Common Core & NGSS

Movies Inspire Reading!

Bringing Books and Movies Together

Robyn Gioia

Teaching today’s students is a different ballgame than twenty years ago.

Even ten years ago. This is a generation of visual learners. Students in middle school down through elementary have grown up on cell phones and tablets. Visuals accompany almost everything they read. There isn’t a day go by that my students don’t say, “Can we see a picture of that?”

In the forefront are movies, moving visuals that provide setting, plot, memorable characters, action, and a storyline that comes to life in a different era.

This provides a great opportunity to take advantage of the stage movies produce.

Heroes stand out. It is from their hardships and the trials that follow that make history. One such hero is Harriet Tubman, a slave and political activist, who escaped captivity, and returned as a “conductor” to lead slaves through the “underground railroad” to freedom during the 1800s. She did this repeatedly, even though it put her in grave peril and she carried a bounty on her head.

Enter the Harriet Tubman Movie:

teacher's guide

A tremendous opportunity for children to understand what these women worked so hard to accomplish—one succeeding and one coming close. —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Give students rich opportunities to learn more. Set the background. Provide students with information that provides historical depth and broadens the movie’s perspective.

Go beyond the internet. Teach your students the value of book research. Provide the class with a broad collection of books, both informational and historically based. Encourage them to be detectives. Encourage them to find the clues that tell us more. (Adjust as needed for your level of students.)

Brainstorm with the class. Discuss the different aspects of the movie. What questions do they have? Was the movie historically accurate? What was correct and what was fiction? Were the characters true to life? Did the plot follow the facts?

Examine the bigger picture. What drove the economy? What kind of  society was it? What was happening politically? What were the customs? How did these things contribute to Harriet’s plight?

Divide the class into topics that were generated from their discussion. Let your students discover the answers through research. Teach them how to use the book index and chapter headings to speed up fact finding. Groups love to share what they’ve learned with others. Provide time each day to let them tell their favorite fun facts. Help them become experts.

Make an Experts’ Bulletin Board: At the end of each session, have students post fast facts and visuals from their book research. Provide a parking lot for questions. Let the specialized experts research the answers and post them on the board.

Have a Socratic Seminar: Pose thought provoking questions and let students discuss the answers citing evidence from their research.

Stage a Debate: Students choose an historical issue and debate the pros and cons.

Read historical novels.

Below are some of my favorite activities for Book Reports or/and Research Projects:

  • Write a Readers’ Theater.
  • Produce a historical newspaper with student journalists.
  • Write a picture book for first grade.
  • Create a Jeopardy game.
  • Design a board game of the Underground railroad. Create a schoolwide simulation.
  • Make a Slideshow to teach others.
  • Write and perform a skit.
  • Design posters.
  • Produce a new book jacket cover.
  • Design an informational brochure.
  • Produce a video clip.
  • Create trading cards.
  • Write a story using historical evidence based on a different perspective.
  • Write and perform a song.
  • Create a dance.
  • Write a poem.

 

STEM Tuesday –Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and More! — In the Classroom

 

This month’s theme looks at transportation–something students might think as ordinary. But as the books we’re highlighting show, plaines, trains, and automobiles have rich histories and lots of science going on.  They’re perfect starting points for different science activities and discussions in the classroom. Here are a few to try.

 

Save the Crash-test Dummies by Jen Swanson, illustrated by Tamika Grooms
Explore how autos are made even safer by using crash-test dummies for design. An entertaining look at the history of car production, as well as the science and engineering behind these machines we can’t seem to live without.

  •  Make a timeline of the evolution of the car bumper.
  • Research the science behind how car bumpers absorb energy from a crash. Have students design the ultimate car bumper, listing what it can do during a crash and labeling its parts on a drawing.
  • Have students imagine a crash-test dummy’s perspective of being tested in a car crash. They can make a comic or write a story about the dummy’s experience.
  • Watch “The Physics of Seat Belts” video from the Smithsonian Channel and ask students to list three reasons why seat belts are important. Have them make a public safety poster about why it is important to always wearing a seat belt when riding in a car. They should include their reasons on the poster.

 

 

Milestones of Flight: From Hot Air Balloons to Space Ship One by Tim Grove

Grove gives readers a look into transportation history and science in this book. Illustrated with photographs, documents, and diagrams from the Smithsonian’s collection.

  • Did one inventor make flight possible? No, like many inventions, the ideas developed from one inventor to another. Ask students to pair up and discuss how two different inventors added to the history of flight.
  • Who was Charles Lindbergh? What did Robert Goddard do?  This book is filled with interesting people vital to the development of flight. Students can pick one and research that person. Then have them act as their character, wearing a costume if they’d like, and tell the class who they are and what they did related to the history of flight.

 

 

Green Transport: Exploring Eco-Friendly Travel for a Better Tomorrow by Rani Iyer  

More on eco-friendly alternatives as transportation industries strive to create green options. This comprehensive title explores traditional energy sources and their impacts, alternative fuels, and mass transit issues as cities move toward more sustainable solutions.

  • Vehicles contribute to climate change, but what else affects the climate. Let students explore the causes of global warming on this site: https://eo.ucar.edu/kids/green/warming5.htm
  • Have students create a train development timeline, listing the fuels used by different trains throughout history and how they affect the environment.
  • Ask students to imagine transportation of the future and have them design a plane, train, ship, or car that runs on clean fuel that does not harm the environment. Have them describe what this fuel is and how it makes their futuristic vehicle run.

 

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Karen Latchana Kenney loves to write books about animals, and looks for them wherever she goes—from leafcutter ants trailing through the Amazon rain forest in Guyana, where she was born, to puffins in cliff-side burrows on the Irish island of Skellig Michael. She especially enjoys creating books about nature, biodiversity, conservation, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries—but also writes about civil rights, astronomy, historical moments, and many other topics. Her award-winning and star-reviewed books have been named a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, a 2015 Book of Note from the TriState Review Committee, a 2011 Editor’s Choice for School Library Connection, and Junior Library Guild selections. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and son, and bikes, hikes, and gazes at the night sky in northern Minnesota any moment she can.

STEM Tuesday — Digging Up History/Archeology — Interview with Author Kerrie Logan Hollihan

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Kerrie Logan Hollihan, author of MUMMIES EXPOSED! The highly-praised first installment in a new Creepy and True series published by Abrams. The book received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Wow!

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about your new book.

Kerrie Logan Hollihan: Mummies Exposed! takes an in-depth look at human bodies that were preserved either with intent or by Mother Nature. (Some call the latter “serendipitous” mummies but “natural” is a friendlier term for my middle grade readers.)  I tell their stories of discovery—and, thanks in part to STEM research—at least part of the stories of the dead themselves: ten children, women, and men across space and time, explaining why these people (like us) were mummified or how their bodies survived the process of decay.

MKC: Did your exhaustive research led to some interesting finds?

Kerrie: The best surprise I share with my readers is this: There is always something new to discover about something old! For instance, here I am writing about King Tutankhamun when along comes a New York Times story reporting that the blade in one of Tut’s daggers is composed of metal from a meteorite. That fresh fact would merit a quick revision before the book went to press. Stuff like that happened frequently during the more than three years I spent researching for various proposals and eventually writing the book. I like to say it nearly made a mummy out of me!

MKC: Do you choose to specifically write STEM books?

Kerrie: STEM writing found me in the course of thinking about something or someone I wanted to learn about. When I was in a master’s program in journalism at Northwestern University, I took a science writing class that led me to lots of interesting spots to learn—and ask questions about—astronomy, portland cement, nuclear physics, medications, and how to claw your way out of quicksand. I discovered then that I like to learn about the history of science. The key component to science writing, I learned, is to ask questions…lots of them…find answers, and then interpret these for the reader at a number of levels: general readership, science magazines, and best for me, young readers.

Kerrie Hollihan channels her inner sixth grader (who read Compton’s Encyclopedia for fun) to write award-winning nonfiction for young people. Kerrie belongs to the well-regarded nonfiction author group iNK Think Tank and its interactive partner, Authors on Call, and blogs at Hands on Books: Nonfiction for Kids with Fun Activities. Find Kerrie online at www.kerriehollihan.com.

MKC: What approach or angle did you take to writing this book?

Kerrie: In my heart, I’m still a sixth-grade girl who read the encyclopedia for fun. That’s who I target when I write for young people. As it turns out, older people can learn a few things from my books as well if they sit down and read my work. For Mummies Exposed!, I identified which mummies to include, according to availability of information, reliability of sources, and appropriateness for middle grade kids.

Some chapters were far tougher to write, because I had to explain (or gloss) key terms such as anthropology and archaeology, not to mention how they differ! There was quite a bit of science research to explain, as well—DNA and CT scans, aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, tuberculosis, and so on. It took well over a year to research and write the book. I worked chapter by chapter, researching each as I went along. I think you’d say Mummies Exposed! is mostly narrative nonfiction, but I also included bits that are expository, too.

MKC: What are you working on now?

Kerrie: I’m wrapping up final edits in my next book for Abrams Books for Young Readers, Ghosts Aghast! It’s more STEAM than STEM. After we started work on Mummies Exposed!, Abrams suggested a series to me: “Creepy and True.”  Abrams suggested the ghost title, to be followed by a third book (which I’d proposed initially) which we are calling Bones! Think King Richard III buried in a parking lot in England, and a young woman who was cannibalized—posthumously—in the Jamestown Colony. Lots of intriguing STEM info to locate, read, and explain to my readers.

Win a FREE copy of Mummies Exposed!

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of The Tornado Scientist, Alexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, Weird Animals, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson