Select Page
Meet the World’s Greatest Underachiever, Hank Zipzer!

Meet the World’s Greatest Underachiever, Hank Zipzer!

Niagara Falls or Does It? is the first book in Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver’s Hank Zipzer series. is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies that present the learning challenges that Hank Zipzer experiences due to his undiagnosed Dyslexia.

Hank Zipzer is inspired by the challenges that Henry Winkler (best known as the Fonz!) faced as a boy. Henry’s undiagnosed Dyslexia made him a classic underachiever and gave him great anxiety about all aspects of going to school. The Hank Zipzer series is about Hank’s funny adventures while highlighting the inner thoughts, doubts, and fears that living with learning differences poses.  Henry himself along with his co-author, Lin Oliver, explain their inspiration for the series here:

I loved the quote from Lin Oliver, ” The most important part for us in creating the series is to speak to kids and let them know that inside each one of them they have a unique and special contribution that they can make to the world.” Kids that face learning challenges, among them Dyslexia, often face depression and low-self esteem thinking they are dumb, or less than their peers. The series gives kids the voice to know that they aren’t “stupid” that they are just wired in a different way and in many ways, this makes them even more talented in certain things.

From the Book Jacket of Niagara Falls, or Does it?:

It’s science project time in Ms. Adolf’s class. This is good news and bad news for Hank-he loves science, but he hates the report part. So Hank turns to TV to take his mind off things. But when the program directory scrolls by too quickly for Hank to know what’s on, he decides to take apart the cable box to try to slow down the crawl. Great! Now Hank has found the perfect science project! But what he wasn’t counting on was his sister’s pet iguana laying eighteen eggs in the disassembled cable box. How is Hank going to get out of this one? 

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Niagara Falls, or Does it? for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

niagara falls with a rainbow

As a parent who has a child that deals with similar learning challenges, I find Henry Winkler and his Hank Zipzer so inspiring. I was so happy to be able to give this book to my son in third grade so that he could read a book that had a character that he could relate to and give him inspiration that he is smarter than he may feel. Add the humor and this kid was hooked. It’s great that there are sixteen more books in the series to keep kids reading.

I’d like to share another video from Henry Winkler where he discusses Dyslexia and shares his experiences. He is an inspiring role model for kids with learning challenges and if you have someone in your life struggling, may it be a student or your own child, please share this with them as well.

Once you’ve moved through the Hank Zipzer series another great book I highly recommend for kids, in grades 4-6, that comes from the voice of a character with Dyslexia is Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mulally Hunt.


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.

How To Teach Novel Studies: Part 1 Comprehension

How To Teach Novel Studies: Part 1 Comprehension

Some of my most vivid childhood memories of school were the novel studies that we read for various subjects. It was my most favorite way to learn skills, history, any topic really! I am a lover of books and getting to read an entire book from cover to cover as a school assignment put me in heaven! I am sure this is a major reason why as a teacher my passion is to create and teach is novel studies! I love to introduce new books to students and as a community, get immersed in the book together. I love for a student to pull us off the schedule with a question or comment from something they read that leads the class in a lively discussion. That’s where the real memorable learning takes place after all!

Novel studies are my largest product line simply because I like to focus on what I love. I want to work with my passion! I often get questions from readers asking how I would set up novel studies in my classroom. I decided to write a small series explaining my methods.  For the most part, all of my novel studies include comprehension questions, vocabulary/grammar skill work, extension activities, and assessments. Today’s post, part 1, deals with the comprehension aspect of the novel studies.

Novel Studies Part 1: Comprehension

In my opinion, one of the most compelling reasons to use whole novels in your reading instruction is to boost the comprehension skills of your students. A complete novel allows the student to delve deep into the character’s minds and work through the plot from a detailed beginning to an end. You just can’t achieve this level of deep understanding and thinking using short passages only. Students need to be exposed to all methods of reading instruction and complete novel studies fulfill a critical piece of the puzzle.

In order for your student to dig deep into the comprehension, they need to be able to have the time to get lost in the narrative. Complete chapters will help them fall into the world of their book. The goal here is for students to be thinking at the higher levels of the cognitive domain and to immerse themselves in the affective domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

 

To achieve this I only use narrative questioning for my novel studies. The student needs to write out a complete statement in order to answer the question. Multiple-choice questioning for this is just not adequate to get the student to move beyond the lowest level of knowledge questioning of Bloom’s. You don’t want students doing quick guessing games to show what they’ve learned as they move through the book!

 

Here’s an example from chapter 1 of the comprehension questions from my Fish in a Tree Novel Study.

You can see that the questions will not allow the student to quick-skim the book. They can only answer if they’ve read and the questions force them to think through the thought processes of the character and to put themselves into the character’s shoes. This type of questioning will take the student into the highest levels of both the cognitive and affective domains of Bloom’s.

You can also see that there are only 5 questions for the chapter. The questioning I use in my novel studies generally is only 1-6 questions per chapter. Students don’t need to be inundated with questions to dig deep and to show understanding of what they’ve read. If the questioning is thorough only a few questions are needed. I try to have at least one question per chapter no matter how small it is. Of course, there are some exceptions where a chapter is so short that it’s not necessary to assign questions just for the sake of assigning work.

Another reason for not overburdening the students with questions is to minimize the disruptions as they read. The more they have to stop to answer questions the less likely they are to get lost in the story. You want them to go all in!

All of my novel studies offer a Google Drive™ format to use with your students in addition to the printable format that is shown above. This allows you to use novel studies in a 1:1 classroom, to save paper, and to easily engage students that are absent. Here’s an example page from the Google Drive™ format of my Esperanza Rising Novel Study.

Going through a story in this manner in regards to comprehension has worked very well for me. It forces those reluctant readers to put forth the effort in letting themselves read deeply. The non-reluctant readers will just be thrilled to be reading a complete book so you’ve already hooked them!


Join me for part 2 in my series to learn the methods I use to try to turn my students into book detectives with vocabulary/grammar skill work using novel studies.

 

 


You can find my Fish in a Tree Novel Study and Esperanza Rising Novel Study that are mentioned above in my store. I also offer over 90 titles ranging from grades 1 to 8 where I am sure you’ll find something to engage your class in some deep reading.

 



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

Teaching a Fish to Climb a Tree

Teaching a Fish to Climb a Tree

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

This a great quote that is often mistakingly attributed to Albert Einstein. He didn’t say this, but the quote is powerful just the same.

This quote is the premise of the book, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. The main character is Ally, a sixth grader, who hates school because she feels stupid and thinks she will never be successful. Ally has isolated herself and does not take any risks towards academic work or towards making friends. She feels everything is hopeless until a new teacher, Mr. Daniels, comes in as a long-term substitute. Mr. Daniels recognizes Ally’s talents as an artist and is impressed by her “out of the box” problem-solving skills. He leads Ally to admit her fears and helps her to take risks that lead to a diagnosis of dyslexia. Mr. Daniels helps Ally build confidence and realize she’s not stupid, she just learns differently, which opens up the world academically and socially for Ally.

 

 

 

This is a very inspirational book for all students to read, not just those that may have dyslexia. It showcases through the many different characters that everyone has a talent and everyone has value, sometimes it takes a little more work to discover!  Research shows that 80-90% of all students that are identified as learning disabled have some degree of dyslexia. In fact, it is hypothesized that about 20% of the population is afflicted with dyslexia to some degree.

This book gives those students hope that they are not alone and that there are ways for them to shine and learn. It also helps to build empathy among the students that may not struggle in this way so they can better understand their classmates and encourage kindness to all.

 

Fish in a Tree is a wonderful book to use as a whole class novel study or for literature groups and book clubs.

If you’re looking for a book that is for a little bit younger child dealing with Dyslexia I recommend trying out the Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver. The first book in the series, Niagara Falls, or Does It? is great for third graders who are struggling with learning challenges to help them know they are not alone and they are full of talent!

Book cover for Hank Zipzer Niagara Falls or Does It?


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.