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How to Make a Picture File and Why it’s an Important Teaching Tool by Marilyn Buehrer, Teacher

A picture file is a file box filled with beautiful photos that represent anything you are teaching about. These beautifully mounted photos are ideal visual aids to accompany and enhance the supplemental workbooks offered on this website. Whether it’s turtles, tortoises, snakes, tropical birds, tropical trees and foliage, flowers, or people, colorful visual aids will give children an authentic look at what they are studying. Instead of relying on drawings and cartoons, it’s important that students see realistic photos of what they are learning about.

colorful cover of children's educational workbook all about the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, turquoise color with polka dots, with image of rattlesnake and a list of the 46 workbook pages

In my teaching experience with elementary, middle, and high school students, every time I had a lesson to teach, I was able to pull out several pictures related to that subject for my students to see what I was talking about. Propping them up on the chalk tray of your white board works well, or create a bulletin board with them.

A person will remember 10% of what s/he has heard, 60% of what s/he’s heard and written down, and  90% of what s/he’s heard, written down, seen, and done.

This means that adding visual aids and practice (students taking notes) to what I verbally taught, enhanced my teaching and the students’ learning. My students remembered the information. Every age group benefits from visual aids.

It took me about two months to cut out and mount 200 pictures. Once I got started, it was hard not to get carried away! Two hundred pictures sounds like a lot, but it’s very easy to surpass that number.

Materials needed:

  1. Tagboard. 200 sheets of 9” x 12” white tagboard are available at school supply stores and art stores.
  2. Rubber cement. A large can of rubber cement. NOTE: Elmer’s glue, homemade paste, staples, and tape will not do for this project. Rubber cement doesn’t ripple and warp the pictures as it dries. It’s also neat to work with since it rolls right off your hands. Spray adhesive works also, but it makes cloudy fumes. When using rubber cement, always work in a well-ventilated area. Leave the doors and windows open in the room you’re working in, or take your work out to a sun-sheltered porch.
  3. Donated magazines, outdated calendars, posters, and travel brochures. I got grocery bags full of magazines from neighbors willing to part with them for a good cause. Other good sources are thrift stores and used book stores. Photos of animals and plants can be found in science magazines, National Geographic, and Smithsonian. Photos of household items can be found in home and architectural magazines. Photos of plants, flowers, and trees are in garden and landscape magazines.

What to look for:

Look for large, clean, clear, colorful photographs in the following categories. These are just suggestions. You might choose to limit your search to just one subject matter such as birds or reptiles.

  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Insects
  • People
  • Everyday personal and household items
  • Modes of transportation
  • Furniture
  • Landscapes
  • Bodies of water
  • National symbols of the U.S. and other countries
  • Sports
  • Flowers and trees
  • Wild animals
  • Domestic animals
  • Art such as the Old Masters
  • Mosaics
  • Pottery
  • Sculpture
  • Architecture
  • Perspective/line
  • Color

Directions:

  1. Carefully tear the photos out of the magazines.
  2. Using a pair of paper scissors, neatly trim the edges of the pictures, leaving a sixteenth-inch white border whenever possible.
  3. Use a paper cutter if necessary to get the straightest edge possible.
  4. Clear off a wide, flat space in your house such as the kitchen or dining room table.
  5. Cover the entire table top with a thick layer of newspapers. This is so the top layers can be rolled up and removed to continually reveal a clean working surface throughout the mounting process.
  6. Turn the trimmed photos over and brush rubber cement over the entire backside of the picture. Rubber cement dries quickly, so work quickly.
  7. Turn the picture over and carefully lay it on the sheet of tagboard. Leave a wider margin of white tagboard at the bottom edge than at the top, just as if you were framing the photograph. Not all photos will have a white margin because they will fill the entire tagboard space, and that’s okay.
  8. Use one hand to hold the photo in place and the outside edge of your other hand to spread the picture down and force any excess rubber cement out from under the photo. The great thing about rubber cement is that as it dries, it rolls up into gummy balls that easily come off the tagboard and leave no residue or marks.
  9. Work all the bubbles out from under the photo. Use a straight pin to prick any bubbles that refuse to be worked out.
  10. If rubber cement gets on the photo itself, leave it there until it completely dries, then use your clean, dry finger and a light touch to carefully roll the dried, rubbery adhesive off the photo.
  11. Lay the finished pictures on a flat surface to dry. Leave them there for a couple of days. If you stack the finished pictures right away, they’ll bond to one another, and you’ll never be able to pull them apart without ruining them.
  12. Finally, store the finished photos in a plastic, portable storage box with a lid that has a handle (available at office supply stores). This will keep your pictures portable, dust free, and looking like new for many years.

You can also use these pictures to decorate your classroom, create bulletin boards, and as creative writing prompts.

LYRIC POWER PUBLISHING offers 23  affordable, comprehensive, supplemental Workbooks for Teachers, Tutors and Home-Schooling Parents. Each WORKBOOK has a theme and can include pages for reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary and math, along with Venn-Diagrams, life-cycles, fact sheets, coloring pages, puzzles, connect-the-dots, word searches, mazes, label-the-parts, cut-and-paste, true or false, fill-in-the-blanks, match the pictures, greater than/less than, count-and-classify and graphing.

A light blue and white book cover with an image of multi-colored river rocks
The Rock Cycle cut and paste project in this lesson comes from this workbook. It also includes work pages on rock collecting.
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I Grew Up with Snakes! I Can’t Help It! By Elaine A. Powers, Author

You might have noticed that most of my books involve reptiles. I am a biologist by profession, and I particularly like reptiles. My brother was allergic to fur, so growing up we had snakes. This was back in the days when television sets were always warm, so the snake’s tank sat on top.  The snakes were part of the family, being cuddled as we watched TV shows at night. I consider my current reptiles to be family members. They provide an endless source of inspiration for my writing.

image of a gray Sonoran Desert Tortoise on grass
Zoe, a Sonoran Desert Tortoise

When I was looking for a house in Tucson, the disclosure sheet listed an abundance of lizards. I don’t think they intended for this statement to be a selling point, but it was. All reptiles are welcome. In this post, I’d like to tell you about the Sonoran Desert Tortoise.

Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) The scientific name honors Joseph Morafka for his work with tortoises.

This tortoise has adapted to the extreme environment of the Sonoran Desert. The tortoise has powerful limbs covered with thick scaly skin for digging underground burrows, where it spends much of its time. It eats a wide variety of plants, including many that are indigestible to other animals. It feeds most actively during the monsoon season, and is dormant much of the rest of the year. The tortoise stores water in its bladder, allowing it to go up to a year without drinking.

Like other reptiles, as a defense mechanism, the tortoise will empty its bladder to discourage a predator. Unfortunately, this can deplete its water supply and result in death during a drought. For this reason, it is important to never pick up or interfere with a Desert Tortoise. The gravest danger to Desert Tortoises is human-caused mortality.

I have one of these awesome tortoises, Zoe, pictured here, who joined my home through the Tortoise Adoption Program, sanctioned by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. This program assists in the proper care of captive Desert Tortoises by qualified custodians, and since they have been in captivity, they can never be released.  Their behavior has been altered and they might expose other tortoises to diseases not known in the wild.

I had to have my yard approved to participate in this program. Did I have sufficient food, a proper hibernation den, any dogs that could be predators, enough vegetation to provide shade, as well as basking places in full sun, and would the tortoise be kept away from the pool?

I am honored to be allowed to foster Zoe.

Note: Elaine a. Powers became an author after contact with Curtis, the Curly-tail lizard in the Bahamas. Her first book was inspired by Curtis and is an adventure called, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers.  And though Myrtle, a Redfoot tortoise is neither a turtle nor a desert tortoise, Myrtle asked Elaine to write about the differences between turtles and tortoises. So, Elaine did, in a fun book written in rhyme, beloved by young children. It is called Don’t Call Me Turtle!

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Using Big Words In Kids’ Books by Elaine A. Powers, Author

My books are termed science-based and my intent is to educate while entertaining. Why? I want all readers to learn scientific facts, even the ones who say they don’t like science. The colorful illustrations in my books draw the reader in, as do the stories I tell in rhyme. Who doesn’t love rhymes? And sending curly-tail lizards on their own adventures teaches the reader about the foods the lizards eat, their natural environment and the dangers they face. Curly-tail lizards are very special—in fact, it was Curtis the curly-tail lizard who launched my writing career. 🙂

I also strongly believe that we shouldn’t talk down to children. I think they absorb words, even if they don’t fully understand the meanings when they first hear them, and that the word is planted in their memories. Later on, the terminology won’t be scary. It will be an old friend, encouraging them to learn more science. I include glossaries in some of my books with further information for curious readers.

The Word THERMOREGULATION, with each letter of the word in a different color

One term I use in my book called Don’t Make Me Rattle is THERMOREGULATION. My books are often about reptiles, who need to thermoregulate to function. They obtain their body heat from the environment, often by basking in the sun. This need results in many being killed on roads where they lay at night to obtain a bit more warmth. I was told no way could I use the word thermoregulation in a children’s book. It was too big, too advanced.

But it was the correct word—the only one. Having known toddlers who could tell me the difference between his/her toy dinosaurs, using their proper names, even correcting me when I incorrectly identified them, I concluded children can handle a “big’ word every now and then. It’s never too early to use the correct word—even if it is a big one.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of fun science-based children’s books, including those in the “Don’t” series, which are written in rhyme and vividly illustrated to draw the reader into the wonderful world of biology.

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Imaging with Poetry by Elaine A. Powers, Author

An image of a typed poem, with the letters in the shape of the subject of the poem: the X of the roadrunner's footprint and how it confuses any evil spirits that are following.

I enjoy writing the rhymes for my picture books. I believe the flow of the language enhances the reading experience. Besides, rhyming makes science more fun. My illustrators create incredible images to complete the package.  Recently, I was selecting poems for an anthology.  I couldn’t use the text from  an entire picture book, so I was selecting stanzas that could stand alone.

In one of the craft workshops, I learned about positioning the words to enhance the poem’s content.

For my poem about the X-shape of roadrunners’ feet, I decided to try to paint an image with the words. 

What do you think? Does this make the rhyming more fun?

A colorful image of the orange setting sun, clouds and rainbows, along with roadrunner "spirits" chasing the roadrunner of the American Southwest, who gets away because his footprint is directionless.
The rhyming verses and vibrant images of Don’t Make Me Fly capture the reader’s interest and make learning about science interesting and fun.

Elaine A. Powers is the author of science-based children’s books. The “Don’t” Series includes Don’t Make Me Fly, about the Roadrunner, a favorite siting of those residing in the American Southwest.

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Enjoy “Do Not Fear Tarantulas,” a Music Video, by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A closeup of an animated tarantula on the ground, against a dark background
The tarantula from the

One of the things I’ve learned about writing books is that it’s important to have a critique group. These are people with differing backgrounds, not family members, who are willing to give honest feedback about your work. Not only do they critique what you’ve written, but they can provide new ideas to help your story. If you’re fortunate, you meet very talented people and I have been lucky in this regard. 

The members of one of my critique groups are authors of children’s’ books. But they aren’t only authors, they are poets, artists, and musicians. One member, Susan Oyler, wrote a rhyming piece about tarantulas.  I loved the science in it. I also noticed that the rhythm of the poem matched the cadence of Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King.” So, another member, Lori Bonati, took the poem and put it to music.  She had to tweak it a bit, but it is simply fabulous.  Such a magnificent musical piece deserved to be animated.  So, I got my animator, Anderson Atlas, to bring the tarantula to life. 

Why shouldn’t you be afraid of tarantulas? Here is the delightful answer in song:  https://youtu.be/HGuUJoq3XMs

Please enjoy it and my other videos on the YouTube channel Curtis “Curtis Curly-tail Speaks,” featuring the perfectly wonderful curly-tail lizard and my friend, Curtis.

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Yes! Plants Do Grow in the Sonoran Desert by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Plants of the Sonoran Desert

When people think about deserts, they often assume the land is barren with no plant life.  In the Sonoran Desert, many plants not only grow, but thrive. Some of them even bloom during the dry season! I’d like to tell you about a few of my favorites.

A saguaro cactus with multiple 'arms.'
Saguaro

a single tower saguaro cactus
Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantean) These tree-sized, columnar cacti are the symbol of the West and are important part of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem for both animals and humans. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States and its crown of large white blooms is honored as Arizona’s State Flower. The saguaro grows very slowly but can live up to a couple of centuries. They may or may not develop branches or “arms.” The roots are very shallow and reach out only as far as the saguaro’s height, but the cactus is also anchored by one deep tap root. The scientific name honors Andrew Carnegie, whose Carnegie Institute established the Desert Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona in 1903.

A teddy bear cholla cactus with many spines, in the Sonoran Desert
Teddy Bear Cholla is not cuddly at all!

Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). From a distance, this cactus looks soft and fuzzy, but it is actually covered in a dense mass of spines. The spines, which are a form of leaf, are about an inch long, ending in a hook or barb. These spines so easily detach and embed in the flesh of any animal that touches it, that it is also called the Jumping Cholla, as if it actually attacks passing animals (or humans!).

 

A wide shot of many branches of a green tree, a Palo Verde tree, in the Sonoran Desert
Palo Verde Tree

Close up of thin, green branches of a Palo Verde tree
Palo Verde Tree II

Palo Verde, Foothills (Parkinsonia microphylla) Palo verde means green stick in Spanish. It is is so named due to its green bark, which, unlike the bark of other trees, is capable of photosynthesis. The tree is also known for its spines, seed pods, and brilliant yellow flowers. Palo Verde trees play a vital role in the Sonoran Desert ecology, serving as the primary nurse plant for young saguaro cacti. The genus name Parkinsonia honors the English botanist John Parkinson.

Thick, thorny branches of a green Velvet Mesquite Tree
Velvet Mesquite Tree

Mesquite, Velvet (Prosopis velutina) This thorny native tree of the Sonoran Desert survives the dry climate by sinking a taproot deep into the earth. The thorns reach one inch in length. The tree is an important part of the ecosystem, providing food and protection for animals and people. Flour is made from the seed pods. The wood is popular for grilling and seasoning food, and for carving into utensils.