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.

Books, Cultivating curiosity, Homeschool, Science/Math

Happy birthday STEM Book Giveaway

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WOOD, WIRE, WINGS has been out in the world for nearly three whole months. In celebration, I’m giving away an autographed copy of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, along with a copy of Vicky Fang’s HAPPY PAWS. To enter, sign up for my monthly newsletter here. That’s it! Giveaway ends 5/25 at midnight PDT. Sorry, US entries only.

Books, Homeschool, News

Activities for curious kids, where to read books, and more 😷

Taking action in the time of COVID-19

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Hi friends,

Was it just over a month ago that WOOD, WIRE, WINGS finally took flight? It seems like an eternity after four weeks at home. With many of my book events postponed or canceled over the coming months, I’m focused on what I can do right now, both physically and emotionally.

  • Continuing to create – I’m revising a graphic novel and researching a new STEM picture book. For me, creating is an anchor in turbulent times.
  • Reading books for inspiration (and reviewing them) – I was lucky enough to pick up a stack of print books two hours before my library closed its doors. I’ve read and reviewed most of them already, so I’m also reading ebooks/audiobooks via Amazon Prime Reading and Libby/Overdrive linked to my library account. (I love listening to audiobooks on Libby while working jigsaw puzzles or baking). Audible is another source for free children’s audiobooks, and countless creators are offering readings and book clubs online. I review as many books as I can on Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads. Since book creators can no longer host in-person events, book reviews are more important than ever for helping readers discover new books. If you’ve read WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I would be deeply grateful if you would leave an honest review on the book platform of your choice.
  • Boosting booksellers – Local bookstores are suffering terribly right now, though many remain open for online and phone orders, often with curbside pickup or inexpensive delivery. You can contact your bookseller directly or shop your local indie at Bookshop.org. Don’t need books for yourself? Consider placing an order to stock a local Little Free Library or buying a gift certificate for later use. Audiobook-lovers can support indies by buying through Libro.fm. Finally, if you are an Amazon fan, the good news is physical books have been reclassified as “essential” with faster ship times and deep discounts (WOOD, WIRE, WINGS is currently discounted to $14.34).
  • Connecting with readers online – I’ve created a YouTube version of my engineering design workshop, and have done a few Zoom/Skypes with classes who have read my book. It’s always a delight to connect with young readers, especially when the opportunities are scarce. If you are trying to keep kids busy at home, the number of resources available is overwhelming, but you can find many wonderful ideas from my debut picture book group, The Soaring 20s, on our website.

Here’s hoping you are able to stay safe at home, while your dreams soar in books.



Oh, the places I’ve been (virtually)

It’s been a busy couple of months with lots of podcasts, guest blog posts, and media appearances. Here are a few of the places I’ve been.

Coming soon: appearances on Jedlie’s Reading With Your Kids podcast (4/21), Matthew Winner’s Children’s Book Podcast (week of 4/27), Chris Wood’s STEM Everday Podcast (TBD), and much more. Follow me on Twitter @kirstenwlarson or follow my Facebook page so you don’t miss my upcoming appearances.


Books I’m Over the Moon About












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.

Arts/Crafts, Homeschool, Parenting

Summer Plans

Yowza! I looked at the calendar and realized there are less than three weeks left in the school year. It’s time to start planning for at-home summer fun.

  • First up? Makerspace. The kiddos recently expressed an interest in having their own robot lab. Right now, this has included scavenging parts from the garage (old training wheels and wood, for example) and toting around their toolboxes. I think we could build an outdoor makerspace using tips I found here.
  • Random Acts of Kindness. We are brainstorming ideas for ways that we can be kind to others, especially people outside of our own family/friend circle. We’ll put strips of paper in a jar so we can pull out one or two ideas a week.
  • In fourth grade, my gifted and talented class did lessons based on DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN. I ordered the book several months ago and hope we can all do the lessons together.
  • Writing and Reading. Of course! We’ll set aside time for everyone to write and read. Here’s a great idea for DIYing a journal. Also, Barnes and Noble is offering a free book for students who compete a reading journal. Download it here.

What are your summer plans?

Books, Homeschool, Writing

Schoolwide Ebooks Now Available

If you’ve been looking for a fun way to expand your student’s reading fluency, check out Schoolwide Zing. I have several leveled e-readers and articles that have just been published. Learn about the hairy, but harmless tarantula or the science behind a skunk’s stinky spray.

For a free trial, click here.

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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.

Homeschool, Writing

Summer Fun Toolkit: Animal Research Writing

One of my favorite blogs is Mrs. Clancy’s Joyful Learning in KC. She does writing workshops with her kindergarteners and provides templates on her site. That way you can help your budding writers at home.

I’ve been using some of Ms. Clancy’s ideas to harness Cooper’s curiosity and keep his writing skills up to snuff this summer. Right now he is working on Animal Research Writing. His book is called BLACK JAGUARS. Here is his first page.

Jaquars

Homeschool, Reading

Summer Fun Toolkit: Sight Word Bingo

My kids love Bingo, especially if we use Goldfish, M&Ms or another tasty treat for our markers. I made Bingo cards from Cooper’s Kindergarten sight words, so he can keep up with them all summer long.

Click on the photo below to print out the cards. Make sure to print an extra sheet, cut out the pieces and put them in a bag or bowl to draw from.

SightWordBingo

You can also build up your child’s repertoire of sight words through DK’s Silly Sentences game, for ages 4 through 7. It’s currently Finley’s favorite game. We play it almost every day.