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.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Holiday Reading for 6-9 year olds

This age group wants to read grown-up chapter books but still need illustrations to help them understand what is happening in the book. In the past two years, NZ and Australian publishers have taken up the challenge and produced some fantastic books for 6-9 year olds. Here's some that this age group will thoroughly enjoy reading these holidays:

Dinosaur Rescue series by Kyle Mewburn, illustrated by Donovan Bixley (Scholastic)

Young Arg finds it difficult to fit into his tribe of dimwitted Neanderthals. They don't understand his need to wear clothes and talk full sentences. Luckily he finds a friend in a talking T-rex called Skeet. The two of them have many adventures - saving the tribe, dinosaur species and getting out of tricky situations. Told with lots of humour, sprinkling of dinosaur facts and illustrated with Donovan's wacky illustrations. For boys who've finished the Captain Underpant series and wanting more (especially little dinosaur afficianados).
Book 1 - T-Wreck-Asaurus - meet the family, Arg and Skeet - and have an adventure
Book 2 - Stego-Snottysaurus - Arg has to find a way to save the dinosaurs from a deadly flu
Book 3 - Velocitychy-Raptor - A baby velociraptor needs saving from a hungry quetzalcoatlus
Book 4 - Diplo-dizzdocus - Arg and Skeet need to save the dizzy diplo-dizzdocus
Book 5 - Spino-Rottysaurus - The dracoraxes will become extinct unless Arg saves them
Book 6 - Dako-Snappysaurus - On Arg's first hunting trip things go horribly wrong...
Book 7 - Scuto-Stickysaurus - Arg gets himself into a very sticky situation that could end badly

Retail price $12.00,  Target Age 8-10 years


Littlest Angel series by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Aki Fukuoka (Scholastic)

Little Lily joins the Angel Academy. In order to progress through the ranks she has to do good deeds, help the team win sports, and keep herself out of mischief.  A perfect series for little girls who loved reading the Fairy series and want more of the same.  Each book is produced in pretty colours, sprinkled with glitter and illustrated with Aki Fukuoka's cute drawings. Can be read to, with or by 6-8 year old readers.

Book 1: Lily gets her wings - in order to join the academy she must earn her wings first
Book 2: Lily has a secret - Can Lily keep the kitten secret while earning her silver slippers?
Book 3: Lily goes skitter skating - Will Lily's team beat the All Saints Angel team in snow sports?
Book 4: Lily chases lost dreams - Lily wants to earn her silver star but has twin troubles
Book 5: Lily lands in bubble trouble - Lily longs to be part of Mother Angel's birthday celebrations
Book 6: Lily gets in a pink pickle - Lily finds herself in a spot of trouble

Retail price $12.00, Target Age 6-9 years


Saffron Series by Victoria Azaro (Penguin)
Young Saffron travels the world with her family. She tries to help her mother and father but manages to make a mess of things. Saffron thinks she knows how to do everything and speak any language - only that is not quite true...

Book 1: Saffron
Book 2: Saffron I have everything under control
Book 3: Saffron So Quite Excellent

Retail price $14.99, Target Age 6-9 years

Other series to look at for this age group are:

Ophelia Wild Secret Spy by Elena de Roo, Book 1 out and more to come (Walker)

Violet Mackerel series by Anna Branford, illustrated by Sarah Davies (Walker)
Book 1: Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot
Book 2: Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery
Book 3: Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat
Book 4: Violet Mackerel's Personal Space

Diary of a Bat and Diary of a Pukeko by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Dave Gunson (Scholastic)

Literacy Mysteries series by Hazel Edwards e-books
Book 1: Artnapping
Book 2: False Bottom
Book 3: Fleeced
Book 4: Game Play
Book 5: The Ideas Pirates
Book 6: Winning a Giraffe called Geoffrey
Book 7: Birds on the Brain
Book 8: Mindspaces
Book 9: Zoo Poo Clues

Nit Boy series by Tristan Bancks

Enjoy your reading!