Sunday, March 29, 2015

Big Top Burning

Image result for big top burning

Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and the Greatest Show on Earth

Laura A. Woollett

Quantitative Reading Level: 

 For Grades 5 - 8

Qualitative Reading Analysis:

The text structure of the book is hard to evaluate because I read an eBook ARC from NetGalley.  From what I could see it looked slightly complex but nothing too difficult for the intended audience.

The language features were moderately complex.  This mostly pertains to the investigation aspects of the book.

The purpose of the book is clear.

There is some need for a bit of background knowledge - maybe into the 1940s time period and maybe a little about investigations and how they work - dental evidence, etc.

I would say this book has some moderate demands but for the age group it is nothing too difficult.  The length of the book and the use of photographs and diagrams is a plus. 

This was a really interesting account of an event I had never heard of before.  The burning of a Big Top of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Curcus in Hartford, CT in the 1940s.  The book gave information about events leading up to the disaster, the events of the day, an accounting of the recovery and identification of bodies, and then a more detailed account of the two mysteries that still surround the event.  One of the mysteries involves how the fire started.  Originally it was believed to be an accidental cigarette or match but evidence now points to arson.  There is a suspect in the arson but he has since passed away.  Interestingly enough the suspect was originally from Portland, ME.  Score 1 for a local connection.  The other mystery surrounds one of the girls who died.  For a long time there was an unclaimed body but it was not believed to be her.  This has changed but uncertainty still remains.
Content Area: 

Social Studies / Language Arts
Curriculum Suggestions:

This would pair well with any discussions about disasters and their effects in legislation, etc.  It would also fit in with any other crime scene books - how things are investigated, even after a long time.

Personal Thoughts:

 I thought this was a really interesting book.  I liked the length and the fact that the author was able to incorporate a good amount of the history, the evidence, and the continuing debate over the events.  I also like the local connection to the potential arsonist and Portland, Maine.

High Interest Annotation: 

This event was called "The Day the Clowns Cried".  Find out why and learn about the mysteries that still surround this tragic event.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Choosing Courage

Choosing Courage

Peter Collier

Quantitative Reading Level: 
Lexile 1150

Qualitative Reading Analysis:

This part is always the most difficult... I can't find the actual tool I used during my class but found another tool that looks at the following characteristics...


The structure of this book is very friendly.  It has short narratives for each person and then sidebars of additional historical information.

Language Clarity and Conventions (including vocabulary):

The language of this book does not make high demands for the intended grade levels.  Knowledge of vocabulary related to the military would be helpful.

Knowledge Demands: 

Some knowledge of various wars and conflicts might be helpful but there are various side bars that help to provide this context.  For struggling readers a teacher might have them read the side bards first or provide a historical background before reading certain sections.

Levels of Meaning/Purpose:
This is a very straightforward text that honors the courage of a variety of people.
One of the reasons a qualitative analysis is done is to ensure that the decoding of the text matches the comprehension aspects.  Sometimes a lexile score skews lower than what a text might actually require from a student.  In this case the qualitative and quantitative analysis align.  This book would be ideal for around grades 6 and up.
This book documents the events surrounding men and women from the Civil War and forward who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.  It talks about events leading up to the war or event they participated in and the actions that led to them being nominated and awarded with the medal.  For the most part the book focuses on the fact that many felt they were just doing their job or were protecting their brothers and sisters in arms or society as a whole.  The take away from the book is that in the moment many people rise to the occasion and choose courage.  Most, if not all, would say that there were not necessarily anything special and honor those who died or who may not have received the same honor.  

I felt the book was well done.  Each story was a few pages long and spanned different races, both genders, and various conflicts and events.  For students who are interested in military stories this would be a good fit.

Content Area: 
Language Arts and Social Studies

Curriculum Suggestions:
This book could accompany a course on American History and look at different conflicts and people who were honored - it brings a personal touch to the topic.  In addition, using this text as a high interest topic in an English / Language Arts class would be interesting.  With its short sections students could read about one person and perhaps do further research on the person or the conflict.

Personal Thoughts:

I thought this was a well done book with good side notes that set the historical context.  It was also realistic about the conflicts.

High Interest Annotation: 

What is courage?  Meet people who have been awarded for showing courage in the face of harrowing situations.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Paper Clips (DVD)

Paper Clips

New York: Hart Sharp Video, 2005.  829567029220

Quantitative Reading Level: 

This video would be appropriate for grades 5 and up.  It could be with students or with educators.

Qualitative Reading Analysis:

I would rate this as Middle Low on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Informational Text.”  The thing that moves this up to Middle High would be the references to the Holocaust.  These references are not graphic so I don’t think it would need to be rated as Middle High.

This documentary tells the story of Whitwell, Tennessee middle school students.  What began in 1998, as a class about cultures and prejudice grew into a worldwide phenomenon.  Students decided to collect 6 million paperclips to represent the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.  After a slow start, the school received media exposure and the project took off.  Students received paperclips, mail, and mementos from all over the world.  Holocaust survivors visited the schools.  Once the paperclips had been collected the idea came up to find an actual railcar from Germany that could have been used during WWII.  This railcar is what is used to house the paperclips, letters, and other mementos for The Children’s Holocaust Memorial that was created.

There is a book about the project called Six Million Paper Clips: The Making of a Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter W. Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand.  This book should be used in conjunction with the video.

Content Area: Social Studies – Holocaust, Math – Number Sense

Curriculum Suggestions:

Obviously this video could be used in conjunction with a study of the Holocaust.  This whole project really helps students visualize the number of people who were killed during the Holocaust.

Even if students are not studying the Holocaust this video is important in any discussion of prejudice.  In addition, it can be used as an inspiration to show students that they can make a difference.

Personal Thoughts:

I can’t watch this DVD without crying.  It is so powerful.  The fact that everyday students can make a difference, understand and bring attention to not only the Holocaust but prejudice in general, and leave us with a striking memorial helps educators carry on and gives us hope for the future.  What is also powerful is hearing the voices of the survivors.

I believe students need to be taught about the Holocaust and other atrocities in order to ensure that it never happens again.  This video is just one way to capture both the horror but also the hope and tenacity of survivors .  

High Interest Annotation: Kids can make a difference and bring awareness to difficult topics.

School House Rock: Money

School House Rock: Money

Elk Grove Village, IL: Disney Educational Productions, 2008.  1597531995

Quantitative Reading Level: 

The video says it is appropriate for grades K-9.  

Qualitative Reading Analysis:

I would rate this as Middle High on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Informational Tax”.  The fact that these are cartoons makes it seem that they are “easy” but the content is actually quite complex.  There is a lot in these videos about tax, budgeting, and so on.  In addition, because they are songs the information goes really fast and it may be hard for students to get it all the first time.

This video has the following episodes:
Dollars and Sense: Talks about money, borrowing from a bank, and paying interest.  There is a good lesson about using common sense when using money.
$7.50 Once a Week: This episode talks about how a boy uses his allowance and how he can spend and save.
Where the Money Goes: This episode talks about budgeting and where a family’s income goes.
Tax Man Max: This episode talks about what taxes are, what they are used for, and how people pay them. 
Walkin’ on Wall Street: This episode talks about investing and stocks.
This for That: This episode talks about bartering and early money.  This might be one that could be used with younger students.  Sometimes students in second grade talk about communities and very early economics and they might be able to incorporate this.  Also when people study early peoples (Native Americans) they talk about bartering so this could be used then as well.
The Check’s in the Mail: This episode talks about checks. 
Tyrannosaurus: Oy, this episode talks about the national debt.  Goodness, comparing it to a Tyrannosaurus.  My oh my, this could open up a big discussion.

Content Area: Math - money

Curriculum Suggestions: 

 The best use of these clips is when you are studying the specific concepts in math class rather than watching the whole videos.  I would also say that they need to be viewed more than once to actually understand the “songs”.  There are additional resources on the DVD for teachers.

Personal Thoughts: 

I would not say this is appropriate for grades K-9.  The content would be way over the head of K-3 and would just be used for “babysitting”.  After about 5th grade it would be too childish.  I think the ideal ages for this is 4th and 5th grades but some of the concepts are a bit complex even for those ages.

When I think about watching School House Rock during Saturday morning cartoons I know I did not have a clue what they meant at first.  But, since I had listened to them so many times over the years when it came to studying conjunctions later in life I could remember “Conjunction Junction” or learning about government I remembered “I’m Just a Bill”.  If you did use this with younger students it would be with the understanding that it is being absorbed and may be accessed later.

High Interest Annotation: School House Rock is back with episodes about money.

Newton's 3 Laws of Motion - The Science of Disney Imagineering (DVD)

Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion: The Science of Disney Imagineering

Elk Grove Village, IL: Disney Educational Productions, 2009.  1597532428

Quantitative Reading Level:  

This is designed for grades 5-8 based on the National Science Education Standards

Qualitative Reading Analysis:

I would rate this as Middle High on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Informational Text”.  Honestly whenever the informational text is discipline specific or academic you will have to classify the text as Middle Low or higher.  For my students (5th graders) the language would not be as familiar.  If this video was viewed at the junior high in 7th or 8th grade one might be able to classify this as Middle Low instead of Middle High.

In this video the host discusses the scientific concepts of force, gravity, velocity, acceleration, mass, momentum, inertia, and all three of Newton’s Laws.  To do this he uses demonstrations, drawings, and specific examples from various rides at Disney parks and resorts.  What is nice about this video is that he uses several rides and attractions to model the concepts so students get several opportunities to be exposed to and learn the material.

Content Area: Science - Physics

Curriculum Suggestions:

This video would be a good tie-in with a study of physics.  It includes force and motion, Newton’s Laws, and good old Disney fun.
This video could be used before, during, or after instruction and could be great for a discussion starter.  In addition, students could be encouraged to find examples of Newton’s Laws in their own lives – at home, at a nearby amusement park, at school, and so on.

Personal Thoughts:

I always loved teaching Newton’s Laws before doing Simple Machines.  There are several videos I would use as discussion starters and so kids could really visualize the laws at work.  I always like Bill Nye and there were others as well.  The nice part about this one is the Disney aspect and the “young” host.  I think the students would enjoy this.  

High Interest Annotation:  Who wouldn’t want to learn physics with Disney?