Monthly Archive for January, 2010

Teaching Civics with Children's Literature: A Picture Book of George Washington


A Picture Book of George Washington, written by David A. Adler, illustrated by John & Alexandra Wallner is a simple biography about George Washington.  It provides important facts and dates relevant to a student in the lower elementary grades.  It covers basic information about the "Father of Our Country" from his birth on February 22, 1732 in a simple Virginia farmhouse to his death in 1799.  It includes information about George as a young boy who "liked to fish and go boating" and "most of all liked to ride his horse".  Then it goes on to describe George in school and that "his favorite subject was arithmetic".  This helps children relate to the man who was so important to the founding of our country.  The book continues on through several parts of George's life including such events as leading Virginia soldiers against the French in the French and Indian War, marrying Martha Custis, and George being elected the first president of the United States of America in 1789.  The book ends perfectly with,

George Washington was a great leader.  He has been
called the "Father of Our Country."  It has been said that
George Washington was "First in war, first in peace and
first in the hearts of his countrymen."

The illustrations are colorful and engaging.  They are a good representation of what life would have looked like when George Washington was alive.  The student can get a visual idea of clothing, homes, hair styles, and transportation in the 1700s.  The end of the book includes an “Important Dates” time line that is a good overview of the main events in George Washington's life.

Curriculum Connections

This book is suitable for any age and would be a good addition to any Kindergarten to third grade classroom library.  It can be used to introduce or reinforce any lesson related to George Washington and/or President's Day.  It would be particularly useful in support of the Standard of Learning which states the student will identify George Washington, among others, as an American whose contributions improved the lives of other Americans.  (VA SOL 1.2, VA SOL 2.11, 3.11b)  The book also illustrates what things looked like in the past & how life was different when George Washington was alive.  This could lead to good discussions and comparisons of past and present.  (VA SOL K.2, 1.1, 2.3)  Or it can be used to recognize that history describes people of other times such as George Washington (VA SOL K.1a) or identify people honored by the holiday of Presidents’ Day. (VA SOL K.1b, 1.3)  This is a book the teacher can read aloud to the students and many beginning readers can also read independently.

Additional Resources

General Information

Book:  A Picture Book of George Washington
Author: David A. Adler
Illustrator: John & Alexandra Wallner
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication Date: 1990
Pages: 32
Grade Range: PreK-3
ISBN-10: 0823408000
ISBN-13:  978-0823408009

Teaching Life Science With Children’s Literature: Grrr! A Book About Big Cats


“And big cats do not purr.  They roar!  GRRR!”  GRRR!  A Book About Big Cats is a chapter book all about the various types of big cats.  There are chapters on lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, and jaguars.    Each chapter discusses habitat, diet, and other interesting facts about the cats.  There are also bolded words and definitions of new vocabulary words.

Curriculum Connections

This book could be used in the instruction of the life science to young students (target grade 1-2).  It teaches that animals have distinct needs and defining characteristics (1.4.B).  It could be nicely tied to a unit on the animal kingdom. It could also coincide with a social studies unit about the continents.  Where the animals live could be discussed (ex. lions in Africa).  A discussion about animal extinction and protection would also be appropriate when reading this book.


This “creature feature”  ,provided by National Geographic for Kids,  has facts, videos, and photos about lions appropriate for kids.

A fact sheet about leopards that could be used for research or report writing.

This teacher’s website contains a lesson plan for teaching about jaguars.

Book:  Grrr!  A Book About Big Cats

Author:  Melvin and Gilda Berger

Publisher: Scholastic Inc

Publication Date:2002

Pages: 1-40

Grade Range:  1-2


Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: A Log’s Life


A Log’s Life, written by Wendy Pfeffer and illustrated by Robin Brickman, tells about the life cycle of an oak tree.  In the beginning, a large oak tree stands in the forest.  Pfeffer tells us how the tree supports many different living things such as, porcupines, squirrels, woodpeckers, beetles, slugs, snails and fungi.  Then one day a storm causes the oak tree to fall and the tree becomes a log.  Pfeffer continues to explain how the log supports other lifeforms such as, millipedes, termites, ants, and salamanders.  The log provides food and shelter for many years until it is broken down into nothing but a rich bed of soil.  In the end, an acorn falls and a squirrel buries it in the rich soil.  Soon after, another oak tree is born only one day to become another log.

The illustrations by Brickman are amazing in this book and would appeal to children, especially those who have not seen some of the creatures that Pfeffer and Brickman bring to our attention.

Curriculum Connections
A Log’s Life would be an excellent book for children who are in kindergarten through the third grade.  The book describes the life cycle of an oak tree, and how once the tree is dead, it is still an important part of our ecological system. (VA SOL 2.5a-c)  Children will learn how something as simple as a log provides food and shelter to many different species of living organisms. (VA SOL 1.5a)  Children will also discover how another oak tree is reproduced. (VA SOL K.7c)  Young children will love the illustrations and will be introduced to knew types of wildlife such as, salamanders, millipedes, and termites.  Older students should be able to read this book in a guided reading session and learn how important trees are to our environment.  A teacher may incorporate why it is important for the human race to protect or plant trees.  (VA SOL 3.5 b&d and 3.10a)

Additional Resources

  • The Decomposition link explains how and why living things decompose and why it is important to the earth’s ecological system.  It includes a slide show on decomposition.
  • This Living in a Tree link gives a lesson plan for teachers of early elementary students on the characteristics of animals that live in trees.
  • Animal Inn is a link that provides an outdoor activity for students who are searching for evidence in the wild of how animals use dead and living trees.
  • Trees: A Tremendous Renewable Resource takes you to the Kids F.A.C.E. website.  Kids can learn how we depend on trees to live and how planting trees is good for the environment.

Book: A Log’s Life
Author: Wendy Pfeffer
Illustrator: Robin Brickman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 0-689-80636-1

Teaching Life Science Through Children’s Literature: A Tree is Growing


In A Tree is Growing, by Arthur Dorros, the text explains the changes that trees go through over the seasons and how big trees continue to grow and change.  It discusses how trees need sunlight, air, soil, and water to grow.  This book describes the function of the roots and the bark of the tree.   The author describes how tree branches are bare in the winter, but that they are preparing for spring as they have small buds which will become leaves.  The text also demonstrates the process of photosynthesis with a helpful pictorial example.  This children’s book provides examples of many types and shapes of leaves and explains that all leaves make food (sugar) for the tree.  Throughout the pages of this text, the author provides interesting factual information about certain types of trees.

Curriculum Connections
This text could be utilized in a variety of classrooms (kindergarten-fourth grade). The author describes how trees change as they grow and explains that bark protects the tree; when a tree is young, the bark is smooth; as it grows older, the bark become rough and cracked.  The book provides an excellent picture of the inside of the bark showing the growth rings.  It also describes how trees have no leaves in the winter, but in the spring the leaves reappear again.  In addition, it describes that trees get minerals from the soil in order to help them grow (VA SOL k.7). This text also describes the process of photosynthesis with a pictorial example demonstrating how tree leaves “breath in” carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air (VA SOL 4. 4c).

Additional Resources

  • This tree research worksheet provides students with a word bank to fill in important points of the tree life cycle.
  • This activity invites students to use their creative movement to act out the life cycle of a tree.
  • This interactive website provides children with pictures of how four different trees go from a seed to a plant.

Book: A Tree is Growing
Author: Arthur Dorros
Illustrator: S.D. Schindler
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 1997
Grade Range: K-4
ISBN: 0-590-45300-9

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek


Introduction and Summary

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek is a great children’s  historical fiction written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by John Hendrix.  Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek is, “an old tale of two boys who got themselves into more trouble than bear cubs in a candy store” as the author puts it.   Austin Gollaher, is Abraham Lincoln’s childhood friend who saved young Lincoln’s life a long time ago “on the other side of yesterday” and who the history books forgot.  It is a story about childhood adventure, friendship, helping others and the important lesson of how our actions effect others.  This book is amazingly creative both in it’s story and it’s illustrations.  Through the book’s creativity the reader can really start to hear, see and feel the story.  Near the end, the pages tell us how the Lincoln’s move from Kentucky, (where the boys had their adventures), to Indiana and how Abe Lincoln goes on to the White House.   Here the moral of the story really comes to life when the author asks us to,”Remember Austin Gollaher, because what we do matters, even if we don’t end up in history books.  Yes, let’s remember Austin Gollaher, who, one day long ago, when no one else was there to see, saved Abe Lincoln’s life.  And without Abraham Lincoln, where would we be?”

Curriculum Connections

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek could be used creatively during 1st grade civics instruction when discussing helping others, taking responsibility, valuing honesty and truthfulness, recognizing the purpose of rules and practicing self control.  The book demonstrates these values in a way that kids can really connect with even though the events took place so long ago. (Va. SOL 1.10)

Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek could also be used as a companion source when teaching 2nd graders about the importance of Americans who improved the lives of others and learning to identify such Americans as Abraham Lincoln. (Va. SOL 2.11)  The author really provides a good talking point at the end when she asks, “Without Abraham Lincoln, where would we be?”

Additional Resources

General Information

 Book:  Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek
Author:  Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:  John Hendrix
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date:  2008
Pages:  34
Grade Range:  1-3
ISBN:  9780375937682


Teaching Life Science with Children's Literature: Never Smile at a Monkey


Summary and Introduction
Never Smile at a Monkey
was written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.   This book discusses animal adaptation and some of the defense mechanisms animals possess to protect themselves from predators and humans.  It focuses on 17 different animals including mammals, lizards and sea creatures.  The book deals with the protective aspects of these animals whether it be teeth, claws, spines or venom.  While the subject matter is serious and informative for children, the illustrations keep it kid friendly.

“And a final word of advice: NEVER smile at a monkey!  If you smile at a rhesus (ree-sus) monkey, it may interpret your show of teeth as an aggressive gesture and respond violently.  Even a small monkey can give you a serious bite with its sharp fangs.”

In the back of the book, it provides additional information about each of the animals habitat and where they are indigenous.  The section also provides an opportunity for additional reading and offers five other books to choose from.

Curriculum Connections
The book provides a wealth of opportunity to study about living things in an ecosystem and how they might interact or fight with one another.  It tells the reader despite looking friendly and harmless, some creatures can be deadly to others.  One can tie the protective defenses lesson when discussing predator and prey or when discussing animal adaptations in class.  While the book is geared for younger audiences, I think that it would best fit students in 2nd, 3rd or 4th grades based on some of the subject matter.  (VA SOL 4.5a)

Additional Resources

  • Animal Adaptations Worksheet  This worksheet can be completed in class or as homework and focuses on  animal adaptations and their function.
  • Animal Adaptation Lesson Plan  This lesson plan focuses on reptile adaptations and provides a critical thinking exercise dealing with the effects of such adaptations.
  • Animal Adaptation Jungle Walk  This link provides pictures and video of different animal adaptations and breaks them out by region.
  • Animal Adaptations (Another Evolutionary Lesson Plan!)  This lesson plan allows students to brainstorm about animal adaptation concepts.

Book: Never Smile at a Monkey
Author/Illustrator : /Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 30
Grade Range: K – 4th
ISBN: 978-0-618-96620-2

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Tell Me, Tree


Tell Me, Tree, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons, presents a close-up look for children at many important characteristics, purposes, and behavioral traits of trees.  Gibbons exposes readers to an abundance of different types of individual trees, as well as the parts, functions, and growth methods of a trees in general.  She even touches on photosynthesis and how trees are helpful to humans, animals, and the environment.  Each page begins with, “tell me, tree,” and is followed by an insightful explanation about a various aspect of trees.  For example, page seven reads, “tell me more, tree” and is followed with an illustration of the inside of a tree trunk, whereby stating that underneath the bark is a thin layer called phloem, that carries food from leaves to the branches, roots, and trunk.  Gibbons completes this vividly colorful, instructional book with directions for children to create their very own tree identification book.

Curriculum Connections
This book is perfect as an instructional tool in the classroom due to the over-sized, dramatic images that are labeled in detailed and easy to understand.  It can also be used as a reference source, or even a dictionary, for children when completing experiments, projects, or in-class work that focuses on plant life.  The book helps readers to see the importance of trees in everyday life as children in the book are seen observing, using, and appreciating trees and plants.  In thoroughly highlighting plant life, plant characteristics, and photosynthesis, Tell Me, Tree works to help students see the diversity among plants and trees, as well as the important role that plants play in every day life (Virginia Standards of Learning 4.4 a, b, c, and d).

Additional Resources

  • This Photosynthesis Lesson  is a great online tutorial for kids, giving them the opportunity to read text and fill in the blanks to test knowledge.
  • Children can use this interactive tree key to better understand how to identify trees.
  • Children can go to this page to find exciting plant experiments they can easily conduct to discover interesting facts about plants.

Book: Tell Me, Tree
Author/Illustrator: Gail Gibbons
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 30 pages
Grade Range: Recommended K-3
ISBN: 0-316-30903-6

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Dolphin


Dolphin by Robert A. Morris, illustrated by Mamoru Funai, is an informative nonfiction book that takes the reader on a journey through the life cycle of a dolphin.  It starts off by introducing the reader to a female dolphin, a cow, that is about to have a baby.  Then you follow along with the baby dolphin, a calf, as he goes through his cycle of life.  You observe what he eats as a young calf as well as when he gets older.  The dolphin shows another aspect of his life by protecting himself after encountering enemies such as sharks and whales.  While traveling along the life cycle with the baby dolphin, the reader is exposed to vocabulary words as well as the characteristics that classify a dolphin as a mammal.  The following excerpt from the book is an example of this, “Dolphins are mammals.  They must breathe air.  The new baby must breathe air soon, or he will drown.”  Dolphin is a great resource for teaching the life cycle to young readers.

Curriculum Connections
Dolphin will help students to gain an understanding of how animals undergo a series of orderly changes.  It specifically investigates the animal’s life cycle (SOL 2.4a).  It also investigates the basic needs and life processes of animals by showing how they change as they grow and their needs to survive (SOL K.7a,c).  Lastly, this book is a great resource to show how animals have certain distinguishing characteristics that allow them to be classified accordingly (SOL 1.5c).

Additional Resources

  • Life cycle worksheet. This worksheet shows the 3 stages of the (simple) life cycle of a shark.
  • A webquest that allows students to investigate, observe and record the life cycle phases of many different animals.
  • An online mini slide show that allows students to view an object and decide if it is living or non-living according to its characteristics.

Book: Dolphin
Author: Robert A. Morris
Mamoru Funai
Publication Date:
Grade Range:

Teaching Civics with Children’s Literature: Arthur Meets the President


Arthur, one of children’s most beloved characters, is back in this delightful story Arthur Meets the President by Marc Brown. Filled with humorous misadventures, this story is perfect for introducing civics and public speaking into an elementary school classroom. Students will follow a nervous Arthur along with his family and friends to the White House to make a speech to the President of the United States.

“The President of the United States has written to announce the winner of the ‘How I Can Help make America Great Contest’. And the winner is our very own Arthur!”

After winning a writing contest for his heartfelt ideas about improving the community, Arthur and his class set off to Washington, D.C. to meet the President. While touring some of Washinton’s most famous landmarks, Arthur begins to get increasingly nervous about his important speech. Through the help of his little sister D.W.’s silly antics, Arthur overcomes his fear of public speaking and delivers his speech to the President without a hitch.

Curriculum Connections

Along with a positive and uplifting plot, this story is a great addition to the classroom and can be used in many ways to make civics relateable to young children. For students in Kindergarten and First grade, this book can be a great resource when introducing the President and his importance to the United States. For First and Second grade students this book is great for discussing the responsibilities of a good citizen; obeying the law, helping out with others, doing well in school, and introducing some famous patriotic landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, the Museum of Natural History, and the White House.  This book also includes strategies for public speaking, such as making notecards, which can be used in any classroom.

This wonderful book can be used in many ways but relates directly to the Virginia Standards of Learning for Civics- K.8, K.9, 1.10, 1.11, and 2.10.

Additional Resources

  • KOL Jr.- Arthur Meets the President– An interactive storybook which reads the whole story aloud with the pictures and focuses on important words.
  • White House 101- Facts and Fun for All Ages– This site, designed for children, includes links to information about our nation’s president and a section for teachers with lesson plans and activities.
  • PBS kids– the homepage for Arthur and his family and friends. Includes book clips, games, and interactive activities.
  • Get to know our President with this coloring page- Barack Obama.

General Information

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Waiting for Wings


 Introduction and Summary

Waiting for Wings, written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert, is a wonderful book for young learners that explains the life cycle of a butterfly.  With beautiful illustrations and simple explanations, Waiting for Wings is a great teacher’s resource for teaching life cycles.  We can see the butterfly start as a tiny egg, then turn into larvae, then spin into a chrysalis and finally we see the beautiful butterfly emerge.  Vivid illustrations of flowers and butterflies are in the book as well as an identification guide for students to find examples of flowers and butterflies outdoors.

Curriculum Connection

Waiting for Wings is a great resource to use for a kindergarten or first grade lesson on life cycles.  The bright illustrations are wonderful for young elementary learners.  The identification guide in the back would be great to use in a hands-on activity.  Students could go outside and identify butterflies and flowers that may be around the school yard.  (Virginia SOL K.7)

Additional Resources

  • Butterfly Unit  – Great unit on butterflies with science activities, songs, poetry, art activities, math activities and language arts activities.
  • Life Cycle of a Butterfly Booklet – Small booklet for children to cut out and label each stage of butterfly life cycle.  They can then put the pages in order and make a small booklet to keep.

General Information

Book:  Waiting for Wings
Lois Ehlert
  Lois Ehlert
  Harcourt Books
Publication Date:
Grade Range: