Saturday, October 19, 2019

Fall Themed Picture Books for Upper Elementary

Fall is truly my favorite time of the year, and I also love finding simple ways to celebrate fall in the classroom. One easy way this can be done is by reading fall themed picture books to your students and incorporating them into your lessons. There are many wonderful fall themed picture books, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites that are great for upper elementary.

The Stranger

I absolutely love all of Chris Van Allsburg's picture books. Not only are the stories fun and interesting and the illustrations are just amazing, but many wonderful reading lessons for upper elementary can be developed and discussed with his picture books. The Stranger is definitely one of these picture books that is perfect for the upper elementary reading class. Students will be captivated by the story of this mysterious stranger who seems to have lost his memory after Mr. Bailey accidentally hits him with his truck. The Baileys take in the stranger and help him while he recovers. This book is ideal for teaching and modeling inferences. Several inferences can be made about the stranger by the subtle and unusual occurrences that take place at the Bailey's home. The Stranger is filled with many teaching opportunities for higher order thinking skills. For example, lessons can be modeled and discussed for change in character, the importance of setting to a story, and how changing the setting (time of year) might change the book just to name a few. This book is definitely at the top of my fall reading list!

Hello, Harvest Moon

Hello, Harvest Moon is another great picture book for upper elementary. Even though at first glance this book may seem too easy and simple for upper grade students, many in depth lessons and discussions can come from this beautifully written book. Hello, Harvest Moon is filled with wonderful poetic language, metaphors, personification, and alliteration which make it a great model text for studying figurative language and poetic language. There are many excellent teaching points in this book! Be sure to read this one to your students this fall. They will love it!

The Lonely Scarecrow

I'll admit that the reading level of this picture book is slightly lower, but this sweet story about a lonely scarecrow can be the starting point to a variety of lessons including character education, kindness, and how to treat others. Lonely Scarecrow can also be used to teach personification, metaphors, alliteration, adjectives, vivid verbs, author's word choice, and theme. This little book is can be used with a variety of lessons. I have personally used this book for many years, and my students have always enjoyed it.


When I think of fall, I think of scarecrows, so it is not surprising that I have another book about scarecrows on my favorites list. Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant is a beautifully illustrated book that is perfect to read aloud and enjoy this fall. Personification as well as similes can be modeled and discussed in this read aloud. Sometimes it is just nice to enjoy a book, and this one can be simply enjoyed, or use it as a spring board to introduce a fun fall writing activity or a fun fall scarecrow art project. Just be creative!


My last book suggestion is a fabulous nonfiction book by Seymour Simon. Your students will be fascinated by the fun facts and photos about spiders found in this wonderful book.  I have used this book when teaching cause and effect. There is no need to read the entire book for this activity. Simply pull a few pages or paragraphs from this book for a great lesson. For more ideas read my blog post HERE.

A great activity to use with any of the books above would be my fun Acorn Flipbooks (pictured above). Use these easy flipbooks with nonfiction books such as Spiders. Two versions of a fiction flipbook are also included in this packet that would be perfect to use with the fiction books on my favorites list or with any of your favorite books or stories. Fall Acorn Fiction and Nonfiction Flipbooks are a creative way to incorporate some fall fun with almost any book or story. When I created these acorn flipbooks, I was looking for a fun way for my students to reflect on and write about their reading. I knew that my students enjoyed flipbooks, so I decided to create this fun acorn shaped flipbook in which students could write about almost any fiction book (character, setting, problem, and solution) or write about nonfiction (vocabulary, cause/effect, details, and text features). I also wanted a fun way to display the students' work, so my "We're Nuts About Reading" bulletin board was created. The three versions of the acorn flipbook as well as letters and ideas to create the bulletin board can all be found in the link in the picture below. My students loved this activity, and yours will too! Check them out below and simply click on the picture for the link.

Even upper elementary students still love picture books. I hope you found a book and perhaps and idea or two that you will enjoy using with your class this fall! Thanks for visiting and be blessed!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

ABC Reading Strategy: Not Just a Brainstorm Strategy

Good reading strategies effectively help students engage with a text. A great reading strategy is not only engaging but is also flexible. It connects the reader to the text and can be used in a variety of ways.  Our school system has placed a lot of emphasis on using before, during, and after reading strategies. "Before" reading strategies activate prior knowledge before diving right into the lesson or text. "During" activities help students stay focused during the lesson. They help them make connections and monitor understanding. "After" reading strategies provide students with the opportunity to reflect, summarize, and respond to the text or to the learning. One of my favorite reading strategies to increase student learning is the ABC Reading Strategy.

The ABC Reading Strategy, or ABC Brainstorm, is one of my favorite reading strategies not only because it is very engaging for students, but also because it can easily be incorporated into almost any lesson with very little prep. This strategy is usually referred to as the ABC Brainstorm. It is designed to be a before activity to activate prior knowledge about a topic that is going to be studied. The idea is to give students the topic that is going to be studied and have students list all of the letters of the alphabet down the side of the paper, leaving room to write a word or a phrase related the the topic that begins with each letter. This works well to give students a minute or two to write as many words and phrases on their own. Then let them pair up or get with a group to complete the missing letters.While the ABC Brainstorm was designed to use as a before activity, I personally prefer using this strategy during, or after reading.

Before Reading Strategy

As a before reading strategy, students can activate prior knowledge about a topic and build knowledge through discussion before reading. Simply present a topic for students to brainstorm. Perhaps students will be reading about Pythons in the Everglades. To activate prior knowledge and prepare for this study, a teacher might have students to list animals and other information that students know about the Everglades. Using each letter of the alphabet, students will list words or phrases related to the Everglades. It is important to let students know that it is okay if they don't use all letters. After a few minutes of writing, allow students to share in small groups and combine ideas to fill in empty spaces on their own papers.

During Reading Strategy

An ABC chart can also be used as a during reading strategy to help students engage with a text. While reading about garbage in the oceans, students may use an ABC chart to identify important facts and details in the text as they read. Students may write words, phrases, or sentences from the text. (This can be your discretion.) Using the ABC strategy in this way helps students connect and interact with the text while monitor understanding. 

After Reading Strategy

Using the ABC Reading Strategy as an after reading strategy allows students to reflect on the content of a lesson. Students may use an ABC chart to help them summarize important facts and information learned in a lesson. Using the same format as above, students simply list all of the letters of the alphabet down a page. Students can then write important facts and information that they learned about the topic beginning with each letter of the alphabet.

Alternative Ideas for Using the ABC Reading Strategy

For even more flexibility, this activity can be changed up to meet the needs of your students. Over the years I have found that giving elementary students the entire alphabet can be overwhelming. For this reason, I prefer to only give part of the alphabet. For example, I may only give my students the letters A-F, or G-N (any group of letters will work). This can help make this strategy a little more manageable for students and less overwhelming. You may even assign different groups or tables in your classroom different groups of letters of the alphabet. For example, table 1 may have A-F. Table 2 may get G-L. Table 3 is assigned M-Q, and so on.

Another way to change up this strategy is to complete this as a whole group.  Create an ABC anchor chart and let the entire class contribute to its completion. I used purchased letters from the dollar store to create this anchor chart above. Add a title and the letters, then laminate. This anchor chart could be used over and over again by simply using a dry erase marker. This could be set up as a station activity, or it could be done as a whole group discussion.

Why this Strategy is Beneficial

In order to use the ABC strategy, students must be able to determine the most important events and/or summarize the events in their own words. This is not an easy task for many fourth or fifth graders. It is immediately evident when using this strategy which students need to be pulled for small group instruction to help with determining important events, summarizing, and putting information into their own words. This strategy also requires some thought process to be able to write about the text or lesson that was studied. 

ABC Reading Strategy is a great way to generate thoughts as a brainstorming activity as well as a wonderful way to evaluate learning as an after reading activity. If you have not tried this strategy, I encourage you to add it to your lessons today. It is a simple and very effective strategy to incorporate into your lessons.


I hope you found some useful ideas! Have a very blessed day, and I hope you visit my blog again soon!

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Picture Books for Teaching Metaphors

I love teaching reading, and one of my favorite things to teach is figurative language. Not only do I enjoy teaching students to find and identify different types of figurative language, I love discovering and sharing beautiful figurative language from children's books. Picture books can be a great way to share and discuss figurative language with your students. Here are some of my favorites for teaching, modeling, and discovering metaphors.

Teaching Metaphors with My Mouth is a Volcano

With this terrific book, the metaphor is right in the title. This book lends itself to great discussions about this metaphor. Also, since My Mouth is a Volcano is a great first day read-aloud, simply pull it back off the shelf  when you are ready to teach metaphors. No need to reread the entire book. Simply focus on the metaphor.

Teaching Metaphors with Barn Savers

I love the descriptive language in this simple picture book that describes a boy's day helping his father work to salvage a barn. This book features a wonderful metaphor in the very first sentence of the book. Not only does this make this book a wonderful book for teaching metaphors, it would also be a great book for teaching creative ways to use figurative language as a grabber lead for narratives. Descriptive adjectives, alliteration, and similes also fill the pages of this great book.

Teaching Metaphors with The Lonely Scarecrow

Not only is The Lonely Scarecrow just a sweet story to share with your students, it is chocked-full of figurative language. There are several wonderful metaphors to discuss with your students or to chart and use as mentor metaphor sentences.

Teaching Metaphors with Owl Moon

Many great reading and writing lessons can be taught using this classic picture book, and teaching metaphors is definitely one great way to use Owl Moon. Some metaphors include: "I was a shadow as we walked home." and "The mood made his face into a silver mask."  

Teaching Metaphors with Hello, Harvest Moon

It is difficult to find a picture book with more than just a couple of metaphors, but the author of Hello, Harvest Moon has filled this book with several beautiful metaphors for you and your students to relish and discuss. This poetic book beautifully captures the essence of a moonlit night. It is great for teaching poetic language and visual imagery. There are so many lessons that can be pulled from these magical pages! The possibilities are endless!

Teaching Metaphors with Saturdays and Teacakes

I saved my personal favorite (from this list) for last! If you are not familiar with Saturdays and Teacakes, then this is a must to add to your library. I love how the author recalls memories of simple Saturdays that he spent with his grandmother. The author uses beautiful descriptive language, personification, similes, onomatopoeia, and of course rich metaphors to draw the reader into this sweet narrative. You and your students will love this book!

Figurative Language Posters

Having a classroom reference of figurative language definitions and examples can be very helpful to your students. This beautiful set of figurative language posters make a great reference to use when teaching not only metaphors, but similes, personification, idioms, and more! They make a perfect addition to your reading classroom. Find them HERE.

Using picture books to find and discuss meanings of metaphors is a great way to introduce, review, and encourage students to begin writing their own metaphors. Once you begin sharing metaphors, your students will probably surprise you with metaphors that they discover in their own independent reading. 

Have a blessed day, and happy reading!