One of my favorite children’s authors is Louis Sachar. I love his quirky sense of humor and even more, I love sharing this humor with my students and giggling right along with them! I have many “inside jokes” with my students related to his books. The humor really brings us together as a community. I am a big advocate for humor in children’s literature because it draws out those reluctant readers and shows them how truly enjoyable reading can be. Oftentimes, this is just the spark those students need to explore other forms of literature and really begin a lifelong love of reading.
One of my favorite Louis Sachar books is Sideways Stories From Wayside School. Even though I have read this book, and the 2 sequels, more times than I can count I still get a chuckle each and every time. The Wayside School series is the great for a class read aloud or to use as a novel study.
Sideways Stories is told from the point of view of Louis the Yard Teacher. Louis Sachar based this character on himself. He spent a college semester working as an aid in an elementary school and spent some of that time as “Louis the Yard Teacher”. He also based most of his characters from the book on students he worked with during that time. Sideways Stories was Louis Sachar’s first book and was first published in 1978 but it took several years to gain widespread popularity.
Wayside School was an architectural mistake. It was mistakenly built 30 stories tall with only one classroom per story. The story revolves around the class on the 30th story. Each chapter examines one student or teacher from the class or school. The book begins by telling us the story of the teacher on the 30th story, Mrs. Gorf. Mrs. Gorf has a special talent that leads to her demise. She is replaced by Mrs. Jewls in chapter 2. Mrs. Jewls is a sweet, but somewhat naive, teacher. A lot of humor comes from Mrs. Jewls’ seemingly lack of common sense. The other teacher discussed in the last chapter is Louis the Yard Teacher. All the rest of the chapters (there are 30 of course!) detail a student. Each student is unique in some ironic, humorous way.
I have used this book in several different ways in my classroom. First I have used it as a read aloud to spark a sense of community. Reading, discussing, and laughing together brings a class together. I can read this at the beginning of the year and still have kids quoting it or bringing up a joke from it at the end of the year. I have yet to find a child who did not thoroughly enjoy this book.
I have used this book as a whole class novel unit as well as a small literature circle group unit. I have also used this book as an independent study unit for students. I created a unit to accompany Sideways Stories From Wayside School and each of the sequels, Wayside School is Falling Down and Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger.
Whether you use these books for the whole class, small group, or individual instruction you will find your students laughing and really truly enjoying reading. Even if you don’t use these units in your class make sure that you include them in a class library for your students to read or read to your class as read alouds. Whatever you do make sure your students have access to these books! They are so much fun and really opens up the reading world for those 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!
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