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Teaching with Literature

Janelle Cox

To help encourage even the most reluctant readers in your class, try teaching with books. Book-based lessons can help you learn how to motivate students to explore new concepts, learn and develop new skills, as well as acquire good reading habits. Here are some great books to help you discover how to motivate students and teach them concepts with a little literary help.

“The Bad Case of Stripes”
By David Shannon
Grades K-2

“The Bad Case of Stripes” is a story about a little girl who didn't want anyone to know she liked lima beans because she wanted to fit in. This is a great read-aloud book to prompt a discussion about bullying, and why we worry about what other people think of us.

Before reading the story, ask students to think back to the first day of school and how they felt, discuss what had them worried. Then list their responses on chart paper. As you read the story to the students, stop periodically and discuss what is happening in the book. Discuss why Camilla didn't want people to know she liked lima beans, and what they think she thought would happen if everyone knew she liked them.

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Talk about how Camilla felt when everyone laughed at her and why the kids were bullying her. Discuss with the students the importance of accepting others for who they are. To help children grasp this concept have them create a drawing titled "The Bad Case of _____." Allow them to be creative and come up with something on their own.

“Too Much Glue”
By Jason Lefebvre
Grades K-1

The adorable Matty loves glue so much that he decides to glue himself! How will he ever get out of all of this glue? This is the perfect story for young children who have never used glue before, or do not understand how much glue is needed for projects. Read this story to your little ones and talk about what can happen if you use too much glue on a project. Then have students practice dotting glue on paper and seeing what happens when they use too much and too little.

“What if Everybody Did That?”
By Ellen Javernick
Grades K-2

What if everybody broke the rules? What would the world be like? What if everybody obeyed the rules? This delightful story is a great way to show children the consequences of thoughtless behavior. Read this story to students and stop periodically to discuss each of the boy's actions and how it affected others. Discuss why rules even exist and what life would be like if we didn't have any rules. Then break students into groups and have each group come up with three rules they think would make the class a happier place. Finally, have students vote on what rules they like the best, and have your class adopt these rules.

“The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon”
By Cricket Johnson
Grade 3-5

“The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon” is a wonderful story about a curious little boy that creates a world of his own. This story gives students the opportunity to gain listening and comprehension skills. This activity encourages students to visualize and retell the story that they hear. As you read the story, students need to listen carefully and draw what they hear you say with a purple crayon. This is called the sketch-to-Stretch strategy which was developed by Harste, Short, & Burke in 1988. When you're finished with the story, ask each student to come up and retell the story based on how they drew it. Discuss how each person visualized something different, and how they each had their own perception of what happened in the story.

“The Adventures of Captain Underpants”
By Dav Pilky
Grades 3-5

This is a hilarious story about two fourth-grade prankster boys that hypnotize their principle, who in turn becomes a superhero called Captain Underpants. This silly story is can be used as a springboard to encourage kids to be creative and create a superhero of their own. As a class, brainstorm some important character traits a superhero must possess. Then, ask students to create their own superhero and develop a comic strip that stars their superhero. Remind students to be creative and use the ideas you brainstormed earlier. When students have completed their assignment, publish their comics into a class book.

“Prudy's Problem and How She Solved It”
By Carey Armstrong-Ellis
Grades 3-5

This whimsical story about a little girl who likes to collect everything is a great read-aloud for discussing problems and solutions. Discuss Prudy's problem (she collected too much stuff and now doesn't have any room for it) and her solution (she created a museum). Encourage students to come up with a problem they are facing and a solution for it. Have them write their problem on one puzzle piece, and their solution on the connecting puzzle piece. Talk about how once they find a solution to their problem, it fits likes a puzzle piece.

What are your favorite books to teach with? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the Globe.