Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Annotated Bib - Water

Water is one of the most essential elements to our life. We need it to drink, bathe and keep our plants alive. In first grade, we will explore many of its properties: sinking and floating, what will dissolve in water, the water cycle, and much more. Although there is a lot of information to learn, we are lucky because there are a TON of great books, websites and experiments for us to use!


A Drop of Water. By Gordon Morrison. Illus. by the Author. 2006. 32 p. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, (0618585575). Gr. K-2.
A Drop of water is a great way to teach many different aspects of science. In this imaginative tale, we follow the trail of rainwater from the top of a mountain all of the way down to a stream. Personally, my favorite thing about this book is the imaginative pictures. It's a must have for any science lovers collection.

Mr. Archimedes' Bath. By Pamela Allen. Illus. by the Author. 1994. 32p. Puffin, (9780140501629). Gr. 1-3
This book is a humorous way to introduce water displacement to your first graders. If you love Who Sank the Boat?, then you will love this book by the same author.

The Magic School Bus At the Waterworks By Joanna Cole. Illus. by Bruce Degen. 1988. 40 p. Scholastic Paperback, (9780590403603). Gr. 1-3.
In this fun adventure, zany teacher Miss Frizzle takes her students on another field trip to explain the water cycle. Each student turns into water droplets, water vapor, clouds, and finally into rain. This book allows students to learn all about the stages of water while letting their imagination run wild.

The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story. By Neil Waldman. Illus. by the Author. 2003. 32 pg. Millbrook Press, (9780761323471). Gr. K- 2.
Take a journey through the different stages of the water cycle. This fantastical story begins with a single droplet of water and its journey throughout the year as rain, a pond, a snowflake and even to the faucet. A great way to show how we get the water we drink as well as the natural water cycle.

Who sank the boat?. By Pamela Allen. Illustrated by the Author. 1996. 32 p. Puffin, (9780698113732). Gr. K-2.
This book is a must-read when covering floating and sinking in your first grade classroom. Follow five animal friends as they each try to get into a boat. Do you know who sank the boat?

Honorable Mention: 

Hot as an Ice Cube By Philip Balestrino. Illus. by Tomie de Paola. 1971. 33pg. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, (0690404158). Gr.1-4.
I give this book an honorable mention because, although it is filled with great facts about water and its different states (steam, vapor, ice, liquid), it may be very difficult for you to find. It has the amazing illustrations of the beloved artist, Tomie de Paola, of Strega Nona fame. The examples the book uses are very easy for children of the lower grade levels to understand and makes science fun and interesting. If you are able to get your hands on it, definitely check it out.

Web Sites

Changing State
This website allows students to see water changing from a solid to a liquid to a gas and back again at the quick click of a button. Instantly satisfying and clear to follow, this will be a great way to solidify their knowledge of what it takes to make water change its form. Be careful not to do the quiz, though; since the website is made in Europe, they measure temperature in Celsius and does not match with American standards.

Experiment: Turn Salt Water into Drinking Water
In this fun experiment, kids will see just how salt water can be turned into drinking water through evaporation and condensation. They will be able to see first hand how the water cycle works. A note to add: you may need to wait overnight for the experiment to be complete.

Flash Water Cycle
When teaching the water cycle to your first graders, be sure to have this website bookmarked. Its a great tool for quick reference and explanation for students who may need some visuals to understand these concepts. The graphics are eye catching and the information is basic enough to understand on all levels.

Float or Sink Game
The BBC has put up a short game perfect for first grade attention spans. Follow Digger and the Gang on their boat and discover what items they have will float and which will sink in water. Learners will discover why an item will sink or float. Perfect for indivualized computer time.

The Magic School Bus Wet All Over, A Complimenting Experiment
After reading The Magic School Bus' "Wet All Over" consider following up with the experiment on the preceding page. Here they learn about what happens to water when it is heated up and cooled in a neat hands-on-approach. Key terms they will learn are condensation and evaporation.

For Teachers
VA Standards of Learning
1.3 The student will investigate and understand how different common materials interact with water. Key concepts include:
a) some liquids will separate when mixed with water, but other will not;
b) some solids will dissolve in water, but others will not; and
c) some substances will dissolve more readily in hot water than in cold water

Background Information from the Curriculum Framework

  •  Different types of materials act differently when mixed with water.
  •  Some liquids will mix with water, while others will not.
  •  Some solids will dissolve in water, while others will not.
  •  The temperature of the water affects how easily a substance will dissolve (to mix with a liquid so that the result is a liquid is the same throughout). 

Annotated Bib - Matter

There are three states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases. These states can be easily understood by young children most easily in relation to the weather. Children are often intrigued by the different forms of precipitation and condensation but do not understand the concept. By studying matter through weather and other simple activities, young children will get an idea of the different properties.

Some of the books and activities listed below will help your students better understand this cycle and the idea of solids, liquids, and gases. There are resources for both students and teachers.

Matter is studied throughout Elementary school and beyond. The focus of this blog is for young children and more specifically fits into the 2nd grade Virginia Standards of Learning.

A Drop of Water. By Walter Wicks. Illus. by the author. 1997. 40p. Scholastic Press, (9780590221979). Gr. 1-5.
Walter Wick introduces water as mysterious. He proposes interesting characteristics of water using beautiful photography. He explains water using scientific language that children may begin to understand. This is a more advanced book but teachers can choose excerpts to use during class.

It’s Science! Solid, Liquid, or Gas? By Sally Hewitt. Illus. by the author. 1998. 32p. Children’s Press, (9780516263939). Gr. K-3.
This book introduces solids, liquids, and gases using definitions and simple, everyday objects to help children understand matter. There are questions, explanations, and activities for children throughout the book.

Liquids in My World. By Joanne Randolph. Illus. by the author. 2007. 24p. The Rosen Publishing Group, (9781404284270). Gr. K-3.
Helps children understand what a liquid is, where we see liquids, and helpful vocabulary to go along with understanding liquids.

Splish Splash. By Joan Bransfield Graham. Illus. by Steve Scott. 2001. 40p. Sandpiper, (9780618111237). Gr. K-2.
This is a cute and creative book about the different states of matter using poetry. The words are strewn in with the pictures to emphasize the poems using words.

The Water’s Journey. By Eleonore Schmid. Illus. by the author. 1994. 32p. North-South/Night Sky Books, (9781558583603). Gr. 1-3.
This book paints a picture of water’s journey in the world. It begins with the water falling from the sky, running along rivers and waterfalls to the ocean, and comes full circle with the evaporation and precipitation again.

Web Sites
Fossweb Solids and Liquids
On this page you can find an interactive game for students, common questions and answers related to matter, as well as links to images, movies, audio, and other websites.

PBS Teachers Exploring Weather
Ideas for the classroom and links for students and teachers can be found on this webpage.

This site includes activities for students involving melting ice and boiling water. It also contains an interactive game to help understand the changing states of matter, how to keep an ice cube from melting, and other helpful links for teachers and students.

Second Grade Science Activities
This web page is a great resource for classroom Science activities. There are two activities included which relate to this lesson, one called Puddle Science which studies evaporation, and another called States of Matter in a Baggie which shows students an example of freezing, melting, condensation, and evaporation.

Study Jams! Solids, Liquids, and Gases
This website is helpful for students. It explains what matter is and includes a video, song, quiz, and vocabulary. It also includes a lesson plan and teacher guide to help with teaching matter.

For Teachers
Science Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools
2.3 The Student will investigate and understand basic properties of solids, liquids, and gases. Key concepts include
a) identification of distinguishing characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases;
c) changes in phases of matter with the addition or removal of energy.

Background Information from Curriculum Framework
- Matter most commonly occurs in three phases: solids, liquids, and gases.
- Matter can change from one phase to another.
- When matter changes from one phase to another, these changes are referred to as physical changes.
- Changes from solid to liquid to gas require the addition of energy.

Annotated Bib - Electricity and Magnetism

This annotated bibliography will focus on conductors and insulators and basic circuitry and different historical contributions to electricity. We will also look at static electricity and the ability for electrical energy to be transformed into light and motion and to produce heat. This also looks at how a complete circuit is made and how electricity can be used to manufacture heat.

Batteries, Bulbs, and Wires Young Discoverers: Science Facts and Experiments, By David Glover, 2002, 31 p. Kingfisher, Gr. 2, (0753455102).
A great review or introduction into magnetism and electricity and how they are connected this book also goes over basic circuits. This book has plenty of photographs and clear illustrations that will help your child understand and visually grasp the concepts well.

Battery Science: Make Widgets that Work and Gadgets That Go, Doug Stillinger, 2003, 56 p. Klutz, Gr. 4, (1591742517)
This is book is awesome! The experiments alone are fun for the whole family and also educational for the children. The book comes with a kit that will provide you with items to do some of the experiments, however most experiments should be done under the supervision of an adult. If your child is a visual learner this is the book for them because of the illustrations and step by step explanations to each process will aide your child in discovering the most awesome scientific methods and understanding behind battery power

Conductors and Insulators, Angela Royston, Angela Royston, 2003, 32 p. Heinemann Library, Gr. 3 (1403408513).
This book talks about which materials conduct electicity and looks at everyday objects around the house that are conductors. This book also looks into why wires are covered with plastic and other such safety information that is helpful to how circuits work.

Elementary Physics - Magnetism, Ben Morgan, Ben Morgan, 2003, 24 p. Blackbirch Press, Gr. 4 (1410300803).
This book will take a look at the forces that exist in nature and how magnetism is used in everyday objects. This is great for showing kids good visual examples of magnetism and allow kids to see how magnetism and the forces of nature can apply to life. This is great for any upper elementary kid, as it will co-inside with their SOL.

What Makes a Magnet? Franklyn M. Branley, True Kelley, 1990, 32 p. Collins, Gr. 2 and up, (0054451488)
Its actually an interesting book. It's good to read around bedtime to your kid or after school to reinforces a science lesson at school. It isn't the most detailed thing but it is super engaging when the kid co-insides the story with the experiments in the book. This book comes with a story that explain how magnets work and some additional experiments for the parent and the kid to do together. This is great if you wanna spend some good bonding time with your child.

Science Made Simple
This website goes over the components of static electricity for kids. It even has age appropriate illustrations to help further points as well as clear explanations for concepts. The website reviews everything is made of atoms and the parts of an atom and what role they play in life. From there the website goes into electrical charges and how those charges can make electrons move and cause static electricity. This is a great resource for a fallow up to a science.

Brain Pop
This is an awesome website that helps kids look into how electricity can form heat and be the power source to make things go. This website includes many games and illustration and kid friendly videos to aide your child in exploring the world of electricity and science.

Thomas Edison
This is a biographical website examining the life of Thomas Edison. It’s very kid friendly and a great print out for kids when teaching them about the innovators of electicity in a histocial context. This is a great tool for looking at the history of electicity and how it plays a role in our life today.

Insulators and Conductors
A great website for looking at insulators and conductors and also a easy read for any 4th grader who wants to learn about electic current and other things electic. This website alo includes illustrations and is a good printout for the classroom. This website also examines the differnces between postive and negitive electrons.

Explain That Stuff: Electricity and Static Electicity
This website goes into the basic understanding of electicity and
static electricity. The website also provides visual aides and fun
facts to share with the kids. Illustrations include how circuits work
and how the flow of electrons can create a circuit. The website also
looks into what materials are conductive.

For Teachers

VA Standards of Learning 4.3 The student will investigate and understand the characteristics of electricity.
a. Conductors and insulators
b. Basic circuits
c. Static electricity
d. The ability of electrical energy to be transformed into light and motion and to produce heat
e. Simple electromagnets and magnetism
f. Historical contributions in understanding electricity

Background Information from Curriculum Framework
  • A continuous flow of negative charges (electrons) creates an electric current. The pathway taken by an electric current is a circuit. Closed circuits allow the movement of electrical energy. Open circuits prevent the movement of electrical energy.
  • Electrical energy moves through materials that are conductors (metals). Insulators (rubber, plastic, wood) do not conduct electricity well.
  • Among conducting materials, energy passes more or less easily because of the material's resistance.
  • Rubbing certain materials together creates static electricity.
  • Lightning is the discharge of static electricity in the atmosphere.
  • Electrical energy can be transformed into heat, light, or mechanical energy.
  • Certain iron-bearing metals attract other such metals (also nickel and cobalt).
  • Lines of force extend from the poles of a magnet in an arched pattern defining the area over which magnetic force is exerted.
  • An electric current creates a magnetic field, and a moving magnetic field creates an electric current.
  • A current flowing through a wire creates a magnetic field. Wrapping a wire around certain iron-bearing metals (iron nail) and creating a closed circuit is an example of a simple electromagnet.
  • Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, and Thomas Edison made important discoveries about electricity.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Annotated Bib - Historical Contributions in Understanding Electricity

It is important for students to understand the historical background of important scientific concepts. This is true for a variety of reasons. First, it puts seemingly abstract concepts into a historical and more relatable context. Secondly, it gives students opportunities to relate science and social studies instruction in a way that is meaningful and hopefully interesting. Finally, the tandem use of science and history give students opportunities to learn about a diverse group of historical groups and figures.

The books and web resources to follow can be used in 4th grade classrooms for the study of electricity. Various activities are referenced in the web resources section and several different types of literature (i.e. historical fiction, nonfiction, etc.) can be found in the list of books given. These resources will allow students to delve deeper into the historical aspects of one of the most interesting scientific concepts - electricity.


A Wizard From the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison. By Don Brown. 2010. 32p. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, (9780547194875). Gr. 2-4.

This picture book goes through the youth of Thomas Edison, from his early difficulties in school to his many inventions all the way up to his invention of the light-bulb. The book portrays Edison as a hard-working young man who persevered through inventions involving electricity that were seen by others as "flops". The books ends with his invention of the light bulb along with several other inventions involving electricity and emphasizes how a curious mind combined with a solid work-ethic can change the world.

Ben Franklin's Adventures with Electricity. By Beverly Birch. 1996. 48p. Barron's Educational Series. , (9780812097900). Ages 9-12.

This book is for the more advanced fourth-grader. There is a lot of information packed onto its pages, but Birch's writing adds drama to Franklin's story. The story touches on several electricity concepts and how they relate to Franklin, including static electricity and the various conductors of electricity.

Blackout! Cities in Darkness. By Therese De Angelis. 2003. 48p. Enslow Publishers, (9780766021105). Ages 9-12.

Although this book may not seem directly related ot electricity, it does give students a good look at what happens when some of our most taken-for-granted inventions fail. By detailing several historical blackouts, students are shown how important electricity is to our daily lives and all that can go wrong with it. This brings an abstract concept closer to reality, forcing students to think about how we use science every day.

How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning. By Rosalyn Schanzer. 2002. 40p. HarperCollins, (9780688169930). Gr. 2-4.

Schanzer's picture book about Ben Franklin is told in the style of a folk-tale, portraying Franklin as larger-than-life in his many accomplishments. The book takes readers through the many inventions of Ben Franklin, using details about various inventions to hint at his most well-known invention, the lightning rod. The story describes Ben's accomplishment leading up to the inventions of the lightning rod as "stealing lightning out of the sky," which furthers adds to the folksy quality of the book.

Who Really Discovered Electricity? By Amie Jane Leavitt. 2011. 32p. Capstone Press, (9781429662482). Ages 9-12.

This book uses photographs and timelines to inform the reader about several scientists who were involved in early experiments with electricity. This is a good book in that it is not specifically about Ben Franklin or Thomas Edison, but brings other lesser-known scientists into the debate about who really discovered electricity.

Web Resources

This webpage gives basic biographies of important figures in the history of electricity, going beyond the typical information on Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison. This page is a good supplement to information on the more well-known inventors.

This webpage offers in-depth information about Ben Franklin's life and various inventions. There are activities, quizzes and experiments centered around Franklin's contributions to science.

Electric Energy Activity
In this activity, students use a website to compare uses of electricity and energy in the 1740's to the present day. The webpage gives other websites to visit as resources.

Electricity Timeline
This interactive website takes students through the history of electricity, from 600 BC to the present. Students may scroll over pictures for more information and may click on facts that interest them to delve deeper.

This website contains background information on the history of electricity and the many inventions involving electricity throughout the centuries. This is a good page on which students can do their own research on the hisotry of electricity.

For Teachers
VA Standards of Learning
4.3 The student will investigate and understand the characteristics of electricity. Key concepts include:
f) historical contributions in understanding electricity

Background Information from Curriculum Framework
  • Electrical energy moves through materials that are conductors (metals). Insulators (rubber, plastic, wood) do not conduct electricity well.
  • Rubbing certain materials together creates static electricity.
  • Lightning is the discharge of static electricity in the atmosphere.
  • Electrical energy can be transformed into light or motion, and can produce thermal energy
  • Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday, and Thomas Edison made important discoveries about electricity.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Annotated Bib - Phases of Matter

Everything around you is made up of matter. Matter is defined as anything that has mass and takes up space. The three different states of matter are solids, liquids, and gases, and each state has its' own characteristics. Our senses are always helpful when distinguishing one state of matter from another. Though solids, liquids, and gases all have their own unique characteristics, some matter can change from one state to another. This post provides resources that, in addition to characterizing each state of matter, show the effect temperature has on the different states of matter.

While this post focuses on the states of matter at the 5th grade level, this topic also appears in the Virginia Standards of Learning for 2nd grade.

Mandy Mixes It Up With States of Matter: Solids, Liquids, and Gases. By Carol Marsh. 2008. 32p. Gallopade Intl., (9780635066688). Gr. 4-6. 
This activity book is written from the perspective of a group of kids who call themselves the "Science Alliance. This advanced book presents definitions and explanations for the three states of matter, as well as various activities students can complete.

Solids, Liquids, and Gases . By Ginger Garrett, Linda Bullock. 2005. 32p. Scholastic Library Publishing, (9780516246635). Gr 2-6. 
This simple and direct text uses water, a candle, and the human body to illustrate the three different phases of matter.

States of Matter: A Question and Answer Book.
By Fiona Bayrock. Illus. by Anne McMullen, Ted Williams. 2007. 32p. Capstone Press, (9781429602273). Gr. 3-6. 
This picture book introduces the composition of matter, the different states, and the effects of changing states.

What Is the World Made Of? All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases. By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld. Illus. by Paul Meisel. 1998. 32p. Harper Collins Publishers, (9780064451635). Gr. 2-5. 
"Walls and blocks, dolls and socks. Milk and lemonade. Rocks and tress. All of these things are made of matter" (6). Water is matter that can easily change its state depending on the temperature; but most matter stays as one state.

What's the Matter in Mr. Whiskers' Room? . By Michael Elsohn Ross. Illus. by Paul Meisel. 2007. 48p. Candlewick Press, (9780763635664). Gr. 2-5.  
When Mr. Whiskers prepares to teach his science class about matter, he sets up various learning stations in the classroom and on the playground. Mr. Whiskers' students get to travel around to each station and experiment with the different forms of matter. Directions for setting up each learning station are included in the book.

Web Sites
This site gives characteristics of each state of matter, as well as a description and explanation of particle movement in solids, liquids, and gases.

Information for Properties of, and Changes in, Matter
At this site, teachers can gain background information on matter, get ideas from provided lesson plans and student activities. This site includes additional resources and websites for teachers who seek to better their understanding of, and ability to teach, matter.

This game will allow students to categorize words and phrases in relation to each state of matter. Students will learn how to associate different vocabulary with the different states.

This web site includes an interactive video about solids, liquids, and gases, as well as the effects of temperature on the states. Also on this site is a song about the states of matter and the changes that can occur from one state to another. In addition, provided is a short vocabulary list of words to consider when thinking about the states of matter. Lastly, the site contains a short quiz that covers the states of matter.

Teaching Matter
This site contains several lesson plan ideas from various teachers who have taught matter at various grade levels.

For Teachers
Virginia Science Standards of Learning
5.4 The student will investigate and understand that matter is anything that has mass and takes pus space; and occurs as a solid, liquid, or gas. Key concepts include
a) distinguishing properties of each phase of matter;
b) the effect of temperature on the phases of matter

Background Information from Curriculum Framework
Grade 2
  • Matter is anything that has mass and takes up space.
  • Matter comes in three different forms: solids, liquids, and gases. Solids hold their shape, liquids and gases have no shape.
  • Some matter can change its state with the presence of more energy and vice versa.
Grade 5
  • Particles in a solid are bonded tightly together, and usually have a specific pattern. These particles do vibrate, but do not move from place to place.
  • Particles in a liquid are close together, but have no particular arrangement. Liquid particles vibrate and slide past one another.
  • Particles in a gas are well separated with no regular arrangement. These particles move freely and rapidly throughout.
  • A rise in temperature can cause a solid to melt and turn into a liquid, and cause a liquid to turn into a gas.
  • A decrease in temperature can cause a liquid to turn into a solid.

Fibonacci Retold - The Rabbit Problem

The back cover of this book includes the following statement.
The Rabbit Problem
This book is based on
a problem that was solved in
the 13th Century by the
Mathematician Fibonacci,
but it is NOT (I repeat NOT)
a book about math.
It is a book about rabbits. . .
Lots of rabbits!
Emily Gravett may not see this as a math book, but I respectfully disagree and see this as a terrific book for a math lesson or two!

The first thing you'll notice about this book is that it has a hole drilled through the right edge about halfway down. When I first saw this I was outraged! I couldn't believe I'd been sent a damaged book! I was a bit embarrassed when I opened the book to realize that it was set up like a calendar, complete with the holes from which a calendar would normally hang.

The book opens in January with one lonely rabbit sitting in a field. A field with a signpost that reads Fibonacci's Field / Population 1. Next to this sign is another that reads NO Rabbits may leave the field. This is, of course, the top portion of the calendar which usually contains a picture. The bottom portion is the January calendar. Under the name of the month is the subtitle The Lonely (adjective inserted with a caret) Rabbit Problem. Affixed to the calendar page is an invitation that reads:
Join me!
The Field
To be my friend
Right now!
from Lonely Rabbit
In February, readers find two rabbits, huddled together and covered in snow. The population of the field now is 1 pair. The subtitle for the month is The Cold (adjective inserted with a caret) Rabbit Problem. Attached to this page is knitting pattern for a rabbit hoodie!

You can see where this is going, right? In March there are 2 pairs of rabbits, in April 3 pairs, in May 5 pairs, and so on. By November the calendar and field are covered by a mass of rabbits, 89 pairs in all. (I didn't count them, but I was tempted!) I won't spoil the ending by telling you about December. Let me just say that it is very satisfying.

In part this book reminds me a bit of Gravett's book Meerkat Mail, as a number of the calendar pages have small booklets to open and explore.  I'm quite taken with the ration book in May and The Fibber (newspaper) in July.

There is much to explore in this book. While not a traditional read aloud (the tale is largely wordless), the story told through the illustrations and artifacts on the calendar is humorous and vastly creative.

As to ideas for math lessons, you'll find the calendar here, patterns in Fibonacci numbers, graphing (in the ration book and The Fibber), tally marks of the carrot count in September (why not tally count the rabbits?), and more. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Annotated Bib - Food Chains

A food chain shows the ways in which the organisms in an ecosystem interact with one another according to what they eat. When a series of food chains weave together in an ecosystem they are collectively known as a food web. While there are many good nonfiction books about food chains (just ask your school  librarian for some suggestions), I am partial to picture books and poetry on the subject. This post suggests some books and web resources that can support instruction in this area.

In VA, food chains are found in the Standards of Learning in grade 3. They are seen again in grade 4 when students study food webs, and again in grade 5 when students  study the ecological characteristics of the ocean environment. The resources in this post are most appropriate for grades 3 and 4. (SOL and Background Info at end of post.)

Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds: The Story of a Food Web. By Victoria Crenson. Illus. by Annie Cannon. 2009. 34p. Marshall Cavendish, (9780761455523). Gr. 2-5.
While mainly about a shoreline food web on the Delaware Bay, this book also does a fine job describing the life cycle of the horseshoe crab.  Horseshoe crab eggs serve as an important component of a web in which migrating shorebirds, fish, and other animals feed on the eggs. While these animals feed on the eggs, they are in turn eaten by predatory birds (herons and a falcon).

Pond Circle. By Besty Franco. Illus. by Stefano Vitale. 2009. 32p. Margaret K. McElderry, (9781416940210). Gr. 1-3.
Using a form that follows "The House that Jack Built," this rhyming text explores a food chain around the pond near a young girl's house. Here is an excerpt. "This is the frog / the loud bullfrog / that gobbled the beetle / that ate the nymph / that nibbled the algae / that grew in the water / that filled the pond / by Anna's house." 

The Story Goes On. By Aileen Fisher. Illus. by Mique Moriuchi. 2005. 32p. Roaring Brook Press, (9781596430372). Gr. preK-3.
This book begins with a seed, which sprouts and is then is eaten by a bug, which is grabbed by a frog, which is swallowed by a snake, and so on, and so on up the food chain. In the end, it's the decomposers that get to work on what remains.

Trout Are Made of Trees. By April Pulley Sayre. Illus. by Kate Endle. 2008. 32p. Charlesbridge Publishing, (9781580891370). Gr. 1-4.
What happens when leaves fall from a tree and land in a stream? "They ride in a rush above rocks and over rapids. They snag and settle soggily down." From here they become food for bacteria and a home for algae. They are further broken down by little critters, like crane flies, caddisflies, shrimp and stoneflies. These critters are eaten by predators. Guess where those leaves are now? When the predators are eaten by trout, the trout are made of trees.

Vulture View. By April Pulley Sayre. Illus. by Steve Jenkins. 2007. 32p. Henry Holt and Co., (9780805075571). Gr. K-3.
Scavengers and decomposers play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. In helping to break down dead organisms, they are responsible for returning basic nutrients to the soil so that they may reenter the chain. In this book, we get a glimpse of the scavenging role that vultures play, along with some poetry and interesting facts about these oft maligned birds.

What's For Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems From the Animal World. By Katherine Hauth. Illus. by David Clark. 2011. 48p. Charlesbridge, (9781570914720). Gr. 2-5. This collection of 29 poems examines what animals eat and are eaten by.  Not for the faint of heart, or squeamish, the poems provide a realistic, albeit humorous look at  the natural order of things. Included in the back matter is an explanation of some of the more difficult concepts and vocabulary (symbiosis, mutualism, commensalism, etc.). Readers will also find includes information on the subjects of the poems.

Wolf Island. By Celia Godkin. Illus. by the author.  2006. 32p. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, (9781554550081). Gr. 3-6.
What happens when a top predator in well-balanced ecosystem disappears? This story highlights the changes that occur on an island after a family of wolves accidentally leave the island for the mainland. Without predators, there is nothing to keep the deer population in check. When it swells, the deer eat so much grass that rabbits and mice have fewer young. This results in less food for foxes and owls. This is a terrific resource for demonstrating how the balance of an ecosystem can easily be upset. It also does a fine job of explaining why the top predators in a food chain are so important.

Web Sites
Antarctic Ocean Food Web
This site contains a series of short videos that describe different organisms in an ocean food web. 

BBC Bitesize Science - Food Chains Activity
In this activity, kids try to discover the organism at the top of the food chain in a land and sea ecosystem. As the parts of the chain are filled in, information about the animals appears on the screen.

BrainPOP Jr. - Food Chain Lesson Ideas
This page includes background information on food chains and food webs, as well as ideas for teacher activities and family activities. Links to BrainPOP videos are included, but keep in mind that even though one video a day is free, these are generally available only to subscribers.

Chain Reaction - Build a Food Chain
After reading a bit about the organisms that make up the food chain, kids get to try building a chain that might be found in a forest or a northern ecosystem (think Arctic).

Energy Pyramid
This page includes a video that describes the energy pyramid in an ecosystem. It defines producers, herbivores, and carnivores. Once students review this information, they can learn more about energy pyramids of the forest, prairie, and ocean.

The Food Chain Game
Kids drag parts of the food chain into the correct position. Once the chain is complete (and correct), kids can watch it come to life and see the chain in action.

Food Chains
In this activity kids learn about various living things, sort them into different categories and discover where they fit into the food chain. Habitats explored include ocean, forest and desert.

My Science Box - Food Chains
In this food chain lesson, students review the concepts of food chains and the roles of organisms in a food chain through a sorting activity. Cards representing different organisms in a California ecosystem are first sorted by what they eat (herbivore, carnivore, etc.) and then are reordered to create several food chains.

Science NetLinks: Cycle of Life - Food Chain
This lesson focuses on the food chain by helping students understand that almost all kinds of animals’ food can be traced back to plants and that the sun is the ultimate source of energy needed for all organisms to stay alive and grow.

Wild Kratts: Up the Ocean Food Chain!
This short, entertaining video from PBS describes the organisms in a simple ocean food chain.

For Teachers
VA Standard of Learning
3.5    The student will investigate and understand relationships among organisms in aquatic and terrestrial food chains. Key concepts include
a)    producer, consumer, decomposer;
b)    herbivore, carnivore, omnivore; and
c)    predator and prey.

4.5    The student will investigate and understand how plants and animals, including humans, in an ecosystem interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem. Key concepts include
c)    flow of energy through food webs;

Background Information from Curriculum Framework
Grade 3
  • A food chain shows a food relationship among plants and animals in a specific area or environment.
  • Terrestrial organisms are found on land habitats such as deserts, grasslands, and forests. Aquatic organisms are found in water habitats such as ponds, marshes, swamps, rivers, and oceans.
  • A green plant makes its own food using sunlight, air, and water. Green plants are producers.
  • A consumer is an animal that eats living organisms (plant or animal).
  • Certain organisms break down decayed plants and animals into smaller pieces that can be used again by other living organisms. These organisms are decomposers.
  • A food chain, which shows part of a food web, can have an animal that eats only plants (herbivore). It can have an animal that eats only other animals (carnivore). It can also have an animal that eats both plants and animals (omnivore).
  • An animal can hunt other animals to get its food (predator). 
  • An animal can be hunted by another animal for food (prey).
Grade 4
  • Populations of species that live in the same place at the same time together make up a community.
  • The organization of communities is based on the utilization of the energy from the sun within a given ecosystem. The greatest amount of energy in a community is in the producers.
  • Within a community, organisms are dependent on the survival of other organisms. Energy is passed from one organism to another.
  • All the populations and the nonliving components in an environment that interact with each other form an ecosystem.
  • The sun’s energy cycles through ecosystems from producers through consumers and back into the nutrient pool through decomposers.
Grade 5
  • Plankton are tiny free-floating organisms that live in water. Plankton may be animal-like or plant-like. Animal-like plankton are called zooplankton. Plant-like plankton (phytoplankton) carry out most of the photosynthesis on Earth. Therefore, they provide much of Earth’s oxygen. Phytoplankton form the base of the ocean food web. Plankton flourish in areas where nutrient-rich water upwells from the deep.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Annotated Bib - Ordinal Numbers

An ordinal number is a number that names the place or position of an object in a sequence or set (e.g., first, third). While nearly any good picture book can be used to teach ordinal numbers by sequencing events in the story (What did the hungry caterpillar eat first? What is the third thing that happens after you give a mouse a cookie?), finding books that incorporate ordinal numbers as part of the story can be challenging. This post suggests some books and web resources that can support instruction in this area.

In VA, ordinal numbers are found in the Standards of Learning in grades K and 2. The resources in this post are most appropriate for kindergarten. (SOL and Background Info at end of post.)

10 Little Rubber Ducks. By Eric Carle. Illus. by the author. 2005. 36p. Harper Collins, (9780060740757). Gr. preK-1.
Eric Carle took the true story of rubber ducks fallen overboard and imagined their fate. Ducks are identified by ordinal numbers, first through tenth. Also includes cardinal directions and other directional terms.

20 Hungry Piggies: A Number Book. By Trudy Harris. Illus. by Andrew Harris. 2006. 32p. Milbrook Picture Books, (9780822563709). Gr. preK-K.
The wolf from "The Three Little Pigs" shows up at a party attended by lots of piggies, but his plans for dinner are disrupted by the pigs from "This Little Piggy Went to Market." Instead of using the familiar “this little piggy,” readers instead get piggies introduced by ordinal number (the first piggy, second piggy, etc.)
The First Day of Winter. By Denise Fleming. Illus. by the author. 2005. 32p. Henry Holt and Co., (9780805073843). Gr. preK-K.
This variation on The Twelve Days of Christmas highlights the gifts given to a snowman from his young friend. Focuses on ordinal numbers first through tenth.

Henry the Fourth. By Stuart Murphy. Illus. by Scott Nash. 1990. 40p. Harper Collins, (9780064467193). Gr. preK-1.
The most talented dogs on the block perform upon the command of their young owners. The dogs line up for their turns and are identified by ordinal numbers. Henry, of course, performs fourth.
Seven Blind Mice. By Ed Young. Illus. by the author. 2002. 40p. Putnam Juvenile, (9780698118959). Gr. preK-2.
This variation of the blind men and the elephant tale uses mice identified by color and ordinal number.

Web Sites
This site provides a variety of activity ideas for use with the book 10 LITTLE RUBBER DUCKS by Eric Carle.

This site contains a 9 page interactive tutorial exploring ordinal numbers in a variety of ways.

This site contains a number of downloadable materials for use with the book THE LITTLE SCHOOL BUS by Carol Roth. One of the available resources is for ordinal numbers.

This kindergarten lesson plan focuses on ordinal numbers using the book HENRY THE FOURTH by Stuart J. Murphy.

This page contains a number of lesson plans on ordinal numbers using SmartBoard technology.

A worm pokes its head out of an apple. Students must choose the apple hiding the worm by selecting the correct ordinal number word.

This site from Harcourt Math provides background information on teaching ordinal numbers and a narrated teaching model for students.

Students watch a set of toy cars race to the finish and then must drag them to the appropriate ordinal place. This uses first through third place and can be repeated with each race ending in different results.
For Teachers
VA Standard of Learning
K.3 The student, given an ordered set of ten objects and/or pictures, will indicate the ordinal position of each object, first through tenth, and the ordered position of each object.

Background Information from Curriculum Framework
  • Understanding the cardinal and ordinal meanings of numbers are necessary to quantify, measure, and identify the order of objects.
  • An ordinal number is a number that names the place or position of an object in a sequence or set (e.g., first, third). Ordered position, ordinal position, and ordinality are terms that refer to the place or position of an object in a sequence or set.
  • The ordinal position is determined by where one starts in an ordered set of objects or sequence of objects.
  • The ordinal meaning of numbers is developed by identifying and verbalizing the place or position of objects in a set or sequence (e.g., the student’s position in line when students are lined up alphabetically by first name).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Engaging Math Videos at MathTrain.TV

I love it when teachers and their students share the work they are doing. One terrific example is MathTrain.TV. Mathtrain.TV is a free, educational "kids teaching kids" project from Mr. Marcos & his Students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, CA. Here's a sample project.

You can read more about this project in the article entitled Move Over, Sal Khan: Sixth-Graders Create Their Own Math Videos. To learn more about the genesis of this project, take a look at this video.

If you are interested in trying this yourself, you can view some screencasts about how to make screencasts on the MathTrain.TV site. Some of the resources are free, while others must be purchased. Sources referenced include:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

TED Talk - Visual Literacy

For those of you who want to know more about visual literacy, this TED Talk by Brian Kennedy offers a nice overview.

His thoughts connect nicely to my recent post on Graphic Novels.

Visual Literacy - Amazing Earth Infographic

I spend time with my preservice teachers sharing strategies for developing students' visual literacy skills. Analyzing good examples can be a powerful way to help them understand how important these skills are. Here's one of my favorites. It is an "infographic" showing the Earth's surface from the tallest mountain to the deepest trench. I have two words of advice--keep scrolling!

Our Amazing Planet explores Earth from its peaks to it mysterious depths.

Source, Exploring the wonder and beauty of planet Earth through exclusive news, features and images.

To learn more about this topic, check out the site Visual Literacy K-8 and the book Developing Visual Literacy in Science, K-8.

Wolfram|Alpha for Teachers and Kids

I spent some time early this summer playing around with Wolfram|Alpha, a computational knowledge engine. I used it when working on a lesson on measurement, scientific notation and powers of ten. I wanted to know what everyday items were about 1 cm in length, 1 meter in length, 1 km in length, etc. I had answers to these questions very quickly. 

Here's a video that shows you how it works.

This is a terrific resource for teachers, but it can also be used by kids. Check out this post entitled 10 Fun Questions Kids Can Answer with Wolfram|Alpha for some great ideas.

Museum of Mathematics!

Have you seen or heard about this?
That's right, a museum all about math! How cool is that? The Museum of Mathematics will officially open its doors in Manhattan some time next year. Here's the mission of the museum.
Mathematics illuminates the patterns that abound in our world. The Museum of Mathematics strives to enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics. Its dynamic exhibits and programs will stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics. The museum’s activities will lead a broad and diverse audience to understand the evolving, creative, human, and aesthetic nature of mathematics.
You can read more about it in the NY Times article Many Variables in a New York Math Museum.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Back to School We Go! by Ellen Jackson

Illustrator: Jan Davey Ellis
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Publication Date:
Pages: 32 pages
Grades: K-5
Back to school is right around the corner for many kids. As summer's end approaches, minds are on new teachers (who will it be?), new clothes (what will I wear?), school supplies and much more. First day jitters may already be appearing. In my house we have long been anticipating the start of school. Don't get me wrong--summer has been fun, but my boy is ready to go back. To get ready for school we've been reading a bit about what school is like for kids in other countries. It's Back to School We Go!: First Day Stories From Around the World, written by Ellen Jackson and illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis, provides a wonderful introduction to schooling around the world.

The book opens with a world map that highlights the countries that are featured. On each double-page spread that follows, a child is introduced through a first-person narrative of their school day on the left page, while interesting facts about children in that country are presented. Readers meet:
  • Achieng - An 8-year old girl from Kenya
  • Anton - A 7-year old boy from Kazakhstan
  • Kendi - A 6-year old Inuit boy from Nunavut, Canada
  • Jessica - A 9-year old girl from Australia
  • Misaki - A 6-year old girl from Japan
  • Jinsong - An 8-year old boy from China
  • Thomas - A 7-year old boy from Peru
  • Gunther - A 6-year old boy from Germany
  • Rajani - An 8-year old girl from India
  • Nadia - A 7-year old girl from Russia
  • Casey - A 9-year old boy from California (Why CA and not United States?)
The author's note at the beginning of the book provides some information about the children highlighted. It begins:
Each of the eleven children portrayed in this book is a composite of several real individuals. Obviously, every country provides a variety of educational opportunities and no one child can represent them all. Some children live in villages; others in cities. Some schools have computers and science labs; others don't even have desks or books.
Here are just a few of the interesting facts readers will learn from this book:
  • In Kenya, children go to school six days a week, from January to November.
  • In China, students who exhibit good behavior earn red neckerchiefs.
  • The first day of school is a time of celebration in Kazakhstan. Students there bring flowers for their teachers. (Much better than apples, I think!)
  • In the United States, 9 out of 10 children go to public school.
There is an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, as well as a list of web resources. I particularly liked the link to Children's Games from Around the World

Overall, this is a terrific book for thinking about back-to-school and for studying different cultures through a common, shared experience. I recommend pairing it with Margriet Ruurs' book My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend School Around the World. This  title examines how children attend school in 12 different countries. Readers are introduced to a school run over the radio and the Internet, a floating school, a school in the rain forest, one in the jungle, another under a tree, a school in a monastery and more. 

For even more titles, check out my Book Links article entitled Classrooms like Ours—Books about Schools around the World (January 2011). The books in this annotated bibliography will help readers appreciate the similarities and differences that exist. Some of the books represent a cross-cultural view of schooling, while others are more thematic in nature. Still others follow individual children or communities on their educational journeys.