Earth Hour is a global event that occurs on the last Saturday of March at 8:30 P.M. For one hour, people turn their lights off. Statues, monuments and famous landmarks go dark. Homes do, too. This movement brings attention to the amount of energy we use without even thinking about it. The hope is that for 60 minutes, we’ll think about the energy we consume and what this means for Earth.
Author Nanette Heffernan wrote Earth Hour: A Lights-Out Event for Our Planet after learning about the occasion. She was so inspired by the movement, that she made a pledge to tell one million people about Earth Hour.
Young readers are going to love this book. The simple text and engaging illustrations take readers around the world to learn about energy and Earth Hour.
Illustrator Bao Luu does a remarkable job taking readers around the world with his digital drawings. Readers will see nighttime scenes of diverse families looking at famous monuments, buildings and landmarks before and after the lights go out for Earth Hour.
The story ends with a gathering of people holding candles with the words “…together we have power. United, we are Earth Hour.” Detailed information about Earth Hour is included at the end of the book.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Create I.B.3 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.
Before reading the story, invite readers to look at the cover of the book. Ask learners what they suppose the story is about. Follow up on their responses by asking learners to explain their answers.
Explain that readers will hear the word “equinox” in the story. Write the word “equinox” along with the definition on a sentence strip. Post the sentence strip where readers can see it.
Ask the following questions while reading the story:
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For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on my first class for Skillshare and today it’s officially live!
If you’re not familiar with Skillshare, it’s an online learning community with thousands of classes on everything from photography to illustration to fashion – it’s the Netflix of learning.
In this class, you’ll see me modeling how to sketchnote while reading the book Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris. My hope is that you’ll take the skills learned in this class and model sketchnoting to learners. Before you know it, they’ll want to try sketchnoting themselves.
Sketchnoting is important because it compels learners to look closely and think deeply about the topic at hand. It’s a great way to engage learners with literature.
Click here to enroll in the class and sign up for a Skillshare Premium Membership. You’ll have access to all other classes on Skillshare starting with a one-month free trial.
If a local family lost everything in a fire, you would probably donate clothes and money to help. But what if you had nothing to give? What is Given from the Heart is a beautiful story that captures the true essence of generosity.
Young James Otis knows what it means to live with very little. His family is poor. Life gets tougher when his father falls asleep and never wakes up.
At church, they hear about a family who needs help. Their house burned down with all of their belongings. The congregation is asked to make donations. But what could James and his mom possibly give when they have so little themselves?
Author Patricia C. McKissack shows us the struggle of a young boy who grapples with helping others when he could use some help himself. The illustrator, April Harrison, adds depth to the text with her beautiful portrayal of the characters. The color choices and mixed media artfully capture the mood and feelings of the story. Her illustrations caught the attention of many readers who promoted her work with Mock Caldecott awards.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Grow II.D.3 Learners demonstrate empathy and equity in knowledge building within the global learning community by reflecting on their own place within the global learning community.
After reading the story, ask learners what they noticed about the gift James made for Sarah. What did it take to make it? Learners may say that it took empathy, time and creativity.
Ask learners to think about situations where people might need help in their school. Perhaps a new student might feel left out at lunch, or someone might be sad about a lost family pet. Others may feel alone at recess. Brainstorm ideas on what the group can do to show others they care.
Take a look at a couple of ideas from Colchester Elementary School in Connecticut. Watch this video to learn about their Buddy Bench that helps people make friends at recess. Read this post about their Giving Tree project that assists those in need.
Please share your ideas in the comment box below!
What did you love to do when you were a kid? Did that passion stick with you through adulthood?
Rube Goldberg loved to draw as a child. He especially enjoyed drawing cartoons. His passion stuck with him into adulthood, and he wanted to find work as an artist. This wasn’t easy. His parent’s discouraged the idea. Newspapers rejected his cartoons. But he persisted. He kept drawing and submitting his work until one day he was hired as a cartoonist.
Goldberg’s work was well received. Readers loved his drawings. They especially liked his Professor Butts’s cartoons. Professor Butts created convoluted contraptions to solve simple problems. His intriguing machines made everyone laugh.
Readers will enjoy this fascinating story about a determined man. The resonating message about getting what you want out of life can’t be missed. Captivating illustrations fill the pages. The double-page spreads are perfect for viewing audiences. Readers will especially love the three spreads dedicated to Professor Butt’s and his contraptions.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Think III.A.3 Learners identify collaborative opportunities by deciding to solve problems informed by group interaction.
Did you know that Goldberg never made any of his gadgets? He only drew the machines. Invite learners to work together to design a contraption of their own.
Wonderopolis has a page dedicated to Rube Goldberg. Watch the featured video that shows a Rube Goldberg machine in action. Give learners time to explore the other great resources on the page.
Want more ideas? Quest Academy made a human machine. Kids will love watching this video with fifth graders!
Have you heard about La Posada Sin Fronteras? I just learned about this significant gathering by reading Between Us and Abueala: A Family Story from the Border.
La Posada Sin Fronteras takes place at the border of the United States and Mexico. Every December, family and friends gather on both sides of the fences that divide the countries. They touch hands and sing songs to celebrate Las Posadas; a holiday that commemorates the journey before the birth of Jesus.
Between Us and Abuela opens with a family making gifts for their grandmother who lives in Mexico. They are planning to meet her at the border of San Diego and Tijuana for Las Posadas. The little girl is both happy and worried about the gathering. She knows a fence will divide their reunion. Will she find her grandmother? Will the gifts fit through the fence?
This important book will inspire great questions and discussions about borders. The author and illustrator did an outstanding job of bringing this topic to young readers. The storyline is engaging and approachable. The theme of holiday celebrations and family gatherings is one that all readers will connect with. Organic questions will arise when readers see that this event is quite different from other celebrations.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Think I.A.1 Learners display curiosity and initiative by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.
Write “Questions I Have About La Posada Sin Fronteras” on chart paper. Pass out sticky notes and pencils.
Invite learners to write questions they have about the story on their sticky notes. They will place their questions on the chart paper at the end of the story.
Ask the following questions as you read Between Us and Abuela:
Page 1: Look closely at the illustration. What does the image tell you about the setting of the story? Read the text. What more did you learn? What questions do you have?
Page 2-3: Where is the family going? How do you know? What questions do you have about their journey?
Page 4-5: How is the mother feeling as she walks towards the fence? How do you know? What do you notice about the fences? What questions do you have? What does the author want us to know about this visit? What makes you say that?
Page 6-7: What does the author want us to know about the gifts? Why is this important to understand?
Page 8-9: Read the text and notice the illustration. What information can you gather about the families and their reunion? What questions you have?
Page 10-11: Why is there concern about Juan’s gift?
Pages 12-13: Here the author mentions that the fences seem invisible. What does she mean by that? What questions do you have about Las Posadas?
Pages 14-15: How is the family feeling? What makes you say that? What are you wondering?
Pages 18-19: How is Mama feeling on this page? What makes you think so?
Pages 20-23: What questions do you have about how the officers react to the girl’s plan?
La Posada Sin Fronteras took place on December 14, 2019. Check social media postings to share with learners.
Are you looking for a book that teaches readers about the world around them? Take a look at Every Month is a New Year. It’s a treasure that needs to be explored by every child and educator. The book offers the quintessential window into other cultures by using a common thread: New Year’s Day.
The features in this book are captivating. Let’s start with how the pages turn; from bottom to top. Just like a calendar. Next, a colorful map highlights different countries that celebrate New Year’s Day. Below the map is a synopsis of what this day means.
Now onto the calendar. Each month describes a New Year’s Day celebration in a different country. Poetic text and gorgeous illustrations explain the special observances. The artwork, done in collage, is full of texture. Readers will find themselves running their hands across the pages to feel the illustrations.
There is something for everyone at the end of the book. Here, readers will find more details about the referenced celebrations and calendars. A glossary defines unknown words. New Year’s Day greetings from around the world will invite readers to speak a different language.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Think II.A.3 Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community.
Let’s focus on a visual literacy lesson to inspire thoughtful questions.
Begin with gathering background information. Ask:
Next, look at the cover. Ask:
Open the book to the introductory pages. Read the information. Ask learners to share “I Wonder” questions as you read. Write the questions on chart paper.
Next, choral read the months of the year and flip through the pages. Ask readers what they noticed about the quick scan through the illustrations. Choose one page to explore. Read the text and notice the illustration. What questions do readers have? Show how the back of the book has information that might answer their questions. Discuss other ways learners can find answers.
Give learners an opportunity to learn more about the featured country with library resources.
If you have 4 copies of the book, divide the class into groups. Ask each group to choose a New Year’s Day celebration from the book. Invite them to ask questions and find answers. Share new learning with the class.
Give learners the opportunity to create with collage. Find a page in the book to copy. This activity will compel learners to look closely at the illustrations and consider how the images were constructed. More questions will arise as they think about the illustrator’s craft.
If you like this lesson idea, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included
Pair this book with Outside My Window to learn more about our amazing world.
A cartographer is a person who draws or produces maps. Warthogs can draw maps, too. Well, only in the pages of this illuminating book about tracking your path. The story opens on a wintery day. A blanket of snow covers the forest. Camilla, a warthog, surrounds herself with her favorite collection of maps. When Parsley, a porcupine, can’t find her way to the creek, she asks Camilla for help. A map of the forest and a compass gives them direction.
Author Julie Dillemuth engages readers with playful text. Her use of alliteration and occasional rhyming words makes the story a fun read-aloud. The illustrations, by Laura Wood, will give readers solid examples of what is featured in a map. The double-page spread below shows the legend, a compass rose, the scale, and the title.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Create I.B.2 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes devising and implementing a plan to fill knowledge gaps.
Camilla uses a compass and a compass rose to follow and create maps. Ask learners to consider how these tools help her.
Next, pass out compasses for learners to explore. Don’t have any? Send an email to staff asking if they have some you can borrow. Sneak in a blurb about how you will use the compass for a lesson that supports the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by asking questions and defining problems.
Invite learners to wonder how a compass works. Watch Make Your Own Compass. Ask learners what questions they have about the experiment. Write the questions on chart paper.
Discuss how learners can find answers to their questions. Once they develop a plan to investigate the workings of a compass, give them time to research the answer.
For more lesson ideas that connect with the NGSS, check out the One Dark Bird blog post.
Imagine a contest where you get to design a community park. What would you include in your plan? In 1858, architect Calvert Vaux had great ideas for a park in New York City. He entered a contest with Frederick Law Olmsted, a landscape expert. Together they submitted grand plans for a park, and they won! They were awarded the job of designing and developing Central Park.
A Green Place to Be is a fascinating story. Author Ashley Benham Yazdani did an incredible job delivering information through text and illustrations. Readers will learn how the park evolved. They will see how it was designed so everyone could enjoy it.
Yazdani reminds me of Vaux and Olmsted. She created a book that everyone can appreciate. Budding architects will love the double-page spread that features the park’s bridges. Detectives will have fun finding the twenty-two squirrels hidden in the pages. There are also some facts and ideas for artists and gardeners to explore. And of course, there are plenty of interesting details to satisfy history buffs.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: I.A.1 Learners engage with new knowledge by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.
Prepare learners for the story by asking what they know and wonder about Central Park. Record questions on chart paper.
Encourage learners to ask “I Wonder” questions during and after the reading. Allow time to explore questions by visiting CentralPark.com. Here they’ll find events, tours, and historical information. There is also an interactive mapping tool that learners may enjoy investigating.
Visit the WhatWasThere website to see how Central Park has changed over the years. Start by typing in New York City, NY and find Central Park. You’ll see old pictures layered on top of current images. The older pictures can fade, revealing a current image underneath. Learn more about this AASL Best Website for Teaching and Learning by reading a KnowledgeQuest post from Heather Moorefield-Lang.
Share Up In The Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouse by Shira Boss and Jamey Christoph. This story will appeal to the arborists in your class. Click here to find lesson ideas for the book.
Have you ever built a treehouse? Where did you build it? I bet it was in your backyard. Imagine building a treehouse in a public park. How would you accomplish that without anyone noticing? Especially when the park is in a busy city full of people!
Up in the Leaves is a fascinating story about Bob Redman. As a boy, he found solace climbing trees in Central Park. The trees provided space away from crowded living in Manhattan. He began building treehouses in the park.
But there was a problem. When Redman built a treehouse, someone would take it down. This did not discourage him. He continued to build structures, each one grander than the one before.
The story has a wonderful ending; one that I won’t share here because I don’t want to ruin it for you. I’ll say this, though. It’s nice to have empathetic people in the world that find smart ways to solve problems.
Author Shira Boss didn’t have to travel far to research this story. Redman happens to be her husband! They met when she needed help from an arborist. Guess who answered the call? You guessed it. It was Bob Redman.
I am a big fan of Jamey Christoph, the illustrator of this story. His style has a sort of retro feel that I appreciate. Readers will enjoy seeing Central Park from a birds-eye view. The illustrations evoke a quiet calm in a noisy city.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: I.A.1 Learners engage with new knowledge by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.
Prepare for the lesson by drawing a tree without leaves on a piece of chart paper. Cut shapes of leaves from construction paper.
Open the book to the end of the story and read the epilogue. Ask learners what questions they have about growing a healthy tree in a congested city. Write questions on shapes of leaves and tape them to the tree.
Introduce Bob Redman’s website. Ask learners what questions they have after reading about his services. Direct them to write their questions on leaves and tape them to the tree.
Invite a local arborist to answer questions. This can be done in person, or through email.
Check out Outside My Window, a thought-provoking book illustrated by Jamey Christoph.
Did you know that crows protect each other by forming a mob? When a crow feels threatened, he caws for help. His buddies fly in and harass predators. They caw and peck and use their feet to make the threat go away. Author Susan Vande Griek describes this fascinating bird behavior with poetry and descriptive text. Intriguing artwork by Mark Hoffman fills the double-page spread with movement and action.
Twelve birds are featured in this captivating book. Readers will enjoy the engaging snippets of information about each bird. The striking illustrations support the text by showing the birds in motion.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: I.B.3 Learners engage with new knowledge by following a process that includes generating products that illustrate learning.
How do illustrators create the illusion of movement? Ask learners to notice the techniques Mark Hoffman uses to show how birds move. They will notice how the direction of the wings and the placement of the beak work together to tell an animated story.
Close readers will notice how Hoffman uses lines to create movement. Streaked lines in the background point to where the bird is going. Trailing white lines behind the birds show where the bird is coming from. Readers may compare this white path to the contrails planes leave in the sky.
Watch how illustrator Steve Jenkins shows movement with collage. Notice how he studies pictures of moving animals before he puts pencil to paper. Invite learners to study an animal of their choosing. They can use books, images or watch a live video from Explore.org. Encourage learners to try techniques found in Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel and Other Poems of Birds in Flight.