Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Teacher, Teacher!

Where's Your Resource Guide?

By Charlotte Bennardo

Middle grade teachers are clamoring for books that can be used in the classroom. But searching for appropriate books, reading them, then designing lessons around them is time consuming. You might have a great book, but it got passed over- and you didn't even know it. What teachers probably chose is another good book--that has a great Educator's Resource Guide.

Photo courtesy of Pexels


What is a resource guide? It's an educational guide through a book: discussion and/or essay questions, activities, experiments, additional research, etc. tailored specifically for that book.

How can you get such a guide? You can either pay an educator or other professional to create one, which will not be cheap, or you can make your own.

First, peruse other authors' sites. As part of the middle grade writers community, you probably already know authors with guides. Make a note of what you think might work for your novel. Check the guides for a group I belong to, Kidlit Authors Club. This link takes you to the middle grade novel guides page. Most of the authors provide a summary of the book, clips of reviews, information about school visits and the author, and then a link to discussion questions and activities. Some authors choose to print out their guides to give away at educator events, library and school conferences, or email their guides to interested educators later on.

Most major publishers have educator guides for a majority, if not all their children's books. Check out: Lee and Low and Random House and see how they've prepared theirs.

It doesn't have to be super fancy, and you don't need a degree in education for a basic guide. This is just a starting point. If your books get sizable orders from schools and libraries, maybe a more detailed guide could be produced later on with the help of your publisher. For now, it's important to get something up there. If you check my Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines guide, you'll see there are several pages: word list, discussion questions, classroom and home activities, and additional readings. Since the Evolution Revolution series is a trilogy, I kept the resource guide (one for each book) basic and simple.

My friend Darlene Beck-Jacobson, author of Wheels of Change, has other pages, like a study guide (discussion questions with citations for reading levels), a curriculum guide which lists topics for deeper discussion, objectives, key words list, and suggested further readings. On her next page is a character match up quiz, then for fun, 15 etiquette rules and what the top toys were when the book takes place (I did not know Lincoln Logs were that old!). There are many ways to personalize your guide and the more unique you can make it, the more it will interest teachers looking for something other than questions and essays and ways to make reading and comprehension fun. My guides feature science craft projects that can be done in the classroom either singly or in groups, which benefits the tactile student. Nancy Viau, author of Just One Thing, features questions for groupings of three chapters. It's all up to you. 

Your homework: check out websites of writers for both younger and older readers. Maybe you'll see something that can be adapted for your book and for your intended age range. Then, browse through your novel and take notes. Decide what kind of pages you'll need or want. Does your novel feature scientific principles, like simple machines, as in my novel? Highlight a specific period in history like Darlene's? Deal with an issue of self-identity like Nancy's? Whatever the special hook of your novel is, you can tailor a guide specific to it. Keep in mind any special needs, reading levels, and the diversity of your target audience and the classroom. If you've done classroom visits with your book, ask the teacher what they would like to see, what they need, what they want. A direct connection is always the best place to start.

Next month, we'll go into specifics when you've decided what you want to feature and when you've refreshed your memory of the finer points of your novel.

Till then,

Char 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout out Char regarding an important component of our books. I can't tell you how many teachers have thanked me for making it easy to use my book in the classroom.

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