Creating Your Educator Resource Guide
Friday, December 29, 2017
Creating Your Educator Research Guide
By Charlotte Bennardo
|Photo courtesy of Pexels.com|
Now that you know you need (or should have) an educator research guide, it’s time to put together yours. The simplest guide is a series of questions, and this works particularly well for upper middle grade and young adult novels where literature teachers aren’t interested in craft projects and students don’t have words lists anymore. Keep in mind that questions for middle schoolers should be different than those posed to young adults. In Blonde OPS, one question is: Is it ethical for Beck to hack, deceive her boss and friends, and break and enter to find out who hurt Parker (a family friend)? This question asks students to think deeper into legal, ethical, and ‘the ends justifies the means’ scenarios. They can cite court cases, news events, etc. and in our tech world, look at their own behavior. For middle school children, using my Evolution Revolution: Simple Lessons as an example, a question in the guide asks, If you were Collin (boy) would you capture Jack (squirrel) for the college money? Posing this question to students makes them look at right vs wrong also, but on a simpler level- the temptation of turning in a beloved animal friend for money for college later on.
Consider a wide range of questions for all learning abilities. I’ve included basic questions like: Are rats bad? Are there any animals that aren’t necessary? More advanced students can talk about diversity, the food chain, and every animal’s place in it. Others can relate how rats are pets and are very smart. Educators can also encourage students to think ahead- what do they think would happen next, if the story were to continue? What would happen to the characters? A mix of questions helps include students at multiple ability levels. Ten is a good number which should offer enough choices.
As I mentioned previously, the best guides offer several pages of various resources. For the younger ones, a word list that students can look up and define helps broaden their vocabulary and introduce new concepts. For the more advanced students, a word list can incorporate complex concepts, like biodiversity. After providing a definition, students can be asked to supply an example. Another term, ‘flight or fight’ could be used to ask students to relate a time when they felt threatened, and maybe had to consider whether to fight or flee. Again, ten seems to be a magic number for offering choices.
Next on your guide which is very popular to increase STEM and STEAM awareness, and could be used in conjunction with author visits, are home and classroom activities. Being that nature, ecology, habitat, and animal survival are central to the Evolution Revolution trilogy, I have, under each book, at least two activities that can be done in the home and/or classroom. One project is building a birdhouse. Students can work together or separately, and then the houses can be hung around the school for additional lessons on biology or taken home for student enjoyment. Search the web for simple projects to include (just make sure not to infringe on copyrights and/or give proper citation. I used www.craftionary.net but scout around) or make up your own. Reinforcing the ideal of including all learning levels, have some simpler activities, like asking students to draw and color a scene from the book. In my guide, one activity is to play charades with some of the words on the word list so they will better understand how difficult it is to communicate without language, with an unknown language (‘squirrel’ vs human language). Not only fun, but educational!
Finally, include other resources, like books or educational TV programs to reinforce or expand the lessons and teachings your book offers. I’ve listed books that focus on simple machines, as my trilogy is based on animals learning simple machines. One fun one is How Do You Lift a Lion? by Robert E. Wells (Albert Whitman). I do need to add a television resource citation from the BBC, which had the most amazing videos of squirrels outsmarting birdfeeders and puzzles. Lately, I’ve been thinking about adding more books about animals, to add some fun. (But that’s another post!)
That’s my educator resource guide basics. Scan numerous author websites so that you can tailor your guide to fit your book. Ask teachers what they would like to see, what they want, what they have to have to fit curriculum requirements. You can pay someone to create a guide for you which will include reading levels and curriculum notes, etc. Consider cost and what you need (if you have several books it could get pricey). Start out basic- you can always update as you go along.
Good luck! (And don’t forget to put the guide on your author website on its own page, boldly labeled Educator Resources so it can be easily found. Bring copies to author signings, book events, etc. to hand out to interested educators. If possible, send to teachers you know who might be interested or who know you. It might help you book a school visit or two!)