Label: Teacher Guides

September 21, 2013

We recently received this note from teacher Kelly Wilson:

Dear Mr. Simon, 

I am a huge admirer of your books and have been using them for years in my classroom. One of my favorites to use is Autumn in America. My second and third grade students love the photos you use in it and I like how you teach sophisticated concepts to the children in a way that is respectful and not condescending. I don’t like science books that "dumb it down" for young readers!

I attached some images of a teaching packet I made about your book. I made this for other teachers to use when reading your book to their classes. It contains the page numbers, the key concepts, and important vocabulary the teachers should cover. It’s a 14 page document in all. It’s based on how I use your book in my class.

I want to share these photos with you to let you know how much I admire your work. If you have time, I’d love to get your opinion of the packet I made. I also want to get your permission to market my packet on the TeachersPayTeachers and Teacher’s Notebook online shops. I’m concerned that I might have violated your copyrights and want to correct it if I have. 

These two photos are the cover page and a preview of what’s in the entire packet. I’d be glad to send you the whole packet if you’d like.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for your amazing books!

Sincerely, Kelly Wilson

While I am very pleased that Kelly loves my books and is using my work in her classroom, I can only say that she needs to determine whether her project falls under the definition of "Fair Use" (in US copyright law the Fair Use doctrine states that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder). 

I only hold the copyright to the text and certain illustrations (the photographs that I took myself). The publisher owns the rights to the book and some of the photographs are licensed from photographers who own the copyrights.

I’m sure Kelly (and anyone else who asks this kind of question) will understand that I cannot be in the position of judging what is, and what is not, Fair Use. You will have to make that determination on your own.

This is a good question that I hear fairly often, so I’m glad you brought it up.

Thanks for writing! 


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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September 7, 2013

Seymour Simon is pleased and honored that two of his books, VOLCANOES and HORSES, are included in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as English Language Arts Text Exemplars, Grades 4-5 Informational Text. Now, we are providing extra resources to help you make the most of these two popular books!

   Seymour has created detailed Teacher Guides for both of these books, and they are available as free downloads to anyone who is registered as a member of this website. The reason that you must register to become a member of in order to access the free teacher guides is that children also use the website and these materials are not for them. We do not share, sell or use personal information for any other purpose other than to register parents and educators for access to this area of the website.

You can become a member by simply clicking "Sign Up" at the right hand side of the yellow bar at the top of the page. Once you have registered, be sure that you are logged in and visit the "Educators and Families" section of Seymour Simon’s website to download individual copies of the Guide. 

While you are exploring the website, you may also want to try some of the many other free resources that we offer for classroom use on The website offers extensive classroom resources designed to expand students’ understanding and exploration of his books, and also to encourage and reward their efforts as growing readers and writers. In particular, the Seymour Science blog is widely used by schools and classes who are studying his books and looking for opportunities to publish student writing. We have also had very enthusiastic participation by classes in our weekly "Writing Wednesdays," which began again at the beginning of September. 

Best wishes to all the educators who use this website for a smooth and productive start to the new school year!

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Common Core, Volcanoes, Teacher Guides, Teachers and Librarians, Horses   •  Permalink (link to this article)

December 1, 2011

A student named Nequira wrote last night with a good question that I often hear when I speak in schools. 

Nequira asked: How do you come up with what you want to write, what pictures you are going to use, and what title you’re going to put on the cover?

          I have loved nature since I was a young child. Although I grew up in the Bronx – a very crowded part of New York City – the natural world was all around me. There is weather in the city, just as there is in the country. You can see the sun, moon and stars from a rooftop in the city. And I explored a vacant lot on my street, which wasn’t exactly a park, but still had birds, earthworms, small plants, and trees. When I grew up I became a science teacher, so it was natural that when I started to write books, I was writing about science and nature topics that interest me.

Then, the hard part starts! Whenever I want to write about a subject, I need to study. I start by looking at research that other people have done. What experiments have they run? What animals have they observed? By studying all the work that others have already done, I learn about the subjects that I write about in my books. 

Readers often ask about how I get the photographs for my books. Sometimes I travel to places myself and take the photographs. I have photographed glaciers in Alaska, volcanoes in Hawaii and wildfires in California. Other times, I arrange to use other people’s photographs. Often these are specialists - like a scientist who has been living in Antarctica and observing penguin behaviors. Someone like that has photographs that I could never get in a single, short trip.


In the case of my newest book, BUTTERFLIES, we searched long and hard for the perfect photograph for the cover. We finally found this one from photographer Kha Dang, who also raises butterflies for the Butterfly Magic Exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

When it is time to decide on the title, I talk with my editor, who works at the company that publishes and sells the book. The editor gives me notes, suggestions and corrections on my writing (much as your teacher would), and also makes the final decision about the title.

Sometimes it is easy to pick a title (like BUTTERFLIES), but sometimes...

read more

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: New Books, Teacher Guides, Dogs, Teachers and Librarians, Pets, Awards   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 7, 2011

I often hear from college students who are studying to be teachers and doing author studies on my books and my writing style. I am always flattered and honored to learn that future teachers have chosen to study my work and plan to use my books in the classroom. Thank you, if you are one of them!

Here are two letters I have received recently, both of which are quite typical of the kind of questions that often come up. I decided to answer them here on the blog, as a way of sharing the information with other education students.

Dear Seymour Simon,

I am presenting an author study on you and your work for my Literacy in the Elementary Classroom class at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. I am contacting you to ask you for any help that you may be able to give me. I chose to focus my attention on three books in particular, Killer Whales, Cats, and Knights and Castles. I am developing three activities that correlate to each book. These activities focus on either fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension. I also need to write a paper on you (biographical information) and your writing style. Anything that you can do to help will be greatly appreciated!

Jordan Mertz, Moravian College


Mr. Simon

I am a student at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I am currently enrolled in a literature for children and adolescents class. My instructor has asked all of her students to present to the rest of the class an Author Illustrator Study. I was reading information about you on your web page but I did not see answers to a couple of questions that I would like to include in my study. What are you hobbies and what do you like to do in your spare time?

For this lesson we also have to prepare a snack for the class that pertains to the author. I was wondering what is your favorite snack?


David Honeycutt

To answer Jordan’s question, I would say that although you could use my books to cover any of these topics, I think that nonfiction photo-essays are particularly well-suited to teaching vocabulary and comprehension. In all three of the books that you are focusing on, your students will come across words that are unfamiliar. One technique that you can teach your students is to look for the little word inside the big word. For example, from the books you have chosen, this would apply to the word "purebred" in CATS, the word "blowhole" in KILLER WHALES, and "crossbow" in KNIGHTS AND CASTLES. You can also encourage your readers to make connections by using all the resources on the page - photographs, graphs and other illustrations - to help them decipher unfamiliar words. Use open-ended questions to initiate discussion that will help students expand their comprehension of the text.

Schools around the country are using my Seymour Science blog to encourage and reward student efforts as growing readers and writers. Last April we had an enormously successful month as readers celebrated Earth Day 2011, culminating in the...

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Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Teacher Guides, Teachers and Librarians, Writing   •  Permalink (link to this article)

April 13, 2011

What animal can . . .

  • run so fast, its feet don’t always touch the ground? 
  • weigh more than 2,000 pounds?
  • sense people’s emotions by their smell?
  •  . . . and wear shoes?

A horse, of course! Horses are some of the most fascinating - and historically important - creatures on Earth. Are you, or your class, interested in horses? We received this letter last week from a teacher:

"Your books are awesome and so engaging for elementary school, middle, and high school students.  I am a 4th grade English Language Arts Teacher and I plan to get your book, HORSES, to use as part of a unit.  Does your book discuss the impact of horses on Native Americans for hunting buffalo?"  

Our answer was "yes," Seymour Simon’s book HORSES includes the role of horses in American history, including their role in making Native Americans "the mounted buffalo hunters and warriors of the Great Plains."













Then we realized that we had never uploaded the free Teacher Guide which you can download from Seymour’s website and use with HORSES. We have added it now now, and it is quite extensive, with Questions for Before and After Reading, Activities, Additional Resources, and a Student Activity page.

If you haven’t yet tried one of Seymour Simon’s Teacher Guides (which are suited for either classroom or home use), try this one today!


All photographs from Seymour Simon’s HORSES (HarperCollins, 2006)

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(3) Comments  •   Labels: Animals, Animal Books, Teacher Guides, Teachers and Librarians, Horses   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 25, 2010

In many ways, my year begins with the school year which for me as a student and then a teacher began the first week in September. All the rhythms of my year are tied in with school. I recall how excited I was to meet with the students in my new classes (I usually taught science to either 9th or 7th graders and also had a class with seniors in what the school called “creative writing.”) I remember that by the end of the first week, my voice was hoarse and it would take the weekend to recover. By the second week of school I had learned how to modulate my speaking enough to last through the five teaching periods a day and the teacher interaction that took place during lunch period and my “free” periods. (Teachers know that there is no such thing as a “free” period; you just do things other than direct teaching.}

So as the summer is winding down and as school approaches or has already begun in some places, I want to reach out to teachers and say hi and good luck. I’ll be writing on my blog during the school year about all kinds of things including my speaking in schools across the country. I hope you’ll drop me a note from time to time, telling me about something interesting that is happening in your class in science or in nature or just about using my books with kids (and be sure to look at the free teacher guides for my books which you can easily download). From time to time, I’ll be awarding a free Skype session with a teacher and the class that is working with my books. Be sure to be in touch!

Photo: Seymour speaking in San Angelo, Texas, Spring 2010




Posted by: Seymour Simon

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May 26, 2010

We’ve been writing a lot this month about the work we are doing to develop free, downloadable TEACHER GUIDES to go with all 26 of Seymour’s Collins/Smithsonian books (plus some other perennial favorites like ANIMALS NOBODY LOVES, EARTH, THE MOON, THE PAPER AIRPLANE BOOK, etc).


One of the nice features at the start of each Guide is a brief piece of first person writing from Seymour entitled "Why I Wrote This Book." It’s designed for teachers or parents to read aloud with kids before starting to talk about the book together. Today we are working on the Guide to accompany DOGS. Here is a preview of what Seymour wrote about the genesis of this book.


My first dog was a Springer Spaniel named Nova. Nova means "a new star" and that’s what NOVA was: a new star in our family. Then my son Mike got a dog and he named it Riley (who was then the coach of the New York Knicks). He eventually got another dog named Dizzy (you can guess why) and I dedicated this book to all three (but I misspelled the name of one of my son’s dogs-check the dedication to see which one).


We have completed a prototype Teacher Guide - for EARTHQUAKES - and are currently testing it in classrooms.  If you would like to give us your feedback you can download a copy by clicking on this link. We would love to hear from you!


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Animals Nobody Loves, Animal Books, Teacher Guides, Dogs, Teachers and Librarians   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 24, 2010

Today we thought we’d share some of the feedback from the In-School testing which is underway on the prototype Teacher Guide for Seymour’s EARTHQUAKES book. This testing is happening in conjunction with the creation of thirty Teacher Guides to be used with his books. They will be available online for free teacher downloads by the time schools resume in the autumn of 2010.

For those interested in the anecdotal highlights of the in-school testing, here is feedback from fellow science writer Jordan Brown, who is collaborating with us on both the writing and testing.

 Highlights of the 3rd grade class testing:


* Kids enjoyed having "Why I Wrote this Book" from Seymour Simon read aloud. One of the teachers shared her story about experiencing an earthquake in Seattle.

* As you might expect, any opportunity for children to share personal stories captured group interest. One boy told about visiting California recently and experiencing his first earthquake.

* The 3rd graders really liked the "Make a Quake" website. We did this online activity several times, changing the variables to see how damaged the building became.

* Many kids were very surprised to learn how frequent earthquakes are.

* They also enjoyed when I passed around the hard-boiled egg with the cracked shell still on (like cracked plates around Earth). Spontaneously, I had all kids press their palms together forcefully, then have one of the hands push upward, so they could imitate the motion of faults sliding passed each other.

* For the building activity, I made the challenge a bit tougher for the third graders. I told students to build a building as tall as they could—but also try to stabilize it. Otherwise, I feared they would just make long, flat structures. All but one of the buildings they made held up when, as a group, we tested them out by shaking a plastic plate beneath each model.

From the Kindergarten Testing:

* Kids loved looking at the dramatic photos when I flipped through the book—but some of the kindergartners got a little scared. I made a point of reassuring them that the chances of a big, dangerous earthquake in our area was very rare.

* Class was fascinated by the map on page 12 (in which every small red dot represents where an EQ has occurred).

* When talking about why scientists can’t predict precisely when an EQ will occur—one child made the comparison to a balloon being blown up. If you keep blowing, eventually it will pop—but you don’t know exactly when.

* Building activity was a big hit - The teacher commented that she really loved watching the groups of children having to work together to figure out a possible solution. When some of the groups had trouble coming up with a self-standing building (I only provided a small number of materials, so they had to think creatively), they got inspiration and ideas by looking at each other’s work.

If you are interested in giving us feedback on this prototype, we would LOVE to hear from you. You can download a free copy of the Teacher Guide for Seymour Simon’s EARTHQUAKES by clicking on this link.


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Earthquakes, Teacher Guides, School Visits, Teachers and Librarians, Earth Science Books   •  Permalink (link to this article)

May 12, 2010

We are hard at work creating Teacher Guides to be used with all 26 of Seymour Simon’s Collins/Smithsonian books (as well as other favorites like EARTH, THE MOON, DESTINATION MARS, ANIMALS NOBODY LOVES, etc) in the classroom. The four-page, black-and-white PDFs will include: Why I Wrote this Book (from the author), an Introductory Activity, Questions to Ask Before Reading (with answers), Questions to Ask After Reading (with answers), Classroom Activities, Additional Resources (both books, web links, relevant graphs and charts), and a reproducible page with a children’s activity.

Our goal is to have thirty of these Teacher Guides created and available online for free teacher downloads by the time schools resume in the autumn of 2010.

One of the guides is finished and currently being tested in schools. This is an image of structures built by 3rd graders, who then tested them to see if they could survive an "earthquake." You can download a free copy of the Teacher Guide for Seymour Simon’s EARTHQUAKES, which includes multiple teacher resources and this hands-on activity, by clicking on this link.


And, if you would like to give us feedback on this prototype, we would LOVE to hear from you.


Posted by: Liz Nealon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: Teacher Guides, Teachers and Librarians   •  Permalink (link to this article)