franchises, it might be hard to get your students to read something that hasn’t
been recreated on the big screen. While I’m not opposed to the
book-turned-movie selections in my Netflix queue, I’ve always sought out books
for my students that weren’t as popular.
I’ll chalk it up to erring on the side of wanting to be
challenging. Either way, the five books
I’ve taught below haven’t hit the box office yet, and the fact that there’s
some fiction and nonfiction on the list that leave my students begging to keep
reading makes my nerdy English teacher heart happy.
1. Columbine by Dave Cullen – This is a nonfiction piece that reads
like fiction. It was ten years in development and research by journalist Dave
Cullen. In it, he dispels the myths that surrounded the tragedy with facts,
evidence, and quotes – all while maintaining a safe distance from giving Eric
and Dylan the credit and accolades they craved. Its detailed
characterization draws my students in from page one, and its complex structure
challenges them while keeping students engaged from beginning to end. My unit guide for a high school English class is available in my store.
author with timeless appeal. He’s in that space between modern and on-the-way
to classic. Bleachers uses the complex structure of flashback to tell the story
of how a couple of stuck-in-the-past high school football stars have to embrace
forgiveness in order to move on and realize that if you make high school your
life, life after high school is a hard place to navigate. The complete unit guide is available in my store now.
3. Mergers by Steven Layne – This science fiction flick would be
perfect for 7th-9th graders who are obsessed with
everything dystopian. Inspired by a
visit to a school one day where he saw a couple of kids picking on another kid
because of skin color, Layne explores the idea of what it would be like if
all races were erased. I don’t think
this text could be any timelier given current events, and a fellow teacher of
mine is paring it this year with the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. A complete unit
guide is on my to-do list, and the author provides a short free one on his website!
4. Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek – I was hooked on this true memoir the moment I
found it, covered in dust, on the bottom shelf of the supply closet – and so were
my students. Perfect for grades 7th-9th,
The Children of Willesden Lane is
the true story of Lisa Jura, a young girl who escapes Nazi persecution on the
eve of World War II. Mona Golabek, in authentic
voice, tells the story of her mother’s real-life struggles through this time in
history, and your students will immediately identify with the protagonist. Music and relationships weave together this beautiful plot. A complete unit guide is on my to-do list,
and the author provides some music clips and teaching tips on the website.
5. Peeled by Joan Bauer – I used this novel with my high school yearbook
class once our book was finished. It’s perfect for piquing their interested in
mystery, and it ties perfectly in with our journalism class. A reporter
for her high school newspaper, The Core, Hildy Biddle is just waiting for a chance to prove herself as a real journalist. Not content to just cover school
issues, Hildy’s drawn to the town’s big story–the haunted old Ludlow house. It’s a fun, quick tale that you won’t
have to beg your students to read. I’ll
be putting together some of the materials I used for it soon!
…And a couple of other excellent picks that my students love with movies that are so bad, they might as well be in the category of those
without movies because there’s no way they’d be worth giving class time for
them are Macbeth and Fahrenheit 451. I have complete, modern unit plans for both of these in my store!