Wonders Beyond The Solar System

Feravolo, Rocco
,
,

Publication date:1968
Publisher: Dodd Mead

Available in the VCU library

Flesch–Kincaid

9.4

Description

This is an older, basic astronomy text that covers the origins of the universe, celestial bodies, stellar distances, some history of astronomy and the basics of studying the stars from Earth. The book is full of illustrations and activities. Each chapter begins with a short text before jumping in to a related activity.

Readability

The 9.4 Flesch-Kincaid score is somewhat deceptive in this case. I feel the book is more basic. I think some of the larger words in astronomy are learned by kids at a relatively early age. For example, commonly used three-syllable words like universe, asteroid, and galaxy appear repeatedly in the text, and are probably influencing the score upward. In addition, the chapters are quite short (~3-5 pgs), with numerous images.

Use in Class

For the purposes of this text set, we would be focusing on Chapter 2, The Beginnings of the Universe in order to cover ES. 13. However, the text would be useful in supplementing the textbook for other astronomy-related SOLs, including the solar system (ES. 3) and Earth-Sun energy transfer (ES. 12).

I envision having the students break into groups to cover the short chapters in read-alongs. The students could take turns with paragraphs, and the groups would break into activities when they reach that part of the text. For example, the activity related to the big bang theory here illustrates the expanding universe using a simple activity involving a balloon and a marker.

Unit Focus

Earth Science

Submitted by Brendan Trache

The Big Bang

The Big Bang

Overview

Cosmology is the study of the origins of the universe. Currently, most cosmologists support the Big Bang theory, although nobody was around at the time to witness it. The theory states that when the universe began around 15 billion years ago, it was the size of a grapefruit. Inside this super-dense cluster was all of the matter in the universe. This includes the earth, the sun, all of the planets, asteroids, comets stars and galaxies. All this matter was smooshed down to a super-dense, super-hot cluster. The temperature was close to a million, trillion, trillion degrees (Kelvin). This is incredibly hot. Then it exploded with great force. When the big bang happened, the universe began expanding rapidly. Atomic particles began cooling and joining to form the basic elements (H, He). As the universe expanded, these clouds of hydrogen and helium eventually cooled and collapsed to form stars. After about 5-10 billion years, the matter in the universe had cooled enough to form planets such as Earth. Evidence for the big bang is still with us today. The universe is still expanding.

The text set is to be incorporated into lessons about astronomy, including the origin of the universe, with a particular focus on the big bang theory. The readings are designed to supplement the students’ text book concerning the VA SOL, ES. 13.

ES.13
The student will investigate and understand scientific concepts related to the origin and evolution of the universe. Key concepts include
a) Cosmology including the Big Bang theory; and
b) The origin and evolution of stars, star systems, and galaxies.

In addition to the basics covered by the VA SOL, my students will be learning about the evidence for the big bang theory, including current experiments occurring using large particle accelerators. The text set will include scientific books, activity books for kids, graphic novels, and a video.

Description of Students

The following text set is designed for an 8th grade earth science class with diverse reading levels. The text set will span reading levels from 6th grade to 10th grade. At this point, envision the students have already covered some basic astronomy, including our solar system and the relative sizes of celestial bodies (a sense of scale is really important when you are learning about something so large as the universe as a whole). I think this segment of the year will particularly interest curious students who enjoy thinking about abstract concepts in science, and perhaps even students who enjoy science fiction.

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Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi_coverKipling, Rudyard
,
,

Publication date:
Publisher:

Flesch–Kincaid

5.6

Description

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, written by Rudyard Kipling, is a story set in India about a mongoose who is taken in by a family when they find him stranded after a flood. He is excited about his new surroundings and begins making friends with the garden animals when he meets two King Cobras. Snakes and Mongoose are inherently rivals and neither will stop until the other is killed. Battles ensue and eventually Rikki-Tikki-Tavi defeats the cobras and lives happily with the family as their protector, keeping the snakes away.

Readability

The grade level for this text is set between fifth and sixth. The text is linguistically appropriate for this grade level. There is a slight need for background knowledge because the story is based in India. There is also some new vocabulary that will be introduced before reading the text and the conceptual level is appropriate for the grade level. New concepts are developed both through examples and through gorgeous illustrations. The writing style is simple and the story is easily followed. Overall, the story is appropriate for a sixth grade English class.

 

Use in Class

This is an excellent story to use in a figurative language lesson. The title, in itself, is a form of figurative language, called onomatopoeia, as it represents the sounds that the mongoose makes. As one would expect from the title, the rest of the story is riddled with figurative language. It is important for students to see how common figurative language is and to realize that it is included in most works of literature, academic articles, and so forth. With this story, I will have students identify the figurative language in the passage, have them explain how it affects the story, and imagine what the story would be without it. I believe that this story can be used for lower reading levels, as the pictures and simple descriptive language makes it accessible to many and the story is interesting to all.I would use this for on-grade readers and below grade readers with instructional support. Above grade level readers could read this independently.

Unit Focus

Language Arts

Submitted by Kendra Charles

Slaves Picking Cotton

3b23576rBallou, Maturin M.

This 1858 wood engraving was published in Boston by Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing- Room Companion

Description

In the Old South enslaved African Americans performed many tasks. Not only did major crops vary from region to region, slaves worked in mining, manufacturing, forestry, and other nonagricultural pursuits. Yet most slaves cultivated and harvested cotton on large plantations in the Deep South. This wood engraving portrays black men, women, and children harvesting cotton on a Georgia plantation. It testifies to the large size of cotton fields, to the labor required of slaves from childhood onward, and the type of clothing slaves wore. In its rendition of black men, the drawing reflects and appeals to a popular fantasy among white Americans, holding that African-Americans were content and physically nonthreatening. Nevertheless all Americans knew that slaves escaped and at times revolted. Moreover, northward slave escape and fear among white southerners that abolitionists encouraged slave revolt, helped lead to secession.

Readability

This picture is effective, in that, its usefulness could span from elementary to high school. The concepts are quite clear as it displays people who appear to be of African descent working in a field. The title of the picture, Slaves Picking Cotton, also provides insight-allowing students to better understand what the image is depicting. Probing students to critically think, this picture is also ambiguous, in that, students are forced to make their own assumptions about the context and the significance of the work. Because the picture is free of words, students (particularly those in the upper grades) are able to grapple with WHY this picture could be problematic as the United States was on the brink of a civil war.

The picture also does a nice job including a range of people from children to adults, while also remaining authentic to the time. For example, this picture would not be a reliable source if children were not present. As history suggests, children were purposely used as meaningful and productive resources on plantations throughout American slavery.  Likewise, this picture is extremely accessible as it can be found digitally on the Library of Congress’s website.

 

Use in Class

This picture will be used primarily as supplement to our discussion on causes of the Civil War, as noted in the Virginia United States History standard. Students will examine and critically analyze the picture in hopes to determine its role in the larger context of the Civil War. Students will engage in discussion on the varying ways Southerners would use this picture to prove that enslaved African-Americans were well fed, well dressed, and ultimately content with their lives. This picture will help students understand the growing tension between the North and South and the ways in which both sides viewed slavery. The popular fantasy by Southerners who believed their slaves to be content as depicted in this picture, is now being posed against those Northerners who consistently cite slave revolts and runaways as evidence to prove that slavery is both corrupt and inhumane.

Unit Focus

Social Studies

Submitted by Brittany Jones

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

Author: Sacks, Oliver

Publication date: 2001
Publisher: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York

Flesch–Kincaid

12.0

Description

Uncle Tungsten is a non-fiction memoir, written by Oliver Sacks about his boyhood experiences of exploring chemistry. The book’s title comes from Sacks’ Uncle Dave, who owned a business that made incandescent lightbulbs using tungsten filament. For this unit, in particular, I will draw upon Chapter 16, Mendeleev’s Garden. This chapter gives an account of Oliver Sacks’ personal first experiences with the periodic table, seeing it on exhibit at the Science Museum in South Kensington, United Kingdom. Sacks details his own journey in understanding the patterns of the Periodic Table, relating them to Dmitri Mendeleev’s 19th century construction of the Table. In doing so, Sacks takes the readers on a journey of discovery, encouraging them to ask questions, make predictions based on available information, and engage with the scientific process of discovery.

Readability

The overall reading level of this text is grade 12. This calculation is from the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level, performed on three passages of approximately 100 words each, using the Readability Statistics available in Microsoft Word. A Bader analysis of the text confirms the 12th grade readability assessment. Words are decodable, assuming a working knowledge of general chemistry, which students are assumed to possess before reading this text. The format of the text is as a popular non-fiction book or a novel, and as such, new vocabulary and key terms are not italicized or bolded. There are few figures to illustrate concepts, with the exception of a large representation of the Periodic Table in the middle of the chapter. Conceptually, the text is appropriate for all learners of chemistry between 10th and 12th grades. The organizational style is chronological, following Mendeleev’s progress as he organized the Periodic Table, though there are occasional flash-forwards into the author’s perspective. Content is organized into paragraphs without headings, as the text is designed to read like a novel. The writing style has a dynamic tone, as the author invites readers into his journey of discovery. Some sections are written in the first person, allowing the reader to understand more fully the author’s perspective. The text contains no “helpful hints” in the form of review questions, notes in the margins, or supplemental activities.

Use in Class

This text should be used primarily as a supplement for students at a high reading level in the class, and for those who exhibit high levels of interest in the material. Students who are interested in literature and non-fiction writing will especially enjoy this text. Students who are reading below grade level will be unlikely to extract useful information from this book. To address this challenge, as a teacher, I will divide the class into small groups based on topical interest and reading ability, and I will assign a group of strong readers to read this book. Those students will read and present to the rest of the class what they learned using informative quotes and illustrations from Sacks’ book. This would also be a nice text to use during read-alouds, when I will read passages from the text aloud to the whole class, to the benefit of students of all reading levels.

Unit Focus

Submitted by Molly McMahan

Prosperity and Despair: Civil War and Reconstruction

Prosperity and Despair: Civil War and Reconstruction

Overview

The Civil War and the years of Reconstruction that followed are linked together in American history producing a period, which embraced both prosperity and despair, triumph and failure, and jubilation and disappointment. These eras not only overlap in time, as the war stretched from 1861 to Union victory in 1865, and the effort to rebuild and reshape the defeated South lasted from 1863 to 1877, but also thematically, as the war’s two central issues, national unity versus southern independence, and more pressingly black freedom versus slavery, shaped Reconstruction as well. Too often thought of as separate entities, this text set on the Civil War and Reconstruction aims to invites students to analyze how the two eras are related, pushing their minds to go beyond entrenched assumptions, and forces students to use evidence to reach their own conclusions. The documents included reflect a variety of contemporary points of views and topics ranging in interest, which may be analyzed from various perspectives and in a variety of contexts.
I chose this text set to replace the monogamy of traditional historical textbooks, while still teaching the same content articulated in the Virginia State History SOL 7 on Civil War and Reconstruction. In accordance to this standard “the student will demonstrate knowledge on the Civil War and Reconstruction Era and their importance as major turning points in American history by

a) evaluating the multiple causes of the Civil War, including the role of the institution of slavery as a principal cause of the conflict
b) identifying the major events and the roles of key leaders of the Civil War Era, with emphasis on Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, and Frederick Douglass
c) analyzing the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation and the principles outlined in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
d) examining the political and economic impact of the war and Reconstruction, including the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States
e) examining the social impact of the war on African Americans, the common soldier, and the home front, with emphasis on Virginia
f) explaining postwar contributions of key leaders of the Civil War.”

This text set incorporates speeches, official records, pictures, battle accounts, and perspectives of soldiers in the ranks, noncombatants, and men and women on the home fronts, while simultaneously demonstrating the affect the war and Reconstruction had on American history. In the end, the goal is to provide the most vital of the official records, while including a broad range of other testimony pertaining to the Civil War and Reconstruction eras.

Description of Students

Though United States history is generally taught in the eleventh grade, this text set includes a range of reading levels extending from seventh grade to students reading like college students, according to the Fry Readability Graph and the Qualitative Textbook Analysis. This text set is unique, in that, it allows students to access a multitude of primary sources from the era. Students will have to untangle poems, and pictures, firsthand home front accounts, and in some cases, try to analyze speeches in which the language is reflective of the era. This text set will not only improve the student’s reading skills, but also inevitably improve their critical thinking and comprehending skills as they are forced to use only primary sources to understand the era.

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Periodically Fascinating

Periodically Fascinating

Overview

This unit encourages students to explore the most basic feature of any chemistry classroom: The Periodic Table of Elements. You can find the Table on the walls of classrooms and laboratories, on the inside cover of most chemistry textbooks, on T-shirts, and even on shower curtains, but what does it mean? These texts cover the history of the formation of the Periodic Table in the 19th century by Dmitri Mendeleev, and in doing so, illuminates the scientific process of inquiry. It details what defines one element as distinct from another, teaches students how to read chemical symbols and atomic weights found on the Table, and shows periodic trends such as atomic mass, electronegativity, and atomic radii. These concepts align with the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) 2 for chemistry:

  1. CH.2  The student will investigate and understand that the placement of elements on the periodic table is a function of their atomic structure. The periodic table is a tool used for the investigations of
    1. a)  average atomic mass, mass number, and atomic number;
    2. b)  isotopes, half lives, and radioactive decay;
    3. c)  mass and charge characteristics of subatomic particles;
    4. d)  families or groups;
    5. e)  periods;
    6. f)  trends including atomic radii, electronegativity, shielding effect, and ionization

      energy;

    7. g)  electron configurations, valence electrons, and oxidation numbers;
    8. h)  chemical and physical properties; and
    9. i)  historical and quantum models.

This text set is designed to supplement a high school general chemistry textbook, most of which tend to be dry and purely informational. Some of these texts are also mainly informational in nature, though many of them approach the topic of periodicity from a literary angle. Students will learn about the scientific process of organizing the Table, and also potential for the future in discovering new elements.

Description of Students

These texts are appropriate for a high school general chemistry class, including 10th to 12th graders. The lowest reading level represented is 8th grade, and the highest reading level is at the introductory college level. Some students may exhibit a high interest level in chemistry, and these students may want to learn more about the process of organizing the Periodic Table. Other students may only have a low-level interest in chemistry, and those students will be encouraged to study chemistry by the dynamic intersection of history, literature, and art that accompanies this study of the Periodic Table. Students who are not strong readers will have the opportunity engage with videos and lower-reading-level texts, and students who are kinesthetic, spatial learners will get to organize the Table for themselves using numerical trends in atomic mass.

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Figuratively Speaking..


Cross Cultural Figurative Language

Overview

Everyone has, at some point in his or her life, fallen victim to cultural misunderstanding. I believe it is the duty of the educator to expose students to materials that they would otherwise not encounter. This is why, the purpose of this text set is to introduce students to figurative language through a variety of cross-cultural items. These texts will also allow the student to infer that language is a commonality between countries around the world. Although these texts are all in English, the student will see how writers use figurative language to make language more fun and exciting, to add color and imagination. Figurative language ranges from similes and metaphors, which are comparisons; to hyperbole, which are extreme exaggerations; to personification, which is giving human characteristics to nonhuman things; and to onomatopoeia, which is a word that represents a sound.

Figurative language is ubiquitous. Whether or not you are aware of it, there is figurative language in everything you read. My goal is to expose students to figurative language from texts from around the world, as well as from this country, so that they will be both embracing cultures foreign to them while simultaneously learning to find figurative language in various types of texts. There are stories, narratives, poems, and one song that all contain examples of figurative language. This text set is designed to supplement a sixth grade figurative language curriculum, where I would use these texts to help the students discover figurative language within a variety of fictional texts. My hope is that my lessons can overlap, and include figurative language within fiction lessons, poetry lessons, and more.

Description of Students

The intended recipient of this text set is a 6th grade English class. The SOLs require that 6th graders are taught figurative language in SOL 6.5j. I thought it would be more interesting to have a variety of cultural contexts when learning figurative language. My hypothetical students have a wide range of reading abilities, ranging from 3rd grade to 7th grade reading levels. These students also have a variety of needs to be met and should be taught in a variety of ways. There are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners in my classroom and their different learning types should also be addressed. Some students are interested in reading, while others are not. However, I believe the wide range of items in this text set should provide for all learners.

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The Trout Pool Paradox

Black, George Black

Publication date:
Publisher:

Description

In order to learn about tomorrow we often need to look to yesterday. The Trout Pool Paradox has little to do with food but everything to do with how humans impact the land. From the beginning of time, civilizations have sprung up on the banks of rivers across the world and have depended on those rivers to explore new lands, quench their thirst, nourish body and soul, irrigate their fields, and, following the industrial revolution (which, without rivers, may not have been possible), power their generators and absorb their waste. The Trout Pool Paradox examines the question as to why the Naugatuck River, occupying a valley of similar topography and geography as the neighboring Shepaug, totters on the brink of extinction while the Shepaug flows on “in a pristine state.
The Trout Pool Paradox throws brilliant light on our dynamic relationship with nature and on the conflicting demands we will make on our waterways in a post industrial age.” ( Book jacket, 2004 hardcover edition).

In addition to the valuable content, I like to think of this as one of my ‘boy
books.’ The Trout Pool Paradox was written by an avid fisherman, a man who spent most of his life fishing the Housatonic watershed just ninety minutes from the hustle and bustle of New York City. Far from being a trained scientist, he is an author of books on international affairs; there is an ‘everyman’ quality to his writing. It is difficult to engage boys and young men in a dialogue about flora and fauna, particularly at an age when the
birds and the bees are the first things on their minds, but this is a book that, if introduced and used properly, might do just that.

Readability

This book is considered to be at the 12th grade level based on the Flesh-Kincaid method, with a Flesch Reading Ease of 44.2 (Difficult).
According to www.readabilityformulas.com, the Reading Ease (RE) value is
based on a mathematical formula that takes into account average sentence length in addition to average number of syllables per word. In general, the RE output is interpreted as follows:
90-100 : Very Easy
80-89 : Easy
70-79 : Fairly Easy
60-69 : Standard
50-59 : Fairly Difficult
30-49 : Difficult
0-29 : Very Confusing
The vocabulary, while difficult for someone who has been out of school and away from a science textbook for a long time, will be somewhat less foreign to high school science students; furthermore, the author does a good job of defining unfamiliar words as the reader encounters them. One gets the notion that the author, too, was learning as he went, which gives the reader a bit of a sense of camaraderie. Then again, his allusions to
history (Prometheus, for one) and the symphony (Guarneri Quartet playing Beethoven) give the reader strong cues as to his degree of education, which may distance him from some readers. Overall the book has a very engaging, ‘readable’ quality to it—if you are a strong reader. For struggling readers or those not quite at the 11/12th grade level, it will
be more difficult, which is why it should be used instructionally in the classroom as stated below.

Use in Class

This text is intended to motivate disinterested/disengaged students, activate knowledge, and encourage critical thinking about related issues. As such, this book would be used in the ‘preparation’ stage. The book is long (300+ pages) and, due to the diverse nature of its content, can be incorporated into a biology/ecology/environmental science curriculum at a variety of stages. For the most struggling readers, this book could be used in the classroom as a read-aloud by the teacher; for students reading at or slightly below grade level, The Trout Pool Paradox could be used instructionally in the classroom (with excerpts given to students) in order to illustrate or introduce relevant content. Finally, for the most advanced readers, this book could serve as a reference book for students doing research.

Unit Focus

Biology

Submitted by Alicia Turner Turner

The great migration: An American story

Lawrence, Jacob

Publication date: Lawrence, J. (1993). The great migration: An American story. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Publisher: Lawrence, J. (1993). The great migration: An American story. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Description

One of the first manifestations of dreams in this text set occurs in Jacob Lawrence’s beautifully illustrated book. In the early 1910s many Blacks fled the Southern states to the Northern cities in search of a better life and greater economic and social opportunities. Jacob Lawrence’s colorful illustrations explain the movement depicting the bleak conditions and violence that plagued many groups of migrants, and the resounding hope that carried them through. One of the most prevalent themes throughout the book is the dream of a better life for the travelers, and the hope that, despite all of the bad, something good will emerge. Lawrence’s book is important as it explains the journey to Harlem and other Northern cities. The movement into Harlem prompted the cultural and creative uprising at the heart of the text set.

Readability

Students will be very interested in reading the text, primarily because the text is not the focus of the book. Students will see in vivid color the cultural struggle to find a better life. This book would be especially engaging for students who enjoy art, color, and vivid portraits. Though the book is intended for below grade or struggling readers, Lawrence’s portrayal of the migration would be appropriate for grade level and above grade level readers as well. The book contains mostly Lawrence’s paintings, which depict hard images of violence and segregation, yet the information is relevant for all age groups. The information is presented in a way that is not “dumbed-down.”

Use in Class

Since many History classes touch on the topic of the migration, we will complete a KWL, so students can relate their previous knowledge of the Great Migration and of migration in general to a new context. The KWL will also ensure that students comprehend the material. I will read this book aloud to my students. After the reading, we will discuss important concepts and issues that the book raises.

Unit Focus

English

Submitted by Lindsey Wells