Monthly Archive for October, 2010

Teaching Map Skills

(VA Geography 2.5, 2.6)

–    2.5  The student will develop map skills by: a) locating the equator, the seven continents, and the five oceans on maps and globes; b) locating selected rivers (James River, Mississppi River, Rio Grande, Huang He, and the Nile River, mountain ranges (Appalachian Mountains and Rocky Mountains), and lakes (Greak Lakes) in the United States and other countries
–    2.6  Students will develop map skills by constructing simple maps using title, map legend, and compass rose. Students will also learn the importance of having these map skills and how the skills can be used every day.

Text Annotations:

1.    Maps and Globes by Jack Knowlton, Illustrated by Harriet Barton:

– “Maps and Globes” is a beginners book that introduces younger students to different maps. The book stresses the importance of maps as well as where various countries, deserts, oceans, and moutains are on a map. This is book is great starting point for teachers and parents to use when it comes time to inform your student or child about basic map skills.
2.    Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney, Illustrated by Annette Cable:

“Me on the Map” is another great introduction into map skills. The book begins with a young girl creating a map of her room, house, street etc as a way to introduce that same idea just within states, countries, and the world. Joan Sweeney does a great job comparing different things that young children can identify with, to the bigger picture aspect of understanding maps.
3.    Where Do I Live? by Neil Chesanow:

This book uses colorful illustrations and easy words to explain to children where they live. The author starts with a child’s room, their home, neighborhood, town, state, and country; then the author moves out to Earth, the solar system, and the Milky Way. Then, the child is drawn back to a page of questions about the reaser’s own street, town, state etc. Another great book that provides a different approach to the use of maps and globes.
4.    Follow That Map! by Scot Ritchie:

This book tells a story about Sally and her friends playing in her backyard when they notice that both her dog and cat are missing. Sally and her friends are determined to find them so they set off on a journey through their neighborhood, park, zoo and eventually through the country and around the world. A unique aspect of this book compared to others is that any map-related information appears in bold type to notify students of it’s importance.
5.    There's a Map on My Lap by Tish Rabe, Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz:

A Cat in the Hat book informing students about map skills. This book is a great way to keep the attention of students because of the way the information is presented. The book introduces readers to different kinds of cities and states as well as topography, temperature, and terrain. Also things such as symbols, scales, and compasses are addressed.

Web Annotations:

Assorted Resources


The Virginia science SOLs incorporate migration in the second, third and fourth grades. Students learn about the migration of birds, monarch butterflies, caribou, sea animals and various other creature. These animals travel by foot, swim, fly, or crawl to their destinations, in search of food or a milder climate. This post includes a variety of resources on these animals’ often long, dangerous journeys.


Home at Last by April Pulley Sayre; illustrated by Alix Berenzy – A beautifully illustrated book, Home at Last provides a lyrical text describing the migration of many animals. Illustrations done in pastel on black paper are paired with the description of these animals and their journeys. For example, a picture of a warbler in the night sky accompanies Sayre’s narration of the bird’s journey, guided by the starlight.

The Magic School Bus Goes Upstream by Joanna Cole; Illustrated by Bruce Degan and Nancy Stevenson – The Magic School Bus Goes Upstream explores the migration of a salmon. Ms. Frizzle takes the class on a ride upstream, following the path that a migrating salmon would take. The students learn that salmon migrate to a place where their eggs may hatch safely and they know how to find their destination by smell.

What is Migration? by John Crossingham and Bobbie Kalman – What is Migration? describes the migration of geese, salmon, turtles, ants and other animals. These descriptions are accompanied by photos. The book also has important terms in bold and a glossary in the back. This would be a great source for students to use for research or a report!

Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration by Marianne Berkes; illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio – Going Home explains the phenomenon of migration in poetic form. Its rhyming couplets are narrated by the animals themselves. This is an entertaining book, with some nice pictures. It also has a section in the back with descriptions of each of the animals in the book.

The Journey: Stories of Migration by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Lambert Davis – The Journey: Stories of Migration describes the migration of locusts, monarch butterflies, gray whales, American silver eels, caribou and Arctic terns. The book examines the mystery that is migration; how do these animals deal with such extreme distances and climate shifts? how do they know where to go? Rylant answers these questions, but still conveys just how amazing these animals’ instincts are!

Online Interactive Resources 

Teacher Resources

Pond and Marsh Ecosystems

This blog post is a combination of different resources regarding the VA Science SOL 3.6 and 4.5 on ecosystems, specifically ponds and wetlands (marshes). The lesson(s) regarding this material should cover the following: what is an ecosystem? what kind of plants and animals live in ponds and marshes? how would you describe a pond? a marsh (wetland)? how do these plants and animals rely on each other for survival? how do these two ecosystems compare to other ecosystems? These are just some questions that should be covered when teaching this topic.

Below I have included some books, kid-friendly websites, and helpful resources for teachers that are all about pond and marsh ecosystems!


Look Closer: Pond Life by Barbara Taylor


This book has wonderful, huge photographs and the text is broken up into sections; perfect for 3rd and 4th graders. It discusses all of the different pond wildlife. It also describes what ponds are, but the book definitely focuses on the animals who call a pond their home.

Around the Pond: The Wild Wonder Series by Ann Cooper
Illustrated by Dorothy Emerling


This book is definitely a good book to use when introducing ponds as one of the many ecosystems. “Around the Pond” features beautiful pictures of the different animals that inhabit ponds and Cooper holds the attention of the reader through the use of not only great artwork, but also a treasure map! Very well written and easy to understand. Great for 3rd and 4th graders.

Ponds: Biomes and Ecosystems (Science Readers) by Yvonne Franklin


This book discusses the importance of ponds and the difference between ponds and other bodies of water. Franklin talks about the different plant and animal life that can be found in ponds and different cycles that occur in this ecosystem. A great book for younger readers- grades K-3.

Marvels in the Muck: Life in Salt Marshes by Doug Wechsler


This book discusses marshes and the different plants and animals who live there. The photographs are amazing and the text is very easy to understand. Wechsler talks about how important this ecosystem is and how many plants and animals depend on it for survival. It definitely a more challenging book and is targeted for grades 4th-6th.

Marshes and Swamps by Gail Gibbons


This book is a very easy read and targeted for ages 4-8. “Marshes and Swamps” would be a good book to use as an introduction to the lesson. Gibbons discusses the relationships between the plants and animals that call marshes and swamps home and discusses different ways that these “wetlands” can be protected and preserved. The pictures are done in watercolor.


Science Up Close: Pond Ecosystem Podcast
This short podcast provides an overview for students about ponds and how the animals and plants that live there rely on each other for survival. This is definitely a good site to use when introducing the material.

Pond Explorer
This is a great interactive website that provides the student with a few activities and information about each of the animals that inhabit ponds. For teachers,  there is a very cool hands-on experiment that is provided on the website and teachers’ notes are provided on each page of the site.

Salt Marsh Life
This website is great for students and provides them with a bunch of information about the pond as a habitat for many plants and animals. There are great photographs and the text is very easy to read/understand. You can even find where to visit a salt marsh by looking up where they are around the country.

American Field Guide
This website consists of a bunch of video clips of marshes, ponds, and other ecosystems all around the country. Students can watch these clips to learn more about the plants and animals in each of these environments.

Wet and Wild Wetlands Webquest
This is a great webquest for grade 3 and up! The students will learn all about the four types of wetlands: bogs, marshes, prairie potholes, and swamps. Groups of four take on different roles for the task: zoologist, botanist, land surveyor, and animal activist. These teams investigate physical characteristics of the ecosystems, plants and animals who live in these ecosystems, etc. Each of the different specialists have different roles and try and answer the questions that are provided.


Young Scientist’s Introduction to Wetlands
This is a 15-page print-out “book” about wetlands. Very helpful for both students and teachers when learning about ecosystems. Answers the important questions of: what is a wetland? what are the different types of wetlands? why are wetlands important? who and what lives in a wetland?

A Busy Pond Mini Book
Teachers print out this activity and students color and cut to make a mini book all about ponds and the plants and animals that live there.

A Pond Ecosystem: An Activity of Exploration
This is a lesson plan created by a teacher regarding the pond ecosystem. Within the lesson plan are six different “sessions” which include a bunch of different interactive games and fun activities. There is so much to choose from and great ideas!

Creating a Pond Habitat
This website offers a great idea: building your own pond inside or outside! Students will definitely like it if they are able to see a pond for themselves, especially if it belongs to the class. The website provides great ideas for creating your own pond. If your school does not have the resources to install a small outdoor “pond,”you can always just set one up in the classroom.

Animal Life Cycles

This topic introduces second graders to the exciting changes that can occur in a butterfly and frog’s life cycles. Through numerous activities children are guided through the process known as Metamorphosis and given the opportunity to become engaged with the material. They are able to learn about and physically see how frogs and butterflies undergo these transformations as they mature and grow in their environments (VA Science SOL 2.4). The material encourages them to interact with the content and in doing so provides them with a better understanding of the content knowledge.

Text Annotations

  1. Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop butterflies.jpgNic Bishop’s non-fiction narrative provides readers with a realistic visual aide into the stages of butterfly metamorphosis. He helps children understand the transformations a caterpillar undergoes to becoming a butterfly. It is an interactive, hands on book that parents can use to explore the realms of animal life cycles.
  2. From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman from-cateroillar-to-butterfly-300×241.jpgThis book dives into the stages of butterfly metamorphosis from a child’s perspective by asking the question, ” Where did the caterpillar go?” Heiligman creatively takes her readers through the transformation processes by asking and answering commonly asked children’s questions.
  3. From Tadpole to Frog by Wendy Pfeffer 9780064451239.jpgThis book uses attractive artwork to describe the two-year life cycle of the American Bullfrog. As a Stage One book “From Tadpole to Frog”  it uses simple sentences and concepts that are appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, and young children up to about 8 or 9 years of age.
  4. Frogs by Nic Bishop23660346jpg.jpgBishop uses captivating close up photographs of his characters to entice children into the wonders of a frog’s life cycle. But his book takes children beyond the visual perspective of metamorphosis as he provides his readers with a detailed description about how he went about capturing the photographs. This book leaves children longing for more.
  5. My, Oh My– A Butterfly! All about Butterflies by Tish Rabe51thfdmznzl_sx500_.jpgYou can not go wrong with any Cat in the Hat book, but this Butterfly book is excellent. It keeps kids engaged and excited about the life cycle of a butterfly. It is a great read for young children. Who wouldn’t want to learn about the butterfly life cycle after reading this book.

Web Annotations

  1. The life cycle of a frog– This website presents children with a guided tutorial through a frog’s life cycle. It encompasses an auditory step by step explanation of each stage in the cycle along with a visual representation of each stage, and so entices children to want learn the content. Children can learn this exciting content and have fun doing it.
  2. Animal life-cycles- This interactive game asks children to organize the pictures on the screen by dragging and dropping them into the correct order sequence for each animallife cycle. Once a child has dragged a picture into the box a detailed description of the stage appears to help them understand what is happening. If they correctly place the butterfly pictures in order they move onto a frog, a flower and then a tree’s cycle. They are rewarded for learning the life cycle sequences with more exciting information.
  3. Butterfly crossword- When a child clicks on a cross word box a question appears. The child has to type in the correct answer that fits into the box. This activity allows a child to apply all the information they have learnt about a butterfly into a fun and interactive activity.
  4. Fantastic Frog- This game asks children 10 general knowledge multiple choice questions about frogs. By asking questions like,  “What is the name of the biggest frog,” this website teaches children that learning can be both fun and rewarding. It changes the way the children perceive having knowledge as they can now pass on the fun facts they have learnt about frogs.
  5. Incomplete and complete metamorphosis- By clicking on the butterfly icon on the screen children can watch a movie describing a butterfly’s life-cycle. The movie goes through a step by step process of the different stages in the life-cycle providing it viewers with real life pictures of each process.

Additional Resources for Teachers

  1. Life processes and living things– This website provides teachers with a wealth of material on life processes. From worksheets to powerpoints this website has it all. It doesn’t matter what type of learners your children are because after being involved with the resources that this website has to offer they will know and love the content.
  2. Butterfly life cycle activity in the classroom–  This website provides teachers with three step by step craft instructions. It provides teachers with fun and interactive activities and crafts that will allow their children to grasp the content of a butterfly life cycle but explore their creative sides as they do it.
  3. Exploring Butterflies– This website provides teachers with butterfly lesson plans, print outs on the life cycle of the butterfly for children to fill in and writing activities that will allow the children to have fun as they learn the process of metamorphosis. The range of activities offered encourage all children, regardless of their learning styles to jump in and have fun with the material.
  4. Animal Lifecycle lesson plan– This lesson plan helps children compare and contrast the life cycles on different animals ( one being a frog). Groups of children are asked to analyze and observe the animals stages of development by watching them grow in an aquarium.
  5. Life cycles of frogs, dragon flies and dragon flies– This lesson plan allows children to become fully integrated in the stages of metamorphosis. Children are exposed to the differences and similarities of various animal life cycles as they observe the development and maturation processes of insects and frogs. Students are engage in reading, video and hands on activities that allows them to grasp the content on animal life cycles.


The Virginia Standards of Learning include shadows in the kindergarten science curriculum.  In kindergarten students are expected to learn that shadows occur by blocking light.  Shadows can be fun to learn about and play with.  Here are some great resources I found to help students learn about shadows!



Nothing Sticks Like a Shadow written by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

This is a fun book for children to read!  Woodchuck bets Rabbit his hat that Rabbit will not be able to escape his shadow.  Rabbit spends all day trying to get away, but has no luck.  It is not until night falls and the moon moves behind a cloud that Rabbits shadow disappears and he wins the bet!


Shadows and Relections written and illustrated by Tana Hoban

Tana Hoban uses a series of photographs to allow children to explore shadows and reflections.  The beautiful photographs will provoke both discussion and questions from young children.


What Makes a Shadow? written by Clyde Roberta Bulla, illustrated by June Otani

This book is part of the Lets-Read-and-Find-Out series by Harper Collins.  It is written for kindergarten aged children, so it is right on their comprehension level.   What Makes a Shadow? teaches children how shadows are made and even goes into an explanation of night and day.


Guess Whose Shadow? written by Stephen R. Swinburne

Stephen Swilburnes’ book of photographs show children that everything has a shadow.  The book invites children to guess what made the shadow, with the answer given on the next page!


Light: Shadows, Mirrors, and Rainbows  written by Natalie M. Rosinsky, illustrated by Sheree Boyd

This book is part of the Amazing Science series by Picture Window Books.  This is written as a science concept book, but it is written clearly and concisely on the kindergarten level.  This book not only discusses shadows but light as a whole, making it a great addition to any units on light.

Interactive Student Resources

  • Tigger’s Shadow Shapes– Match objects to their shadows!
  • Blue’s Clues’ Shadows— Help Blue figure out what the shadow belongs to!
  • My Shadow— An interactive ebook of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “My Shadow”
  • Shadows— A simple shadow interactive to help children understand how light can effect a shadows size.
  • Sun, Light, and Shadows— This game allows children to experiment with light to make shadows bigger or smaller, sharper or dimmer, or change the location of the shadow, all by altering the light source!

Additional Resources

  • Hand Shadow Puppets— Great shadow puppets to teach to your class!
  • Preschool Shadow Theme— While intended for a slightly younger audience, many of these resources can be used in a kindergarten classroom to teach about shadows!
  • PEEP and the Big Wide World— This site contains links to four different videos about shadows.  Many of the videos give fun  suggestions for activities.  This site also contains printouts to send home to get parents involved with the learning!
  • SteveSongs fun Shadow Song:

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Food Chains and Food Webs

Students in the 3rd grade use the food chain model to understand the relationships of living things and their dependence on each other for survival (VA Science SOL 3.5).  While the food chain provides links to a basic flow of relationships, the food web, a more complex structure is used in the 4th grade to further explore this web of interdependence among living things (VA Science SOL 4.5).  Below you will find resources, including lesson plan ideas, activities, literature, and interactive games that can be used to help motivate students and reinforce content.



Trout Are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre is geared for ages 4-8.  This fun book introduces the food chain by using the river   ecosystem to show how leaves are eaten by critters which in turn are eaten by the trout.


Vulture View, another book written by April Pulley Sayre for grades K-5 shows the important role of scavengers and decomposers in the ecosystem through the eyes and life of a vulture.  It shows how the vulture breaks down dead organisms to provide nutrient for the soil.


The Story Goes On, a book written by Aileen Fisher for ages 4-8 shares the ongoing cycle of life.  It begins with a seed that gets eaten by a bug which then gets eaten by a frog.  The story goes on to show the links from a frog, a snake, a hawk, a hunter, and then back to a seed.


What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You, written by Steve Jenkins is geared for ages 4-8.  This vibrant book can be used to discuss some of the unique and interesting ways animals are able to defend themselves from their predators.


Pass The Energy, Please! by Barbara Shaw Mckinney is written for grades 1-5.  This book uses rhyme and teaches children about both the food chain and food web in a simple and entertaining way.


Kid’s Corner– This is an activity that allows children to build food chains by dragging parts into their appropriate place.  When the chain is complete, it comes to life and students are able to see the food chain in action.

Woodland Life– This activity allows students to locate living things in the woodland, learn a few fun facts about each including its predator and diet, as well as build a food web using the things found.

Sunny Meadows   This site provides an overview of the food chain and then allows you to play a game to simulate what would happen in the meadow depending on how many predators, prey, and plants that are added.  The animals will increase, decrease, or even disappear through the years depending on its food supply.

Gould League Food Web  This site allows you to choose from four different food webs.  Students categorize living things that are displayed as producer, omnivore, etc. based on their diet.  When the chart has been completed, the food web will be displayed.

Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection– This online activity allows students to dissect an animal pellet.  Students use the bones that are found to recreate the animal that has been eaten.


Decomposers and Scavengers -This site includes facts, pictures, a quiz, and a lesson plan on decomposers and scavengers.

Worksheets -This site includes free downloadable worksheets and activities for helping students with vocabulary, classification, etc.

Class Activities/Handouts– Here you can find interactive games, activities, as well as handouts for practicing food webs.

Activities/Lesson Plans -This site provides a number of activities and lesson plans on the food chain/web theme.

Lesson Plans-This site includes background information as well as a number of lesson plan ideas for teaching food chain and food web.

The Rainforest

In third grade, students begin their investigation of the habitats of the world, which are divided into water-related environments and dry-land environments (VA Science SOL 3.6). One of the prominent habitats that is covered is the rainforest. The resources provided below cover everything ranging from the climate of the rainforest, to the plants and animals, to what medicines are derived from the rainforest. Another important aspect that is talked about in several of the resources is that of conservation and endangered animals. Several books and websites help students understand why the rainforest is important, what is happening to it, and what we can do to help.

Childrens Literature


A is For Anaconda By Anthony D. Fredericks; Illustrated by Laura Regan

This book is a great way to introduce students to importance of the rainforest and the different types of life that exist there. Each page is a different letter of the alphabet, which corresponds to a part of the rainforest, ranging from animals and plants to medicines derived from the area. The illustrations, done by Laura Regan, are stunning and give the students a clear picture of scenes in the rainforest. It is also a great resource for talking about endangered animals because biologist Fredericks features several different endangered animals in the book.


The Great Kapok Tree By Lynne Cherry

This is another great book to help students appreciate the significance of the rainforest and recognize why conservation is so important. The story begins with a man who is trying to chop down a huge kapok tree in the rainforest. He falls asleep while he is working, and throughout the course of the day, many different animals, and in the end, a child, visit him and describe to him the consequences of destroying the rainforest habitat. When he awakens and sees all of the animals around him, he puts down his ax and leaves the tree standing. Much like the previous book, this is a great resource for teaching about endangered animals.


Rain, Rain, Rainforest By Brenda Z. Guiberson; Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

In this book, Guiberson takes the students on a journey following different animals through their typical days in the rainforest. The use of onomatopeia and animal sounds characterize the story, along with Jenkins unique collage style of illustration.


The Rainforest Grew All Around By Susan K. Mitchell; Illustrated by Connie McLennan

For teachers who like interactive books and activities, this would be a great choice because it can be used as a sing-along. This song "The Green Grass Grew All Around" is adapted to the rainforest setting and can be read poetically or sung out loud. While the song itself uses very simple terms, there are sidebars on each page that describe in more detail certain animals or plants that are talked about in the song.


Jaguar in the Rainforest by Joanne Ryder; Illustrated by Michael Rothman

Well written and beautifully illustrated, this book takes students into the life of a jaguar, one of the most feared predators in the rainforest. As the jaguar travels around the rain forest, the students learn about the climate, animals and plants that surround him in his habitat.


This website is a great resource for habitats in general (links can be found at the top of the page), but especially for studying the rainforest. Unlike other sites that I have seen, this one introduces the idea of temperate versus tropical rainforests and gives plenty of information on the climate, plants, animals, and life of each.

Although it would take some scaffolding and direction on the teachers part because it is a dense website, this site is a great resource. It is put out by National Geographic and is chock full of beautiful pictures and great information.

Run by a former teacher, this site answers lots of questions about what a rainforest is, why they are disappearing, and why they are an important part of our world. There is also a cute section of the website called "Mongy's Adventures" that follows a little tree frog through the rainforest.

This website is a great resource for very specific information about aspects of the rainforest. It is split into three sections: geosystem, ecosystem, and researchers. Each category is broken down into lots of smaller topics and the information presented is very detailed and complete.

This site is one of few interactive websites that I could find about the rainforest. It is run by PBS and is based on the Amazon. Students can click on different parts of the Amazon to learn about them or can play a game based on a journey into the Amazon.

Teacher Resources

This list of student activities was put out by the Rainforest Action Network and has some really neat ideas. The ones that caught my eye were the rainforest pen pals and the create your own rainforest in your classroom!

Thinking Fountain created this cute activity to help students learn about the layers of the rainforest and the animals that live there.

Webquests are always a hit with students, and this one is great. It is specifically aimed at third grade and sends them on a journey to broadcast a TV show on the "Rainforest Explorer Network".

If your students need a great visual of the rainforest, this site provides different video clips of animals in the rainforest. They are quick to load and don't require downloading!

Oceans: Physical Characteristics

The ocean is always a fun topic for students to study. In fifth grade, the ocean’s environment is investigated. The resources below focus on the physical characteristics of the ocean (SOL 5.6b). There are sources that highlight salinity, currents, and the depths of the ocean water. These resources are intended to help deepen students’ understanding of the vast ocean and its components.

Text Annotations


Oceans by Seymour Simon is a great book to introduce ocean characteristics to fifth graders. As Simon points out, 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by one big ocean. In the book, the moon’s power over the tides is demystified while different types of waves are explored. Through its beautiful satellite and computer enhanced pictures and kid-friendly text, Oceans is a great resource for students and teachers alike.


Eyewitness Books: Ocean  by Miranda MacQuitty and photographed by Frank Greenaway is an extensive and highly comprehensive look at the ocean and its amazing characteristics. Thirty two subjects are visited in two page layouts, including sea meadows and seabeds. Great explanations about waves, weather, sea temperatures are included with pictures, photos, graphs, and pertinent text. Salinity is addressed while ocean depths are charted out with a colorful simulation graph. As aforementioned this book really examines many aspects of the ocean’s environment. This is a must read.


Oceans by Ann Heinrichs examines the physical characteristics of the ocean.  In this thrity-two page book characteristics such as pressure, depths, currents, and tides are highlighted. Heinrich analyzes these characteristics through a mathematical point of view.  Oceans examines why these characteristics are not only important to the ocean but to the planet as well. Heinrichs combines the explanations of the ocean’s pressure, depths, and currents with the examination of environmental concerns. The reading and comprehension level is appropriate for fifth grade students.


Insiders Ocean (The Insider Series) by Beverly McMillan and John A. Musick. This visually stunning book contains fun ocean factoids. The books is split up into three main categories: A Watery World, Ocean Life, and Exploring the Oceans. The first section is especially important when studying ocean characteristics. This section has spreads on underwater landscapes, ocean in motion, and ocean climates. Readers young and old alike will enjoy both the stunning visuals as well as the interesting information provided.


Did you know that there are mountains under the ocean? Science Files: Oceans by Anita Ganeri anwsers this question and many more relating to the ocean. Everything  from currents to the ocean’s ecosystem is covered by the award-winning author. Ganeri provides bonuses such as a website page as well as an “Amazing facts” page in order to entice students further in their ocean investigation. Within the thirty-two pages, the ocean’s physical characteristics are covered in this dynamic format.

Web Annotations

Current Capers
This BBC interactive website is great for letting students explore the ocean’s currents and the animals who take advantage of those currents. A map with moving currents is shown and the point of the game is to guess where certain animals will go along those currents. It is a fun way to get students to think about how the currents effect ocean animals and their migrations.

Ocean Zones
This site is part of the Extreme Science website. This website will allow students to explore the different zones and depths of the ocean. The depths are split up into four zones: Sunlight, Twilight, Midnight and Deep Sea Trench Zone. The depths (in meters) and the characteristics of each zone are investigated. In the Twilight, Midnight and Deep Sea Trench Zone sections, there are videos to accompany the text and picture visuals. Students will enjoy comparing and contrasting the different depths and exploring the characteristics and creatures that live at each zone.

Motion in the Ocean
This site is apart of the Discover Channel website. “Motion in the Ocean” explores ocean currents (Gulf Stream) while explaining the currents and its effect on salinity and temperature of different parts of the ocean. Along with a great description, a 3D globe is used to show the warm and cool currents as well as displaying temperature through color coding. the globe can be manipulated in order to see different currents at different parts of the globe. Not only is this website extremely helpful in explaining currents but also helps show the co-dependency of the ocean’s physical characteristics.

Ocean: Salinity and other Characteristics
This website offers a great explanation of the salinity of the ocean water. The text might be challenging for some but the information is incredibly useful. At the bottom of each page there is an arrow. This arrow will lead students to explanations about water pressure, temperature and, density. There is also a quiz at the end for students to check their understanding of the information provided within the site.

Climate Kids: What is happening in the ocean?
This NASA kids website allows children to put the oceans characteristics into perspective. This website poses and answers about the oceans Conveyor Belt and salinity and their effects on the plant’s climate. The text is easy to understand while covering the important points in relation to the ocean’s water. The relationship between currents and salinity are also highlighted. This website is a good way to put the ocean water’s characteristics into context.

Additional Resources for Teachers

Ocean Currents Lesson Plan
This website provides a quick lesson plan, including two demonstrations, about the ocean currents. The lesson plan includes currents information pertinent to the demonstrations This lesson plan is appropriate for grades 3-6.

Guide to Oceans
“Guide to Oceans” is a great resource for background information and handouts. The website includes a series of websites concerning ocean water. There is also writing summary handouts about oceans and other related resources links.

Water Temperature
The National Ocean Service Education website has many good sites about the ocean and its physical characteristics. The “Water Temperature” website provides great information about the relationship between temperature of water and oxygen levels. The site also has good animation that simulates how increasing temperature affects the concentration of oxygen in water.

Understanding Density and Salinity Lesson Plan
This is a great lesson plan/ experiment in order to teach fifth graders about density and salinity. This lesson will help students understand that density causes a liquid to be heavier and that dissolved minerals cause the density of the liquid to be greater.


Volcanoes are an intriguing and dangerous part of our world. While most students will never experience first hand the effects of a volcano, books and activities can better help the students to understand the devastating effects a volcano can have and the awesome power they hold. The following books and resources can help deepen a students knowledge about volcanoes from the beginning signs to the aftermath. The books and resources are intended to be used in a 5th grade classroom (SOL 5.7).

Recommended Books:

Magic School Bus Blows Its Top by Joanna Cole and Illustrated by Bruce Degen

 Magic School Bus

Ms. Frizzle and her class dive into another adventure in this book. The class takes a trip underwater into an active volcano where they see first hand all the inner workings of a volcano. After seeing the inside of the volcano, the class erupts with the magma and lava and watches as a new island is formed. The book is full of facts and lively characters that will keep the students engaged as they learn about volcanoes.

Why do Volcanoes Blow Their Tops? by Melvin Berger and Gilda Berger


In this book, students can get answers to the most intriguing questions they may have about volcanoes. The book is in a question and answer format and will entertain students with facts and details about volcanoes while also having full pages of art showing and demonstrating all the answers talked about in the book.

Volcanoes by Seymour Simon


This book while being on a lower reading level for 5th graders , has stunning photographs of volcanoes that will help bring them to life. This is a great material to use as a lead-in to discussions about volcanoes. The text gives accurate and useful information on each page that will capture the attention of the students as they see the pictures of the volcanoes.

Vacation Under the Volcano by Mary Pope Osborne


In this book, Jack and Annie go back in time to save a story from the city of Pompeii just as Mt. Vesuvius starts to erupt. The book while make-believe helps students see the destruction that occurs to areas near volcanoes. The story is very well written and will capture students’ attention from beginning to end.

The Day the World Exploded: The Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa by Simon Winchester and Jason Chin


This book adapted for children, looks into the destruction that occurred hundreds of years ago when volcano Krakatoa erupted. The book details the signs that the volcano would explode right up to the aftermath of a volcanic explosion including shock waves and tsunamis that reached as far as France.

Recommended Websites for Students:

Volcano Explorer: The Discovery Kids Pompeii website has interactive tools on volcanoes for students to click through. The top three links; global perspective, volcano types and inside a volcano show the volcanoes outside in, allowing students to click through the links and gain valuable information about the inner workings of the volcano. The build your own volcano link allows the students to create their own volcano based on viscosity and gas levels and then watch the type of eruptions these conditions would create.

The Supervolcano Game: The BBC website offers an interactive game that allows students to try and prepare for the eruption of a volcano. The scenario allows students to try and prevent the most amount of damage for the town with limited amount of time and resources. The student can then play out the scenario and see the damage that the volcano creates for the town. At the end of the game, students learn other effective ways to prevent human loss and how well their efforts worked.

Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus Volcano Game: This Scholastic website offers students an interactive game that teaches fun volcano facts while also letting students enjoy a fun filled game. Students will navigate the Magic School Bus through volcanic tubes to try and find a way out of the maze inside the volcano.

Scholastic Volcano Lab: This Scholastic website game is an interactive game in which students are asked general knowledge questions about volcanoes. As the students get correct answers they can see the magma chambers start to move on their own volcano until enough correct answers create an explosion. If the student does not get enough correct answers in a certain amount of time the volcano will fizzle out and not erupt.

Discovery Earth Volcanoes: This Discovery website offers students a chance to click around, read information and see pictures of the top 10 volcanoes in geologic history. Each page has a different volcano on it, and gives students pertinent facts about the volcano itself and the explosion(s) of the past or present. The website also has great pictures of each volcano which offers the students a chance to see the volcano when it is not erupting.

Additional Teacher Resources:

Volcanoes: Natures Explosive Spectacles! This Education World website has tons of ideas for teachers when teaching a volcano unit. It lists classroom activities as well as worksheets and ideas for teaching volcanoes from how they form, to inside the volcano, to types of eruptions. The website also integrates other subjects like math and reading into the lesson plans.

Volcano Web cams This website is a great resource for teachers, it has pictures of eruptions as well as links for web cams in active volcanoes and volcanoes located in the United States.

Volcano Classroom Activities and Lesson Plans This website has many links for interactive classroom ideas on volcanoes especially from websites such as the Smithsonian Institute and USGS (US Geological Survey); its also has ideas for classroom activities involving volcanoes and notable volcanoes that are currently in the news.

Volcano World This website comes from Oregon State University where they have complied lesson plans, virtual tours of volcanoes, volcano model ideas, FAQ’s, volcano factoids and maps of volcanoes to help students further explore volcanoes.

The Solar System



The topic of space can be interesting and even thrilling when presented in the correct manner. In the fourth grade students are learning about our solar system. They will learn about the planets that revolve around the sun, including their order, size, and properties. They will also study the relationships between the sun, the earth, and the moon. The most important vocabulary terms for this SOL (4.7) are revolution and rotation.


Our Solar System by Seymour Simon


Seymour Simon is an award winning author who worked with the Smithsonian Institution to create a newly revised book on space. Our Solar System is the perfect introductory book for students as they begin learning about space. The book is filled with gorgeous pictures taken from space. They images will captivate the young audience and intrigue them, pushing them to learn further. Each of the 8 planets receives a brief introduction. While this book does not give incredibly detailed lessons on the planets, it piques students’ curiosity.

 Earth: Our Planet in Space by Seymour Simon


Another book by Seymour Simon, Earth: Our Planet in Space explores our Earth, Sun and Moon. As students study the planets, they will inevitably question “why isn’t there life on other planets.” This book delves into the unique position of our earth in space, and the reasons why we can survive here, why there is day and night, and much more. Stunning photography keeps students interested as they read the information.

The Moon by Seymour Simon


Introductory facts about our moon are set off by newly colored photographs (the first edition from 1984 was black and white). Students will enjoy learning new things about the moon. This book is a perfect way to start a lesson. It’s easy to read alone or with a friend before delving into a classroom discussion.

 Footprints on the Moon by Alexandra Siy


Filled with humorous quotes from astronauts, and interesting accounts from previous apollo missions, Footprints on the Moon gives students their first introduction to space exploration. It gives students a brief history of rocketry, and inspires the idea that there is still so much to discover about our universe.

 Uranus – the Seventh Planet by Michael D. Cole


Uranus – the Seventh Planet is part of a series that explores every planet in our solar system. Each book takes students through the features, sizes and moons of each planet. Close up pictures gives students a sense of the magnitude, beauty, and mystery that surround the planets.

 Teacher Resources

Think of fun lessons and hands on activities to use as you explore space with you class. This site offers lesson plans for activities that will get students directly involved. On the left side-bar, click on any of the outer space subjects that you want to focus on for the class.

 This resource lets you explore each planet.  It gives teachers a brief overview of the planets, with fun facts and important details to share with the class. The website is perfect for a quick review before creating or teaching a lesson.

Another resource shows teachers how to make homemade craters with their class.  This is a great activity for fourth graders; they can get a little messy, while still understanding the “impact” that craters make, and utilizing their math skills.

This resource gives teacher’s ideas for livening up the classroom. It features lesson ideas, as well as fun activities and projects to do as a class.

Resources for Kids


Discover what will be in tonight’s sky.  A short video clip will show students where they can find certain constellations and planets in the sky. The video will be relevant for whatever date they view it on.

Students will love competing in the Moon Olympics.  This game shows students how gravity effects our lives. In a silly and fun way, students can discover what sports would be like in space.

Students can complete this puzzle to show that they know the order and location of the planets in our solar system.

This memory/matching game asks students to match the picture of an object with its vocabulary term.

This interactive website gives student the basic important facts about each of the 9 planets (it includes Pluto) and our sun. The resource is easy to read, interesting, and animated to keep the students focused.