5 Books to Inspire Creativity:
Everyone wants to be more creative, but sometimes we need a little help finding our inner creativity.
I give you 5 books that explore the concept of creativity and prompt readers to become creative!
The Squiggle by Carole Lexa Schaefer
As a group of children are walking along in a very straight line, a little girl finds and picks up a “squiggle” on the ground. She spins and turns the long red ribbon and imagines it to be all sorts of fun and creative items – a dragon, a cloud and so much more. The other children are inspired by the squiggle too and continue their walk in less of a straight and orderly line. This is a very beautifully illustrated children’s picture book that can be used for primary grades, and perhaps even middle school to inspire creativity and imagination.
Lesson Plan Idea:
Use this book to inspire your own students to imagine and create what their own “squiggle” could be. Draw a line of squiggle on the top of a page and then have the students imagine what that squiggle looks like to them. They can then draw a picture using the squiggle and then write about it. Very young students can draw a picture and label it or write one sentence. Older students can draw and write more sentences or a whole story. Grades K-8.
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds is a story about a little girl Vashti in art class who is reluctant to even draw one simple line or image on her paper. Her art teacher gently encourages her to express herself. Vashti angrily makes a big angry dot on her paper. However, that little dot is the beginning of her journey into a world of creativity and imagination! This is a simple story and is geared toward the younger students, but the author admits to happily using this book to inspire students of all ages. I like his ideas for teaching with this book. Click on the link below and get some ideas and tips to use The Dot in your classroom or yourself. Learning to be more creative is helpful for any person or any profession. Whether you are a teacher, a student or a computer programmer – tapping into your creativity will help you pursue your goals and dreams more creatively.
Lesson Plan Idea:
TheDot_Ish Lesson Plan
These simple lesson plan ideas by Peter Reynolds that can be used with little children to adults!
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
This book is about a little boy named Ramon who loved to draw. He would draw anything, anytime, anywhere. But one day his older brother Leon makes a remark that takes away Ramon’s confidence. Now he is not so sure about his skills as an artist. His little sister Marisol helps Ramon look at his drawings differently. She teaches Ramon that instead of drawing exact realistic looking pictures, his drawings are perfect just the way they are! Now Ramon is inspired to drew freely and without worry! He no longer had to get it exactly right. He begins thinking “ishly” and the rest is history. This story teaches that being creative is not about being perfect. We can all use some “ish” in our lives. I know I do! I try so hard to be perfect sometimes that I just want to quit, like Ramon. Students feel the same way too and this book can inspire them to try art, or writing, or dancing or drawing without it being a “perfect” attempt. Ish reminds us that we are human and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That perfect drawing of a vase and flowers may not be so perfect in another’s view. Your so-called failure is the one that is the masterpiece.
Press Here by Herve Tullet
This is a simple sentence book meant for the younger primary grades. The book is a series of one sentence lines that instruct the reader to perform a function which takes the reader on a visual journey. The illustrations are simple, primary colors and shapes. The reader is told to “Press the yellow dot” and then turn the page for another picture and instruction. The instructions will have you turning the book this way and that way to see and perform the next task. This book is a good lesson in sequencing and following directions. My description here does not do this book justice. I urge anyone who works with young children to read this book for yourself to truly understand how creative and fun Press Here can be! (Pre-K-3rd grade)
Lesson Plan Idea:
Why not create your own book using instructions and pictures like Press Here? This would utilize the skills of creativity, sequencing, and following directions. In a collaborative learning format other students can read their classmates’ books. Without even knowing it, your young students will be practicing their reading and writing skills AND being creative! Win-Win for teachers and students.
A Box Story by Kenneth Kit Lamug
A Box Story is an award winning illustrated picture book that invites the reader to image what a box could be besides simply a box. It is illustrated in a simple fashion with hand drawings that show the reader just exactly what else this box can be. This book has won a number of awards in 2012 – The Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and the Children’s Literary Classic seal of approval.
Lesson Idea: Read the book with your students then invite them to take “The Box Challenge” by drawing what is in their own box and writing about it. Click here for the box challenge: box_challenge handout.
5 Books to Inspire Poetry
Why do most very young children love nursery rhymes and poetry but somewhere along the way, begin to dread poetry? Poetry isn’t hard to learn! Poetry is for everyone. Here are 5 books that can make teaching and learning poetry fun for both the student and teacher.
What If…by Regina J. Williams
Regina J. Williams delightful book What If…features a little boy who uses his fantastic imagination to keep from having to go to bed. With lines like “What if…it snowed silver and gold snowflakes that sparkled like diamonds and tasted like peppermint ice cream.” and “What if…a shooting star would fly into my pocket and bring magic to my heart forever.” it’s easy to fall in love with the text and illustrations of this book. The author was inspired to write this book based on a game that she would play with her own daughters at bedtime. Let your imagination soar as you read the What if…statements that are enhanced by the beautiful book art.
Lesson Plan Idea:
Students–inspired by the What If… statements in this picture book will write original what if statements that incorporate strong word choices with great imagination. Students will then stack three or four highly imaginative “What Ifs” to build the majority of a poem. Be sure to encourage the use of strong verbs, interesting adjectives, and precise nouns while students are writing their statements.
Just as they did with their first children’s picture book, Take Me Out of the Bathtub, author Alan Katz and illustrator David Catrow lampoon the classics with rowdy humor and fun-to-sing rhymes. “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”? Nope. Try “He’s Got the Whole Beach in His Pants.” “Frere Jacques” becomes “I’m a menace” and you can forget about old McDonald and his farm–that tune now tells the story of “My friend Donald’s catfish parm.” These silly parody songs are free verse poems in their own right, but become even more engaging when your students try to sing the words to the familiar tune. This book is one that children will read over and over again. To make this book come alive even more, play the original version of the songs that the author features in the book so that the students will know the tune to which the parody poem should be sung.
Lesson Plan Idea:
This book can be used to teach and inspire children to write a parody poem sung to the tune of their choice. Depending on the children’s age, one or two stanzas or a whole song can be written which are a parody of an original song or which are a parody of a current event or timely issue of your choice. A parody about Math, or Science or the weather or birthdays! The sky is the limit. This exercise will encourage the use of strong word choice, careful sentence structure (in order to make the new lyrics coincide with the beats of the song chosen) and creativity.
This Is Just to Say…by Joyce Sidman
Chosen as a Texas Bluebonnet Award recipient, this book was born after a class of students read the apologetic poem by William Carlos Williams called “This is Just to Say?” see below:
“I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold.”
After studying this poem, the class decided to write their own versions, apologizing to someone about something that they had done wrong. After giving the apology poems to the person whom they had wronged, they received many humorous, heart-felt replies. In fact, some of the replies are just as witty and heart-warming as the apology poems. For example, in one of the entries, a boy apologizes to the school secretary for sneaking a doughnut, and the secretary replies that his charm is endless, but she still has to call his parents. Another entry tells of a girl apologizing to her little sister and the sister replies, “Roses are red/ violets are blue/ I am still/ pissed off at you.” This book is so interesting to read and is a great way to inspire kids to read and write poetry.
Lesson Plan Idea:
After comparing several of Joyce Sidman’s poems from This is Just to Say with the original poem written by W.C. Williams, students will plan an apology poem that asks for forgiveness – no matter how small or how large the infraction that requires the apology. Students will list five things they wish they could be forgiven for, or they can make a list of five people for whom they might owe an apology. Then, inspired by the original poem or the poems in This is Just to Say, students will create an original poem of forgiveness. Another twist on this idea would be to write a response to the poem of apology.
If Not For The Cat by Jack Prelutsky
This is a book of Haiku poems that are also riddles about animals. For example, A creature whispers:
If not for the cat,
And the scarcity of cheese,
I could be content.
Who is this creature?
What does it like to eat?
Can you solve the riddle?
Seventeen haiku composed by master poet Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by renowned artist Ted Rand ask you to think about seventeen of your favorite animals through the context of Haiku. He describes a mouse, a skunk, a beaver, a hummingbird, ants, bald eagles, jellyfish, and many others. It is an interesting way to use Haiku.
Lesson Plan Idea:
Using If Not For The Cat as a mentor text to teach Haiku poetry, students could then be prompted to write their own “animal riddles” in Haiku format.
5 Books Used to Teach Math and Science
Math and Science don’t have to be sterile and boring. It’s easy to make these much feared subjects loved by even the most reluctant budding mathematician or scientist. Using literature to introduce or elaborate on a topic in Math and Science is a great way to lower the affective filter when teaching these subjects, ease tensions and bring joy to the subject.
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
This picture book by Scieszka (The True Story of the Three Little Pigs; The Stinky Cheese Man and Science Verse) is a fun way to introduce students to math concepts in the classroom. After the teacher exclaims that “everything can be thought of as a math problem” the narrator begins asking questions about everyday life in terms of a math problem. The narrator cannot stop thinking of everything as a math problems and is cursed by math! Some of the questions are logical, like “How many quarts are in a gallon?” But some are more far fetched such as “How many M&Ms would it take to measure the Mississippi River?” It’s a creative way to show students that math problems DO occur daily in our lives and we are solving math problems all of the time. This book makes a great example answer to the student who asks “When will I ever use this math in my life?”
Lesson Plan Idea: You can use this book to introduce any number of mathematical concepts. Anything from time, to multiplication, to fractions. This book will inspire your students to “relax” about math and get ready to understand that math is everywhere and we all use it everyday!
Greg Tang has put together a series of counting riddles which challenge you to find short cuts to a faster answer. Each problem provides the introduction to a new challenge. The riddles are written in verse and encourage you to develop your skills in pattern recognition, grouping, and multi-step thinking. The book can provide the basis for spotting interesting problems in the world around us. Clever rhymes, hints, and colorful illustrations combine to provide plenty of visual and mental stimulation. The riddles focus on natural objects like animals, insects, plants, and fruit to increase awareness of the patterns occurring around us. The riddles have fun names like Fish School, Grapes of Math, Win-Doze, and For the Birds.
The left hand page contains a colorful computer illustration provided by Harry Briggs. These are large and appropriately ambiguous to hide the patterns a little. Color and shape are especially used well to complicate the counting problem. On the right hand page is a riddle, containing a clue at the end. “To help you find the right amount/Group by fives before you count” is one such clue. At the back of the book are the solutions to each riddle.
Lesson Plan Idea: A teacher could use The Grapes of Math in many ways. One could post a problem each day, or week, on the board for children to solve at the beginning of a math lesson, to get students thinking mathematically, and on a higher level. Instructors could also break a class into pairs or small groups and photocopy the sixteen different problems, passing out a different problem to each pair/group. The children could have an allotted amount of time in which to come up with creative ways to count the objects on the page. After the pair/group has found several ways, they could vote on the most efficient method. Then the students could take turns sharing their solutions with the class. Furthermore, a teacher could share the book with his/her class, taking suggestions for the various problems and solving as a whole-class group. As a follow-up activity, children could design their own “counting problems,” making colorful pictures with accompanying poetry to give their readers hints – such as the layout of The Grapes of Math. Then the children could trade with a partner and solve their partners’ work.
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table by Cindy Neuschwander
Looking for a way to engage students for a 5 E lesson on Geometry? Look no further. Sir Cumference and his knight to the rescue, your majesty! Assisted by his knight, Sir Cumference, and using ideas offered by his wife and son, King Arthur finds the perfect shape for his table.
Lesson Plan Idea:
- Read Sir Cumference and the First Round Table. As you read the book, recreate the tables shown in the story. Call attention to the names of the shapes: rectangle, square, triangle, rectangle, parallelogram. After reading the story, review the meanings of the words circumference, diameter, and radius. Then allow students to choose several circular objects, and use string and a ruler to measure circumference, diameter and radius. Write measurements on recording sheet.
Science can be taught using literature for children too. This book by Janell Canon tells the story of a cute, baby fruit bat named Stellaluna who gets separated from her mother and ends up being adopted by a family of birds. While there is a definite theme which encourages the reader to embrace being uniquely yourself vs. fitting in, there is also an opportunity to incorporate some science learning along with the self-esteem lessons when reading this book.
Lesson Plan Idea:
This book can be used along with a unit study on bats. The book can be read as an “Engage” in a 5 E lesson plan or unit. Some concepts to explore would be:
- What are the different types of bats? What kinds of bats do we have in Texas?
- How do bat mothers care for their babies?
- How do birds care for their babies?
- What is the difference between birds and bats? Using a Venn diagram to illustrate the differences or things that are the same;
- Explore echolocation;
- What part do bats play in our ecosystem?
Gregor Mendel a humble friar, can be regarded as one of the world’s first geneticist. He lived a slow-paced humble life, growing pea plants in his Abbey. His natural curiosity of what made each pea plant flower and produce different types of peas (color, size, etc.) inspired Mendel to experiment over the years with growing different different generations of pea plants. He observed yellow peas, green peas, smooth peas and wrinkled peas and asked the question, “why are they different for some generations and the same for some generations?” He observed the physical traits of heredity and crafted a theory long before scientists came up with the notion of genes.
Lesson Plan Idea: This book can be read as an “Engage” in a 5E Lesson plan. Either the whole book or excerpts from the book can be read prior to an introduction to genetics. Students in the younger grades learn about inheritable traits while the older students will be exploring genetics and using Mendel Squares. This book could also be used in the “Elaborate” phase of a 5E lesson plan. Students could try and replicate growing the different strains and colors of pea plants as an experiment.
5 Books to Teach Social Studies
Social studies is a mixture of history, culture, politics, government and economics. It is a subject that most students feel completely disconnected to. However, with a little bit of artful literature integration, you will have your students asking for more social studies please. Well, maybe not every student. But these books will help you teach some of the most important concepts in social studies with a human connection that facts and figures cannot provide. The books can make history come alive and make your students ask even more questions. It has been said that a great teacher not only teaches the content, but inspires the student to seek more information and inflame a passion inside of them. I give you 5 books to explore social studies which I believe can help you create some sparks.
Witches! The absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer
Published in 2011 and the recipient of numerous awards (Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Book, 2012 Notable Children’s Books—ALSC, NCSS—Notable Social Studies Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2012, School Library Journal Best Books of 2011, SLJ’s 100 Magnificent Children’s Books of 2011, Chicago Public Library Best of the Best 2011 and more!) Rosalyn Schanzer tells the scary story (pun intended) of the 1692 Salem witch trials. Schanzer describes how two young girls began to twitch and choke and contort their bodies with no reasonable explanation except – witchcraft! In the end, more than 20 people will be accused of being a witch and would meet their end. This book is filled with primary source excerpts that will truly have you aching for more. Schanzer also created cool artwork out of black-white and red scratchboard. This is a non-fiction read that is very informative but so entertaining the reader forgets that it is all true. Check out Schanzer’s other books written about history at her website – www.rosalynschanzer.com
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
This book aligns with 5th grade and 8th grade Social Studies TEKS in Texas. During your study on the colonial period of America, Witches! will inspire and intrigue your students into finding out more about that period in our U.S. History. I think this book would be fun to do in a reader’s theater format. By either taking excerpts from the book or actually going to the transcripts of the trials, students will enjoy interacting with their peers, playing the accused or the accusers and acting out the scenes. After reading the book, why not take a web quest through the Salem Village Witchcraft Victims Memorial of Danvers? This website has lots of cool information about the area and the trials – http://www.salemweb.com/guide/witches.shtml. Finally, Rosalyn Schanzer’s illustrations won the prestigious Gold Medal for Best Illustrated Book of 2011 from the Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibition, why not try your hand at some scratch board animation? Each student could illustrate on scratchboard their favorite scene from the book and write a summary of their scene from the point of view of the witch or the monster.
The Civil War is part of the Social Studies TEKS in Texas and is something that every student should be familiar with. The greatest champion of the Civil War is none other than our most beloved and cherished President of all time, Abraham Lincoln. This award winning biography
- Capital Choices – 100 Best of the Year;
Chicago Public Library – Best of Best Books;
- Children’s Choice – Intermediate Level; Keystone Reading Book Award;
CCBC Choices – Best of the Year;
- The Monarch Awards: Illinois’ Children’s Choice Award Masterlist;
NY Public Library – 100 Titles to Read and Share;
- Teachers’ Choices – IRA; and
Library of Virginia Whitney and Scott Cardoza Award) details Abraham Lincoln’s life from his humble backwoods beginnings in Kentucky to key role in abolishing slavery in the United States. It was through Lincoln’s sheer will, perseverance and determination that he was a successful man. A voracious reader, he always has a book in his hand. Rappaport weaves actual quotes by Lincoln throughout the book that are inspiring and inspired. “As a nation, we began to declare that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except Negroes.'” The illustrations are beautifully recreated from actual photos of Lincoln’s home and the surrounding areas in Springfield, IL. A timeline of important dates is included at the back of this book. I like this book for its simplicity in style and its complexity of content that delivers the message of Abraham Lincoln’s life work and his own amazing words.
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
Doreen Rappaport’s website has a study guide to use with the book (see 10 questions below) and some great suggested links too. Video of the Emancipation Proclamation speech, a virtual tour of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D. C. and a link to the Lincoln Presidential Library. This author also has a Teachers Guide that can be used with each of her Big Words books.
Click here: Big WordsTeachers Guide
Doreen’s Study Guide
- How did Lincoln’s parents encourage him about learning?
- Abraham learned a lot without going to school. Do you think that would be difficult? Explain.
- How did what Lincoln saw in New Orleans affect his life? Why did Lincoln want to be a lawmaker? Why do you think he lost the first time he ran?
- Why did Lincoln think slavery was wrong? How did his determination help to end?
- What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
- Why did the North want to punish the South at the end of the war? Why was the South angry at the North?
- Do you think Lincoln was a good leader?
- Vocabulary: marksmen; justice; trotline; perpetual; surveyor; elocution; biography; legislature; ideals; Fort Sumter; Commander-in-chief; fourscore and seven; malice.
- RESEARCH: Why were most white Northerners opposed to the Emancipation?
- How does the use of Lincoln’s quotes affect the storytelling?
Other great links for learning about Abraham Lincoln:
- Interactive Tour of the Lincoln Memorial
- Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
- Gettysburg Address Video
Martin’s Big Words is the award winning biography of civil rights icon and leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When Martin was a small boy, he wanted to grow up to use big words. His mother told him “you are as good as anyone” when he asked about all those signs that said “White Only.” As he listened to his father preach, he knew that he would grow up to use big words just like him. And he did. Rappaport features quotes from MLK Jr. throughout the book. Collier’s illustrations are big and beautiful with a realistic feel and symbolism throughout. The book has a pretty good timeline in the back which details the important events in MLK’s life.
Lesson Plan Idea(s): Since there are more than 200 websites that are about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the possibilities to teach with this book are endless. It can be taught on or around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a U.S. History course, or included as a unit on Civil Rights. Before reading this book, organize the students into small cooperative learning groups and have them sort the definitions listed on the official website for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation http://www.thekingcenter.org/glossary-nonviolence. The students will list what methods of nonviolent social change methods they think are most effective from greatest to least. The students will then share and discuss their answers within their groups. During or after reading of the book, stop and show the videos from Eyes on the Prize and other relevant videos which are free and available on YouTube or The King Foundation website. After reading, each student can explore the Dreams section of the King website. http://www.thekingcenter.org/dreams, write down and share two of their favorite dreams with the class and then they will write their own dream which will be posted on the website.
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, Illustrated by Brian Collier
In this award winning biographical picture book about Rosa Parks, Nikki Giovanni describes the day Ms. Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. She was arrested and sparked one of the most moving and effective protests of the Civil Rights Era of American history. For almost 1 year the black citizens of Montgomery boycotted the bus lines until they changed the segregation policy on the buses. Beautiful yellow-hued illustrations by Brian Collier remind us of the heat of Montgomery and the illuminating spirit of Rosa Parks.
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
This book could be used in much the same way as the MLK book mentioned above. Its a great way to introduce the younger students to Rosa Parks. Before reading, discuss the concepts of the concepts of a boycott and what it means to “boycott” something. Talk about what it would be like to walk everywhere you that you needed to go – school, work, the grocery store, the doctor’s office. Could you do it? Watching the Eyes on the Prize videos about the nonviolent bus boycott especially brings this very real part of history to life for the students. Click here for an excellent video that explains what happened and includes an actual interview of Rosa Parks herself and audio of part of Dr. King’s speech on the matter too. Rosa Parks Video
This is Texas: A Children’s Classic by M. Sasek
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
This book is full of facts and figures that may or may not be true today. Have the students choose one of the facts or excerpts from the book and research whether the fact is still true today. If not, what has changed and why?
5 Chapter Books That are Pretty Fantastic…
There is no question, that there are many high quality works of literature out there. Sometimes it seems that there is so much to choose from, one hardly knows where to begin. In an effort to narrow the field for you, I give you 5 quality chapter books that will inspire learning, reading, writing, discussion, language development, history, perspective, and a love for literature. (Note: These are my top 5 choices! Opinions on literature differ greatly. Post your Top 5 Choices below in the blog comments)
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giver is a classic dystopian children’s novel written in 1993 by Lois Lowry. The world that Lowry creates is devoid of differences. Everyone is the “same”. Everyone does the same thing, at the same time in their life and uniqueness and variation are virtually eliminated from society. This has eradicated emotional depth in the citizens lives. However, they know nothing else. The only one who does remember what life used to be like before sameness, is the Receiver of Memory. The protagonist, Jonas, is selected by the counsel to be the new Receiver of Memory and will receive all of the past life memories from the “Giver” who is old and according to plan ready to go on to the next phase of society. Most of the citizens are happy because they don’t know any other life than the one they are living, but as Jonas receives more and more memories from the past, he soon becomes very unhappy with this world of sameness. Should he stay and live a life of sameness? Or should he run from the community life a life that is full of emotions, color and danger?
Despite controversy and criticism that the book’s subject material is inappropriate for young children, The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold more than 5.3 million copies.
Lesson Plan Idea(s): Since this book’s arrival on the literature scene over 15 years ago, many great minds have had the opportunity to plan amazing lessons using this book. I would be a fool not to beg, borrow and steal most of these well thought out ideas. There are whole units centered around this book and here are just a couple of the resources that I find quite good:
This website has a whole two week unit that teachers can be inspired to teach from or follow as they wish. The link is http://www.neiu.edu/~barindfl/thegiverlessonplanspage.html
This Unit Plan was originally designed to be printed out and put into a 1-1/2″ binder. All documents needed are linked above.
The Giver lesson plans were written by Brad Rindfleisch, Christine Murphy, and Diana Sturtevant. Copyright © 2003.
(No authorization is needed for reproduction, all we ask is that you give us credit for the work!)
The Giver Classroom webpages were designed and created by Brad Rindfleisch. Copyright © 2003.
Another great resource for teaching this book is a Scholastic Lesson Plan page. This site gives ideas that encourage students to examine elements of plot, compare and contrast characters, make predictions while reading, and write another final chapter to the book. It can be found following this link: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/giver-lesson-plan written by Jennifer Chandler for grades 6-8, 9-12.
All of the ideas contained in these lessons are what I would consider the way to teach this book, so there is no sense in me re-creating the wheel. Again, I will give credit where credit is due and suggest these ideas as a jumping off point or used as a guideline to teach this book. Regardless of the route taken, the journey is awesome! This book will bring lots of thought provoking discussions to your classroom. I highly recommend it.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill A Mockingbird has became both an classic in American literature and one of the greatest novels written about the 1960s of all time. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, which is also a classic.
This book is dramatic and moving and asks the reader to decide where does human behavior reside – in our consciences or in our courtrooms? It is the tale of humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature. This book follows the lives of Scout, Jem and their father Atticus, a lawyer who ends up defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. Scout, Jem and their summer friend, Dill, are consumed with harrassing a neighborhood recluse Boo Radley. Its a story of the south in the 60’s and the coming of age of Scout, Jem and Dill. Its a must read for all students.
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
The National Endowment for the Arts has a fabulous website dedicated to classic and contemporary American Literature. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest.
Inside this website you will find a reader’s guide, a teacher’s guide, the audio, an author biography and a Spanish version.
This Big Read Teacher’s Guide contains ten lessons to lead you through Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Each lesson has four sections: a thematic focus, discussion activities, writing exercises, and homework assignments. In addition, they have provided suggested essay topics and capstone projects, as well as handouts with more background information about the novel, the historical period, and the author. All lessons dovetail with the state language arts standards required in the fiction genre.
Finally, The Big Read Reader’s Guide deepens your exploration with interviews, book lists, time lines, and historical information. This guide and syllabus allow you to have fun with your students while introducing them to the work of a great American author.
I find this resource quite fabulous and think whether you use some, part or all of these suggestions, you will be exploring a great American piece of literature that you and yourr students will never forget. I also suggest after reading the book, comparing the book to the movie and discussing the similarities and differences.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Readers encounter the harrowing experience of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic.
Anderson gives insight into this deadly disease that killed nearly five thousand people, ten percent of the Philadelphia population, and halted its prosperity. The story uses real-life recollections to develop the bitterness and fear of neighbor toward neighbor as people physically cast aside the infected and buried thousands.
Fever 1793 tells the story of Mattie Cook, a young girl who comes of age in Philadelphia during a tumultuous period of epidemic. Mattie is a typical young American girl who lives with her mother in a coffeehouse operated by the family. The business is profitable and enjoyable until rumors begin to circulate of fever. The rumors are proved true as hundreds and then thousands sicken and die from the disease. Mattie’s mother, several friends, and Mattie herself eventually contract the disease – many survive, but some die. I won’t give away the ending, but this book is a fantastic historical fictional account of what it must have been like to experience this time in history. Once a reader has read Fever 1793, they will never forget that date!
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
Just like the other two chapter books I chose above, this book has lots of resources available to teach this book to your students. It is cross-curricular aligned for 5th grade and 8th grade in connection with U.S. History standards in Texas. For science curriculum standards, this book is especially poignant in highlighting the medical knowledge of the colonial times and what doctors and scientists of the colonial period believed were good medical practices. I think creating literature circles with your class and discussing this book will make it come alive for your students.
Additionally, here are some other ideas to discuss and/or research:
- Read actual diary entries from the time period – lots of primary source literature about this
- Research Blanchard’s Balloon flight which took place in 1793 in Philadelphia and which is mentioned in the book
- Research The Free African Society
- Research medical practices of the time
Flowers for Algernon [Mariner Books, 2005] is often cited on teen book lists and is a great American work of literature. Flowers for Algernon was originally a short story written by Daniel Keyes. After the story won a Hugo Award, one of the highest honors in science fiction, Keyes turned the story into a novel.
The full-length novel won the 1966 Nebula Award for the best novel of the year, the highest honor for science fiction novels. The novel version was adapted into a movie in 1968, Charly, and the actor who played Charlie, won an Academy Award.
With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie? An American classic that inspired the award-winning movie Charly.
By studying Flowers for Algernon with unique and interesting lesson activities, students will be more likely to remember the story. They will gain a depth of understanding regarding topics they might not have previously considered, such as the treatment of the mentally disabled and the importance of intelligence.
Here are some wonderful ideas to teach using this book.
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
- Provide some background information on Daniel Keyes – it always makes a book more interesting when you know a little bit about the author. He has had many types of jobs including teaching the mentally disabled, a professor of English and creative writing, and a science fiction editor.
- Before introducing the novel, provide students with various difficult mazes. (Here’s a .pdf taken from KrazyDad.com Super Difficult Mazes – Super Difficult Mazes. Tell them they are competing against a mouse that was able to finish a mouse-sized model in less than three minutes. Use a timer to measure the three minutes, stopping students when the time is up.
- The themes that surround this book are how people with disabilities are treated, intelligence and the importance of it, whether IQ tests provide a valid measurement of intelligence, the contrast between emotions and intellect, how the past affects the present or the qualities of a hero.
- Introduce the concept of the Rorschach tests and ask students (working in pairs) to construct a sample.
- As a culminating activity, a comparison of the book to the movie (similarities and differences) is also a great way to assess student’s understanding.
This is a story about love and our capacity to still love after life’s adventures toss us about in the waves. Is beauty skin deep or deeper than what we see? The story revolves around the character of Edward Tulane, a vain china rabbit who is loved by his owner but feels no love in return. A misadventure throws him out of his pampered life and into a path of a series of fascinating people, each one more lovely than the last. Edward’s heart grows and grows until the question is not can Edward love, but can he love again after the depth of his heartbreak. DiCamillo has a pared down narrative style that is refreshing and thought-provoking. “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” may be a children’s book, but it is never childish. The message about loving and being loved is one that is important for people of all ages.
Lesson Plan Idea(s):
The publisher, Candlewick Press has a teacher’s guide to the book that had some really great ideas. Here’s the .pdf – Candlewick Press Teachers Guide.Edward Tulane. It does give some great ideas for before, during and after reading. The book even has its own website (edwardtulane.com) which is full of interesting information about the author, praise for the story, and videos of the author and illustrator. The site also features a reader’s theater for 6 students.
In conclusion, whether you are seeking inspiration, motivation or looking to see the world through a different lens, any of these 25 works of literature will get you there. From a beautiful picture book, to a novel full of wonder, knowledge and humanity, the world is a better place for having these books in it! Feel free to post your comments, suggestions and your favorite books that “inspire” below. Peace, love and happy reading!