The Private Eye - looking closely and thinking by analogy with jeweler's loupes and inquiry method for hands-on interdisciplinary science, art, writing, math, and more

The Private Eye: Spotlight Links
The Private Eye Book Corner

Private Eye Book Corner

A Reason to Read:

Want some ideas for great books that connect well with The Private Eye? That link hands-on time—short bursts or longer investigations—to lively research reading? To poetry, stories or cool field guides? Or books that link a Private Eye loupe-investigation to how scientists, engineers and architects get ideas from nature? Want ideas for books that connect math concepts with objects exciting under a loupe? How about books and objects that bring chemistry to life? Or a historical period? In our new “Book Corner” you’ll read book reviews and suggestions by teachers and homeschooling parents across grade levels. The Private Eye will share titles, too. We hope you’ll join us. We’re just beginning. Watch us grow.

Loupe it, Analogy-Group it — and Read!

Why link The Private Eye to books? With The Private Eye, in only five to ten minutes, you can add a powerful pre-reading step: an “engagement” hook, a motivational ping, an attention-comprehension grabber—to make it easier for students to care to read, to want to enter a new book. Hands-on, personal associations, quick analogical connections… You’ll see: it makes all the difference. It gives students a reason to read. 

Choosing a book: With any of the books described below, or books you already own, just ask: is there an object featured in some way in the story or text, even if tangentially, that we could loupe-study? The object has a wonderful role to play! It operates as a doorway—motivating reading, boosting engagement and comprehension, making “reading” come to life. Look for objects that are interesting under a loupe, that have hidden details—so it will hold surprises, “wows” and “I wonders”. For example, dandelions for a book on seed pod dispersal, broccoli for a book on nutrition. Coins for a link to economics and history. Money from another country as a gateway to social studies. Once you have an object? Here’s where to start…

Steps, quick method: For 5-10 minutes: As students loupe-explore rock, bubble, bolt or seed, dollar bill, feather, leaf or cloth, they create a typical Private Eye “Group Analogy List” with answers to: “What else does it remind me of? What else does it look like?”  There are “no wrong answers!” If, instead of a group book, each student has an individual book, the student jots down his/her own “Loupe List” associations in a reading journal.

For those interested in the Common Core Standards, you meet multiple literacy standards without hardly blinking. During the “Loupe list” phase, students are: noticing and recording “Key Ideas and Details” about a subject. They are developing a personal understanding of “Figurative Language”. They create their own scaffolding for poems, essays, stories — needed for “Craft and Structure”. If they share their lists with partners, they’re building “Speaking and Listening” skills. That’s a partial list. But they are also laying down the emotional and intellectual relationship needed to sustain them as they go through the hard work of entering a new book.  

For those few minutes, each child or teen or adult bonds with the object and—in advance—with the book. You’ll find that students are more invested in the text. Reading for content and reading for information becomes “hand’s-on” meaningful. And when you ask students all four Private Eye Questions regarding segments they’ve read, you’ll improve engagement and understanding with powerful higher order thinking skills. Now, when you stop to consider a character or landscape description or plot element: attention deepens, connections happen, and the story and history come even more alive!

Looking to jumpstart math concepts? The Private Eye connects abstract mathematics to the real world; it motivates students to find mathematical shapes, patterns, operations, equations in loupe-able objects.

See what we have below, for a start.

Book Biomimicry
Book Forest
Book Holes
Book Look
Book Carver
Book Growing
Book Elements


Bubble Homes and Fish Farts.
By Fiona Bayrock. Illustrated by Carolyn Conahan. 2009

Bubble Book
This book is wonderful for any age. Fascinating, scientifically accurate bubble information. Also, you'll find design ideas by analogy: "what else does this bubble remind you of?

Start by going up really close and personal with bubbles, yes, by louping them  (read how below). Then read selections of the book aloud to any age student; students grade four and up can read it for themselves. The book is alive! Each bubble-fact brings you into worlds-within-worlds, so entertaining and unexpected, that the book will fascinate anyone. (For older students… any given entry could trigger a sophisticated science project.)

You’ll learn how Humpback whales use bubbles for fishing, how some fish use bubbles for talking, and how engineers used bubbles for saving animals when they rebuilt the San Francisco Bay Bridge. There are sixteen big, beautiful two-page spreads, with lyrical watercolor illustrations; each spread features one bubble-world fact, captured in a single paragraph that feels like a story. It’s a perfect model for how to write with analogies (metaphors and similes) to make concepts visual and clear. And the passages have a sense of humor. Need we say more?

Bubbles Make a Loupe-Bubble Bag: Shake a zip-top bag (or clear bottle) filled with an inch or so of water with a few squirts of dish detergent added. Let the bubbles settle and compact a minute. Loupe view all the ways bubbles connect: spheres, pentagons, hexagons. Itís wild. Itís math. Itís science. Itís natureís engineering. Ask your Private Eye Questions. Now open the book. You donít have to read sequentially. This book makes the importance of bubbles come to life.

Book first suggested by Chris Boyer, recently retired teacher. Chris happily contributes to the Book Corner because she loves The Private Eye and uses it when she tutors.

I happened upon this as I was browsing the shelves for the kids I'm tutoring.  They loved it by the way and I brought a bottle with soapy water and the loupe so we could really see what we were reading about. —Chris Boyer

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature
, by Joyce Sidman 2011
reviewed by Chris Boyer, Jackson Elementary School, Hillsboro, OR.

Book Swirl by Swirl

This picture book is intended for younger children but the thoughtfulness in the pictures and concepts makes it a perfect book for TPE connection.  Author Joyce Sidman and pictures by Caldecott Medal winner Beth Krommes combined well to create this one! Even the copyright info is written in a spiral and the dedications are delightful!  For Clara and Ethan, who take time to look and ponder.  For Dave and Aunt Helen, who find all of nature endlessly fascinating.  And for Ann, who swirled our ideas together.

Ideas include; snail shells, snakes, pinecones, hibernating animals curled in burrows, nautiluses, lady ferns, hedgehogs, millipedes, octopus arms, spider monkeys, elephant trunks, butterfly proboscises, orb spiders, flowers as targets for pollinators, ocean waves, a tornado, galaxies, and DNA helixes. The pictures almost invite a “where’s Waldo” hunt for spirals.  It would be an excellent way to get kids to understand the process of  “What else does it remind you of?”  You could copy pages and pass them out to pairs of students as they made observations of what was on the page in both pictures and words and to and include their own “remindings” .  The end of the book includes more in depth blurbs about several ideas in a glossary style.

I love the poetic writing:


A spiral is a snuggling shape.  
It fits neatly in small places. 
Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits… 
for a chance to expand. 

A spiral is a growing shape.  
It starts small and gets bigger, 
swirl by swirl. 
 It unwraps itself, 
one soft curl at a time.  

A spiral is a strong shape.  

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, by Dave Eggers 2015
reviewed by Chris Boyer, Jackson Elementary School, Hillsboro, OR

Book Eggers

I recently read this, written by the famous (my daughter loves his writing) Dave Eggers.  It's about the making of the Golden Gate Bridge and why it is orange.  It is a narrative non-fiction which I know is an important current focus in the classroom. Themes could include a study on structure, community, a sense of time/history and wondering why something is the way it is, etc.

Some of the fun quotes are;

"Sometimes the things humans make baffle even the humans that make them."  

"This is true: no bridge in known human history had ever been orange.  And for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be."

"And as the bridge continued to rise, and more and more people saw the orange steel against the green hills, above the blue water, below the blue-and-white sky, they said, For some reason, that looks right."

Copyright © The Private Eye Project The Private Eye is a registered trademark of The Private Eye Project
Sitemap      Contact Us Mission Statement