What’s Hot in the Classroom? January Edition

As a fifth grade language arts teacher, I put a high priority on reading.  I want my students reading and talking about books all the time.  I do a couple of things to facilitate this:

  1. I keep an extensive, kid-friendly classroom library. Brightly colored book cases, a large collection of stuffed frogs, genre grouped book bins, an audio-listening station and over 1, 300 books make up this library.  I keep it current but also pay homage to time-tested classics.
  2. The students and I frequently book-talk books we are reading. It is one thing to show kids a fun book cover but it is another to give a short summary, tell them who would like it, read the first chapter aloud, etc.  These are the things that really hook readers.  My students have a great handle on how to book-talk.  Often times, I hear them book-talking at recess or during our weekly library time.  Some parents have even told me that their children book-talk with each other on Skype!
  3. I am a reading role-model to kids. You can talk the talk, but you have got to show your students that you walk the walk.  Often times I will use our silent-reading time to conference with kids about their reading but other times I will just read.  When the students see that I value and take time for reading, they will know that I truly mean what I say.  I am the life-long reader that I want them to be.

Each year, I am so happy with the students commitment to reading, love of literature and awesome book choices!  This group of kids is particularly adventurous in their choice of books; many of them are willing to read anything I throw at them!

As of early January, our 68 5th-graders have read over 950 books and over 32 million words.  Incredible.  With all that we do to help facilitate a love of literature, the students really are the book experts.  Therefore, I am unveiling a new monthly feature:  What’s Hot in the Classroom?  The books profiled below are books that are current hot reads with my students. A hot read is defined as one that I can barely keep on my shelf, has an extensive waiting list, a lot of children are reading it currently or the book is receiving a lot of “buzz” amongst my readers.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

From the publisher: In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

Student WOW-factors: Main characters are Hansel and Gretel (who are familiar to many of the students).  The “squeam” factor (beheadings!  women who eat children!).  The narrator who speaks to the reader throughout the book.  Humor.

I read the first chapter to my students, and I had 16 kids on the waiting-list immediately.  Several more went out and purchased the book because they “couldn’t wait” for their turn on the list.  This book is a rollicking-fun read that really speaks to 5th graders!

Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale

From the PublisherI looked south toward the gulf, trying to keep an eye on the stalking sea. Wild waves rose up like a great hand and wrenched loose the Pagoda’s long staircase, sending planks tumbling through the air. With horror I watched the end of one twin building sway and dip into the surf.

I yelled at Josiah, but my words disappeared on the wind. I grabbed his arm, pointed, and we stood together, shoulder to shoulder, mouths gaping, watching the impossible.

Like a wounded Goliath, the great bathhouse shuddered, folded in on its long legs, and collapsed into the sea.

Galveston, Texas, may be the booming city of the twentieth century, but to Seth it is the end of a dream. He wants to be a carpenter like his father, but the family has moved so Seth can become a doctor.

Just as things begin to look up for Seth, a storm warning is raised one sweltering afternoon. A north wind always brings change, but no one could have imagined anything like this.

The acclaimed author of The Truth About Sparrows has crafted an unforgettable story set during the Galveston Storm of 1900.

Student WOW-factors:  Adventure and suspense.  Relate-able historical fiction.  Authentic, memorable characters.  Edge-of-your seat excitement.

Dark Life by Kat Falls

From the Publisher: Dive deep into the vivid underwater world of Dark Life!

The oceans rose, swallowing the lowlands. Earthquakes shattered the continents, toppling entire regions into the rising water. Now, humans live packed into stack cities. The only ones with any space of their own are those who live on the ocean floor: the Dark Life.

Ty has spent his whole life living deep undersea. When outlaws attack his homestead, he finds himself in a fight to save the only home he has ever known. Joined by Gemma, a girl from Topside, Ty ventures into the frontier’s rough underworld and discovers some dark secrets to Dark Life. Secrets that threaten to destroy everything.

Student WOW-factors: Kids are working to save the world.  Secrets.  Suspense and adventure.  An alternate world.  Dystopian literature (many of my students are HUGE fans of The Hunger Games trilogy).

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

From the Publisher: Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana, in 1840 — or so she believes. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie’s mother reveals a shocking secret — it’s actually 1996, and they are living in a reconstructed village that serves as a tourist site. In the world outside, medicine exists that can cure the dread disease, and Jessie’s mother is sending her on a dangerous mission to bring back help.

But beyond the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and threatening than she could have imagined, and soon she finds her own life in jeopardy. Can she get help before the children of Clifton, and Jessie herself, run out of time?

Student WOW-factor: Margaret Peterson Haddix is visiting our school in March.  Adventure-filled.  Suspenseful.  Strong girl protagonist.  Interesting plot twist.

What books are currently hot in your classroom?  Any suggestions on books I should add?

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

This entry was posted in Middle Grade Fiction, Teaching Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What’s Hot in the Classroom? January Edition

  1. All of these books look incredible and they would fit well in my classroom library as well….especially A Tale Dark and Grimm. Haddix is loved by my students as well. It’s very cool that she is coming to visit your school. I can’t wait to hear details. I loved the Found series! Also, I love your classroom library. It looks great!

    • Jen says:

      Yes! I absolutely think that all of these books will translate well into an 8th grade library.

      I really like Haddix’s Shadow Children series! We are excited about her visit as well. I saw her speak last year at the state Power of the Pen competition and was really impressed. She knows how to speak and relate to young people. :)

  2. Beverly says:

    Ok, I’m going to have to appropriate this for my school library blog. It makes my day when a student comes up to me outside the library and wants to talk books. I just recently bought for myself The Grimm Tales. I loved Running Out of Time.

    Beverly aka Booklady

    • Jen says:

      Thanks Beverly! I love when students talk to me about books as well. Building book excitement and talking about reading is one of my favorite parts of the job. I remember reading Running Out of Time when it first came out; I used to have the original hard cover but it disappeared somewhere along the way. :/ I am looking forward to see what you think of A Tale Dark and Grimm; my students think it is wonderful. Thanks again for stopping by. :)

  3. I’m sooooooo glad to find your blog! You cover books I love and want to see covered more :)

    • Jen says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by Jill! I am a huge fan of your blog and your book reviews! :) I will soon be writing reviews of some of the books that I mentioned today so be sure to stop back. :)

  4. Julie says:

    I really like your blog! It is great…On another note, I was always told that during silent reading time, all the time should be used for conferencing since it is great to model reading for kids, but it is extremely important to constantly be conferencing with students. What do you think about that? Keep reading and writing!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you like the blog. I do think that conferencing with students is essential and do a lot of it! However, I also think that modeling a reader’s life is also essential. I try to find a balance. Typically, I would say I spend about 70 percent of the time with either formal or informal conferencing, helping match students up to appropriate books, etc. and about 30 percent modeling my own reading. Conferencing can be done outside of the silent reading time; I often find myself having informal conferences with kids in the halls, between classes, at lunch, etc. Utilizing those pockets of time is essential for me. Luckily, I work closely with our literacy teacher, and we share conferencing duties! Great question. I would be interested to hear your own opinion.