Tag Archives: craft

STEM Tuesday Wild and Wacky Science — In the Classroom

This month’s STEM Tuesday Theme: Wild and Wacky Science has the potential to lead readers in all directions! What a fun Book List the STEM Tuesday Team found for us this month.

Here are a few ways to use this month’s books in the classroom, extending learning beyond simply reading. Enjoy these suggestions, and as always, we welcome your additional suggestions in the comments below!

Follow a Friend on Facebook! 

After reading Unstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals by Nancy Furstinger, you’ll want to adopt one of these furry heroes! Since convincing parents to get new pets of any kind can be a monumental task, it might be easier for your class to befriend a furrrball on Facebook. Here are links to the Facebook pages of several of Furstinger’s friends.

Chris P Bacon, Pig on Wheels @CPBaconWheels

Brutus the Rottweiler @betterpawsforbrutus

Molly the Three-Legged Pony @mollythe3leggedpony

Vincent the Cat @walkingvincentcat

Albie, Felix, and Fawn, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary @woodstockfarm

 Chart Your Allergies! 

First, read Itch! Everything You Didn’t Want to Know About What Makes You Scratch by Anita Sanchez.

Then, practice data-collecting, chart-making, graphing, and data analysis skills by doing a classroom allergy assessment.  Start by asking students to create their own survey. What questions will you need to ask to find out who is allergic to what? Create the survey together, complete the surveys, and gather the data. Next, chart or graph (or both!) the results for a visual and numeric display of what gets under your skin. Who’s is inclined to itch when the cat comes in? Do menacing mosquitoes munch on many or just a few of the members of your class?

Dig Deeper!  Get the DNA 411!

In Forgotten Bones, Uncovering of a Slave Cemetery, Lois Miner Huey takes readers on a fascinating journey that begins with the discovery of and leads to an amazing amount of information about the thirteen slaves buried on what was once the Schuyler Family Farm near Albany, New York.

Much of what the scientists on the scene and in the lab near Albany were able to determine about the slaves was came the DNA samples from seven of the adult skeletons.  But what do you really know about DNA? Plan ahead for National DNA Day, April 25th, by checking out this website for several great DNA-related activities to do with kids. 

Make a Book Trailer.  Some of this month’s book picks have cool book trailers available on You Tube.  Watch these one-minute advertisements for wild and wacky nonfiction and make your own book trailer. There’s a lot to be said about getting the most out of just sixty seconds of screen time! Can you make a trailer that is certain to send readers running to the library to check out the book you’ve read? Here’s a link to a helpful tutorial to show How to Make a Book Trailer in iMovie.

   

This week’s STEM Tuesday post was prepared by

Michelle Houts delights in the wild and wacky side of finding fun facts for young readers. She writes both fiction and nonfiction and often finds the nonfiction harder to believe than the fiction. Find her on Instagram and Twitter @mhoutswrites and on the web at www.michellehouts.com.

STEM Tuesday Exploration— Crafts and Resources

How-To

From how to trouble shoot your printer to how to complete your tax forms, we all use procedural texts every day. Some procedural writing is boring, rigid, and downright miserable. Ugh. But it doesn’t have to be.

Discovering a brand new, fuzzy, four-legged species, exploring a volcano on the barren desert called Mars, escaping quicksand — scientific exploration is full of procedures packed with fun!

You’d think writing down the steps to a process would be easy, but – as any educator who has survived the first week of school knows – teaching “how to” is a bit more challenging than teaching “what.”

You pick: teach someone what the Large Hadron Collider is (a machine for speeding up particles so scientists can study them) or how it works (umm . . .).

See, it can be kind of intimidating. You have to really know what you are talking about. No wonder young (and old) writers struggle. Even writing about something a little easier, like dissecting a roadkill skunk, requires lots of decisions. Hard decisions about who the audience is, what to include, and how to present the information.

Never fear, STEM Tuesday is here.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThis month’s book list includes fantastic examples of writing about processes. Consider a multi-step, safety-critical process like blasting off to Mars presented by Pascal Lee in Mission: Mars (page 14). Some of the techniques used include: simplified numbered steps, sequential art, and detail-rich explanations. Lee re-uses these techniques on page 24 for the steps of landing on Mars.

Some questions for close reading:

  • How does the use of numbered steps add to procedural writing?
  • What aspects of page design help the reader?
  • Why might an author repeat techniques in order to explain additional processes in one text?
  • Is the author’s purpose primarily description or exposition? What leads you to that conclusion?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe passages in Mission can be compared with more familiar approaches to procedural writing such as a fun submersible-building activity in Jennifer Swanson’s Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact (page 24) and/or a passage on how to pull a leech off your skin in Not for Parents: How to be A World Explorer (page 14).

Some questions for close reading:

  • What common elements of procedural writing do these authors use?
  • How are illustrations used in these examples?
  • What words, techniques, or signals indicate that these texts are instructional as opposed to descriptive? (For ideas, compare to pages 14 and 24 of Mission: Mars.)

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgFor a different take, check out a graphic novel. Starting on page 39 of Smash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider, author Sara Latta and illustrator Jeff Weigel present their version of how the Large Hadron Collider works (see, it is possible). Their trick for turning the super technical into something readable while avoiding snores? Sequential art, characters who themselves need thorough explanations, and labeled diagrams. Breaking the complex process down into chunked steps, spread over several pages, didn’t hurt either.

Some questions for close reading:

  • What common elements of procedural writing are found in this text?
  • How does this passage differ from more traditional procedural writing?
  • How does this explanation compare to that of another complex sequence, such as that on page 14 in Mission: Mars.

Try it Yourself

  • Study an example of procedural writing. Identify a technique used by the author. Re-write the passage using a different technique. For example, convert the passage on leech removal into graphic novel form or write it without numbered steps.
  • Re-write a piece of procedural writing with a different point of view. Does that change the impact of the passage?
  • Write the steps for a familiar activity (eating pizza, shooting a basketball, cleaning up dog poop). The first time, write it in 5 steps. Re-write, providing only 3 steps. Re-write again with 10 steps. What’s different? Which was hardest? What audience might need each version? Which do you prefer?

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are WILD about animals. She reads and writes while high in a tree, standing in a stream, or perched on a mountaintop boulder. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com


THE O.O.L.F. FILES

This month, The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files look at some not-so-ordinary ways STEM skills aid in exploration and expanding our knowledge base.

In addition to generating new knowledge, mind-blowing discoveries, and amazing high tech innovations, exploration can cause damage. One concern: pee and poop. From designing a space suit to handle six-days of pee to turning poop into plastic, people are getting creative to solve this problem.

  • Invisible Universe Revealed: A NOVA episode on the Hubble Telescope, its use in exploring the universe, and how an observation at home became a solution to fix Hubble’s “poor eyesight”.
  • Data Exploration: The digital revolution has allowed massive amounts of information to be collected, stored, and shared. Below are a few examples of how this data allows deeper exploration of the world around us.
    • Sabermetrics: The science and analysis of baseball data has changed the game of baseball forever.
    • Bioinformatics: The accumulation AND sharing of genomic sequences from all types of life have revolutionized life science.
    • FiveThirtyEight.com is a data-driven outlet that studies news, politics, sports, and society. (Their real-time election analysis & discussion is fabulous.)

Sparking the Imagination with Written Imagery

As a classroom teacher of upper MG readers, I’ve been wondering lately on the constant technological pummeling we get from images—gaming, TV, movies, computers, tablets, phones. Screened devices have a powerful attention-grabbing effect on kids, and with so many stimulating colors, photos, Snapchat animations, and videos to look at, the modern-day imagination is contending with a very different ball of yarn than in decades past. It’s great that we can Google-Machine “Roman Empire ruins” and see hundreds of pictures, and it’s fun to test our eye-hand coordination by slashing air-borne fruit, chopping ropes, or helping a chicken across a road. But for many readers, after all that color and movement and music, the imagination may balk a bit when given black words on a white page.

For that reason, it might be pretty difficult for a middle grade teacher, parent, librarian, or writer to hook readers on books with descriptive passages, figurative language, or a generally more literary bent. But instead of avoiding imagery, it may be more important than ever to give readers an opportunity to envision and imagine through the words on the page. We should strive to provide work-out routines and fitness centers for the imagination in our stories through language and description. Inclusion of imagery in MG stories will complement the reader’s experience and ultimately improve and enhance the reader’s imagination. And imagination is important in any setting, as it drives flexible thinking and creative problem solving.

So, in order to spark readers’ imaginations, how do you recognize good imagery in MG works, and how do you write your own? Here are some qualities typically associated with imagery:

  • Imagery is language that employs a mental use of the five senses.
  • It can use certain figurative language devices like similes and metaphors, personification, and hyperbole, but it can exist without any other lit devices being present, too.
  • Good imagery isn’t fluffy or fancy or filled with words you’d find on the SAT. Sometimes, in fact, incredibly simple syntax and short phrases make up excellent imagery.
  • Imagery lets you see, touch, taste, hear, and smell the surroundings  in the character’s world, and it draws the reader in with those experiences.
  • Most importantly, good imagery leads the imagination off-leash—it guides, but never forces. The imagination has to be allowed to run free, if it’s to grow strong.

Here are some scenes in three works of MG fiction with imagery to consider:

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. The description of Camazotz is brilliantly creepy in its simplicity. L’Engle’s choice of short, clipped words and phrases reflect the vision concocted in the reader’s imagination of this austere town where anomalies are forbidden:

Below them the town was laid out in harsh angular patterns. The houses in the outskirts were all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray. Each had a small, rectangular plot of land in front, with a straight line of dull-looking flowers edging the path to the door.

Things get more eerie with the rhythmical description of the kids outside all those houses, girls jumping rope and boys bouncing balls:

Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers.

The imagery prompts our imaginations to not only see Camazotz but to hear and feel its driving beat, too.

Sarah Jean Horwitz’s Carmer and Grit, Book One: The Wingsnatchers. Big, immediate conflicts or surprised exclamations from characters can work beautifully as openers in MG fiction and nonfiction. But atmospheric imagery can be used just as masterfully to hook the reader into the story. In this book, the two-and-a-half-page opener has no dialogue and no loud clatter of forces. But the tone of mystery, the discordant sounds, and the symbolic light/darkness imagery all work together to pull the reader in:

At the South Gate, just outside the winding iron bars, the Autocat waits. Its jeweled eyes gleam in the darkness. It watches as each golden lantern on the pathway blinks out, one by one, and it growls–a rough, scraping sound like metal on metal, a sound never heard in the garden before. The creature slinks off into Skemantis’s black night, its mission accomplished.

Karen Hesse’s Letters from Rivka. Good imagery keeps firmly in the voice of the 1st person character, in this case, a young Russian refugee fleeing to America in 1919 and seeing Poland for the first time:

The same crooked cottages, the same patchy roads, the same bony fences leaning in to the dust. Looking out from the train, we see people dressed like us, in browns and blacks; people wrapped in layers of clothes.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share thoughts you have on imagery in MG writing, or name some writers you enjoy who do a great job at sparking readers’ imaginations.