Happy Tuesday! And welcome to TOP TEN TUESDAY hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is a Back to School freebie. And really, is there any more of an iconic back to school image than the lunch lady? (And have you heard Adam Sandler’s song? Laughing just thinking about it!) Well, maybe there is something. Books! When we think of school, we should also think of books. I am an English teacher, so I’ve taught a lot of books.
This year, my district has adopted a new curriculum called Study Sync. Right? Where’s the “Literature” or “Writing” in the title? It sounds like a test-prep program. And it’s our ENGLISH curriculum. It’s like a death knell ringing in my ear. Anyway, since I’m depressed about all the great stories the kids will be missing out on, I’m dedicating this week to a list of some great literature that has engaged even the most reluctant readers over the years…
Top Ten Books I’ve Taught
(and may they RIP)
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Chris Crutcher’s books are awesome. He hasn’t come out with one recently, but this one is a story about friendship that also tackles a real-world hotly debated issue. It was great to see students enjoy the story while developing their own opinions on issues.
This was actually a tough sell. It is not an action book. But it’s a book about bullying from the bully’s perspective. I loved the challenge of getting kids to appreciate a thinker’s book. And by the end they did. It was a good experience for them.
Enough said, right? BTW, in this new curriculum this book has moved to 7th grade. Drinking, smoking, and murder. 7th grade. Good move, California. Super appropriate.
This book was perfect for the end of the year, getting kids thinking about high school. They loved the sarcasm and really analyzed symbolism in this one.
Parrot in the Oven
I’ve made no secret here that I think this book is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PROSE I’ve read. It really connected with my students and I loved the analysis they were able to do with this book. It really taught them to appreciate how words can be used to create pictures and how powerful words can be.
Maniac Magee // Freak the Mighty
Both of these books are gone, gone, gone… It makes me sad. 7th grade is such an awkward time, and these books were both fun enough to appeal to the 6th grader still in them, but with enough edge and comedy to appeal to the 8th grader they’re trying to be. Perfect books that kids really learned from.
The Tale of Despereaux
Wow. This book is probably my favorite to teach. 6th graders love it. Plus, I had a really cool recording by a British reader, and his voices made all of us laugh. This book made class FUN! Where has all the fun gone in school? The analysis and connections that incoming 6th graders were able to do with this book were amazing. Like high school stuff. And now they’ve taken it away from us. (Can you tell I’m angry? lol)
Bud, Not Buddy
I’m not a fan of The Watsons Go to Birmingham, but this Christopher Paul Curtis book was such a fun read. Kids were able to learn a lot about the Great Depression (good because 8th grade history never makes it that far), and they really enjoyed the story. And that’s what is so important- to get kids to love reading!
Red Scarf Girl
This is actually one of the books I’m allowed (sort of) to teach still. But for 6th grade? It’s ridiculous. I tried it out last year. I had to teach 6th graders about the Cultural Revolution and teach them words like ‘proletariat’ and ‘bourgeoisie’. Then there were an additional 10 words per page of just English words they didn’t know. It doesn’t belong in 6th grade (I don’t know what Einstein decided this), but I did enjoy reading it with them. I’m not so sure they liked it, though. It was over their heads.