Build-Your-Stack Resource Posts
Instructional Resources + Recommended Texts (400–600 words maximum)
Pair a favorite classroom idea with a brief review of a specific text or texts that work well with it. Your piece should use a personal, conversational voice and speak to your own experience as a teacher or that of a teacher you have observed closely. If appropriate, cite the source for your idea. Your description should offer succinct, easy-to-follow instructions and just enough detail to allow other teachers to use it successfully in their own classroom.
While these posts may derive from content you have written previously, we’d like them adapted to the Build-Your-Stack theme rather than simply reposted from a previous context.
We welcome posts in written and/or video form. If you choose to include a video, short videos always work best, and for accessibility purposes we need a transcript so they can be closed- captioned. Please see below for additional video guidelines.
The texts that are reviewed should match the idea being shared. For example, if you are sharing an idea for reading nonfiction science texts, the books should be in that genre. The book reviews should give readers a sense of what is special about these books in particular and why they should be added to one’s stack. Include links to either the author’s page for the book or a Goodreads page for the book, but not a link to an online store. We want to be careful not to endorse particular marketplaces.
Wherever possible, authors of these posts should make connections with appropriate NCTE resources; staff can supplement the pieces with these connections as well. Be mindful that your selections reflect multiple perspectives in their themes, authors, and so forth.
NCTE will create the social images that go with these posts, pairing the Build-Your-Stack logo with the book covers of the texts explored in the post itself.
Examples of topics we’d like covered in resource posts:
- What tips do you have for facilitating choice reading in your classroom?
- What are some texts that lend themselves to read-alouds?
- What are favorite texts for exploring other disciplines?
- Where do you go to find new books?
- How do you quickly get up to speed on your students’ interests and areas for growth so you can become a book matchmaker?
- What are your favorite ways to use books as mentor texts for students’ own writing?
- How do you bring the voice of authors into classroom discussions around books?
I am always reading with an eye toward a potential read-aloud. Read-aloud time is one of the most important parts of our school day. It is a time when we come together as a community around a book. The talk around the book is always powerful, and this is the time that we grow as readers and as humans. Because there is time built into a read-aloud for talk, we can only read 6 to 9 novels each year as a community. So it is important that I choose wisely. If I am not careful, I will read books that are all very similar in genre or author perspective. But it’s my goal to use this important time of our day to build community and have important conversations that stretch us.
When I read with an eye toward a read-aloud I am looking for:
- A book that will start conversations around an important issue,
- A book that is written specifically for middle grade readers
- A book that invites us to think about things we may not have thought about before or to think about something from a perspective we may not have considered previously.
- A book that stretches us as readers in some way.
I’ve discovered two new books that I am keeping in mind as possible read-alouds for next school year. These are Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes and The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor. Both of these books address important issues and are written in a way that invite deep thinking and thoughtful conversations from middle grade readers. Ghost Boys tells the story of a young black boy who is killed by a police officer while The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle shares the journey of Mason Buttle, an incredible and complex character who is bullied by classmates.
From a reading perspective, these books offer so much. In The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, the relationships between characters, the interactions with family and friends, and the treatment of Mason Buttle by his classmates all give the reader new ways to think about characters and character development. The author invites a great deal of inferring from readers. Although this is a quieter book, there is a great deal for readers to think deeply about.
In Ghost Boys, the story is told from the perspective of Jerome, who has recently been shot by a police officer. Because this is told after the fact and Jerome has already died, readers are led back and forth in time, as we learn what happened before, and follow the family after, Jerome’s death. There is also a plot connection to Emmett Till, which gives us an important piece of history embedded in a fiction text.
Because both of these books have so much to offer middle graders as readers and as human beings, these are two I am glad to have on my stack of possible read-alouds for next school year.
You can see the fully formatted post here.
Build-Your-Stack Text Highlights
Recommended Books (150 words maximum)
These are shorter pieces that NCTE can use as Facebook posts or features in INBOX. They should be no more than 150 words and include the following:
- Text title, author, publisher
- High resolution image of the book cover (if applicable)
- 1-2 sentence summary of the text—make this compelling and conversational
- 1-2 sentence pitch for why teachers should add this book to their stack. Consider pitches that appeal to current events, addressing difficult topics with students, reading an example of exceptional writing, diving deep into multiple interpretations, etc.
- (Optional) 1 sentence about a recommended student audience for this book
These could also be short videos. See below for additional video guidelines.
NCTE will create the social images that go with these posts, pairing the Build-Your-Stack logo with the book cover of the text explored in the post.
The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
This is a tale of the journey of Mason Buttle, an incredible and complex character who is bullied by classmates. This is a great addition to your stack if you’re looking for books that invite inference. The relationships between characters, the interactions with family and friends, and the treatment of Mason Buttle by his classmates all give the reader new ways to think about characters and character development.
If you plan to submit a video for your Build-Your-Stack submission, please keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Please follow the formats indicated above. Videos should not be longer than two to three minutes for resources posts or one minute for book highlights.
- Record in horizontal mode if you’re using your phone. Stability is important; if possible, use a stand.
- Try not to include background noise or music as it can be distracting.
- Look for good lighting in front of your face. Backlighting can make the video too dark.
- Send us the largest video file you can. You may need to use a service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
- Include a transcript for accessibility.
Note: #BuildYourStack blog posts features NCTE member-curated content. Membership status will be checked before publication. If you’re not an NCTE member yet, we’d love to for you to join today.
NCTE staff review all blog posts submitted for consideration. All pieces chosen for publication will be copyedited; occasionally a post may be returned to the author for clarification or revision.
Build Your Stack provides a forum for contributors to share books from their classroom experience; inclusion in a blog post does not imply endorsement or promotion of specific books by NCTE.
We aren’t able to guarantee publication of any blog post, submitted or invited, until the post has been through the review and approval process. We generally like to have a month to six weeks for the review and editing process of a submitted blog post.
Build Your Stack posts are currently published on a bi-weekly basis. Sometimes, to accommodate the blog schedule, a post may be accepted but scheduled for publication later in the year. We’ll do our best to keep authors informed as to status of submissions, but authors are always welcome to email for an update on a submission.
Note: It is the policy of NCTE in all publications to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.
For general guidelines about writing for the NCTE blog, click here.
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