World Book Tour

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7

What To Do: Encourage students to expand their horizons by charting their own global literary journey. First, display an oversize world map. Tell them to think about the places they’ve always wanted to visit. Together, explore the USBBY’s Outstanding International Books List. Allow students to browse high-quality books around the world, color-coded by age group, and found on the Google Maps links. Have them read summaries and choose a book from a faraway place that interests them. Students can mark their first “stop” on the class map by pinning a tag with their name and the book’s title in the appropriate location.

Assign students to groups based on the region of the book they chose. After reading, they meet with their group for an international-themed discussion. Each student should bring articles, videos, or photos about current events, daily life, or trends in the region (they can also prepare snacks typical of that part of the world to share at the meeting). After presenting book summaries and clippings, they discuss similarities and differences between life there and life in the United States, based on the experiences of the protagonists. Then, have globetrotters continue their tour by choosing their next book destination.

Book Tastings

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10

What To Do: Buffy J. Hamilton, a media specialist at Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek, Georgia, has implemented “book tastings” to whet students’ appetites for tasty genres. Hamilton and her fellow librarians and teachers set up a book cart for each genre and select “appetizer” books to place on the carts. Students take 10 minutes to browse before participating in a “tasting menu.” Each tasting segment includes four minutes to read the first few pages of a book, followed by two minutes to jot down a response on a record sheet labeled with the following headings: book title, author, genre, one- to two-sentence reflection, and rating (on a scale of 1–5). When the tasting ends, students check out their favorites.

Hamilton, who blogs at The Unquiet Librarian, reports “enthusiasm and intense engagement”; she believes the scaffolded format gives kids “a flexible structure to be more deliberate with their choices.”

Dystopian Literature Circles

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1; CCRA.R.2

What To Do: When The Hunger Games was filmed just 20 minutes from Randy Seldomridge’s school, he decided to capitalize on the enthusiasm his students felt for the book series. Seldomridge, a grades 6–8 Project Lead the Way teacher at Granite Falls Middle School in North Carolina, knew a “dystopian book club” would not only grab students’ attention, it would connect to a range of subjects they were studying: genetics, government, math, and ELA. He chose delightfully dystopian titles, including Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, and The Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld.

Seldomridge first assigned Among the Hidden to the class. Students practiced engaging in specific behaviors, such as asking questions, agreeing or disagreeing with others, elaborating on another student’s point, and defining words. Once they were comfortable with the discussion format, they were each assigned to literature circles made up of four to five students, based on their book preferences. Groups met weekly, with members taking turns fulfilling creative roles—for example, a “songwriter,” to turn the theme or plot into a song; a “publisher,” to make a new book cover and blurb; a “psychologist,” to analyze how themes of the book relate to teenagers today; and a “newspaper reporter,” to write articles about events in the book. A literature circles guide and creative role sheet are available on Seldomridge’s blog, The Middle School Mouth.

Classroom Comic-Con

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2; CCRA.R.5

What To Do: Comic-Con is a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon during which thousands of fans gather to celebrate the genre, which includes comics, graphic novels, anime, and manga. At a typical Comic-Con event, authors set up tables to display their work, while visitors show up in the costumes of their favorite characters to meet authors and mingle with fellow attendees.

Tell students they will host their own Classroom Comic-Con. To begin, have them form exploratory groups to sample, share, and read graphic novels by several different authors. Then, each group should choose a favorite author or series to represent at a table display. In addition to laying out copies of books, groups should make “fan fiction” handouts on which they create their own comics featuring the characters in their author’s series. These comics should reflect an understanding of both the key themes and the structure of the text. Students should be able to answer questions such as “How do the images and the text work together to tell the story?” They can also use their fan-fiction comics as posters and put them up around the school to invite other classes to drop in for a visit. Remind your class that the event is more fun in costume!

Pin-Worthy Picks

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1; CCRA.R.10

What To Do: Create a vibrant online hub for your class’s independent reading, bulletin-board style—Pinterest’s tiled format and comments feature make it a natural fit for a classroom book-sharing forum.

First, set up a class page with a single login. Tell students they will “pin” a book cover for every book they read independently, leaving their own review in the comments section. If a book has already been pinned and reviewed, students can post additional reviews and opinions.

Encourage students to visit the page whenever they’re looking for inspiration for their next reading choice—they should check out their classmates’ comments and the conversation that develops around each title.

To extend the activity, focus students’ attention on engaging in respectful dialogue and backing up opinions with text evidence. Consider taking a moderating role and questioning students about specifics when whatever they’ve written is vague. You might even create a separate Pinterest board for each popular genre.

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