The Salamander Room: Amphibians & Reptiles
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It’s the last day of March, 2014! Surely it will be time to choose spring titles and enjoy the good weather. The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer is an adventuresome tale of a young boy on a quest to keep a critter he finds in the woods.
Author Inspiration & The Making of a Book
We had the amazing opportunity to meet Anne Mazer last fall when she agreed to meet with our Writer’s Workshop group in our home. I was reading in the back of Spilling Ink, a book we use in workshop (which she co-authored) and it turns out she lives in our town! I reached out and she was delighted to join us. We were thrilled to listen to her stories about being an author and we learned the inspiration for The Salamander Room. Here are some tidbits of what she shared with us that day:
- The Salamander Room was inspired by a boy asking his mom “what if” questions while she was on a group hike one day. All kinds of experiences lead to writing ideas! She’s never seen the boy since. Our writers thought it would be so cool if the grown boy were to find out he was the subject of this timeless tale.
- We saw the galley copy of the book– A book galley is a preliminary copy of the book with most things final, but the author has a chance to change a few things if they are not right.
- Author’s Notes– We saw an entire folder of notes and manuscripts of the book. Bits and pieces of her writing process- just fabulous!
- The publishing process– She told us many stories of how a book comes to be from notes to published book. The kids were riveted and could have listened for hours.
- What else? We learned about other books she has written and what books are in the works- like a sequel to Spilling Ink.
- Bonus– She was thrilled to listen to the kids’ workshop stories that day. What an experience for the kids to be heard by our special guest that day.
Studying Amphibians & Reptiles
Spring is a wonderful time to get out and observe reptiles and amphibians. Vernal pools abound where these critters will make their seasonal start. Make plans to get out and observe!
- Peterson Guide to Amphibians & Reptiles– Having a good field guide along can help you to identify species you find.
- Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians– by the National Audubon Society. We love this series of guides. It has a useful section of photographs with plenty of information included.
- Smithsonian Handbook- Reptiles & Amphibians– A well photographed DK guide to these animals
- One Small Square Series– these books illustrate and explain in great detail the focus habitat from under the ground up to the sky in one small section of earth. Pond, Backyard, and Woods would be a fabulous addition to any study.
- The Snake Project– Rebecca’s project based biology course for 8th grade
Teaching Classification of Organisms
The study of animals gives you the perfect chance to introduce the categorizing of animals (and plants or other organisms). Discuss:
- Linnaean Classification– A way to sort organisms by their like characteristics developed by Carl Linnaeus in the early 1700s.
- Bionomial Nomenclature– Widely regarded as the biggest contribution Carl Linnaeus gave to the categorization of organisms.
- Domains– Are you aware that there is a new level of classification above Kingdom? I have to admit this was new to me as I studied with my kids this year in biology- and I’m a certified biology teacher! The domains identify two types of bacteria and then eukaryotic life forms as the three domains. Which means if you use Domains, then you also have a four Kingdom system of classification.
The Classification Game
There are a variety of ways to play this classification game. You’ll need a large number of pictures of animals. If you want to include plants and other kingdoms that’s fine too. You’ll need to determine how big you want this game to be. You can use it to cover all of the classification system or just portions of it. The pictures here show classes within the animal kingdom. A few ways to play:
- Plain Sorting– Give the student a large pile of animal pictures with no labels. Have them sort the animals into groups based on their characteristics. When all the animals have been sorted, have them take the class labels and place them with the correct group. This is a fun way for kids to discover how animals are alike and different and from there to identify and name the criteria for membership to a group.
- Sort into Classes– In this version, set out the labels for the classes (and whichever other groups you want to include- orders, for example) and give the students the pictures. They must put the picture under the correct label. They can play alone or with others and take turns.
- Race– this game is played with the labels already out and you provide each time with a set of the pictures. See who can win first. If you are playing in several groups and the winner isn’t entirely correct, then they are out and the other teams can start again.
Resources for Studying The Salamander Room
- Giant Science Resource Book from Evan Moor– This is one of my favorite books for simple, clean, thorough notebook pages for elementary and early middle school science.
- Fold n Learn – by Five in a Row. FIAR offers free fold n learns for their units if you sign up for their mailing list. What a deal!
- Five in a Row unit on The Salamander Room at Blog, She Wrote
- Adventure Box: Insects & Critters– has many ideas and resources for keeping your own amphibian and reptile pets
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Have fun exploring critters and habitats in the warm weather this spring!
Join other iHomeschool Network bloggers for A Book & A Big Idea Spring. Put a little spring in your homeschooling this season with lots of seasonal book ideas.
The Salamander Room is one of my ALL TIME favorite children’s books — so beautiful! We’ve had it in our home since my 19 year old daughter was small. My twin boys (almost 6) adore it.
So awesome you got to meet the author!
Dianna, it was so great to meet her. She’s so close by and the kids loved the time she gave. She had NO idea how popular the book still is and especially with homeschoolers. It really took her by surprise that 100s of thousands of kids have been homeschooled with Five in a Row studying her book. I took the manual off the shelf and showed it to her. Then I got to ask if she really tried to use all those literary devices mentioned in the lessons. Answer: No! haha
We, too, absolutely love The Salamander Room. Your extension activities are great! I think we need to revisit this ourselves. 🙂
Thanks Eva! Enjoy it!
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