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Nonfiction series on a 4th grade (ish) level?


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My ds is REALLY enjoying the Cornerstones of Freedom books right now, so I'm looking for something similar on any kinds of non-fiction topics, to use with him for summer. I want to use the books to spawn units/themes, so like something with weather where we could then do art with weather, writing prompts with weather, build weather instruments, etc. I just keep drawing a blank on how to get there.

 

The Magic Treehouse Research Guides are kind of the right idea (non-fiction paired with fiction, great!), but they're too low. He knows most of the info in them and we just need it a little bumped up. 

 

Any ideas?  :)

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How about Horrible Geography? They're at a slightly lower reading and information level than the other Horrible series books. And they're a bit less crass in their humor too. Chapter books, just a few b&w drawing illustrations, lots of anecdotes and interesting information.

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I had been thinking about the Boy Scout merit badges stuff, yes! I found a website with all the pdfs available for free. Some are just too complex, and really I need the book. His ABA worker reads him the book in segments during a long session, so it's a motivator. I hadn't seen the Horrible Geography set, but that really might work. I went ahead and ordered it, so we'll see. That's what I wanted, just something broad enough that I could rabbit trail and bring a bunch of things in. It's just that with autism (and sanity in planning, lol), predictability, elements that are the same every time help. To have a series that is consistent and then just have him know this day we'll do a craft with it, this day we'll cook, this day we'll read a DK book on the topic, this day we'll read poetry, etc., that really works. 

 

We can do science, but then I get stuck prepping it. We already have Lentil Science going and the BJU science. I'm wanting to explore some areas we haven't been getting into like literature connections or poetry or art... We can even build legos of it, for what it matters. As long as we're doing something to chain and expand out from his special interest and explore other things, we're good. I went to the library and found kiddie lit I liked, but I didn't really find that spine. Hopefully the Horrible Geography stuff will work. Then we can flesh it out with Boy Scout activities, etc.

Edited by OhElizabeth
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The Janet and Geoff Benge books are Christian biographies of both famous people (aka presidents, scientists, inventors, authors) and missionaries (geography unit study?). They are well-written and interesting. Another series that a fourth grader might enjoy would be the Dave and Neta Jackson historical fiction series. A child (often fictional, but many times the character is based on an "unknown" child from history) interacts with famous people throughout the book. Generally, the books focus on one major event in the famous person's life (the Gettysburg Address for Abraham Lincoln, etc.). They are a very accurate historical fiction series, and if any event in the book did not actually happen, that event is mentioned in the historical notes in the back of the book. Also, if fictional events are added, a reason for the addition is often provided. This helps answer the "What's real, and why do they add stuff that isn't real" question. FYI, both series make excellent read-alouds, so if the reading level looks a little intimidating, that's always an option.

 

For art, Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork is a favorite. It's a children's book, but the reading level is higher than your average picture book. It incorporates Monet's most well-known paintings into a sweet story and teaches quite a lot of biographical info without becoming dry and boring.

 

As for poetry, check out children's anthologies from your library. Tie in art class by having him illustrate a poem; there are also anthologies available that show a painting and a poem inspired by the artwork. The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems is a good book for this type of study. Another option might be Jan Greenburg's anthologies. They contain a lot of good modern artwork with a variety of poetry styles, although not all the poems may be appropriate for elementary kids. You will want to preview that one before giving it to him.  

 

Have you considered a music appreciation class? This is an easy one that can tie into just about any other unit study. Listen to music from the time period you're studying, draw the "picture" that the music makes in your mind, or narrate a story that the music makes you think of. Music that tells a story, such as Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikoskvy's Swan Lake or Nutcracker, Grieg's Peer Gynt, and Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, are some good ones to start with if you're interested in that approach. If you're interested in studying the orchestra, Those Amazing Musical Instruments teaches about each type of instrument in an orchestra with photos and an accompanying CD, so you can hear the difference between instruments.

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The Who Was books are not technically difficult to read, but they are packed with information. My son started reading them in first grade, and he is still asking for more here in third grade. He has learned so much! Many of the audio versions are quite cheap on Audible, too.

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Oh, we read Who Was Milton Hershey? And researched cocoa farming (lots of great YouTube videos) and then we made chocolate bars using a little kit I found at Walmart.

 

We also read "Who Was Sacajawea," "Who Wasn't a Thomas Jefferson," and "What Was the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Then we made a stop motion movie using playmobil.

 

 

Man, those were fun.

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The Janet and Geoff Benge books are Christian biographies of both famous people (aka presidents, scientists, inventors, authors) and missionaries (geography unit study?). They are well-written and interesting. Another series that a fourth grader might enjoy would be the Dave and Neta Jackson historical fiction series. A child (often fictional, but many times the character is based on an "unknown" child from history) interacts with famous people throughout the book. Generally, the books focus on one major event in the famous person's life (the Gettysburg Address for Abraham Lincoln, etc.). They are a very accurate historical fiction series, and if any event in the book did not actually happen, that event is mentioned in the historical notes in the back of the book. Also, if fictional events are added, a reason for the addition is often provided. This helps answer the "What's real, and why do they add stuff that isn't real" question. FYI, both series make excellent read-alouds, so if the reading level looks a little intimidating, that's always an option.

 

For art, Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork is a favorite. It's a children's book, but the reading level is higher than your average picture book. It incorporates Monet's most well-known paintings into a sweet story and teaches quite a lot of biographical info without becoming dry and boring.

 

As for poetry, check out children's anthologies from your library. Tie in art class by having him illustrate a poem; there are also anthologies available that show a painting and a poem inspired by the artwork. The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems is a good book for this type of study. Another option might be Jan Greenburg's anthologies. They contain a lot of good modern artwork with a variety of poetry styles, although not all the poems may be appropriate for elementary kids. You will want to preview that one before giving it to him.  

 

Have you considered a music appreciation class? This is an easy one that can tie into just about any other unit study. Listen to music from the time period you're studying, draw the "picture" that the music makes in your mind, or narrate a story that the music makes you think of. Music that tells a story, such as Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikoskvy's Swan Lake or Nutcracker, Grieg's Peer Gynt, and Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, are some good ones to start with if you're interested in that approach. If you're interested in studying the orchestra, Those Amazing Musical Instruments teaches about each type of instrument in an orchestra with photos and an accompanying CD, so you can hear the difference between instruments.

 

Oh my goodness, what fun ideas! I have a bunch of the Benge books and hadn't even thought of them for this!! And you're right, an illustrated poetry anthology, pairing poems and art, would be FABULOUS with him.

 

He loves music, but we just do that for fun on occasion. I think that might be more than we get to, lol. But you're right, good ideas.

 

Thanks! :)

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Oh, we read Who Was Milton Hershey? And researched cocoa farming (lots of great YouTube videos) and then we made chocolate bars using a little kit I found at Walmart.

 

We also read "Who Was Sacajawea," "Who Wasn't a Thomas Jefferson," and "What Was the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Then we made a stop motion movie using playmobil.

 

 

Man, those were fun.

 

I'm intrigued by stop motion but haven't done it. Yes we play with playmobil a lot! Was it tedious? How did you do it?

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The Who Was books are not technically difficult to read, but they are packed with information. My son started reading them in first grade, and he is still asking for more here in third grade. He has learned so much! Many of the audio versions are quite cheap on Audible, too.

 

I'll have to look for these! I think I might have one. It's not a series I collected for dd, so it slipped from my mind. I agree that it sounds like that good mix of content and things to rabbit trail...

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I'm intrigued by stop motion but haven't done it. Yes we play with playmobil a lot! Was it tedious? How did you do it?

 

We used an app on the iPad - I am pretty sure it was Smoovie. We built a "set" out of a shoebox and used scrapbook paper to change the background. I taped something (cardboard probably) to the open side of the box and then taped the iPad to it - this kept it stable so it didn't move. I started out moving the pieces while he hit the button to take the pic, but then we switched roles. It ended up super cute. Oh, we wrote out captions and taped them to the background to explain what was happening.

 

Facebook made me remove the background music (some piano piece) but here is the video: https://www.facebook.com/781327151/videos/vb.781327151/10153143007932152/?type=3&theater

 

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We used an app on the iPad - I am pretty sure it was Smoovie. We built a "set" out of a shoebox and used scrapbook paper to change the background. I taped something (cardboard probably) to the open side of the box and then taped the iPad to it - this kept it stable so it didn't move. I started out moving the pieces while he hit the button to take the pic, but then we switched roles. It ended up super cute. Oh, we wrote out captions and taped them to the background to explain what was happening.

 

Facebook made me remove the background music (some piano piece) but here is the video: https://www.facebook.com/781327151/videos/vb.781327151/10153143007932152/?type=3&theater

 

That was awesome!

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