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Nonfiction Monday is here in Practically Paradise

  • Posted on July 15, 2012 at 12:01 AM


Today Practically Paradise hosts Nonfiction Monday. Since I am working with my teachers and staff for inservice training on project-based learning and integrating nonfiction into our STEM units Mon-Wed, I decided to deploy Mr. Linky to help me out. Be sure to leave your link to your specific blog entry and a comment below. I’ll go back to add more graphics during our breaks throughout the day.

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Practically Paradise celebrates ELECTRICITY today. Can you feel the vibrations in the air? The fourth graders at my school use a science kit to explore electrical circuits. When I unpacked the Heinemann series It’s Electric!, I was buzzed to discover these four titles listed:

  • Using Electricity (received)
  • Making a Circuit (received) 
  • Using Batteries
  • Conductors and Insulators
I was so excited I would have jumped up and led the Electric Slide – that is if I ever danced, which I don’t; I have never mastered the easy steps I watch others take doing the Electric Slide; and I’d much rather play with electrical circuits than dance.
Heinemann (now a division of Capstone) has produced a series of books on electricity that is truly elementary. There is no mention of amps and ohms here. Instead in 32 pages you will find clearly written descriptions of electrical circuits and the basic science involved in electricity. The examples are specific and child-friendly. The captions are clear and diagrams streamlined to focus on the key features of circuits. These are up-to-date and modern looking. In Using Electricity there is mention of LED lights and compact fluorescent lamps, but none of the incandescent lightbulbs being phased out. The font is larger sized with plenty of spacing so reluctant readers will not hesitate to read this series.
It definitely meets the needs of elementary students studying electricity and explains in very concrete terms systematically how electricity is produced and transmitted to homes. Students will learn much more from this series than from a chapter in a textbook. Making a Circuit is an absolute must in every elementary school library.

I have spent the majority of this summer participating in inservice training with my STEM faculty. We’ve studied project-based learning, engineering in education, science kits training, inquiry based learning, Common Core Standards for States, intergrating technology, using formative assessment to drive instruction, and STEM inquiry. One of our sessions occurred at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville, TN.

My favorite part of the day was exploring the Elenco SNAP circuit boards. These are so easy to manipulate. I didn’t worry about making mistakes as much and felt free-er to try new ways of connecting circuits. When my sons were in elementary school, we had to teach them how to solder circuit boards for them to make science projects. I loved these snap circuit boards so much that I “snuck” back in to take a picture.

Our leader through these sessions demonstrated how to lead inquiry-based learning for our Science curriculum. Each activity we participated in enabled us to experience being the learner, to use the various strategies of inquiry and collaboration, and helped us focus on the correct usage of techniques for learning.

Back to the series of books It’s Electric! I immediately put them in the hands of the fourth grade science teacher and said, “Tell me what you think and how we can use these.”  Now, before you do the same thing, you should know that teachers frequently have no idea what you want them to tell them about the books when reviewing. You may expect them to say things like “I love this.” “I’ve got to have this.” “I really like this approach.” or maybe “It’s too difficult.” Those would be good starting places. Instead, you usually get answers like  “It’s good. Do we own this?”  I usually follow-up pinning them down and ask if I were to purchase more copies, how many would you use and would it be every title in the series? Or, I’ll ask them “Could we use this title as a starting point for research on this lesson?” or “Would this help fill in the blanks the kit leaves?” and always I ask “Will you share this?”

We bloggers and librarians need to be skilled in asking teachers and parents more specific questions to better help our readers while reviewing books. What questioning strategies do you use when asking opinions about new books?