Recent Posts

Friday, January 28, 2011

Great Minds Thinking Alike: Sites for Teaching Using Picture Books

I founded this humble blog for the purpose of sharing picture book teaching ideas with my fellow teachers. I frankly wasn't able to find anything like it on the Internet.

Since that time, many teachers have emailed me to say how much they appreciate the recommendations and resources found here. Many, however, are hungry for more, and invariably ask, "Where can I find other sites like yours?"

To advance the cause of teaching with picture books, I reached out to some of the extremely knowledgeable and talented educators who, like me, not only review children's books, but also provide their readers with teaching ideas and additional resources. I absolutely encourage you to visit their sites, become followers, and share their resources with your colleagues.

In addition, if you know of a fantastic site that I missed (especially if it's yours!) please let me know and I'll be sure to include you here.

The Book Chook
Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers, Anyone Who Loves to Read, Write or Create and Wants to Share that with Kids.

Teachers and parents from all over the world visit The Book Chook to find tips on encouraging kids to read, write and communicate, reviews, letters asking for The Book Chook's advice, articles about using technology to motivate kids' learning, and links to games, activities and online fun.

Susan Stephenson is the face behind The Book Chook, where she shares her passion for children's literacy, literature and learning. Susan taught Kindergarten to Year 6 in Australian primary schools, drama outside school to kids and young teens, and ESL in China.

Currently, as well as pretending to be a chicken on her blog, she writes stories for children, and edits the free magazine for parents, Literacy Lava. It's published four times a year, and available as a downloadable free pdf. Each issue is erupting with practical ideas and strategies to involve children in reading, writing and communicating with creativity. Contributors come from all over the world, but each shares a passion for children's literacy.

Some recommended posts to explore:

Katie's Literature Lounge
Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers, Librarians

In discussing Katie's Literature Lounge, Katie had this to say:
I am an elementary Head Start teacher by day and a reader during any/all free time. Being a teacher I am always looking for children's books to read and use in the classroom.
This blog provides readers with books (mainly picture books for children between the ages of 3-10) and if possible, lesson plans and reading activities to match. Feel free to steal the ideas for your own classroom, reading group, library or children!

Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them
Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers, Librarians, Children's Writers

Margo L. Dill is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, living in Mahomet, Illinois. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grit, Pockets, True Love, Fun for Kidz, Missouri Life, ByLine Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune. She is a columnist, instructor, and contributing editor for WOW! Women On Writing. She is assistant editor for the Sunday Books page in The News-Gazette.

Her first book, Finding My Place, a middle-grade historical novel, will be published by White Mane Kids. She owns her own copy editing business, Editor 911, and is an instructor for the Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club and the WOW! Women On Writing Classroom.

In discussing her blog, Read These Books and Use Them, Margo comments:
This blog has gone through many changes in the last two and a half years due to how my life has changed, too! But currently, I feature a book twice a week (picture book, middle-grade, or YA) and provide three activities or discussion points to go with the book. Every once in a while, I host an author, interview him or her, and have a book giveaway. I will also post information for teachers/homeschoolers if I find something really interesting that I think people need to know about to reach children or teach in schools.

In my archives, you'll find posts about books that help children/women around the world, more activities to go with books, lesson plans for preschool to senior high, six plus one traits of writing activities, product reviews, posts about being a mom educator, and more. 
When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her husband, stepson, daughter, and two dogs—Chester, a boxer, and Hush Puppy, a basset hound.

Some recommended features to explore at her site:
  • Use the category list on the sidebar to find authors you like, books appropriate for your children or students, and even books to fit certain categories like books about health.
  • Click on the tab at the top of Margo’s site to check out some ideas and resources for helping children and teens around the world.

NC Teacher Stuff
Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers

Jeff Barger’s goal with NC Teacher Stuff is to provide resources that will help teachers in the classroom.

While his reviews are mainly picture books, he also reviews iTouch apps and the occasional novel as well. Jeff is a kindergarten teacher in North Carolina.

Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books
Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers

Dawn Little is the author of Teaching Comprehension with Nonfiction Read Alouds: 12 Lessons for Using Newspapers, Magazines, and other Nonfiction Texts to Build Key Comprehension Skills (preview it here; buy it from her blog!).

Dawn's Teaching with Picture Books provides educators, parents, and homeschoolers with picture book models to guide their teaching of reading comprehension strategies and the six traits of writing.

Dawn is a mother of two, former classroom teacher, consultant, and author. She created a literacy consulting company, Links to Literacy, in 2009. Links to Literacy provides parent workshops, educator workshops, and literacy enrichment classes for children. She also blogs at Literacy Toolbox.

Some recommended posts to explore:

Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers

Shirley Duke is a former science teacher turned children's writer. She holds a bachelor's degree in science and a master's degree in education. She's always loved reading and science and her blog lets her combine them both. SimplyScience combines the pleasure of reading books with a short, simple science activity that can be used to extend an idea from the book.

Shirley started blogging two years ago and found she liked it. Her first book was No Bows!, a picture book. She's written Unthinkable, a YA horror named a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and two science books. Her science books are Infections, Infestations, and Diseases and You Can't Wear These Genes. She guest blogs for the NOVA site "Secret Life of Scientists."

Some recommended posts to explore:

Teach Mentor Texts
Audience: Teachers, Parents

In speaking of her inspiration for creating Teach Mentor Texts, Jen Vincent says:
All the professional books I have read and all the research shows that the kids who read more are the kids who do better on reading tests.
I got to thinking about my life as a reader. I want all my students to grow up and be lifelong readers just like me...well, do I read worksheets? Do I fill out reading logs after I finish a chapter or 20 minutes of reading? Do I read a book that is way to hard for me or that doesn't interest me at all? Of course not. I decided that matching my students with authentic, mentor texts was critical to helping them improve as readers. I started blogging at Teach Mentor Texts to share the great mentor texts I come across.
My proudest professional achievement has been to achieve National Board certification this year in early/middle childhood literacy. I am so glad I went through the process because I learned so much about myself as a teacher and further developed my philosophy of teaching. I am currently in my 9th year of teaching. I am a hearing itinerant teacher; I work with K-8 students who hard deaf and hard of hearing in various schools in my district. Outside of school I am a mom to two awesome boys (ages 3 1/2 and 6 months) and wife to a sports-loving hubby.
Some recommended posts to explore:

Teach with Picture Books
Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers, Children's Publishers

Keith Schoch is a classroom teacher of over 20 years presently teaching Sixth Grade Reading/Language Arts in Bedminster, NJ. He started his Teach with Picture Books in an attempt to share his love of using picture books in the upper elementary classroom. Since that time, he's started two other blogs: How to Teach a Novel and Teaching that Sticks. He leads occasional workshops and inservices, and also writes original curriculum and teaching guides, such as his recent teaching guide for Encyclopedia Mythologica: Gods and Heroes (Candlewick Press).
Teach with Picture Books is aimed at teachers of grades 3 and up who want to incoporate picture books in their daily instruction. In the majority of his posts, Keith collects a number of recommended titles sharing similar themes, topics, or traits, and then provides teaching ideas, related resources, and links to interactive activities.
About his most popular blog, Keith says:
I'm often asked my favorite picture book. That's like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. One is there when you need support, another is there to lend a strong hand, another is there to help you with a good cry, and another is there to provide wise counsel. Picture books can serve so many purposes, and pure enjoyment is perhaps the greatest of these.
Some posts to explore:

Audience: Teachers, Parents, Homeschoolers, Children's Publishers

The purpose of Books4Learning is to highlight quality children's literature as a resource for parents and educators (homeschool or classroom). Blog author Chelanne often offer ideas and links to prompt learning opportunities - literary, interpersonal, and cross-curriculum. Some posts focus on the best books on a specific subject or on a tween/young adult novel which Chelanna has recently read. 

Describing herself, Chelanne says

I am a parent who currently homeschools. I have two education/English related degrees.  I have worked as an elementary classroom teacher and a college English instructor. I LOVE reading books, especially picture books. I do library runs (to three different systems) at least twice a week. I love researching and finding everything available on a topic. I started blogging to share my favorites with others. 
Explore some of her posts here:

Thanks to all these dedicated bloggers for taking time to share about themselves and their work!

Got a question for these experts? Looking for a book or topic you'd like to explore? Have another site to share? Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

13 Words in One Word: Entertaining

So often I expound on such serious matters for picture books: the Holocaust, scientific inquiry, and war. It's nice once in a while to pick up a picture book that's just fun to read, and Lemony Snicket's 13 Words is such a book. 13 Words couples simple words (Bird) with complex (Despondent), and common words (Dog) with uncommon (Panache).

Just last night my seven year-old daughter asked if we could read a book together. From stacks of dozens of picture books on our dining room table, Mackenzie selected this one to read (I think the striking school-bus-yellow cover had much to do with that).

As we began to turn pages, she decided that some were mine to read while others were hers. The page featuring the word Despondent was hers. Dad the teacher, never one to miss ruining the moment, stopped her to ask, "What does despondent mean?"

Mackenzie dutifully replied, "It means very unhappy," and explained why, using the pictures and context sentences to prove her hypothesis. (By the way, there is no difference between hypothesis and absolute-certain-truth in the mind of a seven year-old).

As we continued through the book, often stopping to discuss Maira Kalman's surreal illustrations, we came across the word Panache. Learning its meaning (from the book, mind you, not from Dad), my daughter called to my wife, "Hey, Mom! You have panache!"

Enter Mom. Good thing, too, because we needed some help with Word Number 13: Mezzo-Soprano. My wife offered, "I think that's a soprano that sings really high. Casey would know."

Enter the thirteen year-old, the musical theatre aficionado. Thirteen year-olds know everything, so it was extremely fortuitous that she was available to confirm my wife's conjecture. And with the whole family now gathered, we finished the book.

The book in one word? Crazy (Mackenzie). In two? Pretty Neat (Mom). In three? Kind of Weird (Casey). In four? Completely unique, absolutely original (me).

And that's that. As promised, I won't discuss the book's potential for creative story prompts, vocabulary development, or writing models. I could, and should, but I won't.

Sometimes books can just be fun!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Picture Books in the Secondary Classroom

About a month ago I was harassing folks to come out and support my proposal for Basic Literacy through Picture Books at the Open Innovation Portal (not too late! you can still be an educational activist!). I posted my (obviously) hand-made video here at Teach with Picture Books and also at the English Companion Ning.

Educator extraordinaire Jenna Gardner was kind enough to respond to my video by sharing a Prezi of her own on Picture Books in the Secondary Classroom, and she's allowed me to post it here as well.

Be sure to click on More in lower right corner of video viewing window to go full screen!

Terrific research snippets supporting the use of picture books with the upper grades! Thanks, Jenna.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Nation Divided: Exploring the Civil War Through Picture Books

The Civil War, or War Between the States, was arguably one of the darkest periods in American history. Over seven hundred thousand lives were lost in the conflict that pitted father against son, brother against brother. If this was such a horrific event, then why study it?

For some teachers, it's a part of their assigned curriculum, but textbooks rarely do justice to the personal perspectives of those who lived through this harrowing time. For other teachers, a common background knowledge of the Civil War is crucial to reading and comprehending Civil War era historical fiction novels such as Charlie Skeddadle, Rifles for Watie, Bull Run, and Soldier's Heart. Even the reader of the tongue-in-cheek misadventures described in the recent Newbery Honor winning The Mostly True Adventures Of Homer P. Figg can benefit from a basic knowledge of Civil War history.

Apart from these pragmatic reasons, though, why should we care about Civil War picture books? First, because the Civil War was the ultimate test of our young country's ability to stand united. Second, because the Civil War is as much a study in human rights as it is in states' rights. And third, because an understanding and appreciation of our existing rights comes only through an examination of the bloody conflict which guaranteed those same freedoms to all citizens.

The Last Brother by Trinka Hakes Noble serves as an excellent introduction to the external and internal conflicts of the Civil War. (You may recall an earlier post on The American Revolution where I praised Noble's The Scarlet Stockings Spy). In this tale, a young bugler is forced to choose between duty to country and loyalty to a friend; in the end, he is able to honor both. Like The Scarlet Stockings Spy, this book is incredibly well researched, using exacting vocabulary within a context that allows young readers to construct meaning, as well as a sense of time and place, without losing the narrative flow. At the same time, it delivers a compelling story that serves a snapshot of the torn allegiances suffered throughout the entire nation at this time.

In the Author's Note, Trinka Hakes Noble explains that the inspiration for The Last Brother came from her own family history:

Nearly one hundred of my ancestors were in the Civil War, which they called the States War. One large Hakes farming family from upstate New York sent all their sons. The youngest, a fourteen-year-old drummer, was the only one who returned. This tragic loss was not uncommon on both sides...

The Last Brother was written with deep respect and honor, not only for my ancestors, but for all who served in the Civil War.
Robert Papp's realistic paintings dramatically frame each page, providing additional impact to the already emotional tale, while showing equal attention to historical detail and accuracy.

Ted Lewin's Red Legs tells the story of nine year-old Stephen's first foray into battle. The text provides just the right amount of information for young readers, who at book's end discover that Stephen and his soldier father are actually Civil War reenactors, or living historians. "Reenactors do it," explains Lewin, "because they love history and wish to honor the memory of the men and boys on both sides who died so long ago."

The book's endnotes explain that the drummer boy is based on the life of Stephen Benjamin Bartow, a Civil War musician from Brooklyn's 14th Regiment, who not only survived the war, but went on to become a mason who helped to build the Brooklyn Bridge. The large format of this book as well as Lewin's bright and detailed paintings make this an excellent foray into the topic. (Check out a study guide for Red Legs provided by the Brooklyn Public Library).

Pink and Say is Patricia Polacco's true-life tale of two Union soldiers, one white and one black, who are caught behind enemy lines. Finding Say wounded on the battlefield, Pink transports him to the abandoned plantation where Pink's family was once enslaved. While there, the boys compare their experiences as soldiers fighting for the same cause.

When Confederate marauders invade the house and kill Moe Moe Bay (Pink's mother), the two boys are forced to flee North.

The bittersweet ending to this book (I won't give it away) delivers an emotional punch when we discover the author's relationship to one of the book's protagonists. If you want to put a personal face on the tragedies of war, get your hands on this book.

Voices of Gettysburg, like Pink and Say, provides personal perspectives of the conflict. In this case, however, we hear the words of several participants, including General Robert E. Lee, Rachel Cormany (a housewife of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania), General George Meade, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (once a college professor but now commnader of the Twentieth Maine Infantry).

These and other voices describe for us the anxiety, anger, and anguish surrounding one of the most pivotal battles of the war. If you're asking students to create mock journal entries, then author Sherry Garland has provided some excellent models for you to share.

In 1863, General Lee took the fighting to the North, leading his troops into Pennsylvania. Lincoln mobilized thousand of Union troops to intercept the Rebels. In The Battle of Gettysburg: Would You Lead the Fight? an engaging "you are there" format challenges readers to continually choose between courses of action, given the particulars of an historic situation. Each of the situations is, indeed, taken from history, and succeeding pages reveal the actual courses of action taken by generals and presidents, and the consequences of those actions.

This is the perfect book for students who want to feel that they're a part of history! Photographs, paintings, and battlefield maps round out the easy-to-read text. (Be sure to check out one of the other related titles in this series from Enslow Publishers: Would You Do What Lincoln Did?).

B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet provides a fascinating look at all things Civil War, literally from A (Abraham Lincoln) to Z (Zouave, a brightly dressed soldier whose garb was inspired by African units fighting with the French in North Africa in the 1830s). Each page features a fantastic painting by illustrator David Geister, and poetry and prose by author Patricia Bauer. Students can read as far as they want on each page, as the text "drills down" to more specific topics. The page on Trains, for example, not only discusses their impact on the war, but also points out other innovations (submarines, rifled cannons, photography) which made the Civil War one of the first truly modern wars. If you're looking for a book that reads like a narrative, but acts as a reference, this should be on your classroom shelf.

You Wouldn't Want to Be a Civil War Soldier is from the "You Wouldn't Want to..." series of nonfiction books created by British author David Salariya. The series has since been taken on by several other writers, although the extremely talented David Antram continues to illustrate most titles. In a previous post about Salariya, I mentioned that the Manchester Evening News called this series "a fascinating full-on colour weapon in the battle to get kids to remember historical facts." This title continues in that tradition, sharing facts about army life that are rarely remembered today. The typical lot of the foot soldier on either side was boredom, filth, and hunger, only occasionally punctuated by horrific and bloody battles. This book begs the question, "So why did they do it?" and then answers that question. Again, a great resource for fictional eyewitness accounts, and one of those books that will be read at will in the classroom, especially by your boys.

Hands-On Extensions

For hands-on projects in the classroom, I can recommend no book more highly than Maxine Anderson's Great Civil War Projects You Can Build Yourself. First, this book comes from a long line of excellent resource books for teachers and students from Nomad Press (read a rave about them in an earlier post). Second, the book itself is an incredible source of information about the innovations and technology of the war. You could easily make those topics alone the focus of a related Science unit, and this book would yield enough activities for at least an entire marking period. Ample background about the war and the people who fought it would, in fact, make this an excellent stand-alone "textbook" for any classroom, grades four and up. Third, the activities are easily "doable," and actually pretty cool! I can't say the same for some other hands-on books that I skimmed and quickly dismissed. Few of the projects here require special materials, and most could be made by students with little assistance. Imagine creating a battlefield camera and a telegraph that actually work! (Check out a free resource from this book at their site).

Sites to See and Stuff to Do Online

Harpers Weekly was the primary contemporary source of news about the Civil War. Now you can see all of its archived issues in one place! At Sons of the South you can view the paper by week and year, or study specific battles.

To use the Harpers Weekly resource in class, team students up to research the main facts of a single battle, and then summarize those facts into three to four paragraphs. Using the The Newspaper Clip Generator (pictured) allows students to create a fictitious newspaper article with a realistic look, while at the same time limiting them in both space and word count. This forces them to tell only the most important facts.

The Brooklyn Public Library provides a number of lesson plans and resources about the Civil War, with special focus on Women, Slavery, Soldiers and Daily Life. The downloadable lesson plans take advantage of the interactive resources offered at the site, as well as easily attained picture books, like Ted Lewin's Red Legs, Anne Rockwell's Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth, and Shana Corey's You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! Also available there, an easy to understand glossary which would be the perfect supplement to any Civil War unit.

If you're looking for more interactive-type reviews, check out Mr. Nussbaum's Civil War activities. There you'll find cloze passages, self-checking reading comprehension selections, time lines, word searches, and more.

Along that same line, you'll find several self-checking quizzes, reading resources, and lots of links at Mountain City Elementary's Civil War page. It looks old-school Internet, but I promise you, take the time to look around and you won't be disappointed! Explore the links to discover lots of reading and history integrated projects which are easily adaptable to your classroom.

The PBS companion site to The Civil War, a film by Ken Burns, features not only the expected classroom activities, but also a pretty neat project involving digital storytelling.

You might like what you see there, or that same idea could just as easily be executed using PhotoStory, Movie Maker, VoiceThread, Prezi, and even Power Point.

Note that the movie below, along with filmed interviews, makes extensive use of period photographs to tell its story.

Other resources at other sites include animated battle maps (such as this one of The Battle of Gettysburg), annotated time lines, student sites, short reading selections, and ready-to-go lesson plans created by teachers.

If you can't find what you're looking for anywhere else, or if your students are researching specific topics of the war (such as music, poetry, money, stamps, etc.), then try this comprehensive site from Dakota State University or this annotated outline from Great American History.

I'd love to hear your ideas as well, or to learn about a book or site that I neglected to mention. Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

That's Disgusting! Can You Read It Again?

The inspiration for this post is Artie Bennett's new picture book, The Butt Book. It's a funny and informative look at one of our least celebrated body parts (read more about it below). But its very subject matter may be a turn-off to some who might ask, "Why share a picture book about the human bottom?"

As parents, teachers, librarians, and tutors, we know that finding the right book is the key to motivating a child to read. And sometimes, for certain kids, that means a book that is naughty or creepy or sometimes downright gross! So check out my suggestions below, and then keep on reading for extensions and recommended sites to take full advantage of what these books have to offer.

The dilemma of  just right books is central to the plot of Miss Brooks Loves Books by Barbara Bottner. Miss Brooks, a lover of books, is a librarian who always goes the extra mile, dressing as an elephant to read Babar, a monster to read Where the Wild Things are, and a jack-o-lantern to share Halloween books.

But our diminutive, contrary protagonist is unimpressed. Neither these antics, nor her peers' animated theatrics during Book Week, move Missy to read a book. Books that other children find fascinating are too flowery (fairies), too furry (dogs), too clickety (trains), or too yippity (cowboys) for Missy.

Mother tries to help as well, sharing books that Miss Brooks recommends, but even she reaches wit's end. Mother declares, "You're as stubborn as a wart."

Missy jolts to life. Warts? "I want to read a story with warts!" exclaims Missy. The natural choice for a book? Shrek, of course! Missy loves that Shrek has warts and hairs on his nose, and that he snorts! Miss Brooks is glad that her most reluctant reader has finally discovered a book she loves, and she promises Missy that she's still destined to find many more books that are "funny and fantastic and appalling."

The Butt Book is certainly funny and fantastic, and features a not-at-all-naughty and surprisingly academic tribute to our often overlooked posterior. Its clever rhymes and Mike Lester's bold and beautiful images make it an instant hit!

I happened to preview some of the pages online while sitting in a meeting at school. Another teacher, reading over my shoulder, burst into laughter. "What book is that?" she asked. "It looks hilarious!"

And it is! Its euphemisms, histories, and practical purposes make it a very serious study of human anatomy, and beyond its value as a read-aloud (plan to read it again and again!), I think it has the possibility to spark some interesting extensions in reading, writing, and science.

But, Keith, c'mon! What about its subject matter? What about the very topic of this book?

To respond, let me share a portion of a review by Thurston Dooley III in The Brooklyn Paper:

No doubt, there are parents who will worry that Bennett's endless repetition of the word "butt" in all its myriad forms - tuchas, fanny, bottom, heinie, rear - will encourage the youngsters to scream out "butt cheeks!" at inappropriate moments...

In actuality, The Butt Book will actually help remove the word's lingering shock value. For starters, Bennett plays it all for laughs, suggesting that we, not our keisters, are the ones with the butt problem because we are the ones who have "neglected" the butt.
"Funny and fantastic and appalling" also comes to mind for readers of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition. This handy guidebook, perfect for independent readers in grades three and up, features such entries as How to Cope with Nightmare Boogers, How to Tame a Beastly Burp, How to Tell if There's a Mouse in Your House, How to Prevent Pinkeye, and How to Survive a Skunk Encounter. And as they say on television, "But wait! There's more!" The edition concludes with Grossest Human Habits in History and Gross Practical Jokes.

I love that this book doesn't shy away from the gross topics, and actually addresses real-life problems that kids might encounter. But it does it in a fun way, employing nonfiction conventions such as headings, bullets, diagrams, charts, tables, and captions. If we had textbooks this engaging, we'd have a lot more straight A students!

Extension Activities

The Butt Book

I honestly love The Butt Book as a simple read-aloud. It's one of those read-alouds that is its own reward, and it's a book that kids will eagerly read on their own again and again. But if you're looking some extension activities, try these:

  • Encourage students to work in small groups to write their own books celebrating other body parts (I highly recommend you choose the parts). There are several things to consider, including content, rhyme, and illustrations. You might choose to use Bennett's book as a model for structuring the original projects, noting with students that Bennett includes synonyms, histories, and practical purposes for the butt. If students are stymied for ideas to get started, have them use one of the resources below.
  • Have students visit Wordsmyth, a handy dictionary and thesaurus, to look up a given body part to learn more about its use in American idioms. The entry word ear, for example, produced not only definitions, but also ear to the ground, play it by ear, wet behind the ears, and dog ear. Students can use these expressions to create a poster, mini-book, or digital application (such as Power Point or Photo Story).
  • Another terrific way to learn about the use of body names in expressions is to search them using One Look. One Look is a neat dictionary that allows you to search for words and expressions that begin or end with a word. So when I entered the search term * ear, over a hundred results were returned, including bend someone's ear, easy on the ear, can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, cute as a bug's ear, music to my ear, swimmer's ear, and the War of Jenkin's Ear (yes, it involved an actual severed ear). For lower grades, the teacher might pick and choose expressions for student research; in sixth grade I'd send students there to look for themselves.
  • Famous Quotes and other quotation sites are excellent resources for illustrations incorporating body parts. Students can include these in any of the above projects, or respond to them in writing prompts.
  • Animal anatomy adapts itself to its environment. Rather than focusing on human anatomy, assign students to research animal anatomy and adaptations. Web sites like ESkeleton even let students compare similarities in anatomy of like species. Using a short, online game is a good way to get students thinking about unique bodily adaptations that help animals survive.
Miss Brooks Loves Books

Miss Brooks Loves Books is full of creative ideas for extension:

  • Celebrate themed days and weeks, and encourage student participation through costumes, stuffed animals, and related items. I once read aloud at a Barnes and Noble, and encouraged all students attending to bring their teddy bears. They didn't know why, but they all did, and it made the audience-participation version of Going on a Bear Hunt a big hit!
  • Host a Book Week. While Missy describes it as "truly terrifying," your students could find it amazingly awesome! Michael Emberly's illustrations should provide some ideas.
  • Share more books about reluctant readers. Check out the list featured at Reading Rockets. Many students are comforted to know that they're not alone in their struggles with reading; these stories will inspire them to continue trying.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Gross Junior Edition encourages students to explore the gooey and gross, the smelly and slimy. Encourage student curiosity with these activities:

  • Assign students a question about human health. Encourage research by providing resources such as KidsHealth. KidsHealth is a highly respected, reliable source for health information, and it features a kids section filled with videos, interactives, and Q&As all designed to answer students' most pressing health questions. KidzWorld is another student-friendly site featuring short articles on vomit and other gross yet necessary bodily functions, plus disgusting animal defenses.
  • Encourage students to create their own entry for this Handbook. It is, after all, a handbook for surviving life's unexpected "nasties," so students might have their own topics to explore and expound upon. Some of the topics covered in the two sites above, or in sites that follow, may give students inspiration. Require also that they incorporate the same conventions found in The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, including titles, headings, bulleted or numbered lists, tables, diagrams, labels, illustrations, and text boxes.
  • Explore the wonderful branch of science known as Scatology, or the study of feces. Seriously! Who Pooped is an amazing site which not only lets students solve the mystery of which animal pooped, but also describes (through a video segment) how zoologists use observations of feces to determine an animal's health. Students can even print out a certificate upon completion of the site's tasks.
  • Into animal studies but want to steer clear of poop? The KidWings website allows students to virtually dissect owl pellets, the undigested masses of fur and bone regurgitated by these raptors. The latest version of this site makes pulling apart and sorting the pellet simple and educational. Interactive instructional pieces plus many teacher resources make this site an instant winner, high on the "cool" scale, low on the actual "gross" scale.
Additional Resources

Be sure to visit The Yuckiest Site on the Internet for both teacher and student oriented explorations into the gross, and check out Scholastic's recommendations for Icky, Creepy, and Just Plain Gross Science Projects.

Do you know of another site, or another book, to explore the disgusting wonders of our world? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.