Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cool Classroom Collaborations: Books that will ignite creative classroom collaborations between the classroom teacher and librarian

My principal has given me homework.  It's alright,'s fun homework.  She asked me to share at our faculty retreat this year about collaboration.  She feels like we have resources that we don't always tap into available in our school building...both in special area teachers as well as print materials.  Don't we all?  We get so busy with writing lesson plans and trying to figure out what we're doing tomorrow that we sometimes overlook amazing opportunities right before our eyes.  That is what makes summer so great!  We have plenty of time to relax and collect fresh ideas for the upcoming school year.

  I've spent a lot of time this summer reading.  Especially nonfiction.  As I've been reading, I've been brainstorming possible classroom/library collaborations for next year.  I'm making this list to remind myself of the great opportunities that are possible next year when I'm feeling overwhelmed and out of creativity.  Each of the following picture or nonfiction books lends itself to student excitement, research, and content-area writing!  I'll write a little ditty about each book to give you a start with ideas...

Jennifer Fosberry has written several of these books including: My Name is Not Isabella, Isabella, Star of the Story, and Isabella Girl On the Go.  Each books lends itself to fun research about people.  Have each child choose a biography about someone that they are interested in or curious about and create a page for a class book that will teach about several famous people.  It's fun to read Alexander for the boys and Isabella for the girls!

This book is a lot of fun!  A great way to incorporate research, math, and writing.  Choose a topic that your students are interested in or that you are teaching in your content area.  Use the Guinness Book of World Records as well as reference materials and nonfiction books to learn about numbers relating to your topic.  You can also collaborate with your art teacher to have the students create illustrations for the class book incorporating the numbers that they are teaching about their topic.

I have to thank my library friend, Shannon, for sharing this idea.  I've always taught nonfiction features with nonfiction books.  She suggested teaching features with Scaredy Squirrel books as well.  Genius idea!  The kids eat these books up!

This book was our principal's pick last year at our Scholastic book fair and I couldn't keep it on the shelves!  Talk about high interest!  This book is fun because it includes real photos of each animal and fun facts about their teeth and also incorporates illustrated pictures of children with the animal teeth and what it would be like to live with specific animal adaptations.  Choose any specific adaptation you want...feet, teeth, noses, eyes, etc.  Another fun book to pair with this one that lets kids guess specific animal adaptations is What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.

I love all of the books written by Hanoch Piven.  He uses found objects that relate to his subjects to teach about them.  Genius.  This would be a fun collaboration with your art teacher as well.  Our second grade teachers used this book this year to introduce their president unit.  Each child chose a specific president they wanted to learn more about, researched about them, and created their own illustration with found objects that they brought from home.  They had a museum in our cafeteria and students in other classes could tour the museum and learn about each of the presidents.  The students presenting had to share about what each item in the illustration meant or taught about their president.  Visit Piven's website to learn more about his books and his apps that could also be used to create the illustrations for your book.  

I used Ann Whitehead Nagda as a nonfiction mentor this year.  What I love about the books in this math series is she tells a story on one side of a two-page spread and the other side of the page shows the math that ties in with the story.  It would be a lot of fun to teach your kids about Nagda's books in the math series and have them write their own about using math in their everyday world.  A few ideas would be cafeteria math, playground math, school garden math, etc.  Assign a student or group of students to illustrate the word problems for specific parts of the story after you have written the story together as a class.  Visit Nagda's website to see all of her books in the math series.

Eileen has written two other books similar to this one:  Do You Have a Hat? and Do You Have a Cat?
Each book has one thing in common.  Do You Have a Dog? is all about famous people in history that had dogs.  Same with the cat and hats.  It's a fun twist on biographies of famous people.  Write your own version with your class and let them vote on the similarity that you are looking for.

David A. Adler has written many books about specific math topics for kids.  This is a fun book including word problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division about birds.  It's a great book to use for a lesson about the words you look for in word problems that tell you to add, subtract, multiply, or divide.  Your kids could write their own word problems about about science or social studies content that you need to cover in your classroom using the key words that tell them the operation needed to use to solve.  Then, let them swap word problems and figure each others out.

This is one of my favorite books of all time!  Question Boy has questions about everything and little Miss Know-It-All has all the answers...except...she gets it wrong sometimes.  Read this book to your class and see if the kids can guess which (1) fact is incorrect on each page when Miss-Know-It-All starts spewing random information.  After reading, apply this idea to a content area that you have been teaching in science or social studies.  Let the kids each write out three true facts and one that is incorrect but sounds reasonable.  Hide the correct answers somewhere.  Publish the work in a class book (and use it later for review).

This is a book that you could use with two grade levels together!  Choose a subject that you teach at different levels.  For example: plants, space, animal adaptations, weather, matter, etc.  Work together with a teacher in that grade level that would like to research the same topic with their class.  Each page has the same information...only the page on the left side has information at a higher level for an older student to read and the information on the right is written for a younger audience!  Perfect possibility for book buddies!  Check out the We Both Read website to see more titles like this one.

Fly Guy and nonfiction!  This is the BEST idea ever!  All you have to do is choose a topic and have your kids teach about it from Fly Guy's point of view!  The kids eat these books up and can't wait to write their own!  Be sure to watch for the next Fly Guy book this fall:  Fly Guy Presents:  Space.

I used this Elephant and Piggie book this year to teach the fiction as well as nonfiction parts of a book.  For specific information about this project, read my blog post here.

This is a great nonfiction book with a question and answer format.  This is a great text to use to introduce inquiry with your kids.  Perfect for K-2.  Let each of your children ask their own questions based on their own personal inquiry and research to find the answer to their question.  They will also learn more about their subject than just the answer to the question.  You can have your students include dash facts on their page for the book as well.  Each student publishes a two spread page for the class book.

Father and daughter team Eric Yoder and Natalie Yoder have written several titles in this series.  They have also written a separate series with one minute mysteries you solve with math.  Your kids can write these about any content area you are teaching!  I'd start out by reading these throughout the year so your students are very familiar with the layout before trying to write their own.  

The Scholastic Question and Answer series is an easy way of having students publish what they've learned about a content area by posing questions and answering them.  One thing I like about this type of writing is that it is short and sweet.  This would be a great way to assign students a specific topic in a small group and have them put together a short description to the question your provide.

Have your kids publish comics!  The Max Axiom series of comic books covers a variety of science topics to model for your students how to teach a specific content area using a comic.

Having our kids research and publish their own Who Would Win books is one of my favorite collaborations with our third grade teachers.  I think you could successfully have your 4th or 5th grade publish these books as well.  I use the Tennessee Electronic Library for the free World Book Kids.  Using World Book Kids online, have your kids visit the World of Animals to choose two animals they would like to compare.  The World of Animals even creates an amazing venn diagram that your students can print off to use to begin sizing up their two animals.  Follow Pallotta's format for the book. Have your kids compare apples to apples for each animal on each two-page spread.  We let each child publish their own Who Would Win book based on the two animals that they choose in the World of Animals. 

Check out the newest Who Would Win title available for purchase through the Scholastic Teacher Store on September 16, 2013!

Your students now have to be prepared to write support their opinions based on evidence from the text.  Common Core says so. :)  The This or That series is perfect for using evidence from the text to support which decision the student would make.  The series includes history debate, sports debate, survival debate, and animal debate.  You'll find something for 2nd grade through 6th in this book.  Have your students write which decision they would make based on two choices they are given in the text.  Then, have them use evidence from the text to support their opinions.  Your kids will eat these books up!  I cannot keep them on the bookshelves in the library!

Common Core also says that looking at several different points of view is also important.  Use this series published by Capstone to teach your children to look at a classic fairy tale or folk tale through an alternate character's eyes.  Have your students re-write a favorite tale from another character's point of view.

This book is a professional book written by Nancy Polette.  Students research and write several different versions of a historical characters story.  They work in teams to write each version as a different part in a reader's theater.  Students perform the reader's theater for the class and their classmates have to decide which account of the famous person's life is true.  Perfect for any social studies unit!

There's lots of stuff from history that you wouldn't want to be!  The great thing is this series covers it all.  From not wanting to be Egyptian Mummies to Ninja Warriors...Choose a time period that was not desirable and have your kids write about how much it stunk! 


The Scholastic True or False series will appeal to your younger students.  The format is very basic.  Read a few of the titles with your students first and let them notice how the book is laid out.  I'd choose a topic that we have learned about together and write a class true or false book as a final review.  List your true and false facts and extra information together and let each student publish one statement and whether it is true or false.

I saved my new favorite for last.  I read about this series on Jon Scieszka's Guys Read website.  When you start reading this book, you are encouraged to read the short field guide in the back of the book that gives you suggestions about survival in your location.  The Amazon field guide had tips about setting up camp, information about venomous snakes, etc.  As you read the book, you are given scenarios in which you have to make a decision about your survival.  Choose correctly and your adventure continues.  Make a wrong move and it can be all over.  Your kids will eat this book up!  This book would be a challenge to replicate b/c of the various pages that skip around through the book based on the decisions you make, but I'm sure each of you know a student who could do this!  Give them the challenge...think about writing these about surviving historical events...

If you have any other great books that you love to use to inspire your students to research and write their own stories, please share in the comments!

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