Hot Books in My Middle School Classroom

It’s time for another round of “Hot Books in My Middle School Classroom”! This is a meme I put together every few weeks/months where I share what my 6th graders are sharing and reading lately during reading.

My girls are romantics this year. Because of this, there are four copies of Nicholas Sparks’s Dear John being passed from one teary-eyed girl to the next. I don’t have any copies in my classroom library so those four girls went out and bought their own copies which they have now been passing on to their friends. Every few days I see it on another desk. And I love looking up during Reading Workshop to see one of my readers wiping tears from her eyes. How can you read Sparks and not cry!?

I have a lot of Gordon Korman fans in my classes this year, so when Scholastic offered The Toilet Paper Tigers earlier this year, they jumped on it! They have been comparing it to the movie “Bad News Bears” and giving it rave reviews. Gordon Korman can do no wrong in my eyes so I’m thrilled that this has been reissued for my students to enjoy.

The first two Cinderella Cleaners books were packaged together in the last Scholastic order and they caught the attention of a few students. There were a few orders placed and one student already started reading the first one. She is giving it rave reviews and recommending the series to her friends.

Mike Lupica’s Million-Dollar Throw is making its way from student to student and they are telling me I have to read it. One student called it Lupica’s best book yet. That’s a pretty ringing endorsement, I’d say!

And the most popular book of all right now? The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians). It crosses all genres, reading levels, and cliques. My kids can not put Percy down and I am thrilled! It means I can’t use The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) as a read aloud this year, but I think that’s a pretty ok reason. I’m fine with the fact that at least half my students have read or are reading the books!

So what books are popular in your class right now?

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

Hot Books in March

I apologize…I am a few days late with this month’s installment of Hot Books in my classroom. For my new readers, a quick explanation: Every month I publish a list of the 5-6 books that are currently the most popular reads in my 6th grade classroom. To see previous lists, please click on the Hot Books tag under keywords.

Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Moving Day by Meg Cabot: I haven’t even had a chance to read this novel, Meg Cabot’s first foray into middle grade fiction. I received an ARC at ALA Midwinter and passed it on to one of my pickiest girls. She finished the book in one night and came in the next morning raving about it! She told me I needed to read it, but first she had a list of classmates to pass it on to. It’s been making it’s way around my classroom ever since and Cabot has been winning fans left and right. The same student also read my ARC of Airhead by Meg Cabot and passed it on to another friend (thankfully, I had time to read and review it first!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: I have loved “Wednesday Wars” since I first read and reviewed it back in December. I tried to handsell it to my students but rarely succeeded (historical fiction is always a hard sell to middle schoolers, I think). I finally succeeded when I used “The Wednesday Wars” as part of my historical fiction literature circles this past month. The lit circle who read “The Wednesday Wars” absolutely loved it and they have been recommending to their classmates. During conferences, one of their moms told me “I can’t believe my son. He sits down on the couch at night, pulls on a blanket, and opens that Wednesday book. All on his own! It’s amazing!” That some boy just finished it and told me it’s one of his favorite books of all time!

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan: Our latest read-aloud is a huge hit. It’s the first time I have read a non-fiction novel aloud and my students are loving it. Marley is easy to relate to and my students are laughing and sharing their own stories throughout our shared reading time. Puppies and puppy stories are always fun and my students are relating to the Grogan family and Marley. Be careful, though…there are a few versions of Marley’s story. Marley: A Dog Like No Other is the middle grade version of the novel. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog is the adult best-seller and deals with the Grogan family’s attempts to conceive, too. Just a caveat emptor. :)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis: Another choice in our recent literature circles, this was not a popular choice on the first day.  To be honest, I blame the cover.  It doesn’t exactly scream “read me!” to middle schoolers.  However, at the first meeting, the originally unhappy literature circle group was singing the praises of Curtis.  They thought the novel was funny and touching, but “not too touching!” they told me.  Heaven forbid it was too sensitive. :)  Both boys and girls alike enjoyed the novel and they learned a lot about life in the south and the Sixteenth St. church burning in 1963.  Now if only the publishers would give it a better cover…..

These are only a few of the novels currently making a splash in my 6th grade class.  I have promised my classes that after spring break I will have many more books for them.  I will actually have a chance to read and review so I can bring them in a handful of ARCS and other books I have in my to-be-read pile.  I’m sure next month’s list will include many of those new titles.

Hot Books in February

As I am frantically trying to pack and prepare for my fellowship (I leave for Mexico on Saturday morning!), I realized I better get my Hot Books list posted before I leave. Without further ado, here are the most popular books in my classroom over the last month.

Avalon High: Coronation Volume 1: The Merlin Prophecy by Meg Cabot: This graphic novel has been a huge hit. Interestingly, the majority of readers are boys. The book has been passed from one boy to the next since it arrived from Scholastic a few weeks ago, and the buzz is slowly building.

Gathering Blue and Messenger by Lois Lowry: We recently finished our science-fiction unit of study. As a class, we studied Lois Lowry’s The Giver and my students loved it. They were very excited to learn that Lowry had written more books in the “trilogy” (I’m never sure what to call it….It’s not technically a trilogy if all 3 books can stand alone!) and that the books included answers. A few have finished “Gathering Blue” already and are moving on to “Messenger”. Every day someone comes up to my desk to share their excitement. “We finally know what happened to Jonas and Gabe!”. Kids like answers- they hate books that leave them hanging. At least my kids do! They are very happy to find out the answers and I am thrilled to see them reading more and more.

Lush by Natasha Friend: Realistic fiction is the most popular genre in my library and my students love to read books about other kids who struggle with realistic problems. “Lush” has been making the rounds through my girls and they are all raving about it. Also popular, Natasha Friend’s Perfect: A Novel and Bounce.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer:  Since my booktalk, this has not been on my shelf at all.  My students, especially my reluctant readers, are loving this book.  At least once per day a student comes up to me in the hall saying, “It can’t get any worse.  Can it?!”  The students who have finished the book definitely have a new appreciation for running water, heat, and air conditioning!

So, what books are popular in your classroom or library right now?

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