Star Light, Star Bright

Yesterday’s post reminded me of this great science website:

Stellarium is “a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.”

Another amazing way to help students see what they are learning about.

What a Wonderful World

While I tend to prefer picture books to websites when it comes to engaging my students in the classroom, I admit there are some great resources for teachers out there on the Internet. The Smithsonian is one of those sites, with lesson plans on a multitude of topics available with a quick search.

They currently are featuring two interactive lessons about the universe:

“In Lesson 1, the class works together to arrange pictures from space according to the students’ best ideas of size, distance, and age. This active introduction to the cosmos can be a pre-assessment for a unit on space science. Lesson 2 is a modeling exercise in which relationships in space are brought down to a scale of two inches. Both lessons are based on educational materials created by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in cooperation with NASA.”

What a fun way for students to get involved in the learning process and gain a better understanding of the vastness of the universe. If “seeing is believing” then your students are in for a mind-blowing discovery as they “create” and “see” the universe in miniature.

Stenhouse Publishing Giveaway

Click here to enter to win a $1,000 professional development library from Stenhouse. The winner will choose $1,000 worth of Stenhouse books and videos from their more than 300 titles. Wow! That would be a nice addition to any school’s professional development budget.   🙂

Some of the books I would choose if I win:

Becoming a Literacy Leader: Supporting Learning and Change by Jennifer Allen *

The CAFE Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literacy Assessment and Instruction by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser

The Castle in the Classroom: Story as a Springboard for Early Literacy by Ranu Bhattacharyya

The Cornerstones to Early Literacy: Childhood Experiences that Promote Learning in Reading, Writing, and Oral Language by Katherine Luongo-Orlando

The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser *

Engaging the Eye Generation: Visual Literacy Strategies for the K-5 Classroom by Johanna Riddle

Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades by Debbie Diller *

Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis *

Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe

. . . and that’s only a total of $194. See how far that $1000 will go!

* read, love, and highly recommend

ABC for you and me

The Underwater Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta and illustrated by Edgar Stewart is one of many remarkable resources for teaching scientific concepts. This book combines detailed illustrations with a variety of fun facts about sea creatures from A to Z.

While ABC books are often thought of as resources for younger students, I have found that there are quite a few which easily lend themselves to working with students of all ages. They can be useful as an intro to a new topic or as a quick reference material for beginning student research.

The ABC book format is also a fun way for students to showcase what they have learned about a topic/theme. Working in groups, students can create their own alphabet books, using their new-found knowledge to design detailed illustrations and factual texts for each page.

A few more great ABC books: A Prairie Alphabet by Yvette Moore and Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet; The Invisible ABCs by Rodney P. Anderson; B is for Beaver: An Oregon Alphabet by Marie and Roland Smith; Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America’s Farmland by Arthur Geisert; and On the River ABC by Anna-Maria L. Crum

As American? as Apple Pie

This has been another favorite picture book of mine since I discovered it about 10 years ago. How to Make an Apple Pie and see the world by Marjorie Priceman is a delightful story about a young girl who travels the world in search of ingredients to make her own apple pie since the local market is closed. While the manner in which she travels the world to collect her fresh ingredients is rather fanciful, the detailed geography and scientific facts are the gems of the story. The book also includes a map, a recipe for apple pie, and directions for an apple-tasting party. Yum!

This story is a great conversation/inquiry starter for a variety of topics: favorite desserts, world geography and languages, communities and customs, modes of transportation, native animals, evaporation, and types of apples. . .  just to name a few.

I See the Moon. . .

Just as visual literacy has a place in the social studies curriculum, so too should it also play a prominent role in the the science activities happening in the classroom.

One of the most inspiring texts I have read on this subject is Moon Journals: Writing, Art, and Inquiry Through Focused Nature Study by Joni Chancer and Gina Rester-Zodrow.

Using the moon as the focus of study, teachers and students alike explored this natural masterpiece, its cycles and effects on Earth, and its legends and stories. This journey led in many directions as the observers studied, questioned, contemplated, and responded to their findings.

This is what learning is all about! When students are this engaged in the learning process, they don’t see learning as hard work or an inconvenient waste of their time. They excitedly explore and study on their own, eager to broaden their own knowledge and share their new-found ideas/facts/etc. with others.

Being able to respond to learning in their own ways and express themselves through stories, poems, and various types of art is the great strength of the “Moon Journal” process.

Sky Tree by Thomas Locker and Candace Christiansen presents a visual look at how this same process could be used with a different theme: the changing of the seasons.

I Spy

“Pictures are only islands in the sun, the visible tips of remembered experiences and feelings that plunge far below the surface” (Burmark, 2002, p.17).

Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn by Lynell Burmark is another amazing resource for learning more about visual literacy and effective ways to help your students learn.

Burmark’s proven strategies show how correctly using visuals in the classroom and effectively teaching students how to “read” them can boost student learning.

While these strategies help teach and reach out to all students, they are especially effective for students with learning difficulties and those from poverty and other cultures in ways that other literacy can’t or can’t do as easily (p.3).

More info about visual literacy and free info can be found on Dr. Burmark’s website.