Monthly Archive for November, 2009

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: If You Were There When They Signed The Constitution


Summary and Introduction
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution, written by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Joan Holub is a great resource to use when teaching about the document.  The book is broken into 50 sections which describe the key players during the time period, and the provisions of the Constitution in great detail.  The book breaks a vast topic into smaller parts that students can easily digest.  The author did an excellent job putting a confusing topic into terms that students will readily understand.

Curriculum Connections
This book would be a great resource to use when teaching about the weaknesses of the government established by the Articles of Confederation and the basic principles of the new government established by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (VA SOL USI.7, a and b).

Additional Resources

General Information:
…If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution
Author: Elizabeth Levy
Illustrator: Joan Holub
Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: June 1992
Pages: 80
Grade Range: 4-6
ISBN: 0-590-45159-6

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


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


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

Additional Resources 

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

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

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: A Picture of Abraham Lincoln

A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln (Picture Book Biography)

Are you looking for a simple introduction to a discussion about Abraham Lincoln? Look no further!  Before your next U.S History lesson about our famous president, Abraham Lincoln, read A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln, written by David A. Adler and illustrated by John & Alexandra Wallner, to learn all about America's 16th President.

This wonderful book follows the life of the popular president, from his childhood on the frontier to his assassination after the end of the Civil War.  Adler uses simple pictures and writing to engage young readers in a short biography about Abraham Lincoln. Adler(1989) writes, “Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky”(pg 1).  So begin a discussion about honest Abe in your class room today!

Curriculum Connections:  In the area of U.S History and Social Studies, the Virginia SOL’s for grades K-1 stresses the importance of introducing students to Americans in history whose lives demonstrated the virtues of patriotism, courage, and kindness.  A Picture book of Abraham Lincoln is appropriate for multiple grade levels and could be used to directly address SOL’s K.1, K.2, 1.1 and 1.2.
If you would like to create some American history sense in your classroom here are a few suggestions for grades K-3:

  • Read the book out loud and ask questions throughout.
  • Begin a discussion about past events and explain that history describes these events.
  • Ask opinions of your students:  What did Abraham Lincoln contribute to our country?

Additional Resources:  Try these websites where you’ll find lesson plans, worksheets, activities and free online games to aid in your U.S history education quest.

Book:A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln
Author: David A. Adler 
Illustrator:  John & Alexandra Wallner
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication Date:  1989
Pages:  26 pages
Grade Range:  K-1
ISBN-13:  978-0823408016

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Sweet Land of Liberty


The book Sweet Land of Liberty, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, tells the true story of how a simple experience as a child can lead to an extraordinary experience in history.  It begins with a poor white boy in rural Virginia during the Jim Crow era, who sees how his black friends are treated unfairly.  The boy, named Oscar Chapman, sees the effects of racism at a young age, and it leads him to a life-long commitment to end bigotry.

Fortunately, Oscar ends up with an important government job in Washington, D.C. (Secretary of the Interior) and he becomes friends with Walter White, head of the NAACP.  Oscar and Walter worked together to figure out a way to have Marian Anderson, a black singer with a beautiful voice, sing at a public concert. Even though she was famous across the world, she wasn’t allowed to sing in Constitution Hall (the largest concert hall in D.C.) because of her race. Then Walter had an idea and told Oscar that the perfect place to have Marian sing would be in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

“The Lincoln Memorial had never been used for a public gathering. But Oscar wasn’t about to let that stop him. Oscar went to see his boss, Harold Ickes, who agreed to talk to his boss: President Franklin Roosevelt!”

President Roosevelt thought that the performance would be “a wonderful idea” and on Easter Sunday in 1939, 75,000 people of all ages and races came to see Marian Anderson sing America: My Country ‘Tis of Thee. Marian decided to change the traditional lyrics “of thee I sing” to “to thee we sing” knowing that America still had a lot of work ahead to “let freedom ring.” Oscar, Walter, and Marian had no idea at the time that 24 years later, another important public “performance” will take place in that very same setting, promoting an even bigger protest against segregation by Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the end of the book, the author gives a factual review of the events that eventually led to Marian Anderson’s performance, along with actual photos of the characters. This story’s colorful and depective artwork, along with author’s message of a child’s ability to change the course of history, makes Sweet Land of Liberty a great choice for any elementary student’s classroom or home.

Curriculum Connections:
Sweet Land of Liberty uses a symbolic national song, America: My Country Tis’ of Thee, to tell the story of how segregation led to the first performance ever conducted at the Lincoln Memorial in front of a large crowd (of course, a couple decades later, Martin Luther King, Jr. uses the same setting for his I Have a Dream speech).  The book gives examples of the effects of segregation in the first half of the 20th century, and shows how even the famous African-Americans would still be treated unfairly.  Also, this book emphasizes the importance of standing up for your beliefs, and your belief in others, which promotes good citizenship.

Additional Resources:

  • The University of Pennsylvania’s library site provides a detailed biography of Marian Anderson, which includes the audio and a video from her performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 (located in the “Singing to the Nation” link).
  • The website for President Truman’s Library includes the actual transcript from an interview with Oscar Chapman where he tells the stories of what it was like growing up in the south during segregation, and then how he helped organize Marian Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial (these conversations start about halfway down the page.) The book’s author mentions that she stumbled upon these transcripts while doing research, then realized that Oscar was a pretty important character in Marian’s story.
  • The History of Jim Crow is a website devoted to detailing what life was like in the era after the civil war and before civil rights.  This site gives a lot of great resources for teachers, including lesson plans, state-specific segregation laws, and additional websites that are useful for education about this time in American history.
  • Deborah Hopkinson’s personal site is filled with information about herself, her books, resources for students and teachers. She is also available to do presentations or workshops at schools and libraries.

Book: Sweet Land of Liberty
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Leonard Jenkins
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Publication Date: March 2007
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 1st – 5th
ISBN: 978-1561453955

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


“Arizona has a dry climate and unusual scenery, with mesas, canyons, and rocky formations.  Arkansas is called the natural state, because of its mountains, forests, waterfalls, lakes and rivers, and mineral springs” (Leedy 5).

Want to learn more about the fifty states? Loreen Leedy’s Celebrate the 50 States describes each of the fifty states in a way that children can relate to and understand.  The book includes an alphabetically ordered detailed description of each state.  The reader learns about the United States territories and the location of each state.  Celebrate the 50 States has excellent color illustrations and also includes some interesting geography facts.  It is written in a nontraditional way with comic-like descriptions of state birds and other wildlife.  Each page focuses on the individual facts, statistics, maps, flower, and even interesting bits of trivia of each state.  For example, in 1945, the first atomic bomb was tested in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  Celebrate the 50 States concludes with a map of the United States of America that helps the reader to view all of the states as a whole.      

Curriculum Connections

Celebrate the 50 States connects history and geography in one book.  The book incorporates the history of how each state has changed over time (K.2).  It focuses on the beginning of each state and it’s main features.  The book also helps students to recognize basic map symbols by showing the basic features of each state (1.4).  American Indian cultures of the past are also introduced as backgrounds of some states (2.2).  For example, the book introduces Sitting Bull was a leader of the Sioux Nation in North Dakota.  Celebrate the 50 States serves as a multi-purpose material for a United States history or geography lesson.

Additional Resources

Book: Celebrate the 50 States!
Author and
Illustrator: Loreen Leedy
Holiday House Publishers
Publication Date:
September 1999
32 pages
Grade Range:

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: The Silent Witness


The Silent Witness written by Robin Friedman and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola tells the story of the Civil War as told by a young Lucretia “Lula” McLean.

The story begins by introducing Lula, her family members, and her rag doll enjoying life on their plantation located in Manassas, Virginia. “When Lula was four years old, her life changed forever” because confederate soldiers used their home as its headquarters. The story continues by discussing the issues fueling the Civil War, the daily problems the McLean family encountered in Manassas, and their move from Manassas to Appomattox. Robin Friedman also includes mention of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the military manuvers and decisions made by famous Civil War generals. The story ends with Lula leaving her rag doll in the living room as General Lee surrendered to General Grand. The “soldiers dubbed Lula’s doll ‘the silent witness'” thus giving the book its name.

Friedman concludes the book with an author’s note explaining how the story of the McLean family and the rag doll is true, the current location of the rag doll, and the implications and results of the Civil War. Robin Friedman does a phenomenal job of simplifying the complexities of the Civil War in this piece of historical fiction.

Curriculum Connections 

 The Silent Witness can be used in classrooms ranging from third to fifth grade to teach a simplified time line of the main events which took place during the Civil War. It especially focuses on Virginia’s role in the war including its major battles and the roles played by whites (VA SOL VS.7b&c) The book also describes how the issue of slavery increased the tension of the war, the roles of Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant, and the effects of the war on both Union and Confederate soldiers (VA SOL US1.9b,d,f).

Additional Resources

  • This website provides a list of other book resources teachers can use to discuss aspects of the civil war.
  • Teachers can use this website to find supplemental information on Wilmer McLean and his role in the Civil War.
  • Teachers can use this lesson plan which has students role play in order to understand the different perspectives of people involved in the Civil War.
  • Students can use the time line found on this website to help them sequence and remember the major events of the Civil War.

Book: The Silent Witness
Author: Robin Friedman
Illustrator: Claire A. Nivola
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication Date: May 30, 2005
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: 3-5
ISBN: 978-0618442300

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: O is for Old Dominion


O is for Old Dominion was written by Pamela Duncan Edwards and illustrated by Troy Howell. This book is an excellent resource for teachers that are introducing children to Virginia’s history. Pamela Duncan Edwards does an extraordinary job discussing everything from the Arlington National Cemetery to the magnificent Monticello to Zachary Taylor. She discusses Virginia history in a simple alphabetical manner that even the youngest of readers can understand. Troy Howell also does an excellent job painting Virginia’s history in a vivid and lifelike manner. The child will turn each page to discover something new and exciting about the great state of Virginia. Pamela Duncan Edward also includes an easy to read yet challenging quiz at the end of the alphabet.

Curriculum Connection
Teachers that are introducing students to Virginia history in the first grade (VA SOL History 1.2) would use this book as an excellent reference to the many great individuals that were born in the great state of Virginia. When children are discussing the social and economic contributions (VA SOL VS.9d) of many great Virginians, this book could be used as an excellent resource for finding out more information on these individuals.

Additional Resources

  • Virginia Trivia Quiz is an interesting and fun trivia game asking children questions about Virginia in a very user-friendly manner.
  • Battleship is simple yet challenging game of Battleship where when the child guesses the right square then they must answer a question about Virginia history to receive an official “hit”.
  • Matching is a simple game that challenges the students to guess the right definitions of Virginia terms.


Book: O is for Old Dominion
Author: Pamela Duncan Edwards
Illustrator: Troy Howell
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 36
Grade Range: 1-5
ISBN-10: 1585361615
ISBN-13: 978-1585361618

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: You Are in Ancient Egypt


You Are in Ancient Egypt, written by Ivan Minnis, is a wonderful interactive resource for young children learning about Ancient Egypt and it’s contributions. The book is packed with important vocabulary, illustrations, photographs, charts, graphs, statistics, etc. The language of the book is simple and jam packed with information for children.

The book tells essential important information for young kids when learning about the early civilization of Egypt. Information such as religious beliefs, Egyptian technology, art, pharoahs and law, are included, amongst many other things. Throughout the story important anecdotal information and pictures are included, giving students an extra perspective on life in Ancient Egypt:

“People use a shaduf, a long pole used to raise or lower a bucket into a well, to take water from the Nile” (21)

“Even at the time of Ramses II, pyramides were more than 1,000 years old. Some were built around 2500B.C.E” (20)

Throughout the story highlighted vocabulary are offered for the students, focusing the students attention on the main ideas about the civilization. Such important vocabulary includes afterlife, scribes, pharoahs etc. The end of the book offers important facts for Ancient Egypt, summing up important information for students. These facts included information about Time, Money, Dates, and Numbers. A glossary is also offered defining the key terms from the book, as well as other resources to find out more about Ancient Egypt.

Curriculum Connections
This book is a wonderful resource for children learning about Ancient Egypt and can be used to help explain to children how the contributions of this civilization has influenced the present world in terms of architecture, inventions, calendar, and written language (SOL History 2.1)

Additional Resources

  1. This website allows children to create an interactive Ancient Egyptian postcard. Students can create a postcard to sent to a friend by email, filled with important ancient Egyptian pictures, such as the Sphinx, King Tut, and Pyramids.
  2. King Tut online allows students to color five beautiful images of Ancient Egypt. The pictures may be printed and hung in the classroom to help students identify with Ancient Egypt.
  3. This website offers easy to read information on Ancient Egypt and Egyptians to help kids learn about this topic to help with specific projects and homework assignments.

Book: You Are in Ancient Egypt
: Ivan Minnis, Victoria Parker
: Raintree
Publication Date
: 2005
: 32
Grade Range
: 1-3
: 978-1410906168

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution


If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore is book about different aspects of the American Revolutionary War.  The book is set up into a question and answer format.  The author begins with explaining why we have the Fourth of July and ends with how life changed after the war.  The book contains a good deal of information.  Famous figures including women are  discussed in the text and expressions such as “John Hancock” and “cowboy” are explained. It is presented in a straightforward easy to understand text about an important event in the history of one country.

Curriculum Connections
If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution is a good book for students to use for researching the American Revolutionary war. This book can be used for the civics and Virginia war SOL’s in grades 5 and 6.

Additional Resources

  • Lesson plan to use with 5th graders teaching how to create a group PowerPoint on the American Revolution by searching the web.
  • Revolutionary War Internet scavenger hunt– is a great website for students to click on highlighted word on each question and travel to the site to find the answer.
  • Revolutionary War Color Pages– just click on a famous Revolutionary War figure  or event to get a color sheet.

General Information
Book: If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution
Author: Kay Moore
Illustrator: Daniel O’ Leary
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 76
Age Range: 9-12
ISBN: 0590674447

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: The Story of Jamestown


The Story of Jamestown, written by Eric Braun, is a book that is presented in a format similar to a comic book; for that reason it may be attractive to boys in the classroom.  It tells the story of the settlement of Jamestown, from the initial voyage that sailed from England in December, 1606 to the 1698 fire that destroyed the settlement.  It tells of their interaction with the Indians and their struggle to survive.

Curriculum Connections
This book can be used to support Virginia Studies SOL VS.3a/b, as it helps to explain the reasons for English colonization and how the geography influenced the decision to settle in Jamestown.

Additional Resources

  • This website is an interactive site that allows students to make choices about where and how they would settle if they had been on the first ships to arrive from England.
  • This National Geographic website offers an animated video of the voyage to Jamestown, and includes additional games the students can play to help reinforce the material they are learning about early Virginia history.
  • This website is quite interesting.  It provides a great deal of information about the Powhatan Village, the English Ships, and the James Fort. Students are given options of tabs to click on to open pages that give detailed information about fort life, gender roles, navigational tools, and many other aspects of this time period.  It also has photographs of artifacts and of the re-created settlements.

Book: The Story of Jamestown
Author: Eric Braun
Illustrators:  Steve Erwin, Keith Williams, and Charles Barnett III
Publisher: Capstone Press
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 3rd-5th
ISBN:  0-7368-4967-X