A Quick and Easy Class Book

Kids of all ages find it easy to write from personal experiences. I’m a firm believer in getting kids to tell their own stories. And everyone has stories about older or younger siblings (or what it’s like being an only child.) With only a few weeks left before summer break, I was looking for something fun to do with the kids.  Between all the testing days, they needed something light.

So in two fifth-grade classes recently, I read aloud the book The Younger Brother’s Survival Guide by Lisa Kopelke.  We laughed together at the tips about switching glasses when your sister is not looking after she has made you a mystery concoction or rearranging her room while she is away at camp.  Being the youngest of six children I had plenty of my own tips to give so that kids wouldn’t get tricked like I had been so many times while growing up.  After the reading, I told three of my own stories and wrote my tips in front of them as models.  The students were brimming with ideas.

Next the students each wrote three tips of their own.  They could choose whether the tips were about surviving older sibs, younger ones, or being an only child (there was only one student in this last situation.) I took their papers home and chose one tip to type up for each student.  Then I cut them into strips.

Here are a few they came up with for living with younger siblings:

When your younger brother is mad or in a bad mood, watch out for your things. Guard them!

Don’t let your little sister play with water.  She’ll just flood the place.

When your younger sister is napping —- TIPTOE!  Don’t wake her up.

Don’t leave your books on the table for even five minutes.  You might come back and find some pages missing.

And a few tips for living with older siblings:

Don’t listen to your older brother when he says this roller coaster ride is like a kiddie ride.

Always agree with them.  Make life easy on yourself.

Take notes on your older sister.  See if she shows any patterns.  Then outsmart her by predicting and preparing for her next move.

Don’t believe your older brother if he says you will die from eating raw shrimp.  He just wants it all for himself.

On my return visit, we looked at the picture book again, but this time focused on the illustrations.  We noticed that the tip summarized the idea but that there was much more information in the pictures to each actual story.  I had the students illustrate their stories that led to their survival tips.  They glued their tip to the bottom of their drawing.  After that there was just a matter of a cover, a title page, and binding the books together. Each class has two books, one about older and one about younger (the only child tips were included in one of the books as a bonus section.)

It was quick and easy and I can’t tell you how much the kids enjoyed sharing their stories and survival tips!  The books are part of the classroom and the students choose to read them often.





  1. I read this book to my grade 2 students earlier in the year and as I’m wont to do when I see a writing possibility, I issued an invitation to the children to write their own survival guide. And, as is wont to happen, some kids took the invitation and ran with it. Although the book was long ago returned to the public library, I still have children writing their own survival guide books. It’s interesting to observe what books become mentor books for kids in any given year. Last year, it was Melanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series and this year it has been The Younger Brother’s Survival Guide. It’s a great book! Thanks for sharing about it.

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