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STEM Tuesday — Fun with Physics — Writing Tips & Resources

The Sounds of Science

Tweet! Crash! Sizzle. Flip through a physics textbook, and you’ll find sound among the subjects. Since we’re having fun with physics this month, it’s the perfect time to delve into sound, especially the musicality of language and how we can apply it to science writing. Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano’s A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE, from this month’s book list, will serve as our mentor text.

Sound Devices

Poet and children’s book author Renee LaTulippe discusses sound devices in this video on her Lyrical Language Lab YouTube channel, which I highly recommend. She identifies:

  • onomatopoeia
  • alliteration
  • assonance
  • consonance
  • repetition
  • rhyme

Let’s look at each device in turn with examples from DeCristofano’s book for tips on how to add these to our own work.

This is a picture of the cover for A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE.

Onomatopoeia is sound effects. Like those I started this post with. In Chapter 3, DiCristofano uses several instances of onomatopoeia to add drama to the end of a star’s life, including WHOOOOOSH! CRASH! And BOOM!

Alliteration is when words that are close together start with the same letter or sound. DiCristofano has some wonderful examples of this, including this phrase from the subhead to chapter 1: “A black hole is a place in space with powerful pull.” Notice that place, powerful, and pull all start with p, an example of alliteration.

This phrase above also has an example of assonance, which is words that are close together with the same vowel sound. In this case “place” and “space.”

Consonance is when words close to each other have the same consonant sound anywhere in the words. Chapter 5 has this line: “Others, like a black cat on a dark night, aren’t lit brightly enough.” Notice all those ending k sounds. The t sounds also show consonance.

Repetition is just that — repeating words or phrases. Here is an example from Chapter 1: “Nothing can out-tug a black hole. No army of tow trucks, no convoy of supersized earth haulers, no fleet of giant rocket engines.” That repetition of the word no for emphasis, is just perfect.

In prose, we don’t usually use end rhyme, but we might use internal rhyme. That’s when words in the middle of a line rhyme, as they do with “place in space” above.

Easy does it

Adding musicality isn’t difficult. I usually focus on this part of writing after I’ve got my structure in place.

When I want to pepper my prose with alliteration, I look to an online thesaurus. I brainstorm synonyms and pick some with the same starting sound.

When trying to find rhyming words or words with assonance, I turn to Rhymezone. If I look up the word “space,” I find lots of words with the same vowel sound, including trace, base, case, and race. I normally write down lists of rhyming words in my notebook and see if any make sense for what I’m trying to say.

The key with sound devices is not to overdo them. Too much alliteration, for example, can cause the reader to trip over the words. Always read your work out loud to make sure it’s both clear and musical.

Putting it all together

Let’s end by dissecting DeCristofano’s fabulous first line from Chapter 1. Which of the sound devices above can you find? How do you feel about her use of all the elements? Are they too much? Not enough? Just right?

“Way out beyond where you are right now, beyond the clouds, beyond the Moon, beyond Pluto, beyond our solar system, space goes on and on.”

–Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, Chapter 1, A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE
Kirsten Williams Larson author

Kirsten W. Larson

Websitekirsten-w-larson.com

Biography

Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. She is the author of  WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek), an NSTA Best STEM BOOK, A TRUE WONDER: The Comic Book Hero Who Changed Everything, illustrated by Katy Wu (Clarion, Sept. 28, 2021), and THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle, Spring 2022), as well as 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Find her at kirsten-w-larson.com or on Twitter and Instagram @KirstenWLarson.

STEM Tuesday — Fun with Physics — In the Classroom

As we get ready to head back to school, there are a ton of physics activities that kids can try at home or in the classroom. The books on this list will help students learn more about the world around us and how it works. What are forces? How do they affect you every day? Why is it harder to push a box across the carpet than it is to push it across a smooth floor? How do you bounce so high on a trampoline? These are just a few of the questions that physics can answer. Are you ready to dive in and explore physics?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Fairground Physics: Motion, Momentum, and Magnets with Hands-On Science Activities by Angie Smibert and Micha Rauch We couldn’t enjoy our favorite summer fair without physics. This book uses real-world fun to explore physics.

Classroom activity: Most kids love the rides and games at amusement parks and fairs. Now they can apply science to one of their favorite activities! Have students choose their favorite ride or game and research the role of physics. What laws of physics apply? How do these laws of physics explain the way the ride or game operates? How does physics impact safety on the ride or game? Students can also design their own rides or games. What laws of physics will apply? How will physics explain the way the ride or game operates? Students may even build a model or diagram to demonstrate the new ride or game for the class.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The Speed of Starlight: An Exploration of Physics, Sound, Light, and Space by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadia This book presents key physics principles through amazing artwork.

Classroom activity: This book combines art and science in a fantastic way. Students can also use art to understand and explain science concepts. Have students pick a law of physics and create a piece of art that illustrates and explains the science. Encourage students to use different art forms such as drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, crafts, or video. Have each student present their art and explain the scientific concept.

Cover for Women Scientists in Physics and Engineering (Superwomen in Stem)

Superwomen in STEM: Women Scientists in Physics and Engineering by Catherine Brereton Read about STEM women who made a difference in the field of physics and engineering.

Classroom activity: Have students choose a physics and engineering pioneer to research. What has their chosen pioneer contributed to the science of physics and our understanding of matter and its motion? Have students work together to create a living timeline of physics’ most important discoveries and scientific achievements.

 

Looking to explore more and learn about physics and how the world around you works? The books on this month’s list are packed full of physics activities and experiments. Browse through the pages and choose a few activities to do in class or at home!

 

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Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and dog. When not writing, she can often be spotted at a hockey rink for one of her kids’ games. Find her at http://www.carlamooney.com, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.

STEM Tuesday — Fun with Physics– Book List

We use physics every day and yet, the subject of physics might seem intimidating to adults and young readers. These books find ways of bringing this big subject into delectable bites. 

Cover for Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson with Gregory Mone

Tyson brings his bestselling fundamentals of physics and the universe to young readers with this edition. It’s a perfect exploration of big questions. 

Cover for Fairground Physics: Motion, Momentum, and Magnets with Hands-On Science Activities (Build It Yourself)

Fairground Physics: Motion, Momentum, and Magnets with Hands-On Science Activities by Angie Smibert and Micha Rauch

We couldn’t enjoy our favorite summer fair without physics. This book uses real world fun to explore physics. 

Cover for Women Scientists in Physics and Engineering (Superwomen in Stem)

Superwomen in STEM: Women Scientists in Physics and Engineering by Catherine Brereton

Read about STEM women who made a difference in the field of physics and engineering. 

Cover for Junk Drawer Physics

Junk Drawer Physics: 50 Awesome Experiments That Don’t Cost a Thing by Bobby Mercer

The best way to learn is often by doing. Here is a collection of experiments for  classroom or home exploration. 

Cover for The Speed of Starlight: An Exploration of Physics, Sound, Light, and Space

The Speed of Starlight: An Exploration of Physics, Sound, Light, and Space by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadia

This book presents key physics principles through amazing artwork. 

Cover for Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids

Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

Readers can discover the life of the “father of physics” in this fun activity book. 

Cover for Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids

Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments by Jerome Pohlen

This activity book explores he life and experiments of renowned scientist Albert Einstein. It’s a must for a STEM library.  

Cover for Radioactive!

Radioactive! How Irene Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling

Read how two revolutionary scientists played a part in the creation of the atomic bomb. 

Cover for Marie Curie for Kids

Marie Curie for Kids: Her Life and Scientific Discoveries, with 21 Activities and Experiments by Amy M. O’Quinn 

Explore the life of the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in this well-researched activity book. 

Cover for Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton: Genius Mathematician and Physicist (Great Minds of Science) by Carla Mooney

Here is another biography to explore about Isaac Newton. 

Cover for A Black Hole Is Not a Hole

A Black Hole is Not a Hole by Carolyn DeCristofano and Michael Carroll – Updated and Expanded Edition 

Stretch your mind with this exploration of mysterious black holes. 

Cover for The Physics of Fun (Inquire & Investigate)

The Physics of Fun by Carla Mooney and Alexis Cornell

Physics, sports, and entertainment connect in this activity-based book. 

Cover for Jillian Vs Parasite Planet

Fiction pairing: Jillian vs. Parasite Planet by Nicole Kornher-Stace and Scott Brown

It’s always fun to add in a fiction title that pairs well with our nonfiction list. Try this one to read how 11-year-old Jillian can save her family from aliens. Will she use physics? 


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Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also served as Regional Advisor Emeritus of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2020 international title about farm and food is THE FARM THAT FEEDS US: A Year In The Life Of An Organic Farm. Visit her at www.nancycastaldo.com. 

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Sibert Honor author Patricia Newman shows young readers how their actions can ripple around the world. Using social and environmental injustice as inspiration, she empowers young readers to seek connections to the real world and to use their imaginations to act on behalf of their communities. One Texas librarian wrote, “Patricia is one of THE BEST nonfiction authors writing for our students in today’s market, and one of our MUST HAVE AUTHORS for every collection.”

Titles include: Planet Ocean (new); Sibert Honor book Sea Otter Heroes; Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy!; The NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Eavesdropping on Elephants; California Reading Association’s Eureka! Gold winner Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. Visit Patricia online at her website, on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Pinterest.