Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wemberly Worried

Title:  Wemberly Worried

Author: Kevin Henkes
Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Publisher: Green Willow Books © 2000
ISBN: 0-688-17027-7
Grade Level:  PreK-2
Book Review:  Wemberly worries about everything and the beginning of school brings many additional worries. Once Wemberly makes a friend, that makes all the difference.  Henkes creates characters that stimulate children's imagination and places them in familiar settings so that children can readily connect with them.
Systems Thinking Connections:
Wemberly is easy to relate to making this text a great catalyst to help children explore systems thinking Habits like mental models and multiple perspectives.

Tools: Starting the school year with behavior-over-time graphs is a great strategy for a number of reasons:  It is a tool that students will be able to use throughout the school year to make their thinking visible.  It is a great way for teachers to learn more about their students and their perceptions.  The graphs can serve as a pre-assessment of students' understanding in a number of areas.  And behavior-over-time graphs can help track learning, attentiveness, cooperation, kindness and other qualities that teachers are trying to build as the school year begins. The first grade teacher, whose work is shown here, got her students off to a great start by graphing the level of  Wemberly's worry.  The text uses very explicit language for describing more and less.  Graphing is relevant way to help students share their feelings about the start of school and build strong retelling skills at the same time.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates

Title:  Wise Guy:  The Life and Philosophy of Socrates

Author:  M.D. Usher
Illustrator:  William Bramhall
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux ©2005
ISBN: 978-0-374-31249-7
Grade Level:  2-5
Book Review: "You shouldn't think you know something without first having looked at it very closely." Extrapolated from ancient sources Usher writes a biography of Socrates for younger readers.  The book weaves together the main text, a narrative that chronicles the life of Socrates from his youth through his death, with a series of scrolls that highlight his teachings.  Cleverly drawn illustrations add to the reader's understanding of Usher's portrayal. The importance of being willing to ask questions is an important message in this text.
Systems Thinking Connections:
Habits:  What better than a book about thinking to facilitate students own thinking and encourage their questions.  The scroll text found on each page provides information about Socrates' teaching or philosophy. Many of these scrolls lend themselves to making connections to the Habits of a Systems Thinker.  For example, in one scroll, the author explain Socrates dialectic process -- how he refused to believe things were always as they appeared. A connection could be made between this idea and the systems thinking habit considers an issue fully and resists the urge to come to a quick conclusion.  
Or perhaps a link to successive approximation could be found in the idea that Socrates believed "wisdom was an art, like cobbling, that you have to practice if you're going to be any good at it."
If we are really to use this text in a way that honors the philosophies of Socrates, it will be critical to allow readers to make their own meaningful connections within and between systems.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I am a boy of color

Title:  I am a boy of color
Author:  Deanna Singh
Illustrator:  Ammar Nsoroma
Publisher:  Orange Hat Publishing © 2016
ISBN:  978-1-943331-21-5
Grade Level: PreK-adult
Book Review: Passionately committed to changing the image of boys of color in modern society, Deanna Singh created a picture book designed to celebrate the best qualities and reinforce the positive characteristics found in children.  The book begins with a boy looking in the mirror and transitions to positive affirmations of what he can see.  Each quality and characteristic carefully selected to create a portrait that brings deserved honor to boys of color.

Systems Thinking Connections
Habits:  While the text does not reference the tern leverage specifically, Deanna Singh used her understanding a system structure and identified the creation of a children's book as a leverage action. This book filled with positive messages, read to multitudes of children, multitudes of times will affect mental models. Impacting mental models is the greatest way to bring about significant change, affecting current reality and the future. Another explicit purpose of this text is for boys of color to make personal connections, being able to see themselves in this powerful piece of children's literature.
Tools:  Teachers using this book with young children and early readers could take any of the positive characteristics or qualities -- possibility, joy, pride, caring --  and look at those through the lens of a stock-flow map. Building  multiple stock-flow maps could lead to discovering the connections and interdependencies between these qualities.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Flight School

Title:  Flight School
Author:  Lita Judge
Illustrator:  Lita Judge
Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers
© 2014
ISBN:  978-1-4424-8177-0
Grade Level: PreK-2
Book Review:  Penguin believes "he was hatched to fly," but despite his enthusiastic participation in flight school his initial attempt lands him swimming in the depths of the ocean.  Committed teachers find a way to let him experience his dream.  They instill such confidence that he brings his friend the ostrich for a chance at experiencing flight. Flight School is a charming text with a positive message that will bring a smile to both children and adults.
Systems Thinking Connections
Habits:  While Penguin may believe that he was hatched to fly, he was not built to fly.  By carefully considering the issue, including Penguin's deep disappointment, the flight school teachers create a structure that allows Penguin to fulfill his dream.  A straightforward lesson for young children on how changing not only your perspective, but also a system's structure can produce a very different result. Systems thinkers recognize that a system's structure generates its behavior.
Tools:  The story is straightforward, and yet it offers an opportunity for students to ask some simple questions connected to the ladder of inference. For example, what was Penguin paying attention to that led him to believe he could fly?  How did his experience (action) reinforce his belief that ostrich too could experience flight?  How were the teachers able to change their approach in order to make Penguin successful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Those Darn Squirrels

Title:  Those Darn Squirrels

Author:  Adam Rubin
Illustrator:  Daniel Salmieri
Publisher:  Sandpiper ©2008
ISBN:  478-0-547-57681-7
Grade Level:  K-5
Book Review:  Old Man Fookwire doesn't like very many things, but he does love birds.  He feeds them, paints pictures of them and mourns every winter when they leave for a warmer place. As much as he likes his birds, he dislikes the conniving squirrels that come to live on his property.  That is until they find a very clever way to win his heart.  The story can be read on many levels.  It can be read purely for pleasure.  The reader can take away a lesson about the importance of appreciating differences and resolving conflicts.  Or the squirrels ingenuity can inspire young engineers.  Whatever the reason, it is a delightful read.

Systems Thinking Connections: 
Habits: Those Darn Squirrels offers students multiple opportunities to examine how characters in the story practice or don't practice the habits of a systems thinker, making it an ideal book for helping students understand the habits.  After reading the book aloud to a group of fourth grade students, each group of 4 to 5 students took a set of habits cards and selected one to which they could make a connection with the story.  Their connections were excellent and their understanding of the habits as applied to the scenarios in the book were very accurate and reasonable.  Students recognized how Old Man Fookwire and the squirrels learned something by changing their perspectives to increase their understanding.  Students also noted how the squirrels benefited when they took the time to consider an issue fully and resits the urge to come to a quick conclusion.
Tools:  A group of second graders in  used a Behavior Over Time Graph to track the squirrels level of frustration.  You will note from the key that these students also read the sequels to the original story. Comparing the frustration of the squirrels and Mr. Fookwire at various points in the story  produced deeper understanding and comprehension of the text.  
Another thing to note in this graph is how readers cite textual evidence by making notations on the graph itself, showing what is affecting the level of frustration.  Systems tools are powerful ways to help students make connections to a text and document those connections using evidence from the text.  
Special thanks to Christina Wamboldt, Hewlett ElementarySchool, Hewlett-Woodmere School District, for sharing this piece of student work.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Title:  Rosie Revere Engineer
Author:  Andrea Beaty @andreabeaty
Illustrator:  David Roberts
Publisher:  Abrams Books for Young Readers
© 2013
ISBN:  978-1-4197-0845-9
Grade Level:  K-3
Book Review: Rosie the Riveter was the iconic symbol for the role of women in the war effort during World War II. Rosie Revere, Engineer captures the power of that symbol in a modern tale for young readers on the power of pursuing your dreams.  In this fictional story, Rosie has a dream of being an engineer, but when well-meaning relatives laugh at her creations, she seeks to hide her dreams. Written in clever couplets with intriguing illustrations, the book delivers a powerful message about following your dreams no matter what and learning that failure is an essential part of success.
Systems Thinking Connections:
Habits:  Rosie learns lessons in this story that mirror several habits of a systems thinker.  Rosie realizes the power of Successive Approximation.  Great-great-aunt Rose helps Rosie understand that when something doesn't work, it is not a failure, but rather an opportunity to by pay attention to what did work.  Recognizing how much she can learn from her mistakes, Rosie is well on her way to knowing how to make the next iteration even better than the first. In order to apply Successive Approximation Rosie must also practice considers an issue fully and resists the urge to come to a quick conclusion.  Whether your unit of study is focused on engineering, women in engineering or innovation, Rosie Revere, Engineer makes it easy to deepen student understanding of the habits of a systems thinker in service to the curriculum specific outcomes being learned.
Tools:  Rosie Revere, Engineer is a book about accumulations.  You could choose to label the "stock" of her lessons learned in a number of ways:  ingenuity, innovation, persistence, power of a dream, to name a few.  Whichever stock you choose the factors that increase and decrease that stock are clearly articulated in the story.  What a great conversation to have with your students to discover what truly fuels innovation.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What's Up with This Chicken?

Title:  What's Up with This Chicken?
Author:  Jane Sutton
Illustrator:  Peter J. Welling
Publisher:  Pelican Publishing ©2015
ISBN:  978-1-4556-2085-2
Grade Level: K-5
Book Review:  Jane Sutton's books frequently appear in Literature Connects because she has a tremendous talent for taking real life experiences and creating delightful narratives that both inform and entertain. Jane definitely doesn't disappoint in her newest release, What's Up with this Chicken? It is a wonderful story filled with interesting information about chickens and is told in Sutton's signature style: believable characters, magnificent humor and plenty of word play. The book contains a powerful embedded message about how to resolve conflicts by changing your perspective. Trudy refuses to get off her eggs. Sylvia can't understand why. Under the tutelage of a wise grandmother, Sylvia comes to understand that Trudy is not difficult, she is really just broody. Don't miss out on this "egg-cellent" book. It is appropriate for students PreK-5 because it can be read and enjoyed on so many levels. 
Systems Thinking Connections
Habits:  Sylvia and her grandmother could easily become frustrated with Trudy and decide that she has outlived her usefulness as an egg-laying chicken; instead, they consider the issue fully (including doing some important research) and resist the urge to come to a quick conclusion. As a result, they recognize that there is a reason for Trudy's behavior, her desire to mother chicks is a fundamental structure of Trudy's natural make up. A deep but meaningful example of recognizing that a system's structure generates its behavior. They surface their assumption--Trudy is a broody hen--and then test their assumption by purchasing some fertilized eggs. For younger children simply recognizing how changing their perspective helps Sylvia and her grandmother increase their understanding is a very worthwhile connection.
Tools:  Conflict is central to any good story. The conflict resolution is particularly strong in What's Up with This Chicken? So much so, that children could use this balancing loop to explain how conflict in this story is resolved.
Here is one way to "tell the story of this loop." As the conflict increases, Trudy refuses to get off her eggs) Sylvia works to resolve the situation. As Sylvia's effort at resolving the conflict increases, the conflict decreases because Trudy is happily sitting on her eggs and caring for her chickens. Sylvia's need for resolution strategies goes down because she is focused on Trudy's new role as a mother hen. Over time the chickens grow up and Trudy needs more fertilized eggs. In addition, Sylvia learns that one of Trudy's offspring is also a brooding hen. As Judy now refuses to allow Sylvia to collect the eggs (conflict), Sylvia will have to work to resolve the conflict (providing Judy fertilized eggs) so the conflict decreases. Using a causal loop to focus on the conflict helps students understand more deeply conflict in a story. Students could also use this loop to tell their own story about a conflict that resolves but over time manifests itself in a slightly different way.
The ladder of inference would also be a good tool to use with What's Up with This Chicken?. When faced with a conflict with Trudy, Sylvia and her grandmother add information to their pool of experience by reading in a book about chickens. They use that information to make a more informed decision in caring for Trudy and as a result have a happier chicken. Students could go up and down the ladder from both the perspective of Sylvia and Trudy.