In this lesson, students learn what an almanac is and how to use one. Almanacs are not always found in school libraries, but I believe them to be a worthy and often overlooked reference. Children’s almanacs are designed for students and are typically a colorful, bold, exciting, fun-filled information source. This is an easy lesson to prepare, so get ready and get your kids hooked on almanacs!
To use an almanac correctly. (AASL 1.1.4, “Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.”)
Each student will complete an almanac “Treasure Hunt,” thus showing his or her mastery over almanac use.
Ask students where they would look if they wanted to know what a word means, or which part of speech it is. (Answer: Dictionary.) Ask students where they would look if they needed to find a map of South America or Europe. (Answer: Atlas.) Ask students where they would look if they were just starting an inquiry and needed to get a good overview of a topic. (Answer: Encyclopedia.) Tell the students that each of these kinds of information sources is a reference tool. By “reference,” we mean information sources that are consulted for quick information and are not meant to be read from beginning to end.
The reference work the students will learn about today is an almanac.
Teach a mini-lesson about almanacs. Be sure to include these ideas about almanacs:
- Published annually.
- Historically, contained information about weather, tides, the calendar, and farming.
- Often information is arranged in tables, charts, or graphs
- Modern children’s almanacs contain subjects more interesting to kids!
Show the students a copy of a children’s almanac. I like the Scholastic Almanacs, and I usually purchase a new set of 24 every other year.
Point out the Table of Contents, Chapter Headings, and some of the tables and diagrams. Pass out the student assignments. I find that students take to the almanacs very quickly! They are easily sidetracked with sports, technology, and media entries, but that’s the fun of it! In an almanac, they can get lost and follow their own interests. Keep them on track enough so that they can finish the assignment in the given time, but be sure to allow plenty of time to explore.
This lesson will be difficult for EAL children or for those who do not read confidently. If you have students who will find the assignment too hard, let them work with a partner or teaching assistant. The objective is to learn to use an almanac, not necessarily to finish every question.
Pull the class back together for a short wrap-up. Go over answers to a few of the questions, then ask what they found interesting that was not covered by the assignment. Finish with a challenge to check out an almanac, take it home, and show a sibling or a parent.
Class set of the Scholastic Children’s Almanac. The current version is Scholastic Almanac for Kids 2016.
I have always used the Scholastic Kids’ Almanac, but National Geographic also publishes a children’s almanac, of which I am a big fan, that is of similar quality.
The student handout included with this lesson was written for the Scholastic Children’s Almanac. It is meant only as a sample because you will need to match any exercises with your library’s own almanacs.
It is tempting to teach students skills in dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopedias, and leave out almanacs. Try not to do that! In my experience, children fall in love with almanacs quickly. If you can get them hooked on almanacs, they will begin reading reference books and begin to view (if they don’t already) nonfiction as FUN!
Recommended books for this lesson:
A class set of the Scholastic Almanac for Kids 2016
Almanacs, Kids’ Almanacs