How to Write a Teacher’s Guide for Your Book
So you have a bright, new, shiny book out on the market. How can you entice people to read your book? One of the ways is to think of the gatekeepers. A gatekeeper is someone who monitors or guards the flow of traffic in and out of the gate. This is easy for me to picture living around Seoul, South Korea. Huge gates built into a fortress wall long ago guarded the flow to the city. They still exist as historic icons.
Two of the gatekeepers for your book are teachers and librarians. How can you market your book so that they will want to use it in their classroom? Easy — make a teacher’s guide. Oh, you’re not a teacher? You can still write one or hire someone to do so. Teachers are more likely to purchase your book if your book has a teacher’s guide that shows how it attunes to educational standards.
Teachers are some of the busiest people on earth. I know. I am one (plus an author). So, to make our job easier, it’s exciting when we come across an author who has a downloadable teacher’s guide. We love you even more if it has printables, a.k.a. worksheets, and crafts and questions all ready to go.
Recently, I asked my teacher’s group on Facebook and some colleagues I work with to tell me what they wish for in an author’s teacher’s guide.
- Standards/”I Can” statements
- Companion book lists
- Sequence cards
- Vocabulary work
- Creative activities
- Projects that can be differentiated
- Higher order thinking
- Graphic organizers
- Coloring sheets
- Video of author talking about their book
Do you feel overwhelmed now? Below I will walk you through the basics of a teacher’s guide that you can outline and develop.
1. List the ways a teacher can use your book in the classroom.
Is your book related to a core subject such as science, social studies, art, math, reading, music, etc.? If so, which one?
What topics does your book cover? List them.
You probably already know the grade levels for your book or ages according to your publisher. Looking at the topics you listed, what grades teach that topic? Those are the teachers you want to target.
2. Find educational standards that your book covers and write them down.
The most common are the Common Core State Standards. At this link are math and reading standards. All books can be covered under the reading standards.
Most districts use Next Generation Science Standards.
The National Council for the Social Studies’ general thematic standards can be found here. However, if you look at each district’s social studies standards, they will be more specific telling what grades teach what topics.
In your teacher’s guide, you’ll want a section that lists the standards that your book covers, so that it’s spelled out clearly for teachers. Some have to report the standards in their lesson plans.
3. Write the introduction.
You could write a script for the teacher to say to the age group of your book, or you could write some great ways to get students interested. Discuss the title and the cover. The introduction is very important to grab the attention of all students.
4. Write questions.
Write a list of comprehension questions to go along with your book. If you’re aligning your book with Common Core State Standards, then you’ll want to refer to these. Choose whether you need “Reading Informational Text” or “Reading Literature” standards.
Some common questions are: Who is the main character? What is the setting? What is the problem? Solution? What happened at the beginning, middle, and end? What’s the main idea? What details support the main idea?
For higher thinking questions or “depth of knowledge” (DOK), refer to this site that lists specific verbs to use for the different levels of questioning.
You can get fancy and make question cards — the question on one side with the answer either in small print on the bottom or on the back. Teachers can have the cards in a basket, and the students pull questions out and answer. Or you can make a comprehension worksheet with questions and lines for the answers. Or a graphic organizer.
5. Write about your author’s purpose.
Why did you write this book? Include a short paragraph in your teacher’s guide for the teacher to share with students. This is another standard that students learn about.
6. Write ways to assess.
After students have read your book, teachers like to check for comprehension.
- Graphic organizers of beginning/middle/end
- Compare/contrast graphic organizer: Compare/contrast your book to a similar book. Or compare/contrast characters in your book.
- Sequencing Worksheet: Ask your illustrator to adapt 6 to 8 illustrations from your book into small squares that students can cut and glue in order OR number in order.
- Make a crossword puzzle or word search where students are working with vocabulary words
- Online quiz/test for older students
7. Write extension activities.
- Think of a craft that goes with your book. You can invent your own or search online and list links to other crafts.
- Ask your illustrator to design paper puppets. Young students use these to retell the story.
- Ask your illustrator to make coloring sheets for young students.
- Think of projects that students could do related to your book. These might tap into other subjects. Think STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
- How can your book support STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, math)? Can they build something? Paint? Write a poem or song or blog post or digital presentation? Is there a science experiment? A famous person to research? Look online. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel.
Here is a list of links to authors’ teacher’s guides, and you can see the creativity of each author in how they market to teachers.
- Author Laura Sassi’s picture book Love Is Kind
- Author Debbie Ohi’s picture books Same & Eva and others
- Author Laura Murray’s picture books The Gingerbread Mean Loose In The School and others
- Author Tina Cho’s picture book Rice From Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans
- Author Melissa Stewart’s Feathers: Not Just for Flying
- Author Heather Montgomery’s Bugs Don’t Hug
- Author Nancy I. Sanders’ Jane Austen for Kids
- Author R.J. Palacio’s Wonder
- Author Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series
- Author Jennifer Swanson’s books, such as Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up
- Author Stacy McAnulty’s The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
- Author Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief
- Author Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone (click on the classroom guide)
- Author Winifred Conkling’s books, such as Radioactive
- Author Nikki Grimes’ Bronx Masquerade (including the Comprehension Guide, Teacher’s Guide, and Multiple Intelligence Projects)
- Author Elizabeth Partridge’s Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam
- Author Becky Albertelli’s Leah on the Offbeat (click on the reading guide)
One last source for educational activities is Teachers Pay Teachers. At this site, teachers create their own products, some of which are literature guides. Grab ideas from them! Who knows, maybe someone already created a guide for your book and is profiting.
Have fun creating your teacher’s guide. Remember, the sky’s the limit. Be creative. Think of student-friendly activities. All it takes is ONE teacher to fall in love with your guide. That teacher will share with another teacher. Then those two teachers will tell others. They will share on social media and Pinterest, and your guide will travel like wildfire through educational channels. If you have any questions, please let me know! I hope this was helpful! I’d love to see what you created.
Tina Cho is the author of four picture books — Rice from Heaven: The Secret Mission to Feed North Koreans (Little Bee Books/Bonnier Publishing, August 2018), Korean Celebrations (forthcoming Tuttle, 2019), Breakfast with Jesus (forthcoming Harvest House, 2020), and a new sale yet to be announced.
Although she grew up and taught in the United States, she currently lives in South Korea with her husband and two children while teaching at an international school.