Today, F.T. Bradley, author of the Double Vision trilogy, joins us with a wonderful post for middle grade teachers. Last year, Ricki reviewed (and loved) the second book in the series, Double Vision: Code Name 711. We strongly encourage you to check out the entire series and are excited to announce that the third book, Double Vision: The Alias Men, went on sale this week! Please join us in welcoming F.T. Bradley to the blog today.
Five Ways to Bring MG into the Classroom
By F.T. Bradley
Reading is good for kids—we all know this. But trying to find ways to bring books into an already over-tasked classroom can be more than a challenge. Every year, I visit several school and library conventions, where I talk about ways to reach reluctant readers. Let’s face it: every classroom has a good portion of kids who would anything to avoid opening another book. So how do you bring middle-grade books into the classroom without boring your students? Here are a few ways to keep reading fresh in the classroom:
1. Find a Theme
Is your class or grade covering a certain period in history? Chances are, there are a host of MG titles that cover it. Math, science, art—authors love to use curriculum as a jumping off point in their fiction. When looking for titles, start by casting a wide net, including non-fiction (reluctant readers are easier to hook with those books), and graphic novels, too. For middle-school teachers, this can be an opportunity to collaborate with other teachers across subjects. A library visit, or a simple Google search can be a good start to find titles, but also look at book review sites like Goodreads, where reviewers often have top-ten lists of like-themed books. Author websites (like mine) sometimes have links and resources too, so don’t forget to browse the web.
2. Host a Book Club
You don’t have to be Oprah to host a book club. It can be small scale, like a class-wide joint read, or an after school club or even an elective for middle-schoolers. One school librarian told me she hosted a book club during lunch once a week—what a great idea! If you’re looking for a more challenging approach to group reading, try reading a non-fiction and fiction title on the same topic or historical period at the same time. How is the fiction title holding up against reality? Another fun challenge: reading a classic title like A Wrinkle in Time, and comparing it to its graphic novel counterpart. Or comparing the book with the movie—a great way to show that books connect to popular entertainment. To start your book club, look for more accessible options (so all kids will be interested, even those who read less), and increase the challenge as you go.
3. Host a Review Blog or Website
Kids are already expected to write book reports—why not have them write reviews, too? This can be a school or classroom blog, where you post reviews written by kids. You can even post them to other review sites, or on your local bookstore website (if they’re interested—could be a great start to collaboration). Publishers (and sometimes authors) may even be willing to donate a copy of a book in exchange for a review, especially if you post reviews regularly. Just be sure to protect kids’ privacy as you post the reviews.
4. Rewrite the Story
Have you ever read a book with the class, only to be disappointed with the ending? Or maybe it wasn’t the ending you expected—or maybe it was too cliché? Rewrite the end with the class! This can be a great writing assignment—not only does this teach writing and editing skills, it shows kids that stories aren’t set in stone. (Note: this was not my idea, but shared by a Mississippi teacher and her class, who loved this exercise). Other ideas: writing short stories, like fan fiction, featuring the other characters in a book. How does the story change if written from a different perspective? Or: write letters as two characters in conflict with each other. If you’re working with a non-fiction title, consider having kids write fictional stories featuring some of the facts in the book. Or vice-versa: research any facts in the fiction title you’re reading—did the author stay close to the truth?
5. Host a (Virtual) Author Visit
Nothing makes a book, and the profession of writing, come to life more than a visit from a real author. Kids will never forget that day. To find available authors in your area, look at professional organizations’ websites, like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. You can also ask your local library, or your independent bookstore—staff often know who lives locally, and who does great presentations. Don’t have access to local authors or funds to bring authors to your school? Try a Skype visit instead! These virtual visits are often free, and require nothing more than a computer/tablet with a webcam and a (free) Skype account. To find authors who Skype for free (like me), visit author Kate Messner’s website for a list. For non-fiction tie-ins, Skype in the Classroom offers lessons that run the gamut when it comes to curriculum, and even connects classrooms across the globe. When I host the session on reaching reluctant readers (using these ideas and more) at library and teacher conventions, I get my best tips, book recommendations, and out-of-the-box ideas from teachers and librarians themselves.
How about you? Do you have any ideas or tips to share?
Follow along with the Double Vision: The Alias Men blog tour:
Oct. 6-10: The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow features Double Vision: The Alias Men with a review, author interview, plus a GIVEAWAY..!
Oct. 13: Linc hangs out at the great Erik’s blog, This Kid Reviews Books. Linc talks about spy techniques he picked up on his Pandora missions. And there’s another GIVEAWAY…
Oct. 16: F.T. Bradley gives you Five Ways to Bring MG into The Classroom at the Unleashing Readers blog, plus a GIVEAWAY.
Oct. 17: Linc is interviewed by Lizzy, Fairday and Marcus over at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow blog. A fun post!
Oct. 20: Buried in Books lets F.T. Bradley talk about the Double Vision trilogy…
Oct. 20: Also this day, the fabulous Ms. Yingling reviews Double Vision: The Alias Men on her blog for Marvelous MG Monday…
Oct. 21: Another favorite blog, YA Book Nerd, hosts F.T. Bradley and the Double Vision trilogy, plus a GIVEAWAY
Oct. 21: F.T. Bradley hangs out at Sleuths, Spies and Alibis…
Oct. 24: F.T. Bradley gives tips for parents of reluctant readers, Seven Ways to Get Your Kid to Read, at Pragmatic Mom’s blog, plus a GIVEAWAY!
Oct. 25: At the Nerdy Book Club, find F.T. Bradley’s top 10 books for reluctant readers…