Monthly Archives: March 2016

Edgar Allan Poe Had a Time Machine

Check out this fantastic review of some of Poe’s lesser known stories and the eerie parallels to real-life occurrences.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allen Poe

The Businessman by Edgar Allen Poe

Eureka by Edgar Allen Poe

Could Edgar Allen Poe truly be a time-traveler?


Source: Edgar Allan Poe Had a Time Machine and I Can Prove it

Common Core Writing and ELLs | Edutopia

The first in a three part series, this article guides you through applying three key elements of the CCSS writing standards, with a particular focus on ELL Students.

Learn about what it means to apply three key elements of the CCSS writing standards — argument, informative/explanatory, and narrative — when teaching English-language learners.

Source: Common Core Writing and ELLs | Edutopia

High School Science title: “Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind” by Henry Hobhouse (1986)

When I was in ninth grade, I went on a long road trip with my parents.  Even though I was the youngest of four children, I was the only one living at home that year (my two oldest brothers were off at college, and my sister was spending a year abroad through a foreign exchange program), so I was also alone with my parents for the trip.  My mother had borrowed a book-tape (fast forward to the 21st century and she would have downloaded an audiobook) from our local library for the trip’s entertainment.  She selected Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind by Henry Hobhouse (1986).  This title proved to be an absolute revelation to me.  I was enthralled by the layers of cause-and-effect; by what appears to be inconsequential yet has enormous impact on the world.  The stories of man, mixed with the science of plants, changed the way I thought about the world around me.  I have reread and revisited Hobhouse’s work several times since then, each time building on new knowledge, experiences, and understandings.

At A Glance: Things to Know

  • Hobhouse, H. (1986). Seeds of change: Five plants that transformed mankind. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Lexile 989, ATOS 6.6  (recommended ATOS 8.5 due to background knowledge needs)
  • 255 pages
  • Basic background knowledge of world history recommended
  • Cross-discipline History and Science
  • Exceptional Annotated Index and Bibliography
  • Best presented in topical sections
  • Common language, witty, engaging


Seeds of Change: Five Plants that Transformed Mankind by Henry Hobhouse (1986) Lexile 989 Retrieved from

Seeds of Change: Five Plants that Transformed Mankind by Henry Hobhouse (1986) Lexile 989, ATOS 6.6 Retrieved from

Seeds of Change is a collection of succinct historical reviews that focus on five plants – quinine, sugar cane, tea, cotton, and the potato – that have had, as Hobhouse argues, a transformative relationship with human kind as we have progressed to this point in time.  While the topic might seem more applicable to history, the depth to which Hobhouse investigates the facts of each plant launches his work into the realm of natural science, environmental science, horticulture, pharmacology, nutrition and health, social science, and economics.

Without revealing some of the more interesting details presented by Hobhouse, a brief synopsis of the five plants that transformed mankind is as follows:

  • Quinine, derived from the bark of a cinchona tree discovered in South America in the early 19th century, was used to treat the symptoms of malaria, allowing for unlivable areas of the world be populated without fear of malarial epidemic.
  • Sugar cane’s addictive by-product refined sugar has had tremendous health effects on the world population, as well as fueled the international economy, including (but not exclusively) the slave trade.
  • Tea impacted the European peoples from its introduction as a beverage that, paired with the need to boil water before consuming, became extraordinarily addictive due to its caffeine content.  This in turn, like sugar cane, fueled economies and imperialistic growth world wide.
  • Before the American Civil War, cotton fueled the slave trade in the American south, and the trade economy in the American north.  The Industrial Revolution and Great Britain’s rule over India (where cotton could be grown and harvested cheaply), caused the cotton-driven economy of the US to fail pushing for new industries to develop.
  • Potatoes, originally a New World crop, afforded Irish an inexpensive and near-effortless food crop to sustain the poor even under siege by a treacherous British monarchy.  While an excellent high calorie food crop, the manner in which the Irish managed potato crops ultimately added  to the cause of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland.  And in turn, the Irish flooded the US, stimulating a tremendous influx of immigrants to the US from all over impoverished European countries.

Seeds of Change challenges higher level thinking, but is not a struggle to read

Seeds of Change is a pleasurable read, intended for the layperson, yet filled with well documented research that sometimes can prove to be more titillating than the leads chosen for the main argument (check out the rich index and footnote sections).  With a Lexile of 989/ ATOS of 6.6, and 255 pages (including an extensive index and bibliography), this title is an excellent choice to supplement typical high school science curriculum.  While much of the discussion deals more extensively with cause-and-effect of an historical nature, the background for the cause-and-effect arguments lay heavily in the realm of science.

The quantitative scoring of Seeds of Change suggests a much younger audience than the high school level, and might concern high school instructors that it is lacking in challenge.  However, while the Lexile and ATOS are scored fairly low (late sixth grade level), the subject matter is more suited to the background knowledge and critical thinking skills of high school students.  Middle school social science curriculum introduces world history, ancient history, and American history, all of which are necessary to grasp the bigger picture presented in Seeds of Change.  The complexity of the argument paired with abundant evidence makes this a challenging read despite the lower Lexile rating.  Furthermore, the high level thinking needed to understand causal relationships on a global scale is significantly beyond the capabilities of the typical 6th or 7th grader.  That being said, the ATOS score should be raised to 8.5.  Because this was written by a former journalist for the consumption of the layperson, the  vocabulary and sentence structure are less complex than what might be expected of a more academic text.  However, the ease of the common speech and the wit Hobhouse uses to make his argument does not interfere with the quality of the science, but instead makes it more digestible for the typical high school student.

Incorporating Seeds of Change into Your Curriculum

Seeds of Change: Six Plants that Transformed Mankind by Henry Hobhouse (2005) Retrieved from

Seeds of Change: Six Plants that Transformed Mankind by Henry Hobhouse (2005) Retrieved from

Exploration of the importance of biodiversity in the rain forest (quinine), the effects of single crop agriculture (potatoes), the chemical transmutations and effects on the human body (sugar, tea), the life cycle of mega crops (cotton), and the importance of clean water and dry land for human habitats (quinine) can all be found in this gripping “tale” of five plants.  While the entire book is meant to be read as a whole, each chapter can be effectively read alone and paired with the focal curriculum.  Nesting the scientific nature of plants and the environment within the engaging story of man and his civilization gives relevance to a topic that often “disengages” students when approached in a more clinical manner.


For suggestions on lesson plans where Seeds of Change might be incorporated, check out the following links:

In 1991, the Smithsonian Institute put out a publication loosely following a similar edict as Hobhouse’s research: Seeds of Change: a Quincentennial Commemoration is concerned with the New World plants that impacted the world.  While it is no longer being published, you can find inexpensive used copies here.  This would be another excellent supplement to the exploration of science curriculum, especially on topics of biodiversity and environmental impacts of agriculture.


In 2005, Henry Hobhouse added an additional plant – cocoa – to the original five, and republished with a new title Seeds of Change: Six Plants that Transformed Mankind.  I have not read the additional content, so cannot comment on it.  However, it might be a worthwhile addition for students, and provide some added relevancy – I mean what kid doesn’t love chocolate!



For reviews of the original publication Seeds of Change: Five Plants that Transformed Mankind (1986), check out the following:

  • Allen, D. E. (1986). Henry Hobhouse, Seeds of change. Five plants that transformed mankind, London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985, 8vo, pp. X, 245, illus. Medical History, 30(04), 483. doi:10.1017/S0025727300046172
  • Kiple, K. F. (1988). Henry Hobhouse. Seeds of change: Five plants that transformed mankind. New York: Harper and row. 1986. Pp. Xv, 252. The American Historical Review, 93(4), 1022–1023. doi:10.1086/ahr/93.4.1022

Curriculum Standards

AASL: 2.2.1 Demonstrate flexibility in the use of resources by adapting information strategies and by seeking additional resources when clear conclusions cannot be made.  2.3.2 Consider diverse and global perspectives in drawing conclusions.

CCSS:  CC11-12RH/SS6 Evaluate author’s differing points of view on the same event or issue by assessing the author’s claims, reasoning, and evidence.  CC11-12RH/SS8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other evidence.

NGSS:  Middle School and High School Life Science storyline:  MS-LS2 Ecosystems  MS-LS3 Heredity MS-LS4 Biological Evolution HS-LS2 Ecosystems HS-LS3 Heredity HS-LS4 Biological Evolution


Achieve. (2013). DCI arrangements of the next generation science standards. Retrieved from

American (2011). Crosswalk of the common core standards and the standards for the 21st-century Learner reading standards in history all AASL standards common core crosswalk. Huron St. Retrieved from

Hobhouse, H. (1986). Seeds of change: Five plants that transformed mankind. New York: Harper & Row.

Hobhouse, H. (2005). Seeds of change: Six plants that transformed mankind. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard.

Reading is a window to the world. (2007). . Retrieved from


Historical Fiction: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

If you are a middle school or high school teacher, you have probably taught To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) dozens of times, and probably you are thinking this is a gratuitous post – more of the same. And perhaps you are right.  However, Harper Lee’s story provides a platform for experiencing literature, rich in authenticity and the complexity of genuine life experiences, that it would be a shame not to promote To Kill a Mockingbird one more time.

At A Glance: Things to Know

  • Lee, H. (1960). To kill a mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
  • Lexile 890, ATOS 5.7 (recommended ATOS 6.5 due to background knowledge needs, as well as content requiring more mature social awareness)
  • 324 pages
  • Background knowledge recommended in American History: the pre-Civil Rights Movement American South, Jim Crow Laws, Racial Segregation, Great Depression Era
  • Cross-discipline English Language Arts and American History
  • Historical Fiction, narrative
  • Deep textual layers, emotionally intense storyline, excellent character development
  • Excellent choice for classrooms with a broad range of reading abilities
  • Excellent title to supplement American History of Pre-Civil Rights Movement American South
  • Excellent title to discuss social impacts of abject poverty
  • Excellent title to explore concepts of sympathy, empathy, and mercy


Original publication cover design of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Price winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) Retrieved from

Original publication cover design of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Price winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)   Lexile 890 ATOS 5.7  Retrieved from

Written as a narrative of the now-grown main character Jean Louise Finch (Scout), To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of the pivotal circumstances, events, people, and experiences that inspired her fundamental and deep understanding of the human condition.  Guided by her sober-minded and even-tempered father, Atticus Finch, Scout navigates a period of nearly three years of her childhood, filled with scrapes and trials, that ultimately lead to understanding the complexities of human experience, but not without tears, bruises, and unmitigated injustices.  Along with her older brother Jem, and beloved albeit transient best friend Dill, Scout explores her world which seems to be dominated by the rules of adults and the peculiarities of adult logic that is sometimes difficult for a child to comprehend.  Set during the Depression (1933 – 1935) in a small town in Alabama, the story approaches topics like abject poverty, racism, and bigotry from the perspective of a child’s observant and (somewhat) innocent eye.  Through authentic discovery, Scout pieces together a pure understanding of her father’s early advice to approach others with sympathy and empathy; to walk around in another’s skin for a bit, as Atticus put it, to gain an appreciation for his point of view.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-


Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

Movie poster for the 1963 movie depiction of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Note the warning "Not Suitable for Children" in the lower right side of the poster. Retrieved from

Movie poster for the 1963 movie depiction of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Note the warning “Not Suitable for Children” in the lower right side of the poster. Retrieved from

I don’t remember when I first read To Kill a Mockingbird, but I was teenager.  I loved it.  It defined me as a reader, and maybe even more importantly, it planted a seed in my mind to become a writer.  I have since read To Kill a Mockingbird at least a half a dozen times, and I have watched the 1962 movie (starring Gregory Peck) more times than I can count.  Of course, the movie and the book are not the same: the movie is an interpretation of the book that, one might argue, was befitting the time and the audience rather than staying true to the story itself.  Reading Harper Lee’s novel and watching Robert Mulligan’s depiction of her story are two different experiences.  And, as I can now approach the two from the perspective of teacher and librarian, I would be able to easily identify those students who watched the movie in lieu of reading the novel.

The movie focuses heavily on the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping and assaulting a young white woman suffering from the effects of abject poverty and ignorance.  While this is of major account in the novel, it is not by any means the focal point of Harper Lee’s story.  In fact, contrary to what many suggest, To Kill a Mockingbird is not about racism, discrimination, or the forced segregation of the pre-Civil Rights Movement in the American South.  It is about the shared experience of perceived difference, which in the end bonds us through our empathetic sensibilities.  While each of us has been shaped in unique ways – thus our differences as individuals – those experiences and circumstances that shape us are not unique to us alone; the human experience is shared, and we each have the capacity for sympathy and (hopefully) empathy for others in their struggles or fortunes.  And Harper Lee proves this through the eyes and heart of Scout, and the wisdom of Atticus Finch.

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

There is no shortage of ideas on how to incorporate this novel into the curriculum of a middle school or high school class.  With a Lexile 890 and 324 pages, this book can be covered easily over a two week period.  Because of the relatively low Lexile, classrooms with a broad range of reading abilities would have success with this novel.  However, the ATOS rating of 5.7 is lower than I would recommend due to the background knowledge required (pre-Civil Rights Movement in the American South, Racial Segregation, Jim Crow Laws, etc.), as well as some content that requires more mature social awareness than is typical of a 5th or 6th grader.  I would recommend an ATOS rating of at least 6.5.  Those with above average abilities will be challenged by the depth of character and story development, as well as the complexity of its aboutness.  Struggling readers might be challenged by the length, but the captivating story will likely make the challenge a fruitful one.  I would like to see To Kill a Mockingbird taught from the perspective of identifying and teaching empathy (using scenes like Jem’s & Scout’s relationship with Mrs. Henry Lafayette Debose, or with Walter Cunningham, or the experience going to church with Calpurnia, or even the pathetic character of Mayella Ewell).  Perhaps discussing the relationship of empathy to mercy (the mad dog comes to mind, or perhaps even the curious circumstances of the death of Tom Robinson, or the delicate nature with which Atticus treats Mayella Ewell while on the stand).  While I am not discounting the value of the great historical lesson that can be gleaned from Harper Lee’s depiction of the segregated American South, I feel very strongly To Kill a Mockingbird is far more complex and rich in textual layers, that to be singular in instructional topic would be like “killing a mockingbird.”

Here’s a short video on the difference between sympathy and empathy that might get students primed for recognizing it in literature:


Checkout these lesson plans for ideas on how to incorporate To Kill a Mockingbird in your classroom:

Curriculum Standards

AASL: 2.1.1 Use critical thinking skills applied to new information to draw conclusion and develop new knowledge.  2.1.6  Use the writing process and 21st media technology to create products and express new understanding. 2.3.1 Connect understanding to the real world.

CCSS:  CC6-8RH/SS6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal author’s POV.  CC9-10RH/SS9 Compare and contrast treatment of the same topic across multiple sources.  CC.9-10.R.L.1Key ideas and details, Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of explicit meaning and inferred meaning


American (2011). Crosswalk of the common core standards and the standards for the 21st-century Learner. Huron St. Retrieved from

American (2011). Crosswalk of the common core standards and the standards for the 21st-century Learner reading standards in history all AASL standards common core crosswalk. Huron St. Retrieved from

Lee, H. (1960). To kill a mockingbird. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Reading is a window to the world. (2007). . Retrieved from

The RSA (2013, December 10). Brené brown on empathy Retrieved from

OMG, I Can’t Even: Drama, Social Skills, and the Teenage Brain | Edutopia

Making everyday experiences a platform for learning:

Teen drama is the natural disconnect in socially and emotionally developing brains. Help them by honoring (not judging) their experience, teaching social skills, and encouraging reflection.

Source: OMG, I Can’t Even: Drama, Social Skills, and the Teenage Brain | Edutopia

Historical topic picture book: “Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers” (1996) by Karen B. Winnick

Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers by Karen B. Winnick Lexile Retrieved from

Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers by Karen B. Winnick Lexile 420 Retrieved from

In 1860, Grace Bedell is an 11 year girl who has taken a liking to the gentleman from Springfield, Illinois who is campaigning for the presidency of the United States.  While there is disagreement among her family members who is the right man for the job, Grace supports Lincoln.  Grace accepts that her social status as both child and girl renders her opinion inconsequential, yet she devotes herself to the idea of helping Mr. Lincoln be the preferred candidate for all those whose opinion does matter.  With consideration of Mr. Lincoln’s kind yet sad visage, Grace decides to encourage Mr. Lincoln to grow a beard to take after the fashion of the day.  Grace writes to Mr. Lincoln with her suggestion, and waits for a reply despite being teased by others for thinking a man of such prestige would waste his time to respond to a small girl.  Mr. Lincoln does respond, however, with kindness and an air of familiarity, pleasing Grace and impressing the community that doubted the power of a little girl.  Time passes, and word is sent that Mr. Lincoln has won the presidency.  On his way from Illinois to accept his position in Washington, D.C., Abraham Lincoln makes a stop in Grace Bedell’s hometown.  Mr. Lincoln has taken Grace’s advice and grown a beard; the first President of the United States to wear a beard, all owing to the suggestion of a little girl.

Abe Lincoln clean shaven, and with a beard. Retrieved from

Abe Lincoln clean shaven, and with a beard. Retrieved from

I was attracted to Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers for three reasons.  First, I liked the alternate perspective of a major historical figure.  In this case, the story’s point of view was of a young girl admiring Abraham Lincoln, rather than the more common approach of retelling the story of Abraham Lincoln.  Second, I liked that the main character behaved and expressed thoughts that are representative of what might be typical of an 11 year old girl;  often stories written about historical figures reveal omniscience which tends to be unbelievable.  And lastly, I LOVED the fact that this story was based on actual correspondence between an 11 year old girl and Abraham Lincoln, thus making available to elementary students a fundamental aspect of research and historical inquiry – the primary source.

“She hurried over to her desk.  She took a sheet of paper and dipped her feather-quill pen into a pot of ink.  By the light of the moon she wrote…” (p. 8)

Letter to Abraham Lincoln, from Grace Bedell c.1860 Retrieved from

Letter to Abraham Lincoln, from Grace Bedell c.1860 Retrieved from

At the end of the story, a turn of the page reveals photographs of the actual correspondence between Grace Bedell (age 11 in 1860) and Abraham Lincoln, the gentleman from Springfield, IL who is campaigning for presidency of the United States.  A very close friend of mine, who happens to be a veteran elementary school teacher and former middle school teacher, shared my enthusiasm when I told her about this surprise ending of Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers.  She pointed out that it is exceedingly difficult to teach students at the elementary level using historical primary sources that are relevant and meaningful (let alone, readable!).  Often the language is difficult to understand, and the subject matter more often than not concerns the perspectives and events of adults.  A connection to a major (and  favorite) historical figure such as Abraham Lincoln, to the perspective of a child of the same time period is gold to a teacher dedicated to bringing relevance and depth to history in the classroom.

“The chug-a-chug got louder and louder.  A bell rang.  Gray clouds rose from the engine’s smoke stack.  People shouted and waved flags.  The long, dark train drew into the station.

Grace stood on her toes but she could not see over the stovepipe hats and feather bonnets.  Where was Mr. Lincoln?  Was he speaking?  Should couldn’t hear with all the clapping and cheering.” (p. 25)

This story can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways.  With a Lexile of 420, this would be a perfect selection for reading alone or partner-reading in lower elementary grades.  Text is inlaid over full page illustrations that denote period costume and events.  The story representation of the correspondence between Lincoln and Miss Bedell are written in proper letter format on white background.  Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers can be used to direct students in identifying and applying correspondence format.  This story could also be a great supplement to US history lessons, exploring Abraham Lincoln and the presidential election of 1860, or exploring other historical elements like gender disparity.  This story can be used to compare and contrast elements of the historical time period to its counterpart in the 21st century.  And of course, this story allows primary sources to be brought into the elementary classroom in a relevant and inspiring manner.  Using Miss Bedell’s letter as inspiration, students can compose their own letters to the President.  With presidential election season upon us, it might also be an opportunity to introduce civic responsibilities.

AASL:  3.3.4 Create products that apply to authentic real-world contexts.  4.1.3 Respond to literature in various formats and genres

CCSS:  CC.3.W.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.  CC.3.SL.1.d  Explain own ideas and understanding in light of discussion.

For some ideas on how to incorporate Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers, check out the links below:

Children’s Literature: Social Studies:’s+Whiskers+Reinforcing+Activity

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Reading guide for Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers:

Education World: Five parts of a letter:


American (2011). Crosswalk of the common core standards and the standards for the 21st-century Learner. Huron St. Retrieved from

Reading is a window to the world. (2007). . Retrieved from

Winnick, K. B. (1996). Mr. Lincoln’s whiskers. Honesdale, Pa: Boyds Mills Press.


What Is Financial Literacy? | Edutopia

Check out this post which clarifies the concept of financial literacy, and identifies reasons why it should be part of the curriculum in grade schools as well as high schools.

As financial literacy expands beyond balancing a checkbook to include entrepreneurship and investing, schools must begin to define and teach this critical life skill.

Source: What Is Financial Literacy? | Edutopia

Teaching math through managing money: “Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday” (1978) by Judith Viorst

“Last Sunday, when I used to be rich, I used to have a dollar.  I do not have a dollar any more.  I’ve got this dopey deck of cards.  I’ve got this one-eyed bear.  I’ve got this melted candle.  And… some bus tokens.” (p. 25)

"Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday" by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Ray Cruz. Lexile 570 Adult-directed Retrieved from

“Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday” by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Ray Cruz. Lexile 570 Adult-directed Retrieved from

One of the surest ways that I know to get students of any age to understand math is to deal with money.  And only slightly less effective is to apply principles of mathematics to favorite foods like cookies, pizza, and candy.  Children learn the advantages of money at a very early age: Money is useful to get things that they want.  They learn the values of coins and bills, and learn to negotiate payment for services (chores), as they observe and interact with their families and local community.  In my experience, even the most mathematically resistant student will look like a wiz when posed with a math problem headed by a dollar sign.  Percentages, fractions, proportions, and even algebra are more easily navigated if money is the topic.  Of course this is not to say that students are financially literate.  When I came across Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday (1978) by Judith Viorst, I was instantly attracted to the possibility of not only using this picture book for math instruction, but for financial literacy instruction as well.

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Ray Cruz. Lexile 970 Adult-directed Retrieved from

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Ray Cruz.  Lexile 970 Adult-directed    Retrieved from

Alexander (the same beloved character from the well known story Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972) by Judith Viorst) has received a dollar bill from his grandparents on their visit, but cannot manage to save his money.  Over the course of a week, Alexander has squandered his treasure.  To add insult to injury, Alexander is faced with his older brothers’ uncanny ability to hold on to their money.  Tortured by their teasing and taunting, Alexander retaliates prompting his Father to fine him for his bad behavior. (I have a special appreciation for this: My father would fine me and my siblings for bad behavior, rather than doling out other more common types of punishments.)  Lamenting his poor money management skills, Alexander discovers that it is difficult to save money, and equally as difficult to earn money; but to spend money is far too easy!

Uses in the Classroom

There are so many uses for this picture book in the classroom.  I feel comfortable that this would be a well-received story from kindergarten through 6th grade, because Alexander is a familiar and well-loved character.  Alexander is also imperfect, making him an especially engaging and sympathetic character.

“Mom says if I really want to buy a walkie-talkie, save my money.  Saving money is hard.” (p.11)

Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday can be used to develop reading and listening skills in young and emergent readers.  Short bursts of text (Lexile 570) surrounded by white space are supported by highly expressive black and white illustrations, adding visual context clues to aid in comprehension of the corresponding text.  Key words are repeated throughout the story, and stylistic patterns pop up throughout the story, reinforcing the iterative learning process.  Because the context of the story is familiar and relevant to the audience, the life skills lessons being taught serve as an extra layer for learning.

“It isn’t fair that my brother Anthony has two dollars and three quarters and one dime and seven nickels and eighteen pennies.” (p.1)

Math instruction or practice can be easily integrated into the reading experience.  Students can be directed to add up the amounts that Alexander spends using mental math skills , or as a challenge, they can subtract from his starting point of one dollar.  Students can also be challenged to add the amounts each of Alexander’s brothers have, computing numerical value from money vocabulary listed in the story.  Students can chart Alexander’s spending, practicing organization of data.

“My father told me to put the dollar away to pay for college.

He was kidding.” (p. 8)

Financial literacy – which includes understanding the value of money, as well as developing skills in handling money responsibly – can also be addressed using Alexander, Who used to Be Rich Last Sunday.  Class discussion of choices – what, how, and why choices are made – and the repercussions of those choices is a great place to start.  Discussing and demonstrating the hows and whys of saving money is another great lesson in financial literacy.  Finally, discussing the ease with which Alexander spends his money compared to the difficulty he has to make money will help students understand the value of money not just as currency for purchasing, but demonstrating the value of money as payment for hard work.

For examples of lesson plans check out the following:

Second grade lesson plans:  Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday  – Financial and economic concepts

Scholastic Lesson Plans, Grades 3 – 6: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday – Understanding Opportunity Costs

Second grade lesson plans: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday – Making Choices

Kindergarten through 2nd grade lesson plans: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday – Coin Values

AASL: 1.1.2 Use background knowledge as context for new learning

CCSS: 5.NF.6 Solve real world problems involving multiplication of fractions and mixed mumbers  K.CC.4a Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities  K.MD.3  Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category; sort the categories by count


American (2013). Crosswalk of the common core standards and the standards for the 21st-century Learner. Huron St. Retrieved from

Common core state standards initiative. (2016). Retrieved March 14, 2016, from

Crawford, J. (2011). Math solutions lesson from the classroom Alexander used to be rich A lesson for grades K–2 overview of lesson. Retrieved from

Grade Two making choices. (2005). . Retrieved from

Reading is a window to the world. (2007). Retrieved from

Second grade – mathematics – FITC. Retrieved March 14, 2016, from

Shirley. (2012, March 28). Resources and lesson plans for financial literacy. Retrieved March 14, 2016, from Integrated Studies,

Upromise. Retrieved March 14, 2016, from

Viorst, J., & Cruz, R. (1972). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. New York: Atheneum

Viorst, J., & Cruz, R. (1978). Alexander, who used to be rich last Sunday. New York: Atheneum.