Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Fort on Fourth Street

The Fort on Fourth Street: A Story About the Six Simple Machinesis a great concept for teaching simple machines, but it didn't quite deliver as strongly as I'd hoped. The book demonstrates how simple machines are used in the construction of a fort.

The idea is engaging. Many kids want a practical reason for learning about simple machines. Making a fort is an attractive reason to learn about simple machines and to learn to use tools. However, the author chose a rather difficult format for this book, the nursery rhyme "The House that Jack Built." At the end of each introduction of a simple machine used to build the fort, we get a listing of all the simple machines used. It is repetitive and not that helpful.

What is lacking is a good definition of a simple machine. We are supposed to infer what a simple machine is through the list of items we are given that are simple machines. However, it doesn't quite work. At the end of the book, the author has a page that gives textbook definitions of simple machines, but the definitions aren't age appropriate for the target audience of the text. This information would have been much more useful embedded in the story of the grandpa building the fort. The author sprinkled little bits and pieces, but it needed to be more organized and direct to help kids walk away with a real understanding of why X is a simple machine and Y is not. Also why X is a specific type of simple machine. At the end the author has a little picture quiz with answers that tries to clarify some of the definitions, but that would have been better suited as part of the story.

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