Do you want books to help your students...
                        ...learn the elements of literary analysis?
               different genres?
                        ...improve their reading and writing skills?

I recommend Nancy Loewen's Writer's Toolbox series.  So far, there are nine:
  • Action! Writing Your Own Play
  • It’s All About You: Writing Your Own Journal
  • Just the Facts: Writing Your Own Research Report
  • Make Me Giggle: Writing Your Own Silly Story
  • Once Upon a Time: Writing Your Own Fairy Tale
  • Share a Scare: Writing Your Own Scary Story
  • Show Me a Story: Writing Your Own Picture Book
  • Sincerely Yours: Writing Your Own Letter
  • Words, Wit, and Wonder: Writing Your Own Poem

These books accomplish a lot. First, many of them include a stand-alone story. In Once Upon a Time, for instance, Loewen retells "Little Red Riding Hood."  The story can be read and enjoyed all by itself. But then she adds blocks to most pages which explain the tools necessary for that particular genre. Again, in Once Upon a Time, Loewen shows that fairy tales need setting, characters, plot, dialogue, warnings, magic, greed, tricks, secret, repetition, mistakes, problem-solving, and a pleasing end. Phew! That sounds like an overwhelming list, but she keeps the descriptions brief, and she positions the story, so that it illustrates each tool she is explaining.

At the end of the books, she reviews the tools, gives "Getting Started Exercises," shares "Writing Tips," and directs readers to a Fact Hound site which lists related books and websites.

There's no lack of nourishment for your language arts menu here. Focus on one book a month or intersperse a few of them with the other language arts activities you are doing. Whatever you choose, I'm pretty sure you'll leave the table satisfied.

For an additional idea, see the assignment in Inspiration.

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