Stephanie Dunnewind: I think there are many children's books that appeal to readers for different reasons. Some students might be drawn into the adventure, while others might relate to the characters. For a whole-class read-aloud, I often present two or three choices and let students vote. This helps increase excitement and if it is a close vote, the next book is all ready to go! I think it is fun to pair historical fiction with nonfiction history books so students can see what parts of the story are real.
Dia Calhoun: Do you remember a specific activity with a specific book that really set kids’ imaginations on fire?
Stephanie Dunnewind: I did a lesson on perspective/point of view with two chapters from the book "Flipped." This lesson fits with Common Core Standards. It alternates chapters with two narrators, a boy and girl. The girls read the girl narrator's take on an event, while the boys read the next chapter, which was the same event from the boy's point of view. Then they worked in small groups to compare/contrast the two narrators' points of view, and think about how "truth" is often a matter of perspective.
Dia Calhoun: Have you ever done something “outside the box” that worked really well?
Stephanie Dunnewind: We play literary charades where two competing teams try to guess the book title as one person from each team acts it out (either the literal title or what happens in the book). We also play 20 Questions where teams can ask Yes or No questions and then guess the title from the answers.
Dia Calhoun: If you could give teachers/librarians one piece of advice for engaging kids with middle grade books, what would it be?
Stephanie Dunnewind: With the Common Core focus on close reading and the ongoing emphasis on reading strategies, I think it's important students learn that reading is not always hard work. Yes, it is good to challenge ourselves as readers and do deep thinking. But not always. Sometimes it can just be fun and enjoyable!
Dia Calhoun: Thanks so much, Stephanie, for taking the time to share these great ideas!
Stephanie Dunnewind is an elementary school librarian in Bothell, Washington.
Smack Dab in the Classroom by author Dia Calhoun runs on this blog on the 23rd day of every month.