Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea

February 4, 2019

The ocean in its vast beauty has a world of its own. Mountains and crevices invite creatures to reside, maneuver, and blend. Snorkelers gain a glimpse of the beauty hidden from the wavy surface. Stories and movies have the ocean as its setting. Robert Burleigh brilliant biography introduces you to the beginning of oceanography in his book, Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor, illustrated by Raul Colon.

Science didn’t know much about the ocean floor. It was once thought to be unmoving. Marie Tharp changed that thinking – but not without opposition. Her ideas were different, challenged, and not accepted quickly. Marie loved maps. Her father drew maps of our American landscapes from state to state. She used this passion in her job.

View the book trailer here.

Marie spent twenty years gathering data brought back from deep ocean adventures, of which she was excluded from because she was a female. (I was surprised at this.)  Marie was determined and persisted. The data proved the possible theory of the continental drift. She turned her data into a picture – a map, a map featuring changes in the oceans floor. Although many still didn’t agree, eventually, Marie’s maps, the ocean floor picture, are the foundation for the knowledge people have today.

To see actual photos of Marie Tharp and an overview of her scientific life, view this 2 min. video clip.

Dr. Nicky Howe portrays herself as Marie Tharp in 2015 Reading Slam. What a fun way for kids to get to know the character and be introduced to the ocean world.

Savorings for reading and writing for Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea:

  • Rich language
  • Biography
  • Persistence – not giving up, working against odds
  • Believing in herself
  • Asking Questions
  • Pursuing Dreams

Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back

February 4, 2011

David Adler once again shares a biography that will engage children.  February is Black History Month, and Satchel Paige:  Don’t Look Back is a great story to share.   I love to find books that capture character traits I want my students to develop.  This book shows the determination and stamina of a young man, Leroy Paige.  He gained his nick name “Satchel” when he began working at age 7 at a train station.  He would carry people’s bags, or satchels, by stringing them on a pole that ran over his shoulders.  Leroy also went to work sweeping a baseball field.  He loved the game and began practicing by throwing rocks.  Satchel didn’t let his lack of resources stop his determination to better himself.

Satchel Paige played in the World Series for the Cleveland Indians on July 7, 1948.  He was 42 years old.  In today’s baseball market, most players are much younger and are just ending their careers in their forty’s.  Not Satchel.  He played baseball until he was 60 years old.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Satchel Paige:  Don’t Look Back:

  • Perseverance and Stamina
  • Inferring – “Paige was overcome with emotion. His nerves, he later said, ‘were jumping every which way.’  He knew he wasn’t pitching just for his team but also for African-Americans everywhere.”
  • Magic of 3 – “He stretched.  He waited.  He shook his fingers.
  • Questioning
  • Semi-colon with a list

PES Library books

A Slave’s Hero: a Dog

July 16, 2009

I stumbled upon this rich text in the new book section at the library.  The underground railroad is a standard in social studies for fourth grade.   Sharing this story may help bridge history with something familiar – a boy and his dog. 

Elisa Carbone wrote Night Running:  How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog (illustrated by E.B. Lewis).  It’s based on a true story of James Smith, a runaway slave.  James decided to confide in a friend about his plans to escape.  Unfortunately, his friend betrayed him and he was caught.  James’s dog, Zeus, stayed close by and helped him escape his captors.  Although James was thankful, he worried that Zeus would make too much noise.

Zeus didn’t follow.  No, sir.  He ran on a head.  And noisy?  He made more racket…

This book is excellent for teaching students to focus in and highlight the most important parts.  Time upon time, Zeus saved James’s life, alerting him of danger and helping divert attention.  I was on the edge of my seat.  Eventually, James had to cross the Ohio River to freedom.  He hugged his dog for the last time and began to cross, only to be saved by Zeus again.

Boys like to see themselves as being fearless.  Night Running captures the sense of adventure, courage, and perseverance.  It also taps into the bond a dog has with his boy, as James loves his dog, but he is not willing to take Zeus.  Internal character conflict arises.  I had to reread parts to gain better understanding, visualizing the scenes and feeling the conflict.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Night Running:

  • Voice – you can almost hear James talking to Zeus and letting you into his head
  • Repeating Line woven in text –   Zeus was good at that.
  • Personification –
  • Simile – droopy as an old mulethrew that switch down like it was a rattlesnake on fire
  • Hyphenated words – good-for-nothings; fired-up mad; sweet-smelling

Yuki’s Ride Home

February 9, 2009

Children begin to learn bravery at a young age.  They face their fears through small experiences that seem grand to them, just like the little girl in Yuki’s Ride Home.  The author, Manya Tessler, stated that she had a difficult time “learning to leave Japan, where she resided for two years.”  Thus, she related the events to this story she created.

Yuki rides her bike over the bridge connecting her home to where her grandmother lives.  She’s excited; it’s her fist day riding her bike home alone.  Do you remember the sense of freedom learning to ride your bike and then getting to go places?  Our students have many stories inside of them that can revolve around a bike ride.  This book would be a great lead for a story idea to use with them.  I also appreciate the interweaving of the thoughts and feelings of the character.  Students often find it difficult to write the emotions and turmoil in their writing, which definitely lifts the connection to the reader.

The story shares simple activities Yuki and grandma do together – feeding her pets, making origami, listening to the wild life near the pond.  Our kids can write about ordinary activities in their life, especially when shared with a special family member.  Manya Tessler gives the reader a glimpse as to how Yuki is feeling through her thoughts.

‘Mom will worry if I’m not home soon,’ thought Yuki.”

Ka-tung Ka-tung beat Yuki’s heart.”

Enjoy this beautifully illustrated book with your students.  Capture the every day moments.  Highlight how each child can relate to Yuki as they have accomplished a difficult task and been brave during the difficult times.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Yuki’s Ride Home:

  • One day story
  • Exploding the moment scene
  • Show don’t Tell – “Yuki’s stomach flipped, and she sat still on her bike.”
  • Character’s internal conflict
  • Every day activities

 (Warsaw Public Library book)

Sticking to It

February 2, 2009

I really believe we must share with children where the authors get their inspirations for their stories.  Bobbie Dazzler is written by Margaret Wild. She observed her granddaughter as she learned gymnastics.  “The splits defeated her, however, so I wrote a story for her instead.

Many times, like this story, the story premise is based on every day happenings.  One day Bobbie, the red-necked Wallaby, enjoys doing gymnastics.  She is able to do all of the moves except for the splits.  Although her friends console her and tell her it’s okay, Bobbie is determined to master the splits.  In the end, she does with lots of effort and some help from her friends.

Our students participate in physical education and may have difficulty mastering an activity, like Bobby with the splits.  We know they often are faced with new learning – math facts, spelling words, decoding – that may be difficult to master as well.  This text teaches perseverance in a simple demonstration, sealing the comprehension of young children.

Kane/Miller Book Publishers stated,  “Wild’s text is simple and joyful, celebrating children’s small achievements and the value of friendship.”

In kindergarten, they are learning to show action in their drawings.  Janine Dawson creatively portrays Bobbie, the Wallaby, in several simple action scenes.  Action words (verbs) are stressed throughout the book.  Each illustration magnifies the simple sentence on each page, within the Australian landscape.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Bobbie Dazzler:

  • Repeating structure – Bobbie could do _____ and ______ and ______.  But she could not do the splits.
  • Action Words – balance, whirl, twirl
  • Excellent for kindergarten and first grade
  • Interweaving of story detail
  • Perseverance