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MSP:MiddleSchoolPortal/Teaching With Trade Books

From Middle School Portal

Introduction

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As a middle school science or mathematics teacher, you probably feel like you don’t have enough time to teach all of your content within the course of a school year. Why on earth would you ever want to add more material in the form of trade books when you can’t seem to finish your assigned textbook? Turns out that making time to incorporate children’s literature in your classroom can led to rich results.

One of the most immediate benefits of using trade books is increasing student engagement. High quality trade books are written as to spark interest and create a desire to read. Many contain colorful, interesting illustrations, photographs, and diagrams, all of which draw students into the text and improve comprehension. Contrast this with the reaction that many students have toward the textbook: either a lack of interest or an assumption that the assigned reading will be too difficult.

Contents

Incorporating children’s literature also allows you to differentiate instruction and support English Language Learners and struggling readers in a way that textbooks cannot. If you visit the children’s section of your school or local library, you’ll discover a wealth of books for students on every reading level and topic. Using trade books which better match students’ abilities can help them build content knowledge and interact more successfully with the required text.

Of course, successful integration of children’s literature into your middle school math or science class requires planning and forethought. Here are some tips for using trade books in your classroom. We begin by looking at the NSDL Strand Map Service. These maps illustrate connections between concepts and across grade levels. They provide context and guide decisions on sequencing lessons and concept presentation. After examining related concepts you can have confidence in the trade books you choose to complement student learning. When you click on the following links, you will land in the upper left hand corner of a K-12 strand map, at the grades 9-12 band. Move the pink box in the lower right hand corner of the page to see the grades 6-8 learning goals. Clicking on a concept within the maps will show NSDL resources relevant to the concept, as well as information about related AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks and National Science Education Standards. Here are a few middle school science content related maps for you to peruse as you think about which trade books to include in your instruction. Stars, Weather and Climate, Cell Functions, and Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders.

Tips for Incorporating Trade Books

Include fiction and nonfiction

While we most often turn to nonfiction books as part of a research project, fiction books also have much to offer math and science teachers. They can be used as springboard for a unit or a companion to nonfiction titles. The blog post Hook, Line, and Sinker: Pairing Nonfiction with Fiction to Reel in Readers provides some suggestions of paired texts. Carl Hiaasen’s novels Hoot and Flush deal with environmental issues and lend themselves well to pairing with appropriate nonfiction titles. Or you might select a fiction book to pair with a section or chapter in your textbook.

Be selective

If you’re going to take the time to use trade books, you want to make sure that they are of high-quality. You might choose to consult the National Science Teachers Association’s annual list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 for titles. Be sure to check out the lists from previous years, as only books that were published in a given year are reviewed. Your school or local librarian or media specialist will have helpful suggestions as well. And of course, don’t discount the value of visiting the library and browsing the books yourself!

Read the books first

Even though it’s tempting to walk into the library, grab every book they own on your topic, and be on your merry way, don’t. Books may have outdated information or just not appropriate for your students. Also consider misconceptions your students might have and whether the text will inadvertently promote or reinforce these ideas. Many times, balancing creative writing with scientific information can lead to word or illustration choice that oversimplifies or inaccurately represents a scientific concept. It’s better to take the time and catch this yourself instead of mid-lesson as the students are reading (or have read) the book!

Consider creating a multi-genre text set

We typically classify books as fiction or nonfiction, yet there’s much more variety than that. Biography, how-to, narrative expository, reference, explanation, and field guides all exist within the nonfiction category. You might consider selecting among these genres to create a thematic set to accompany a lesson or unit. Learn more about using text sets in Science Text Sets: Using Various Genres to Promote Literacy and Inquiry.

Provide for choice

Research tells us that choice is a great motivator, and it’s no different with trade books. While students can’t choose all of the books they read all of the time, it is important to structure some activities that allow students to select books for themselves. Two activities that promote choice: literature circles (in which small groups of students read and discuss a book) and idea circles (in which students each read a book of their choosing, then discuss a broader concept within a small group).

Help students select appropriate books

Sometimes, students need guidance in selecting books that are appropriate for them – interesting and challenging, yet not too difficult. Students may have learned the “five finger” rule in elementary school, in which they select a page of a book and count the number of unknown words on that page. If there are more than five unknown words on a single page, the book may be too difficult.

While this rule may still have value in the middle grades, book selection becomes more complex because of an added social dimension. Struggling readers may require a very simple text, but not want to appear “babyish” by reading a picture book. Teachers might consider recommending hi-lo books (high interest, low reading level) in these situations.

Set a purpose for reading

Setting a purpose for reading is crucial for successful use of trade books. It helps you plan effective instruction and it allows your students to make the most of the experience. Are you reading as a form of research? Is it a springboard to inquiry or meant to generate student questions? Or is it a means of independent exploration? Purposes can vary widely depending on grade level, timing, and the content area in question.

Consider the read aloud

Think read alouds are just for elementary students? Think again! Read alouds can be used successfully at all grade levels as a demonstration of fluent reading and reading comprehension strategies. The key is to tailor the activity to fit the age level of your class. Use a book that is at or above your students’ reading level, and engage them in dialogue as you read. For very long books, consider reading a short passage to introduce a concept or spark discussion.

Scaffold for success

As with any instructional strategy, successful use of children’s literature includes the creation of appropriate instructional scaffolds. Graphic organizers can help students activate prior knowledge, navigate difficult text, and stay focused on the purpose for reading. Use flexible grouping strategies and mini-lessons with students having difficulty. And be ready to suggest alternate books or reevaluate parts of your lesson if it isn’t going as planned.

Team up with your Language Arts/Reading teacher

Many middle schools group teachers (and students) in teams – so take advantage of this! Collaborate with your Language Arts teacher to get ideas, select texts, and possibly even share the time burden of using the books in class. Working together to present a cross-curricular lesson or unit involving trade books can only enhance the results. An added bonus: extra support for struggling readers.

Additional Resources

Mathematics

Mathematics and Children's Literature In three lessons from NCTM Illuminations, students participate in activities in which they focus on connections between mathematics and children’s literature. Three pieces of literature are used to teach geometry and measurement topics in the mathematics curriculum, from using and describing geometric figures to estimating volume of figures.

Lesson 1: Shapes and Poetry - Students read the poem "Shapes" from A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein, and create their own illustration of the poem. In this lesson, students explore geometric figures and positional words.
Lesson 2: Estimating Volume by Counting on Frank - In this lesson, students read the book Counting on Frank. They use information in the book to make estimates involving volume. In particular, students explore the size of humpback whales.
Lesson 3: How Big Is a Foot? - In this lesson, students read the book How Big Is a Foot?, by Rolf Myller. They then create non-standard units (using their own footprints) and use them to make "beds." As a result, students explore the need for a standard unit of measure.

One Grain of Rice In this lesson, also from NCTM Illuminations, students take on the role of a villager in a third-world country trying to feed her village. While listening to the teacher read aloud the book One Grain of Rice by Demi, students work collaboratively to come up with a bargaining plan to trick the raja into feeding the village using algebra, exponential growth, and estimation.

Ohio Resource Center (ORC) Mathematics Bookshelf The Mathematics Bookshelf features outstanding trade books that support mathematics instruction in K–12 classrooms. Mathematics Review Board members have selected books that will appeal to students and enrich the teaching and learning of mathematics. Each book review includes:

  • a brief summary of the story
  • the main mathematical ideas
  • suggestions for how to use the book
  • the value of the book in standards-based instruction
  • standards alignment
  • a list of related ORC resources

Math and Nonfiction, Grades 6–8 helps teachers build on their students’ natural passion for knowledge as they engage in real-world mathematical problem solving. The lessons in this book use nonfiction as a springboard to explore mathematical concepts key to the middle school curriculum.

Read any Good Math Lately? by David Whitin and Sandra Wilde [K-6] acquaints readers with some of the best children's literature containing a mathematical subtext, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, books of games and puzzles, books that reflect different cultures. The titles are diverse, but they all address a range of mathematical topics: place value, estimation, large numbers, geometry, measurement, fractions, classification, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

It's the Story that Counts, also by David Whitin and Sandra Wilde, explains ways books have been used to explore mathematical concepts, the importance of children's spontaneous reactions, and the role of mathematical conversation. It also focuses on the books themselves, exploring multicultural themes and images in books, books on the number system, statistics, and probability.

Math and Literature, Grades 6–8 by Jennifer M. Bay-Williams and Sherri L. Martinie brings the joy of children’s literature to the middle-school math classroom. It contains lessons and ideas based on 30 children’s literature titles. Children explore mathematical concepts based on lessons derived from titles such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Holes.

Search for Literature The California Department of Education has created this online literature search for science and mathematics with over 1,400 titles in the search database. The search includes the typical categories found in a search for literature at a library, such as author, title, and keyword. It also contains a customized search for selecting up to three categories that relate more specifically to education. Those categories include grade level, language, genre, classifications (types of books), curriculum connections, awards (by author or illustrator), science subject area, mathmatics subject area, science standards connections, and math standards connections (California state standards). Teachers will find useful a recommended list of literature for science and mathematics.

Science

Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12 The books that appear in these lists were selected as outstanding children's science trade books. They were selected by a book review panel appointed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and assembled in cooperation with the Children’s Book Council (CBC). NSTA and CBC have cooperated on this bibliographic project since 1973.

Libros de Ciencias en Espanol (2006): A selection of recent science trade books in Spanish If you have Spanish-speaking students in your science class, you will likely be interested in learning about the recent releases of Spanish trade books for children. From delightful board books and counting books for the very young to comprehensible series on contemporary scientific topics and lively introductions to Earth science, these books published in Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, and the United States, will draw Spanish speakers into the world of science.

Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears: Integrating Literacy in K-5 Classrooms Virtual Bookshelf Even though most of these books are for elementary students, many can be used up into the middle school classroom.

Ohio Resource Center (ORC) Science Bookshelf The Science Bookshelf features outstanding trade books that support science instruction in K–5 classrooms - although many of the books and commentary are perfectly usuable at the middle level (i.e. Scientists and Their Work and First to Fly). Science Review Board members have selected books that will appeal to students and enrich the teaching and learning of science. Each book review includes:

  • a brief summary of the story
  • the main mathematical ideas
  • suggestions for how to use the book
  • the value of the book in standards-based instruction
  • standards alignment
  • a list of related ORC resources

Science Text Sets: Using Various Genres to Promote Literacy and Inquiry This article provides guidance on creating a text set from different genres to create a thematic set to accompany a lesson or unit.

Search for Literature The California Department of Education has created this online literature search for science and mathematics with over 1,400 titles in the search database. The search includes the typical categories found in a search for literature at a library, such as author, title, and keyword. It also contains a customized search for selecting up to three categories that relate more specifically to education. Those categories include grade level, language, genre, classifications (types of books), curriculum connections, awards (by author or illustrator), science subject area, mathmatics subject area, science standards connections, and math standards connections (California state standards). Teachers will find useful a recommended list of literature for science and mathematics.

SMARTR: Virtual Learning Experiences for Students

Visit our student site SMARTR to find related math-focused virtual learning experiences for your students! The SMARTR learning experiences were designed both for and by middle school aged students. Students from around the country participated in every stage of SMARTR’s development and each of the learning experiences includes multimedia content including videos, simulations, games and virtual activities.

Careers

The FunWorks Visit the FunWorks STEM career website to learn more about a variety of math-related careers (click on the Science link at the bottom of the home page).

Author and Copyright

Jessica Fries-Gaither is a Science Resource Specialist in the College of Education and Human Ecology, School of Teaching and Learning, at the Ohio State University. She is the Project Director for Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears, an NSF-funded elementary science and literacy project. Jessica has taught middle school science and mathematics as well as the upper elementary grades.

Please email any comments to msp@msteacher.org.

Connect with colleagues at our social network for middle school math and science teachers at http://msteacher2.org.

Copyright May 2010 — The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0840824. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.