One of my most favorite unsung heroes of electrical engineering and basically one of the first visionaries of wireless technology, Nikola Tesla deserves his own transmedia experience. Tesla

Check out different books, videos and documentary websites dedicated to Telsa and his work. My favorite is the eBook graphic novel entitled Nikola Tesla and the Electric Fair.

Nikola Tesla Transmedia Resources on Padlet.



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Into the Volcano

VolcanoWoods, Don. Into the Volcano. 174 p. Blue Sky Press, NY. 2008. ISBN:0-439-72671-9.

Description: Young brothers Duffy and Sumo Pugg unexpectedly get pulled from their classroom to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Sent by their father, and accompanied by their newly acquainted cousin, Mister Come-and-Go to their family’s native Kokalaha Island, they meet their strange Aunt Lulu and become trapped in an erupting volcano. Action and drama ensue as the brothers come to grips with their heritage, family dynamic, and coming of age.

Quantitative analysis: Lexile: GN 240, Reading level: 2.6

Qualitative analysis: The 2.6 listed as the reading level for this book on Follett’s Destiny is a bit misleading. The dialogue in this story is demanding because the reader must make repeated inferences  as the mystery of the story unfolds. There isn’t a great deal of difficult vocabulary, with the exception of scientific terminology and description. The main characters are taken from their normal surroundings and thrust in to a world unknown to them and most likely unknown to the reader.   The two brothers react with with their opposite personalities, dealing with issues that many tweens face in the world, for example, trusting strange adults. The resulting effect makes this work very relatable for the target audience. The level of artistry and story telling is exceptional in this graphic novel by Don Wood.

There is valuable scientific information relayed to the reader. I personally learned some amazing facts in the fields of geology, vulcanology, and plate tectonics.

Content standard: Geology

Digital Content: Short and sweet explanation of the science of volcanoes on the Discovery Channel.

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Commonsense Educators : Useful Digital Resources to explain 21st Century Skills to Students and Teachers

CommonSense Media has many useful resources for how to introduce important concepts Here is a start. A video you can show concerning the SAMR model, what is a digital footprint and what constitutes Fair Use. Students are already submersed in tech up to their eyeballs. It is our responsibility to teach them how to use the tools mindfully and to their greatest benefit.


Ruben Puentedura on Applying the SAMR Model


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Check Out Te@chThought

Te@chthought is a blog that is dedicated to the transformations that the education world is undergoing these days. The creator of the blog http://www.teachthought.com.

A quote from their About tab describing their director: “Terry Heick is a former English teacher turned education dreamer who is interested in how learning is changing in a digital and connected world. This includes, among other changes, the rise of self-directed learning.”

Featuring articles entitled How To Connect Schools And Communities Using Technology  or  A Beginner’s Guide To Personalized Learning check out Te@chThought for ideas on bringing education into the 21st century. 


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Digital resources to support studies of the Universe.

Here are some Astronomy links that I curated for two purposes. I work at a Montessori school. Many teachers were introducing the “First Great Lesson” which, in Montessori,  focuses on how the Universe began. Children were using every material I had available in the library. One of the teachers sent home a paper hand-out with a long list of URLs to helpful websites. I curated the links onto our school library’s website so they would be easier to access then typing in lengthy http://www……address.  The collection below is culled down to the ones I thought were the better resources so I could complete an assignment for my SLIS program. In addition I added two videos about  the Moon from online resources that use music to teach academic content.

Using music in the classroom was just about one of my all time favorite (and effective) activities in the classroom. 

*StarChild*:  A Learning Center for Young Astronomers

Star Child site is the service of an organization called High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC)  which is an archive for NASA and other space agencies, making it a reliable resource.  In brief, the website features a simple homepage, much like that of Symbaloo, that offers tiles to click on. These tiles then take you to the content. Science topics offered are Solar System, Universe, Space Stuff and Glossary.  What makes this site great to use is that it offers access to the same basic information on these topics, but can be  geared to different reading levels.  Level 1 is simpler in format (about a 730L in Lexile) and has the option of being read out loud. Level 2 is geared to older students and Lexile shows to be about a 1090L. Both levels offer hotlinks of vocabulary that connects to more content.  There is also another option included on the homepage to a site called “Imagine the Universe” that brings the viewer to a site appropriate for viewers age 14 and up. It is a quality resource in that it delivers the same content, but makes effort to addresses the different reading levels of different learners. While the content can be very comprehensive, depending on how far “down the rabbit hole” of hypertext student will click, but the navigation remains smooth and easy to handle.   http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/StarChild.html

The HubPages – Cool Space Facts for Kids

A simple layout, it just reads vertically down, this site is a collections of facts about the solar system, planets and moon. The Lexile on this site, averaging at about a 1030L makes it more appropriate for upper elementary. The downside is that the site is just what it says it is: cool facts. It offers access to basic knowledge such as density, rotation time and revolution of all the planets, distance from the sun, temperature, etc.  It is written in a straightforward way and offers a few pictures, but it is mainly just a simple collection of facts. Information compiled by Teresa Coppens.


 Phases of the Moon (Rock version) – 4 min. 2 seconds

This is a very catchy video of that presents information on the phases of the moon through music, visuals and lyrics. It reinforces science concepts taught in school. The philosophy of the organization that created this video (Songs of Higher Learning) is that music offers a different mode of learning and increased retention of material. I have to strongly agree! The song is sung by one voice, but the chorus is sung by young voices, even more appealing. Repetition of the lyrics help to reinforce the vocabulary.


Songs of Higher Learning unfortunately lost their website, but can be found on MySpace. Hope they churn out more songs. 

Flocabulary – Moon Phases – 4 min. 47 seconds

An educational hip-hop song that explains the phases of the moon, teaching the vocabulary related as well. It is a really well produced song, with nicely done lyrics and soothing music.


Update: Flocabulary only available through subscription services.

Flocabulary, much like Songs of Higher Learning is dedicated to enriching curriculum through song. Coming to you out of Brooklyn, I would HIGHLY recommend checking out the Flocabulary blog (http://blog.flocabulary.com) as it has some excellent articles, research, teacher exchanges and spark some ideas for things like writing and incorporating content from all subject areas, from science to digital literacy. Flocabulary has been working with Common Sense Media, The City University of New York (CUNY) and NYS Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) to produce videos. YouTube offers the videos for free, but a more detailed subscription can be purchase which offers printable lyrics, lesson plans and activities. (http://www.flocabulary.com/moon-phases/)

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THE Elements

Gray, Theodore. THE Elements: a Visual Exploration of Every Known elementsAtom in the Universe. 240 p. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, NY. 2009. ISBN: 978-1-57912-814-2. Pictures by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann.

Description: Presents a photographic representation of the over 100 elements in the periodic table. Essentially it includes numerous facts, figures, and stories of all of the building blocks of our universe – THE elements. Included as well is data on the properties of each, including atomic weight, density, melting and boiling point, valence, electronegativity. We are told the year and location in which each was discovered. There are several additional photographs show each element or how it is used in various practical ways, such as extending the life of spark plugs. Includes the year and location in which it was discovered.

Quantitative Analysis: Interest grade level, as listed in Destiny software, is grades  7-12. It is also listed as being an adult interest. Lexile analyzer put it at 1720L, making it useful for the high school level.

Qualitative analysis: Visually stunning – the photography makes it worth the closer look, especially for anyone raised in a pre-digital age to whom the elements were represented only in the form of colored squares arranged on a poster. White print on glossy black paper give it an other-worldly feel. The text is highly complex, with longer than average sentence length and offers a strong opportunity to interact with a good deal of advanced and unfamiliar vocabulary. There are no pronunciation keys for elements with names like Yttrium, so it lacks in certain non-fiction features typically found in school materials. Dense with scientific description, the book does make some otherwise very abstract notions completely accessible by the offering up of practical ideas of the elements.



Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.



MS-PS1-1 Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on developing models of molecules that vary in complexity. Examples of simple molecules could include ammonia and methanol. Examples of extended structures could include sodium chloride or diamonds. Examples of molecular-level models could include drawings, 3D ball and stick structures, or computer representations showing different molecules with different types of atoms.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include valence electrons and bonding energy, discussing the ionic nature of subunits of complex structures, or a complete description of all individual atoms in a complex molecule or extended structure is not required.]
MS-PS1-3  Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on natural resources that undergo a chemical process to form the synthetic material. Examples of new materials could include new medicine, foods, and alternative fuels.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to qualitative information.]
MS-PS1-4. Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on qualitative molecular-level models of solids, liquids, and gases to show that adding or removing thermal energy increases or decreases kinetic energy of the particles until a change of state occurs. Examples of models could include drawing and diagrams. Examples of particles could include molecules or inert atoms. Examples of pure substances could include water, carbon dioxide, and helium.]



Curriculum suggestions: Push the envelop and read excerpts from The Disappearing Sppassthroughoon


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That is NOT a Good Idea

Willems, Mo. That is Not a Good Idea. 42 p. Balzer + Bray, New York. 2013. ISBN: 978-0-06-220309-0. The Idea sucks

Description: Willems does it again. With illustrations that resemble a silent film, the story of a plump mama goose who is invited on a walk in the deep dark forest by a hungry wolf unfolds. Hilarious page after page of her babies warning “That is NOT a good idea” repeat through the tale, alternated with pages depicting the goose deciding to head back to the hungry fox’s kitchen to see what key ingredient could possibly be missing from his soup.

Quantitative analysis: Lexile: AD 230,  Reading grade level: 1.4

Qualitative analysis: Done as an interactive read aloud, this book is piece of theater in your lap. Text features are simple, with the font changing to represent different speakers. Repetition is used, but a surprising twist in the end encourages readers to make inferences, making this a slightly complex text.


Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.

Curriculum suggestions: This one is just a ringer for performing it on stage. Readers Theater possibilities abound! I’d also like to make a plug here for turning Willem’s “Can I Play Too?” imagestale of inclusion into a play done by kids as well. All you’ll really need is a green sock!



Digital content: There is so much Mo Willems content on the web it would be hard to miss it.

Check this page out and see what books you still need to make your collection complete: http://www.pigeonpresents.com/books.aspx

Amazing book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85iNSZpXR60

Meet the author: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXwk670WnKw

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Battle Bunny

battle bunny Battle Bunny. by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett and Alex;  32 p. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, NY.  2013. pictures by Matthew Myers but mostly Alex.

Description: Alex, whose birthday it is, receives a sweet little book about a “Birthday Bunny” reminiscent of a Little Golden Book. He takes the matter into his own hands, hijacks the book and rewrites it to be a story about  a battle between a supervillain and his enemies in the forest – who, in the original story, are simply planning a surprise party. The book appears defaced and juvenile humor takes over.

Quantitative analysis: Reading grade level: 2.8

Qualitative analysis:  Battle Bunny is actually a moderately complex text to approach. There is text overlaid with text. There could be potential challenges with deciphering the mock handwritten text which is presented over the crossed out words of the “real” book.  Both pictures and text have been reconfigured to tell an entirely different story than the one that lies beneath all the work by the newer “author” Alex, who renders the original text all but nearly illegible with his #2 pencil. Once readers realize that the book wasn’t actually defaced, they can relax and enjoy the ride.

Digital content: A must see homepage for Battle Bunny http://mybirthdaybunny.com The website contains a book trailer video not to mention it provides a PDF of the entire book “My Birthday Bunny” so that children can create their very own version.

Curriculum suggestions: Can be done as a read aloud with enormous potential to address the CCSS standard RL.2.6
“Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character (or in this case, each version of the book) when reading dialogue aloud.”

Please Please Please… if you are a classroom teacher,  check the extensive (and equally funny)  Common Core aligned activities, created by Allie Jane Bruce, a teacher librarian, in this part of the book’s homepage: http://mybirthdaybunny.com/educators/

It’s all very nicely laid out for you to have discussion with 2nd and 3rd graders that bring in topics of copyright and creative commons!

Well done.

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Wangari’s Trees of Peace

wangariWinter, Jeanette. Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa. 32 p. Harcourt. 2008. ISBN: 0-15-206545-8

Description: This inspirational picture book relates the story of Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist who, shocked to see entire forests being cut down in her native country of Kenya, decides to take action, beginning with the planting of nine seedlings in her own backyard. Author note tells more details of Wangari’s life and how she became a member of Parliament in Kenya.

Quantitative analysis: Lexile: AD 730, Reading grade level: 3.5

Qualitative analysis:  The text is clear and consistent and presented boldly on the page. Illustrations directly support the text and assist with interpretation.  Outside of Wangari’s name and the vocabulary is and familiar and presented in an explicit manner, although some figurative language makes this feature slightly complex.
Wangari is focused on an environmental problem in her home country –  this theme is obvious and revealed early in the text, however, how women’s rights were tied to the environmental concerns is a more involved concept making this element moderately to highly complex. The experiences in the book would not be common to most readers making the knowledge demands slightly complex.


Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

Curriculum suggestions:  This book would be a good way to introduce social justice, women’s right and heroes of environmental action. Check out her website to learn more about the greenbelt movement: http://www.greenbeltmovement.org/wangari-maathai

Showing this video would be an engaging activity for students to deepen their understanding of her work


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Benny’s Had Enough!

BennyLindgren, Barbro. Benny’s Had Enough! 26 p. Stockholm New York R&S. 1999. ISBN: 9-12964563-8. Illustrated by Olof Landström; translated by Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard.

Description: Everythings the pits!  Benny’s mother is cleaning and cleaning. She wants to arrange Benny’s sticks and potatoes and give Benny a bath. Benny won’t let her. When she tries to wash his stuffy, Little Piggie, it’s the last straw. Benny has had enough and hits the streets with Little Piggie trying to find a new home. Benny makes some discoveries out in the world and returns back to a place that’s actually not so bad after all.

diggin in


Quantitative analysis: Reading grade level: 2.0

Qualitative analysis: Simple text and playful pictures make this text very accessible to 2nd grade an up. Funny lines like, “All of a sudden, Benny just has to dig a hole somewhere.” will keep readers laughing through the text. Reading for pleasure indeed.


Personal note on the text: Though this book was printed in 1999, I choose to include it for a particular reason. When Benny goes out on his own, he encounters two situations where the “adult” animals are utterly preoccupied with technology. In one scene, Benny is calling out to a bunch of house, but no one notices him because they are all staring at computer screens. I think it holds sadly true as we become distracted from each other in our individual digital worlds.


Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.

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