Monday, November 17, 2014

Concepts of Time

My daughter is in 4th grade, and last month, she and her classmates were studying the concept of time: units of time and comparisons and contrasts of how you calculate time. I couldn't resist getting out Just a Second: A Different Way to Look at Time by Steve Jenkins (2011). Sure enough, one Sunday afternoon, my daughter and our neighbor, also a 4th grader, were on all fours in our front yard, trying to pace themselves with the giant tortoise's movement in one minute (15 feet), and comparing that to the stride of a human walking at a "brisk pace," who might cover 300 feet in that same minute. 

The comparison between the human stride and that of the giant tortoise in the book fascinated them, as did the other items placed across the "In One Minute..." two page spread: the moon, a grizzly bear, a skydiver, a person standing on the equator, a common snail, and a three-toed sloth. These understandings of time, movement, and space can't be fully understood just by reading the book. The kids needed to move. Their natural instinct was to play, to embody different animals that move in different ways and cover different lengths of space within the same period of time. 

It reminded me of two and half years ago, when Erika and I were working with a fifth grade teacher while writing Teaching with Text Sets. The 5th grade was exploring the solar system, and we knew that we couldn't teach them about rotation, revolution, and the seasons merely through texts -- print or multimodal. The students needed to move to gain that conceptual understanding, to embody the concept. 

Another book that is wonderful at demonstrating the concept of time, as rooted in the concept of the earth's rotation, is At the Same Moment Around the World written and illustrated by Clotilde Perrin, a fictional picture book introduced by Chronicle Books this year, originally published in France in 2011. The book is gorgeous, and begins and ends at the very same moment: six am in Dakar, Senegal, where a boy and his father count fish caught in nets during the night. At that very same moment, the rest of the book unfolds. We move through each hour on the clock, and see a different child somewhere in the world, going about his/her daily business in cities and rural areas, in deserts and mountain communities. Children can read this book sitting next to a globe, tracing the book's journey across this single moment. A fold-out world map with the children's faces in the margins is included in the back to guide the reader. The book illuminates concept of time and space, reinforces geographical understandings, and celebrates children from different cultures and communities across the globe. 

These are just two books to harness for classroom exploration of the interconnectedness of math and science. Lucky us! For more on using children's books to teach concepts of time, you can check out The Classroom Bookshelf entry on Just a Second, written back in January 2012. 

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