Monday, April 20, 2009

Down, Down, Down

I'm in the middle of teaching a life science unit right now. The teaching points are biomes, ecosystems, food chains, food webs, interdependence of living things, and carrying capacity . We don't currently have a science textbook in our school district (which I don't mind), so it makes us focus on finding good quality trade books to share with our students.

In my next few posts, I'd like to share some of the wonderful books my colleagues and I have found that deal very well with this topic of life science.

I recently found Steve Jenkins' newest book, Down Down Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea. I was initially drawn to this book because of the front cover visuals -- I was familiar with this author/illustrator (he's amazing!), and also because the front cover is so vibrant with color.

Then, I looked inside at the contents and knew I had found another fabulous non-fiction mentor text. Jenkins has taken one topic (ocean), and with each turn of the page, he has us descend further and further down through the water. Each page also contains fabulous illustrations (done in several different mediums), all labeled to help the reader. Along the right side of the 2-page layout, is a bar, which serves as a yardstick for where we are in our descent -- surface, sunlit zone, twilight zone, dark zone, the abyssal plain, and the hydrothermal vents. This is a technique that students could modify to use with almost any topic of their choice.

Then there is the text on each page -- it has amazing facts. I learned so much as I read. And the text is in very kid-friendly language. It would make a great read aloud, but children from grades 3 and up will easily be able to sit down and read this independently. I can envision my 5th graders doing a partner reading, and yelling out repeatedly, "Look at this! This is amazing! Can you believe this?" The information is truly just that good.

At each turn of the page, Jenkins pulls the reader in visually. As we descend through the ocean, we find it darker and darker, yet each living thing just pops off the page.

But, the final reason I just had to buy this book -- Jenkins does a wonderful job explaining the different ecosystems that exist within the ocean. My students will make many connections with what they've already learned and what he shares in this book.

I can't wait to share Down Down Down with my students!!! And if it teaches them a little something in the process, all the better.


  1. B/N says May 2009. How'd you get so lucky to find it in April? Let me guess. CTC?

  2. Hi ML -- you guessed it! CTC at the Carl Anderson conference. Great book!

  3. We used this book for homeschooling and absolutely love it!