The Best Worst Thing


  • Written by: Kathleen Lane
  • Age Range: 10 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 – 7
  • Lexile Measure: 820
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (June 7, 2016)

Summary: In light of an ever-changing, and uncertain world comes The Best Worst Thing. It’s the story of a young girl, Maggie, who is entering middle school. She has many anxieties, such as the fear that the person that murdered a grocery store worker will kill other people. Maggie’s anxieties control much of her life, but there is a happy ending which proves that sometimes things that are scary can bring things that are not.

5 keywords: Coming-of-Age, Diversity, Fiction, Middle Grade Read, Chapter Book. 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Suggested Delivery: Small-group read.

Electronic Resources:

Share both of these reviews of the story before the story, this will give the students a bit more background on the story in order to make predictions about the story.

Website: This website has information about the author and the book. Use this as a schema resource where students can find information about their questions. Using Author websites is a great habit to get students into.

Key Vocabulary:

Siccing – Attacking

Socializing – Interacting with people

Casualties – A person hurt or killed during a war or accident

Bengal – Region between Bangladesh and India

Acting pretty – To act in a way that is beautiful

Witness – A person who sees something happen, usually a crime

Before:  Introduce students to the book by asking them what the title means. Have them make predictions based on this, the cover image, and the inside description. Write a list of possible outcomes the students have come up with.

During: While reading the book, students should reflect at the end of every three chapters (they’re very short) and write about any questions, concerns, predictions, or reactions to the story, in their writing notebook. When they finish the book have students look back at the questions they asked and reflect on these. Were any other questions answered later in the story? What does this say about the author and chapter books? If their questions were not answered have the students probe the teacher. 

After: After the story has been read in small groups, have students review what they have read by asking them questions. There is a lot of inferential comprehension in this book. Ask students why they think Maggie repeated many of her prayers twice, why many chapters were exactly the same (her “going to be” ritual), or why she needed even things? Why do you think she no longer needed to get a kiss on both sides of her cheeks in the end? Discuss anxiety and how it can sometimes make people want to organize things evenly, or say things a certain amount of times.

Writing Activity: Have students write a blog post (audience: the public) about their “best worst thing,” or something that made them nervous. They can use Tumblr, Blogspot, or WordPress to organize their blog post. It should be written in a journal format in the first person. However, grammar and spelling will count, as they are writing for the public. Have the students respond to each other’s blogs with advice for nervousness/comments about their thoughts on what they shared. 

Was there something that has happened to you that was perceived as bad? But actually only ended up being something good? In what ways is this similar to Maggie? In what ways is it not?


The Good, The Bad, and The Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us

  • Written by: Tanya Lee Stone
  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1120
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Speak; October 14, 2010
  • Language: English

Summary: This book describes the history of Barbie, the iconic American doll, and controversies surrounding her. Does she represent the stereotypical ideal woman? Or is she an inspiration to women around the world? The author uses direct quotes from women of all ages, who describe to her, their relationship with the doll. So what is the truth? Is Barbie more bad then good?

5 keywords: Non-fiction, Barbie, Psychology, Research, Informational Text.

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.1.B
Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

Suggested Delivery: Can use chapters for in class discussions/independent read.

Electronic Resources: Here is a youtube video trailer for the book. This should be used prior to reading, as it gives images to build schema, and creates interest.

This video shows the effects of “The Doll Study.” This should be used during/after reading, depending on the delivery of the lesson. Discuss with students, and prompt them with questions.

Which doll did the children pick more?

What races were the children?

What can we conclude from this story? 

Why is this bad? 

What is a caste society? Do we have one in America in concern to races?

What do the majority of dolls look like in toy stores?

Website: This website includes information about the author and the book, which can be used to build schema about the topic and author.

Teaching guide – This has really great resources for CCSS and how to implement into your lessons and school year.

Key Vocabulary:  

Tribute – To do something in honor of someone

Convention – A way of acting that is normal

Momentous – Very important

Gala – Big public party

Hippest – Very popular and fashionable

Emigrated – To leave a country to move elsewhere

Rivaled – When two people (or companies) compete against one another

Sued – When a person or company has done something wrong or hurtful to you, and you legally ask that they repay you in someway

Diverse – Different from each other

Tumult – Noisy confusion

Idyllic – Happy, peaceful, enjoyable

Rhapsodize –  To praise someone/something with a lot of passion

Titillating – To excite someone in an enjoyable way

Haute Couture – Very expensive and fashionable clothes

Coy – Being sweetly innocent to get attention

Witless – Very foolish

Stereotype – Unfair and untrue belief that people with similar characteristics are all the same in some way

Naive – Lack of experience

Doled – To give something to people

Before: Prior to reading this book, students should know about non-fiction style books, table of contents, academic language, and structure. Knowing these foundational skills for reading non-fiction texts, students will be able to comprehend more of what they are reading.

During: While reading the text, give students historically relevant lessons. For example, this is a great place to introduce “The Doll Study,” and the Supreme Court Decision of Brown vs. Board of Education, that this study was first introduced in. Prompt questions about this topic, such as:

Do you think the Doll Study is still relevant?

Where did you find examples of this in this book?

Do you think Barbie’s accurately depict women of all races? Or do you think just like caucasian Barbie, there is no possible way to make a Barbie look like everyone?

Do you think that children of a different race than you feel alienated by Barbie because she doesn’t look like them?

After: After reading this story ask students their opinion of the text.

Do they also feel a hatred towards dolls? Where do they think this hatred came from?

How do you think the author feels about Barbie? (Great place to discuss neutrality in writing).

Do you think Barbie promotes bad self image to girls?

Writing Activity: This is a great book to use to master the art of the persuasive essay, and using textual information to back up answers. Ask the students this essay question: In what ways has Barbie helped society? In what ways has she harmed society? Use text evidence to support your answer. Do you think she is a good model or a bad model for children?

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures


  • Written by: Kate DiCamillo
  • Illustrated by:  K.G. Campbell 
  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (September 13, 2016)

Summary: Flora describes herself as a cynic, a person who is always looking at the negative. One day Flora gains two friends, a superhero squirrel named Ulysses, and William, the boy next door. Through their adventures to try to protect and save Ulysses from Floras mother, who just isn’t a believer yet, Flora discovers that maybe being a cynic isn’t what its cracked up to be. This isn’t just the story of a young girl and her squirrel, its the story of young romance, torn family relationships, and how even the smallest laughter can bring them back together again.

5 keywords: Fiction, Anthropomorphic, Newbury Award Winner, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.3.A
Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

Suggested Delivery: Independent read.

Electronic Resources: This is a great pre-reading video for getting the students excited to read Flora and Ulysses.

This can be used at any time during the book reading, it is an interview with the illustrator, and includes some images from other works he has done.

Website: This is a website full of student and teaching resources for the novel. It includes discussion guides and author question and answer posts.

Teaching guide – This is a teaching guide from the publishers, it provides succinct details about the author and illustrator, at the same time divides pre-reading, during and post-reading questions. Much of those lessons can be based off of this website, and the questions can help formulate assessment.

Key Vocabulary: 

Malfeasance – Illegal or wrong activity

Hallucinations – When you see something that isn’t real

Multiplicity – A large number of something

Induce – To cause something to happen

Trauma – A terrible experience that causes a person to have emotional or mental consequences

Profoundly – To have great knowledge and understanding

Radioactive – Something that has radiation

Treacherousness – Not able to be trusted

Cryptic – When something has hidden meaning

Cynic – A person who is negative

Euphemism – Picking a word which sounds better than another word, that is unpleasant

Foreboding – When you feel something bad is going to happen

Treacle – Blend of molasses, sugar and corn syrup

Before: Prior to reading the story have students fill in a KWL chart in their writing notebooks based on the book trailer and descriptions. Based on this the student will begin to build schema and become self-aware of what they know and what they do not know about the story they are about to read. 

This is a great point to make about judging books by their covers. Students may assume things about the story based on the first few chapters. This book is full of surprises and was not an ending I was fully expecting, so students may have things they think they know about the book, but these won’t happen. 

During: While reading the story the students can fill in the W and L parts of the KWL chart. They are also welcome to fill in any K parts, if they find they know something that is being discussed in the story.

After: After reading the students are invited to finish their KWL charts. They should fill in any vocabulary words they did not know, and if they cannot find the answer to a question encourage them to research this in a dictionary. Use their questions for book discussions. Ask at if any point during their reading if their question was answered later, or made sense as they read. 

Writing Activity: Have the students write a summary about the story twice, using a different tone of voice for each. One time they will use a cynical voice to summarize the story, and the other time they should use an idealistic tone. This will have students use their literal comprehension skills for summarizing the story, but based on how they understood Flora’s transformation from cynic to more optimistic, their summaries will also be inferential.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine


  • Written by: Laurie Wallmark
  • Illustrated by: April Chu
  • Age Range: 5 – 9 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Creston Books (October 13, 2015)

Summary: This story is about the life of Ada Byron Lovelace, the first computer programer, in the world! The story showcases the adversity that she faced through a difficult illness, and her ability to continue through sexism as a nineteenth century female inventor and mathematician. The book wonderfully illustrates her imagination and how it helped her think through some of the toughest math equations to become one of the most important scientific woman ever. 

5 keywords: Science, Historical Fiction, Women’s History, Biography, Picture Book 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.3
Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Suggested Delivery: Read-a-loud.

Electronic Resources: Pre: Use this video trailer to introduce the story and to base pre-reading questions off of this.

What is a computer? 

When was it invented?

What is the role of a programmer? 

Was the first programmer a woman or a man? Why do you think this?

Are computer programmers currently more male or more female?

This is an image of what Ada invented, show this to the students after to help them comprehend the magnitude of what she created.

Website: This is the authors website, where she includes some activities and curriculum ideas for the story.

Teaching guide – I LOVE this teaching guide! It has lessons on how to use this story for LA, Math, History, and Science. It’s all encompassing of these and bridges the gaps between disciplines.

Key Vocabulary: 

Dominated – To have power of control over someone or something

Notorious – Well known or famous for something bad

Scandalous – Shocking or offensive

Equations – Math – An expression when two things are equal

Wriggled – Twist from side to side (like a worm)

Pelted – When you throw small objects at someone, repeatedly

Scold – To be critical and angry with someone

Majestic – Very beautiful and large

Compose – To make something

Multiplication – The act of multiplying numbers together

Before: Ask students when they think the first computer was invented? Who invented it? What do we know about computers? Ask them if they think that the person who invented the computer was a boy or a girl? Introduce Ada Byron Lovelace as the worlds first computer programer.

During: The story contains many similes and examples of personification, so as the story is read, ask students what that means. This will reinforce their inferential comprehension, as they have to make sense of the comparisons and personification.

After: After reading, ask the students about the story. Ask them how she ended up flying, as the page does not explain that her equations made it possible for satellites to orbit and fly in space, but the picture shows this. This question will build upon inferential comprehension, as they have to use the picture and question together. Ask if they think she has benefited their life in any way. If she were alive today what would you say to her or what would you ask her? 

Writing Activity: Divide students up into pairs. Explain to them that one of them will be the reporter and one will be Ada Lovelace. They will have to write, questions and answers about Ada Lovelace to be filmed. Their interview will be recorded, as the students improv questions, and also use their question and answer sheet. The interview should last 3-5 minutes, depending on the age. Students will have to explore other books written about Ada, and find online resources about her life in order to come up with enough questions and answers to satisfy the time allotment. They should cite these sources on a document when they hand in their question and answer sheet. This activity will enhance students ability to comprehend literally and inferentially, as they have to put themselves in Ada’s shoes, and ask questions based on what they have read about her. 



  • Written by: Helen Frost
  • Age Range: 10 – 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 – 9
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (December 1, 2015)

Summary: Salt is the story of two young boys, James and Anikwa, an American and a Native American, during 1812. James and his family are respectful of the Native Americans and their culture, but not everyone is. When the war threat of the British backing the Natives becomes serious, everyone must pick a side, including the two best friends. Written in a free form poem form the story comes to life with every line.

5 keywords: Poetry, Free-Verse, Historical Non-Fiction, American History, Colonial America. 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.B
Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.

Suggested Delivery: Audiobook read aloud

Electronic Resources: Use this before reading the book. It is a book trailer for the story and can provide background information

This Myaamia dictionary website can be used during reading to ensure that students are understanding vocabulary.

Website: This is a link to the audiobook for Salt.

Key Vocabulary: 

Brine – Salty water that preserves food

Cattails – A tall plant that grows in wet places (looks like a corndog)

Stockade – A tall barrier that aims to protect a place

Snares – A trap for small animals

Unusual – Not regular

Provisions – Supplying something

Washbasin – A large bowl of water for washing faces

Kindling – Twigs and paper that start a fire and burn easily

Before: Prior to reading this verse novel students will watch the book trailers that show what life was like in 1812. This will give students some historical context of the book and will help understand what is happening in the story. Discuss this map with students as well. This will give students the schema of where tribes were located during this time. 

During: While reading students will use the Myaamia dictionary to clarify any vocabulary they do not understand. The book on tape will also help with the fact that students can listen for clarification and context of words they cannot easily decode. Students will be asked to keep a page in their writing journal for difficult Native American words they do not understand.

After: After reading students will analyze different verses from the novel to gain some insight to inferential comprehension. Many of the verses are written in the way that foreshadow what is going to happen, and students may not pick up on. There are examples on page 33, 35, 45, and 86. Through analyzing this foreshadowing and lines that have many inferences, students can develop the skills of inferential comprehension.

Writing Activity: The writing activity for the students will consist of writing their own free verse poem about the story. This should reflect on the style of the story and include information about the characters to show literal and inferential comprehension of the text. Poetry is emotional in nature and the students understanding of the emotional bond between the characters should come through in their poems.

Brown Girl Dreaming


  • Written by: Jacqueline Woodson
  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 0990
  • Series: Newbery Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books; 1 edition (August 28, 2014)

Summary: Born into the Civil Rights Movement, author Jaqueline Woodson writes about her life growing up. Filled with vivid images, written in poetic verse, Woodson fills the reader into what life was like for her. She deeply describes growing up at her grandparents home, and later moving to New York City, comparing how different the two were at the time. Woodson dealt with many family issues growing up and she describes them brilliantly in the novel. The story of her life is both touching as well as heartwarming, and at times tearful.

5 keywords: Verse, Poetry, Free-form, Auto-biography, Civil Rights Movement

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.D
Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.

Suggested Delivery: Whole class

Electronic Resources: This is a video where Jaqueline Woodson describes her inspirations for this memoir, and her reasons for the title.

This webpage can be used by the teacher for discussions and lesson ideas –

Website: This is the authors website where she gives information on the story, and where to find out more about her. This website can be used as a primer and as a way to answer questions students have about the story.

Teaching guide – This teaching guide is provided by Penguin, it includes all of the author’s other works. It has great discussion questions that can serve as the basis for class/assessment prompts.

Key Vocabulary:

Infinite – Having no limits

Accuses – Blaming someone

Galaxy – Large group of stars that makes up the universe

Gravity – Very serious conditions

Goggled – To look at someone/something in a surprising way – your eyes are wide

Fascinated – To be very interested in someone/something

Protruding – To stick out

Tomboy – A girl who likes things that are typically for boys

Pastels – Light colors

Feminist – Someone who believes in equality of both sexes

Before: Prior to reading Brown Girl Dreaming, give students historical context to the time period. The Civil Right’s movement is very important when discussing the story. While the story is not all about this movement, and doesn’t always flat out state Civil Rights, there are inferences to certain historic moments, such as when Jaqueline discusses her uncle’s incarceration. Show primary sources from the time, and discuss these with the class. 

Why was her uncle arrested? 

Would a similar thing happen today?

How did her grandparents feel about her moving to New York City?

How was life different for Jaqueline when she returned to the South in the summer? How did this compare and contrast to her Northern home?

During: While reading the story discuss some of the poems in detail. Discuss literary and poetic language, verses, and tone. Have students identify inferences to other things while reading to build upon inferential comprehension. An example of this is dissecting the poem What Everybody Knows Now (237), where the author mentions that Woolworths Department Store lunch counter made her grandmother wait. This is not only foreshadowing to another poem where she mentions Woolworths (John’s Bargain Store, 253), but also a historic reference. The sit-ins were first started at Woolworths Department Store, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Anne Moody. Woodson infers this, and without this background information, the context is lost. Show students primary footage of the incidents at Woolworths –

After: After reading Brown Girl Dreaming, discuss the story with students and ask what they thought about Woodson’s life and the time period she grew up in. Discuss her personal challenges with the students, and assess them informally about what they can recall about the text. Students should have a good understanding of literal details but prompt them with emotional questions. How did Jaqueline feel when the teacher called her Jackie? What was her special talent, and what were her siblings? How did she feel when her teachers assumed she was as smart as her sister? Do you relate to this? How are assumptions good and how are they bad?

Writing Activity: Have students emulate the Author’s voice in February 12th, 1963, to write their own poem about the day they were born. Through this students will learn about poetic voice, verse and language. While exploring poems and language students will learn how to differentiate their own writing to fit different genres. Based on this prompt students will have to base their poem off of Brown Girl Dreaming. Through this they will show inferential and literal comprehension of the story. By following and modeling Woodson’s poems, students show they literally know how to write a poem that resembles hers. In terms of tone of voice, and emotions that come from the poem the students write, there will be evidence of inferential comprehension. The students who show they understand these elements are clearly picking up on the underlying message of the text and of the poems.

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream


  • Written by: Tanya Lee Stone
  • Forward by: Margaret A. Weitekamp 
  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 980L
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (February 24, 2009)

Summary: This is the true story, of thirteen American women, who pushed the boundaries of sexism in the 1960s. Most famously, Jerri Cobb, a pilot, wanted to become an astronaut. NASA and the majority of the American public did not think that being an astronaut was a woman’s job. This opinion lead to the support of the decision to have all male astronauts to be the first in space. These women set out to prove they should be allowed as astronauts, on the basis of the legal system, as human beings, and also scientifically. After reading this inspiring story, the reader will be left wondering why after the dramatic discoveries women were still challenged in their role in space. 

5 keywords: Non-Fiction, Historical Non-Fiction, American History, Women’s History, Space History. 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.9
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Suggested Delivery: Independent/Class read  

Electronic Resources: A book talk. This can be used to preface the general outlines of the story, or during certain chapters of the books. These help students develop schema in the story they are reading. Book talks are especially helpful when it comes to comprehension of non-fiction texts as it helps students ask questions of what they are reading. This, in turn, makes a more reflective reader.

This is a great trailer with some historical quotes and statistics that would be most useful before reading this story. This will help the students gain an understanding of the time period and the challenges of everyday women in the 1960s.

Website: This website is a podcast of the author discussing the book.

Teaching guide from publisher – Great author interview and detailed discussion questions. This is a fabulous resource for the book.

Key Vocabulary:

Parliamentarian – A member of Parliament

Naysayers –  A person who says something is not possible

Empowering – To give power to someone

Feminist – The belief that men and women have equal rights

Hurdles – A series of barriers

Venture – To do something that is risky

Glass Ceiling – An unfair system that prevents women and minorities from getting better jobs

Electroencephalogram – A machine that tests brain activity

WASP – Women Airforce Service Pilot

Altitude – The height of something above the sea

Before: Prior to reading, have students do a quick write about what they know about the Women’s Rights Movement, and historically important female figures. In order to give historical relevance and context, in addition to background information which will prove to be helpful in terms of comprehension, discuss the events leading to this and the climate in America at the time. For example, Many of these women would not have been pilots if not for WWII, and therefore would not have had the opportunity to be educated in flight. The Space Race was also a huge factor in this, as was the Cold War. Lastly, women had been given a taste of career in WWII and after being forced back into their socially accepted home life, became fed up and therefore started the second wave of feminism.

During: While reading, have students underline words that they do not understand. Have them look these words up in a Thesaurus to help them find if there are other words that fit and they know the definition to. They can also use a dictionary to help them with understanding content specific, tier III words. This type of vocabulary notation aids in students understanding of what they are reading. This book has many tier II and III words which students will need to understand in order to read the book to its full potential. 

After: When the reading has ended ask students a variety of questions. These questions should be thought provoking, and mainly consisting of opinion and persuasive questions.

Do you think women deserve to be astronauts?

Why do you think the military rejected the advancement of female astronauts? 

If you were a NASA executive would you have let women be astronauts or not? 

In what ways have these women bettered your life?

Having a discussion about these women and their story will force students to think and use what they have read to back up their answers and formulate discussions. Many adults struggle to have a discussion about topics such as this, and by having kids learn how to respectfully hear opinions of others based on knowledge will hopefully teach that reading and knowing how to read is key, and that everyone is entitled to an opinion. Remain a mediator and narrator of this discussion and stay neutral.

Writing Activity: To begin enforcing writing and using text quotes to back up what is written, have students write about how Almost Astronauts and the events inside are similar to current day female struggles. Their text to world connections do not have to be quoted, but they should come from relevant and reliable sources. Students are also welcome to compare these events to other historical women attempts of advancing the gender. To further enforce an acceptance of all people, students should also be asked to write about how the strides of these women have positively impacted their lives, as gender roles hurt men as well as women. These prompts will help with inferential comprehension as they are asked to connect this to current and past historical events, by thinking about how what they read relates. They are also asked to think about how this helped themselves, which has students think larger than just the story itself and influences a text to self connection.

The Truth About Twinkie Pie


  • Written by: Kat Yeh
  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Lexile Measure: 730 
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (January 27, 2015)

Summary:  Twelve year Old GiGi has just moved to a new school. Having always been the brainiac, she decides to search for her own identity and change things up a bit. She’s got cool new friends, a cute boy who sends her notes everyday, and an awesome older sister. It seems that the only thing that is missing is her mother, who died in a fire, when GiGi was very young. Her sister and her emulate their mother through cooking her recipes, and talking about the discontinued favorite lipstick of their deceased mother. Things take a turn, when GiGi discovers that someone, with her mothers name, ordered the lipstick, to the town GiGi was born in. Could it be that her mother is not really dead? Will GiGi get the guy? and can she find herself enough to let go of the past? 

5 keywords: Fiction, Middle Grade, Novel, Juvenile Fiction, Coming-of-Age 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.3.B
Use dialogue and descriptions of actions, thoughts, and feelings to develop experiences and events or show the response of characters to situations.

Suggested Delivery: Read-a-loud/Individual 

Electronic Resources: In this video the author, Kat Yeh, discusses where her inspiration for the book came from. It would be best to use this resource after reading and after the writing prompt has been assigned. This video can give students the inspiration on how to be a writer and write something worth reading. 

This is fun resource that can be used after reading the story. It is a video on how to make twinkie pie. While it may seem frivoulous, this video can give an oral representation of how to follow a recipe. This will aid when the students have to write their own recipe.

Teaching Guide:

Website: This is Kat Yeh’s website, where she has a blog, some teaching guides and information about her start in writing. This is a great resource for students and teachers to look at.

Key Vocabulary: 

Pronouncement – Official public statement 

Guffaw – To laugh loudly 

Good-natured – Friendly, pleasant and happy

Astronomer – Someone who studies space 

Articulate – To express thoughts clearly in writing of speech

Presume – To believe something is true without proof that it is true 

Salutations – To greet someone 

Alias – Otherwise known as… a person or something with two names 

Tussle – A fight with pushing and shoving 

Burgeoning – To grow quickly 

Bated Breath – Nervously awaiting an answer 

Delirious – Not able to talk clearly because you are sick 

Raspy – A rough, harsh sound

Preposterous – Very silly

Before: Prior to reading, if doing an individual read, go through the first three chapters together. The first few are packed with information and are written very fast. It is also important to increase the students comprehension of this text by reading the few chapters aloud, so that the student can begin to understand the authors voice. 

The author also sets her chapters up in a unique way. They all include a flashback, or commentary about a recipe, in the head of GiGi. The chapters are followed by a recipe that relates to the chapter just read. This format will be very different than what students have ever read before, so it is important to help them read through the first few. 

During: While reading students should annotate their book. Give students some sticky notes/and if possible a pen/highlighter. It is important to have different mediums with annotations. For instance, a pen to write notes, and stickies for questions and unknown vocabulary. Their annotations should be focused on these things and emotions of GiGi. These will help students question what they read, as well as building upon inferences in text and how to include inferences in their own writing. 

After: Show the students the two Youtube videos. These should help students with inspiration for their writing prompts and recipes. These will model how to effectively write and follow a recipe and how to get ideas for their chapters they will be drafting, and writing. 

Writing Activity: The students will be asked to write a short chapter in a story that models after the chapters in The Truth About Twinkie Pie. Their chapter should include a reference to food, with a relevant title of the recipe. For example, if they write a chapter about fighting with their parents they should include a memory of a food while they are fighting, the food would aptly be named, Pull Apart Family Bread, or How to Kiss and Make Up Pork Chops. While students may not know how to cook all too well, their homework for this assignment is to go home and either look through cookbooks, go to the library (they can check out books from the school library during special), or look online for recipes of what they would like to make. They are NOT permitted to steal a recipe. It should include their own methods to cook it, as some of the ingredients as well. Student’s recipes should resemble GiGi’s way of writing a recipe where she describes emotions that are felt while making it. 

This activity touches upon literal and inferential comprehension. Literal, as they have to be able to read and write their own chapter and recipes. They will have to look through many in order to find a combination that they think will fit the title of their recipe. Students also have inferential comprehension happening, as they have to think about emotions in their own story, reflect on those different emotions and how they correspond to some of GiGi’s recipes. If they are writing a happy chapter, they wouldn’t have their recipe be Break-up Brussel Sprouts. Their chapter would correspond to happy food (not that brussel sprouts aren’t a happy food!), they would have something else. Thinking about the tone of their chapter, corresponding this to a recipe, with a corresponding title and emotional notes in their recipe has the students call upon inferences in their writing. 

BONUS: Continue this into math! Have students bring in their recipes with the amounts of ingredients. Ask them to cut them in half, in fourths, in tenths, so they begin to understand how to make less of a serving, and how fractions work. 

March: Book One



  • Written by: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
  • Illustrated by: Nate Powell
  • Series: March (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions; 1st edition (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • Lexile Level: GN760L
  • Guided Reading: W

Summary: Congressman John Lewis depicts the beginning of his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He describes growing up, and realizing how differently black people were treated in the south, where he grew up. As an older child he overheard Dr. King on the radio and felt inspired by his speech. When he was in the middle of his formal education, Brown v. Board of Ed was ruled unconstitutional, and he went to an integrated school. At this time, other things were happening in history that set off the chain of events for him to become involved with the Civil Rights Movement, at the perfect time. This graphic novel is gripping and brings dozens of emotions to an empathetic reader’s open mind.

5 keywords: Graphic Novel, Historical, Fiction, True-story, Civil Rights Movement

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

Suggested Delivery: Read-a-Loud online/projector to see illustrations.

Electronic Resources: This video is a book trailer for the graphic novel, it is a great pre-reading activity, as it shows real examples of what students will be reading.

This video is very informative on how to read graphic novels. This should be used as a pre-reading activity, as it will help students read March. 

Website: On this website, you can enter your email address for the official teaching guide. It has wonderful literal and inferential comprehensions questions, as well as facts about the author. Studying John Lewis is one of the most prominent Civil Rights Movement Figures in current history, and for this author specifically there is a lot to learn.

Teaching Guide: This teaching guide is broken down into different categories for how you would like to teach this book. For instance, it has suggestions for Literacy, culture and historical investigation.

Key Vocabulary:

Incubator – A device that keeps eggs warm until they are ready to hatch

Comprehend – To be able to understand something

Merciful – To treat people with kindness and forgiveness

Instigator – To cause something to happen

Dehumanize – When you treat someone who is human as though they are not human

Protest – To express a strong disagreement with something or someone

Misjudged – To have an unfair opinion about someone

Painstakingly – Done with great effort

Eulogy – A speech for someone who has died

Scold – To speak critically to someone

File Suit – Take legal action against them

Moratorium – A time when a particular activity is not allowed

Reputation – A common opinion people have about someone

Biracial – Involving people of two races

Irate – Very angry

Bias – The tendency to have a wrong opinion about someone or something, and then treating them unfairly based on this wrong assumption

Bigot – A person who unfairly treats people

Prestige – The respect a person gets for being important

Before: Prior to reading the story have the students learn how to read graphic novels by watching the Youtube video. This will help them understand how the pages and illustrations are formatted on the page, so they can spend less time figuring out how to read it, and more time understanding the text and illustrations.

Teach a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement. Set the scene for how John Lewis entered the Civil Rights Movement at a very vital time., this video shows sit ins and what it was like for those that participated in these sit ins.

During: Have a discussion about Page 97. Ask the students if they could follow these rules. For what would they adhere to these rules for? Are there current day examples of social injustices?

Discuss Emmett Till. Ask if they know anything about him, or his influence on the Civil Rights Movement. Explain his open casket, and how he was brutally murdered (obviously adjust this to the age group). Build schema and connections to this and the book. Explain why Emmett Till’s murder got so much attention (Northerners were shocked, as lynchings were normally not covered by national news outlets because they were normal in the South, so his murder was brought back to Chicago where people were astounded).

After: Have students discuss the authors use of hyperbole, similes, and idioms in this text. There are examples on page, 38, 42, 53, 56, 98, 101, and 109. Have them write the sentence and phrase and break it down. What is the author trying to say? What is the page talking about (context)? What could this mean? What are the possible words that I could change for this one? Try out those words and see what fits. To help students who may need extra support, read the passages to them using intonation so that it is easier to decipher.

Writing Activity: Writing prompt:

Why do you think that certain government officials did not want to pass laws on desegregation? What clues from the novel back up your statements? Do you think they acted this way do to personal beliefs or societal beliefs, or both?


The War That Saved My Life


  • Written by: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Age Range: 9 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 – 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0580
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (May 31, 2016)

Summary: Ada was born with a physical deformity of her foot, and her mother treats her as though it was her fault. She hits and emotionally abuses Ada, while keeping her locked in their apartment in London. When World War II breaks out, Ada and her younger brother, Jamie, escape out of the city in order to avoid the war. They are placed with Susan Smith, a childless woman, who believes she cannot take care of children. Through their new lives Ada realizes all of the things that she missed out on, while trapped in her mothers abusive trap. She learns about herself, her foot, her fears, and her talents. What will happen when the War ends though? Which world will she be forced to survive in, her past or her future?  

5 keywords: Historical Fiction, Heroism, Abroad, World War II, Middle Grade Novel. 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.4
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

Suggested Delivery: Class read-a-loud 

Electronic Resources: This video would be great as a pre-reading activity for the novel. Not only is it a great way to get the students ready to read this book but it gets them motivated to do so.

This video is of Winston Churchill’s speech, in regards to the War, and British motivation. This can be used towards the end of the book as the story is becoming more War centered. Part of his speech is mentioned in the book. At that part pause and show this clip. Speeches are written for the public but the time period of this speech may make it hard to comprehend all of it. Explain the background of this speech and its significance to students. Even better, ask them why they think this speech was made, in light of what they have read. What is the significance to this speech and how did it impact Ada as she heard it? 

Teaching Guide: I LOVE this teaching guide by Penguin Random House. Not only does it have literal/inferential questions, but they are organized by pages for the teacher, and they include text to self, text to world, schema and vocabulary rich questions. This guide also included an author Q and A which is highly informative.

Website: Here is a blog written about the publishing of The War That Saved My Life, written by the author. It gives a great discussion to the publishing process and serves as a lesson to students that their work is never complete, it’s just due.

Key Vocabulary: 

Imp – A child who causes trouble in a funny way

Walloped – To hit someone/something hard 

Loo – Bathroom 

Shabbiest – In poor condition

Indeterminate – When you can’t describe something with fact – The kids did not know how old they truly are 

Imprudent – Not wise 

Inquire – To ask

Malnourished – Not eating enough 

Successfully Resolved – The problem went away without an issue 

Gullet – Tube that leads from mouth to stomach (esophagus)

Chilblains – Painful and red swelling on the feet, usually caused by the cold

Sonorous – A sound that is deep, loud and sounds good

Asylum – A hospital for the mentally ill

Educable – Can be educated

Negligent – Failure to take care of something/someone 

Affront – Formal

Curmudgeon – An old person who is easily annoyed 

Standoffish – Not friendly towards other people

Mollified – To calm someone down 

Cajoled – To persuade someone to do something 

Before: Prior to reading this book, complete a pre-assessment to World War II. This will be done in a true/false answer sheet. 

T/F Children and families were separated during WWII.

T/F Before WWII children were not required to go to school.

T/F World War II did not have any impacts on England.

T/F People had to ration, or eat their food slowly during wartime. 

T/F The radio was the best way to get information during WWII.

T/F Many spies worked for the governments of England, Germany and the US during WWII.

T/F It was common to live with people other than your parents during this time. 

T/F World War II started in 1939.

T/F Hitler was the Prime Minister of England. 

Based on the answers to these, scaffold the students accordingly. They will need a lot of this background information while the text is read. This can happen prior to reading or while the parts that are relevant to these questions comes up. 

During: While reading The War That Saved My Life use the text as a model. Have mini lessons and quick writes as you read the story. Some example prompts could be – At the end of chapter 24, what would you do if you had broken someones things? 

When Ada’s mom comes to get her – What do you think Ada is going to do and why? 

When Ada runs away and has trouble walking – Do you think that Ada has the stamina to make it to a safe place? 

Ada goes into her head – Why do you think Ada does this? Have you ever done this? 

If you were Mam, would you have given Ada the surgery? Why or why not. If not, why do you feel you would not get her surgery? 

After: Ask the students to reflect on the story. Have a discussion as to what they are taking away from this story.What would they do if they were in Ada’s situation? How would they feel? Have a discussion about the bad ways in which Ada was treated, in regards to her foot, and examples of when she was treated kindly. Teach children from what they observed in the text to greet and treat people who may have deformities or physical aliments. Text to self – do they relate to the characters/story in any way? Text to text – have they read any other stories where similar things happened? 

Writing Activity: Taking from the Penguin Random House reading guide, use the prompt for after reading activities. Ask the students to write a letter from the perspective of either Ada, Jamie, or Susan. The audience of the letter is Mam. Discuss active and passive voice, and tone with the students. Obviously their tone, attitudes and judgments of Mam will be different depending on the character they choose. Their letter must include an introduction, or explanation for why they are writing that letter. They should have a few body paragraphs which explain their situation and current life circumstances. This will show literal comprehension, as the students have to remember setting, characters, events and conversations. This activity also includes inferential comprehension because it asks the reader to put on the voice of a character, which means they have to interpret personality, temperament, and tone of voice, which is highly inferential. 

Mr. Lemonchello’s Library Olympics


  • Written by: Chris Grabenstein
  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0780
  • Series: Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (January 5, 2016)

Summary: Seventh grader, Kyle Keeley, has lived his whole life without a town library. For the past twelve years one has been in the works, made by a mysterious billionaire. The secretive rich guy, turns out to be Mr. Lemoncello, the worlds most famous game inventor. As expected, his library is not just a home for books, but also a place of games. 12 of the students from Kyle’s grade are selected to stay the night in the library, but when they wake up in the morning, the biggest game Mr. Lemoncello has ever been apart of ensues. Kyle quickly learns that he must work with his classmates, in order to get out of the most eccentric library in the world.

5 keywords: Fiction, Interactive Story, Middle Grade Reader, Adventurous, Chapter Book. 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.9
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Suggested Delivery: Independent read. 

Electronic Resources: Use this prior to reading the book, to help students get a preface to the story.’s Library

These are comprehension questions that go chapter by chapter. Have the students use these as they read to evaluate their own comprehension of the story, as if they cannot answer these, then they need change something.


This is the authors website, where there are interviews, discussion guides and puzzles for students and teachers to utilize.

Teaching guide – My favorite part about this teaching guide is the speaking and listening section. It can be hard to find a reading guide that focuses on this, but it is an essential part of ELA!

Key Vocabulary: 

Stealthy – Quiet and secret

Rotunda – A large room with a dome

Corinthian – Ancient Greece

Mammoth – Something that is very large

Book Repository – Where large amounts of books are stored

Athenaeum – Library

Indubitably – Certain to be true

Eccentric – When someone is strange or unique

Rebus – A puzzle made up of pictures, symbols and letters that created a word or phrase

Ornithologist – Someone who studies birds

Juggernaut – Something that is so powerful it cannot be stopped

Loblolly  – A type of pine tree that is a source of timber

Before: Prior to reading, have the student read through some reviews of this book. Ask them to make predictions about the story, and as they read have them self-reflect.

During: While reading, have the student come up with questions for the author, Chris Grabenstein. These should be questions that do not have yes or no answers, and should be thoughtfully put together.

After: After reading the story, have the student write a prediction about what they think the next book in this series will be like. How will the author continue to challenge the characters? How have these characters change from the beginning to ending of this book? How will they change in the next story? They should conclude this activity by asking questions about the book. 

Writing Activity: Have the student make rebus’s to summarize the story. The whole summary can be done like this, or a few phrase of words in each sentence. Students are recalling literal information as they do this, as well as thinking creatively to write about it. If they have read and understood the rebus’s present in the book then they will also be able to come up with a few themselves.

After Tupac and D Foster


  • Written by: Jacqueline Woodson 
  • Grade Level: 4.6
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Speak; Reprint edition (January 7, 2010)
  • Language: English

Summary: A story of two African American girls coming of age, in Queens, in the middle of the 1990s. Taking place a few months before legendary rapper Tupac Shakur is shot the first time, and after he is fatally shot over a year later, the girls meet D. She is their best friend, but also a stranger, as they don’t know many details of her past. The girls bond, as they are thrown into the throngs of puberty and as they become cognizant of the world around them. They begin to see the hatred and injustice that is the world, and they begin to relate to Tupac more and more.

5 keywords: Fiction, Diversity, Middle Grade Reader, Coming of Age, African American Literature 

Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.9.A
Apply grade 6 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres [e.g., stories and poems; historical novels and fantasy stories] in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics”).

Suggested Delivery: Read together as a class.

Electronic Resources: Tupac “If My Homie Calls,” use after the book is read.

Use this original MTV tribute of Tupac’s Death prior to reading the book. This will help students understand the time period, context and give background to the emotional connection Black Americans had to Tupac. 

How did Black Americans feel about Tupac’s Death? How did Jaqueline feel?

What did Tupac mean to people? Do you have a musician that means this much to you?

Why are celebrities so important to American culture?

Website: This is the authors website, where more information about the author can be found.

Teaching guide  – This teaching guide is provided by Penguin Publishing. It has great discussion questions for you to use for free!

Key Vocabulary: 

Gangsta – Member of a street gang or a person who performs gangsta rap music

Wannabe – A person who wants to be like someone else and dresses and acts like that person

Peeps – Friends

Bootleg – Illegally copy or record a movie or music

Relevant – When something relates to a subject perfectly

Vague – Not clear

Psychosis – A very serious mental illness that affects everyday functioning

Clarify – To explain something so well it makes it clear

Silos – A tower that is used to store food

Acting the fool – acting like an idiot

Before: Prior to reading this story, use the electronic resources to build on schema of this time period. Ask students what they know about New York, Queens, Tupac, the foster care system, the school to prison pipeline. If they do not seem to know anything about the school to prison pipeline, or about racial disparity in prisons, ask them to think about the phrase itself and build upon that.

During: During the reading of this book, have students pause for certain words. Especially in the beginning as students are getting used to the narrators voice, and tone. There is a lot of dialect specific terms in this book, and pausing to clarify will increase comprehension. Also, throughout reading, ask students about any connections they have to music artists, artists, and writers that the girls have to Tupac.

After: After reading this story, ask students about their thoughts on it. How do they relate to the characters, and how are they different. Ask the students what socioeconomic class the girls came from, as there are many clues that point to a middle class upbringing for Neeka and the narrator. Discuss if they are seen as this class outside of their neighborhood. Ask them how this impacts the girls lives, and the other characters in the book, such as Tash.

Writing Activity: Have students analyze Tupac’s (clean) song lyrics and write an essay about how it compares to the story of D Foster and the girls. By comparing the song lyrics and the story together the students will show their literal and at times inferential comprehension of the plot and details about the text. This can also help the students understand why the author chose to have Tupac as the artist that relates to D so much.

To build on this, have students write a letter to their favorite band or musician. Have them tell the artist about this book and why it was impactful. Students should include how Neeka felt about Tupac, and connect it to their own love of the musician they are writing to. Students will build text to self and world connections, as they gain an understanding of the character. This will touch upon literal and inferential comprehension, as it asks students to draw from their own emotions, while realizing how Neeka felt, as well as asking for a relevance to what they directly read.