Write a Teacher's Guide

How to Write a Teacher's Guide
by Louise MacBeath Barbour

The IWSG 2020 Anthology
that contains my first story
published in a book.

you have written and published a children's book!

Now comes the hard part,
promoting and selling your book.


One way to do this is to create a user-friendly teacher's guide 

that you can use during school and library visits, in presentations

at conferences, or as an exhibiter at industry events.


Yes, it's fun to share your book with children, 

but make your book user-friendly for teachers  

and they will buy copies to use in their classrooms.

Also, parents who homeschool their children

will appreciate a good book with an easy-to-use guide.


I know.  I taught elementary students for twenty-five years,
and I bought hundreds and hundreds of children's books
to use for reading aloud, small groups, and whole class instruction.
I was constantly looking for good children's fiction and non-fiction
that I could use in all areas of my elementary curriculum.
When I found a good book, I would buy ten copies
for small group use or twenty-five books for a classroom set.
This was easier for me than having a number of children share a book
or assembling a classroom set by borrowing copies from multiple libraries.
I quickly learned that a good teacher's guide saved me lots of time
with its useful information and ready-to-use activities.
Writing a teacher's guide need not be intimidating.
You can start small and go from there.
I'll start small by giving you the basic tools to create a reproducible handout as a teacher's guide.
This is easier and more cost-effective than a 32-page teacher's guide for publication.
Once you have this handout, you can decide if you want to invest
the time, effort, and money in publishing a teacher's guide.
Meanwhile you have a guide you can use in the short-term while you go big and create a guide for publication. 

Authors have used such handouts during presentations at schools, libraries, bookstores, and conferences, and I found them useful as a teacher.  My sister Roberta and I have created these handouts and used them to promote her published books.  For this teacher utility beats gloss every time.

My sister Roberta and I 
Ready to Begin a Presentation at CCIRA
(Colorado Council International Reading Association)


Let's Get Started!

There are several steps to take before writing your teacher's guide:


1.  Check your publishing contract and with your publisher to verify what material you can use from your book and how.  For example, with Voyagers,

my fellow authors and I may quote an excerpt up to 1,000 words in length to use in social media and other places to promote the book.  We can also use photographs, images, and other materials provided by our publisher. Otherwise, we are free to create and promote as we choose.  Different publishers will have different requirements, so be sure to check.  Of course,

all publishers want you to promote your books!



2.  Decide how much time, effort, and money you are willing to invest in creating a teacher's guide.  


a)  Jackpot:  If you land a publishing contract with a traditional publisher,

they may publish a teacher's guide for you or publish your written guide

and sell it with your book in bookstores and education stores.  Your publisher

may also publish an on-line teacher's guide for you.

Here's an on-line example:  Penguin



Additionally, another company may publish a teacher's guide for your book. Pictured below is a teacher's guide that I bought near the beginning of my career for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig, a book I used

over and over along with the guide.



A Resource I Used Over and Over as a Teacher

 Photo by Louise MacBeath Barbour



b)  Farm It Out:  Let's face it.  Not all authors land a publishing contract

with a publisher who will publish a teacher's guide for their book.

Another option is to hire someone to write a teacher's guide for you.

Here's an example of such a service I found on-line:

(This is an example only, not a recommendation one way or another.)

Marcie Colleen  (http://www.thisismarciecolleen.com/teachers-guides.html)


c) Do It Yourself:  Many of us will choose this option.  If you do, keep reading. 



3.  Next, determine what grades your book is suitable for. 

There are several ways you can do this:  ask a teacher or librarian,

visit a bookstore or education store and compare your book with

grade-leveled books, or search on-line for grade-leveling applications.

One calculator I have used a lot is the Fry Graph Readability Formula


A source with additional ideas is Wiki How



As a teacher I know that many classrooms contain students with a wide

range of reading abilities, from students who are reading at grade level

to students who are gifted, have learning disabilities or other challenges,

and English language learners.  Your book may be suitable for a number

of grades depending upon how a teacher uses it.


4.  Check out the education standards for your book's grade levels.

Teachers throughout the United States are accountable for their students

meeting grade level standards.  Student performance is measured by

state-mandated assessments.  Preparing students to meet these standards

and take these assessments makes huge demands on a teacher's time.

Including the appropriate standards in your teacher's guide will save

teachers time and make it more user-friendly.


Most states have adopted the Common Core State Standards,

and the Common Core State Standards Initiative, CCSSI,

is a good source for information on the standards.

CCSSI (http://www.corestandards.org)


You can find the English Language Arts Standards here


and find your state standards by clicking on your state on the map here.



States that have not adopted the Common Core State Standards

will have their standards posted on-line.  For example, google

"Texas State Education Standards" and you'll find the site. 




 Writing Your Guide:


1.  Start Small:  As I suggested earlier, start small by creating a reproducible handout as a teacher's guide, especially if this is your first attempt.  You can always go big later.  




2.  What to Include:  Again, this is a starting point on which you can build.

As a minimum I would include:


a)  About the Author:  A biography outlining who you are, what you have published, and any other information that you would like to include.


b)  Copyright Information:

      i.   For a teacher's guide handout, state that the handout may be used free of charge for educational purposes and that a teacher may reproduce copies of information and activities to use in his or her classroom.  Write "Reproducible" on each page of the teacher's guide suitable for classroom use.

     ii.  For a published teacher's guide, include standard industry copyright protections. Typically teachers may make copies for educational purposes only and may not use the information or activities for other purposes without written permission from the publisher.


c)  Table of Contents:  List each section of the teacher's guide with page numbers.


d)  Standards:  

      i.   List the English Language Arts Standards for the targeted grades that connect to the activities you have in your teacher's guide.  Include the text of the standard, so the purpose of your activity is clear.

     ii.  If your book can be used in other areas of the curriculum, such as

science, math, or social studies, list the standards for those subject too.


e)  Story Summary:  Include a brief synopsis of the book

or an introduction to the book that doesn't contain spoilers.


f)  Vocabulary List:  Include a list of unfamiliar or challenging words

and their definitions that the teacher can use as he or she chooses.

For example, some words that I would put in a vocabulary list for my

short story "Dare Double Dare" are glacial erratic, fleur-de-lis, and disorienting.  


g)  Pre-reading Activities:  Usually teachers will introduce a book with

pre-reading activities to engage students and to increase their background

knowledge about the book's content.  These activities should be fun and

motivate the students to read the book.  Create four or five activities

so the teacher will have some choices, and connect each activity to an

appropriate educational standard.


Here is a brief example of a pre-reading activity for my "Dare Double Dare."

Whole Class Discussion:  Ask the students if they have ever dared someone

to do something or if they have ever taken a dare.  Call on students

to share what happened and whether or not the dare was a good idea.  




CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.1.B describes a grade-specific common core standard.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.1.B means "Common Core State Standards.

English Language Arts-Literacy.  Speaking & Listening.  Grade 3.  Standard 1.  B."


The actual standard is "Follow agreed-upon rules for discussion (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion)."

CCSSI (http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/SL/3/)

This is what I would put in the standards section of my teacher's guide.  I would include the short form, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.1.B, with the activity. 


Some authors don't like being as specific with standards when writing a teacher's guide.  However, a teacher would appreciate the connection of an activity with a standard.


h)  Reading Activities:  A teacher chooses a book to use in the classroom thoughtfully, considering the abilities and interests of the students, the quality, content, and length of the book, and the requirements of the curriculum and standards.  Then he or she plans lessons to meet instructional goals.  For example, "Dare Double Dare" is one story in Voyagers, a book with adventurous tales appealing to middle grade readers.  The stories span the globe, time, and cultures, giving a teacher the opportunity to differentiate instruction in small groups and to use it across the curriculum, especially in social studies and history.  As a teacher, I would choose a story to read aloud to the whole class to introduce the book and to provide the class with a common experience.  Then I would branch out from there with other stories and reading activities appropriate for the instructional goals for my individual students.




i) Post-reading Activities:  Following up reading a text with post-reading activities helps students organize their ideas, summarize what they have learned, and check their understanding.  The scope of possible activities is huge and can encompass other subjects in the curriculum, such as writing, math, science, history, and social studies.


Here's an example of a post-reading writing activity for "Dare Double Dare."

Individual Writing:  Write the first draft of an opinion piece for the writing prompt "If you could travel in time, when and where would you like to go? Why?" 



j)  Bibliography with Notes:  A bibliography containing print and on-line resources for teachers is a user-friendly resource.  Adding notes can increase its usefulness.  My short story in Voyagers includes characters who are French explorers and others who are Mikmaq, and its setting is the Habitation at Port-Royal in Nova Scotia in 1605.  I would list resources for teachers and students and add explanatory notes.  


k)  Information on How to Purchase Your Book:  See an example for Voyagers at the end of this post.



3.  Go Big:  After creating a teacher's guide handout, you may decide to write and publish a teacher's guide for your book, or perhaps you would rather skip the handout and go straight to publishing a teacher's guide.  Either way, I recommend that you visit bookstores and education stores or search on-line for teacher's guides to review.  This process will give you a sense of the range of possibilities and inspire you to create a teacher's guide that works best for your book.   


If you live in the Denver area, as I do, I suggest that you visit the Tattered Cover and the Bookies bookstores.  If not, as authors, I bet you know all the great bookstores in your area!


Here are some good on-line resources to help you get started:

Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site



Chris Van Allsburg, Children's Author



Mary Pope Osborne, Children's Author



Now Go Write That Teacher's Guide!