Ben’s Guide to the Government

Ben’s Guide to the Government: 6-8



This government website houses a collection of reference information and activities about the government broken down by grade level. Ben Franklin serves as a cartoon guide to the website, posing on each page and illustrating elements. There are pages that discuss certain elements of government, a glossary of terms, games and activities (both online and to print out for offline use), and links to other relevant sites.


Quantitative Summary:

Readability Formula        Grade

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level          7.4

Gunning-Fog Score         10.2

Coleman-Liau Index        7.9

SMOG Index      8.3

Automated Readability Index     6.7

Average Grade Level      8.1


Qualitative Summary:

This website is great for basic facts about government working, broken down into age appropriate reading sections. As a .gov website, it is a reliable reference resource for students to use in research projects. The readability score seemed to rate some information sections as being more complex textually than other.




State Curriculum

Social Studies

1.0 CONTENT STANDARD: POLITICAL SCIENCE‐ Students will understand the historical development and current status of the fundamental concepts and processes of authority, power, and influence, with particular emphasis on the democratic skills and attitudes necessary to become responsible citizens.


7.B.2 Analyze the importance of civic participation as a citizen of the world

a. Analyze the relevancy of sources and perspectives of information such as internet sites and online newspapers


Grade 6-8

A. Read to Learn and Construct Meaning about Social Studies

1. Use appropriate strategies and opportunities to increase understandings of social studies vocabulary

a. Acquire and apply new vocabulary through investigating, listening, independent reading and discussing a variety of print and non-print sources

b. Identify and use new vocabulary acquired through study of relationships to prior knowledge and experiences

c. Use context clues to understand new social studies vocabulary

d. Use new vocabulary in speaking and writing to gain and extend content knowledge and clarify expression

E. Organize Social Studies Information

1. Organize information from non-print sources

a. Prioritize information gathered according to importance and relevance

b. Distinguish factual from fictional information

c. Find relationships among gathered information

d. Display information on various types of graphic organizers, maps, and charts

e. Summarize information obtained from surveys and field work

National Geographic Kids: Countries

National Geographic Kids: Countries


This website allows kids to browse countries by name or by continent. Each country opens a new page with facts about the country, pictures, videos, an E-Card, and maps.


Quantitative Summary:

Readability Formula        Grade

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level          7.4

Gunning-Fog Score         10.2

Coleman-Liau Index        7.9

SMOG Index      8.3

Automated Readability Index     6.7

Average Grade Level      8.1


Qualitative Summary:

This website could be helpful to students in World History or World Cultures classes, as it provides basic reference facts and colorful overviews of many countries. The facts range in text complexity according to, so while I think this is a middle-school level reference, some of the information may need to be reinforced by a teacher.




Grade 6

Standard 3.0 Geography



1. Use geographic tools to locate places and describe the human and physical characteristics in early world history


Use maps to compare geographic locations of civilizations from world history to:

  • Mesopotamia
  • Africa including Egypt
  • Nubia/Kush and Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Indus River Valley
  • Northern China
  • Greeks and Romans
  • Mesoamerican, such as the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs

Use photographs and thematic maps, to identify and describe physical and human characteristics of early civilizations




1. Examine how physical and human characteristics shape the identity of places and regions and influence the development of civilizations in world history


Identify and describe physical characteristics that influenced human settlement

Explain how physical characteristics of a place influenced human activities, such as agriculture, transportation, art and architecture and economic activity in the ancient world

Explain how human perceptions of and interactions with the environment changed over time in due to technologies, such as road building, dam construction, and agricultural improvements

Innerstar University: A Winning Goal

Innerstar University: A Winning Goal

An American Girl Book

By Laurie Calkhoven, ill. Arcana Studios


Calkhoven, L. 2011. A winning goal. NY: American Girl Publishing.


In this choose-your-own adventure book, you are a star soccer player on the Innerstar University soccer team, along with your friends. Your friend Shelby is new to soccer but she wants to join the team, and she’d like you to help her with learning the ropes. Your team is on a winning streak right now and it’s a complicated time for you to start helping your friend, who is not very good at soccer yet. Many tough decisions are in your hands right now, do you sacrifice your winning streak to give Shelby time to get better, or do you sacrifice your friendship for the sake of winning the game? Only you can make these decisions in this book, and there are many different ways the story ends.

Quantitative Summary:

Lexile: 710L

Interest level: 8+, Middle Grades

Qualitative Summary:

The narrative structure of this book is a bit complex, requiring readers to navigate through multiple page changes depending on which outcomes they choose. It uses illustrations sparingly.  The knowledge requirements are not complex, with no real allusions to other texts, and themes that are relevant to middle-school aged girls (friendships, teamwork). The language is low, with little to no figurative language.

Curriculum Ties

This book reinforces elements of positive female friendships and teamwork. It can also be used to illustrate cause-and-effect relationships, showing how different choices influence outcomes.Students could write their own choose-your-own adventure stories with more than one outcome.



Gr. 8 English


  • 8. Read critically to evaluate literary texts


  1. Analyze and evaluate the plausibility of the plot and the credibility of the characters
    Assessment limits:
    • In the text or a portion of the text
  1. Analyze and evaluate the extent to which the text contains ambiguities, subtleties, or contradictions
    Assessment limits:
    • Questions and predictions about events, situations, and conflicts that might occur if the text were extended
  1. Analyze and evaluate the relationship between a literary text and its historical, social, and/or political context
    Assessment limits:
    • Implications of the historical or social context on a literary text
  1. Analyze the relationship between the structure and the purpose of the text
    Assessment limits:
    • In the text or a portion of the text

Series website:

The Hunger Games [Book 1]

9780439023528_custom-49e9c33a338d97f0abb78402bcdee9b1103f33a0-s6-c10Bibliographic info

Collins, S. (2010). The hunger games. NY: Scholastic Press.

ISBN: 978-0439023528

Plot Description

Survival is everything to 16-year old Katniss Everdeen, who hails from the 12th district of Panem, the nation that rose from the ashes of post-apocolyptic North America. Each year the decadent and cruel Capitol hosts The Hunger Games, wherein one boy and one girl from each district between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen to fight to the death in a televised arena event.

When her younger sister Primrose is selected as a tribute, Katniss sacrifices her life by volunteering in her place. Now she and Peeta, the son of the town’s baker and fellow tribute, will have to learn to survive against all odds. In the end, only one can win.

Quantitative Reading Level

ATOS Book Level: 5.3

Interest Level: Middle Grades Plus (MG+ 6 and up)

Lexile: 810L

Qualitative Reading Analysis

This is a highly popular series with current movies in theatres, making it a favorite amongst middle and high schoolers. It’s structural complexity is low, maintaining a single narrator and a chronological storyline. There are levels of meaning and the concepts are pretty complex (dystopian world, death of children), making it inappropriate for ages under upper middle and high school.

Content Area

  • English/Language Arts

Content Area Standard

Objective 1.2.1: The student will determine the contributions of literary elements in classical and contemporary literary texts. ECLG 1.2.1, ADP H
Grades 9 and 10
The student will
 Determine the significance of the following as each contributes to the meaning of a text: 
o plot sequence of events (including foreshadowing and flashback), cause-and-effect relationships, and events 
that are exposition, climax or turning point, resolution* ECLG 1.2.1, ADP H4
o characters’ defining traits, motivations, and developments throughout the text* ECLG 1.2.1, ADP H4
o details that provide clues to the setting, the mood created by the setting, and the role the setting plays in the text* ECLG 1.2.1
o conflicts that motivate characters and those that serve to advance the plot* ECLG 1.2.1
o the perspective of the author or speaker as well as the effects of first or third person narration and multiple narrators within and across text(s)* ECLG 1.2.1
o narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, asides, soliloquies, and character foils ADP H4 o various literary devices, including figurative language, imagery, allegory, and symbolism
 Identify the specific structural elements of particular literary forms (e.g., short story, novel, drama, poetry, essay, biography, autobiography, journalistic writing, film) ECLG 1.1.5, ADP H3 
Grades 11 and 12
The student will
 Analyze characters’ motivations, actions, and development as they relate to the experiences, emotions, moral dilemmas and ambiguities in a work of literature ADP H8 
 Analyze how voice, persona, and the choice of narrator affect the characterization, mood, tone, plot and credibility of a text 
 Analyze the contribution of dramatic monologue, chorus, asides, soliloquies, and character foils to the development of character, plot, and theme ADP H6 

 Analyze the characteristics of particular literary subgenres (e.g., satire, farce, parody, allegory, pastoral, epic, elegy, ode) as they relate to theme and purpose ADP H3

Curriculum Suggestions

Hunger Games can be looked at as an example of dystopian literature, and in particular the characterizations of heroes and villains, as well as the symbolism in the novel.

Links to Digital Content



  • #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • #1 USA Today Bestseller
  • Wall Street Journal Bestseller
  • Publishers Weekly Bestseller
  • Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2008: Children’s Fiction
  • New York Times Notable Children’s Book Of 2008
  • An American Library Association
  • Top Ten Best Books For Young Adults Selection
  • An ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • 2009 ALA Amelia Bloomer Project List
  • #1 On Winter ’08/​’09 Children’s Indie Next List
  • Indies Choice–Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book Honor
  • 2008 Cybil Award–Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • 2009 Children’s Choice Book Award
  • Teen Choice Book Of The Year Finalist
  • YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten, 2009
  • NYPL “Stuff For The Teen Age” List, 2009
  • CCBC Choices 2009
  • A New York Times Editors’ Choice
  • A Kirkus Best Book Of 2008
  • A Horn Book Fanfare
  • School Library Journal Best Books Of 2008
  • A Booklist Editors’ Choice, 2008
  • LA Times Favorite Children’s Books, 2008
  • Barnes & Noble Best Books Of 2008: For Teens and Kids
  • Borders Best Books Of 2008: Teens
  • Amazon Best Books Of 2008: Top 100 Editors’ Pick; Top 10 Books: Teens


Politics, Dystopias, Violence, Survival

Field Trip Mysteries: The Mount Rushmore Face That Couldn’t See

Field Trip Mysteries: The Mount Rushmore Face That Couldn’t See


by Steve Brezenoff, ill. Marcos Calo

Brezenoff, S. 2013. The Mount Rushmore face that couldn’t see. Minnesota: Capstone.


Catalina Duran is going with the History Club on a field trip to Mount Rushmore, but there is more than meets the eye at this historical landmark. When the group arrives, they notice a group of protesters in the parking lot, protesting that the land belongs to the Lakota tribe. A series of strange events begin to unfold during their trip: the ranger is tied up, old machinery runs by itself, and it’s seeming more and more like the place is haunted by ghosts, either the ghosts of presidents or of the Lakota. Catalina is on the case figuring out what it is haunting Mount Rushmore.
Quantitative Summary:

Lexile: 490L

ATOS Book Level: 3.4

Interest Level:   Middle Grades (MG 4-8)

Qualitative Summary:

This book has moderate illustrations, but each page has a few small paragraphs of text. Each chapter has a few pages that feature block quotes of sentences significant to the plot. There is a glossary in the back of the book that helps students with some of the bigger vocabulary words in the book. The structure and chronology is straight forward, and the language is on par with a middle school level. The narrative structure is somewhat like a Scooby Doo mystery, complete with a red herring and a reveal at the end.

Curriculum Tie Ins:

Discussions of the mystery genre and the types of characters in mysteries: the detective, the red herring, the culprit.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

1. Develop and apply comprehension skills by reading and analyzing a variety of self-selected and assigned literary texts including print and non-print

2. Analyze text features to facilitate understanding of literary texts

3. Analyze elements of narrative texts to facilitate understanding and interpretation

Author’s website:

Personal Thoughts: The illustrations in the beginning and end of this book really drew me in and reminded me of books I loved at this age, ones that really gave off a “solving a mystery” aura with newspaper clippings and images of notepads.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
J.K. Rowling

Rowling, J. K. 1997. Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone. NY: Scholastic Press.

ISBN: 9780590353403


Harry Potter is an 11-year old orphan living with unhappily with the Dursleys, his mean Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, as well as their spoiled son Dudley. He hates his life with them, living in a little room under the staircase and suffering daily  torment from Dudley. Then, something strange happens on Dudley’s birthday at the Zoo — it seems Harry could communicate with the python at the Zoo. Even stranger, he seemed to be responsible for the glass suddenly disappearing from the python’s cage.

Then, the letters start coming, first slowly, then all at once, and as much as Harry’s aunt and uncle tried to destroy them, more would arrive. Letters that say that Harry is a wizard and has been accepted into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And just when they think they’ve escaped the letters, the lumbering giant Hagrid comes to take Harry away to Hogwarts.

Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is full of adventure and new friends, but it is also shadowed by the rumored return of an all powerful wizard who was responsible for the death of his parents.

Quantitative Summary:

Lexile Measure: 880L

ATOS: 5.5

Interest Level: Middle Grades

Qualitative Summary:

This book is part of a wildly popular and highly merchandized series which makes it a much easier sell, and giving it a wide appeal in age ranges. It uses somewhat complex language, with an invented “wizarding” language woven into the narrative. The book begins with a flash back, but otherwise doesn’t shift the order of events out of chronology.  A singular omniscient narrator tells the story.

Curriculum Tie Ins:

Discussions of characterization are big in this book and would be great to discuss in the English classroom: the characterization of the different houses, the way Voldemort is developed as a villain, and to a lesser extent, the grey area that is Professor Snape. The whole series is good for exploring “coming of age” narratives.



English 9-12

Goal 1 Reading, Reviewing and Responding to Texts

The student will demonstrate the ability to respond to a text by employing personal experiences and critical analysis.


The student will use effective strategies before, during, and after reading, viewing, and listening to self-selected and assigned materials.



  • 1.1.1 The student will use pre-reading strategies appropriate to both the text and purpose for reading by surveying the text, accessing prior knowledge, formulating questions, setting purpose(s), and making predictions.




  • 1.1.2 The student will use during-reading strategies appropriate to both the text and purpose for reading by visualizing, making connections, and using fix-up strategies such as re-reading, questioning, and summarizing.




  • 1.1.3 The student will use after-reading strategies appropriate to both the text and purpose for reading by summarizing, comparing, contrasting, synthesizing, drawing conclusions, and validating the purpose for reading.




  • 1.1.4 The student will apply reading strategies when comparing, making connections, and drawing conclusions about non-print text.




  • 1.1.5 The student will identify specific structural elements of particular literary forms: poetry, short story, novel, drama, essay, biography, autobiography, journalistic writing, and film.



The student will construct, examine, and extend meaning of traditional and contemporary works recognized as having significant literary merit.



  • 1.2.1 The student will consider the contributions of plot, character, setting, conflict, and point of view when constructing the meaning of a text.




  • 1.2.2 The student will determine how the speaker, organization, sentence structure, word choice, tone, rhythm, and imagery reveal an author’s purpose.




  • 1.2.3 The student will explain the effectiveness of stylistic elements in a text that communicate an author’s purpose.




  • 1.2.4 The student will identify and/or explain connections between and among themes and/or styles of two or more texts.




  • 1.2.5 The student will extend or further develop meaning by explaining the implications of the text for the reader or contemporary society.




  • 1.2.6 The student will extend or further develop meaning by comparing texts presented in different media.

Author’s website:


  • ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 1999
  • ALA/YALSA Best of the Best 100 (Selected from BBYA 1966-99)
  • ALA/YALSA Top Ten Books for Teens, 1999 (Ranked #1)
  • ALA Notable Children’s Books, 1999
  • Book Links Lasting Connections, 1998
  • Booklist Editors’ Choices, 1998
  • Booklist: Top Ten Fantasy Novels for Youth
  • CCBC Choices, 1998: Fiction for Children
  • Publishers Weekly Best Books 1998
  • School Library Journal: Best Books 1998
  • School Library Journal: One Hundred Books that Shaped the Century
  • Parenting magazine: Book of the Year, 1998
  • Parenting magazine: Reading Magic Books, 1998
  • Voice of Youth Advocates: Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, 1998
  • Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize for Children’s Literature
  • American Booksellers Association Book of the Year (ABBY)
  • CBC Not Just for Children Anymore! List
  • International Reading Association: Children’s Choices, 1999
  • International Reading Association: Teacher’s Choices, 1999
  • National Council of Teachers of English: Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, 1999
  • New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • Wisconsin Educational Media Association Golden Archer Award (Middle/Junior High), 2000
  • Sasquatch Reading Award (Washington), 2000
  • Great Stone Face Children’s Book Award (New Hampshire), 2000
  • Arizona Young Reader’s Award, 2000
  • Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Book Award, 2000
  • Nene Award (Hawaii), 2000
  • Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Award (Illinois), 2001
  • Michigan Reading Association Readers’ Choice Award, 2001
  • Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 2001
  • Nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, 1999
  • Nominated for Children’s Book Award (Massachusetts), 2000
  • Nominated for Children’s Book Award (Utah), 2000
  • Nominated for New York State Charlotte Award, 2000
  • Nominated for Young Reader’s Choice Award (Pacific Northwest Library Association), 2001
  • Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, Gold Medal 9-11 years, 1997
  • FCBG Children’s Book Award, Overall and Longer Novel Category Winner, 1997
  • Birmingham Cable Children’s Book Award, 1997
  • Young Telegraph Paperback of the Year, 1998
  • British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year (NIBBY), 1997
  • Sheffield Children’s Book Award, 1998
  • Whitaker’s Platinum Book Award, 2001
  • Commended for the 1997 Carnegie Award
  • Shortlisted for the 1997 Guardian Children’s Award
  • W. H. Smith Book of the Year Award, 1997
  • New York State Children’s Choice Award Nominee
  • New York Public Library’s 100 Best Children’s Books from the Last 100 Years


Amazing Space: The Solar System Trading Card Game

Amazing Space: The Solar System Trading Card Game



4.7 The student will investigate and understand the organization of the solar system. Key concepts include
a) the planets in the solar system;
b) the order of the planets in the solar system; and
c) the relative sizes of the planets.


Created by the Formal Education Group of the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach, this mini game is a fun way to test your knowledge of planetary/solar system facts. By answering each of twelve trivia questions correctly, the player “collects” the trading card that the question was attached to. When you answer the question correctly, it gives you a host of facts about that planet. When you get a question wrong, it gives you a definition of each of the multiple choice answers so that you have a better understanding of the question. Once you’ve collected a trading card, you can click on it again to be directed to the fact page for review.

Why this is a quality resource

This site would be a great review tool after a lesson on the solar system. It could be used individually, or done as a class via a projector. While some of the “correct answer fact pages” seem to be a bit above the 4th grade level when conveying planetary facts ( says average 7th grade level), it still uses big images and some easy-to-understand vocabulary and headings. Within the correct answer pages, blue linked glossary terms have pop-up definitions which aid in understanding more complex vocabulary.