Friday, February 03, 2006

Greg Tang is the author of Math for All Seasons and The Grapes of Math. Tang does a great job of integrating math and poetry. These books are geared towards the primary grades (Kindergarten to grade 3) Children have fun learning about rhyming, riddles and patterns in language and mathematics. These are fun and enjoyable to read. Here is a sample of his writing:
The Grapes of Math

"I stroll along a vineyard path
And there i see the grapes of math
Overhead the sun is blazin',
Soon each grape will be a raisin

How many grapes are on the vine?
Counting each takes too much time
Never fear, I have a hunch
There is a match for every bunch!"

Teaching strategy
These books are cheerful and bright and can be used as an introduction to a math lesson for primary students. They are a great way to involve students in counting the humps on the camels, or the seeds in the strawberry. The Grapes of math also challenges students to divide the pizza in half, and teaches them about grouping numbers. Greg Tang spent time tutoring math to elementary students in the United States and developed his own books to help students recognize math patterns and discover higher order math skills.

Links to British Columbia Curriculum

Prescribed Learning Outcomes for Language Arts grade 2-3
-demonstrate a willingness to experiment with communication forms to respond to, inform, and entertain others
-demonstrate a willingness to participate in a variety of shared activities that include reading and listening to stories and poems, dramatic play, and presenting their own work
-use an expanding range of strategies - including pictorial, graphic, structural, and phonics clues to derive meaning

Prescribed Learning Outcomes for Math grades 2-3

-demonstrate place-value concepts concretely and pictorially to give meaning to numbers 0 to 1000
-demonstrate whether a number is even or odd
Recomended books #5 and #6

I would like to recommend two books by Robert James Challenger. Eagles Reflection and other Northwest Coast Stories, and Orca's Family. Robert James Challenger (Jim) has spent much of his life studying the wildlife in the Northwest coast. These two books are a collection of First Nation's storie, like Eagle's Reflection which teach children a lesson about nature. In the first story, Eagle saw people taking care of the land around them. They respected the people around them and all the birds and animals. Across the forest another group of people were destroying the land and were not respecting others. Eagle recruited the good people and took them to the land which was being destroyed. Teachers can introduce these books to teach children about respect for others and the environment.

Orca's family teaches students a lesson about the value of a family. Orca decides to go off on his own but he soon discovers he is lonely. In this book there are a collection of tales which discuss self responsibility and responsibility towards the community. These books offer a collection of short stories which are excellent resources for a First Nations Unit.

I would recommend these books for primary grades Kindergarten to grade 3.

Thses books can be integrated with Language arts and social studies.

Teaching Strategies
Teachers can teach children about conservation and sustainability and have student practise taking omly what they need in the classand not wasting materials like paper. Students can participate in "no garbage day" and "Earth day".
Teachers can bring in First Nation's guest speakers and discuss the impact of humans on the environment.
Students can also think about the lssons in the stories.

Links to BC Curriculum
Prescribed learning outcomes Language arts 2-3
It is expected that students will:

-demonstate a willingness to communicate a range of feelings and ideas
-listen actively, responding verbally and non-verbally
-demonstrate a willingness to support others by offering compliments and encouragement

Social studies Grade 2-3

It is expected that students will:
-collect and record information from a variety of sources and experiences
-draw simple interpretations from a variet of sources and experiences
Developing Teaching Strategies. In Essentials of Children’s Literature, 5th edition by C.Lynch-Brown and C. Tomlinson, Pearson, 2004

I really enjoyed this article about developing teaching strategies. I wanted to suggest a resource that makes use of some of these teaching strategies that is available in most libraries. The Collections series for language arts provides a wide range of short stories that challenges young readers to draw to develop their language skills and comprehension. These stories integrate with other areas of the curriculum and include multicultural themes, science articles, and poetry. One of the important facts mentioned in “Developing Teaching Strategies” was that teachers should find a variety of activities to accompany a story rather than resort to a plain old book report. Teachers can lose student’s interest if they overuse or repeatedly fall back on the same assignments every week. Students will respond to me if I introduce a variety of strategies to teach them about the plot, themes, or chronology of events about a story.


During my second practicum I had the opportunity to teach a grade 2/3 class a language arts lesson using audiotapes. I quickly discovered that children respond really well to the audio taped stories and would love to repeat the story again and again. I found that there were so many ways to draw information from a story at the grade 2-3 level. Creating a concertina book was just one of the ways in which students could illustrate their understanding about a story. The Collections Series is a great teaching tool for teaching reading in language arts which offers short stories and a wide variety of ways to respond to the reading. The Collections series comes complete with assessment and offers more than one method of teaching a story. I found it interesting that students responded well to
the different voices on the tape and would repeat the words together in unison imitating the new voices.

I found this article particularly useful in suggesting alternatives to traditional book reports:
Here are some examples from page 269 of this article

Describe the author or book character you would like to meet in person. Explain why you want to meet this person or character.

Jackdaws: collections of artifacts or copies of realia from a particular historical period or event. Jackdaws are often available in museums. Songs, paintings or traditional clothing are examples of Jackdaws that can be used to extend an activity.

Find objects that were part of the story. Place these objects in a bag. Then booktalk your story and take out each object to show when appropriate.

Create a collage using fabric, string and pictures from newspapers or photographs to illustrate the story.

Murals are made from long rolls of paper mounted horizontally. The entire length of paper is usually divided into sections and often presents a chronology of the story events. Murals may feature a particular theme.

Roller movies are pictures designed frame by frame on a long roll of paper. Once completed each end of paper is rolled onto the feeder rod so the beginning frame is viewed first.

Make a book cover for this book. Include an illustration, book title, author’s name, design the illustration so that it is faithful to the story and will interest others in reading the book. On the front inside flap write a story blurb. (Be sure not to give the story away)

Write a letter recommending this book to a classmate. Tell why you liked the book, do not give away the ending.

I also thought that this article presented good points for selecting a story.

According to the authors, good stories for telling usually have few charcters (2-5), high conflict, action that builds to a climax, and a quick conclusion that ties together the threads of the story.

Good luck with your teaching strategies and selecting good stories for children.
recomended book #4
The Giver by Lois Lowry

I would recommend this book for intermediate grades 6/7. The Giver is a great story which discusses family, diversity, feelings and euthanasia. A utopian community is created in the story where the main character, Jonas has been selected to become the “new Receiver of memory”. This book is controversial and has been banned from lists in the United States because of the content. I really enjoyed this story and would encourage teachers to use it in a grade 7 classroom. This book generates discussion about what a utopian society looks like and how people interact with one another. Students become intrigued by the unknown as each chapter unfolds and a new mystery or piece of the puzzle comes together. Jonas has been chosen to see beyond this utopian world and he must bear the burden of sacrificing his personal desires for the needs of the community.

This book challenges readers with new vocabulary words such as released, nurturer stirrings and replacement child. This new vocabulary allows students to think about words and the creation of language.

Teaching Themes

Teachers can discuss how the climate is controlled in the story where people have very little or no individuality. Competition has been eliminated in favour of the community in this story. Teachers can ask students to compare and contrast this community with our school community.

This society performs euthanasia on the young who do not conform and on the elderly. Discussion can be created about the disadvantages to a community that accepts euthanasia.

A number of relationships can be discussed. Discuss the relations between Jonas and the
Giver, or Asher, Fiona or a member of his family.

Students can also discuss what it means to be a "family" in this society and compare this to our society's view of a family.

This book integrates well with social studies and science. For a science lesson students can investigate the spectrum of color, and discuss what causes color-blindness. Students can also study what causes the body to react to stimulus.

Language Arts: The ending of the story could be interpreted in two different ways. Perhaps Jonas is remembering his Christmas memory or perhaps Jonas does hear music and is able to perceive the warm house where people are waiting to greet him.
Teaching strategy

Gathering Blue is the companion novel to this book. Students could compare the two novels and write a letter that Kira might write to Jonas. Students could discuss the limitations that both characters face in their stories.

This is a great website which provides teachers with ideas for this story

Grade 7 learning outcomes for Language arts

It is expected that students will:
demonstrate an awareness of how people in the community and in business use language and technology to communicate
formulate communication goals through the identification of personal strengths and areas needing further development
form opinions and modify viewpoints to gain further understanding of self
demonstrate confidence in their abilities to communicate effectively in various situations

Grade 7 Learning Outcomes for Social Studies

It is expected that students will:

-identify and clarify a problem, issue, or inquiry

Night John By Gary Paulsen

I would recommend the book Night John by Gary Paulsen. The story reminds me of the tale, “Underground to Canada.” By Barbara Smucker. Teachers can read this story to a grade 6/7 class and elaborate on the historical importance. This story explores the topic of slavery and the constant struggle for survival from the point of view of a young African American girl. I like Jagjeets ideas about using a venn diagram for compare and contrasting the characters in the novel. I would use both novels, “Underground to Canada” and “Night John”, and compare and contrast both main characters and discuss their personal challenges and paths towards emancipation.
These books discuss friendship, leadership, prejudice and the culture of young African Americans during the 1850s.

I think this book is an excellent resource for teachers. Teachers can introduce students to American history and discuss slavery and how value was placed on a human life. Slaves were considered valuable on a plantation to a slave owner, but they were poorly treated and always at risk of being killed. This story captures the experience of learning to read from the perspective of an African American slave. Readers can view the irony of how Sarny and other slaves really wanted to go to school and compare to their own experience of trying to avoid going to school on occasion or seem to find school more of a chore than a source of enjoyment. Although some of the details are horrifying, this type of literature captivates young minds and invites them to explore a new perspective about education and school. I really enjoyed this book and think that grade 6/7’s would benefit from exposure to this story.

Teaching Strategy: This story would be suitable for a read aloud or readers Theatre. The teacher could read daily and discuss one chapter at a time or have students practice reading in their assigned roles. Teachers would have to be careful to ensure that the class discussed the events that occurred because the language can be difficult to follow. The language in the story is very powerful and exposes North American children to a new culture. Discussing the more disturbing content is really important because students need to understand that human history is not all pretty. Novels often contain graphic details as means of informing and entertaining readers.

This book can be integrated with Language arts, Geography, Science, and Music. There is also a movie that would be a good resource for the classroom titled Night John.

Music: “Following the Drinking Gord” and “Steal Away” are 2 songs that can be introduced in the classroom that coincide well with Night John. Students can create their own lyrics about Sarny’s life on the plantation.

Geography: The underground railroad that Slaves used to escape north can be mapped out by students. This is also an opportunity to discuss how slaves arrived in America. What was the purpose of keeping slaves?

Science: Students can study the effects of tobacco as a natural insecticide. Sarny chews tobacco and spits the juice on the leaves to control the insects.

The learning outcomes for grade 7 Language Arts

-It is expected that students will:
-demonstrate an awareness of how people in the community and in business use language and
technology to communicate
-formulate communication goals through the identification of personal strengths and areas
needing further development
-form opinions and modify viewpoints to gain further understanding of self
demonstrate confidence in their abilities to communicate effectively in various situations

Social Studies:
It is expected that students will:
-identify and clarify a problem, issue, or inquiry
-gather and record a body of information from primary archaeological and historical evidence
and secondary print, non-print, and electronic sources

Thanks to Jagjeet for this great website!!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Recomended book #3
Number The Stars by Lois Lowry Historical Fiction

I would like to recommend this historical fiction.
Number the Stars, is a historical fiction which educates children about the harsh realities of war. The story is told from the point of view of a young girl in Copenhagen who experiences fear, death and oppression brought on by the Nazis. Jews are relocated as a result of Hitler’s attempt to create An Aryan society. Young readers become informed about conditions in society directly related to World War II. Families are rationing food, their daily movements are being monitored by the soldiers, and people are hiding and trying desperately to escape from Denmark.

This story brings out Annemarie’s struggle to remain a normal young girl during a difficult, ugly time. Young readers are captivated by Annemarie’s struggle during a
time of crisis. Soldiers confront Annemarie and confiscate her belongings just as she is preparing to help others escape by boat to Sweden.

I remember reading this book and thinking about the amount of responsibility placed on
Annemarie at such a young age. Readers begin to understand about different levels of maturity in young children. Students can also learn about other cultures and periods of time in world history that produced world conflict.

This story can be read to a grade 6 or 7 class

This story can be integrated with Social Studies

The prescribed learning outcomes for Language Arts Self and Society

It is expected that students will:
-share responsibility for the effective functioning of groups
-elaborate on others' ideas
-encourage others to participate
-develop strategies for resolving conflict and solving problems
-use pre-established criteria to evaluate group processes and their own contributions to the group
-use language to display empathy and make connections with others
The prescribed learning outcomes for Social Studies

-identify and clarify a problem, issue, or inquiry
-gather and record a body of information from primary archaeological and historical evidence and secondary print, non-print, and electronic sources
-defend a position on a global issue by considering competing reasons from various perspectives

-Teaching Strategy: Students could participate in creating a novel sphere with this book where the students would have to answer questions or make comparisons on each side of the novel

sphere. I have seen this strategy work well with a grade 6 class. The result was something that looked like a soccer ball that challenged the students to think about the novel.

Recomended book #2

Owls in the Family By Farley Mowat Contemporary Fiction

I would recommend Owls in the Family to grade 4 teachers.
Owls in the Family discusses the life of a boy in Saskatoon who ends up taking care of two owls, Wol and Weeps. This story is very descriptive and allows students to practice using descriptive language and critical thinking. Teachers can also check for student comprehension and create opportunities for a literature circle. The main character is a young boy whose pet managerie includes gophers, crows, dogs and the latest addition, owls. This story makes children laugh and try to imagine what it would be like to be responsible for an unruly pet owl with human-like qualities. I remember thinking how ridiculous it would be to have owls in the house eating human food. I remember admiring the young boys riding their bikes with Wol sitting on their shoulders and thinking about people who own silly exotic pets.

Teaching Strategies

Students could participate in a novel study for this book which asks students to identify and clarify a problem in the story. Students would begin to think for themselves about information in the story and create a story web which discusses a problem in the story. Students can also discuss how Wol takes on human qualities.

Other teaching strategies for this book might be to have students create a diorama depicting their favourite part of the story or the main themes.

This book is ideal for a grade 4 class

The prescribed learning outcomes for language arts

It is expected that students will:
interpret their impressions of simple and direct stories, poetry, other print material, and electronic media
organize information or ideas they have read, heard, or viewed in the form of simple charts, webs, or illustrations
locate specific details in stories, poems, mass media, and audio-visual media

Prescribed Learning outcomes for social studies

It is expected that students will:
identify and clarify a problem, issue, or inquiry
locate and record information from a variety of sources
identify alternative interpretations from specific historical and contemporary sources
assess at least two perspectives on a problem or an issue

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Selecting and Evaluating Children's Literature

In response to the readings on selecting and evaluating children's literature, I think it is important to realize the impact that stories leave on children perhaps without us recognizing that certain stories leave an impression on a child. I would like to comment on the study carried out where a group of three and four year olds who had no first hand experience with American indians were asked to draw American Indians, and the pictures were simply "feathers, knives, and Tomahawks". Born and raised in England I grew up with Aesop's Fables, The tales of Peter and Jane, and a range of stories which centered on a predominantly white main character who went on an adventure to escape his or her boring, stuffy, middle or upper crust life. I remember reading " The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe" All the main characters were white, and there was virtually no representation of other cultures or any dissabilities of any kind. I was not exposed to other cultures or dissabilities through any of the books I read as a child. In fact it was not until I was ten and moved to Canada that I became aware of the term "First Nations" and realized there were native north Americans. I would have been one of those children drawing the "feathers, the knives and the tomahawk". In England there is an ignorance (for lack of a better word) about Natives or Indians of any kind. I think the only "Native" or Indian I was introduced to in reading was in Peter Pan. I do not recall any books which encourage d discussion about people or children with disabilities. Today, the British Columbia Curriculum recognizes the issue of social diversity. Twenty five years to thirty years ago when I was a child in Britain there seemed to be no movement or recognition of any kind. Now I am a parent and I have to think carefully about what I am encouraging my son or daughter to read. Am I thinking of stories I have fond memories about or am encouraging them to read what the B.C. curriculum outlines and advises?

I must admit that when my son began to read, I provided him with books that I once read, and sought out books that interested him. I did not go directly to the B.C. irp's.

In regards to Selecting and Evaluating Children's Literature, I think the guidelines for selection are valuable. I agree that teachers in British Columbia and all of Canada should choose literature that reflects varying races and ethnicities and also varying abilities. Although it is considered progressive to be able to discuss the concept of immanent justice ,OR the idea that children with dissabilities did nothing to deserve their situation, How many primary classrooms are equipped with children's literature about a child with a dissability? I agree that literature in a classroom should reflect children with dissabilities however, many classrooms I have visited lack this type of literature for children.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Multicultural selection
If anyone has read "Undergroud to Canada" by Barbara Smucker I think they will agree that this book really challenges us to think about what it would be like to live in the deep south and work on a plantation during the late 1800's as an African American slave. The main character is a young girl, 9 years old who is taken from her mother and forced to work on a different plantation where she discovers freindship with another young girl who shares the same misfortune. They both have the desire to escape north to Canada. This book introduces older children to so many themes. In order to escape, the main character and must cut her hair and appear to be a boy so that she will not be suspected in her travels. Although most of the book takes place in the United States, teachers in Canada can discuss the young girls journey and the topic of slavery, gender or race. This book allows older children to imagine what it would be like to undergo such a journey as thier escape from Mississippi to Alabama, up through Ohio and across the Great Lakes to St Catherines Ontario. I kept thinking about a comment made in class about not just representing other cultures in children's literature but how other cultures are represented in children's literature. In this book, it seems that the author creates a hero from the main character who is female and colored. Her journey through swamps, woods, across rivers and down long dusty roads also takes her to freindly and loving people who want to help her reach her destination. Children's eyes are opened to the kindness that Celie shows towards others even when she is feeling helpless and discouraged. The journey toward Canada teaches students about sacrifice and freedom. I would have to argue that this book defies the common stereotypes where Black women are portrayed as victims of society or misrepresented as a homogenous group with no individuality. In this story, the Black characters are strong, driven and resourceful and show individuality. This book introduces students to the poor treatment and racism faced by Africans and especially African women throughout American history .

I would recommend this book for grades 7 and up

Grade 7 prescribed learning outcomes for language arts

It is expected that children will: demonstrate their understanding of written, oral, and visual communications.
-identify viewpoints and opinions in literary and informational communications
-describe and locate examples of literary elements, including plot, climax, conflict, tone, theme, setting, and pace
Social studies

It is expected that students will
-identify and clarify a problem, issue, or inquiry
-gather and record a body of information from primary archaeological and historical evidence and secondary print, non-print, and electronic sources
-generate and justify interpretations drawn from primary and secondary sources

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Read Aloud
Yesterday I read "From Head to Toe" by Eric Carle. This is a fun and interactive story for primary students. Teachers will need to allow a little bit of space for students to move around in while reading this story. It is a good idea to discuss "bubbles" or spaces away from your neighbour before reading the story and telling students before hand that they can respond by saying, "I can do it!" when the teacher asks a question. The story shows a picture of an animal who says " I am a seal and I clap my hands, can you do it?". Students can verbally respond, "I can do it!" and then participate in the action. The story continues to the next animal. "I am an elephant and I stomp my feet, can you do it?" Students respond, "I can do it". I enjoyed reading aloud to my classmates, I sometimes feel like I need to practise reading aloud more often. I will have plenty of opportunity with my Kindergarten and grade 1's during my practicum. I think it is important that students have a chance to predict what the story will be about! I agree with Tammy that sometimes too much prediction and probing can interupt a story.

Teachers can integrate this story with physical education.

Links to BC Curriculum:
Language Arts K-1
·predict unknown words by using picture clues, their knowledge of language patterns, and letter-sound relationships·recount what books, stories, or articles are generally about·describe the sequence of the main events in a story orally, in writing, or by using pictures

Physical Education K-1

demonstrate behaviours that indicate interest and enjoyment in physical activity
identify the importance of physical activity
identify the parts of the human body

Enjoy everyone

Saturday, January 07, 2006

In response to Narinder’s blog, I also read “The Babysitter’s Club” series and “Sweet Valley High” when I was a young girl. Although I was not forbidden to read these stories, my parents also frowned when they saw these stories and encouraged me to read other “more suitable” (in their eyes) literature. During this year I received my first hardcover book of Nancy Drew.
I remember reading the Nancy Drew books in my early Junior High School years. I read through most of the series and use to enjoy the suspense in the stories and thinking about the mystery or the suspected villain in the book. I use to admire Nancy Drew because she always found a clue or a way to find out who or what was involved in the case. I think at that point in my life I viewed Nancy to be a successful young lady who was always in the right place at the right time. Nancy Drew took the time to think problems through and eliminate the person or people who didn’t “do it” or who couldn’t possibly be involved. At that point in my life I thought she was really smart, determined, and somewhat of a role model. I think I was looking for some suspense or some sort of thrill which would lead me to be successful. (Yes I read the Hardy Boys Too!!)
I didn’t realize until recently that the first Nancy Drew book was written in 1929 by Mildred A. Wirt. Today there is a Nancy Drew Sleuth unofficial website which provides information for collectors
There is also a Nancy Drew home page.
Favourite Primary book
Stories and Story telling experiences

I have fond memories of listening to my mother read bed time stories every night and wanting to choose a story from the stack of library books or a favourite story from the book shelf. The story telling experience I remember most as a child would have to be Eric Carle’s, “ The Very Hungry Caterpillar” I have vivid memories of this story and trying to imagine what it would be like to eat through all the fruits and goodies that the hungry caterpillar got to eat. I remember looking at the pictures of the of the chocolate cake, the ice cream cone, the salami and the pickle and sticking my fingers through the holes in the pages which the caterpillar ate through. I thought it was a really fun story that encouraged me to read in my early years. Something about the way Eric Carle
wrote the story incorporating the days of the week, and the way he used bright colors in the illustrations made it so easy and enjoyable for me to read. This story always helped me to remember that a tiny egg will one day become a caterpillar, and that caterpillars will someday become butterflies.

As teachers we can incorporate Eric Carle’s story into the elementary classroom which discusses the life cycle of the butterfly.

Links to BC Curriculum:
Language Arts Kinndergarten to grade 1
·predict unknown words by using picture clues, their knowledge of language patterns, and letter-sound relationships·recount what books, stories, or articles are generally about·describe the sequence of the main events in a story orally, in writing, or by using pictures

The following website provides activities and ideas for teachers to use in class with other Eric Carle children’s stories.