may 3 post May 03


Top Ten Lessons My 4th Graders and I Have Learned from Chapter Books this Year by Suzanne Buhner

may 3 post

One day I shared a Top Ten post from this very blog as an introduction to a new unit of study with my fourth grade students. Shortly thereafter my students approached me and asked if we could publish a post regarding the top ten lessons we had learned from the shared readings we engage in daily.  They wanted to let others know how very much they learn from good literature, learnings that cannot be measured on a test or found within a story summary.  Here is our top ten list.  We hope you will be inspired to revisit text you have not read for a while or learn about new text.  We also hope this will serve as a thank you for writing, discussing, sharing, and posting about good literature.  We “hear” you and we are benefitting from your work!

10. Be yourself.  These sage words came from the fable, ‘The Tortoise and the Hare.”  My students agree we should honor others’ strengths which come wrapped in all sorts of packages.

9.  Sneakers come and go; good friends stay through thick and thin.  We read many stories about heroes and heroines that fought the good fight, one even snuck in when he though no one was looking (The One and Only Ivan, Applegate), however we learned all protagonists have help.  So it’s important to remember to support each other, especially during the tough times.

8.  A spoonful of sugar means a tablespoon of challenge is coming your way!  I read Mary Poppins (Travers) to the students at the beginning of the year.  One day I introduced a particularly challenging math lesson after giving them each a piece of gum to chew.  I had read an article about how chewing helps learners stay engaged and so told the kids I was giving them “a spoonful of sugar” (the gum) to “make the medicine go down” (the challenging math lesson).  Before long I was handing out gum regularly and singing Mary’s song, too.  Thus, these sage words of advice:  “Watch out when Mrs. B. hands out the gum (spoonful of sugar;, a challenge is coming your way!”

7.  A poem in the pocket is worth keeping because you never know when it will come in handy.  The reading resource teacher at my school read and discussed Word After Word After Word (MacLachlan) with my students.  Student-created poems bloomed on sticky notes, scrap paper, math handouts, and even arm flesh!  One day a student was experiencing a particularly tough day and another child pulled out a poem and said, “No worries, here’s a poem for that!”  It did not take long for others to step forward with poems in times of happiness, sadness, and frustration.  Keep some poems in your pocket and see how handy they are, too!

6.  The size of the package doesn’t matter as much as the contents do.  Open This Little Book (Klausmeier) and you will find short stories can have as much value as chapter books.  We have used picture books to learn about climate, write narrative text, and learn new vocabulary words.  We have used chapter books to learn about theme and main ideas.  This lesson has many applications in life, doesn’t it?

5.  Even though it’s green, it still tastes good when shared with friends.  My students love food!  We have shared green eggs and ham (of course!), pasta and meatballs (Strega Nona, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs), “stone” soup (Stone Soup), and even an “Earthcake” where the student-chef included Earth’s inside layers and covered the cake with fondant continents (inspired by Planet Earth:  What Planet Are You On?).  In fact, the students suggested someone write a recipe book for teachers to use for planning language arts, math, and science around food (This is a good idea, and I don’t mind if you steal it).

4.  Swords are not necessary!  A good grasp of vocabulary is!  The characters from Secret Garden (Burnett) helped us better understand how important effective communication is to our sense of self-worth, happiness, and health.  My students learned the value of words and gained a new respect for the study of grammar and vocabulary.

3.  Speak your word. 2.  Stay true to your word. 1.  We ALL matter! If you have not yet read Out of My Mind (Draper) yet, my students implore you to get your hands on the book right now.  The most popular lessons students wanted me to share are included in these three statements.  The students made me promise not to give away the main plot of the story, but rather let you know this book so impacted their daily lives not a day goes by they don’t think of Melody.

When you think of your favorite literature what life- lessons are brought forth for you?


Suzanne Buhner is a wife, mother, teacher, and novice blogger.  She recently earned her National Board Certification in the area of Literacy.  Suzanne teaches in an elementary school for the gifted. She holds a master’s degree in special education and is currently working on a doctorate in school leadership.  She is passionate about bringing inquiry-based learning opportunities into the classroom and this year sponsors a robotics team, holds regular Maker-Space events, and apparently uses good literature to convey life lessons.