Tag Archives: Science

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Bibliographic Information:

Hawking, Stephen (1998). A brief history of time. New York: Bantam Books.

Plot Description: Brilliant scientist Stephen Hawking attempts to lay out, as the title implies, a brief history of time and our universe for the ‘average’ reader. He is taking on a difficult task, because his theories require a depth of scientific knowledge, not possessed by most people. Hawking begins with a look at our universe’s past and how our perception of it has been ever evolving throughout human history. He discusses the how and why of the beginning of our universe with the Big Bang and if, how and why the universe will end. Hawking delves into many fascinating aspects of time and space.

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: 1290L, ATOS Book Level: 10.5, Interest Level: Upper Grades (9-12)

Qualitative Reading Analysis: This book is written for people who are not scientists, but it is by no means an easy text to comprehend. All the scientific vocabulary and concepts are explained, but readers may still have difficulty understanding the explanations of concepts without a foundation in scientific knowledge and ideas. Knowledge of concepts related to space and time would be particularly helpful in understanding the book. The author does provide many analogies from everyday life situations to illustrate the basic ideas behind difficulty concepts. The text structure is exceedingly complex in that connections between an extensive range of ideas, processes or events are deep, intricate and often ambiguous and organization is intricate and discipline-specific. The text is very complex in its use of graphics. Tables, charts and graphs support understanding of the text. Vocabulary is complex, subject specific and academic in places and conversational in others. Sentences are composed of several subordinate clauses with transition words and are complex. The purpose of the book is clearly to educate people about the universe, but it includes many theoretical or abstract elements. The subject matter relies on extensive levels of discipline specific and theoretical knowledge, which includes a range of challenging abstract concepts. Many references are made to outside ideas and theories. The author attempts to explain these theories and concepts, but many students may have difficulty understanding, even with the aid of the author’s explanations and graphics.

Content Area: Science (Physics), Reading

Content Area Standard: California’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Grades Nine through Twelve

HS-ESS1-2. Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe.

HS-ESS1-3. Communicate scientific ideas about the way stars, over their life cycle, produce elements.

HS-ESS1-4. Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.

Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6–12

CCSS RST.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students create a comic book to explain a concept from the book. Discuss or write essays on various topics from the book with textual evidence for support, such as examining the different dimensions of the universe or the possibilities of time travel.

Supporting Digital Content: 


Character names/descriptions: None. It is about concepts, rather than characters.

Personal Thoughts: This book was a little too scientific for me in parts and I had difficulty with many of the concepts. I think this book would be difficult for most high school students. From what I understood, the ideas sound fascinating and I would be interested in reading the simplified or illustrated versions of the book and perhaps using those with students instead.

High interest annotation: Discover the complexities of the universe through the mind of a brilliant scientist.

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Filed under Non-fiction Science Title for High School

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Bibliographic Information:
L’Engle, Madeleine (2005). A wrinkle in time. New York: Laurel-Leaf.

Plot Description: Meg is a Teen girl who doesn’t feel she fits in, the only one who understands her is her young brother Charles Wallace. These two must go on a fantastical journey through time to find their missing father, who may be in danger. They are accompanied on their quest through time and space by Calvin, an older boy from Meg’s school and aided by three strange ‘unearthly’ old women: Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, all of whom are certainly much more than meets the eye. Their journey takes them to several planets, one of which is ruled by ‘IT’ an evil disembodied brain that bends the population to its will and forces everyone into conformity. The children try to resist being hypnotized and taken over by ‘IT’. In order to save them from evil Meg must discover on her own, the one thing she has that ‘IT’ does not.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 740L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 4.7 Common Core State Standards Appendix B Titles-CCSS Grade Band 6-8

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The book contains figurative language such as symbolism, metaphors, allusions and imagery. There is also some science vocabulary relating to physics concepts and time travel. Multiple themes such as struggle to fit in, conformity, good vs. evil, fate and free will are familiar to many readers, however the experiences in the book are not. First person narration provides accurate but limited perspectives or viewpoints. The text structure includes shifts in time and more complex characters, such as a 5 year old with special gifts that make him wise far beyond his years with an ability to read people, in addition to other worldly creatures that can change their appearance. The book contains elements of both moderately and very complex texts according to the SCASS Rubric, thus I would simply call it complex. However, the CCSS call it somewhat complex.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Science (Physics & Astronomy)

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

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Curriculum Suggestions: Examine literary devices, plot, theme, figurative language, character development, etc used in the novel. Discuss themes of self-perception, courage and place in family & school. Write a continuation to a chapter or end of novel. Create your own fictional planet and its inhabitants. Use the special edition of the book and read the essay on science in the novel as an opener for further learning and discussion of scientific theories related to the story.

Supporting Digital Content: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/sites/default/files/asset/file/a-wrinkle-in-time-bookfile.pdf



Awards: Newberry Medal, NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, School Library Journal Best Book, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award

Series information: Time Quartet

Character names/descriptions: Meg an awkward high school girl who travels through time to rescue her father , Charles Wallace Meg’s highly intelligent 5 year old brother who has a gift for reading people, Calvin a popular neighbor boy who accompanies Meg and Charles Wallace on their journey.

Additional Information: This Special Edition includes an essay about the real-life science that inspired the book.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to middle and high school students, especially those who enjoy fantasy or adventure.

High interest annotation: Three young people travel through space and time to fight evil.

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Filed under Classic/Contemporary Novel Pairing