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Why You Should be Using Gail Gibbons Books in Your Classroom

About 10 years into my teaching career is when Balanced Literacy hit the air-and I was in LOVE! One of the key features of Balanced Literacy was to being to teach HOW reading happened within nonfiction. I purchased Make it Real! by Linda Hoyt. I became very interested in something called Text Features! This captured my attention for one main reason-I just discovered the secret to my success as a student! I was always fascinated by history and science (still am!) and I devoured our text books in high school and college! I read every square inch of those books, I examined the pictures, read the materials below them, paid attention to headings, and I could go on and on! The other students couldn’t figure out how I could so easily find answers and information, and, frankly, I couldn’t see why it was so difficult for them-it was right there! It wasn’t until Make it Real! that I understood - I had taught myself text features and I was using them for full advantage-and the other kids in school didn’t have a clue! And that became my goal - to never leave another kid (in this case students) in the dark again! So, every year, including when I taught in the Science Lab at my school, out come the Gail Gibbons' books. Here are some reasons why you should be using Gail Gibbons' books in your classroom.


One of the main reasons you should be using Gail Gibbons' books is that EVERY text feature is found in her books (ok, not every one-no table of context and no index!) She does have an appendix if you pay attention-her extra information page! I always start with Frogs as my first book because it has the key features found within this text. Within the first pages read you will have encountered labels, diagrams, headings, bold print words, pictures, and captions! You will also encounter some that, in my opinion, are just as key: insets - where pictures are places within pictures, and cut-aways - where a picture shows the inside, or cut-away- of an item. In this case, it is the hibernation of a frog, showing them underground in their burrow. And, above all that, Frogs is an attention keeper! They LOVE it! No matter what grade (I’ve done this from 1st grade all the way to 5th grade!)

Highly Engaging

That’s right! The second reason to why you should be using Gail Gibbons' books in your classroom is because they are highly engaging. She does a considerable amount of research for each text. If you pay attention to the dedication page of each book, you will find out EXACTLY how much research she does, because she thanks the experts who help her. One of her books that I use right away is Sea Turtles. Living on the Gulf Coast of Florida, my students have first hand experience with turtle nests, but don’t really understand the why behind staying away from them. Many are from the north where there are no sea turtles. So, great teaching moments-BUT there’s more. At the end, I go back and show them the dedication page! She thanks a researcher at Mote Marine-where many of them have visited and have year round passes! Their faces EVERY TIME! Then we go through and do a picture walk of how it does look like our beaches! This is not an isolated event! We end up really examining and discussing the information within the text! Total engagement!

The WHY of Text Features

Her books can teach the students the WHY of text features. As I look at many products on TpT and other places, I see a lot of name calling! What I mean by this is I see a lot of “This is a caption.”“This is a picture.” I don’t see a lot of WHYS! Why did the author use this text feature here? Why does this text feature SUPPORT the text? Why would you stop and pay attention to this text feature? We need to be teaching the WHY! It always amazes me when teachers skip this part. Trust me, it unlocks everything! When I was in the Science Lab, I had student whom I had taught in 2nd grade. When I was sharing text features each week, those kids knew the WHY and could explain to others! They were in 4th and 5th grade! It had UNLOCKED THE SECRET CODE to nonfiction text! This wasn’t just higher achieving students-this crossed the whole range of kids I had in class! WHY matters-it unlocks the secret code and this is another reason why you should be using Gail Gibbons' books in your classroom!

It Can Help Your Students Understand Writers!

You can also teach author’s craft with Gail Gibbons' books! She has, literally, HUNDREDS of books! I always pick some of the middle of her career books to start with. We continually talk about her work as an author. I share facts about her writing life and begin to slowly introduce some of her older material next. It is much weaker and has less information and text features. I do this on purpose. So we can compare them to what we have been reading and talk about how her work has changed. Then, I begin to introduce her newest material. Then we can fully see the progression of a writer’s work over time. How it changes, flows, develops! It is a GREAT thing to do with kids, and it doesn’t take tons of effort or time, because it is right there, and they can see it! By adding Gail Gibbons' books to your classroom, you will totally improve student's abilities to see writer's growth as something that can occur with them too!


Readability is another reason to use Gail Gibbons' books in your classroom! By 2nd and 3rd grade, her books are totally at a readability place. Even 4th and 5th graders enjoy her writing. It is meaty enough for children at these ages, especially if they are struggling. The pictures are still mature enough for older kids on the whole. My kids begin checking out her books right away from our school library and this continues throughout the year. It doesn’t take long for them to start trading books-which means tons of exposure to nonfiction topics in a friendly way! It is truly a great thing to see!

Fun For Everyone!

Honestly, why not add Gail Gibbons' books to your classroom? It is just FUN! There are so many topics and so many things that are right about her books! You can tailor your book choice to meet your needs. I have always completed my study during October so that I can add the fun of the month into every read aloud that we have! Cats, bats, spiders, pumpkins, Halloween! They are all covered! In fact, I've purchased enough pumpkins to do a partner reading and comprehension piece so that it is just fun for the kids! Why not! We have a responsibility to students to still have fun while they are learning. We have a way to make learning fun and let's do that! Gail Gibbons is just the author to help us do that! (Want to learn more about how to have fun with writing? Check out this blog post!)

While we are speaking of fun, I'd love for you to grab this Bats freebie by signing up for my newsletter! It is a great way to find out exactly how awesome Gail Gibbons books are for text features! Simple and easy to use to find out why your should be using Gail Gibbons books in your classroom.


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