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Hook Reluctant Readers with Hatchet!

Hook Reluctant Readers with Hatchet!

One of the biggest frustrations I have as a parent is that my oldest son is a reluctant reader. He reads fine and does well in school but he has zero interest in reading for pleasure outside of an assignment. When he has read books for assignments he just gets through them and rarely enjoys the process.

When he was assigned to read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, that attitude changed. He came home from school and started talking about Hatchet. It was sparking an interest in my son! He told me it was a fantastic book and he hated to have to wait until the next day to continue reading. He wanted to sit down and read it as fast as he could! He’d never felt that way about a book before!

Each day my son would come home from school and voluntarily, which you know isn’t common with a middle schooler, tell me all about the chapter he had read that day! Seeing this book spark so much excitement in him made me realize this was a  novel study that I needed to create!

 

 

 

Summary of Hatchet (from the book jacket):
Brian is on his way to Canada to visit his estranged father when the pilot of his small prop plane suffers a heart attack. Brian is forced to crash-land the plane in a lake and finds himself stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness with only his clothing and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before his departure. Brian had been distraught over his parents’ impending divorce and the secret he carries about his mother, but now he is truly desolate and alone. 

Exhausted, terrified, and hungry, Brian struggles to find food and make a shelter for himself. He has no special knowledge of the woods, and he must find a new kind of awareness and patience as he meets each day’s challenges. Is the water safe to drink? Are the berries he finds poisonous? Slowly, Brian learns to turn adversity to his advantage; an invading porcupine unexpectedly shows him how to make fire, a devastating tornado shows him how to retrieve supplies from the submerged airplane. Most of all, Brian leaves behind the self-pity he has felt about his predicament as he summons the courage to stay alive. 

A story of survival and of transformation, this riveting book has sparked many a reader’s interest in venturing into the wild. 

Hatchet is a great novel to accompany a study of:

  • Research the Canadian oil fields.
  • Investigate the purpose of flight numbers and flight plans.
  • Research how airplanes work.
  • Study search and rescue practices.
  • Learn about heart attacks and CPR procedures.
  • Research dehydration effects.
  • Learn about survival skills such as making fire.

Using Hatchet in the classroom is a great way to hook those reluctant readers and turn them on to reading!

Hatchet is a riveting book that will grab the attention of even the most reluctant readers.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

Why Are Teachers Leaving?

Why Are Teachers Leaving?

I am a teacher who has left the classroom. My reasons vary from the norm a bit. Why I left and why I have not returned are two very different stories. I would actually really like to return to the classroom but over the past 10 years, my hearing loss has worsened to a point that it would not be appropriate to return. I have a rare type of loss that is not really helped with the current technology of hearing aids and other adaptation technology. I rely very heavily on lip reading and body language and cannot even imagine the disaster that behavior management would be having to depend on that! I do love the education field and really miss being in a classroom. I stay involved with my curriculum creation activities, but when I volunteer in my children’s classrooms I always walk away with a yearning to go back and work hands-on with the kids again. I miss it!

I did not leave the classroom due to my hearing loss, however, I left because of a burnout that was caused by an absolutely worthless administrator that was placed at my school. I had been teaching for years in a high poverty, 100% Title I school. Our students lacked for the basic daily needs and it could be quite challenging but also quite rewarding working with them. For the first few years, I was there our school had an outstanding principal. He was respectful and supportive of teachers. He treated us as professionals and he had the best interests of the students at heart. He helped balance the challenges with the rewards and made teaching there a joy! Sadly he retired and was replaced by a new principal who had no prior experience being a principal. There is no way to sugarcoat it, she was a nightmare! She was disrespectful to staff, students, and parents. As a staff, we went to the upper administration and even met with the superintendent begging for help with her. Our pleas were ignored. Sadly she remained at that school for 10 years and ran it into the ground and teacher turnover was very high. She was finally removed with the help of the teacher’s union. For my sanity and health, I took advantage of a leave program with the district and chose to stay at home with my children. It was a way to get out of the situation with that principal and still be able to return to the district in another position.

I loved being a stay-at-home mom to my children. I also quickly realized that staying home was not as much of a financial burden as we had expected. We paid fewer taxes, saved money in gas, childcare, clothing expenses, etc. One of the biggest surprises was looking at how much I was saving by not teaching. I poured a ton of money into my classroom, at least one full paycheck per year!

I did start to feel that pull back to the classroom, however, at this same time, a mild hearing loss that I developed in my early 20’s suddenly worsened to a degree that took away my ability to return. That is when I started taking the materials that I had created for my classroom and preparing them to sell to other teachers. I tested the market on eBay and Amazon before discovering Teachers Pay Teachers.

I know my overall story is an odd one, but the experiences with burnout and bad administration are all too familiar to many teachers. There are many articles out there talking about just this issue.

“It’s the demands,” said Jamison, who is beginning her third year in the classroom. “There are state demands, district demands, and parental demands. We haven’t even mentioned the needs of the individual student. It’s tough.”

“I’m doing more work, but I’m getting less money every year,” a teacher told NBC News. “Instead of being excited about a job and looking forward to your job, you begin to fear your job. It becomes stressful, tiring and takes a toll not only on your health but on your family.”

There are also many articles that focus on the difference in turnover in a school with a positive working environment versus one with a negative one. I can attest to the truthfulness of this!

Many “experts” feel that changing teacher prep programs at colleges could be a  solution. Personally, I am not so sure. Do we want to better train our teachers so that they are ready for bureaucracies and teaching to a test or do we want them to be focused on opening young minds? It angers me to hear repeatedly about teachers getting bashed for the problems in the education system. I firmly believe we need to stop blaming the teachers and start to seriously look at the administrators and bureaucrats that are running things. I don’t think the general public really realizes how little power the teacher has in the educational hierarchy. There are so many fantastic teachers out there that are leaving, not because of money, but because they aren’t allowed to actually teach which their passion!

Speaking of new teachers:

“And too often, they soon realize that their jobs aren’t what they thought they would be: Teaching to tests and fighting bureaucracies rather than experiencing the thrill of opening up young minds, educators say.”

“While education experts caution that lack of experience isn’t necessarily an indication of a teacher’s ability, student achievement scores do show that on average a first-year teacher is not as effective as a third-year teacher, said Susan Moore Johnson, an expert on teacher recruitment and retention at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.”

Are standardized test scores the only measure of success? We live in a quickly growing district so there are a lot of new teachers being hired every year. My kids have had a first-year teacher several times. It has always been extremely positive. I find that first-year teachers are so enthusiastic. What they lack in experience they make up for in passion. They love their jobs and it shows in every interaction with their students. I know it was true of me in my first year!

As a society, we need to value and retain the passion of those new teachers. If every classroom had a teacher full of passion we would be on the right track to fixing this system.

 

What can we do as educators and parents to retain that passion? What can we do to support our teachers so the passion doesn’t defuse? How do we keep the fire alive?

 

 

 

 

The Whimsy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

The Whimsy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

Every 4th grade school year I started out with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing as our first novel unit. It is such a humorous book, yet still opens itself to many discussions and activities that can be tied to the curriculum and standards. Children can so relate to the main character, Peter Hatcher, and his struggles to get through the everyday life of a typical 4th grader. Throw in the antics of the younger brother, Fudge, and you are in for a treat! I have never had a child tell me they didn’t enjoy this book. Most all are fighting over who gets to read the sequel, Superfudge, as soon as we finish the unit!

 

 

 

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is one of my favorite novels. I loved it as a child and I still love it as an adult. I so enjoyed sharing this story with my students and my own kids. There are so many ways that kids can identify with the main character, Peter Hatcher. Peter seems to have that streak of bad luck that hits us all, at one time or another. Anyone who has a younger sibling (or a toddler of their own) can completely identify with the challenges that Peter’s brother Fudge, creates for the family.

Some elements of the story can be a bit dated, it was written in 1972 after all, but this does not seem to bother my students in the least bit! Being from Omaha this book also opens up the discussion of what it is like to live in a metropolis such as New York City. My students always enjoy discussing how Peter’s life compares to theirs and I am sure that is even more pronounced for students in more rural areas.

I highly recommend using Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in your classroom. Not only is it an informative book, but it is also fun! Students will love reading this book and sharing the humor together.

I am a big advocate for using humorous books to spark a love of reading, especially with boys. Students can extend their love of Peter and Fudge by reading the sequels Superfudge, Fudge-A-Mania, and Double Fudge.



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.