Friday, October 9, 2009

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose--but not always

It’s good that a book can be about different things to different people. A biography about Lincoln is, of course, a book about Lincoln. But one reader might be captivated by the portrait of a marriage, another by the polarization of nineteenth century America, still another by the amazing triumph of such a melancholy man under unspeakable pressure.

Not long ago, I wrote a blog entry on why I wrote On This Spot, my book that describes a specific place in New York City from present day all the way back through geologic time. If you want, you can read it at In it, I said that the book was inspired by my wanting to convey to kids that things change. That was true, but I also loved intriguing kids with the mind-bending idea that one spot could be home to everything from wooly mammoths to mountain tops to a tropical sea. The book meant both things to me. Someone from New York told me he loved the enduring quality it gave to a spot in lower Manhattan very close to where the World Trade Center once stood. Many kids mention loving the fact that dinosaurs walked on what became Fifth Avenue.

Teachers have told me that they like the book for different reasons too. One used it to teach a math lesson. She had her kids compute the number of years between each event and space themselves on a timeline of correct proportions down the school corridor.

Another teacher had his students use their town as Their Spot and see how far back in time they could go.

I did a workshop at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan where I presented kids with many objects from my cell phone to a rock to Barbie to a pocket watch and had them arrange the items from newest to oldest. If they had been older and in a classroom, I would have brought in more objects and helped them learn to research to determine the right chronological order.

I have assembled some of these ideas and others in a teachers guide for On This Spot. You can access them at Or, you can make one up that speaks to you.

I’d love to hear about it.

Part of a 20-foot scroll in which kids illustrated the book with their own pictures. What a welcome into their school!


Vicki Cobb said...

Susan, what a fabulous way to capture the imagination! Truly you think outside the box! It links the present to the past by making something personal. The IDEA of a timeline becomes the backbone concept that is decorated with all kinds of facts from history and science creating a conceptual framework for real learning. Brava!

Loreen Leedy said...

That's a fun idea to have them put objects in chronological order.

matt jacob said...

ON THIS SPOT is one great, interesting read for both kids and adults. A perfect teaching tool.