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Going Back to Your Roots Helps to Heal Along With Learning Lessons From Ants in Engaging Chapter Book for Middle Grade

Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Mistakes Are Part of Life Along With What We Can Learn From Ants


Going Back to What You Know and Adding New Experiences Can Help With Forgiving Yourself

Betty Culley's The Natural Genius of Ants is an authentic and engaging chapter book novel for middle grade readers that offers an important life lesson in forgiving ourselves for mistakes made throughout life. The middle grades are a time in life when more mistakes will be made and children need to have the skill in forgiving themselves in order to grow into adults.

Harvard's dad is a doctor who made a mistake in his professional practice. He finds it impossible to forgive himself for losing an infant patient. His dad decides that going back to the small town that he grew up in will help in healing and recovering from his mistake. He wants to take Harvard and his little brother along to spedn the summer in Kettle Hole. Harvard wonders if this will actually help his dad to forgive himself for the loss. Harvard sees that being there is actually making a difference in his dad's feelings after being there for a few weeks. They want to experience a new hobby by starting an ant farm for the time that they are spending in Kettle Hole. They order the ant farm and the arrival of the new project is not what Harvard expected. The ants arrive deceased, which is not what Harvard wants his dad to experience. He and his brother devise a creative scheme to replace the deceased ants with ants from the kitchen and the adventure of catching these ants before his dad finds out begins. Readers will find this to be a page-turner to discover whether Harvard's scheme is successful. Life lessons in forgiveness and healing from mistakes are for everyone. Ants do have things to teach us.

Culley writes with simple text with some special sidelines into language. Harvard and his brother often need to distinguish between compound words and words that are two separate words. She also uses the same title for her book as the title for a book that Harvard orders to learn about ants and how to care for an ant farm.

The Natural Genius of Ants is recommended for ages 9-12. It was published by Crown Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin/Random House. It has an ISBN of 978-0-593-17577-4.

Bring The Natural Genius of Ants Into the Classroom for Creative Middle Grade Activities

Teachers who teach reading, language arts, and science will want to add Betty Culley's engaging chapter book The Natural Genius of Ants to their classroom library. Activties in creative writing, reading skills with learning about compound words, experimenting with poetry, and science activities with setting up an ant farm and learning from an ant society can all be part of the fun with this novel for the middle grade students.

*Middle grade students enjoy readling aloud with chapter books. Engage your students in reading a chapter or two every day to practice reading aloud to classmates.

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*Call attention to the reason that Harvard's dad wants to spend the summer in the little town that he grew up in. Take class poll of students who may want to share a mistake that they have made and cannot forgive themselves for.

*Assign a creative writing activity for students to write about a mistake that they may have made and feel that they do not have the ability to forgive themselves.

*Harvard and his brother experiment with poetry after they order the book to learn about ant farms. Assign creative writing activities for students to experiement with writing poetry.

*Harvard and his brother also learn about compound words and which words are not compound words. They play a game with license plates on their road trip to Kettle Hole. The word "vacationland" appears on Maine license plates, which starts their curiosity about compound words. They want to know why this is written as a compound word and not as two words such as "vacation land". Other words such as "bathroom"and "spaceship" come to their minds. Assign a language project for students to come up with words that are compound words and word combinations that are two separate words.

*Assign a writing project for students to create crossword puzzles with compound words and words that are two separate words.

*Purchase an ant farm for your classroom. Observe the ants daily with their work habits. Assign groups of students to keep journals of what they observe in the ants' daily life in the ant farm. How do the ants work together?

*Assign a creative writing project to write about what they learn from observing the ants and their work habits. How does the title of Culley's book relate to what we can learn from ants?

© 2022 Cindy Hewitt

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