Hot Books in My Classroom

Welcome to the latest installment of “Hot Books in My Classroom”.  For those of you who may be reading this for the first time, HBIMC is a feature I run every month or so, highlighting the books that are currently the most popular in my 6th grade classroom.  Every class is different, every year is different, and every month is different.  But one thing always stays the same- my students’ enthusiasm for reading!

We recently finished our Holocaust unit in Language Arts.  During the unit, my students worked in book clubs reading books about different aspects of WWII and the Holocaust.  One of the most popular choices was the verse novel T4 a novel by Ann Clare LeZotte.  Although we finished the unit, this one hasn’t been back on my shelf yet.  The combination of the subject matter (Hitler’s Action T4 program, which dictates that doctors euthanize the mentally ill and the disabled as “unfit to live.”) and the simple verse format attract my dormant and underground readers alike.  

For the last year I have been on the lookout for a novel similar to Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but with a female protagonist.  While the girls in my class read and love Diary of a Wimpy Kid they always ask for another book like it, but “with a girl!”  Well, this month I found not one, but two perfect read-alikes. Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone by Margie Palatini was an ARC I picked up at a publisher’s preview last year. One of my students found it on the bookshelf before spring break, read it over a few nights, and hasn’t stopped raving since. She passed it on to a friend, who did the same. Every day or so I see our classroom copy on someone else’s desk! And when they aren’t reading Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone they are laughing and giggling over Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell. Even more similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life is told in a journal format complete with illustrations and comics.  The girls in my class are already asking for a sequel.

Then there’s Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek. The fever surrounding Skeleton Creek reminds me a lot of the fever that surrounded Diary of a Wimpy Kid when the first book came out. My students are constantly discussing the book and videos. When any one student sits at the computer to watch a video I can see the other students in the room leaning back in their chairs and discretely watching behind their classmate’s head. The only problem? They inevitably scream and jump into the air when something scary happens. It makes me laugh every time!

And in the area of non-fiction, DK Eyewitness books are always popular in my classes. This year, many of my boys are very interested in WWI, WWII, and the armed forces. Right now, a few of my boys are reading Soldier.  They are experts on weapons, let me tell you!  

Finally, one of my more dormant readers can not put Nancy Werlin’s The Rules of Survival down. She begs for independent reading time each day and every morning brags to me about what page she is on. She is a realistic fiction fan but has a very hard time finding books that hook her. The Rules of Survival had her from the first page. Needless to say, I am thrilled. I’ve already bought Killer’s Cousin by Werlin for her to read next. I love when a student finds an author and book they love!

 

Those are some of the most popular books in my classroom.  What are your kids reading?

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 in My Classroom

I haven’t done a Hot Books post in a while. But I’m back with a great list.  I was out for the past two days with an awful cold, and when I came back today I had kids begging to talk to me about their books.  Here are some of the books they chatted about today!

The Luxe series is being passed from one girl to another in my morning class. Every morning one of them runs into school just bursting to talk about what she read the night before. And we have to whisper, because there are five girls behind her who haven’t read as far into the series as she has!  It’s awesome.

And of course, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw hasn’t been seen since I first handed it to a student last month. Other than bursts of hysterical laughter during independent reading.

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and The Graveyard Book have been gaining a lot of fans lately. In fact, when I came back to school today one of my reluctant readers told me he had finished The Graveyard Book and it was an awesome book, “maybe even better than the dead and the gone!"

Two of my more reluctant girl readers have been struggling to find books they enjoy. But just this past month I think we may have found it! One of them is reading Wendy Mass’ Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall and loving it. The intriguing plot, combined with the ease of the verse novel set-up, has really hooked her. And her friend can not put down Frances O’Roark Dowell’s The Kind of Friends We Used to Be, the sequel to The Secret Language of Girls.  I am thrilled that they are both finding their niche!

These are just a few of the most popular books in my classroom right now!

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