Book review and instructional suggestions for Tooling Around: Crafty Creatures and the Tools They Use (Jackson, 2014). This is one of those books you could read aloud to k-2 students multiple times – in multiple ways for multiple purposes. There is a short rhyming text on each page that names an animal’s tool and its purpose and, in a different font, on the opposite page, there is informational text describing the animal and its tool use in more detail. You could just read the rhyming text – the first time around and have interesting conversations with students. You could read the informational text a second time around and deepen your conversation with students. (See my caution below about starting with second page of informational text.)
At the beginning of the school year when we are teaching students how to use the materials in our classroom – this might be an engaging read aloud that also highlights how tools have a “purpose,” how tools help us achieve particular “goals.” A discussion of the fascinating facts in this book could lead into a discussion of the “tools” we use in our classroom – scissors, pencils, crayons, paint, and so forth and the “purpose” of these tools and our “goals” when we use these tools.
If you are trying to think about integrating Common Core thinking into your discussions of texts you read aloud to students, consider the following:
- RI.7 Describe relationship between illustrations and text. Put some of the illustrations on the document camera or project with Smartboard and ask the students to think about the relationship between the illustrations and the text. In this book – they clearly support each other, but the illustrations also take the reader deeper…providing more insight than the rhyming text. You might say, “When we look at the illustration, what else can we learn about how the Bowerbirds decorate their homes when they are looking for a mate?” or just ask “What do you notice?” (Students might notice the plethora of berries, flowers, nuts and the variety of materials and so forth.)
- RI.9 – Compare two texts on the same topic. There’s a page in the book about chimps using sticks to pull termites out of a mount. I’d read the rhyming text and the informational text (very straightforward – even for kindergarten) and then watch the 2 minute National Geo video at – http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/jane-goodall/videos/almost-human-chimps-human-tools.htm. The video shows the chimps doing the same thing with a short commentary by Jane Goodall about discovering this behavior; towards the end of the video, though, we see a baby chimp trying to fish for termites with a blade of grass – unsuccessfully and then a sister chimp teaching him how to do it the right way. Really delightful to watch. (There is one statement by Goodall about redefining what we mean by “human” that will probably go over students’ heads, but it’s quick and doesn’t detract from what primary grade students can understand.)
I also found a set of short videos on animal tool use at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/adaptations/Tool_use_by_animals including one about the finch using a cactus spine – which is also in the book. You could compare the two, but you could also use other videos in the set for students to watch independently or with a partner and to write a response. Their responses could be compiled into a class book. You could challenge advanced students to research one animal and create a presentation to share with the class. There’s lots of potential here.
When you prep for using this book, a couple of notes—
- The informational paragraph on the first page is a little dense for primary grade students. This is NOT a problem in the rest of the book. I’d skip that page and start with the informational text on the next page about finches and their use of the cactus spine to dig.
- Read aloud the rhyming text to yourself first. There’s a couple of places that I tripped up – like the page about the octopus – you have to phrase and pause in a spot to make the rhyme work – just pay attention to the author’s use of a dash.
Okay…hope this helps.