems, and more books about the United States flag and the pledge of allegiance.  Day to day activities are also available!
  • Create a book mark that features the pledge of allegiance and important American symbols!  Templates for this craft as well as other activities are included!
  • Use this site for background information on the history of the United States flag, symbols, and the pledge of allegiance.  Along with the detailed content information, there are also activity outlines, including a lesson where students create their own pledge of allegiance and flag that represents their identity!

Book: The Pledge of Allegiance
Scholastic Inc. 
Publication Date: 
32 pages

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: The Bus Ride that Changed History


The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks, written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Danny Shanahan, is a simple book that uses repetitive phrasing to powerfully express its themes of civil rights and civil disobedience. It tells the story of Rosa Parks standing up to the bus law of the time forcing African Americans to sit in the back of the public buses, giving all priority to white passengers. Rosa Parks did not cooperate and refused to give up her seat for a white passenger, as a result she was arrested and put on trial, fueling the civil rights movement. The story itself is structured to point out each character of the event with phrases like “These are the black passengers riding the bus in Montgomery,””This is Rosa Parks…” and “This is the boycott triggered by the verdict of guilty at the trial…” etc. The pictures offer context for the narrative. All of the paragraphs end with the same phrase and follow a format similar to this example:

This is Rosa Parks, who said “No!” to
the driver who told her to move for the white man
left standing near the seats of the back passengers riding
the bus in Montgomery,
where they enforced a law forbidding
blacks to sit next to whites on buses,
which was overturned because one woman was brave.

The story really emphasizes the bravery Rosa Parks showed by standing up for her right to ride the bus with the simple wording and repetition. It would be a great book to read out loud for a class because of the it carries such a rhythm. Small cartoon children also supplement the narrative with their speech bubbles bringing up questions and offering small facts about that point in history. One such character brings up the obvious question to reiterate to kids: “Why make it so difficult for black people? Shouldn’t they be treated the same as white passengers?” The book presents many serious questions and themes through its story. Reading it can be a great way to start discussing these serious themes with children and get them thinking about the way society works.

Curriculum Connections
The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks
formally satisfies the Virginia SOL for civics: 2.10 – responsibilities of a good citizen – respecting and protecting the rights of others. But the book can also be used to talk about eras in US history like the civil rights movement, or important people of history like Rosa Parks. Students can have a better understanding of laws and how sometimes the law can be unjust.

Additional Resources

  • Here’s a great site with additional information about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Check out biographical information about Rosa Parks and her legacy, news articles and a time line of the civil rights movement.

  • For some great photos of Rosa Parks and a documented interview, check out this site.
  • Here’s a fun coloring page printable of Rosa Parks for kids to color.

Book:  The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks
Pamela Duncan Edwards
Illustrator: Danny Shanahan
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: 2-5
ISBN: 0618449116

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: The U.S. Constitution


Do you want to learn about one of the greatest symbols of democracy? The U.S. Constitution, written by Norman Pearl, introduces students to the foundation that the United States government is based on. It begins by having James Madison, a man who played a large part in the construction of the Constitution, lead readers on a tour. He discusses what the Constitution consists of, who made the Constitution, and all of the different parts that guarantee rights to the citizens of the United States.

In clearly defined questions and terms, Pearl lays out for a young reader the important parts of the Constitution and what they stand for. There is an entire page devoted to describing the different branches of government with bright and bold  illustrations that create an easy way for readers to visualize who and what make up these entities.

The articles divide the U.S government into three branches. Each branch has different powers. No one branch can become stronger than the others.

Pearl not only describes the freedoms that the Constitution guarantees for the adults of this country. He also talks about the rights that children are privileged to, such as the ability to go to school for free and a limit on the number of hours they can work.

This book is very well labeled for students to find exactly what they are interested in or looking for. The print is large and easy to read and the illustrations do not get in the way of the information being addressed. The last few pages even give additional resources for students who want to learn more,  extending the knowledge they have already gained from this very informative book.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to explain the purpose of rules and laws, and that the government protects the rights and property of individuals. It could also be used to explain that the basic purposes of government are to make laws and carry them out. (3.10) This book could be used to explain the importance of the basic principles that form the foundation of a republican form of government by describing the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.(3.11)

Additional Resources

Book: The U.S. Constitution
Author:  Norman Pearl
Illustrator: Matthew Skeens
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Publication Date:2007
Pages: 24
Grades: 1-4
ISBN: 1-4048-2646-7