realistic fiction

I recently spotted Death By Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart at the school book fair.  I mean, just look at that cover!  I actually picked it up a few times before I committed to buying it.  Usually a book featuring toilet paper in its title would not be something I would find interesting, but this book seemed different.  It wasn't a comic-style book like I expected.  It also didn't seem to be about gross humor.  Instead, this is a realistic fiction book that takes you from happy to sad and back again.

It turns out this book is written by the same author as Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen - which was a Sunshine State Book.  If you read Olivia Bean and liked it, you will love Death by Toilet Paper.

Summary of Death by Toilet Paper

I don't want to give away too much of the story, but it is about dealing with loss and facing adversity.  Ben is a middle school boy whose hobby is to enter contests.  He actually receives a monthly flyer that summarizes internet and mail-in contests!  He enters contests that seem promising.

 Ben and his family are struggling to make ends meet, and no one outside the family really knows how bad things are.  His mom is struggling to finish her accounting degree so she can get a better job.  Waitressing just isn't enough to pay the rent.  On top of that, Ben's grandpa shows up at the apartment and wants to stay with them, stretching an already tight budget.  (The reader soon finds out the Grandpa is dealing with dementia.)  Ben decides that he will win a toilet paper jingle contest to help his mom.

Honestly, toilet paper is everywhere in this book - in a good way.  There are TP facts at the beginning of each chapter.  There is a tragedy involving toilet paper (seriously).  Ben enters two contests about toilet paper. (Wait until you read about the toilet paper zombie bride!)

Teaching Death by Toilet Paper

I want to emphasize that this book has an amazing story.  Students will root for these characters.  Your class will be on pins and needles waiting to find out if they had enough money for rent or if Ben won the contests.  Teachers can focus on characterization with this story.  Ben, his mom, and grandpa are all great characters to discuss.  Teachers can also use the story to talk about coping with loss.  (Ben and his mom are dealing with their loss differently).  I highly recommend this book for grades 4 - 6.

Grammar Games

Are you looking for easy ways to increase engagement in math and grammar?  Yahtzy games are the BEST!  They are easy to learn and play, and require few supplies.  Yahtzy also has differentiation built into the game!  Players that need more time can take it, or players can play as a team or ask other players for help.

Increase Student Engagement with Games

Who wants to go outside?!  Alright - Yahtzy on the grass for you!  And you!  And you!

I love Yahtzy.  In my house it was a super competitive game.  My youngest sister had to body block the rest of us so we wouldn't scoop up the dice before she had them counted.  (Clearly being the youngest had some drawbacks...)
That being said, student engagement increases when the activity is fun!  And Yahtzy is fun.  Turns are fast - three rolls and your turn is over.  Change up your location to increase engagement - sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery.

Supplies to Make a Classroom Yahtzy

For the classroom, I created Yahtzy games that can be played anywhere!  I bought wastebaskets and foam dice at the local dollar store, and then just printed the dice templates and score cards.  Why did I get foam dice?  I built the paper dice around them.  It is totally worth the extra money, because the dice have some weight. They are easier to take outside and are protected from blowing away or getting crushed.  (You could also use packing tape to seal the dice, but I didn't go that far.)

The garbage cans make great shakers!  Easy to shake the dice and toss.  If you are really ambitious, you can use a cutting machine to add Yahtzy to the cans.  As it is the end of the year, I am more worried about simply surviving.  Beauty can come later.

If you have hula hoops, use them to mark off the playing field.  This helps keep students in one place;)


I really love Yahtzy, and I want you to love Yahtzy, too.  Place Value Yahtzy is available free in my TPT store.  Students use critical thinking to determine how to make the largest numbers with their dice.  It is best for 3rd and 4th grades, but it could be played in 5th as well.

I also have Decimal Yahtzy and Grammar Yahtzy.  More math games are on their way.  If you have any specific topics you would like, please let me know and I will try to make them for you.

Happy Teacher Appreciation!

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