As a teacher, I have developed some theories and observations about learning. Probably one of the things that lays my educational foundation is my belief that children – no make that people of all ages – learn best when the opportunities arise naturally in the course of everyday life. This idea led me to providing my students with as many life experiences in the classroom as possible. Simply put, I try to connect as many subjects or concepts to one key experience as possible. Many times, a read aloud is the perfect start for facilitating these experiences because the story gives the entire class the same staring point.
When I was given the opportunity to review two novels by Science, Naturally!, I had no idea that they would fit into this goal so well! So far these are my absolute favorite cross-curricular read alouds that are perfect for upper elementary of middle school!
Novels with a Purpose
I recently had the opportunity to read and review Ghost in the Water and Leonardo da Vinci Gets a Do-Over. Both of these amazing books are published by the Science, Naturally! company and provide a myriad of learning opportunities for the reader. Each book is jammed pack with facts and ideas from multiple subject areas that are seamlessly woven together to create a great story! Readers will be so enthralled in the story that they won’t realize they are learning. I don’t know about you – but that is my kind of learning!
Each book also has a FREE Teacher’s Guide that is filled with hundreds of suggestions, activities and connecting points to help guide the learning during the reading of the book. The Teacher’s Guide makes cross-curricular learning through these books a snap – because so much is already done for the teacher. The hardest part will be choosing which of the activities you want to do because it would be almost impossible to do them all! The activities include everything from discussion topics, writing prompts, areas to research, hands-on activities and more. They are truly what brings the learning to life and the Teacher’s Guide has it all ready to go!
Ghost in the Water, written by Sue Garcia, is the first book in the League of Scientist Mystery series. This fantastic book introduces us to a great group of middle school students who have banned together to form the League of Scientists. Together they use their knowledge of science, technology, math and logic to solve mysteries – but not in a textbook, science class kind of way. Kids of all ages will be able to identify with problems and challenges faced by the characters as they ban together to save the school swimming pool.
Leonardo da Vinci Gets a Do-Over, written by Mark Friedlander, Jr., is the first book in the Innovators in Action series. This fun adventure takes three American middle school students on a class trip to Florence, Italy. While there they meet Leonardo da Vinci who is back in modern times to help make the world a better place. Join the fun as these engaging characters help the Renaissance legend survive in the 21st century.
Using These Books in the Classroom
So how am I using these books? Read Alouds! I love doing read alouds and my students of all ages have loved being read to. Read alouds are not only a great way to model good reading and thinking, but it also a great way to help reluctant readers learn to love reading.
I started reading Ghost in the Water with my son because he is currently learning about physics and chemistry in science and this book is a natural tie to those concepts. The way we read this book is the same way I would use this book in the classroom.
- Prior to reading a chapter, I review the Teacher’s Guide and determine which of the listed activities I want to do. I generally make this decision based on what I know my students will enjoy or an area that I want them to dig deeper in. Many, many, many of the activities connect with other subjects so it is a great way to build connections from concepts and skills that have already been learned.
- Then we read a chapter together. As we get to a topic in the reading, I pose a discussion question that naturally fits in. I often model the thinking that I want my students to do, so you might hear me questioning why something is happening or making “I wonder . . .” statements.
- At the end of the chapter we use the discussion or these questions to do further research and learn more about the “cool” things we learned in the chapter, including adding in some hands-on activities from the Teacher’s Guide that fit.
- When we are ready, we move on to the next chapter. Some chapters have taken us longer to get through than others because there is more we want to explore.
Although I have previewed Leonardo da Vinci Gets a Do-Over as part of this review, I am keeping this book a secret for a few more months until we start learning about the Renaissance period in history. However, with the book and Teacher’s Guide set-up the same was, I will use the same “system” to use this book as a read aloud.
I am very impressed with the Science, Naturally! books and would recommend them highly if you are looking to add some seriously fun learning to your classroom. I have loved these books so much that I am looking at adding some of their other resources too. I am most excited about trying out the One Minute Science Mysteries and the One Minute Math Mysteries. Both of these would be great starts to the day, fill in a couple of extra minutes at the end of class or even being great activities for early finishers.