A couple of weeks back a class of mine was taking turns reading aloud from chapter five of the children’s novel Dinosaurs Before Dark, when young Sara, a second grader, bellowed the following passage:
The Triceratops lived in the late Cretaceous period. This plant-eating dinosaur weighed over 12,000 pounds.
She suddenly stopped reading, cocked an eye at me, and without so much a hint of malice asked:
“Is that how much you weigh?”
With 14 years of teaching children in South Korea under my belt, I pretty much thought I’d heard it all in terms of unsolicited commentary on my physical appearance. Most of the time I don’t even acknowledge it but this time even I had to let slip the slightest grunt of a laugh. I admire originality, afterall.
Dinosaurs Before Dark is the first and perhaps the funniest of the Magic Tree House series. It is widely read up and down the length of Korea in both English and in translation. Every time I teach it, I spend an hour or so browsing the Internet for new resources that might help me in my teaching. For the purposes of this blog I’ve tried to assemble some of the best materials I’ve come across so far.
You can read up about the Magic Tree House series on Wikipedia, or about Dinosaurs Before Dark in particular on the Magic Tree House Wiki. Or you can just go straight to the horse’s mouth and visit the official Magic Tree House website. Subscribers of Super Teacher Worksheets like me can access their excellent collection of worksheets. For proper novel study supplements, Teachers Pay Teachers has something for everybody although I’m partial to the work of The Book Umbrella. Some of the large publishing houses like Scholastic and Random House have their own lesson plans for teaching the book. Be sure to check out Rise to Reading for some no-frills reading comprehension questions, perfect for a quick review or class discussion. For those of you that like to make use of Pinterest, Beth Hannah has assembled her own collection of resources.
The Magic Treehouse also comes with non-fiction companion books for each novel in the series – such as Dinosaurs – but for some truly first rate resources on dinosaurs in general you really should check out National Geographic for Kids and Discovery Kids, with their immense collection of entertaining videos, games, and articles, while Enchanted Learning also has a veritable Aladdin’s cave of materials on nearly anything you could want to know. KidsDinos is also encyclopedic in breadth. There is also a nice assortment of children’s books from the always excellent No Time for Flashcards.
For those extra minutes in class that occasionally need to be filled with something a little less serious you could do worse than the StoryBots with their adorable and informative five-part series of dinosaur rap videos, which is worth a watch for the comic relief if anything, while HooplaKids has a 24-part series of cartoons that is sure to keep your students eduformed. Another promising lead is Dinosaur Train from PBS, which also has stacks and stacks of online games.
I continue to search high and low for a quality free reading of the book (although a version of the book with an audio CD is available for sale) but the best I have come up with so far is the author reading the first chapter of the book here, and the ReadToMeDad channel on YouTube.
Lastly, I’d like to mention my own novel studies which might be useful to teachers of students whose first language is Korean or Japanese (Spanish and Arabic will be available within a week or so).