Monthly Archive for March, 2010

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: Excavating The Past, Ancient Rome



Ancient Rome is a book written by Fiona MacDonald that is part of the excavating the past series of children’s books.  This book explores archeological excavations of Romans sites from Scotland to North Africa.  It highlights Roman architecture such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum and also discusses the cultural contributions Romans made to the world.  Ancient Rome is filled with colorful pictures of all the important Roman sites and provides plenty of details about each location.  Throughout the book there are words that are written in bold type and included in a glossary in the back of the book.

Curriculum Connections
Ancient Rome can be used to introduce a lesson on the contributions ancient Rome made to the world in terms of architecture, daily life and sports.(3.1)  This is a wonderful book to use to instruct students on the impact the Romans had and continue to have.  Ancient Rome has a large amount of text so it is not appropriate for younger grades but this book can be a great resource for the upper elementary grades.

Additional Resources

  • Three-dimensional model of the Pantheon this lesson plan provides information on Hadrian and how to make a model of the Pantheon.
  • Roman roads this is an information sheet on how the Romans built their roads.
  • The Colosseum this is a free download of a 3-D model of the Colosseum as it appeared during the Roman Empire.

Book: Ancient Rome
Author: Fiona MacDonald
Publisher: Heinemann Library
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 48
Grade Range: 3-6
ISBN: 1-4034-4838-8

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: Ancient Rome: A Guide to the Glory of Imperial Rome



Introduction and Summary:

Ancient Rome: A Guide to the Glory of Imperial Rome  written by Jonathan Stroud and illustrated by Inklink Firenze and Kevin Maddison is a fascinating book about what life was like in ancient Rome written in the form of a travel guide.  If you were traveling back in time, and needed to know what to do in Rome, this book is a must.  Stroud covers many topics such as, what to wear, food and drink, shopping, accommodations, and the baths.  For entertainment, he discusses the theater, Circus Maximus, and the Colosseum.  There is a fold out map in the back of the guide as well as an index and “Souvenir quiz.”  Each of the chapters contains a great deal of detailed information with illustrations, and contains a “Sightseers’ Tip.”  Examples are “Watch out!  The steam baths are heated by air from underground furnaces, so the floor tiles are very hot.  You might want to wear sandals to protect your feet,” (p. 16) and “try to buy some fresh honey from one of the estate’s beehives.  It’s the only way to sweeten your food.” (p.26)  Stroud does a great job explaining the caste system of ancient Rome.  The vast majority of Rome’s inhabitants were poor and/or bound to slavery while some citizen’s were very rich.  He gives examples of what you can do in the city if you are rich compared to if you are poor.  The rich managed to keep the masses happy by paying the poor people’s fees in order to gain popularity.  These fees were for using the baths which “are an essential part of life in Rome.” (p.16)  The rich also payed for fees for entry to the theatre, the Circus Maximus, and the Colosseum.  One million people lived in ancient Rome during the emperor Hadrian’s reign.  One big surprise was that the emperor had to import grain from Africa in order to feed all of the people.  Stroud also speaks of the famous aqueducts that supplied Rome with over 40 million gallons of water every day. (p.26)

Curriculum Connections:

Emperors had absolute power at this time according to Stroud.  However, Magistrate’s were officially elected to public posts by Rome’s citizens.  “Wealthy young men follow political careers, as lawyers, magistrates, and finally, as the governors of far-flung regions of the empire.” (p. 28)  Teachers can make comparison’s between Rome’s and our political processes of today. (VA SOL 3.1)  Student’s will also find that the Roman citizen’s liked to be entertained as much as we do.  Men performed as actors on stage.  Some of the plays were pretty brutal.  In some tragedies, real-life criminals would be executed on stage.  At Circus Maximus, chariot races would take place and there would be many wrecks, much like today’s car races.  At the Colosseum, two men would fight to the death with sword’s and armor.  This would be similar to today’s boxing and mixed martial arts fighting.  There was also gambling.  (VA SOL 3.1)  The Roman’s were very advanced as far as their architecture to meet their environmental needs.  They had sidewalks so that people did not have to walk in the mud and sewage in the streets and they built aqueducts to transport millions of gallon of water into the cities daily. (VA SOL 3.4c)  The fold-out map at the end of the book showed where the famous Roman landmarks were in the city, as well as the huge expanse of the empire throughout Europe and North Africa.  (VA SOL 3.4a)

Additional Resources:

Roman Games — This website has several games and activities for elementary students to learn more about the Roman Empire.

Roman Roles — This website talks about the roles of Roman men, woman and children in ancient times.  There is also an activity at the end.

The Roman Empire is a site geared especially for kids.  There are several activities, maps, and time periods children can explore.

Roman Gods and Goddesses— Children can learn about ancient Roman religion by learning about the gods and goddesses the Romans worshiped.

General Information:

Book: Ancient Rome: A Guide to the Glory of Imperial Rome
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Illustrator: Inklink Firenze and Kevin Maddison (not available)
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 32
Grade Ranges: 3rd & 4th
ISBN: 0-7534-5235-9

Teaching Ancient History with Children’s Literature: Ancient Greece and the Olympics


Ancient Greece and the Olympics, written by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, illustrated by Sal Murdocca, is part of the infamous Magic Tree House Series that aims to realistically take children on a voyage through ancient history.  This particular journey to Greece begins with an introduction to the country's history and its people, then moves to the country's religion, its daily life and its culture.  All of these integral elements serve as the foundation for the major focus of this book.  Children are granted with a thorough understanding of Greece's background so as to see how the concept of the Olympic games originated within this magical culture of gods and goddesses.  "The ancient Greeks believed that strong bodies and sports pleased [these] gods, so they honored [them] with sporting events and contests, [thus] the Olympics began as a festival to honor Zeus, [ruler of all the gods]" (69).

Curriculum Connections

This book does a fabulous job uncovering history for children with vivid images, quirky captions, and easy to understand examples, but it also serves as a superb reference tool.  Children could easily utilize this guide when studying, writing about, or researching Ancient Greece and/ or how the country contributed to the creation of the Olympics Games as we know them today (VA SOL 3.1).  The authors provide frequent summaries recapping what prior pages have revealed, pronunciations of unfamiliar vocabulary, as well as italicized and bold terms with definitions that are crucial to the book's understanding.  For example, as the authors describe Athens, they tell readers that "Ancient Athens was divided into about 300 city-states, or poleis (POE-lace)" (14).

Additional Resources

This kid friendly site offers simple summaries, interactive activities, fun facts, and quizzes for children all about Ancient Greece.

With this website, children can learn about the Ancient Greek influence on the English language as they "Go for the Gold" in the Olympic Games. 

This site presents teachers with a mini-unit on theOlympics in Ancient Greece.  Each day is planned out as students meet the Olympians, prepare for various Olympic games, experience the traditional "Opening and Closing Procession" and so much more! 

Book: Ancient Greece and the Olympics: A Nonfiction Companion to Hour of the Olympics

Authors: Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce

Illustrator: Sal Murdocca

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 8, 2004

Pages: 128

Grade Range: Recommended Ages 6-10

ISBN: 978-0375823787

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Animals in the Wild


Animals in the Wild written by Joanne Ryder and illustrated by Lisa Bonforte is a story about the animals living in the wild, and how they survive the four seasons. The story starts by explaining where all the animals are during the cold winter days. Some animals spend their winter sleeping, and not waking up til Spring. Other animals live underground but come up to find nuts, and seeds they had hidden in the fall. The birds have gone south for warmer weather, and will return in the Spring. Once the days grow longer and warmer the animals of the wild start to wake up and come out of their homes. All the animals stay busy finding food for their babies, and building new homes. There are great pictures to show you where the animals are living, and what their homes look like. Once summer rolls around all the animals go to the ponds or streams to get their water. The story does a great job explaining what each animals eats and how they survive the four seasons.

Curriculum Connections

Animals in the Wild is a great book when introducing Life Science to younger students. The story follows the pattern of the seasons, and explains how animals survive. I would use this book in the younger grades of elementary, and read it aloud to the class. The pictures are great for the students to look at, and the story is exciting. After reading this book the students will have a better understanding of the basic needs of animals. They will understand that animals need to hibernate during the winter, or fly to warmer weather. The students will have a better understanding on how animals hunt for food and hide from their prey. (VA SOL LS 4.b) Overall, I would suggest this book to any classroom because the pictures are great and the children will have a better understanding on how animals survive in the wild.

Additional Resources

WILD about Educators After taking the Project WILD workshop, I learned a lot of the resources they offer for educators. At this website you will find plenty of helpful information and different activities you can bring into your classroom.

Growing up WILD This link from project WILD is focused on young children. It allows our younger children the chance to interact with nature and build on their sense of wonder.

How do animals spend their winter? Here you will find information for teachers and students. There are activities, and also a kid friendly “I Can Read” section that breaks down the information so younger students can understand.

Book: Animals in the Wild
Author: Joanne Ryder
Illustrator: Lisa Bonforte
Publisher: Western Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication Date: 1987
Pages: 23
Grade Range: K-4
ISBN: 0-307-68271-4

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: S is for Save the Planet


S is for Save the Planet, written by Brad Herzog and illustrated by Linda Holt Ayriss, is a How-to-be Green Alphabet that sparks students’ enthusiasm for saving our environment. Published in 2009, S is for Save the Planet includes up-to-date information on the biggest problems facing our environment and the simplest ways that we can help!  The beautiful illustrations not only depict the beauty in the environment, but also students in action. Displaying students who are completing these environmentally friendly acts makes each task seem more feasible. The short, rhyming poem accompanying each letter of the alphabet is perfect for younger readers, while the side excerpts explore the topic in greater detail. The two paragraphs chock full of factual information are great resources for the curious student or the advanced reader. Students will absolutely love this book and hopefully share the new strategies they learn with their families and friends!

Curriculum Connections
Although this book is very much environmentally-focused it is still largely connected to Life Science. The effect of human interaction in ecosystems including human land use and ecosystem stability is a major topic within Life Science. Since populations within ecosystems are interdependent, these disturbances have a ripple effect on the environment. (LS.12b,d,e) General factors that decrease population sizes and the effects of climate change on communities, populations, and organisms are all environmental issues addressed in this book. (LS.11c)  

Additional Resources

  • There is a 27 page teacher’s guide available full of vocabulary, pictures, and all kinds of fun, relative activities including lab experiments! This guide also includes a lot of creative and meaningful writing prompts to challenge students.  Xeriscaping, a type of landscaping that conserves water, is just one of the many new topics students can explore.
  • This fun interactive site offers a treasure hunt, recycle game, cool videos, and new articles for kids all introduced by Otis the otter!
  • The Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources brings us EEK! (Environmental Education for Kids) Students can research animals in the Critter Corner, discover the history of maple syrup in Nature Notes,  and test their knowledge with riddles of the month. EEK! even provides descriptions of careers in the environmental industry!

General Information 

Book: S is for Save the Planet
Author: Brad Herzog
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 36
Grade Range: 3-6
ISBN: 1-58536-428-2

Teaching Ancient Civilizations With Children’s Literature: You Are In Ancient China


Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to live in Ancient China? In this book You Are In Ancient China, you will travel back to the time of the Han Dynasty” “You will travel through the town and countryside, learning what it was like to live in ancient China.”  Students can study topics such as food and drink, children in China, and Chinese art.   A glossary of terms, Facts For Ancient China, and  “Find Out For Yourself” sections are also included for student reference. Wonderful photographs and illustrations will help bring the ancient civilization to life for students!

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used to introduce Ancient China to students.  .  It would teach them how the contributions of ancient China have influenced the present world (SOL History 2.1).  The book would be most appropriate for grade level 2.  Curriculum connections could be made in the subjects of art, science, reading, and writing.

Additional Resources

This website contains many summary and notes pages for students to use as they study ancient China.  Also includes many excellent lesson plans and activities for teachers!

Coloring pages of a map of China and the Chinese flag.

A fun activity for kids, this site contains instructions for making a Chinese Dragon Puppet!

Book:  You Are In Ancient China

Author: Ivan Minnis

Publisher: Raintree

Publication Date: 2005

Pages: 32 pages

Grade Range:2

ISBN: 1-4109-0619-1

Teaching Life Science with Children's Literature: The Bug Scientists

bug scientists

The Bug Scientists
, written by Donna M. Jackson, takes a different approach by teaching students about insects but also about the men and women who study them in different ways. The book introduces us to insects and their attributes (body parts, survival methods), as well as a few different ways humans study bugs or use them in their study of other things.  For instance, we meet a forensic entomologist who uses maggots to solve murders.  Your 3rd – 6th graders will love some of the “gross” pictures and details, as well as the section on “amazing insects” at the end.

Curriculum Connections
The Bug Scientists
is a great way to teach children about insects in a way that acknowledges their initial reactions but tells a compelling story that bugs are wonderful and interesting creatures . The photos are big enough for classes to see during oral reading, and detailed enough for students to study on their own. This book is for grades 3-6, and it can be a good resource for learning about living systems, the insect class, and the invertebrate phylum.

Additional Resources

  • Students can learn more about classifying insects at, a bug bio site.
  • The students can learn more about the growth of butterflies here, which gives directions for insect science project experiment to determine how temperature affects the growth of butterflies.
  • This site has some good Q&A you can use with students when teaching about insects

Book: Bug Scientists
Donna M. Jackson
Publication Date:
48 pages
Grade Range:

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Butterflies and Moths


Butterflies and Moths, written by Nic Bishop. This book provides basic information about moths and butterflies.  The book goes on to discuss facts about the insects appearance and habits. For example Moths have fatter bodies, covered with furry hairs. One can tell a moth from a butterfly by the antennae on the moths head. The book then goes on to discuss the life cycle of a butterfly and moth. First it begins with an egg, then the caterpillar crawls out, and lastly the caterpillar wanders to a safe place into a pupa. This book is great for K-4 graders because of the colorful illustrations and detailed facts about butterflies and moths.

Cirrculum Connections

 Butterflies and Moths is a great way to teach children the four stages of the butterfly. The illustrations are bright and colorful for students to look at. This book is for K-4 graders because of the basic facts that are provided about the insects. K.1g)The four stages of the butterfly allows the students to observe and record the result of each stage. 2.4a) and 2.4b) Allows the teacher to teach about the butterflies life cycle and habits.

Additional Resources

 Colorful Art Butterfly– In this activity students cut off part of an egg cartoon then the students can paint the carton any color they want. This activity is great for students who have read a book about caterpillars.

Life Cycle of a Butterfly– Students will identify the four stages of a butterflies life cycle

The Ugly Caterpillar– This program features four different reading leavels. This program is great for guide reading


Book: Butterflies and Moths
Author: Nic Bishop
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 48 pages
Grade Range: K-4
3082 01039 0721

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: Animal Habitats


 Michelle Kramer’s Animal Habitats is an early reader concept book on animal habitats and features great photographs by National Geographic. The book walks through and explains what habitat is and what animals need to survive in their habitats. After explaining the importance of an animal’s habitat each the next several pages are dedicated to the different types of habitats. Each habitat has highlighted vocabulary for that specific habitat. The book also introduces several animals that small children may not have seen or heard of before; perhaps peaking the interest of those animal lovers.  Each page about the separate habitat begins similarly and will help in the development of early reading skills.  ” Sandy deserts are hot and dry places. Many animals live in this habitat. What helps them survive?” After the question is asked on each section about the habitat there are several boxes answering the questions.  ” Fennec foxes dig holes underground to find shelter from the hot sun. The skink eats insects that lives in the desert. These camels are at an oasis. An oasis is a place in the desert that has water.” Even if the child is not reading on their own, the pictures are great and fill the pages.

Curriculum Connections
This book is a great resource when instructing students on Life Science and more specifically different habitats that animals live in. This book is filled with vocabulary and several animals associated with different habitats. National Geographic also features a page specifically for the teacher in the front cover of the book connecting the books major themes and key concepts that are learned. It also provides customized instruction for English Language Learner that will help a teacher meet their specific needs. (SOL 1.5 a, b, c)

Additional Resources
Frog Life Cycle is a page that shows an example of a simple craft to made showing the cycle of frogs. I think that students would enjoy making the project and still get an understand of the life cycle that frogs go through. The page also has free printable templates to complete the project. The directions are easy to follow and seem simple enough for the young students.
Animal Life Cycles is a page that has a detailed unit plan on animal life cycles. Not all of the activities would fit into the SOL curriculum but many of the ideas can be adapted and made to fit. This is also a great site because it give cross-curricular connections to art and language arts.
Studying the Life Cycle of Butterflies is a great lesson planning page from Scholastic. It provides background, vocabulary and activities for students that are associated with the life cycle of butterflies. The page also provides a list of supplemental reading for the children.

General Information
Book: Animal Habitats
Author: Michelle Kramer
Publisher:National Geographic School Publishing
Publication Date:2006
Grade Range: Pre-K to 2nd grade

Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: The Life Cycle of an Owl


In the book series Learning About Life Cycles, The Life Cycle of an Owl written by Ruth Thomson explains the entire life cycle of a barn owl.  The book has real life pictures and is does an amazing job of portraying life in the wild for the barn owl.  The book starts out with the places owls live and what they eat.  Characteristics of an owl is described by stating that

“It has very good eyesight and hearing.  It flies silently and pounces on animals with its feet.  It usually swallows them whole.”

Since this book is only about barn owls all of the physical features are described.  The book starts the life cycle with “finding a mate”.  This is usually done durning the spring season; males and females can often be seen flying together while making a loud screeching sound.  The book shows and explains how the mother owl lays eggs and cares for her owlets.  The father keeps both the mother and the owlets alive with providing food. The book lists the different stages the owlets go through until adulthood.  Pictures are provided with each stage.  The author ends the book with displaying the owl life cycle that was described throughout the book for a better visual understanding.

Curriculum Connections:

This would be a great book for teachers teaching about animal life cycles and habitats (SOL 2.4a & 2.5b).  The book explains the life cycle of an owlet as it grows and matures into an owl at the elementary age school level. The book has outstanding pictures that are detailed and not graphic for young children.  The book explains the habitat surroundings needed for the barn owl. 

Additional Resources:

Exploring the Southwest Desert USA has a great web-site for anyone that would like to learn about the barn owl.  The range, habitat, description, habits and the owl’s life cycle are all explained in this web-site.  This could be used as an additional resource for a teacher that is teaching a lesson plan on the barn owl. 

Teachers can handout a coloring page for students to color as they learn about the barn owl.  Students have room to draw the owl’s habitat.  The students can also list some of the facts that they learned about the barn owl around their artwork. 

Teachers and students can watch a real barn owl live on the internet! Teachers will need to click on the link to watch Molly the barn owl in the classroom.  This is a free web-site.

Eastside Audubon has listed a lesson plan for teachers who will be teaching about owls.  The lesson plan is geared for students grades 3-6 (adaptions can be made for younger students). *Registration is required to enter the site.*

Book: The Life Cycle of an Owl
Author: Ruth Thomson
Illustrator: N/A
Publisher: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 24
Grade Range: 2-5
ISBN: 1-4358-2833-9