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Taking the "Pain" out of Lesson Planning: Children's Book Resources on the Web

Teachers are the original "borrowers." But there's nothing wrong with taking advantage of a good idea -- especially when it is volunteered! National Children's Book Week (November 16 to 22) provides the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a few of the Internet's best resources for teaching with children's books. So, books closed, pencils away, and monitors on -- it's time for some S.S.R. (Super Story Resources)! Included: Resources for teaching literature for teachers PreK to grade 12!

Educator Tammy Payton is an expert at creating exceptional online resources. For example, her literature-based Something Fishy Web site is a complete resource for teaching the children's story The Owl and the Pussycat (by Edward Lear, illustrated by Jan Brett).

"My first goal was to create something that my students could use," says Payton. "I believe that searching for content and having guided activities that use the Internet with a purpose are important features of these lessons."

Payton tried out her Something Fishy activity with her class. She reports that the students enjoyed the Web sites that she linked to the activity. Among their favorite parts of the lesson were seeing Jan Brett's Home Page, where they learned how she created her book The Owl and the Pussycat; seeing slide shows of fish; and performing searches for information.

"Many educators have written to tell me that they are using this lesson with their ocean themes," adds Payton.


When asked to recommend other useful literature resources, Payton names two sites of merit: "A new site that looks promising for students, teachers, and parents is called KidBibs. The site offers a wonderful page of learning tips for children. The Children's Literature Web Guide is another exceptional Web site for reading resources."

Payton herself has created a hotlist of her favorite literature sites. She enjoys bringing attention to fine educational Web sites. "The Internet offers wonderful resources for people of all ages," she observes. "It is exciting to find new sites that have been developed that are interactive and engage visitors. It is even more thrilling to collaborate with people globally."

Beyond the "content" of integrated Web activities, Payton recognizes the need for them to appeal to students. "I enjoy creating Web-based activities," says Payton. "I believe that the most important feature to a lesson is the content this is followed by the visual presentation."

Just as Payton has prepared an online resource for teachers who want to include "The Owl and the Pussycat" in their literature lessons, connected educators and publishing houses have created the same kinds of resources for teaching other children's books. Let's peruse the "volumes" of children's book resources on the Net!


Janell Cannon's book Stellaluna is the focus of an online project by Susan Silverman called Stellaluna's Friends. The site is full of great facts about bats, and student art. There are sample bat activities for teachers, and the classroom pages have additional hints for teaching about bats. If you share Stellaluna with your class, be sure to explore Silverman's cave for some high-flying ideas!

Many classes enjoy the stories of Eric Carle, but young children especially love his colorful tales. Peek at the some tried-and-true teacher-created activities in Carle's Caterpillar Exchange. Before you leave The Official Eric Carle Web Site, add your own favorite activity to the exchange for other educators to use. For more teaching ideas related to one of his most popular books, see Teacher Cyberguide: The Very Hungry Caterpillar. A college student's ideas for integrating this book into classroom experiences are illustrated at Thematic Unit: Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

"If you give a mouse a cookie" -- you probably know the rest! Laura J. Numeroff's adorable tale of a very demanding, but lovable, rodent is a favorite of many children. Read one teacher's follow-up activity to this book at Gifted Mouse. In the book, the mouse draws a picture of his family to grace the refrigerator door; your students might enjoy coloring the artistic little fellow when you print and copy HarperCollins' Mouse Cookie Coloring Pages. Numeroff's second book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, is another popular selection. Or check out Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site, where you'll find many quick activity ideas at If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura J. Numeroff.


If you have only one online computer in your classroom, a collection of S.C.O.R.E. "CyberGuides" is designed for you! Provided by Schools of California Online Resources for Education (S.C.O.R.E.), and created with the one-modem classroom in mind, this site is a real gem. Each lesson is based on a children's book and contains teacher and student instructions, standards, and related Web sites. Some of the books that have been included are Frog and Toad Are Friends; Sarah, Plain and Tall; and The Old Man and the Sea. Lessons for grades kindergarten through twelve are available.

BDD's (Bantam Doubleday Dell) Teachers Resource Center has teaching ideas and suggestions for making literature come alive! Several of the books highlighted here with teaching materials are Newbery winners. There is even a section of books for "Reluctant Readers," books that contain high-interest, low-vocabulary stories designed for students who do not enjoy reading or who don't read well. Each entry on the site includes an introduction, an excerpt, and activities for before and after reading. You will also find ways to connect each story to other curriculum areas. The "Grade Index" will show you what teaching materials are available for grades one to eleven, so you can easily locate the guides that will be of greatest use to you.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation is the source of a bunch of English Language Arts units. The activities are complete in every way -- including rationales and tools for evaluating their success. Among the topics you might choose are "Disguises," "Farms and Farm Animals," "Batmania," "Inventions," "What Makes a Hero?," and "Pets." Some lessons incorporate activity sheets for students to complete independently. If you seek a ready-made integrated unit for the elementary, middle, or secondary level, this resource is your ideal!

Created by graduates of Western Maryland College, Literature-Based Units gives hints for teachers who want to expand a piece of literature across the curriculum. Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Babushka's Doll (by Patricia Polacco) are two of the stories the students selected. This site is a perfect starting point for teachers who are planning units focused on any of the highlighted books. The activities include thoughtful questions to ask your students as they read.


There are so many lessons to choose from at the Teachers.Net Lesson Exchange, and many of them pertain to literature across the grades. This collection truly has a lesson for all -- from preschool nursery rhymes and a lesson to use with Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree to upper-grade literature such as Julius Caesar and Of Mice and Men. These lessons, submitted by classroom teachers, will make your literature life a little easier! You are invited to add your best lessons to the list when you visit.

The Collaborative Lesson Archive is organized by grade level and subject. Read the teaching suggestions from educators who have submitted their lessons, plus the responses of other teachers to the activities that have been posted. A single idea on this site grows as teachers offer their comments. Materials for many favorite books are included. Choose your grade, click on "Reading," and surf the postings until you find a lesson that is tailor-made for your classroom. And this resource isn't restricted to language arts lessons!


While the two sites above cover all subjects, this next site is confined to literature, specifically to the mystery. Learning With Mysteries is a wonderful resource devoted to introducing students to the beauty of a good, thought-provoking mystery. A group of lesson plans is the core of this "puzzling" site. Lesson titles include What is a Mystery?, Mystery Vocabulary, Solving Mysteries, Elements of a Mystery, History of the Mystery Quiz, and Writing a Mystery. There is a list of mysterious links to investigate and an explanation of how mysteries exercise and improve critical thinking skills. Why didn't someone think of this sooner? It's a mystery!


  • Academy Curricular Exchange Language Arts Lessons These language arts lessons cover all kinds of topics, and some focus on children's tales. You will definitely find something to use in your classroom in this group of activities!
  • Children's Literature Association of Utah This organization gives awards to outstanding picture books, children's books, children's informational books, and young adults' books. Each nominated book has a Web page and is accompanied by a summary and a list of curriculum connections for teachers.
  • McGraw-Hill School Division Teaching Resources: Reading/Language Arts Here you will find links to Web resources that relate to language arts materials in McGraw-Hill's "Story Web" and "Spotlight on Literacy" products. Even if you don't use those products, this group of resources will interest you. Grades K-8 are included.
  • Green Eggs and Ham Few children's books are as popular as Green Eggs and Ham, and this is the place for fun activities to accompany the story. From Random House's Seussville Web site, you'll find a picture scramble, recipes, crafts, and activities.
  • The Gingerbread Man This classic tale is introduced in so many early childhood classrooms, and this page from the "Kindergarten Connection" has been created to promote a related teaching unit you may buy. Whether you purchase the unit or not, take a look at the sample suggestions. They might just be enough to get you started!
  • The Carrot Seed If you like this story, try one these teaching ideas to spread it across your curriculum.
  • Harriet and the Garden This list of lesson plans covers all kinds of "gardening" stories. The activities suggested here will complement your study of plants, and you will have a list of related books to use as a foundation for your unit.
  • The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig This set of lessons will walk you through the teaching of the book with discussion questions, homework assignments, and ideas for enrichment.

    Article by Cara Bafile
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