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Text complexity: create connections

Some of my teacher friends are nervous about the call within the Common Core State Standards for more informational texts in the classroom. Couple informational texts with recommendations to have students read widely and deeply from increasingly challenging texts, and I've got a couple of worried friends!

Strong, vivid narratives inspire, in nonfiction, too!

Sid Fleischman was best known for his novels. His fiction often demonstrates a sense of humor and always provides insight into human nature. Fleischman brought his writing skills to several longer biographies (and a memoir).

Point of view in nonfiction picture books

In a recent article, Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews points out there's a battle brewing over the use of fiction or nonfiction in the Common Core standards. He calls it the fiction vs. nonfiction smackdown.

Why a smackdown? The literature of both fact and fiction can engage and educate.

Learning outcomes versus teaching tools

Over at Shanahan on Literacy, Dr. Shanahan wrote an interesting post We Zigged When We Should Have Zagged about the lack of comprehension strategies in the Common Core State Standards.

Fun with science and math IS possible

All too often, children hear the word math and they freeze. It just can't have pleasure associated with it nor can it possibly have anything to do real life.

Math really is everywhere but like the narrator in Jon Scieszka's funny and slightly offbeat Math Curse (Viking), fear of it can be a serious affliction. It can even impact how children perceive and school success — and eventually their career choices.

Helping parents help with homework

This week my 5th grade daughter came home with math homework that involved finding the surface area and volume of pentagonal prisms. She needed help with it, and it was really hard! It was hard because I hadn't worked problems like those for years, and even when I did, I'm not sure how easily I did it. We got through the homework okay (after a looooooong time and several Google searches) but the experience made me think about ways teachers can help parents help with homework.

Sharing science with your youngest learners

I recently read a post about providing opportunities to connect families with their child's education that I really liked. Peggy Ashbrook's post Involving families in early childhood science education from the NSTA Blog provides several ideas and resources for getting parents together with a focus on science. I've listed a few of my favorites here, plus a few others.

Infographics for young kids

There seems to be an explosion of infographics these days! If you're not familiar with that term, an infographic is a visual representation of information or data. A lot of information can be displayed visually, both quickly and clearly (at least most times). As someone who has always been drawn to the visual display of information, I love a well done infographic. And I think they have potential value for the elementary classroom too, although most are designed for older students.

Picture books in science class

We all love picture books, and hopefully a really good one finds its way into your hands at least once a day. What might happen less frequently is that you use a picture book to help you teach science. I've got a great resource (with a free PDF!) that will hopefully encourage you to use more picture books in science.

Word walls in math

Many elementary teachers use word walls in the classroom. A word wall is an organized collection of words displayed in a classroom. Word walls provide easy access to words students need. The specific organization of the word wall will match the teacher's purpose: sight words organized by alphabet letter, unit-specific words, new vocabulary words, etc. The most helpful word walls grow and change throughout the year and are used as a learning reference.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase