Randall Munroe was first brought to my attention when a parent directed to me to his fun website, xkcd.com. One of my favorite Randall Munroe comics is “Up Goer Five,” a diagram of the Saturn V explained in simple language. The best part, in my opinion, is at the bottom where it says, “This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space. If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.” I feel like this is the perfect metaphor for some of my lessons 😉
To my delight, I noticed on one of my “Lists That Can’t Be Missed,” that the author of The Kid Should See This, has recommended Munroe’s new book, Thing Explainer, as a great gift. I’m one of those geeky teachers who asks for things for her classroom as gifts, and my husband kindly indulged me by putting it under the tree.
The book’s Table of Contents is called, “Things in this Book by Page.” Munroe is kind enough to put the more formal names of each explained thing underneath the titles, which you may find more necessary in some cases than others. For example, “Boat that goes under the sea,” is a submarine.
Of course. What do you think “The pieces everything is made of,” refers to?
Periodic table. Maybe you got that one, but I have a feeling that, “Shape checker” won’t come so easily to you.
You’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that one 😉
I see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom. Have students pick a page and do research to find the actual names for each part on the diagram, for example. Or, don’t show them a picture at first, and have them try to guess what it is as you read the descriptions. Another idea is to, once the students see some examples, have them create their own “Thing Explainer” diagram for something that is not in the book. (Challenge them to use only the words on Munroe’s list of the “Ten Hundred Words People Use the Most.” They can check sentences with his simplewriter tool online.)
Included in the book is a nice poster of a “Sky Toucher” which I intend to laminate for my classroom. If you’re interested in other xkcd merchandise, here is a link to the store (which includes a poster of the Up Goer Five).