Thursday, April 25, 2013

Excerpt of Common Core guide for The Mighty Mars Rovers


I did not write The Mighty Mars Rovers with the Common Core standards in mind, but it turns out that all of my nonfiction books, and I would venture to say virtually all of the I.N.K. bloggers nonfiction titles, offer rich opportunities to support Common Core learning.  (Adopted in 45 states, the Common Core State Standards will be shaping teaching and learning across the country in years to come.)

But how exactly can teachers use high-quality nonfiction to support Common Core learning? Teacher Erin Dees and I collaborated on a Common Core guide to The Mighty Mars Rovers, which you can download for free here.  Before giving students these Common Core tasks, I hope teachers will first have students read and enjoy the book. I think being engaged in a book can inspire kids to be more interested in delving into how the book was researched and written.

What follows are some excerpts from our guide.  I hope to make Common Core guides for all my other nonfiction titles, so I would love any feedback from teachers, other educators, and other writers…

Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
  • Ask students to describe the overall structure of The Mighty Mars Rovers and why author Elizabeth Rusch might have structured it that way. What are some other structures she might have considered? How would they have changed the book? What would be gained and what would be lost?
  • The author also uses all of the structures listed above within the main structure. Where? Why?
    • Chronology of events. EX: The book is written chronologically for each rover.
    • Comparison of ideas, concepts, and information. EX: The book switches focus from rover to rover in order to compare their two journeys.
    • Cause/effect & problem/solution. EX: Many obstacles cause the rovers to put their journeys on hold. The team works together to free/help the rovers.
  • The rovers encountered some obstacles along the way. Ask students to describe the cause and effect of each situation. Summarize how the JPL dealt with and solved problems the rovers encountered:
    • Opportunity’s jam in the Purgatory Dune on page 55.
    • Spirit’s stuck wheel on page 59.
    • Dust storm on page 64.
  • The book spans more than eight years, so some material was left out. Ask students to compare events in the book to those described in mission update on the website What did the author emphasize and what did she leave out? Why? Do you think there was anything else she should have included? Why?
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6 Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
  • The book provides many opportunities to teach text features. It includes titles, subtitles, sidebars, maps, images, captions, maps, an index, a table of contents, and a glossary. Create a treasure hunt to help students find and understand these important text features.
  • Ask students to interpret the photographs of Steve Squires as a child and young man on page 8 and 9. What do they tell us about Steve? Why did the author include them? How will/do they help us understand the motivations and passions of Steve Squires?
  • What does the diagram of the solar system on page 14 tell us about the launch of the rovers? How does this diagram contribute to the understanding of the text on page 15?
  • Page 53 displays a map of Opportunity’s adventures. How does this map help the reader understand the journey of the rover?
  • Ask students to interpret the image on page 64. Ask students to explain how the information detailed in the image relates to the story on page 64, starting: “Suddenly, whoosh, a huge dust storm blew in.” What does the image show? Why did the author decide to add this image? How would the image affect your perception of the story if it was an image of only the last measurement?

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • Students may combine information from The Mighty Mars Rovers with information from other books on the same topic to compile research papers. Check out Cars on Mars by Alexandra Siy or Eyewitness Mars by Stuart Murray.
  • Have students pick a subtopic from the book to research. They may use the book and other resources to write short informational reports. Potential topics:
    • Early Mars exploration
    • Rover tools/parts of the rover
    • Life of Mars
    • Powering the Rovers
    • Landing rovers on Mars
  • The next Mars rover, Curiosity, landed on Mars in August 2012 and offers a great opportunity deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of space exploration. Send students to the NASA website on the mission: Ask students to compare the two missions. How are they the same? How are they different? How have rover design, launch, and landing changed? What are the biggest challenges of each mission? How were they overcome? What questions are the missions designed to answer? What tools do the rovers and scientists have to answers those questions? What questions might come next?
You can download the whole guide on my website: or go here. We welcome any comments and suggestions!

Elizabeth Rusch

1 comment:

Shannon Baker said...

writing and reading is a good habit. I also like this two part.

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