I count myself a lucky teacher when it comes to how I teach reading in my classroom. I am not tied to a basal, but instead, I get to use novels as the basis for my lessons. This can be a two edged sword… I love introducing my students to new books. However, after a few years of teaching a novel, I find myself wanting a new novel to use with my students and to also engage myself with new lessons. As a result, I am always on the lookout for engaging novels for my fifth graders.
Not long ago, I was reading a thread on Facebook with teachers offering their favorite books for their students. One book kept being mentioned…Because of Mr. Terupt. So many teachers were singing the praises of the book that I just had to investigate it. I was blown away by Rob Buyea’s novel!!!
Because of Mr. Terupt tells the story of a school year in the lives of 7 very different fifth grade students and the lessons they learn from their teacher, Mr. Terupt and each other. We, as teachers, have had all of these students in our classes…the brain, the new girl, the shy girl and the class clown to name just a few of the seven characters. This novel has my students engaged and excited about what the next chapter would bring! My students were so engaged, they decided to create a video, using Ipads, of the culminating event of the novel. Scripts were written and roles chosen. This was definitely a student led project. When it was finished, the students had a viewing for parents and invited the principal. Writing, technology, and reading all in one project!
It tells the story of a group of students’ fifth grade year with a first year teacher, Mr.Terupt. His fresh ideas and lessons engage and excite his students. He connects with these seven kids, especially. Mr. Terupt’s ways of teaching and discipling students leads to a terrible event that impacts the seven students and their very different perspectives on the even make the rest of the novel very engaging and made for some really good class discussions as students shared their perspectives of the novel. If you’d like to see some of the questions I used with my students just click Because of Mr. Terupt.
Another book I am really excited about is Fish In A Tree! It’s about a sixth grade girl, Ally, who has managed to hide the fact she can’t read very well! It’s written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and it is another fabulous new novel. Ally would rather be thought of as a troublemaker than admit she has trouble reading. Her dad is deployed which will resonate with many students and the family has moved many times as part of his military career. Ally’s new teacher, Mr. Daniels, has seen beneath the troublemaker pose Ally presents. Ally has made two friends, almost in spite of herself, and together they discover their strengths.
I began Fish in a Tree as a read aloud, on the recommendation of one of my students who read it as part of Battle of the Books. It quickly captured my students’ attention and the discussions made me realize that my class and I needed to give this book much more attention. I took the book home and read it over the weekend. It is awesome!!! So many students will identify with Ally and her struggles, both with reading and dealing with other students in her classroom as the new girl once again.
Fish in a Tree is going to be my next class novel after we finish Because of Mr. Terupt. Both of these books were new to both myself and my students. Their reactions to both books were very positive and kept my students wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Check out both books…I hope you enjoy them! Let me know what you think!