I read If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J Smith* and Steve Adams with my third graders.
Significant and often difficult concepts are scaled down and re-imagined so that readers can better comprehend them and their magnitude. The book starts in the milky way and narrows the scope: galaxy-solar system-planet-continents-resources-people. I focused much of our time on these four pages.
I had the students think about how they spend the hours in the school day and how much time those activities spend. After they made estimations, I showed them a pie chart of the time allocations for each school week. This activity helped them make a connection to the concepts in the book as well as appreciate how time has different value.
Seeing that the same amount of time is spent packing up as in Art was shocking to the students. They talked about all they learned and produced in the fifty minutes in art versus the time collecting homework and filling backpacks.
These two other pages provoked a significant amount of conversation.
I think they are the most compelling in the book and stimulated ideas for research and social action. Unfortunately there is not enough time left in this school year. We'll see what next year brings!
*DAVID J. SMITH is a classroom teacher with over 25 years' experience teaching English, Geography, and Social Studies in grade levels from 4 to 12. He achieved recognition for his unique method of teaching seventh graders to draw maps of the entire world from memory, now published by Fablevision as a highly successful curriculum, "Mapping The World By Heart"."