How This Whole Thing Got Started

Many teachers have asked me that question.  Well, it happened spontaneously like so many great ideas that I’m sure you have had.

One day I was teaching a second-grade class and we were reading “The Stories That Julian Tells.”  In the book, the father is whipping up “egg whites.”  For some reason I asked the students what egg whites were, and not one child knew.  So I drew one on the board and discussed it.  I had the students draw it on a piece of paper.  I labeled the parts, and asked the students to do the same, fully expecting them to be careful and label correctly.  WRONG! Their labels were in most cases written sideways and misspelled.  Their lines weren’t touching the part being labeled.  I taught proper labeling procedure and I noticed that the students were really “into it.”  They corrected their drawings and labels.

Soon after that, we came across the word “deck.” Again, I asked and no one knew what it was, so we drew a boat and labeled it.  Then the word “hinges” appeared as a choice on a popular assessment.  Only one child knew what hinges were.  (I think that was because his dad was in construction.)  

I wanted MY second graders to be the smartest ones going into third grade, so I decided to do something about expanding their background knowledge and vocabulary.  I said, “Let’s start our very own ‘Book of Knowledge.’  Let’s put all sorts of important things we need to know and remember in there.”  The students loved the idea.  I gave them each a journal, and away we went!  

The next year I asked a fourth-grade class if they wanted to make their own “Book of Knowledge.”  They got all excited (and still are)! Their reading and writing test scores went up so high that the whole school's grade went up from a D to an A. (Palm River Elementary, Tampa, Fl) in 2001.

Soon a third- grade teacher heard about it and how the students loved it.  She asked me to help her get started in her class.  Her students loved it, also.  Then another third-grade teacher wanted to try it and she and her class loved it.  One of the third grade teachers, suggested that I put all the pictures with labels in a book.

So, I decided to write my first book, The New Book of Knowledge, as a way of sharing this great, fun, and successful idea with other teachers. It is a teacher resource book. It became widely used in several counties across the US.  Years later, I decided to create The Illustrated Dictionary of Everyday Things for students.  They can use it in school to improve reading and writing, then take it home to become a part of their classroom library.

    For more information about The New Book of Knowledge click the image.