Welcome to the World, Orphan Island

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Being a reader means, naturally, that I read many books.  Being a teacher of 7th graders means that I mostly read children and young adult books.  Being me means that I love every minute I get to spend reading, discovering stories, creating new relationships, and yes, also dreading that very last page.  Yet, one of the downfalls of reading a lot of books is that sometimes books end up flowing together, of feeling old before I have even finished reading them.  It seems that the more I read, the harder it is sometimes to find a new book to fall in love with.  These past few months I have gone out in and out of reading slumps, blame it on the book I am writing (now in production, hallelujah), the tougher year of professional growth,  being tired and sick more, my kids staying up later, or even just discovering Tiny House Hunters (400 square feet – that sounds amazing).  Whatever the cause; my reading has suffered.  I have started many books but finished fewer than normal.  I had gotten lost as a reader a bit, but then some hurried packing led me back to my essence.

On a plane headed toward Canada, I cracked open the first page of Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder and immediately fell into its pages.  I adore Laurel’s other books and so when Orphan Island had been on my dresser it was an easy book to pack.  On that airplane, I was transported to a little island, in the middle of nowhere, waiting there on the shore…

What was this world that Laurel Snyder had created where children just showed up on an island, seemingly from nowhere, and only had each other to rely on for survival?  Who sends the boat?  Who was there first?  And what would I do if I found myself one day on an island surrounded by eight other children?  It reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books, and the very first Global Read Aloud book; The Little Prince, which come to find out is partly what inspired this book.  Strange…

Yet, what keeps me thinking about Orphan Island is not just the story, although that has stuck with me or a long time, but more the language.  The feel of the book.  The yearning, even when one doesn’t quite know what to yearn for.  I shared that same feeling as a child and so reading about Jinny and how she starts to question her very existence led me back to my own childhood and right up unto today where I still question what our role is here.

I picked up Orphan Island hoping for a great read, perhaps a five-star book, but I continued to read Orphan Island because my heart yearned for its story.   It has stuck with me for the last month and although the book finally comes out May 30th, I am already thinking of when I can re-read it.  Surely there is more to connect with the second time around.  So if you love middle-grade novels.  If you need a read that connects with your heart.  If you need to be transported, I recommend Orphan Island, the very first contender for Global Read Aloud 2018.

To win a copy of the book, please leave a comment on this blog post.  Make sure you enter your email on the comment form so I can contact you in case you win.

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May 19: The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

May 20: Book Monsters

May 21: Maria’s Melange

May 22: Read, Write Reflect & Walden Media Tumblr

May 23: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

May 24: Nerdy Book Club

May 25: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust

May 26: Kirby Larson

On the Reality Of Trying to Create More Readers

I wish I could tell you that they are all reading by now.

That they all run in, books in hand, eager to settle in, settle down, and get to reading.

I wish I could tell you that they told me that they cannot wait for summer because that means they can read all of the time.

That they cannot wait for more books in that series, or by that author, or in that genre.

That they cannot wait for 8th grade where they will get to come back and talk more books.

I wish I could tell you that they all ask for one more minute, one more page, and beg for a whole day of reading.

I wish I could tell you that they all love reading by now, but I would be a liar.

You see, when you teach actual 7th graders, it turns out that sometimes you are still not enough.

That it doesn’t matter that you have thousands of books at hand.

That it doesn’t matter that you book talk amazing books.

That it doesn’t matter that you give them time.  That you give them choice.  That you tell them to abandon those books that do not work and only read great books.  That it doesn’t matter that you ask for their truths and then try to do something about it.

You made a difference to some, yes, but not to all.

And yet..I would also tell you that it is okay.

That no one expected us to be miracle workers, that no one expected us to convert them all.  To make them all reading believers.  Instead what we were asked to do was to not make it worse.  To not make them hate it more.  To protect what precious positive emotions they do have about reading and shelter them from distress.  To stay hopeful, to stay positive, and to keep believing that what you did mattered, and so you kept on believing they could.

And so we did, and we tried, and we are still trying because the year is not quite over yet.

Because we still have that book to discuss.

That reading experience to create.

That picture book to make them laugh.

So this realization of perhaps not having reached them all is not one of failure or of giving up, because, again, the year is not over yet, but it is one of reality, one of truth, one of things beyond our control and the forces that work against us.

So we do not despair when they tell you they still do not like reading, but instead, we ask, “Have you changed at all?”  And then you smile when they say, “Well, maybe a little…” because sometimes we will not be there for the biggest change, but only for the humble beginning.

And that beginning was worth every single step we took to help them become or remain kids who love to read.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Be A Teacher Reading Role Model – Without Actually Reading In Front of Your Class

I was taught in college that to be a teacher reading role model, I should read infront of my students; not just read aloud, but actually sit down and read in front of them so they could see how much reading meant to me.  So when I embraced independent reading, I did just that; pulled my own book out and read diligently next to them.  It didn’t matter that I was not reading books they could actually read, but instead that they saw me in the physical act of reading.  Yet, something felt inherently wrong.  I was distracted by my own book at times, not picking up on what kids were actually doing.  I didn’t feel like I was actually teaching them anything during that time, and, most importantly; very few of my students actually saw me as a reading role model, which baffled me for a long time.  It turns out that simply seeing someone read does not make them a reading role model and so I knew I had to change my ways.

It turns out, though, that I was not the only one that was taught this method of teacher-as-reading-role-model; when the kids read, you read right alongside them.  I was reminded of this just the other day when a brand new teacher told me that when her kids were reading so was she.  I immediately thought, “What a waste of time,” but then also realized why this seems like a great idea on the surface.  After all, we  know that kids will read more when they see others reading, we know that adults as reading role models are a powerful tool, and it also legitimizes independent reading time; “See how important this is by me doing it as well…”

And yet; we need that independent reading time to meet with kids.  To confer when we can.  To do reading check-ins with as many kids as possible to further enhance our own instruction.  To build relationships and community.  To truly understand the learners that are in our care.  Not to work on our own reading.  So how do we establish ourselves as reading role models without physically reading in front of the kids?

We give it time.  The first step is to make sure there is time for independent reading.  After all, if we value something then we must give it the thing we have the least of; our time.  So every day we should find the time for self-selected choice independent reading for all of our students, no matter their needs and abilities.

We read aloud.  At all ages and whenever we can.  Kids will understand the importance of shared book experiences by actually participating in them and so we must model what it means to be a fluent read-alouder, what it means to be carried away in a text, to be emotionally connected to a piece of literature.  We do this by reading aloud stories, poems, and other pieces that move us and then invite students into the experience.

We speak reading.  My students know a lot about my reading life because I speak about it often.  I book talk books I just finished or abandoned, I talk about the latest book I cannot wait to read.  I talk about how I sneak books with me everywhere, how I trained myself to read in the car without getting sick so it would give me more reading time.  We speak books and how they matter whenever we can, not just on the days it is our teaching point.

We showcase our reading.  Outside of our classroom, I have a display of all of the books I have read so far.  My students know my reading goal and see the poster fill up as the year progresses.  My students can see that I spend time reading outside of class because they see the covers get added.  The visual representation is also a constant reminder as they enter our classroom that in here the books we read is something to be proud of, not something to be ashamed of.

We procure more books.  The first thing most people notice when they enter our classroom is the sheer amount of books.  The collection and its placements speaks to the importance of reading in our community.  Having books front and center means that reading is front and center.

We sometimes read with them.  If I cannot wait to finish a book, if the classroom is particularly still, or sometimes just because it is Friday, I will sit down and read with my students.  Not because I have to but because I want to.  It is not every week, we have much too little teaching time for that, but once in a while, they might see me reading, that is if they actually look up from the pages of their own book.

Being a reading role-model is something I take quite seriously, as do many of my colleagues.  Our schools speaks books because we feel the urgency with which we lose our middle schooler’s interest in reading every year.  So every minute matters, every minute counts, and while reading in front of my students would be lovely, that is not my main job in the classroom as they read.  Speaking to them is.  How have you become a reading role model in your classroom?

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

On Assigned Summer Reading

Summer is coming closer here in the Northern hemisphere.  My own children add to our list of things to do every day;  we will play outside, we will swim, we will go to the library. Can we bake cookies?  Can we sleep in?  Can we watch movies?  Will our plants grow?  How will it be to fly on an airplane?  How many friends can I play with?  We will build a fort in our living room and read books together, we will listen to audio books as we take family trips in the car.  We will lead rich reading lives because we choose to, a privilege indeed.

Yet, as summer draws closer, now is also the time that schools start to think of their summer reading plans, or more specifically the required summer reading of the students.  The lists are being made, the books are being dusted off, and in our well-meaning intention we are thinking of all the reading this will inspire.  But will it really?

Somehow, somewhere, we seem to have forgotten that summer vacation, actually means just that; vacation.  Away from teachers, away from our rules, and yes, even away from the homework we sometimes feel like we have the right to assign.    That school is out for most.  That the children have worked all year, following our guidelines, investing in our work, and have therefore now earned the time off.  Even if we know that that time means they may not read, which, yes, I know how damaging that is.

Because the truth is; we have no right to tell children what to do on their time off.  We stretch it when we assign countless hours of homework during the school year but completely step out-of-bounds when it is over the summer.  I know it comes down to us meaning well; we want kids to read over the summer, we want them to come in knowing a shared text.  We want to prevent the summer slide.  We want to get to know them as readers, as writers, as thinkers and so we figure; what is one little book and this assignment really in the grand scheme of summer when the benefits far outweigh the potential negative consequences?  And yet, we forget that not all children have time to read over the summer?  That not all children will be able to read the book assigned?  That not all children have access to a safe place where they can work on homework during their time away from us.

So it is time to re-think this practice.  To really think of the potential damage the assigned summer reading list can do.  Sure, you will have those kids that love it, that read their books diligently and come to class prepared, eager to share and discuss further.  Those are not the kids we worry about when it comes to hating reading.  But the kids that wait until the very last-minute, the kids who fake it, who show up not having read.  Dictated summer reading means that they have just started a brand new year, one that was supposed to be a clean slate, already behind.  They have just started with yet another negative experience that only further cements how pointless reading is, how it is just something you do because the teacher tells you so.  And that matters, because those are the kids we need to somehow show that reading does matter, that being a reader matters. Those are the kids we need to get to trust us so that when we build can’t-wait-to-read lists together, there is actually a fighting chance that they may read a book.

 

So what can we do instead?  How can we potentially inspire summer reading, especially for the kids that already are so behind their reading development?

Just don’t assign it.  I know that seems blunt, and it is.  Really question the practice itself and see if the positives outweigh the negatives.  Find a different way to start the year, such as by doing a short read aloud together.  Give all kids a chance at starting in the same spot, rather than automatically setting some kids up for failure.  Ask the students themselves; would they like to?  If not, what would they like instead?  It may seem simple, but this minor thing is so often overlooked when we plan things for students to do.  For the kids it works for; assign it, for those it doesn’t, don’t.  Why waste our time assigning something we know won’t get done no matter the threats attached to it?

Start the year before.  In room 235D we have already started discussing our summer reading plans.  Not the ones I could make for the kids, but the ones that kids are making.  What will they read?  Where will they read?  How will they find books?  While some kids look at me like I am crazy, the constant repetition makes some of them see the importance of the need to read.  And for those who truly cannot wait to not read over the summer, well, we try other things.

Summer book check out.  The last few years, I have done a lot of book talks before the end of the year.  Rather than shut down our classroom library, I have left it open, encouraging kids to borrow books over the summer.  Our library is familiar, our library is a known entity, and so the books that are being introduced often seem less intimidating than the prospect of going to another library over the summer.  I merely keep a list of books borrowed and then check in with students once school starts again.  The same things goes for the school library; have it open a few days in the summer so that kids can come and book shop.

Summer book clubs.  If you are set on having students read over the summer, how about offering it up as a book club option?  Make your meetings special, read the book together and discuss.  Reach out to those you think will not read, ask the previous year’s teachers for a recommendation and then go out of your own way to show that this matters, because otherwise, why should it matter to students?

Have different accessibility.  Again, if you must assign a book, make sure you have different ways of reading it.  Can kids listen to it?  Can they partner read?  Can they meet and have it read aloud?  Yes, this means work, but it is only fair that if we ask students to work over the summer, then we should too.

Create choice lists.  Why one book?  Why the need for certain classics?  Why not create themed sets such as pairing classics with contemporary books?  Some kids may read the classic, others may read the newer book – think of the discussion that can ensue from NOT having read the very same book.

In the end, our assigned summer reading is really more for the teacher’s sake than the students.  It offers us a place to start, we are already ahead, well into the curriculum on that first day of school, and yet, it offers little in return to the student.  Why not focus our energy on creating amazing reading experiences while we have the students?  Why not tell them that in our classroom they are expected to work hard, to use their time well, to be invested, so that when they leave they can use their time whichever they want.  Why not create reading experiences that actually entices further reading, rather than further dictation of what kids are expected to read?  Perhaps now would be a good time to examine our summer reading practices before the damage is potentially done.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

Ideas For How to Do Better Book Clubs in Middle School

In 2015, I wrote a post discussing how I was doing book clubs with my 7th graders and how their ideas had shaped our process to be more powerful.  Two years later, I look at some of those ideas and see how my thinking has changed and also how much more ownership the student shave taken.  I, therefore, decided to update that post with what it looks like now.

I knew when I moved to 7th grade that book clubs would be one of the things that moved with me.  That shared reading experience where students would get to just read and discuss is something I have loved having in the classroom the past few years.  I knew it would be a  different experience in the middle school classroom, after all , heir maturity would push their thinking, what I had not accounted for was also how my whole approach to the purpose of it would need to change to cater to a more critical mindset.  So what do book clubs in the middle school classroom need to be successful?

Then:

An honest conversation.  I would not have gotten student buy in if I had not had an honest conversation with them beforehand.  They needed a chance to vent all of their frustrations with book clubs in order to see how this time around they might be different.  They needed to know that their thoughts and yes, feelings, were validated and considered.  While most would have invested themselves in the process simply because it was expected, I didn’t want that type of buy-in, I wanted a genuine desire to use this for good, to enjoy the 4 weeks or so it would last.

Now:  

This is still how we start our book club explorations.  This one-day conversation is all about figuring out what they love, what they don’t, and how to make sure that they understand the bigger idea behind book clubs; having great conversations about a fascinating text.  This is, therefore, the first thing that happens as we embark on that adventure, after this, the kids start to figure out who they would like to have a book club with.

Then:

Choice in books.  I know it is easier to have a few pre-selected books for students to choose from so we can help facilitate the conversations, but with more than 100 students to cater to I knew I needed choice and lots of it.  With the help of my amazing library team, bonus points from Scholastic, and the phenomenal Books4school, I was able to present the students with more than 50 different choices for titles.  This way no group needed to share books and all students should be able to find something to agree on.  I also told them that if they couldn’t find anything, to let me know, we would find the right book for them.

Now:

This still holds true – the students all get to select their books and I now have more than 70 titles for them to choose from.  There is no overlaying theme between all of the books, although most, if not all, have a theme of perseverance.  This year, I have also added in some nonfiction titles and am thinking of adding more.  One thing that has helped me is by reading all of the books that I have as choices.  That way I know whether they actually have great things to discuss or not.    I also have this many books because I think it is important that the students can bring their books out of class, that way they can stay on track with the pages they need to read without worrying about access to the book.  Finally, one teacher shared the idea of having kids read individual books and then grouping by theme.  I find this to be a fascinating idea and may play with this next year.

Then:

Choice in who they read with.  Working with adolescents have made it crystal clear to me just how vulnerable they feel in these developing years and how much they value when their input is used to determine groupings.  So students are grouped together using some of their data, but also who they would like to read with and why.

Now:

I am adding an interview component to the process, as some kids do not realize how different their reading preferences, abilities, or ideas are from some of their closest friends.  This year they will, therefore, fill out this inventory and then interview potential people for their book clubs.  They will then hand in their sheet to me and I will group them together as best as I can to their preferences, but also including kids who may otherwise be left out.  For the first time ever, inspired by the idea of Kelly, one of our amazing special ed teachers, a few kids will also be given the choice of whether they want to do a book club with a chapter book or picture books that have to do with perseverance.

Then:

Choice of rules.  While I may have an idea for how a book club should function, I needed student ownership over the reading, as well as how their discussions would unfold.  All groups decided their own rules and posted them on the wall.  It has been powerful to see them guide their conversations, and yes, also dole out consequences to members within their groups that have not read or are not participating.

Students self-made rules hang as a reminder on our wall

Now:

I no longer have students post their rules, instead they just share them with me and I do periodical check ins.

Then:

Choice in speed.  All of my groups read at different paces, so they determine how many pages a night they need to read as well as when they would like to have the book finished by within our 4-week time frame.  One group, in fact, has already finished a book.

Now:

We now reserve three weeks for book club time, I ask them to pace it out so they finish with two or so days left of those three weeks.  They create a reading calendar and it gets glued into their reader’s notebooks.

Then:

Choice in conversation.  Book clubs should not function around the teacher, in fact, I have noticed that when I do listen in to an otherwise lively conversation the students immediately get timid in most cases.  I have learned to listen from a distance and only offer up solid small ideas to push their conversation further when they really needed it.  Too often our mere presence will hijack a group and students don’t learn to trust their own opinions and analysis.  Removing yourself from the process means students have to figure it out.  For those groups that struggle we talk about in our private mini-lesson.

Now:

While I still have students run their conversations, I do give them ideas of what to discuss in their book clubs so that they have a starting point.  They are also given an individual project to work on with their book (figuring out the theme and other literary elements) and so I tell them that they can use each other to help with finding the signposts (from Notice and Note) and what they mean.  This year, I will also be listening in to their discussion once a week and take some notes on what and how they are discussing hoping to work with them on their discussion skills.

Then:

Choice in abandonment.  I do not want students stuck with a book they hate, so some groups chose to abandon their books within a week and made a better choice.  Rather than think of it as lost reading time, I cheered over the fact that my students know themselves as readers.  All of my students are now reading a book that they at the very least like and that is an accomplishment in my eyes.

Now:

This still stands, except they now have to abandon it within three days.  I will also let students switch groups within the first week if they hate the book or the group dynamics do not work.  They, then, have to make up for lost time in the reading of their pages.

Then:

Choice in length and meeting time.  Students are allotted time every other day to meet in their book clubs and have 28 minutes to discuss and read some more.  While I have told student to try to push their conversations, I have also urged them to keep them under 10 minutes unless they are having a great discussion.  Students vary the length of their book clubs depending on what their self-chosen topic of discussion is and figure out how their group works best in the process.

Now:

Students are still given time every day to either read or discuss, they need to discuss every third day for sure and they can decide how long they want their discussions to last.  I do a quick check-in with them after their discussion to see how they did and how productive it was.

Then:

Choice in final product.  While our true purpose of having book clubs is to have a shared reading experience, I am also asking the students to do a book talk of some sort when they finish.  There are two reasons behind this; to assess the standards we are covering in the quarter but also for them to develop their critical thinking skills.  If the book they read is not suited for future book clubs then I need to know why.  I don’t want students to have a lengthy project because that is not what book clubs are about.

Now:

We no longer do the book talk, it didn’t work, it was too loose and the kids didn’t buy into it.  We now have two separate projects – an individual one and a group one.  The individual one is for the students to hand in a literary analysis of their book discussing the theme and the development of one of the main characters.  This is a typed paper, less than a page, that they hand in a week after book clubs end.  The group project is the 12-word book summary, detailed here.  They get two days in class to work on it.

While my method for integrating book clubs may seem loose at best, I have found incredible buy-in from the students.  They have been excited to read their books, they have been excited to share their thoughts, and the accountability that they feel toward one another is something I would not be able to produce through force.  Middle schoolers need a framework to grow within, they need our purposes to be authentic as much as possible, and they need to have a voice in how things function within our classroom.  Book clubs offer us a way to have these moments in reading that abound with deep reading conversations that I may not be able to have as a whole group, they allow even the quietest student to have a voice.  They allow students to feel validated in their thoughts and they allow them to share their knowledge with each other.  What have you done to create successful book clubs?

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

Some Favorite Free Verse Books for Adolescents

While many books are being read in room 235D this year, one format reigns supreme no matter what; free verse.  These brilliant books with their impactful, but shorter, text is one of the biggest tools I have in getting students reconnected with reading.  There are a few reasons for this; students who are building up stamina in their reading concentration can stay focused with a faster-paced story, students where “regular” books intimidate them do not feel as overwhelmed due to less text on the page, and finally; the stories are enchanting.  So what have some of our favorite free verse books been?

This list would not be made possible without the incredible book The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  While free verse novels have been around for a long time, The Crossover and Booked are what legitimized the format for many of my students.  This is the book that clued them in, this is the book that made them stay.  

Another book by Kwame Alexander, Booked just kept the excitement going.  For this soccer-loving classroom, this book is never on the shelf for long.
The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life also by Kwame Alexander is technically not free verse, but my students categorize it as such.  Interspersed with quotes and stories, this book has also been on heavy rotation.
House Arrest by K.A. Holt is another favorite.  This one about a boy on house arrest is a great conversation starter for building empathy and grappling with life in general.  
 Rhyme Schemer also by K.A. Holt is about a bully who becomes the victim.  I love how students relate to this story.
 The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Author), Patricia Castelao (Illustrator) – no list would be complete without the genius of Ivan.  This book is also one of the most powerful read alouds I have ever done and a former Global Read Aloud book winner.
 All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg set in the US during the Vietnam War it follows Matt Pin, a child from Vietnam who has been rescued from the war and brought to the United States for adoption.  Powerful historical fiction.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai follows Ha and her family as they also flee the Vietnam War and make their way to the United States as refugees.  How do you fit in when you feel so different?
 Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson has won over the hearts of several of my students.  While not read by many of my students those who have braved its pages have devoured it and made it a heart book. 
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech is the very first read aloud that made me cry in front of my class.  To this day I cannot read it without crying.  It’s follow up Hate That Cat is also a great read for students.
 Moo: A Novel also by Sharon Creech is a book that especially my boys have really liked, passing it around the room when they finish it.
Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen (Author), Amy June Bates (Illustrator) is about an orphaned young girl living in China with her adoptive American mother who wonders why they cannot move to the United States or leave their house much.  
While mature, Sold by Patricia McCormick is one that many students have read.  It follows the  story of Lakshmi who thinks she is being sent to the city to be a maid to support her family in Nepal. Instead she is sold into child prostitution and must try to make her way home.  
 Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant  is another popular read as Georgia tries to navigate life without her mother.
 Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge  is one for my students that are not sure that free verse is for them.
While Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams is more mature, it has really captured the interest of many of my students, girls in particular.  I book talk it and let them know that it is definitely PG13 or even PG14 but that they know themselves best.  
Another more mature free verse is Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff.  With its story of a girl who tries to help a teen mom, the kids reading this one are really touched by the story.
Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham reminds me of Soul Surfer, a story that is in heavy rotation in our classroom, yet this one is fictionalized free verse.  This one is in heavy rotation due to its gripping story of loss and survival.  
 What happens when loneliness is all you know and you have to recede into a fantasy world to make yourself happy?  That is the question explored in The Lonely Ones by Kelsey Sutton.
 I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder is a strange book for me, but my students really like it.  While I get the premise of a forever love, I find it disturbing that a boyfriend chooses to haunt you.  However, rest assured that it all comes out ok in the end.

 Life on the Refrigerator Door: Notes Between a Mother and Daughter by Alice Kuipers is just that; notes between a mother and daughter hardship surrounds them.  
 The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan follows the story of Kasienka and her mother as they move from Poland to England.  How do you figure out how to fit in in a culture that tells you that you are foreign no matter what you do?  And where is her father?

Consistently Amazing Free Verse Authors

There are a few authors where I pretty much purchase their books because I know they will be loved by my students.  These are:
Nikki Grimes – Garvey’s Choice is a recent favorite
Margarita Engle – The way she shares about other cultures is remarkable
Ellen Hopkins – some of her books are too mature for my 7th graders so read them as needed
Jacqueline Woodson – You cannot go wrong with her or with
This is just a short list, we have many more free verse books in our classroom but these were the ones that first popped into my mind.  To see more of our favorite books, go here or follow me on Instagram for actual book recommendations.