Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book of the week---Actual Size

In my speech sessions, I like to read picture books to the kids, and nonfiction science books are great ways to help improve children's language skills and knowledge of the world around them.  (Science, as you know, is really not emphasized as much these days in elementary school--it's not on the end of grade tests until 5th grade.)  A favorite of mine is the book Actual Size by Steve Jenkins.
  Children love the illustrations: (from the Library School Journal, "In striking torn-and-cut paper collages, Jenkins depicts 18 animals and insects–or a part of their body–in actual size."

Check this out!  This is just one illustration---an actual size eyeball of a Giant Squid!  I like to hold this picture up next to a kid's head---the eye and the head are the same size. The kids get a kick out of that comparison.

Group rules that I teach
In addition to all of the language and vocabulary concepts presented in this book, I also use it to help teach classroom social skills to my verbal kids who are on the autism spectrum.  Typically, for each page, these children want to spew out all the facts they may know about a particular animal or creature. This uninhibited rattling off of minute facts is often disruptive to a group or classroom discussion, so I like to teach the pragmatics of being in a discussion group.  That's where a small written organizer and picture cues come in handy.  The written organizer is in the form of a book-specific list of the animals, with clearly defined spaces as to when the children can raise their hands and offer on-topic remarks or questions. Later, I try to fade out the 'raise your hand' cues, but initially they are needed. 

Part of the "Actual Size" organizer. Kids follow along while I read.

The kids need role playing, and clear instructions to learn the group discussion rules, but after a few months, they know what 'on target' talking means, and how to raise their hand to speak. We use many science picture books to provide the median to teach these skills.  I encourage my teachers to use the same visuals---pictured rules, and book organizers.  A book like Actual Size lends itself to this type of lesson since the language is simple, the topics are clearly defined, and it's interesting to the children.  I love it!  Steve Jenkins has written many books perfect for this type of lesson.  Check out his website!

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