Hey 4th-8th graders! Today’s post is for you!
Once upper elementary school hits, life gets so busy that juggling your schedule becomes much harder. According to researchers, more and more of you are choosing not to make time for reading.
For your teachers and parents, this can be frustrating. Maybe it’s frustrating for you, too.
My observation as a teacher, librarian, and parent is that sometimes selecting a book off the shelf is actually the hardest part of reading. (I will add here that student self-selection of books is fantastic and if your teacher allows it, say thank you. You have higher odds of increased achievement.)
Luckily, I’ve got a few books to recommend that I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy. My recommendations have nothing to do with Lexile scores (an often misused tool) and everything to do with fabulous stories that lots of kids have loved. These are tried and true favorites. If you need a book for class—or just for fun—I dare you to try one of these. Give it to chapter 3 and then let me know what you think.
1. Anything by Raina Telgemeier.
They are all super popular: Smile, Sisters, Drama, Guts, and Ghosts.
Graphic novels of any kind are a good bet. If your teacher balks at allowing graphic novels in class, invite them to read my article about the benefits of graphic novels.
2. Anything by Rick Riordan.
The Lightning Thief is the first book of his first middle grade series, but if you are in middle school, you might prefer starting with Book 1 of The Heroes of Olympus series. The characters are older, and the storyline is more complex.
If you’ve already devoured all of his books, consider another upper middle grade fantasy.
3. The Last Kids on Earth, by Max Brallier.
Humorous tales are always a win, and Last Kids on Earth has the bonus of some inside artwork. Plus ZOMBIES.
See also: Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and I, Funny.
4. Love That Dog and Hate that Cat, by Sharon Creech.
Short, easy-to-read, and totally gripping, Sharon Creech tells this story in a one-sided conversation made of poems. Even my students who claimed to hate poetry loved this book and its sequel.
Other novels-in-verse books to consider as well include The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (especially for basketball fans) and Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle.
5. Scary books are constant favorites.
You don’t have to stop reading scary stories once you outgrow Goosebumps. Try a novel by Mary Downing Hahn—she’s the queen of ghost stories for young teens.
If you’re ready to kick it up another notch, try Coraline, Doll Bones, or The Night Gardener.
If you don’t love a book within the first three chapters, it's okay to abandon it and try a different book. If you find yourself abandoning books all the time, though, consider asking your librarian or teacher for some advice on books you might enjoy. But I would be surprised if none of these worked for you!
Bonus— If you have younger siblings, try reading aloud to your younger brothers and sisters. No, I’m not kidding. Books are magical, and little kids will remind you of this truth if you've forgotten. Watch their eyes sparkle as you read to them. Here are some great books for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, as well as reading tips and information for families about building a love of reading. The adults in your household will probably appreciate both the linked info and your sibling sweetness.
There is a book waiting for you right now! A perfect book for you! A good book you'll love--you just have to give it a chance!
School’s back in session, and with it, comes the nightly homework. Test scores. The dreaded report card. As if it wasn’t enough that you spent all day in class, now you have to show you’ve been paying attention! For those of you new to middle school or high school, you may be finding that the standards jumped a lot higher this year than what you’ve been used to. Maybe your grades aren't where you'd like them to be.
Don’t worry, though. Aunt Amy’s got your back. Follow these five tips, and report card blues will be a thing of the past.
1. Get organized.
The solution? Use your daily planner and keep papers in color-coded folders. If you always put your history homework in the green folder (or blue, or red, or whatever says HISTORY to you), then when it’s time to turn it in, you’ll always know where it is. And if you don’t have homework? Write THAT down in your daily planner. A blank space could mean you forgot to write down the assignment, so always put something for every class, even if it’s “no homework tonight!” Feel free to draw some unicorns on the agenda. Unicorns are never bad.
2. Take notes.
Wondering what to write down? There are some great note-taking videos out there. Crash Course has a whole Study Skills Course that's awesome (and free!) But for starters, if the teacher repeats something, write it down. If they tell you something is important, write it down. If they put something on the board, write it down. Writing something down as you listen forces your brain to analyze the material and put down the most important bits. It’s why typing into your laptop is not necessarily better… the more thinking you do up front, the longer you’ll remember it later. Speaking of remembering class material…
3. Study a little every day.
Know what doesn’t work for the long term? Cramming. Trust Auntie Amy on this one. Yes, you might be able to survive a test by studying furiously the night before, but you are making things much harder for yourself when you have to take end-of-term tests or when the material is something that you will be building on in the next chapter, which is often the case for math, science, and languages.
4. Ask questions.
And if you have the question, at least a handful of other students do, too. Be brave. Ask the questions.
5. Find a study buddy.
Having to explain something to someone else is a tried and true method of learning material. Remember that just because material feels familiar, it doesn’t mean that you know it. Until you can explain it in your own words to someone else, without looking at your notes, you have more studying to do.
Thanks for joining me for Auntie Amy's Top 5 Tips for Succeeding in School. Simple doesn't mean easy, but it will work if you put your mind to it. Remember, you also need to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and enjoy time with friends and family, too. School is just one part of your wonderful life. Now, go get yourself some folders, an agenda, some notebook paper, and rock out those classes.
One bonus tip for the road:
But don't worry. I've got your back.
Here are five steps to follow to finish out your school year with style and grace, instead of blood, sweat, and tears.
1. Don’t cram
Research says cramming isn’t effective, even though a lot of people keep trying. It’s far better to study for 10-15 minutes each day for a week than a bunch all at once. Think of it like taking sips of a slushie instead of gulping it—and getting a brain freeze. Cramming may let you feel like you’ll succeed because the material will look familiar and it’s easy to think, “Yeah, yeah, I know this, I know that,” but recognition is not the same as recalling it. Instead, dedicate a little bit of time every day to study for each final exam. Depending on how much material your test covers, a chapter per day for a week might work.
The science is in: writing things by hand helps us remember things much better than typing them out. You may not be able to write down every word the teacher says—but that’s precisely what will help you discern what is actually important to know and summarize as you listen, so you can write down only the critical stuff. Or even if you take notes in class on a laptop, go home and make notecards the old-fashioned way to help lock in the information you’ll need.
Sleep is critical to our health, but also to our learning. Sleep consolidates our new knowledge and organizes memories. Getting a good night of shut-eye is your best tool for making sure you remember what you studied the night before. Logically, this means that pulling “an all-nighter” is a really bad idea. Not only are you cramming (see point 1) but you aren’t giving your brain any time to absorb the material.
We all know that eating well is a priority, but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Breakfast in particular can be tough to maneuver on a busy school morning. But on test days, it’s critical that you eat a solid breakfast with protein so your brain has the energy to carry you through the day. As a bonus, eggs contain a nutrient that is thought to help improve memory and cognitive performance. And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Fast and easy ideas: Yogurt parfait, breakfast burrito, fruit smoothie with protein powder, oatmeal made with soy or dairy milk for a protein boost.
5. Decide your goal and go for it.
Writing down your goals or stating them in public helps people reach their goals. Goals help us stay more accountable. So write down your test goal and post it in your room. Tell your friends, parents or teacher that your goal is to make whatever grade you need—an A, a B…even if it's just to pass! You are much more likely to do so once you’ve officially committed to doing it. Goals transform people from wishers to doers.
With a little planning and dedication, you can ace all your finals and soar off into summer with victory. Decide to rock your finals and end your school year strong.
You’ve got this.
This is my new blog, where I'll post the most recent news and more. You are welcome to visit my old blog, which has many more book reviews. linked below.
To those of you in 4th-8th grade and older, I hope I can offer a smidgen of help & encouragement as you traverse the waters of intermediate school, middle school, and high school.
For those who are writers or aspiring writers, I will occasionally share thoughts on the writing process. Hope it helps!
For those who are readers of any ages, I like to share when a book totally floors me. Share the love if you agree.