"I took some [shelves]out and created reading cubbies for the kids. Yes. They can sit on the bottom bookshelf and read, either side by side or stretched out and on their own."
Fantastic! Deb shares some more ideas on how to use middle grade novels in the classroom.
DIA CALHOUN: How do you engage a group of kids with the same book? Kids who might have different interests?
DEB MARSHALL: I do a lot of reading out loud. Pete the Cat, Elephant & Piggie, Minerva Louise, Splat the Cat are examples of characters that have a wide appeal that crosses gender and interests, characters that are so kid like in how they are that no matter the interest, they appeal to everyone. I think the same is true of middle grade books and talking about them to students. I focus on the character, the kid in the book and draw similarities the students may feel they have with the character while at the same time as well as highlighting the differences, what makes that character unique.
DIA CALHOUN: Have you ever done something "outside the box" that set kids imaginations on fire?
DEB MARSHALL: I am not sure how outside the box this is, but a few years ago I ran a book club for middle graders and I got them using puppets to do book reviews. Of course, they had to read the book first, then using the puppet they could share why they like, or didn't like the book. Another member of the group would video tape this. We called it Puppet Theatre Book Reviews. The best part about this is one of the boys who came who each week and who each week said he didn't really like to read, picked a book, read it and did a review! He wanted in on the Puppet Theatre Book Reviews.
On the boy who came each week, it was his brother who loved to to read, who he came with. And each week I told the non-reader that he was always welcome and that some week we would find a book he liked. He found the book (see above for why) and the rest is reading history! The book? Revenge of the Road Weenies by David Lubar.
DIA CALHOUN: If you could give teachers/librarians one piece of advice for engaging kids with middle grade books, what would it be?
DEB MARSHALL: I would say book talk or share the book with enthusiasm, read your favorite parts out loud, tell them why you liked the book, why you think they might like it. Kids really do want to know what we think (whether they agree with us or not) and love knowing that we are reading the same books they are. And to that end....read widely! We need to know the insides of the books!
Deb Marshall is the librarian at W.A. Elementary in Alberta, Canada.
Smack Dab in the Classroom by author Dia Calhoun runs on the 23rd of each month.