Showing posts with label Common Core IRL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Common Core IRL. Show all posts

Monday, April 20, 2015

Common Core IRL: Looking at Persuasive Writing & Mentor Texts (ages 9-12)

Students and teachers around the US are writing persuasive essays with renewed interest, as the Common Core explicitly calls on students to write opinion pieces that support a point of view with reasons and information. See, for example, the ELA Writing Standard 5.1.

At the Emerson Library, we have been reading Can We Save the Tiger?, by Martin Jenkins, to see how he develops his argument and supports it with reasons and information. Read my full review of this terrific nonfiction picture book. Today, I want to take you into our concluding library lesson, where we examined Jenkins' text to see how we could learn from his writing.

We read the concluding two pages, projected on the screen. For each page, I asked students what key phrases they noticed that were particularly powerful. You'll see their responses in green below.

Students noticed that Jenkins began his conclusion with, "So you see, trying to save just one endangered species..." Their teacher drew this back to a phrase they had used in class: "As you can see..." Other students noticed the way he wrapped up his conclusion (see below) with a question to pull readers in: "And I think that would be a shame, don't you?"

We wanted a little more specifics about helping tigers, so we turned to online research. The World Wildlife Fund has several very helpful pages about problems tigers are facing and action we need to take. This makes terrific model writing. Here's just one of the sections we looked at and the students' responses.

This paragraph is written in the same form that students are using in their writing. The claim or argument is "One of the biggest threats to tigers in poaching." WWF supports this with evidence and then elaborates their reasons. Students noticed the way facts were included within this paragraph, as well as explanations. They drew attention to the following phrases:
  • "One of the biggest threats..."
  • "Poaching has reached critical levels..."
  • "Governments around the world must combat poaching..."
  • "Nepal has already proved..."
We talked about how they can use similar language in their own writing, regardless of the topic.

School librarians play an essential role in helping students develop their persuasive writing skills. We help identify mentor texts, for students to read on high-interest topics. Much of my work in this area has been influenced by Melissa Stewart's writing on mentor texts. I definitely recommend reading her wealth of posts about this topic.

School librarians also help students dig deeper into topics they care about, guiding them on authentic research. So much information is available on the Internet, but it is critical that we help students effectively find information they can read and understand. I used our library catalog's Destiny Web Path Express to target the WWF article.
This post is part of my larger body of work: Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. My thinking and work in this area is greatly helped by conversations with fellow bloggers and friends, Alyson Beecher, Cathy Potter and Louise Capizzo. See our full presentation from last summer here.
If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Investigating about explorers: a range of resources (ages 8-12)

Do you have fond memories of reading your history textbooks? Probably not. So how can we make history more interesting for our children?

We want our children to envision what it would have been like to live long ago, to make the messy decisions that people had to make, to struggle and wrestle with life, warts and all. And yet we also need to convey basic information about historical periods and figures. How do we balance the facts with the engaging material?

As a case in point, I've been helping 5th grade students gather information about famous explorers from different eras. They're investigating Marco Polo, James Cook, Hernando Cortes, Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride and many others. Their teachers want them to practice note-taking skills. What resources will help them the most?

World Book Encyclopedia: building background knowledge
"How are we supposed to choose which explorer to do our report on if we don't know anything about them?"
Students need to begin their research process by learning some basic facts about their subject. This should be pretty easy for the children to read, since they need to focus on building a clear framework in their minds. I would suggest just reading at this point, not taking notes. We start with World Book Kids, the junior version of the World Book Encyclopedia.

Web Path Express: guided Internet research
"I call this Google for 5th graders."
We have recently added WebPath Express to our Follett Destiny library catalog. This service guides students in their Internet searches, helping them go directly to accurate, age-appropriate sites. Students are able to find reliable resources quickly, without having to filter out commercial or college-level sites.
by Chris Oxlade
Kingfisher Readers, level 5
Kingfisher, 2014
Your local library
ages 8-10
Students will like the clear sentences and frequent illustrations in this brief introduction to nearly twenty explorers from ancient to modern times. Each explorer's major achievements and struggles are covered in a two-page spread, so the pace moves quickly. Sentences are relatively short, and drawings keep interest high.
"Marco Polo was born in Venice, in Italy. In 1271, when he was just 17 years old, he set off for China with his father and his uncle. They took gifts for Kublai Khan, the powerful ruler of China in the 1200s CE."
This type of book will help students develop a "research report" tone to their own writing. It is factual and straight forward. But it does not have much depth, it does not really prompt students to connect to what they're reading or to ask questions.
Lives of the Explorers:
Discoveries, Disasters (and What the Neighbors Thought)
by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 8-12
Krull engages readers with dynamic writing, as she introduces them to the lives of twenty ancient and modern explorers. While this is more difficult to read, it is also much more interesting. She begins the chapter on Mathew Henson, African American explorer of the North Pole in the early 1900s, this way:
"Matthew Henson and Robert Peary shared many an unappetizing meal in the frozen land around the North Pole. But in the United States they wouldn't have even been allowed to eat together, as restaurants were segregated into 'black' and 'white' sections."
In just three pages, Krull helps readers get a sense of the challenges Henson faced and his remarkable achievements. She incorporates quotes from Henson to give a sense of his perspective. Teachers and librarians should note, however, that she does not indicate the sources for her material, but just provides sources for further reading.
Into the Unknown
How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea and Air
by Stewart Ross
illustrated by Stephen Biesty
Candlewick, 2011
Your local library
ages 9-14
*my full review here*
Stewart Ross and Stephen Biesty absolutely captivate me each time I read a section of Into the Unknown. Biesty's intricate illustrations draw me right into each scene, helping me imagine what it would be like to be part of an expedition. Students love the fold-out illustrations and the cut-aways that show you the inside of ships. Ross's descriptions include enough detail to engross me without overwhelming me. They have a strong narrative flow, conveying the dramatic pull of these stories but also helping young readers start forming their own questions and conclusions.

The review copy of Explorers came from our public library. The review copy of Lives of the Explorers was kindly sent by the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The review copy of Into the Unknown was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries -- 2014 ALA Presentation

I ardently believe that librarians can help develop engaged, passionate readers, much more so than scripted reading programs or dry textbooks. Moreover, I believe that librarians can contribute an essential perspective to the change toward implementing the Common Core State Standards.

I have been thrilled to collaborate with four amazing colleagues from across the country to develop these ideas and share our expertise. Below you'll find the introduction to our presentation at ALA, the American Library Association, and then the slides from our presentation.

There are many criticisms launched at the Common Core standards, ranging from concerns with the speed of implementation to issues surrounding the assessment of students and teachers. Yes, each of us has our concerns, that’s for sure. But we also know that this is our reality. Our schools are implementing these standards and so we want to try to have a positive attitude. The glass is half full.

We must be part of the conversation and look at how our expertise helps teachers engage students with nonfiction, develop their reading skills, and deepen their critical thinking. Districts and policy makers are going forward with the Common Core. We can either jump on board and take part in the conversation, influencing it in a way that will be good for kids, or we can stay on the sidelines and watch it go by.

Above all else, we want to make reading nonfiction fun, exciting and interesting for students.

Below is the presentation we made at ALA. I loved developing this presentation my colleages, and can't wait to continue developing our body of work.

We would love to hear thoughts and questions you have. Please share this presentation online with friends and colleagues. Let us know if you have any questions at all.

Special thanks go to my remarkable colleagues and collaborators:

Please share our slides and PDFs with colleagues and friends. Let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to continuing our collaboration through the school hear.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Common Core IRL: Digital Resources for students studying Colonial America

As a school librarian, an essential part of my role is curating resources: selecting, organizing and sharing information. It can be overwhelming for students and teachers to search for good information; the size and scope of the Internet makes this all the more true.

As we have seen with the Common Core IRL project, print resources are not necessarily plentiful on the American Colonies. Digital resources are an essential tool for students.

I created the following Google Doc to share digital resources with our students (you may copy and share the Google Doc using this link). 

To make this document easily findable, I created a visual link on our library catalog, Destiny. You can explore the visual links in our catalog by going to and selecting any of the elementary schools. Click on the Visual search tab on the right. The Emerson catalog looks like this:

Within the History collection, you'll find different types of curated resources: books and encyclopedia articles, websites, maps and more. Keeping these links on the library catalog has many advantages. First of all, it's an easily findable place for students and teachers. In addition, we are training our community that the library is a central hub for information resources. Finally, we can hold onto these resources for teachers to use year after year.

These resources are an essential part of the Common Core standards for both reading informational text and writing. As students delve into these digital resources, they will need to read and identify the main point of a paragraph, page or article. ELA Common Core standard RI.5.1 states 5th grade students will "determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text." This is essential when reading websites.

How are you sharing digital resources with elementary students? Are you finding that they are able to read and digest them? Or are they surfing through them, without finding key information?

I am excited to read about other resources my colleagues have found in their search: Common Core IRL -- In Real Libraries. This week, we are excited to share:
If you are going to be at the American Library Association's annual conference later this month in Las Vegas, we hope you can come to our presentation on the Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here are the details:
Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries
ALA Annual Conference
WHEN: Sunday, June 29, 2014 - 10:30am to 11:30am
LOCATION: Las Vegas Convention Center, S228
Hope to see folks there!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, June 2, 2014

Common Core IRL: Life in Colonial America (grades 3-5)

Our older elementary students spend a lot of effort learning how to read and write informational texts, especially in 4th and 5th grades. The Common Core State Standards identify some of the key skills students need to master in this process. Students and teachers often ask their librarians for help finding resources for their research projects.

This year, both Cathy Potter (of the Nonfiction Detectives) and I have helped classes with research projects on the American Colonies. So we thought that we would share some of our resources as part of our ongoing Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries series. Check out these great posts this week:
Life in the American Colonies -- what an enormously huge topic. My biggest challenge in finding resources was helping students who are reading below grade level. They need clear information, well organized and presented, but not too complicated. Two books stood out to me from my search.
Life in a Colonial Town
(series: Picture the Past)
by Sally Senzell Isaacs
Heinemann / Capstone, 2001
Lexile 680 / GRL O
Your local library
ages 8-12
Using clear, straightforward language, Isaacs describes daily life in the American colonies, primarily during the years 1650-1750. I especially like the basic introduction Isaacs provides in the first chapter, along with a simple timeline and map.
"A colony is like a small, new village or town. It is created in a country by people from a foreign, or different, country. Beginning about 400 years ago, people from Europe started coming to America to start colonies" (p. 4).
The text is organized into short two-page chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of everyday life. Students will gain a sense of colonists' houses, schooling, clothes and diets. I would recommend this book as a good starting place for students who need a basic introduction. It does not cover several topics my students were interested in, such as the conflict between Native Americans and European colonists, the slave trade, or religion. Here is another example of the text:
"Many colonists built wooden houses. The wood came from nearby forests. Most houses had a stone fireplace. Its fire heated the house. It was also used for cooking" (p. 12).
As students develop a clearer focus for their informational reports, they need books that go into more depth. But how can we do this for students who have trouble reading more complicated text? We have experimented with Capstone interactive ebooks and are liking our initial experience.

The real story about government and politics in colonial America
(series: Fact finders. Life in the American colonies)
by Kristine Carlson Asselin
Capstone, 2012
Lexile 720 / GRL T
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 9-12
Asselin examines how government was organized in the colonies and the relationship between European governing countries and the colonies. Students will find the description of leadership and government in different Native American societies, including the Iroquois and the Powhatan confederacies, very interesting. As the colonies grew, England developed more systematic forms of government for the colonies, with clearly established local roles.

"Each town or county elected two citizens to the colony's assembly."
Students have loved the audio narration that accompanies the Capstone interactive books--with a real human voice, and not just computer text-to-speech narration. These digital books have worked well on Chromebooks in the classroom, and are accessible to all students (we purchased an "unlimited copies" version for our school). We have integrated them into our FollettShelf, accessible through our Destiny Catalog and it has worked very well during our pilot year.

Both of these texts will help students with both reading and writing skills. As students read these texts, they must work to identify the author's main points and learn how to summarize the text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.2). Teachers can use these as mentor texts, showing writing that introduces and develops a topic (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2). For example, students and teachers could look at the way Asselin develops her main point about the role of governors in the colonies:
Much of the Common Core really continues our work helping students learn to read, understand and write informational texts. It is a difficult job, one that requires providing interesting materials that students can access independently as well as mentor texts we can look at together.

I am excited to read about other resources my colleagues have found in their search: Common Core IRL -- In Real Libraries. This week, we are excited to share:
The review copies came from our district library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Malcolm Little: The boy who grew up to be Malcolm X, by Ilyasah Shabazz (ages 7-11)

Our schools celebrate Malcolm X's birthday each year, but I have found it hard to figure out how to introduce this pivotal leader to young children. His biographies tend to focus on his strong views about African Americans' fight for equality "by any means necessary." And yet, I have come to realize that this is an extraordinarily simple view of a complex, inspiring man.
I am looking forward to sharing a new picture book, Malcolm Little, The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, with children. Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X's daughter, provides children with a heartfelt view of her father's childhood and how it shaped the man he became.
Malcolm Little
The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
by Ilyasah Shabazz
illustrated by A.G. Ford
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2014
Your public libraryAmazon
ages 7-11
Shabazz describes her father’s early years, especially focusing on the impact his parents had on him. Malcolm's parents, Earl and Louise Little, nurtured a love of learning, self-pride and independence. Young Malcolm endured tragedy brought on by racist community members who set fire to his home, but his parents showed him that their "faith, love and perseverance would sustain them."
"Despite the great loss of their house and all their belongings, they vowed to rebuild their lives."
This picture book fills a great need in our library. We have no other picture books quite like this -- all of our biographies are aimed at readers in grades 4 and above. Shabazz writes with passion and love, and I think it would be interesting to talk with students about her clear point of view. Her text is longer than many picture books, but it would work well as a read-aloud for 2nd through 4th grade.

I think it would be interesting for students to compare this book with information they learn in this mini-biography video from

Students might also be interested in the reflections from Malcolm X's relatives and friends that are shared on PBS's American Experience site.

One of the essential roles librarians can play as schools implement the Common Core standards is providing multiple resources for students to learn about important topics such as this.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries -- Baseball LineUp (ages 5-13)

Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries has hit another home run showing how librarians and educators can work together to guide teachers and parents toward high-interest nonfiction that gradually increases in reading complexity.
Dodger Fan via Chris Yarzab, Flickr

This time, we have focused on baseball, finding nonfiction that kids like these young Dodger fans would love! We have found  general introductions to baseball, biographies about famous players, guides to help young players hone their skills, and a fascinating history of the Negro League.

We have prepared a concise summary of our recommendations -- feel free to download, print, and share it with teachers, parents and other librarians. Our goal is to show how librarians can help all students find engaging, interesting books to read.

Are you heading to the American Library Association annual conference in Las Vegas next month? Come see us on Sunday, June 29th at 10:30 a.m.!

Huge thanks to my fellow Common Core IRL colleagues. Again, here's the full batting line-up of our posts on baseball for Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here's our line-up this week:
We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us! The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Common Core IRL: Baseball books for middle grade fans (ages 8-10)

This week, Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries is bringing your books all about baseball. Our sports section is heavily used in our library, and I find it hard to seek out good nonfiction that are just right for middle grade readers. Kids in 3rd and 4th grade want interesting books, but they can't plow through dense text. Here are two books that combine excellent visual design and organization with clearly written text that fits the needs of our kids in 3rd and 4th grade.
Miguel Cabrera
Baseball Superstar
by Matt Doeden
Sports Illustrated Kids / Capstone, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
grades 2-3
ages 7-9
This biography of superstar hitter Miguel Cabrera appeals to kids with its striking photographs, bold headings, and large font. In 2012, Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in the majors since 1967, leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the same season.
Miguel Cabrera, Doeden

As students read this high-interest biography, they must develop a timeline in their head. Doeden captures readers' interest by beginning with Cabrera's nerve-wracking first day playing for the pros (see the excerpt to the right), and then he moves back in time to Cabrera's childhood in Venezuela. Third graders must understand how this writing style hooks readers and how the individual events fit together to create a whole picture of Cabrera's life. These skills are essential for mastery of Common Core ELA standard RI 3.3.

I'm always struggling whether to get books about a specific team or general books on a sport. Individual stars change in their popularity overnight, it seems. So I was very happy to find this next book on key skills for playing baseball.
Play Baseball Like a Pro
Key Skills and Tips
by Hans Hetrick
Sports Illustrated for Kids / Capstone, 2011
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 8-10
Hetrick balances simple direct text with enough information to make this guide interesting for 8- to 10-year-olds, but not overwhelming. He clearly states a main idea and then develops it with a short explanation.
"If your head is out of control, your body will be too. If your body is out of control, so is your pitching arm. Stay balanced. Keep your head directly over your body. And be sure to keep your eyes on the catcher's mitt until the pitch is hit or caught."
Third and fourth graders work on identifying the main ideas in what they read, distinguishing main ideas from supporting details. They also need to explain how the main idea is supported by key details. Baseball fans will be able to see so much more easily what teachers mean by "main idea" and "supporting details" if they are reading a book like this. Common Core ELA standards 3.2 and 4.2 ask students to do just this.
Play Baseball Like a Pro, Hetrick
 The visual design of Play Baseball Like a Pro draws students in, but it also helps them organize their ideas. Third and fourth graders will also appreciate the white space and size of font. Baseball fans will love the quotes from a wide range of pro players.

Be sure to check out all of the terrific posts on baseball for Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here's our line-up this week:
We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us! The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, May 5, 2014

Common Core IRL: Baseball Edition

The Common Core State Standards declare that students must read more nonfiction throughout their school years, in order to fully prepare for college and career choices. If you tell your typical 9- or 10-year-old that, they are likely to roll their eyes and moan, "But nonfiction is boring!" My reply?
"Nonfiction can be really interesting when you get to choose what to read."
We know that kids are more motivated to read when they get to choose their book. So why not harness this interest as we encourage kids to read nonfiction? Librarians are excellent resources. We scour the field for interesting, informative books that are clearly written, well designed and filled with excellent illustrations. We understand both reading levels and children's interests.

Baseball season is getting under way. Kids are playing, going to games, and following their favorite pro teams. This image (below) captures for me the essence of baseball as our national pastime -- little kids going to games with their dads. So why not engage kids by offering a range of interesting books all about baseball?
Boys of Summer, via debaird, Flickr
This week, our intrepid group of Common Core IRL literacy experts are going to bat for readers -- coming up with great baseball books to recommend for kids. We will focus on nonfiction for kids to read along the reading spectrum, from beginning readers to advanced middle grade readers. We will include books to read aloud to children, because it's essential to read engaging, interesting nonfiction aloud to our children.

Here's our batting line-up for Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries:
We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, April 25, 2014

Supporting the Common Core State Standards: Librarians at the Center

The Common Core State Standards are nation-wide standards that outline what skills each student should be able to do in mathematics and English Language Arts. They were developed with the goal of preparing our students to be college and career ready by the end of high school, planning how to work up to that end point.

Our students in Berkeley are in the middle of taking the new online SBA tests. It is a field test year, and no results will be tied with individual students. But I can assure you that you’ll be hearing lots about the Common Core in the coming months as the statewide results come in. So, what’s my attitude? I believe that there are positive aspects to the Common Core and concerning aspects. I’m both a glass half-full and glass half-empty type of person.

Please try to separate what you hear about the assessment from the curriculum. In my opinion, many of the standards are based on solid, important teaching goals. That’s my focus today -- to help you see how our library work can support those teaching goals. As librarians, we pour in more water, improving students’ skills by providing access to engaging, relevant material.

What do librarians have to do with all this anyway? The Common Core asks students to read more nonfiction, to use more primary sources, to consider author’s perspectives and opinions, and to read more. Can teachers provide all this material for students? I don’t think so. Can families? No -- no one can do it on their own. Librarians can provide essential support to students, teachers and families in their communities.

Below is a presentation I gave this week to the California Library Association. I've tried to encapsulate my views on key ways librarians can support students, teachers and families. We are all in this together.

If you'd like further information, I recommend exploring these sources:

If you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you. We are all on a learning journey together. Many thanks to all of my colleagues at Berkeley Unified School District. I have learned so much from all of you. The views expressed here are mine alone, and do not represent my employer.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Common Core IRL: Spooky, creepy stories to grab you (ages 10 - 14)

Kids clamor for scary stories -- they love the adrenaline rush, the suspense, the feeling of needing to find out what happens next. When we started talking about how the Common Core might look in real libraries during October, our minds naturally turned to stories that give us a fright. We're sharing all types of books, looking at how they tie into the Common Core and serve different readers.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown is sure to grab tweens and teens who can stomach some gagging details and thrive on zombie chase scenes. But it also has plenty of depth to prompt kids' thinking. Share this with your kids and ask them what they're noticing in the text.
Zombie Baseball Beatdown
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown, 2013
your local library
ages 10 - 14
Let's just start with the cover. I know, I know -- your mom told you not to judge a book by its cover. But really, get a grip. Covers matter, and this one hits a home run with its intended audience. Even better, it gets readers primed for the story -- one that combines plenty of gore with action, but still enough humor for a tween audience.

Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his friends, Miguel and Joe, discover that the giant feedlot and meat-production facility in their small town is knee-deep in corruption. The story is told from Rabi's point of view, and he describes the view of the Milrow beef-processing facility:
"It was feedlots to the horizon, an ocean of cows all packed together, practically knee-deep in their own manure, feeding in long troughs full of whatever it was that Milrow gave its cows to fatten them up." (ch. 3)
It turns out that the crammed quarters and questionable feed leads to some serious mutations, as zombie cows start wrecking havoc. Bacigalupi gleefully describes the zombies in all their bloody, oozy glory -- this is certainly not a choice for the weak of heart. Just take this description of the final chase scene:
"The zombies came down on us like a tsunami. When we hit, I thought we were going down. A tidal wave of hungry monsters poured over us. I didn’t think we’d hold. Miguel and Otis and Eddie were screaming and swinging like crazy, smashing and slamming zombies aside." (ch. 36)
It’s up to Rabi and his friends to protect the town and convince the authorities to take action before it's too late. Bacigalupi certainly raises questions about how corporations try to silence whistle-blowers and how we need to think about big agriculture companies' practices.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown would make an excellent choice for small lit. circle groups, especially since kids will get more out of it by talking about the characters' points of view and the author's message. For example, 5th grade teachers thinking about the Common Core standards, look specifically at these:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.6 Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.
As Kirkus Review wrote, "here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness."

Check out other great posts that are part of our recurring series: Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Today, we're serving up a great selection to grab students with chills and thrills:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Little, Brown. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Common Core IRL: Volcano Wakes Up! science & poetry (ages 7 - 10)

Poetry can make many topics more animated than straight nonfiction, especially when it's combined with outstanding artwork. If students are excited reading about volcanoes, they'll love Lisa Westberg Peters' Volcano Wakes Up!, with illustrations by the amazing Steve Jenkins.

We'd like to share this as part of our Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries look at volcanoes, as students read about a topic from many sources, gradually increasing in text complexity. The Common Core standards ask students to read a wide variety of literature, including poetry, throughout the year. This is a great moment to encourage students to try out different types of poetry and look at how the craft of poetry adds to a nonfiction topic.
Volcano Wakes Up
by Lisa Westberg Peters
illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2010
your local library
ages 7 - 10
Imagining a day in the life of a volcano, Peters brings readers right into the setting of an imaginary volcano on Hawaii. Told in alternating points of view, these sixteen poems are both humorous and descriptive as they chart a day from sunrise to moonrise.

Peters creates fun voices for each character. Little volcano starts us off: "I'm a little sleepy/ now, but when I wake up, watch out! I throw/ nasty tantrums." The ferns love the mornings "when Fire-maker sleeps late." Two Lava Flow Crickets send funny text messages to each other. One starts with:
"Hey, bro, where R U?
I know it's early a.m.
:-< But I have a feeling
the Big V's gonna
shake tonite."
These poems add humor to a nonfiction unit, as well as provide a way for students to think about and experience nature in a different way. Some students might even think about writing their own poetry, creating new characters based on some of their other reading and discoveries.

Common Core connections

The Common Core standards explicitly call for students to study the craft and structure of literature. As librarians, we must provide our students with a wide range of examples, especially ones that appeal to students' interests. You might connect Volcano Wakes Up! with these 3rd grade Common Core standards:
CCSS RL3.5 Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
CCSS RL3.6 Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.
The Common Core asks students to write and discuss poetry, explaining how the craft of poetry contributes to the overall effect of poem. At times I worry that this will take away the enjoyment of fun poetry, but I think that's part of how we approach it. As I work on this in my own teaching practice, I want to remember to help students talk about the craft a little - but always in the view of asking why it works, why it's funny, how the poet created it so we enjoyed it so much.

Do your students enjoy poetry and science when they're combined together? Do you have any favorite poetry books that help children experience a new place in the world? I'd love to hear your favorites in the comments.

For more great poetry resources, check out today's Poetry Friday, hosted at Steps and Staircases. Poetry Friday is a weekly celebration organized by KidLit bloggers - for the full schedule, check here.

Check out these other posts from the Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries.

Many thanks to my colleagues and contributors with Common Core IRL: Alyson Beecher, Louise Capizzo, Travis Jonker and Cathy Potter. We hope to continue to bring you topics throughout the year. The review copy came from my school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Common Core IRL: Multimedia resources on volcanoes (ages 9 - 12)

Volcanoes certainly grab your attention, with their enormous size, ferocious explosions and deadly force. About 1,500 volcanoes are currently active, threatening more than one billion people on Earth! But how do we help our students learn about these rumbling giants?

Today, our Common Core IRL team is uncovering a range of resources to help students learn about volcanoes. Alyson at KidLit Frenzy, Cathy and Louise at The Nonfiction Detectives, Travis at 100 Scope Notes and I have been sharing ideas all summer on the Common Core. It's certainly a hot topic!

Here at Great Kid Books, I'm investigating multimedia resources to engage students, establish important background knowledge, and help develop their listening comprehension skills.
National Geographic: Volcanoes 101 (click to open)
Forces of Nature: Volcanoes 101
National Geographic Kids website
Video (without ads on the National Geographic Kids site)
Length: 3 minutes
Grades 3 and up
With dramatic images and clear narration, this National Geographic video introduces a wide range of volcanoes. Students will be fascinated by many pictures of flowing lava, billowing gas clouds and smoking mountains. The combination of visuals and clear narration helps students acquire new vocabulary words they'll need to tackle reading about this subject.

The fast paced images will hold students' attention, although the video covers too much information too quickly for students to absorb all of it at once. In fact, it might be interesting to ask students if there are any visual features, such as titles or captions, that might help make this video a better learning tool. In any case, this video serves as an excellent introduction for students interested in learning about volcanoes.

Note that the same video is available on the National Geographic site, along with several other volcano videos; however, advertisements precede the videos on the regular site and not on the National Geographic Kids site.
BBC News: video & article (click to open)
Mexico Eruption: Volcano crater viewed from the air
BBC News, 11 July 2013
Video & news article
Length: 30 seconds
Grades 3 and up
This brief television news report provides an excellent example of how active volcanoes can affect people's lives. The Popocatepetl volcano, just east of Mexico City, had been relatively quiet for much of last year. But this July, it started spewing ash and gas, causing concern for the 50,000 people living in neighboring towns. This news report is brief and succinct, making it accessible for elementary students. For a longer follow-up article, I might suggest Fox News Latino's article Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano Gets A Check Up, published August 1, 2013.

Common Core connections:
The Common Core State Standards explicitly call for students to listen to information presented in a variety of diverse media formats. As the authors of the CCSS write in Appendix A,
"If literacy levels are to improve, the aims of the English language arts classroom, especially in the earliest grades, must include oral language in a purposeful, systematic way, in part because it helps students master the printed word... Oral language development precedes and is the foundation for written language development; in other words, oral language is primary and written language builds on it."
As librarians, we must provide our students with engaging multimedia experiences to learn about the world around them. Even in upper elementary grades, students are able to comprehend more complex material by listening to a multimedia presentation than reading about it. It's important to help students understand this, so that when they're interested in a subject they can seek out different ways of learning about it.

These resources directly connect to the following Common Core State Standards:
CCSS SL4.2: Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS SL5.3: Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence.
After watching the BBC news report, students can work in pairs to summarize the news and explain how the recent eruption is affecting local people in Mexico City. After watching the National Geographic Kids video, students might add to the class chart tracking information they are learning about volcanoes. It might be helpful to pause this longer video at a few strategic points to have students talk about terms they are hearing. Learning new academic and content vocabulary is especially important when exploring a new topic.

I have been absolutely fascinated learning about volcanoes. I know it's a bad pun, but I feel like I'm just barely scratching the surface of this topic. If students are interested in them, help them find a range of resources, starting with easier basic introductions and then building up to more complex resources. Check out these other posts from the Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries.
Many thanks to my colleagues and contributors with Common Core IRL: Alyson Beecher, Louise Capizzo, Travis Jonker and Cathy Potter. We hope to continue to bring you topics throughout the year.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Common Core IRL: Frogs - discovering texts of increasing complexity

As I have thought about what it means to implement the Common Core State Standards, one of my real focuses is on how I can help children discover increasingly more complex nonfiction texts on subjects they are interested in. Five of us -- librarians and literacy experts -- are working together to show what the Common Core means for school libraries in real life. We’re calling the series Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries.
Kids are fascinated by the world around them. Our role, as adults who share books with kids, is to help them discover books that build on this interest, making them want to learn more and more. But we need to do so with books that build on their knowledge in a gradual way.

For our first topic, we chose to focus on frogs. Last month, each of us shared books on frogs that gradually increased in text complexity. We have pulled together our recommendations in one document, to share with teachers, librarians and parents. Please feel free to download this and share with your colleagues and friends.

Common Core IRL is truly a collaborative effort. Many thanks to these friends and colleagues who have worked to put together these recommendations:
We look forward to making Common Core IRL a recurring feature. Are there topics that you think your students would be interested in that we should cover? Let us know in the comments.

©2013 , Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reading aloud about frogs: The Common Core IRL

Our children are fascinated by the world around them, soaking up information about so many different things. I clearly remember how excited my daughter was to learn that birds, snakes and crocodiles are all oviparous, or egg-bearing animals. We can foster this sort of enthusiasm by reading aloud picture books that delve into different nonfiction topics. As the Common Core standards state in ELA Standard 10,
"Children in the early grades (particularly K–2) should participate in rich, structured conversations with an adult in response to the written texts that are read aloud, orally comparing and contrasting as well as analyzing and synthesizing, in the manner called for by the Standards."
Lucy Calkins develops this idea further, writing in her Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop,
"One cannot stress enough the importance of reading aloud. You will want to read aloud to teach children discipline-based concepts that are integral to social studies and science.You’ll also read aloud to create a sense of community and to show children why people love to read. And you’ll read aloud to teach children vocabulary and higher-level comprehension skills. As you conduct a read-aloud session be sure that it includes opportunities for accountable talk." grade 2, page 6
As part of our new series the Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries, we would like to suggest two excellent nonfiction picture books all about frogs that we like to read aloud to students. These books will have different language and text features than those we provide to children to read independently. They might use more figurative language, longer sentences, higher vocabulary. But they will engage students, laying important background for their own reading, and lead to many discussions about these interesting animals.
Frog Song
by Brenda Guiberson
illustrated by Gennady Spirin
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2013
read aloud: grades 1-3
independent reading: grades 4-5
Lexile 950 AD (adult directed)
your local library
This gorgeous picture book explores eleven different frog species from around the world, from Australia to Borneo to Chile. Each spread focuses on a different species, with a wonderful illustration and an engaging description that focuses on one interesting aspect of that species. Guiberson uses descriptive text to hook readers:
"In Chile, the Darwin's frog sings in the beech forest. Chirp-Chweet! The male guards 30 eggs in the damp leaves for three weeks. When the tadpoles wiggle, he scoops them into his mouth. Slurp! They slither into his vocal sacs, where he keeps them safe and moist for 7 weeks. Then he gives a big yawn, and little froglets pop out."
This book would work very well as a read aloud for 1st through 3rd grade, either to a whole class or a small group. Older children might love reading this as they explore different types of frogs, but I really see this as working best as a read aloud. Guiberson ends the book with an interesting summary of the different species, and a note about how frogs are in trouble from environmental pressures or pollution. I do wish that she included a map identifying where the different species live, providing that geographical context for young readers.

Teachers and school librarians will be interested in this helpful reading guide for Frog Song. Another book for reading aloud that would complement Frog Song is Hip-Pocket Papa, by Sandra Markle.
Hip-Pocket Papa
by Sandra Markle
illustrated by Alan Marks
Charlesbridge, 2010
read aloud: grades 2-4
independent reading: grades 4-5
Lexile 1060 AD (adult directed)
your public library
Sandra Markle and Alan Marks have teamed up to write several engaging narrative nonfiction books about animals throughout the world. These books follow one animal, telling the story of that animal's life. Readers can clearly identify the beginning, middle and end of the story, much like they do in fiction.
Set in an Australian rain forest, Hip-Pocket Papa follows this tiny frog as they watch over and protect their eggs, and then the babies from tadpoles through maturity. Once the eggs hatch, the male scoops the tadpoles up and keeps them safe in hip pockets until they have developed lungs and turned into froglets. The text is both poetic and fascinating, as it follows one father's hazardous journey raising his young. Markle uses long sentences with complex vocabulary to paint a picture with her words:
"Finally, the eggs hatch!The jelly surrounding them turns to liquid -- a birth puddle for the twelve teeny, tiny tadpoles, swimming up and out onto the surface of the forest floor. Her job done, the female crawls away. The male stays. He has an even bigger job to do."
Alan Marks' detailed, realistic watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are perfect for showing to a whole group. The rich colors and close-up scenes draw readers into the forest setting, focusing close up on the tiny frogs and the miniature drama happening each moment. The only problem I had is really getting a sense of the true size of the frogs. Since narrative nonfiction books usually do not have text features like diagrams or labeled illustrations, readers must use the descriptive text to figure out this information.

Check out this preview of Hip-Pocket Papa available through Google Books:

Common Core Standards

Below you can see how standard 3 for reading informational text develops from 1st grade through 3rd grade, as students describe a process like the metamorphosis of a frog, or comparing two different frog species. Both of these books could be used to have students delve into a discussion about frogs' development, either examining the development of one species step-by-step, or comparing and contrasting different species.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.3 Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.3 Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3 Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
This post is part our first feature the Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries, we're focusing on frogs. Frogs are fascinating animals, from their amazing metamorphosis as they turn from tadpole to frog, to the sheer variety in their colors, habitats and sizes. Head over to these blogs to read about:
The review copies come from my school library. Many thanks to Travis Jonker, Cathy Potter, Alyson Beecher, and Louise Capizzo for taking this journey to talk about what the Common Core means for us in real life! We look forward to this recurring series.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books