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Using Trade Books in the Classroom
Looking for a way to encourage your students’ interest in a subject? Business books can provide the necessary spark. Commercial textbooks, which are primarily designed to entertain and inform outside the classroom, can be successfully used in the classroom to increase student motivation. Commercial books cover just about every topic under the sun, so you can probably find a book that will align with your curriculum goals in a way that helps your students see the applicability of the topic. Students may show a keener interest in the lively way in which a commercial book presents the material compared to the stilted writings of a textbook. Whereas textbooks cover a subject in a prescribed way, a trade book can introduce or expand on a subject by including it in a fictional setting, or alternatively, a non-fictional real-life account.
Classroom activities can be built around the subject of the book, so in addition to reading practice and vocabulary development, all types of spin-off activities can be developed. Depending on the book, there may be several ways to explore the concepts presented in the story or narrative. Opportunities for math, science, social studies, geography, history, economics, and more. can exist using the book as a starting point. Here are some ideas on how to use a business book in the classroom.
Interest is fundamental. Since the main reason for bringing a business book into the classroom is to spark interest in a topic, look for books that tell an engaging story. Humor helps because many children like humor and they can read more attentively if presented in a fun way. The book can still present serious topics and ideas. Another tip is to select books that meet the interests of your students’ age group. Elementary students tend to like animal stories, peers, and fairy tales. Middle school students often like adventures, science fiction and mysteries. High school students enjoy books written for adults – biographies, general fiction, adventures, mysteries, historical novels and science fiction.
Check for special features. Books with special features add more educational value. For example, books with glossaries can help build vocabulary. Books with research notes, bibliographies listing more potential material to explore, and lists of topic-related websites can help you develop teaching materials or help students write reports. Recipes can create fun learning experiences. Maps provide visual orientation for written descriptions. Drawings and photographs can provide precise information about the physical aspects of an object. All of these features can be used to enhance your students’ understanding of the teaching objective.
Strengthen literacy skills. Almost any craft book can be used to support the development and reinforcement of literacy skills. In addition to providing reading practice, commercial books can be used to support vocabulary development, storytelling skills, writing skills, and even editing skills. Some publishers provide grade level score information for their books. Many don’t, because it feels like doing the same prevents some readers who would otherwise be interested from reading the book. Most schools give credit to students who read books beyond the assigned reading to encourage reading practice. The Accelerated Reader program is used by more than 73,000 schools nationwide. The service’s database includes more than 120,000 books, but it’s limited considering that, according to Publishers Weekly, about 30,000 new children’s books are published each year. You may wish to allow a larger selection of books than are currently in the Accelerated Reading Program database. Ask students to write a few paragraphs summarizing the story to show that they have read the book. A child may be really interested in cars and want to spend time reading about vintage models or auto repair, but not be particularly interested in Tom Sawyer.
Find resources. Search the Internet for educational resources designed for the book you have selected. Some publishers provide lesson plans, worksheets, discussion questions, and other teaching aids to supplement their books. Visit the publisher’s website or the author’s website to see what might be offered. You can also do it in reverse to find a book to use. Search the Internet using keywords such as “teaching materials”, “teaching aids”, “lesson plans”, “lesson plan”, “teaching ideas”, “teaching resources” or “teaching activities” . You can also search for particular lesson plan topics, and you can find a publisher who has developed material for a related book.
Read, discuss, then act. Begin the new lesson by asking students to read the book you selected. This can be done as an assignment or an in-class activity depending on your goals and the time available. Then start a discussion about the book, highlighting the aspect related to your teaching objective. Follow the discussion by actively using materials related to your teaching objective. For example, if your goal is for students to understand a historical event, ask your students:
A. build timelines,
b. create dioramas,
vs. put together costumes,
d. reconstruct the event,
e. participate in a simulated game show where students are divided into teams and answer questions related to the event,
F. create billboards,
g. draw pictures illustrating the event,
h. or write their own story incorporating the historical event.
Either of these activities will make the lesson more interesting for your students.
You may also consider inviting the author to your class, or the author may offer an email exchange service where your students can interact directly with the author to ask questions about the book. The author’s enthusiasm for the subject is often contagious and students can connect to the material through the author.
Engage the imagination and curiosity of your students. Use commercial books to bring new excitement to your classroom. You can develop educational materials tailored to your educational goals or find ready-to-use educational resources on the Internet. Either way, you can liven up a potentially boring topic and captivate your class with the benefit of a business book.
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