Friday, January 25, 2013

Books for Teachers

Many Primary and Intermediate school teachers will be planning their forthcoming term's lessons.  Here's some books that will be great in the classroom ...

Packing a Bag for Mars by James Norcliffe, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (Clerestory Press)
James Norcliffe (award winning author of the junior fiction fantasy series The Loblolly Boy) has written 45 lively thought-provoking poems for children on diverse subjects as ATMs, packing a bag for Mars, wildlife (real, mechanised or otherwise), people (dance of a castaway, the drunken waitress, the sportsman drops a goal), and other ordinary and extraordinary topics.  James Norcliffe does not talk down to his audience - he uses a range of styles, voices and approaches THEN he encourages his audience (or you the teacher to try with your class) that style.  After each poem is a text box that suggests you 'Try This'. Such as on page 5: Write a poem in which you set up reader expectations in one way (e.g. care for the fish) and then pull the rug by revealing that the poem has a different purpose altogether (in this case, care for the hook). Use the kind of language found in technical manuals or recipe books.'
At the beginning of the book is an interview with James Norcliffe with helpful suggestions on how he gets started with a poem, redrafting, use of capital letters and punctuation in poems, why not all his poems rhyme etc.  Teachers could start with one of these suggestions and use it for the theme of that lesson. At the back of the book there are notes on each poem. Sometimes it is where James got the idea for the poem, definition of difficult words used in the poem, and an insight into the meaning of the poem.  Lastly, there is a glossary of literary terms and examples where James has used that style in his poems.
If I was still teaching I'd be photocopying some of the poems, including the notes for that poem, add some comprehension questions (that encourages students to look closely at language features), and the suggested poem activity 'Try This'. Then I'd be laminating it and using them as part of a poetry unit.  These poems will encourage your students to write more sophisticated poetry. This book would be extremely useful for Year 5-9 teachers of English - highly recommended!

RRP $27.00

Buy it at UBS or ask your local bookstore to get it in for you.

The Universe Rocks: The Complete Guide to Space by Raman Prinja (QED Publishing)

A must-have in your school or classroom library - especially if you're doing a Space Unit.  This book covers topics such as the Milky Way, Mapping the Universe, The Big Bang theory, The Dark side of the Universe, a Tour of the Solar System, how planets are made, volcanoes in space, Pluto and the dwarfs, life beyond earth, where stars are born, life story of the sun and other great 'space' subjects. After each double page spread there are some excellent activities that you could encourage your students to try. For example: build your own Milky Way, explore the shape of spiral galaxies in a cup, make a timeline of the Universe, make a balloon universe, construct a toilet-paper solar system,  explode a volcano, put together a CD Saturn, turn a paper-cup into a sundial, twinkle some stars, experiment with tennis balls to make a supernova blast wave, find a way to count stars, invent a constellation, make a rainbow, construct a balloon rocket, learn how to have super hearing just like space scientists, find out how the force of gravity can change your height in one day.

At the back of the book are really cool stuff about the universe, planets, spacecrafts, stars, and the top 40 Universe Facts. Plus there are useful websites, a glossary, and an index.

I could build a unit around this book. It has background information for teachers and students, and activities to make the new information real and understandable.  The images are first class - taken by professional photographers, NASA and other scientific sources. Highly recommended for Years 5-8.

This book is possibly not available in your bookstore but can be ordered by booksellers such as Wheelers who will order it in.

Watch out for an artbook called New Zealand Art Activity Book: 100+ ideas for Creative Kids by Helen Lloyd, published by Te Papa Press - due out mid-March.  I'll review it in a couple of weeks.

Now for some teaching resources that will be useful:

Essential Resources has some new teaching resources coming out early this year.  Phillip Simpson has written a Non-fiction Writing Unit for junior, mid and senior levels. Maria Gill has written a non-fiction reading and writing unit due out Term 2, an Oral Language Unit due out Term 1, and a Sustainable Living unit for mid and senior levels due out now. Each book has curriculum criteria for New Zealand, Australia and UK standards, complete daily plans to execute the unit, templates for student work sheets, evaluation matrix sheets, and recommended reading resource lists.

Curriculum Concepts has the Big Book of School Journal Units for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 - out now and 2012 due out Term 2.  Each book contains comprehension questions that include open questions, metacognitive strategies, looking closely at language features, thinking skills an an activity for each Journal story/article or poem.

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