Tag Archives: picture books

The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks by Joanna Cole

Bibliographic Information:
Cole, Joanna (1986). The magic school bus at the waterworks. New York: Scholastic Inc.

Plot Description: The students find their teacher, Ms. Frizzle very strange because of her clothes and the projects she has them do, but they haven’t seen anything until their field trip. While other classes get to visit the zoo or circus, Ms. Frizzle takes her class to the waterworks. The students are in for a surprise as the bus goes through a dark tunnel and they find themselves in scuba gear as the bus rises into the sky. Once in the clouds the students leave the bus and experience the water cycle from the point of view of water. They rain down into a stream and are carried into the waterworks, through its various stages of water purification, through the pipes and back into their school via the bathroom facet.

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Mesure: AD660L, ATOS Book Level: 3.7, Interest Level: Lower Grades (K-3), Scholastic Grade level Equivalent: 3.9, DRA: 38

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The text is slightly to moderately complex in that graphics and charts are mostly supplementary to understanding the text. The illustrations in the book are labeled to help students understand processes and parts of the waterworks. Most pages of the story include water facts (10 in total) on notebook paper that look like reports by students and at the end the characters prepare an illustrated water cycle chart that sums up what has been learned in the book. There are also posters around the classroom in the illustrations that offer more insights. The vocabulary is mostly contemporary, familiar, conversational and rarely overly academic. The text structure is primarily simple and compound sentences. Knowledge demands rely on common practical knowledge and some discipline-specific content knowledge, but any unfamiliar water vocabulary is explained by the character of Ms. Frizzle, in the water facts reports and in parts of the narrative. The text seems to fall into the slightly complex category based on language being explicit, literal, straightforward and easy to understand. Connections between ideas and processes are clear and organization of text is chronological. The purpose of the text is explicitly stated, clear, concrete and narrowly focused. At the end of the book notes are provided for ‘serious students only’ that tell students which parts of the story are true and what are ‘jokes’ from the author.

Content Area: Reading, Science (Environmental)

Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

English Language Arts Standards for Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.3.2.a Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.

CA Next Generation Science Standards: Grade 3

Systems and System Models

A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions. (3-LS4-4)

Curriculum Suggestions: This book would be perfect for a unit to learn how water is recycled and used over and over through the water cycle and how precipitation, evaporation, and condensation are interconnected in the water cycle. In the unit students will define and use water vocabulary words correctly, use reading resources to develop a list of facts about water, record events in sequential order as they complete a graphic organizer on the four parts of the water cycle, write a summary detailing how the water cycle works and observe what happens to water that gets hot in a sealed container. Watch the Waterworks episode of the Magic School Bus animated series.

Supporting Digital Content:




Awards: Horn Book Award, School Library Journal Best Book

Personal Thoughts: I loved this series as a kid and had a hard time deciding which one to put in my blog. I settled on this one because it was the first in the series and one of my favorites.

Series information: Magic School Bus Series

Character names/descriptions: Ms. Frizzle-Wacky teacher who helps kids experience learning in a whole new way.

High interest annotation: Ms. Frizzles’ class is in for the field trip of a life time as they soar into clouds and drop into a mountain stream while taking a hands-on trip to learn about the water cycle.

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