Sunday, January 18, 2009

Teachers' Roundtable Roundup: "What is your favorite book to use in the classroom?"

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in to talk about their favorite books they use in their classroom. I hope teachers out there can use this list for ideas to bring reading to the classroom! To find out more about each book, click on the title to go to

Me: For my Intermediate English ESL students, my favorite books were Margy Burns Knights' Talking Walls series. I developed a 9-week unit of instruction based on these books that included a variety of cross-curricular activities, including map-reading, vocabulary, creative writing, and internet research.

I love these books on many different levels, but the biggest benefit I saw was that they helped me teach about different cultures and helped students develop an appreciation for diversity. My classes were very diverse, and there was sometimes a bit of conflict between the students from different races and cultures in the class. Talking Walls helped me teach out different cultures from an outside perspective.

The Book Chook: Great question - very difficult choice. I've taught children from K-6. I read to my classes every single day because I am passionate about children's literature, and favorites are whatever the kids love.

However, there was a resource book I used across the grades, and still refer to when giving literacy activities at my blog. It is called Adventures in Thinking: Creative Thinking and Co-Operative Talk in Small Groups by Joan Dalton.

It has many models for teaching kids to think, regardless of subject. But what I loved were all the questions and activities suggested for various topics. Too often we spoon-feed kids, shoving information into them because of the constraints of time. Dalton's book was a way of adding value to every single lesson, by challenging kids to think about what they did.

Carol (Carol's Corner): This fall, I used How to Steal a Dog (Barbara O'Connor) as a read aloud with a group of struggling fourth and fifth grade readers. Georgina, the main character in the book, is living in her car with her mother and younger brother in their car, because her father has abandoned the family. She decides to steal a dog and use the reward money to help her family get an apartment.

My kids LOVED this book. My school is in a pretty touch neighborhood- we have lots of single parents and grandparents raising grandbabies, parents without jobs, family members in jail, foster care, being evicted from apartments, etc. My kids, I think, came away with the life lesson that sometimes good people make bad choices. The also, I think, felt comforted that there were other people surviving the same hard lives that they have. Four months later, they are still talking about this book.

Lea: I use the Dr. Seuss big books to teach theme/Big Idea to my 6th graders. They're usually familiar with the story, so after a trip down memory lane we can get right to the analyzing. I read Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet to them every year because I love that book. I also read Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi and Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (Cindy Neuschwander) to all 3 of my math classes on Pi Day every year. They're great!

Kristi(e) (Purple Polka): I'm not a teacher, but I am a library student on the school media track who recently put together a guided inquiry unit featuring Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm series that might be of interest to folks here. The unit was designed for 5th graders, but could very easily be used with 4th and 6th graders if need be. I wrote up a detailed description of it over on my blog. Here's the link if you're interested.

Katie (Katie's Literature Lounge): I'm a substitute teacher, but on numerous occasions have been able to teach my own lessons. One of my favorite books to teach with is I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis. I think it teaches students (3rd grade and up) a very important lesson about being true and respectful towards their own selves. I have used it at the beginning of the school year as well as mid year when students seem to need a refresher in self-esteem.

Michele (Green for Jealousy): I've been using Not a Box by Anotoinette Portis with the at-risk kindergartners and first graders I work with. I've noticed some of them have a very hard time with 'using their imaginations'. We have to do a lot of coaxing to get them to be creative. They are loving this book. I had a small group draw a square on a piece of paper and draw other things they imagined a box could do.

Daisy (Laurel Wreath): Hubby likes, The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron the best for his first graders. They are short stories which make it easy to squeeze in as a read-aloud. They are humorous which means even the squirrely kids maintain attention. And best of all they are wonderful moral tales that teach the values of friendship, obedience, loyalty, etc.

My favorite resource for homeschooling is probably, American History in Verse. Originally published by Houghton Mifflin in the 1930's & reprinted by BJU press. We LOVE this book.

Readingjunky (Readingjunky's Reading Roost): I like to start off the year with a read-aloud to prove that books can be fun. I teach 8th grade and I've found Gary Paulsen's How Angel Peterson Got His Name is good for quite a few laughs and gets reluctant readers interested.

B.C. (Mr. Curran's Blog): Tough decision, for sure. I love reading Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham to my fifth grade classes.

On the opposite end of the silly spectrum, I've also had great success reading Limony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. After reading Book the First, the kids were begging for more.

KIPPster: I've taught both fifth and sixth grades - The Watsons Go to Birmingham was always a favorite. The other book that I always teach usually ends up being performed by my students is The Phantom Tollbooth.

Sara: I absolutely love Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. My students love Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen.

Kate Messner: I've read two new books with my 7th graders so far this year, both destined to be favorites. Rules by Cynthia Lord is such a great book for sharing because of its warmth and humor, and Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is my new favorite historical novel.

Again, thanks to everyone who contributed, and if YOU have a book you'd like to add to the list, leave your comment below!


  1. I love using The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds with PreK classes. It is especially wonderful for showing kids who think they cannot be creative that everyone has their own path toward creativity. Children always really connect with the central character, and the artwork is adorable. I am also a big fan of Not A Box, which was already mentioned by Michele (Green for Jealousy) for similar reasons.

  2. Jill, I had so much going on last week that I must have missed this request. I have two favorites: a picture book and a chapter book. I used both of them with my kinders and my 3rd graders. The picture book is Wilfrid Gordon Donald McPartridge by Mem Fox. I used this book to introduce writing about memories. The chapter book is A Dog Called Kitty. This was a favorite read-aloud to end our day with. The kids were always engaged and it led to great discussions.