Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 by Charles C. Mann

As I mentioned this past summer, I am teaching an elective this year that focuses on the migration of the monarch butterfly and specifically on Meso-America and the Meso-American people.  I read Charles C. Mann’s adult nonfiction title, 1491, over the summer and loved it.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when I learned he had adapted the information for a kid’s nonfiction title!

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491. Charles C. Mann sets the record straight with a fascinating look at the lives of ancient Meso-American people. For too long, American students have learned that “In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, with little regard for the advanced cultures already thriving in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and his fellow Europeans.  Mann focuses on three questions in the book and expands on the small amount of history most Americans know about the native people who populated this land.  He focuses on:

  • How old was the “New World?”
  • Why did the Europeans succeed?
  • Were the Americas really a wilderness?

In answering these questions, you are taken on fascinating and compelling  journey. Even though I have been studying the area (and visited central Mexico), I found myself learning new information.  The book includes stunning photographs, paintings, maps, and other non-fiction features that further supplement the text and bring the facts presented to life.  I’ve been sharing various passages with my enrichment class and everyday they leave talking about something we discussed.

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 is highly recommended for middle school and high school classrooms.  It is worthy of a place on the most selective bookshelves!

Using Glogster in the Classroom?

I just learned about Glogster while exploring some new blogs and I am very intrigued.  I am already thinking of a lot of classroom uses, specifically with our upcoming persuasive writing unit.  I know one of the issues I struggle with in the classroom is that we don’t have the ability to print students’ creations in color.  (Can you imagine the bill?!)  Glogster looks like it will solve my problems!  I can have up to 200 students log in and create their own poster which I can then view and assess anywhere with an internet connection.

I showed the site to my students and the reaction was very positive.  In fact, they begged to use it ASAP.  So I am reaching out to the blogosphere- how have you used Glogster in the classroom?  Any tips or warnings?

Celebrating Jon Scieszka

Today, many bloggers in the kidlitosphere are taking a moment to thank our National Ambassador of Children’s Literature, the incomparable Jon Scieszka.  I did not have a lot of experience with Mr. Scieszka’s books when I began teaching.  I remembered reading (and loving) his The True Story of the Three Little Pigs as a middle schooler. But I did not realize his utter power in my classroom until his latest memoir was published; the hysterical, over-the-top, unbelievable Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing up Scieszka.

I am the oldest of six kids. When I bought Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing up Scieszka for my classroom library, I started reading it right away. It was like I was reading about my own family. I laughed so hard at times that there were tears running down my face!  Like Scieszka, I went to Catholic grammar school, came from a large family, and may have tied up a sibling or two.

The result was almost identical when I read a few passages out loud to my students later that week. Suddenly, even my most dormant readers were begging for the book.  It was passed around from student to student, with whispers of “You gotta read the story on pg. 22!”  It was a magic book with the ability to cross all gender lines.  So thank you, Mr. Scieszka, for creating books that my 6th graders love and adore.  They adore them so much that they literally read them to pieces and I need to purchase new copies fairly frequently.  And you know what?  That’s ok by me!

Back to the Grind….

To everyone who is going back to school tomorrow, good luck!  Have a great day.  Hopefully, the extended vacation means it will take a few days longer for the exhaustion to set in.  ;)

Top 100 Children’s Fictional Chapter Books- Vote Now!

Now is your chance to have your say!  Betsy, over at Fuse#8, is running her newest poll.

The Top 100 Children’s Fictional Chapter Books Poll!

Vote for your top ten middle grade books of all time (not just this year or last year) by January 31, 2010.  This will NOT include YA books  or early readers. You should list these books in your order of preference. That means, your #1 chapter book would be the one you feel is the most important or the best, so Betsy will give it 10 points.  Your #2 choice will receive only 9 points.  Etc, etc.

I am getting ready to start my list now.  I already have well over 10 books so it’s time to get to work.  Make sure you do the same!

Cybils Finalists!

The Cybils finalists have been posted!  Check out all of the shortlists on the Cybils blog.

I am particularly proud of our middle grade panel.  I love all of the books on our shortlist and I have no idea how the judges will choose one winner!


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