Amulet Series is a Must-Have

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When I began teaching 5th grade language arts, I searched websites like Goodreads for books recommendations. Having taught 4th grade for 8 years, I already had a sense of what the age range 8-10 liked to read, but I was interested in finding more titles that appealed to the 10-12 range. I was particularly interested in acquiring high-interest books such as graphic novels, fanfiction books (Minecraft, Lego, Disney), and fly-off-the-shelves chapter books (The Swap, Spy School, The Unwanteds, Mother-Daughter Book Club.)

By chance, I found a recommendation for the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi (Twitter @Boltcity), and I bought Book 1: The Stone Keeper. This was a purchase that would forever change my classroom library. I lent the copy to a student in my classroom, and I asked her if she would do a review of the book. “Will you read it and let me know your thoughts?” I said. She agreed.

She sat down with the book and three minutes later I heard a scream. Not a scared scream, but a scream of delight. Although all heads turned toward her, she kept on reading, eyes glued to the pages. It must have an exciting beginning, I thought. I was right. It has an awesome beginning. One that takes students on a page-turning adventure.

The next morning my student asked me for Book 2. “How was it?” I asked. “Amazing,” she answered. This simple one-word review was all I needed. I purchased all of the books in the series, and she read each one.

A book recommendation from a classmate goes far. Very far. Within 24 hours I had multiple students asking to borrow the book. Within a week, every student wanted a chance. Word spread like lightning. All of my readers wanted to read this series. My voracious readers, my two-books-a-month readers, and my reluctant readers. This series ignites interest in all readers. It is like magic.

As teachers, librarians, and parents, we know that it is difficult to find perfect matches for readers. But this series is one that I bet on every time. It is a winner.

Today the new Amulet Book 7 is released. My class has a sign-up sheet of people waiting in line to read it. We also have a sign on the door celebrating the arrival of Book 7 that says, “Coming Out this Week! Amulet Book 7! Sign Up!”

Thank you, Kazu Kibuishi, for writing such an engaging series. You have many fans- students and teachers!

To read reviews, see the Goodreads write-up, Amazon, and Common Sense Media. For ages 8+.

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Dana Johansen teaches fifth grade in Connecticut. She enjoys reading on the couch with her yellow lab, and she is getting excited for the new season of House of Cards to return. Dana is the co-author of the new book, Flip Your Writing Workshop, due out in April. She believes in balanced blended learning and uses digital texts, flipped lessons, and all things Google to differentiate, be time efficient, and increase her students’ autonomy in the workshop. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. 

 

5 Ways to Build a Reader with Minecraft

Do you receive book recommendations from Amazon.com? I am on their mailing list, and I enjoy reading which books they are selling to their teacher club members. Over the weekend, I read an email about books they recommend for children ages 9-12. I wasn’t surprised to see Minecraft books listed half a dozen times. Amazon is pushing these books because they are the books that many children want to read. Minecraft is HUGE for many of our students right now and we need books that relate to their interests.

Why Minecraft? Why do our students like reading these books? Over the summer, I wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club about Minecraft books in the classroom and their potential to engage readers in the reading workshop. If you’ve ever played Minecraft, then you get it. It’s a sandbox game that has endless possibilities. It is a game that can go on forever. Plus, it incorporates building, problem-solving, and magic. What could be better?!

Minecraft can be used in the classroom in many ways. Andrew Miller wrote an article for Edutopia called “Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom.” In addition, this link will take you to a great YouTube video about Minecraft in the classroom.

Here are 5 Ways that You Can Build a Reader with Minecraft:

  1. 516P5jSg5HL._AA160_Grab Reluctant Readers’ By Creating an Appealing Display – Fully embrace Minecraft! Your students’ faces will light up when they see a Minecraft display in your classroom. Whenever I put out Minecraft books, they are all gone by the end of the day! These displays are a huge draw for many of my reluctant readers who are fans of Minecraft.
  2. Get Some Minecraft Manuals for Minecraft Hacks– This is the first type of Minecraft book that my students ask for. They want to read the tips and tricks for how to play Minecraft. Students quickly move from these tip books to Minecraft novels.
  3. How’s it Going? Confer with Students about their Minecraft Reading– Many students who love Minecraft enjoy talking about the characters, the worlds that they are building, and the choices they are making. You can leverage students’ affinities with Minecraft and discuss the main character’s motivations, feelings, and development/change. You can also discuss setting descriptions and how the setting shapes the character’s decisions.
  4. Write about Minecraft in Reading Notebooks – Students will love writing in their reading notebooks about their Minecraft reading! All that great reading will lead to some good writing!
  5. Get some Minecraft Novels– My students love to read Minecraft books during reading workshop. I recommend getting some Minecraft books for your reading workshop. I’ve found that I have many reluctant readers who gravitate toward these books. You can find these books in the children’s section of bookstores. Be prepared. These books will fly off your shelves! Here are some books that I have on my shelves:

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Getting ready to do some good reading and writing over the holiday break, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about not chewing on the Christmas tree, and playing the app, Cookie Jam. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop.