A New Year With New Novels For Your Students

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!

 

 

Fraction Lessons Have You Tearing Out Your Hair?

Trying to make teaching fraction more interesting?   Tearing out your hair? It was that frustration that had me looking for a way to give my students information they could understand and more opportunities to practice those skills.   The math book just didn’t seem to meet the needs of my students.  I was reminded by my mentor that textbooks should be a supplemental tool and not the curriculum.

Let me help you by showing you what I did to make multiplying and dividing fractions less frustrating!

I decided to take the textbook information and put  it into kid-friendly words.  

I had the kids glue the notes into their journals so the information would be at their fingertips!

And because the dreaded “End of Grade” test looms all year…I decided to create word problems to go along with the note students put into their journals.  That would give my students more practice than what was in our math textbook.

I also used the word problems as a review game.  I put one word problem on each student’s desk, in no particular order.  Students stand behind their chairs and the game begins as each student solves the problem on their desk.  As they finish, students put their hands on their shoulders.  When everyone has solved the problem on their desk, students move to the next desk.  When all the students have moved around the room and are back at their own desk, we go over the answers and students share how they solved the problems.

The word problems can be used in a lot of different ways in your classroom, beyond just a review game!  The word problems can be used as bell ringers to get students thinking.  You could put the word problems in your math center for independent work.

If you want to check out my word problems, just click on my picture.

Want a terrific teaching solution to your early finisher problems?

This happened in my early teaching career just about this time of year.  School had been in session for a few weeks and my students had mastered stations/center behavior…almost.  I had several students who  quickly completed their station work and despite being warned, always came to my small group to tell me, “I’m done, so what can I do now?”  I would have to stop and quickly find another activity to engage my early finishers.  In the meantime, I have lost the attention of my small guided group.  Picture me tearing out my hair!!!

Too often, the follow-up activities were just more paperwork.  In desperation one weekend, I created a group of task cards that encompassed many different activities.  I put them up on one of my bulletin boards with the heading CHALLENGE BOARD! Each student was given a Challenge Folder with their name on it.   I showed the board to the class and explained that IF each of them finished the station they were supposed to do early, they could come and choose ANY task card activity.  They could work on their chosen activity until time to come back to whole group.

I also explained the Challenge Board could also be their morning work activity choice as they came into class each morning.  That way ALL my students could be working on a challenge activity, regardless of early finishing of stations.

This was a life saver for me!  Everyone was busy AND my students had choices for their work!!!  Besides my October Enrichment Challenges (just click the pics!)  I also have enrichment challenges for Halloween Activities for Early Finishers and Holiday Enrichment and Challenges for Early Finishers.  Just click the link to find more challenges and enrichment activities!!