Five Novels You Need to Read With Your Fifth Graders

ACS_0260
Photo taken while avoiding all the papers I have to grade!

Without a doubt, my favorite part of each school day is reading aloud to my students. And it’s not just fun for me–sharing a novel together has almost endless benefits for children! They get to listen to a fluent reader, talk about a text with their peers, and most importantly, enjoy a good story! Using novels together in class is also an authentic and engaging way to teach and reinforce important reading skills. I use novels to teach all of the fiction skills and strategies we learn in fifth grade, from connections to characterization.

Reading novels out loud is also a great way to introduce your students to characters and experiences that can expand their world view. There’s a lot of kid lit out there, but I try to be intentional about which books I choose to read with my students. I purposely choose books that have protagonists who aren’t white males because unfortunately, white characters are still the norm in publishing, and I want to make sure my kids are exposed to a wide variety of people and cultures.

Read on to see my top five read aloud recommendations and why my students loved each book!

Continue reading “Five Novels You Need to Read With Your Fifth Graders”

How to Survive Standardized Testing Without Losing Your Mind

testing season

Anyone who knows me knows that I positively LOATHE standardized testing. I hate the pressure that it puts on students, teachers, and schools. I abhor how it’s used to judge academic achievement and punish schools that need the most additional resources. And most of all, I hate the expectation that teachers should put regular instruction to the side in order to prepare students for a test that is biased, unrealistic, and in the case of my home state of Texas, written two grade levels above a student’s reading level!

Continue reading “How to Survive Standardized Testing Without Losing Your Mind”

How to Host a March Madness Book Tournament with as Little Effort as Possible

Obama Meme March Madness
I will not pass up the opportunity to use an Obama meme

Hosting a March Madness Book Tournament in your classroom is an easy (and free!) way to get your students super excited about the books they have read. You may have seen pictures floating around Instagram or Pinterest and felt overwhelmed or intimidated by how much extra work this type of activity might mean for you. However, I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t take a lot of effort for a book tournament to be an exciting activity for your students.

Continue reading “How to Host a March Madness Book Tournament with as Little Effort as Possible”

My Classroom New Year’s Resolutions

NYR blog post

New Year’s Resolutions. Whether you love them or think they’re lame, you can’t deny that they’re here to stay. There’s just something about the calendar changing that makes us feel like we get a fresh start and a chance to improve.

While I have my own list of resolutions for my personal life, I wanted to share two of the resolutions that I’m taking with me into my classroom. I hope that by publishing them here, it will be easier for me to hold myself accountable and stick to these goals, even when the semester gets crazy.

Continue reading “My Classroom New Year’s Resolutions”

Spice Up Your Novel Study, Part Two: Six Word Summaries

 

Six Word Summaries 2Earlier this school year, I started doing something in my classroom that has forever changed how I assess my students’ understanding of the novel we use for our read aloud. This activity is easy to implement, requires just an index card, and allows your students to showcase their creativity. It’s the six word summary, and it is amazing!

What is a Six Word Summary?

The six word summary is exactly what it sounds like. You write a summary of a book in exactly six words: no more, no less. If done right, six word summaries accurately convey the plot and deeper themes of a text, and pique the viewer’s curiosity about the book.

ACS_0185
Our second round of Six Word summaries, posted in the hallway for the rest of the school to enjoy!

Continue reading “Spice Up Your Novel Study, Part Two: Six Word Summaries”

Spice Up Your Novel Study, Part One: Virtual Field Trips

VFT BLOG POST.jpg

Happy Thanksgiving break, everyone! It’s been a hot second since I have blogged (a new subject area plus larger class sizes has me struggling, y’all!) but I am finally making my triumphant return. Today, I’m starting a new series of posts that covers one of my favorite subjects: class novels!

Class novels (otherwise known as a chapter book read aloud) serve many purposes in my classroom. They are a mentor text that I use to teach skill-based mini-lessons. They are a way to expose my students to new genres, topics, and formats that they otherwise may not experience. They are a common literary experience that we share and refer back to all year long. And most importantly, they are a chance for us to pause our daily instruction and enjoy a really awesome book!

I think class novels are amazing, but I am careful not to turn them into an obligation. I want my students to develop a true love of reading, so I am cautious about assigning too much work that is related to our novel. I don’t want it to feel like another thing they HAVE to do; instead, I want it to be something they look forward to each day (and they do!). Plus, filling out character maps and answering comprehension questions after each chapter isn’t reflective of how real readers read. When was the last time you, a grown adult, paused between chapters to answer questions? Exactly. If we don’t do those sorts of things as adult readers, we shouldn’t be asking them of our students.

I’ve also found that most worksheets and novel packets are a time suck. I’m already pressed for time each day, so if I can eliminate one more task from our to-do list, I’m a happy camper. And finally, most novel companions are usually not very rigorous and ask students surface-level questions. When it comes to assessing student learning, they are never my first choice.

Instead of worksheets and packets, I use a few strategies throughout the year to help my students develop a love of reading; to assess my students’ understanding of skills; to incorporate current events, social justice, and the real world; and above all, keep reading fun! Today I will be talking all about Virtual Field trips and how I use them to build students’ background knowledge and get them excited about they books we read.

Continue reading “Spice Up Your Novel Study, Part One: Virtual Field Trips”

Using Novels to Teach about Racial and Social Justice

blanche side eye

POP QUIZ! What is the purpose of education?

A. To give kids a solid foundation of academic skills

B. To help kids discover a lifelong love of learning

C. To help kids understand the injustices that negatively impact many groups of people in America

D. All of the above

Correct Answer: D, of course! Every teacher likes to say that we are preparing our students for the real world, but in my opinion, we’re not truly doing that until we help our kids recognize, analyze, and push back against the prejudices, inequalities, and racism that are very much alive and well in today’s society.

Now, this is a lofty goal, and one that sounds amazing but that can be hard to implement in an educational environment that is focused on test scores, passing percentages, reading levels, and about a million other data points. However, I am here to tell you that it can be done. It is possible for you to find time in your reading block to tackle these big issues that will ultimately make your students better people. Today’s blog post will give you three easy steps to help you use the class novels you are already reading to make your students more conscious of the injustices around them.

Continue reading “Using Novels to Teach about Racial and Social Justice”