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Content characteristics of science and nature books for children

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Available Online at http://iassr.org/journal
2013 (c) EJRE published by
International Association of Social Science Research - IASSR
ISSN: 2147-6284
European Journal of Research on Education, 2014, Special Issue: Contemporary Studies
in Education, 19-26
European
Journal of
Research on
Education
Content characteristics of science and nature books for children1
Nihat Bayat a *, Hakan Ülper b
a
Akdeniz University, Faculty of Education, Antalya, 07000, Turkey
Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Faculty of Education, Burdur, 15000, Turkey
b
Abstract
This research aims to determine the levels of quality of certain books concerning the events of science and nature prepared for
children between the ages of 3 and 6 in terms of rationality, content simplification, plainness, suitability of the names of the
books, illustration and linguistic features. As for the sample, 40 different books used in science activities of nine different
kindergartens in Konyaaltı district of Antalya have been chosen. These books are published by 9 different publishing houses. The
technique used for data analysis is document analysis. Since the aim is to determine the content levels of science and nature
books in this research, the books have been analyzed from different aspects. The quality levels belonging to the criteria have been
classified as high, medium and low. Identification of these points has been done as a result of the consensus of three experts.
According to the results concerning rationality, simplicity, plainness, suitability of the name, illustration levels and linguistic
quality, there are many problems with the characteristics required for the content of these books.
© 2014 European Journal of Research on Education by IASSR.
Keywords:Children’s books, science and nature books, scientific thought
1. Introduction
It is possible for children to be brought up as mentally strong individuals through versatile education.
Developing programs and materials appropriate for the interests and characteristics of children starting from the
period of preschool education is among the factors enabling education to succeed. In this respect, it is of great
importance to develop materials that will reinforce the physical, intellectual, emotional and social skills of children
and accelerate their socialization process (Bilaloğlu et al., 2006), which is among the aims of preschool education.
One of these materials is the informative book.
The books concerning the events of science and nature in children’s literature are among the materials assisting
science education in preschool education. Karaer and Kösterelioğlu (2005) identify the aim of science education as
improving problem-solving skills of children via scientific methods, helping them adopt the method of scientific
thinking, enabling them to learn science concepts and take an interest in the events of science. These aims have to be
compatible with the findings and methods of positive sciences. The individuals who learn the ways of scientific
thinking in positive sciences can succeed in comprehending and managing the world. According to Dökme (2005),
scientific thinking is a person’s developing various hypotheses for a problem, gathering related data, interpreting
them through an objective approach and processing his/her mind with a systematic effort in order to reach rational
results.
Sever (2008) specifies children’s literature as a general term for the products enriching children’s worlds of
emotions and thoughts through linguistic and visual messages with an artistic quality, and enhancing their levels of
1
This study is the extended version of the paper which was presented at European Conference on Social Science Research in Marmara
University, Istanbul on June 19-21, 2013.
* E-mail address: [email protected]
Nihat Bayat & Hakan Ülper
appreciation in accordance with their language development and level of understanding in the phase of life starting
from early childhood and including adolescence. For these books, the counterpart of the world of emotions and
thoughts that is present in this definition is books of literary and scientific quality.
Books of scientific quality are the books that aim for teaching principally. The books concerning the events of
science and nature have a scientific value. The topics such as the events that take place in the natural environment,
certain inventions in the scientific area, machines and their work systems are among the topics in which children are
interested. Therefore, these books that meet the need for knowledge are classified as the books concerning animals,
plants and nature. However, it is also necessary to include the books that present the work systems of various tools
and machines into these books. The children reading these books learn many principles, concepts and laws of
physics and chemistry easily. Moreover, these books contribute to the development of children’s imaginary worlds
and their skills of observation, environmental recognition and synthesizing (Erdal et al., 2007; Kıbrıs, 2002;
Oğuzkan, 2000; Demirel et al., 2011; Tanju, 2013).
There are some certain qualities required for all books prepared for children. These features can be made explicit
as follows: Direct provision of the main idea, the selected topics’ being based on the reality and occurring among the
topics children come across in their daily lives (Ciravoğlu, 2000; Yalçın and Aytaş, 2005), the books’ containing a
simple and rational organization, simplified events, a suitable name and explanatory pictures (Oğuzkan, 2000;
Canpolat and Pınarbaşı, 2002; Tanju, 2013). Besides these features, the most important point about which there
should not be any mistakes in the books within the scope of children’s literature is linguistic quality. Gönen et al.
(2011) assert that one of the important functions of children’s books is helping them improve their language skills
and gain awareness of language. Children gain the awareness of language via books. Children’s books are extremely
effective especially in vocabulary learning (Gönen, 1988). Therefore, the language used in these types of texts
should be within the limits of colloquial language and concrete meaning (Genç, 2007).
The books examined in this research are prepared for children between the ages of 3 and 6. The children at this
age group are at the preoperational stage determined by Piaget. Children just start to use symbols at this stage. They
make connections between various objects and events through symbols. In addition, children have difficulties in
comprehending others’ viewpoints at the preoperational stage. They tend to change the facts according to their own
desires. Their reasoning is superficial. They usually think with a single perspective and make incorrect
generalizations (Genç, 2005).
In the intuitive phase, which is the second phase of preoperational stage, children get mistaken and reason based
on their intuitions instead of thinking logically. They lay stress on just one dimension of the phenomena. They
cannot make a high level of classification. They are not successful in building the part-whole relationships. Their
thinking skills come true based on the physical activity and the attractive appearance of objects. They cannot get
beyond the data obtained through sensation since they have difficulty in reasoning (Genç, 2005).
Based on the data above, it is aimed to determine the levels of quality of the books concerning the events of
science and nature prepared for the children between the ages of 3 and 6 in terms of their content in this research.
Answers have been sought for the following sub-problems in order to find an answer for this question:
1. What are the levels of the books concerning the events of science and nature in term of rationality?
2. What are the levels of the books concerning the events of science and nature in term of content
simplification?
3. What are the levels of the books concerning the events of science and nature in term of plainness?
4. What are the suitability levels of the names of the books concerning the events of science and nature?
5. What are the levels of the books concerning the events of science and nature in terms of illustration?
6. What are the levels of the books concerning the events of science and nature in terms of linguistic features?
20
Content characteristics of science and nature books for children
2. Method
This research, in which the researchers try to determine the general features of children’s books that aim to
explain being scientific, has a descriptive quality. In descriptive studies, a situation regarding a topic is examined
and identified (Büyüköztürk et al., 2009). In this study, the researchers attempt to determine the content levels of the
books concerning the events of science and nature prepared for children.
2.1. Population and Sample
Books concerning the events of science and nature make up the population of the research. As for the sample, 40
different books prepared for the children between the ages of 3 and 6, and used in science activities of nine different
kindergartens in Konyaaltı district of Antalya constitute it. These books have been identified as a result of the
interviews conducted with the teachers working in the schools. Samples of the books the teachers use for science
activities have been selected randomly, and 3 or 4 book samples have been taken from each school. Thus, the books
making up the sample of the research are books that are used actively in science activities.
2.2. Data Collection and Analysis
The data have been collected by gathering the books concerning the events of science and nature selected from
the books of various kindergartens. Although the number of the books was 46 at first, it has been decided as a result
of the pre-review accompanied with expert opinion that 6 of these books are stories or tales, and therefore that they
cannot be included in the category of scientific books. After the elimination of these books, 40 books have
remained. Out of these 40 books, 14 are published by Tübitak, 4 by Can Çocuk Publishing, 10 by YA-PA, 4 by
Aksoy Publishing, 3 by Oluşum Publishing, 1 by AÇEV, 1 by Bilgi, 1 by Nasa and 2 by Özyürek Publishing. These
are books of various authors.
The technique used for data analysis is document analysis. Document analysis involves the analysis of the
written materials containing information about the phenomenon or phenomena that is/are aimed to be studied
(Yıldırım and Şimşek, 2008). Since the researchers attempt to determine the content levels of the science and nature
books in this research, the books written for this purpose have been analyzed from different aspects. Before the
analysis of the books, the criteria specified for the books concerning the events of science and nature in the literature
have been reviewed. Six different criteria, which are rationality, simplicity, plainness, suitability of the name,
illustration and linguistic features, have been determined on this basis.
The research has been limited with the books prepared for the age group of 3-6. Before the evaluation of the
books, the characteristics of this age group have been taken into account, and the extent to which mistakes cause
problems for the comprehension of the main idea in the book in terms of the criteria determined via expert opinion
has been taken into consideration. So, if there are not any mistakes regarding the criteria in a reviewed book or if
there is an unimportant mistake, the book has been specified as HIGH level. If there is a mistake that makes the
concerned dimension problematic, the book has been determined to be MEDIUM level. In the case that there are
more mistakes and the concerned dimension cannot come true in any way, the book has been identified as LOW
level. For instance, the reason for the book named A Sunny Day being regarded as high level in terms of rationality
is the presence of such points as provision of expression about the concept of Sun through the details that
correspond to the lives of children and presentation of the changes about the Sun together with their reasons. The
book starts with sunrise in the morning. Butterflies and bees’ flying among flowers, which can be seen in sunny
days, is explained. The concept of shade and the fact that shades get longer when the sun goes down are mentioned.
Lastly, the sky’s turning red during the sunset is described. Since this expression makes children’s conceptualization
of the Sun easier within the integrity of the book, the rationality level of the book has been determined to be high.
However, the book named The Little Caterpillar has been characterized as medium level in terms of rationality
because the narrative is described as a tale at the beginning of the book. The sentences uttered by the caterpillar in
the book such as “In fact, I am as green as grass, and what’s more I am as ugly as a toad.” can overshadow the
objective relationship that will be established with nature by the children. This leads to a partial problem in terms of
21
Nihat Bayat & Hakan Ülper
rationality. As for the book named Father Winter, it has been found low level in terms of rationality because
snowdrops are described as living things that feel cold in the book. A snowdrop is a plant belonging to winter.
Therefore, the only season it can survive in is winter. However, snowdrops use such statements in the book as
“Brrr... How much it snowed... Kids, do not go out without coat... Look, even we are too cold. We drooped because
of the cold weather.” In another part of the book, the focus turns acutely to a child that catches a cold, and cohesion
is lost. As these points create an important problem for rationality, the book has been determined to be low level in
this aspect. Identification of these points has been done as a result of the consensus of three experts. So, it can be
said that the experts are in absolute agreement.
3. Findings
The sub-problems of the research are about determining the levels of the books concerning the events of science
and nature in terms of rationality, simplicity, plainness, suitability of the name, illustration and linguistic quality. All
of the results of the document analysis conducted to find answers for these questions have been shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Overall picture of the books concerning the events of science and nature in terms of rationality, simplicity,
plainness, suitability of the name, illustration and linguistic quality
Rationality
Simplicity
Suitability of
the Name
Plainness
Illustration
Linguistic
Quality
The Name of the Book
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
22
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
LOW
X
MEDIUM
X
X
X
X
X
X
HIGH
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
LOW
X
X
MEDIUM
X
X
HIGH
X
LOW
X
X
MEDIUM
X
HIGH
X
LOW
23
24
25
MEDIUM
19
20
21
22
HIGH
18
LOW
17
X
MEDIUM
14
15
16
HIGH
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
LOW
2
Time Travel
(Day/Season)
The Feast of Plants
(Plants)
Swan Park
Setenay’s Tree
Oh That Water
Doçi and the Space
Doçi and The Water
Doçi is Planting Trees
Birds
The Earth and the Sky
The Ladybug
The Egg
The Little Ant and The
Beautiful Daisy
The Little Worm
The Little Caterpillar
The Little Sparrow is
Learning to Fly
The Little Camel That
Doesn’t Like the Desert
Sultan Rose’s Pot
House
Father Winter
Sounds of the Forest
The Wrinkled Tomato
The Adventure of the
Wheat
The Tale of the Sea
Jupiter’s Skirt
The Huge Small Sea
MEDIUM
HIGH
1
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Content characteristics of science and nature books for children
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
The Bug That Likes
Lights
The Butterfly
In the Nest
In the Farm
In the Lake
At the Seaside
A Windy Day
A Sunny Day
A Rainy Day
Four Elements
Our Body From Head
To Foot
What is Made of What?
Our Senses
How Do We Move
Waste? No Problem
TOTAL
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
15
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
20
X
X
X
17
X
X
X
X
8
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
11
11
X
7
13
20
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
17
X
12
23
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
9
X
X
8
9
8
13
19
According to the results of the document analysis conducted in order to determine the rationality levels of the
books concerning the events of science and nature regarding the first sub-problem of the research, 17 of the books
are low level, 15 of them are medium level, and 8 of them are high level. In Jupiter’s Skirt, one of the problematic
books in terms of rationality, the author tries to introduce the planet Jupiter; however, this is done in the form of a
mythological story. Jupiter is presented as the son of the Sun and the planet Çelebi, and their wedding ceremony is
described. The striped appearance of Jupiter is found similar to a frilled skirt, and it is mentioned that it has been
bought from a seller. Since this type of an expression is a technique incompatible with the formation of scientific
thought, it creates problems in terms of rationality. Time Travel is another book reviewed. In this book, the case of
sleeping is used so as to introduce the noon, which is a part of the day. The act of sleeping does not belong to the
noon. It symbolizes the night more dominantly. So, it overshadows the conceptualization of the noon as a period of
time. Therefore, Time Travel has been determined to be medium level with regard to rationality. As for the book
named A Windy Day, the wind is presented in it. By mentioning the wind’s blowing the leaves on the grass, messing
up the hair of children and spinning the wind turbines, the reality that has a correspondence with the children is
taken as a basis. The sources of these incidents are pointed out. Since a correct procedure is implemented in terms of
rationality by this way, this book has been identified as high level with regard to rationality.
The results of the data analysis conducted for indentifying the simplicity levels of the books concerning the
events of science and nature with regard to the second sub-problem of the research indicate that 13 of the books are
low level, 7 of them are medium level, and 20 of them are high level. The book named Doçi and the Space has been
identified as low level in terms of simplification because all the information has been provided directly in this book,
which aims for introducing the space, and simplification strategies have not been applied. For instance, it is not
possible for the children that do not know the concepts of space, water and life relationship and the solar system to
comprehend the content in the sentences like “There is no life in any of the planets except for the earth because the
only planet where water exists in the solar system is our earth. For this reason, our earth is also called the water
planet.” As for the book named The Little Ant and the Beautiful Daisy, the author mentions the dew, wind, ant and
daisy in it. Their interaction is not reflected explicitly in some points. For example, there are not any explanations
about what dew is and how it occurs. In the book named The Little Worm, the response of the tree to the worm that
feels itself useless as “You are not useless. You dig in the ground every day. The soil takes air by this way. The
grass freshens up much more.” reflects the functions of worms in nature clearly and explicitly. Therefore, this book
has been regarded as high level in terms of simplification.
As for the results of the document analysis conducted in order to determine the plainness levels of the books
concerning the events of science and nature in terms of the third sub-problem of the research, they show that 11 of
the books are low level, 9 of them are medium level, and 20 of them are high level. The book named How Do We
Move? leads to the expectation that human movement system will be described. However, it is not described.
Moreover, the numbers of feet of various animals are provided. Then, the flow of the book is interrupted, and
23
Nihat Bayat & Hakan Ülper
sentences introducing the living things such as fleas and termites are made. In the book, the content in the forefront
is not a detail about the people. Therefore, it is a low level book with regard to plainness. As for the book named The
Ladybug, this insect is generally introduced in this book. Yet, many other insects are mentioned without a reason in
the last few pages. This case distorts the plainness to a certain extent, and the book has been identified as medium
level in this respect. In the book named The Adventure of the Wheat, only the growth of wheat including the process
from seed to its turning into bread or cake is focused on. Since no other content is included, the book has been
determined to be high level in terms of plainness.
The results of the document analysis conducted to discover the suitability levels of the names of the books about
the events of science and nature belonging to the fourth sub-problem of the research indicate that 12 of the books are
low level, 17 of them are medium level, and 11 of them are high level. The book named Sultan Rose’s Pot House
has been identified as low level in terms of the suitability of the name since this name dominantly reflects the
content of a story rather than scientific content. The book named The Bug That Likes Lights has been regarded as
medium level because this name emphasizes the instinctive characteristic of the lightning bug. However, it is used
together with the act of “liking”, and it brings to mind literary content in part. Since the names of Birds and Our
Senses remind of completely scientific content, these books have been determined to be high level.
According to the results of the document analysis conducted so as to determine the illustration levels of the
books concerning the events of science and nature with regard to the fifth sub-problem of the research, 9 of the
books are low level, 8 of them are medium level, and 21 of them are high level. In the book named Doçi is Planting
Trees, in which the concepts of tree planting and forestation are explained, the picture of the entrance door of the
Ministry of Forestry building has been used. Furthermore, the emblems of many different organizations or
associations have been provided. Since these are not related to the determined objective, the illustration level of the
book is low. The book named The Huge Small Sea is full of pictures with a dominant interpretative orientation
rather than explanatory pictures required for scientific books. Thus, it has been regarded as medium level in terms of
the level of illustration. As for the book named At the Seaside, the pictures used in it are extremely descriptive, and
they are complementary pictures aimed at bridging linguistic gaps. For instance, the animals of hermit crabs and sea
anemones have been illustrated through pictures in the pages where these animals are introduced. This book is high
level in terms of illustration.
As for the results of the document analysis conducted for identifying the levels of linguistic features of the books
about the events of science and nature belonging to the sixth sub-problem of the research, they indicate that 19 of
the books are low level, 13 of them are medium level, and 8 of them are high level. In the book named Birds,
linguistic quality is extremely low. The sentence used while introducing birds “Their beaks have been created
according to food.” is an example for inconsistency. It is wrong to use the act of “creating” as a religious term in a
book that should aim for scientific thought. Similarly, the following dialogue is made between the father planet
Çelebi and the mother Sun in the book named Jupiter’s Skirt: “When my father came home, my mother was making
tomato sauce. /Every part of her was full of tomato stains. “What happened to you girl?” my father asked, “Are you
ashamed? Your cheeks glowed.” Mother Sun responds “What’s it got to do with getting ashamed, you rascal.” This
expression is quite far from both scientific content and the age level of the reader. Moreover, it does not contain a
high level of culture. These books are low level in terms of linguistic quality. As for the book named The Earth and
the Sky, there are some minor problems regarding the linguistic quality in this book. For instance, it is a disturbing
mistake to use a possessive adjective (our) for the planet Earth in these types of books where an objective relation
should be built with the content. In addition, the sentence “So, the moon changes its shape every day because of this
hide and seek game of the sunlight.” regarding the movement of the Sun, which is a natural motion, overshadows
the content in terms of language use. In the book named The Butterfly, a simple and influential language is used in
terms of both addressing the reader group and reflecting the content objectively. The statement in which the
caterpillar’s turning into a butterfly in its cocoon is mentioned as “Its skin is gradually turning into a bright covering.
It is hanging on there silently and standing still.” is an example for this. In the book named A Windy Day, the
behaviors of birds and some other animals that are observed when it starts to rain are described with the sentence
“The birds that want their feathers to be dry gather on the trees, and the other animals jump, run, crawl and take
shelter in nooks.” This expression reflects a simple but effective language use. Thus, these two books have been
identified as high level in terms of language use.
24
Content characteristics of science and nature books for children
4. Conclusion and Discussion
This study has aimed to determine the quality levels of the books describing the events of science and nature in
terms of content in order to help the children within the age group of 3-6 adopt and improve scientific thinking
skills. The findings indicate that there are many problems with the characteristics required for the content of these
books. The fact that only 8 of the books have been found high level in terms of rationality and linguistic quality out
of 40 books constituting the sample of the research is a point to consider. The function of these two dimensions in
the formation and establishment of scientific thought is of great importance because science works coordinately with
logic, and this relationship reflects itself through language (Bingöl, 2007).
One of the results of the research is that none of the books have been determined to be high level in terms of the
criteria. It is expected that all the dimensions should have a sufficient level in children’s books presenting scientific
content (Biçici, 2006) because the children between the ages of 3 and 6 cannot find mistakes in the books and
comment on them individually due their characteristics resulting from their ages. In this respect, Yörükoğlu (1996)
states that it is necessary for children’s books to have a plain language, clear concepts and an enjoyable, instructive
and thought-provoking quality, and they should introduce the environment realistically and provide guidance
towards research and free thought. These dimensions are compatible with the developing characteristics of the
children.
The books reviewed in the research contain the books published by many different publishing houses. The fact
that the content characteristics of the books released by the same publishing house are not at the same level is a
point to emphasize. For instance, 13 books of Tübitak Publishing have been evaluated in total. Eight of these books
are written by Anna Milbourne, and five of them are written by Nuria Roca. While it is seen that the books written
by Anna Milbourne are extremely successful from almost all aspects, the books written by Nuria Roca are found
quite inefficient. In this respect, it would not be wrong to say that the publishing house is not actually a determining
factor for the selection of science and nature books, and that the author has a more determining role in the quality of
the book instead.
Plainness is a significant point for children’s books describing the events of science and nature. Half of the
evaluated books have been found faulty in terms of plainness. The books concerning the events of science and
nature are among the materials aimed at teaching. The children at the preoperational stage covering the ages
between 2 and 7 are not able to think in more than one dimension at the same time (Schunk, 2009). For this reason,
it is necessary to provide only one topic in the books and give the reader the opportunity to focus on just this point.
The suitability of the name is also an important point in the books concerning the events of science and nature. In
this research, the names of only 11 books are appropriate for having scientific content. Literary connotations have
been encountered in the names of the other books. Since literature comes out with a language game, it is intended
for a purpose different from the expressing scientific thought. Therefore, it is more appropriate to use titles
presenting the content clearly in these books.
It has been found out that 23 of the reviewed books are compatible with the information provided in the relevant
page in terms of illustration, and that the pictures used can explain the provided content. Illustration has an
important function in children’s books. Döl (1999) points out the importance of recognition of the objects in the
picture books by the children, and states that this case helps the children enjoy themselves and learn about life. Via
picture books, children’s language development and critical consciousness are reinforced. The fact that almost half
of the books in the study have been found faulty with regard to illustration is a point to consider in term of child
development. Gönen et al. (2011) have ascertained in their study in which they reviewed a hundred children’s books
that the books contain pictures at the rate of 93%. This finding is the evidence of the fact that the content is
significantly transmitted through pictures in children’s books. According to Gündüz (2007), children’s books should
support the written and visual communication of the child.
One of the weakest sides of the evaluated books is their linguistic quality. Out of 40 books, the number of the
books with a high level of linguistic quality is only 8. The identified mistakes appear with a language use far from
reflecting the scientific content. The books describing the events of science and nature are among informative texts.
Günay (2007) asserts that informative texts are written in order to explain a phenomenon, thought or situation so
that the reader can understand the topic better. In order for this to come true, language games used in the art of
25
Nihat Bayat & Hakan Ülper
literature must be avoided. The content should be conveyed to the reader through clear concepts on which there is an
agreement.
It has also been ascertained that the language use is inconsistent with pictures on the relevant pages in the books
about the events of science and nature, that the style of the story is dominant, and that the books contain mistakes in
terms of punctuation and the form of writing. The linguistic problems in children’s books are encountered in the
other types of books, too. In Gönen et al.’s (2011) study, it has been found out that there are 98 punctuation and
spelling errors, 68 words above the age level, 11 cases of ambiguity and 10 slang words. This case leads to the
disruption of children’s language development and prevents children from reaching the content of the book. As a
result, people cannot learn the process of scientific thinking or convey it with an appropriate language use.
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