The Tiger Rising: The book I couldn’t stand. At first.

That’s right.  I couldn’t stand a book–and that’s rare for me!  Several years ago, my team wanted us all to read “The Tiger Rising” to go with our realistic fiction unit, so I read it.  Then I read it again.  And again.  Each time I disliked it more.  I told them that I just couldn’t do it–I couldn’t invest that much in a book I didn’t enjoy myself.  They were fine with that…so I went on a quest for a new book to use.
novel study Tiger Rising
Here’s the deal–the more I thought about it, the more I felt I should do what my team was doing so we could have quality discussions about how we were using the text and so on.  Our unit was a new one, and I felt it would be odd to be the lone defector.  Besides, I reminded myself, it isn’t about ME, right?  So I made the commitment to read the book with my class.
novel study Kate di Camillo
So I took it on and we dug in–despite my misgivings.

Seriously…each day as we read my students got deeper and deeper into it and we had some of the BEST discussions I have ever had with fourth graders.  From my top readers to my strugglers, everyone found a way to connect to this text.  We talked about bullying.  And we talked about characters.  We talked about death.  And we talked about animal cruelty.  But most of all…we talked about how powerful books can stay with you forever.  Another amazing thing happened–students all began to understand that they could HANDLE these very “grown up” texts.

Making books like “The Tiger Rising” matter

So often we break reading up into its small components like fluency and context clues–especially for our lower readers–and we don’t give them enough time to just immerse themselves in wonderful stories.  I’ve always said, if a child is reading at a “Henry and Mudge” level, they still MUST be exposed to rich, sophisticated literature or they will never learn how to read it and think about it.  Our read aloud texts are the perfect way to do this.

I am getting ready for my fifth year of reading this book with my students, and I can’t wait to see what elements this group relates to the most.  Each year we seem to take a slightly different spin on it, but the effect is the same–books can make us FEEL, and when we can learn to do that with a read aloud, we can learn to do it when we read on our own.  So this fall as we begin our study of this masterpiece, I am reminded that teaching isn’t about me…it’s about my learners and the interactions and experiences I provide for them.  I can’t wait–and a good reminder that we don’t have to LIKE something…we just have to be open to learning how to love it!

Kate di Camillo novel study
I even invested in a set of 25 so we could use the text later in the year to “dig deeper” and go hunt for evidence!  We ended up talking about this book and the characters ALL year.

More about narrative writing…

To help me and other teachers really dig into this book, I have also created a novel study to go along with it.  I hope you find it helpful.  Use it to help guide your discussions or to provide occasional writing reflection opportunities. It helps me make sure to maximize the content of the book without having to take copious notes.  See what you think.  It’s even updated for digital access to make sure you have TONS of flexibility!

The Tiger Rising is a wonderful text to use to teach comprehension strategies. Check out the post for more!

I also use this book as the mentor text for our narrative writing unit.  Check out some of the engaging, standards-based resources I use to teach narrative writing along the way.  Click the image below or RIGHT HERE to see this bundle of 4 different resources meant to help you teach narrative writing!  Interested in reading a few blog posts about what I do? Here’s one of my favorites.  Or for a second one, just CLICK HERE!

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The Tiger Rising, novel study, teaching character, read aloud, book clubs, literature circles, Kate DiCamillo, reader's notebook, reader's response, response to reading