One Shot: Over the Fence Great Book Rec- Hot Books in My Classroom

Chasing Ray suggested that we break up the end of winter doldrums by highlighting a book that we loved.  In her post, she gives the image of leaning “over the fence” to tell your neighbor about that fantastic book you just read. In my head, I pictured leaning over one of my student’s desks and whispering about that book that I just read and know they will love, while the rest of the class is in the reading zone.  So, I decided to take my Over the Fence post in a slightly different direction- highlighting the books my students are reading right now that didn’t necessarily get the starred reviews or the blogosphere raves.  But the are books my students are reading and talking about, and I love them!  So here is my latest installment of Hot Books in my Classroom: Over the Fence Edition.

Tween romance novels are all the rage in my room, and the girls in my homeroom are devouring each novel before passing it their group of friends.  The latest favorite? Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel. I remember my McDaniel stage- it drove my mother nuts. She couldn’t understand why I wanted to read so many books about kids my own age dying of terminal illnesses. But because I went through that stage, I totally understand why my girls can’t put Don’t Die, My Love down. It’s full of romance, star-crossed teens, and you know the one of the main characters is going to die. It’s the perfect recipe for tweens. Plus, no matter what the books always have an uplifting and positive message at the end.

While a lot of my girls are passing around Lurlene McDaniel, a group of my boys are currently sharing Ten True Tales: Stories from Iraq.  (I can’t find it online, so it may just be available through Scholastic.)  Every story in this non-fiction book is taken from interviews with men and women who have served in Iraq.  War stories are a huge hit in my room and this one really attracts a lot of my boys because it is so timely.  And when they can’t get their hands on this one, they are reading Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys’ Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys.  The short stories from the author’s remind them of Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka, which they loved.  Short stories, specifically memoirs, are really popular with my boys this year.

At this point in the year, my students are usually comfortable making recommendations to me, too.  This week, two of my girls highly recommended two of Nora Raleigh Baskin’s book, which I hadn’t read.  They are reading What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows and In the Company of Crazies. Coincidentally, I had just picked up Anything But Typical at the bookstore and decided to add it to my wishlist. I didn’t make the author connection until my students’ made their recommendations! Now I am looking forward to reading all three books (when they are done with the first two!)  I love when my students lean over the fence and make their recommendations; it continues to build that reading community that I work so hard to build and maintain each year!

Really, over the fence recommendations are my bread and butter in the classroom.  Whether I am the one making the recommendation, or it’s being done student-to-student, or if a student is making the recommendation to me- word of mouth propels every book choice in my classroom until students are comfortable with their own choices.  And even then, they are constantly sharing books with each other and with me.  It’s awesome!

Hot Books

Now that the school year is back in full-swing, it’s time for a new edition of “Hot Books in My Middle School Classroom”!  It’s always interesting to start with a new class, because their tastes can be so different than those of my last class.  

These are the books that are making their way from student to student in my room so far this year:

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer- Always a popular choice, the waiting list for this one is huge in my classroom library!

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) by Stephenie Meyer- Last year, I could not get my kids to read this. It just didn’t appeal to them for some reason. This year, it is the complete opposite! I have boys and girls reading the book and loaning copies to each other. Could it be related to the movie coming out next month? Who knows, but I’ll take it!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book by Jeff Kinney- While it isn’t a traditional book, I teach Language Arts, so anything that get my students reading and writing is a winner in my eyes! I have quite a few orders for this in our latest Scholastic book clubs order and the word of mouth has been great.

Falling Up by Shel Silverstein- It’s funny, but poetry has never been particularly popular in my room. But this year, I have a few boys who LOVE to read Shel Silverstein. Falling Up is a big favorite this year and I have a small handful of students who read this a few times a week during independent reading. It’s an interesting phenomenon!

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen- A popular book with my students who love survival stories. This one is slowly gaining ground in my afternoon class.

Hot Books in May

As a sixth grade teacher, with almost 50 students, I see all sorts of books throughout the day. We just finished our standardized testing, so my students have been keeping a few books piled beneath their desks, to relax with after testing. Here’s a peek into a few of those piles.

Underneath many desks, next to the glittery sneakers and ankle bracelets on my girls, are the brightly colored covers of The Clique novels by Lisi Harrison. While they are far form being great literature, my girls are devouring them as fast as they are published, passing a few copies around the class from one girl to the next. We had a great discussion the other day about the books and the way many adults view them—as a bad influence. The girls laughed and said, “We don’t take them seriously! We know these are characters. We would never act the way they do, but it’s fun to pretend we live the wealthy, fabulous lives they do!”

Moving around the room, it’s obvious that another popular series right now is Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the OlympiansThe Lightning Thief

There, on the floor, I see the covers of two graphic novels. The first is Amelia Rules! Volume 1: The Whole World’s Crazy (Amelia Rules). That one has definitely made the rounds in my room. Across the aisle is the second book, a new favorite for my graphic novel lovers. Amulet: Book 1 (Amulet) is a big hit and my students can’t wait for the next book to come out.

Some of my students prefer an old favorite during testing, to ensure they aren’t rushing through the test to get to their novels. The most popular choice? Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) by Jeff Kinney. The covers are bent, the pages dog-eared—these books are obviously well loved!

Up in the front of the room I can see a few ARCs being read. Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Moving Daythe dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer (courtesy of the author herself, making it hallowed pages for my students). The waiting list is a mile long and I can see that this student will be passing it on very soon. On a side note, this one would definitely distract me from any kind of testing!

I can hear a muffled giggle on the far corner of the room. Shooting a glance I hope says, “I am so glad you are reading and loving your book but for heaven’s sake SHH! We can’t get in trouble!” When I see the book in her hand, I know why she is having trouble keeping a straight face. Her head is buried deep in Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper, a favorite of mine. She later told me it’s the best book she has ever read!

We may be taking our high-stakes standardized testing this week, but glancing around the room at my sixth-grade readers who are in the reading zone I know that those books in their hands say more than any test score ever will. These are readers, through and through. They may not all have been readers when they walked through my door in September, but they are all passionate, critical readers today! Each student has a favorite book or a favorite author. No one hesitates to pick up their novels when testing is completed, and they beg to continue reading when testing is completed and we begin classes for the day. That’s meeting AYP in my book!

Originally published in the May edition of The Edge of the Forest

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