Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lesson Plan & Activities: Animals Strike at the Zoo & Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo by Karma Wilson

I am revisiting one of my favorite picture book authors, Karma Wilson.  I love just about everything she has written!  Both books today are about trips to the zoo. 

Animals Strike at the Zoo: It’s True!  (ages 3-8)
Using lyrical and rhyming text as well as vibrant pictures, an animal strike is whimsically illustrated.  The animals all stop doing what they are made to do, such as prowling, howling, swimming, and climbing.  They make humorous demands like for a pool in their pen or for root-beer floats.  Some protest by painting themselves a different color or knitting scarves to hide their trademark feature.  The zookeeper tries to appease the animals, but they are still discontented and refuse to move.  Fortunately, one little girl’s love and appreciation changes everything! 
Use this book to accompany a unit on animals or a trip to the zoo (See Extension Activities).  It can also be utilized to identify attributes of personification or pick out rhyming words.  Discuss life lessons about being content and showing appreciation for others.  Or just enjoy this entertaining read-out-loud picture book with your class or kids. 

Never, EVER Shout in a Zoo (ages 5-9)
Despite a firm warning to the contrary, a little girl shouts in the zoo after an unfortunate mishap.  Thus, a chain of zany events is set off, involving a charging bear, a dreadful moose, a mischievous ape, and other animals.  All the animals eventually get loose, and the people are caged. This cautionary tale is highlighted further with bright animal and human characters (illustrated with watercolor paints and colored pencil) against a white back drop. There is also an unexpected, comical ending. 
Like Animals Strike, this book goes well with a study of animals. The pictures are more realistic, so they appeal to an older audience. This book can be included in a lesson on cause and effect during language arts.  The best part of the story is the language though.  Using repetitive phrasing, rhyme, and rhythm, the manic mood and animal tomfoolery is magnified.  The use of adjectives and alliteration begs to be used in a lesson plan, so I wrote one J:  Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo Lesson Plan and Alliterative Animal Handout 
Extension Activities

Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Fredrick

I came across The Mother Daughter Book Club at a great blog called Welcome to my Tweendom.   
The Plot:  The story is about four girls during their first year of middle school.  As the school year begins, their moms have a “surprise” for them.  They are all part of a mother-daughter book club that will meet each month.  There is personal tension between some of the tweens in the group and between the mothers and daughters.  The girls are not thrilled to have to read an archaic and monstrously large book like Little Woman.  As a result, they are initially reluctant to be a part of their mothers’ “great” idea. 
The Characters:  Like the girls in Alcott’s famous novel, the four tweens are unique and diverse. 
Cassidy recently moved to town following the death of her father.  She is a sassy, tom-boy who loves to play hockey and hang out with the guys.  In contrast, her mother is a former super-model who wants to keep her daughter out of harm’s way and wishes she was more lady-like.  Cassidy is the most out-spoken of the group, but she is also fiercely loyal. 
Shy Emma longs to be a writer.  She has a secret crush on a popular boy that is revealed in an especially humiliating way.  Since her family is on a tight budget, she has to wear hand-me-downs.  Her crush and her clothes prompt much ridicule from the fab four (the mean girls in school).  Fortunately, she has a close-knit family to support her.   
Jess lives on a farm with two much younger brothers and her father.  Her mother recently left to live in New York to pursue an acting career.  Jess’ father is loving and supportive, but she yearns for her mother and is apprehensive about family life without her.  Her love and talent for singing lands her the lead role in the school musical which comes with much drama on and off stage!    
Finally, Megan seems to have it all:  looks, popularity, and talent.  At the outset, she is part of the fab four.  She has a self-centered and superficial attitude.  Slowly, she begins to rekindle and forge friendships with the girls in the book club.  Meg also begins to grow and mature, which results in her distancing herself from her formerly “fab” friends.   Her desire to foster and pursue her artistic talents is a source of tension with her mother who wants her to be an intellect. 
The Upside:  The novel does a great job conveying the diverse personalities of tweens and teens as well as their struggles with themselves, their peer groups, and within their families.  It shows mothers and daughters (and families) working together through life’s struggles.  Fortunately, all the struggles are age appropriate.  As my daughter and I talked about the book, we saw parts of her in the each girl and parts of me in the moms (all the positive ones, of course J ).
The Mother Daughter Book Club is well-written.  It uses a primarily linear style, but the point of view shifts frequently.  One girl will share her thoughts, feelings, and observations about what is going on in life.   In the next section, another girl’s perspective is picked up.  She may refer back to the previous incident briefly, but then the narrative moves forward with her thoughts and feelings on the current action.   The author does an excellent job defining each girl’s voice and character.
The Downside:  The familiar struggles of the girls are genuine and sincere.  I was slightly disappointed that the ending was a little too neatly wrapped up.  It wasn’t entirely perfect, but close to it.  The novel would have been more realistic to have at least one of the story lines open-ended (because problems are not neatly solved in one book or less) or end a bit unhappily (because situations often do). 
The Bottomline:  People ages 11 and up will enjoy this novel.  Even my reluctant reader (girl, age 13) is happily reading it which is always a joy to see  I highly recommended it for moms, daughters, and all book lovers. 
What to Read Next:   There are three additional novels in the series, Much Ado About Anne, Dear Pen Pal, and Pies and Prejudice. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Activities, Ideas, & Lesson Plan for Chameleon's Colors by Chisato Tashir

Chisato Tashira is a gifted story teller and amazing illustrator/artist.  I highlighted her a few weeks ago in the post called Five Nice Mice.  Her books are worth checking out! 
Chameleon’s Colors (ages 4-8) by Chisato Tashiro
Chameleon is discontented because she always blends into her environment.  On the other hand, hippo is envious that chameleon has the capability to change colors.  Chameleon comes up with an ingenius idea:  Paint hippo to match the flowers in her environment.  She loves the idea and loves her new pink skin.  Chameleon spends the evening making paints of many colors.  The next day, all the other animals from lions to monkeys want their own unique skin, so chameleon paints them in the colors and patterns they love most.  He is the most popular animal in the jungle!   His popularity is short lived though.  When the animals realize they cannot tell a predator from a prey, they want to change their colors back to usual.  Fortunately, a rainstorm saves the day. The animals realize they are “perfect” the way God created them! 
I love the illustrations.  They are rich and vibrant.  The story is engaging and thought -provoking.  I used it as an opportunity to discuss fact vs. fantasy about chameleons, to practice making predictions,  and to compare to other chameleon stories. Here is my lesson plan and Story Comparison Chart.  In addition, there is Facts About Chameleons, How Animals See Color, Wanted Poster, and Real vs. Make Believe Chart .  

There are LOTS of great CRAFT ideas for chameleons:  Adorable Chameleon Craft Project, Chameleon Craft/Template, Heart Chameleon Paper Craft, Chameleon Toilet Paper Roll Craft, Paint Activity, Salt Watercolor Paintingand Chameleon Craft Project.
I used several other charming chameleon fiction books in this lesson plan:  The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle, A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni, and Do You Still Love Me? by Charlotte Middleton.  In addition, I utilized some fantastic non-fiction books to learn about real chameleons.  You may be surprised, but they are nothing like they are portrayed in the books!   Check out these two non-fiction favorites. 

Chameleon, Chameleon (ages 4-10) by Joy Cowley  (non-fiction)
The author craftily unites the simple and informative text with numerous vivid photographs (by Nic Bishop) of a chameleon’s daily life.  His activities include encounters with prey, a predator, a mate, and other lizards.  Children will be delighted to take a colorful journey with this often misunderstood amphibian.  In the “Did you know” section at the back of the book, further information is provided.   

Chameleons (ages 4-8) by Jason Glaser (non-fiction)
This resource is more comprehensive than Chameleons, Chameleons.  The writing style is more formal but still understandable and interesting.   Glaser elaborates on their life cycle, their predators, their habitat as well as other amazing facts.  The illustrations are a combination of photographs and graphics though there are not nearly as many pictures as in the aforementioned book.  The appendix includes a glossary and other helpful resources. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Math: Graphing Picture Books and Activities

Books can be used for just about everything---including math!  The focus today is on books about graphing.  These graph books can be used to introduce or reinforce the concept, as a spring board to create your own lesson plans on graphs, or to coincide with lessons on graphs in a math textbook.  Check out these great titles at the library or at the bookstore!  Also included is a handout of Graphing Activities, ideas, lesson plans, and websites.

Graphing (ages 5-8) by Penny Dowdy
Miguel surveys shoppers and observes their buying habits in his family- owned garden center.  He uses the data to create a picture graph, a bar graph, and a Venn diagram.  This book is also interactive by prompting students to consider how they can apply these concepts to their lives and by asking questions about the data Miguel collects.   Vocabulary terms are also introduced, such as axis, data, label, and survey.   Vibrant, full color photographs and pictures accompany the text. 

Making Graphs Series (ages 4-8) by Vijaya Khisty Bodach 
There are four fantastic, bright books in this series: Pie Graphs, Pictographs, Bar Graphs, and Tally Charts.   The text is simple and direct.  Each book uses real world scenarios to teach about the various types of graphs.  For instance in Pie Graphs, they identify favorite types of pizza while in Bar Graphs, they diagram their favorite colors.  Each book includes large, brilliant photographs of children happily interacting with the data and creating graphs.  These books are a great way to get kids to think about what type of data they could collect and to consider the best way to display it (i.e. which type of graph). 

The Great Graph Contest (ages 5-8) by Loreen Leedy 
Two amphibian friends (a frog and a lizard) hold a contest to see who can make the best graphs.  Using adorable animals interacting, children are exposed to quantity graphs, circle graphs, bar graphs, and Venn diagrams. There are creative graphics, dialogue boxes, and fun pictures to illustrate the two friends compiling data and creating various types of graphs.  The illustrations are an imaginative combination of real photographs and cartoon pictures.  This book is the busiest (visually) of the four highlighted, but the examples are clear, humorous, and engaging.  

Graphs (ages 5-9) by Bonnie Bader
Gary has to go to a family reunion on a Saturday morning.  In order to pass the time more quickly and to complete his homework, he creates graphs based on his family’s preferences and appearances.  For instance, he uses a bar graph to show food preferences, a line graph to show temperature changes, and a pie graph to illustrate hair colors. When it is time to go, Gary has all the kids involved and excited about making graphs.  This book includes lots of narrative text that can be read by an adult or by readers who are independently reading short sentences and simple dialogue as well as comprehending basic plots.  It is a stage 2 book in the All Aboard Reading series. 

Also Check Out  
Great Graphs and Sensational Statistics: Games and Activities that Make Math Easy and Fun by Lynette Long.  It is packed full of directions and activities for all types of graphs.  The activities can be easily implimented at home or at school.   This book is geared for ages 8-12, but with adult help or minor modifications, it can be used for younger grades as well.  It will inspire you and get your creativity flowing! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Picture Book: Sweet Briar Goes to School (Camp) by Karma Wilson

Karma Wilson’s creates another charming character!  Sweet Briar is a good-natured skunk.  When she goes to school and to camp, she grapples with many issues common to young children, such as fears of acceptance, dealing with teasing, and sticking up for others.  These books are great for children ages 4-8. 

Sweet Briar Goes to School
Sweet Briar is adored by her parents.  When she goes to school though, she is teased and isolated by her peers because she is a skunk.  Despite the way she is treated, she does not retaliate.   When a big, bad wolf sneaks into the school yard at recess, Sweet Briar uses her God-given defense mechanism to save her classmates.    The other students realize that everyone is special in his/her own way--even a skunk!  For ideas and activities to teach this book in a classroom or at home, click on this link:  Lesson Plan and Activities for Sweet Briar Goes to School

Sweet Briar Goes to Camp
Sweet Briar is nervous about going to camp.  She wonders if there will be other children who are skunks or who have a floral swimsuit like hers.  Her fears are quickly put to rest.  The other children love and accept her, but unfortunately, they are unkind to a lovable porcupine named Petal. At first, Sweet Briar tries to stick up for Petal by responding verbally to the insults others throw at the precious porcupine.  When that does not work, she makes it clear that she thinks Petal is special.  The other girls follow Sweet Briar’s lead.  They begin to realize that Petal is talented and kind in her own way. As a result, they accept her into their group. 

Freedom Over Me (Ashley Bryan)

Title:   Freedom Over Me:  Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life Author :   Ashley Bryan Illustrator :   Ashley...