Monday, June 22, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: President Obama

I've had these hanging around for a while now waiting for a review, but never had the time that I wanted to create a learning activity to go along with at least one of them. Well, this weekend, I made time during my super-rainy Saturday, so here goes...

Brill, Marlene Targ.
Barack Obama: President for a New Era.
Lerner Publications Company.

I really enjoyed reading this biography of President Obama! I'm not typically one to pick up a biography, but this one has appealed to me from the start, maybe because I never really followed Obama very much and knew very little about him or his life. I think children would be interested in this book as well, based on the huge interest I saw from children towards Obama in the months leading up the the election and immediately after his election to Presidency.

The book introduces readers to virtually all aspects of President Obama's life - his family, his childhood years spent in Indonesia, his school years, college, his beginning work in the public service sector, his "second" family in Kenya, his time in public office and eventually his election as President. Having been broken into sections, the book is very easy to read and allows readers to see exactly the orders of the events that led to Barack Obama being elected President of the United States.

This book is perfect for the upper-elementary (I'd say 4th grade and up) or middle school classroom. The text itself is quite simple and easy to understand, but due to it's length and non-fiction writing, I think that it would take older children to read and understand this book.

Lesson Plan/Reading Activities:

During my student teaching experience in a 4th grade classroom, I worked alongside my cooperating teacher to implement learning contracts with the students. We implemented these because of the students lack of responsibility in turning in morning work. The learning contracts held students responsible for their daily/weekly assignments in two ways:
  1. In order to participate in recess, students had to have completed each day's morning work assignments, consisting of a Math POD (problem of the day), a DOL (daily oral language), and a measurement activity.
  2. In addition to daily morning work, students had to complete 3 of 5 activities of choice by lunchtime on Fridays. These activities included math, spelling, science/social studies, ELA/reading, and a miscellaneous category. These were meant to be completed during any free-time the students had throughout the course of the day (after morning work, during snack, during lunch, if they finished another assignment before the rest of the class, etc.).
Each activity was given points on a scale of 1-3, depending on the work produced. At the end of the week, students received "Dollars for Scholars," which they could bank from week to week and use to purchase "Tools for School," from the class store (pencils, pens, erasers, a snack, a ruler, etc.).

The activities for the learning contracts switched off every two weeks and each "station" had 2-3 activities that could be completed. All of the activities were in some way related to the 4th grade curriculum. Students really enjoyed the concept, as they were being held accountable for their school work, while at the same time having a little bit of freedom regarding what they were learning!

The activity that I created to go along with Barack Obama: President for a New Era is one that could be included in the social studies/science station. The activity packet can be downloaded here.

Ignatius, Adi.
President Obama: The Path to the White House.
Time Inc., Home Entertainment.

This is another incredible Barack Obama biography! However, this one is for either the teacher or the parents - it falls a bit above the level of reading for children... at least of the age I focus on!

My favorite part of the book is the photographs, but then again I love looking at photographs. Bits and pieces of the book would be appropriate for children and they'd probably enjoy the photos too!

This book has definitely found a home on the coffee table at my house!

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to