Arts/Crafts, Homeschool, Science/Math, Education

Constellation Projector

This is a picture of author Kirsten Larson with the finished constellation projector.

Here’s an activity linked to THE FIRE OF STARS (Chronicle Books) perfect for the budding astronomer in your life. This constellation projector is simple to make with common household items. And the results are stellar, which you’ll see at the end!

What you’ll need

You will need: a flashlight, a toilet paper tube, tape, glue, scissors, sharp pencil, popsicle stick for spreading glue (optional) and constellation printable.

You will need:

  • a flashlight (or your phone flashlight)
  • a toilet paper tube
  • tape (washi tape looks really nice if you have it)
  • glue and a popsicle stick for spreading it if you want
  • scissors
  • sharp pencil
  • constellation printable, which you’ll find here at Homeschool 123 Homeschool 4 Me
  • Optional: construction paper or scrapbook paper to cover your toilet paper tube OR markers to color it.

Directions

This is a picture of Kirsten showing the constellations that have been punched and cut out.
  • Print out or copy the constellation printables on your printer, reducing them to 30 to 50% of the full size. You want the constellation to fit within the circle of the toilet paper tube.
  • Using the sharp point of the pencil, punch holes where the stars are on the constellation. Be very careful so you don’t poke yourself!
  • Cut a large circle around the constellation and and make little snips around the circumference so the edges fold more easily over the toilet paper tube.
  • Put glue on the edges where you’ve snipped, and glue the constellation over the toilet paper tube.
  • Cover the paper edges with washi tape or plain old scotch tape if you don’t have it.
  • You can decorate your toilet paper tube with markers or construction paper, and write the name of the constellation on the side.
  • When you are finished, go into a dark room or closet and put your flashlight inside the toilet paper tube to enjoy your constellation.
Kirsten showing how to bend the paper around the tube.

This is an image of the constellation project projecting lyra onto a wall.

For a video of a similar project, see this one from Natskies.

Education, History, Homeschool, Writing

Real Life Wonders Activity

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the full A TRUE WONDER educator’s guide here.

This is an image of a female volunteer

Every day we are surrounded by people who quietly fight for the common good or stand up for what they believe is right. These outstanding individuals show what the power one person has to impact our neighborhoods and communities.

Who are the superheroes in your community? Interview and write a report or make a presentation about someone in your own community who you think makes a positive impact. This can be done as a whole class, in groups, or as individuals. Here are some things you can discuss:

  • Why you believe this person to be a hero to the neighborhood and community.
  • Describe the person activity/activities that significantly benefitted their neighborhood.
  • How long has the hero contributed to the neighborhood? What was their most recent activity?
  • Describe the creative and innovative methods used by the hero to benefit their neighborhood.
  • Include any other interesting information relevant to the hero’s activities.
  • What is this hero’s impact to the neighborhood and/or community at large? Include documentation such as pamphlets, articles, presentations, photographs, newsclippings, letters of support, etc. if applicable.

Present these reports to the class. Invite the heroes for a “Real Life Wonder” celebration.

Books, Education, Homeschool

Dear Olivia Sage: Writing a Persuasive Essay

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the complete WOOD, WIRE, WINGS educator’s guide here.

Dear Olivia Sage: Writing a Persuasive Essay

As her dream outgrew her apartment and her wallet, Lilian needed to turn to others for help. One such person she turned to was Olivia Sage, one of the richest women in the world. But often people don’t just hand money to anyone who asks. Lilian needed to ask Olivia Sage while providing enough details to inform Olivia what her money would be used for. She needed to persuade Olivia Sage to help her.

Ask your students if they know what “persuade” means. If not, can they make any guesses?

Discuss:

  • What it means to persuade
  • Times you might want to persuade someone (e.g., persuade your parents to letyou stay up late, persuade your teacher to not give a test)Writing to persuade tells the reader what you believe, gives the reader at least three reasons why you believe it, and has a good ending sentence. You want to try and convince the reader to agree with you.
  • Pretending to be Lilian Todd, have students write a persuasive essay to Olivia Sage stating why they need money and why she should give it to you.

Use the following TREE structure:

T = Topic sentences

R = Reasons

E = Ending

E = Examine
Share your essays with the class. Which is the most persuasive? Why do you think so?

Speaking and Listening Extension: Create a TV commercial or PowerPoint presentation to encourage people to read Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane. Be sure to incorporate the TREE structure!

Arts/Crafts, Education, Homeschool

What Makes a Hero Lesson Plan

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the full A TRUE WONDER educator’s guide here.

The Hero In Me

Brainstorm a list of the qualities and actions that make Wonder Woman a hero. Then undertake the following project:

  • Have each student lay down on a large piece of butcher paper while someone traces their body with a pencil. Alternatively, download a printable worksheet, like this Superhero Cape printable from Nurtured Neurons for students to use.
  • Once the student has the silhouette of their body or cape, they can write the things that make Wonder Woman a hero outside the outline.
  • Inside the outline, they can write some of the qualities they share with Wonder Woman or ways in which she has inspired them.
  • Then students can decorate their silhouette or cape. Photos and other images can be added to create a collage.
  • For extra fun, challenge students to come up with their own superhero name. (For grown ups, you can find a superhero name generator here.)
Education, Homeschool, Writing

ELA Activity: Piloting Lilian’s Plane

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the complete WOOD, WIRE, WINGS educator’s guide here.

Piloting Lilian’s Plane ~ creative story

Imagine that you have been chosen to pilot Lilian Todd’s airplane as she observed and took notes. Write about your experience.

  • Who are you? Where do you live?
  • How were you chosen to be the pilot? What experience do you already havewith flight?
  • What was it like when you saw the airplane for the first time?
  • Once aboard, how did you feel? Were you nervous?
  • How did Lilian react? What did she say to you before and after the flight?
  • What was the best part? Would you pilot a plane again? Is there anything youwould do differently? Research photographs from 1910 to aid students in placing themselves in the time period. Photographs can be found through the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum website and the Library of Congress. Have students share their stories of piloting the airplane with the class.
Education, Homeschool, Reading, research

A WONDER-ful ELA Nonfiction Reading and Research Activity

Each month, I’ll spotlight a book-based educational activity teachers and homeschooling parents can use with their students. These activities are pulled from the educators’ guides developed for my books by author and former educator Marcie Colleen. You can download the full A TRUE WONDER educator’s guide here.

Reading Nonfiction

While reading A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything aloud to the class, have students take notes in two columns.

  • Things we learned
  • Questions we have


Pause before each page turn to add notes to the columns. These columns can either be worked on individually or put on the smartboard and worked on as a class.

Once the story is read, discuss the Questions We Have column.

  • Were any of these questions answered as the story went along?
  • If so, ask students to find the answer within the text.
  • Record the answer next to the question in a third column labeled Answers We Found.

For all remaining questions in the Questions We Have column, that have yet to be answered, students will need to take the steps to find answers, either through Internet or book research.

Assign students to specific questions to help them focus. Record all answers in the Answers We Found column.

After the answers have been shared with the class, engage in a discussion on research practices.

  • What was the most difficult part about finding answers?
  • Was it easier to find answers on the Internet or in a book?
  • Which source is more reliable, the Internet or a printed book? Why? 
  • How can you determine whether to trust a source?
  • What tips would you give someone who is about to do research?

Read the Author’s Note (The Origin Story…of This Book) and The Women of Wonder Woman at the back of the book.

  • Create an additional chart to document what information in the back matter was included in the story and what information was not included.
  • Why do you think Kirsten Larson chose to include certain information in the main text and leave other information to the back matter?
  • Choose three facts from the back matter and explain why you think each was not included in the story.

Extension: Design and illustrate posters representing each Fact, Question, and researched Answer based on A True Wonder: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything and display them within the classroom.

Arts/Crafts, Cultivating curiosity, Education, Homeschool, Parenting, Reading

Tools and Activities for Keeping At-Home Kids Busy

For those who have students home from school due to COVID-19, children’s book creators are putting together a number of resources to keep your students occupied and engaged. Aside from creator content, I am also sharing some of my favorite sites for kid-friendly activities and content. My goal is to keep this site updated as I find out about more.

Books, Education, Homeschool

Nonfiction PB Pairings: Reading the stories behind children’s classics

Top 10 Must-See Travel Destinations

I just finished two wonderful nonfiction picture books that reveal how two classic children’s books came to be. And that made me think about what fun it would be to pair these picture book biographies with the children’s classics in the classroom.

First up is FINDING NARNIA by Caroline McAlister, illustrated by Jessica Lanan (Roaring Brook, November 2019). In our schools, students read C. S. Lewis’s THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE in fifth grade. A magnificent companion, FINDING NARNIA is the story of (C.S. Lewis) and his brother Warnie, the imaginative world they invented as children, and how those childhood stories grew into the world of Narnia.

Next, MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Jordi Solano (Sleeping Bear Press, August 2019), explains how Miep Gies rescued Anne Frank’s diary when Anne and her family were taken by the Nazis. This book pairs perfectly with Anne Frank’s DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL, which our students read in 7th grade.

For younger readers, Melissa Sweet’s SOME WRITER! THE STORY OF E. B. WHITE (HMH, 2016) could be read alongside E. B. White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB (approximately 3rd grade).

Finally, I’m looking forward to the forthcoming BEATRIX POTTER, SCIENTIST by Lindsay H. Metcalf, illustrated by Junyi Wu forthcoming in September from Albert Whitman. What a great book to read alongside THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT.

The takeaway: if your classroom is reading a classic work of literature with students, check your library to see if a picture book biography is available about the author. PB bios and classic children’s books are always better together.

If you have other great pairings, please share them in the comments. I’ll add them to the Pinterest Board I’ve started.

Books, Education, History

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Henry and the Cannons

Wow, it’s been awhile. My last PPBF post was in October! Yikes.

Yesterday’s blizzard in Boston and New York inspired this PPBF pick. Stay warm everyone! (I probably shouldn’t tell you it’s in the 60s in California.)

TITLE: Henry and the Cannons

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Don Brown

PUBLICATION INFO: Roaring Book Press, January 2013

ISBN: 978-1596432666

SOURCE:  Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 to 9

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“It was the winter of 1775. The American Revolution had begun, and things weren’t going well for the Patriots of Boston, Massachusetts.”

From the publisher: “Before Washington crossed the Delaware, Henry Knox crossed Massachusetts in winter—with 59 cannons in tow.

In 1775 in the dead of winter, a bookseller named Henry Knox dragged 59 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston—225 miles of lakes, forest, mountains, and few roads. It was a feat of remarkable ingenuity and determination and one of the most remarkable stories of the revolutionary war. In Henry and the Cannons the perils and adventure of his journey come to life through Don Brown’s vivid and evocative artwork.”

THEMES/TOPICS: history, nonfiction

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: I’m working on a slice-of-history picture book and used HENRY AND THE CANNONS to study form and structure. Much like Barb Rosenstock’s THE CAMPING TRIP THAT CHANGED AMERICA, this book focuses on one episode in American history and shows how it connects to a larger story.

RESOURCES:

Don Brown found an unsung hero, as there’s little for students about Henry Knox on the Web. Here are a few sites:

  • The Knox Museum in Maine has several Revolutionary War lesson plans on its education site.
  • The Library of Congress has a lesson plan built around a letter from General George Washington to Henry Knox.
  • Daughters of the American Revolution exhibit about Knox.
  • Travel the Knox Trail in the Hudson River Valley (but probably not today due to the weather.)

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

Books, Education, Homeschool, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FROM SEED TO PLANT

Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays are back. I missed the boat last week, but I wrote my post early this week so I wouldn’t forget.

TITLE: From Seed to Plant

AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Gail Gibbons

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1991

ISBN: 978-0823410255

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up

GENRE: nonfiction

OPENING and SYNOPSIS:

“Most plants make seeds. A seed contains the beginning of a new plant.”

Gibbons moves through a plant’s life cycle, showing children how seeds are formed through pollination, how they are dispersed, and how they grow into new plants.

THEMES/TOPICS: nonfiction, educational, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Cooper was working on a plant life cycle project for school this week, and we checked this book out from the library. Gail Gibbons is a nonfiction favorite in our house. She uses beautiful drawings and simple writing to explain science concepts in a way young children can understand.

RESOURCES/ACTIVITIES:

  • The book has a “Seed to Plant” activity in the back using bean seeds. It’s a different take on the classic bean sprout in a baggie activity used in many preschool classrooms.
  • We’ve also done seed collections before to spark discussion about the different types of seeds and how they are scattered. You’ll find that activity…here.
  • Finally, for older students, you can try the plant life cycle project that Cooper’s class did. Students had to collect five different types of seeds and draw or collect pictures that showed the seedling, mature plant, flower and fruit. They had to label each stage, and I had Cooper draw arrows so he could see that the whole cycle is a circle. I’ll blog about our project next week.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.