Evaluate your work in each area:
E=Excellent VG=Very Good G=Good F=Fair P=Poor VP=Very Poor or Not Done
1. The title is appropriate, meaningful and interesting.
2. The detective is fully developed through description, dialogue and action
3. Other characters are consistent and believable.
4. The setting is shown through believable details.
5. The science content is accurate.
6. The science component is well integrated into the story.
7. The construct (or plot device) is well executed.
8. The explanation of the crime/deception is clear
9. The length is appropriate.
10. The writing is mechanically correct
11. The work is neat
12. The work is a pleasure to read.
In order to write an Einstein-like piece, students need to become familiar with the characters, setting, and plot devices (construct) of a typical story. They also will decide on the science content and perhaps science processes that will be part of the piece.
Simon’s Einstein Anderson stories are brief, usually 5 or 6 pages including an illustration or two, plus a page for the explanation. Each of the seven books contains 10 stories, each from a different area of science and each involving characters such as his mother, father, and brother, friends Margaret and Stanley, and school bully Pat with his sidekick Herman. The settings are varied with some at school, at home, in Stanley’s home lab, at a fish hatchery, in an ice cream store, etc.
In developing the plot, Simon conceived the story backwards, i.e., solution first., a typical approach for mystery writers. Each story is organized around either a basic science fact or broader scientific principle. This scientific aspect was then developed within one of several constructs—a lie told by the perpetrator, a challenge of brain over brawn, etc. and often involved Einstein using a science process.
This series of activities will give students helpful background.
Activity 1: Who is Einstein Anderson?
Introduce the author Seymour Simon and his fictional detective, Einstein Anderson; compare with Encyclopedia Brown from the series by Donald Sobol.
Biographical information on Simon, display of his nonfiction books only (save the Einstein Anderson titles for later), “Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case” and other Encyclopedia Brown books, class-sized chart (Venn diagram) to compare Einstein Anderson and Encyclopedia Brown, character map for Einstein and his supporting characters
Seymour Simon has written over one hundred science books for children. As a teacher, he knows how to keep his books straightforward, lively and easy to understand. In the early 1980’s he took a break from writing nonfiction and created the seven Einstein Anderson books whose format is very similar to that of the other boy detective, Encyclopedia Brown.
Make a display of Simon’s books for students to browse through for several days before introducing the unit. Ask the students to think about what all the books have in common (and to keep it to themselves). At your opening discussion ask students their response: hopefully they will say 1) all the books are about science and 2) each has the same author. Share biographical info and then ask students if they are familiar with Encyclopedia Brown; explain who Encyclopedia Brown is, how he got his name (the first story in each book gives background). Use one of the stories with a science base (“The Case of the Stolen Money” or “The Case of the False Teeth” from “Encyclopedia Brown Takes the Case” would be good choices) to introduce the idea of using science as a plot device. Read one of the stories aloud and ask students for the solution before sharing it. Then read the first story from any of the Einstein Anderson books. Begin a class chart using a Venn diagram comparing the two boy detectives, their hometowns, parents, friends, classmates, etc. Not all these elements will be available in any one story so plan to return to the chart during a regular sharing time so that as students read both Einstein Anderson and Encyclopedia Brown stories additions can be made to this group chart. Also begin a character map of Einstein Anderson. Students should be aware that we learn about a character in several ways: by what he/she looks like, what he says, what others say about him, and what he does. Students should add to this map throughout the reading and/or listening to of Einstein stories. Students should also map the other characters: Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, Margaret, Stanley, and Pat.
Activity 2: What are the basic science processes?
Because science is not a study of finite answers, students should be aware of the processes that allow us to discover and learn about the world around us. Through these activities students will review the basic science processes while becoming more familiar with organization of materials in a library media center and the wide variety of science materials available all around us.
This process utilizes all the primary senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. Observation is the source of knowledge that we use most. Students need opportunities to evaluate and question their observational skills. In the classroom or library each student selects a science magazine (“National Geographic”, “National Geographic World”, “Odyssey”, “National Wildlife”, etc.), browses to get familiar with its content and organization, and then finds a scenic photograph After studying the photograph, the student completes the statements: “If I were inside the picture I would see . . . , I would hear . . . , I would smell . . . , etc.” Do this again with another magazine and different scene.
This process organizes items into categories based on specific characteristics Through classifying students notice shared relationships. Students need opportunities to relate prior knowledge to new concepts, thus enhancing comprehension. Many students are not aware that they deal with classification systems on a regular basis. For example, the organization of the hundreds of videos in a video store is based on placing items in categories. Libraries organize and thus make accessible thousands of materials through advanced classification systems. One of these systems, the Dewey Decimal system which is found in school and public libraries, is a perfect vehicle for discussing classification with students. The library media specialist has many ideas for introducing/ reinforcing this basic concept of organizing materials by topic. Collaboratively plan some activities that will allow students to become familiar with the subdivisions of the pure science books (the 500’s) and applied science books (the 600’s) so that they can browse efficiently (for example materials about mammals have the Dewey Decimal number 599).
This is the process of making educated guesses and providing explanations based on limited facts There are two types: deductive (going from the general to the specific) and inductive (going from the specific to the general). Students need to be aware that having sufficient and accurate information is important in using deductive or inductive reasoning. The library media specialist and teacher jointly plan this activity to give students the opportunity to handle a variety of science materials including science encyclopedias and dictionaries. Students will define characteristics that make the materials alike and different; categories would include topic, fiction vs. nonfiction, format (biography, collective biography, reference), author, copyright date, etc.) In this activity a student with a partner and worksheet goes to each of 12 “stations” displaying four books each and determines what the 4 items have alike; they then determine one category in which one of the items is different from the three others. Students can do the stations in any order. Do one of the stations as a group as a model.
Visit the stations in any order. With your partner examine the materials. Record your responses.
and so on
Here are some suggested categories:
#1: each is a biography about a scientist but one biographee is female
#2: each is about an animal but one is not a mammal
#3: each is a volume from a set of science encyclopedias but one is from a different set
#4: each is about planets but only one is about all the planets
#5: each is about space travel but one is fiction
#6: each is biographical but one is a collective, not individual, biography
#7: each is about chemistry but one contains experiments
#8: each is a dictionary but one is a science dictionary
When all are finished, ask each pair to go to a station. Listen to responses. You will probably have students who, when examining the books, come up with different classification than you planned. They will need to justify this to the group.
This is the means by which information is shared and disseminated. It includes organizing data so that it can effectively be passed on. Students need to be aware that information is available from a multitude of sources. Select a science topic and list sources from which information on that topic could be found; encourage the students to think broadly about how information is distributed considering the many types of print, television, telecommunications, etc. Using space flight as a topic, information could be found by visiting a planetarium, interviewing a scientist, connecting to NASA on Internet, using a periodical data base, viewing a Discovery channel show, studying a photograph, and so on.
This process provides sources of hard data necessary to confirm hypotheses and make predictions. Data must be accurate and specific and often forms the information necessary for all other steps. Students need to know that the ability to describe an event by using instruments is a basic scientific skill. In the media center or classroom students could browse through a variety of science resources and collect words that deal with measurement. Encourage students to search widely and organize these terms into a class dictionary about measurement. In “The Vampire” in “Einstein Anderson Goes to Bat,” Einstein’s knowledge of how the volume of blood in the human body is measured was crucial to solving the case.
This process extrapolates information from a minimum of data or information already known. Then the scientist confirms or refutes the prediction. Students need to understand that cause-and-effect relationships must be based on supportive evidence, not just opinion. We are surrounded by predictions. Students could look at newspapers and record the types of predictions found there: weather, sports events, elections, movies, traffic, fashion, etc. Students should be encouraged to be aware of science related predictions like the front page story (“New Haven Register”, July 8, 1995) about returning astronaut Norman Thagard, who “walked from the space shuttle to the amazement of NASA’s fight surgeons, who expected him to be too wobbly”. This would also be an appropriate time to look again at science magazines and also to learn about the weekly science sections of newspapers.
This process proves or disproves ideas through planning data-gathering operations, testing questions, and using organized sequential plans. Students need to know that using correct methodology is very important in determining the outcome of the experiment. This would be an opportunity for students to examine the many books on science experiments of all kinds that can be found in the library media center. There are also books on how to successfully participate in science fairs. A follow-up activity would be for students to write up, in experiment format, an Einstein Anderson story such as “Keep Your Eye on the Ball” in “Einstein Anderson Sees Through the Invisible Man” (catching a ball with one eye covered) or “The Fastest Ketchup in the Cafeteria” in “Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale” (getting ketchup out of the bottle).
Activity 3: Identifying science content
Purpose: Einstein is knowledgeable about all areas of science from chemistry and animal behavior to fluid physics (what makes ketchup move . . . or not in “The Fastest Ketchup in the Cafeteria” in “Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale”). Science is “a body of knowledge and understanding of the physical and natural world”. Students have had some opportunities to become familiar with science materials through earlier activities on the science process. Now they need to focus on an area of interest that will provide the content for their piece. Students also should be reading or listening to as many of the stories as possible to get a feel for how the author uses a wide variety of scientific topics from friction to animal behavior and processes.
Materials: Simon books from display used earlier, additional books borrowed from the science section (500-599) of the library media center, science magazines such as “National Geographic”, “National Geographic World”, “Odyssey”, “Science News”, etc. as well as weekly news magazines such as “Time” and “Newsweek” which have several science columns and the science sections of the daily newspapers; “TV Guide” or its newspaper equivalent to locate science television shows, science textbooks, videos, photographs, etc.
Method: Give students plenty of time and opportunities to browse through these materials to locate a topic that interests them. With the library media specialist plan a library visit to see more materials. Help students become aware of the type of science content found in an Einstein Anderson piece by reading from one of the pieces and having the students take notes on science content. Another method would be to photocopy one piece for each student and ask him/her to underline/highlight science information. (Making multiple copies of one piece in an anthology for one purpose conforms with the Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials).
Activity 4: Identifying a construct
In order for students to create their own piece they need to be aware of the constructs that Simon uses as a framework for the characters and content to operate within.
Handout “Use These Constructs to Help Plan Your Story”
Use the following handout as a basis for class discussion.