Reading trade books is an important component of an interdisciplinary approach to developing literacy skills and learning STEM content. This week’s column includes recently published books that are good choices for introducing STEM topics and initiating discussions and activities as well as for encouraging independent reading in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
All Ears, All Eyes. Richard Jackson. Ill. Katherine Tillotson. 2017. Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.
A spare lyrical text and beautiful impressionistic illustrations, created using a combination of watercolor and digital techniques, invite readers to listen attentively to the sounds and look closely at the sights of the forest from twilight to dark of night. With a mix of rhyming phrases, questions, and onomatopoeia, the gentle text reads aloud well. “What surprises? / What sings? / Crick-crick-crickets / chirring / in the thick-thick-thickets / Whoo–whoo.” Young readers will enjoy spotting creatures hidden in the illustrations with each rereading.
Lines, Bars and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs. Helaine Becker. Ill Marie-Ève Tremblay. 2017. Kids Can.
William Playfair (1759–1823), a Scott who dreamed big, invented graphs—line graphs, bar graphs, and pie charts—as ways of making data easier to understand. The scientists of his day, however, scoffed at his graphs. “Numbers showed serious works, colorful illustrations did not,” they declared. Playfair was also an entrepreneur who came up with numerous schemes for fulfilling his dreams of riches, fame, and glory, all of which failed. It was not until almost 100 years later that his graphs came into wide use. Digitally-created cartoon artwork adds humor to this picture book biography and provides a lesson in interpreting graphs.
Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper. Anastasia Suen. Ill. Ryan O’Rourke. 2017. Charlesbridge.
Young readers can join a small group of children in hardhats as a supervisor gives a tour of a construction site. Major steps in building a skyscraper are presented in double-page spreads with simple rhyming verses and brief paragraphs superimposed on digitally created illustrations. For example, an illustration showing a concrete mixer pouring out wet concrete is paired with “Pour, pour, pour! / Wet concrete / A line of mixers / Along the street” and an explanation (in smaller type) that it takes a lot of concrete to fill the trench in which the rebar cages have been placed. The final page folds out to reveal the completed skyscraper. Young children can learn more about skyscrapers by reading Libby Romero’s Skyscrapers (2017), a National Geographic Kids Reader.
What Will Grow? Jennifer Ward. Ill. Susie Ghahremani. 2017. Bloomsbury.
Rhyming couplets followed by the question “What will grow?” and gouache-on-wood illustrations offering visual clues to the answers introduce twelve seeds and the trees, flowers, fruits, or vegetables they grow into. Four gatefolds that open either up or down add to the fun of discovering whether readers’ answers are correct. For example, for “STRIPY BLACK. / CRUNCHY SNACK,” the right-hand page reveals a tall sunflower. Back matter includes information on planting each of the seeds and a “From Seed to Plant” section showing the life cycle of a sunflower.
The Wolves Return: A New Beginning for Yellowstone National Park. Celia Godkin. 2017. Pajama Press.
With an engaging, accessible text and expressive mixed-media illustrations, Godkin tells the environmental success story of the reintroduction of the grey wolf to Yellowstone National Park. In 1995–1996, 23 grey wolves from Canada were released in the park, after more than 70-year absence. Godkin chronicles the subsequent recovery of the landscape and the positive effects of the reintroduction of this top predator over the years, as plants and animals native to the area thrived in the ecosystem. An endnote, “The Wolf in North America,” provides history of the wolf and a map of the pre-European and current North American wolf range.
Karl, Get Out of the Garden!: Carolus Linnaeus and the Naming of Everything. Anita Sanchez. Ill. Catherine Stock. 2017. Charlesbridge.
As a child growing up in Sweden, nature-loving Karl Linné (1707–1778) wanted to know the name of everything, but that could be confusing because a plant might have numerous common names. He set out to give everything a clear and simple name and to develop a classification system for all living things that is the basis for nomenclature and classification used by scientists today. In his lifetime, Karl classified and named more than 12,000 species of plants and animals, giving each a unique two-part name in Latin. He even gave himself a Latin-based version of his name: Carolus Linnaeus. Back matter includes additional information on scientific classification, a time line, source notes for quotations, resources for young readers, and a bibliography.
Skateboards (Made by Hand #1). Patricia Lakin. 2017. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.
After an identification of the parts of a skateboard (deck, trucks, and wheels) and a history of the skateboard, readers are introduced to Jake Eshelman, who designs custom skateboards for his company, Side Project Skateboards. The step-by-step process—everything from choosing the material for the deck to crafting shock absorbers—is explained and illustrated with color photographs. Back matter includes a skateboard time line, glossary, and resources.
Things That Grow. Libby Walden. Ill. Becca Stadflander. 2017. 360 Degrees/Tiger Tales.
This beautifully designed book, with its small trim size, heavy paper, accessible narrative, and colorful, realistic illustrations, invites curious readers to explore the processes of development and growth of things in our diverse and ever changing world. The three sections—“Plants and Trees,” “The Animal Kingdom,” and “The Universe”—contain double-page spreads that introduce key concepts of the development of plants, animals, and features of our planet along with examples, such as the growth and survival of plants in extreme conditions; the unusual life cycle of the axolotl (the Mexican walking fish), a neotenic aquatic salamander; and the creation of islands.
Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animal Think, Talk, and Feel. Nancy F. Castaldo. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Following an introduction to the human brain in comparison to the those of other animals and a history of theories on animal intelligence, Castaldo delves into recent research exploring animal cognition. In a conversational tone, she presents information on numerous studies on problem solving, communication, tool use, and emotions in various animals. Castaldo ends with a “From Thinking Animals to Protected Animals” section about how the recognition of the intelligence of animals is changing how we see animals and affecting our treatment of them. Back matter includes activities for young people, lists of organizations and resources, a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Botanicum (Welcome to the Museum). Kathy Willis. Ill. Katie Scott. 2017. Big Picture/Candlewick.
A “Welcome to Botanicum” extends an invitation to visit a botanical museum to “discover the strange and wonderful kingdom of plants, in all its colorful, surprising majesty.” A tour through the seven galleries—“The First Plants,” “Trees,” “Palms and Cycads,” “Herbaceous Plants,” “Grasses, Cattails, Sedges, and Rushes,” “Orchids and Bromeliads,” and “Adapting to Environments”—introduces readers to the extraordinary diversity of the plant world. Each double-page spread of this beautifully crafted, oversize volume consists of a plate of pen-and-ink, digitally colored drawings of plants (or plant parts) accompanied by an introduction and key to the plate, with common and scientific names and brief descriptive and environmental notes on each plant. Back matter includes an index and internet resources.
A Dog in a Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human. Kay Frydenborg. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
In this exploration of the human–dog relationship, Frydenborg considers how a shared history has influenced the development of both humans and canines. Recent paleontological discoveries show that humans have been living with dogs for thousands of years longer than was previously thought, and there is evidence that this close relationship has shaped the evolution of both species as they coevolved. Frydenborg also considers present-day scientific research on dogs that supports this concept. An abundance of color photographs with extensive captions and inserts on related topics add interest. Back matter includes a glossary, source notes, a selected bibliography, internet resources, and an index.
Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future. Rob Dunn. 2017. Little, Brown.
Rob Dunn, a professor of applied ecology, offers an accessible, well-researched history of the world’s food system in which relying on just a few crops to sustain populations throughout the world and our desire for consistency, uniformity, and abundance in our food —“having the food we want when we want it”—threatens agricultural sustainability. Dunn provides details of examples of how the dependence on genetically identical crops and cloning have led to greater susceptibility to pathogens, crop failure, and even famine, as in the case of the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. World-wide monoculture remains the norm: corn in North America, rice in Asia, cassava in Africa, and wheat in Europe. In highlighting the efforts of scientists to preserve biodiversity, Dunn provides a compelling argument for changes in agricultural practices to save our food supply and our future. Back matter includes extensive chapter notes and an index.
Carolyn Angus is former Director of the George G. Stone Center for Children's Books, Claremont Graduate University, CA.
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.
Discussions about fake news in a post-truth world and how to react to these challenging trends have become quite prevalent around the world. It is easy to share Professor Donald Leu’ s view that “schools are an important key to solving the challenge of fake news.” And it is not only fake news that becomes important to negotiate; all types of online information in today’s world require critical and thoughtful readers.
At least two issues have become especially important as we increasingly encounter online texts. First, the earlier that we begin teaching critical evaluation skills, the more prepared our students will be. Second, given the difficulty in transferring learning effects from school tasks to other situations, we believe that students need regular practice to internalize the skills needed to be critical online readers.
One idea that we believe has promise is designing short monthly quiz activities around critical evaluation skills. This practice can be used quite regularly, even with younger children, if the texts and topics selected are reasonably appropriate for a certain grade level.
Tips for creating quizzes and advantages of the practice
To prepare your quizzes, choose four online texts on the same controversial topic (e.g., health effects from using cell phones) that differ in quality and purpose. Prepare questions for each text that address, for example, the following issues:
You might also include questions that address why it is important to pay attention to a particular aspect of online source evaluation (see question 2 in the example). To spark ideas for your quizzes, you might explore some of the examples for teaching critical evaluation provided by the Stanford History Education Group or Teaching Channel.
Next, it is time to select a tool to create your quizzes. If you are not yet familiar with online quiz tools, you can find multiple websites listing them (e.g., educatorstechnology.com).
Once you have four quizzes (one about each text), run one quiz in the beginning of each month. Remember, the questions should be used as triggers to further discussion about the topic rather than simply considering each text in isolation. The reflections and additional questions allow teachers to access students’ reasoning and how it may develop over the course of the quizzes.
At the end of the semester, hold a “final” on critical evaluation. The final gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of both content and critical evaluation skills learned during the process. At this point, questions should focus attention on comparing and contrasting the texts. Because students usually get engaged with tasks that include elements of gamification, consider finding a colleague whose class will do the quizzes and compete for the title of Champions of Critical Reading.
Teaching students to think critically is not easy, nor does it happen quickly, so, in that respect, these quiz activities are certainly not a quick fix. Still, they are one step toward developing critical habits of thinking and reflecting about the quality of online texts. We believe that repetition is essential, and these quiz activities help to regularly take advantage of quick opportunities to discuss the credibility of news or other information. Happy quizzing, and we hope that your class wins the finals!
Carita Kiili & Eva Wennås Brante are both postdoctoral fellows at the Department of Education, University of Oslo, Norway.
This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).
Although most people associate a residency with learning in the medical field, I shared the value of a literacy residency in last week’s post. Here is my day-by-day plan of a four-day residency.
Day 1: The literacy leader teaches and the participants observe
During the residency
Debriefing the residency
Day 2: The literacy leader teaches whole-group structures and the participants teach in small-group structures
Day 3: The paired participants teach “their class” and the literacy leader gives feedback
Debriefing the residency
Day 4: Each participant teaches a portion of the residency
Teachers have described residencies as transformative. A residency holds incredible power for teacher-learners who are looking for the next step in professional learning, are eager to integrate all they know about literacy instruction, and are looking to grow a community of teachers who learn from one another.
Patty McGee is a literacy consultant whose passion and vision is to create learning environments where teachers and students discover their true potential and power. She is the author of Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: How to Escape Correcting Mode to Transform Student Writing (Corwin 2017). Patty’s favorite moments are when groups of teachers are working collaboratively with students in the classroom.
Recently, my older son, who is studying Information Technology and Cyber Security in college, reminded me of a term: digital hygiene. He talked about how his professor used the term to describe the importance of using a password manager to keep online passwords safe.
I, too, believe improving our digital hygiene is important, and I argue that teachers have a special role to play. I offer suggestions for helping students develop good digital hygiene practices.
Give explicit instructions on composing a subject line and signature
I recommended that teachers instruct their students to use a standardized subject line for sending e-mails. I would tell students that I wouldn't read an e-mail unless I know it was from them. By requiring a prearranged format, I could determine whether an e-mail was from one of my students. I typically asked them to add the class period, class title, full name, and purpose of their message in the subject line. For example, "Period 2, Senior English, John Doe: Absence/Missing Work" told me exactly what to expect when I opened the e-mail. This structure also helped students to think about the main point of the message and how to be succinct.
I also encouraged students to add a signature and a privacy statement. I typically told them to add "This e-mail may contain confidential and privileged material for the sole use of the intended recipient(s). Any review, use, distribution, or disclosure by others is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient (or authorized to receive the e-mail, document, or information on behalf of the recipient), please contact the sender by reply e-mail and delete all copies of this message." By doing so, students learned that no e-mail communication is private, even with the added privacy statement.
Provide tools to create strong, secure passwords
On a high school campus, students sharing devices is common. I instructed students to create strong passwords and to never share them. I taught students to never use their pet's name, birthday, or address as their password. Instead, I recommended services like Secure Password Generator or LastPass to create secure, random passwords.
Model how to update operating systems, virus protection programs, and browsers
One of the biggest security issues comes from users not updating their digital systems, especially the browsers. I encouraged teachers to show students how to update browsers across all Internet-enabled devices and how to check whether they have the newest version of the browser. I also recommend a few free virus protection programs such as AVG and Avast.
Use cloud services to share work rather than USB flash drives
As a classroom teacher, I often asked my students to create digital presentations. Whether it was a slide presentation or a video, I always required them to share it using cloud services such as Google Drive or Dropbox. I did so to prevent introducing a virus to the school's network.
Some students used online presentation tools such as Prezi or Google Slides. In such cases, I required students add me as one of their editors, which gave me a lot more options in terms of seeing who contributed and when.
As we interact with one another more and more online, we need to practice good digital hygiene to keep us healthy and safe. Just as we would want students to wash their hands frequently to keep their bodies physically healthy, we should remind them to practice digital hygiene to protect their digital health.
Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program. Her Purposeful Tech column looks at how classroom teachers can think critically about today's instructional technologies.
A draft of ILA’s eagerly awaited Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) will be available for public comment from April 17 to May 8. In the weeks leading up to the public comment period, we’ll take a look at the significant changes proposed in Standards 2017, which will be submitted for Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) approval in fall 2017 and published in early 2018. Once approved by CAEP, ILA’s new set of seven standards will become the ruler by which preparation programs for literacy professionals, specifically reading/literacy specialists, are measured.
Jacy Ippolito, associate professor of Secondary and Higher Education, Salem State University in Massachusetts, was the lead writer on Standard 6, Professional Learning and Leadership, and said the most important shift for Standard 6 comes from the separation of the literacy specialist and literacy coach roles.
“Currently, very few universities and states offer separate credentials for reading/literacy specialists and literacy coaches; while some graduate programs offer coaching courses or experiences for literacy specialist candidates, very few offer separate coaching preparation programs or credentials.” Ippolito said. “Pulling the roles apart is both reflecting and pushing the field to prepare and endorse coaches beyond the specialist role.”
He said using the term literacy leader is also new to the Standard. “It’s incredibly important for literacy specialists to continue working directly with students, but there are many aspects of the role that go beyond intervention work that include working as a ‘literacy leader’ helping to shape literacy teaching, learning, and assessment schoolwide.”
He said that the focus for literacy coaches is on facilitating adult professional learning, whereas specialists have a primary responsibility for student learning and helping other staff collect and make use of assessment data. At the same time, specialists must have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to work collaboratively with teachers to develop and implement effective instructional practices. Such collaborative work may involve coplanning, coteaching, or coaching.
“We’re looking at the different roles in a more granular way than the Standards 2010,” Ippolito said. “But we still focus on understanding adult learning and facilitating professional learning; we still focus on individual and group improvement. The keywords across the standard are facilitation and advocacy. In the 2017 Standards, we’re shifting more toward advocacy work with students, schools, and communities.”
The writing team on Standard 6 was
Once the entire Standards 2017 are posted, be sure to review the draft and give your input during the open public comment period starting April 17.
April Hall was editor of Literacy Daily. A journalist for more than 20 years, she has specialized in education, writing and editing for newspapers, websites, and magazines.