All About Almanacs

Use almanacs to entice your learners to explore non-fiction texts in celebration of Read-An-Almanac Month!

By Christen Amico

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Almanacs, filled with weather patterns, tide tables, and astronomical statistics, have been around for thousands of years, but are often not effectively utilized in the classroom. The records and data they hold play an important role in our history and can be a powerful learning tool for children and young adults. Teachers can take advantage of Read-An-Almanac Month by introducing ways in which almanacs can get kids interested in reading non-fiction books while learning new information.

Investigate All Kinds of Almanacs

There is a multitude of almanacs available. There are astronomical almanacs, farmers’ almanacs, and even the New York Times has its own almanac for your reading pleasure. However, for children, the best place to start is the World Almanac for Kids (2012) because it is filled with fun facts that are guaranteed to keeps them interested in reading. Although the almanac itself isn’t free, there are lots of free activities and worksheets to help kids unlock even more fun facts about the things that are important to them. Older students and adults will most likely enjoy browsing through the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, which is published completely online, and has records and detailed historical facts about countries all over the world. It is always a great idea to collect as many different almanacs as possible, so that everyone is sure to find something worth reading!

Connect with Non-Fiction

As many parents and teachers know, getting kids to want to read a non-fiction text can be rather challenging. Sometimes, fiction stories are just more interesting than non-fiction. Set apart some time in July to change this notion! One of the most enjoyable aspects to reading an almanac is that it can be read in any order. By allowing young readers to jump right into the parts that grab their attention, teachers can use this time to explain how reading a non-fiction text is different from a fiction text. Here are some more mini-lesson ideas to use when first transitioning from fiction to non-fiction (informational) texts:

  • Text features such as the index or table of contents help readers go straight to the page that is most interesting to them. 
  • Graphic organizers, such as a KWL chart or word web, can be extremely helpful in keeping track of newly learned information.
  • Information is sometimes hidden in places like captions, subtitles, and diagrams.
  • When reading a new passage, it is always smart to be making connections to other texts.
  • Vocabulary words are often more challenging in a non-fiction text, so be sure to use context clues, definitions, and the glossary to figure out the meaning of a new word.

Dive In

Many teachers look at books like fact books and almanacs as extras, rather than being a crucial part of a balanced literacy program. However, when used appropriately, these types of books can be a source of meaningful and culturally relevant reading material. Allowing pupils to choose their books for independent reading time can foster motivation and improve reading stamina. Boys especially, are prone to boredom during independent reading time. So, allowing them to pick books that they find  interesting will help improve their reading abilities. Almanacs can also be used in conjunction with social studies units. Challenge your class to find as many interesting facts about a particular world event or era as possible. These fun facts can be charted and documented throughout the entire school year.

Almanacs can even be used with science; specifically with the study of plants or solar system. Some farmers today still rely on the Old Farmer’s Almanac to determine the best time to plant seeds. Learners can use the data to make predictions about their own plants. Another fun game to try is Jeopardy; where kids can choose topics and questions to earn points for their team. Jeopardy can be used as in introduction to a new unit or as a culmination activity. In addition, your class can create the Jeopardy questions based on the almanacs that they have read! Teachers can also help young scholars keep track of important class and school data throughout the year by writing their own school almanac that can be used for future classes to read!

Lessons:

Make a Community Almanac

Use this lesson plan to help pupils investigate their own community as means to writing their own almanac. Possible questions include: Where is the longest street? What year was the hottest temperature? Who is the oldest living citizen?

Using an Almanac

This is a great introductory lesson to using an almanac in a classroom. Topics include how to find particular topics and check on facts.

Almanac Worksheet (primary)

This worksheet poses questions regarding information taken from an actual alamanc. Second and third graders can complete this as homework or in class assignment to review how to use an almanac.

Almanac Worksheet (secondary)

Secondary learners can practice using data taken from an actual almanac to answer open ended questions. This is also a great assessment tool to check for understanding of how and when an almanac should be used.