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## Using Trade Books in the Classroom

Looking for a way to spark your students’ interest in a topic? Trade books can provide the necessary spark. Trade books, which are primarily designed to entertain and inform outside the classroom, can be successfully used in the classroom to increase the motivation of your students. Trade books cover almost every topic under the sun, so you can probably find a book that aligns with your curriculum goals in a way that helps your students see the applicability of the topic. Students may show greater interest in the way a trade book presents material over pasted writing in a textbook. While textbooks cover a topic in a prescribed manner, a trade book may introduce or expand on a topic covered in a fictional setting or, alternatively, a real-life nonfiction account.

Classroom activities can be built around the theme of the book, so that in addition to reading practice and vocabulary development, all kinds 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 short story. Possibilities in 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 trading book in the classroom.

**Interest is fundamental.** Since the main reason to introduce a craft book into the classroom is to create interest in a topic, look for books that tell a story that is engaging. Humor helps as many children enjoy humor and can read more attentively if it is presented in a funny way. The book can still present serious themes and ideas. Another tip is to select books that address the interests of your students’ age group. Elementary school students tend to like stories about animals, children their age, and fairy tales. High school students tend to like adventures, science fiction, and mysteries. Middle school students enjoy books written for adults: biographies, general fiction, adventure, mystery, historical novels, and science fiction.

**Check out the special features.** Books with special features add more educational value. For example, books with glossaries can help with vocabulary development. Books with research notes, bibliographies with more potential material for exploration, and lists of websites related to the topic can help you develop teaching materials or help students write reports. Recipes can make for fun learning experiences. Maps provide visual guidance for written descriptions. Drawings and photographs can provide accurate information about the physical aspects of an object. All these features can be used to improve students’ understanding of the teaching objective.

**Strengthen literacy skills.** Almost any trade book can be used to support the development and reinforcement of literacy skills. In addition to providing reading practice, craft books can be used to support vocabulary development, storytelling skills, writing skills, and even editing skills. Some publishers provide reading level score information for their books. Many do not, as there is a perception that doing so many 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 as a method of encouraging reading practice. The Accelerated Reading program is used by more than 73,000 schools across the country. This service’s database includes more than 120,000 books, but it is limited when you consider that according to Publishers Weekly, about 30,000 new children’s books are published each year. You may want to allow a wider selection of books than are currently in the Accelerated Reading Program database. Have students write a few paragraphs summarizing the story to show they have read the book. A child may be really interested in cars and willing to spend time reading about vintage models or auto repair, but not be particularly interested in Tom Sawyer.

**Search for resources.** Search the Internet for teaching resources designed for the book you have selected. Some publishers offer lesson plans, worksheets, discussion questions, and other teaching materials to supplement their books. Visit the publisher’s website or the author’s website to see what’s available. You can also do this in reverse to find a book to use. Search the Internet using keywords such as “teaching materials,” “teaching materials,” “lesson plans,” “lesson plan,” “teaching ideas,” “teaching resources,” or “teaching activities.” You can also search for specific lesson plan topics and find an editor who has developed material for a related book.

**Read, discuss and then act.** Begin the new lesson by having the students read the book you have selected. This can be done as homework or an in-class activity depending on your goals and time available. Then start a discussion of the book by highlighting the aspect related to your teaching goal. Follow up the discussion by actively using material related to your teaching objective. For example, if your goal is for students to understand a historical event, have your students:

a. build timelines,

b. create dioramas,

c. put on costumes,

d. recreate the event,

e. participate in a game simulation where students are divided into teams and answer questions related to the event,

f. create poster displays,

g. draw pictures that represent the event,

h. or write your own story incorporating the historical event.

Any or all of these activities will make the lesson more interesting for your students.

You may also consider inviting the author to your classroom, 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.

Awaken the imagination and curiosity of your students. Use trade books to bring new excitement to your classroom. You can develop teaching materials that fit your teaching goals, or you can find ready-to-use teaching resources on the Internet. Either way, you can liven up a potentially boring topic and enthrall your class by leveraging a business book.

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