Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Breaking Down a Text to Increase Reading Comprehension

In any elementary reading classroom, helping students to comprehend what they read is always at the forefront of the reading teacher's mind.  Explicitly teaching reading strategies and skills, teacher modeling, collaborative use, and guided practice are all key components of good teaching practices, but what can teachers do once these steps have been taken to insure that students have opportunities to independently use and practice reading strategies and insure that students are comprehending? Allowing students to break down a text, can be an excellent way for students to show their understanding of the text and improve comprehension. 

Breaking down a text can help increase reading comprehension. This strategy includes looking closely at, identifying, and writing about elements such as: character, setting, problem, solution, beginning, middle, end, summary, facts, etc. Finding a tool to help students break down a text can help students enhance their understanding of what they are reading. Finding a tool that not only helps students break down the text but is also fun is a win-win.

Winter Mittens Flipbooks not only are fun and motivating for students, but they are designed to help students break down the text (both fiction and nonfiction) in order for them to dig into comprehending. These flipbooks are highly engaging for students and are a very effective way for students to think about and write about what they have read. Use these flipbooks in a variety of ways in your classroom. Use with independent reading, literature circles, classroom novels, homework, book reports, and more. Best of all, your students will love them!

Included in this Winter Mittens Flipbooks packet are three mitten flipbooks. Two fiction flipbooks and one nonfiction flipbook are included to help students break down what they have read.

Fiction flipbook one breaks down the text into: 

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Problem
  • Solution
Students will write about the character of the book, describe the setting, explain the problem and the solution. By doing this, students are able to look closely at the text as well as summarize while explaining these story elements.

Fiction flipbook two breaks down the text into:

  • Beginning
  • Middle 
  • End
This flipbook is perfect to help students summarize by breaking down the text into the beginning , middle , and the end.

The nonfiction flipbook allows students to break down the text into:

  • Summary
  • Facts
  • Text Features
After reading nonfiction text, students can use this flipbook to write a summary of the text, list important facts, and identify text features found in the text. 

Once you choose the book that best meets the needs of your students, you may decide to display the completed mittens in the hallway or create an eye-catching bulletin board similar to the picture below. Letters for the bulletin board are included in the packet. Simply print on colored paper and cut out. Arrange the mittens around the board. Add your own snowflakes and white rope to create an eye-catching display. Your students will love seeing their work. 

Simply click on any picture to purchase my Winter Mittens Flipbooks and have your students creating these fun winter flipbooks.

Happy Reading! Have a blessed day!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Main Idea Activity

For upper elementary students, main idea is an important skill, but it can be difficult for some students to master. When students are able to determine the main idea of a text and identify details to support the main idea, it helps them remember important information and better understand what they are reading. Because of the difficulty that many students have with identifying main idea, much practice is needed throughout the school year.

After initially teaching main idea and details early in the year, I try to give students many opportunities throughout the school year to practice and revisit this important skill. One simple and engaging activity to use is this easy main idea activity that incorporates a little "fun" into the lesson. To peak students' interests and create an engaging lesson, I incorporated directed drawing, index cards, and writing into a fun, simple, and engaging main idea activity that your students will love!

This fun activity is not designed or ideal for introducing main idea. Instead, this lesson is one that provides scaffolding and support for students as they review and practice main idea after it has been taught. For this lesson, I chose the high interest expository text Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again. The students and I read and discussed this text together. As we read the book, I stopped at certain predetermined pages and modeled identifying the main idea and details. Slowly, I released the responsibility to the students and allowed them to turn and talk about the main idea of specific pages or paragraphs. 

The following day I gave each student an index card. Students then drew a dolphin using a directed drawing lesson that I found online HERE. (I am in no way affiliated with Art Hub for Kids and have not received any type of compensation for this blog post.  This is simply a great drawing website that I enjoy using with my class. I personally use the free resources found on the website.) There are many other directed drawing books or resources that can be found and used instead. Once students completed their dolphins, I gave each student three more index cards. Students wrote "Main Idea" at the top of the first card, "Details" at the top of the second,  and "Summary" at the top of the third. Next, I  wrote three page numbers from the book, Winter's Tail, on the board. These were the same pages that I had used to model main idea in yesterday's lesson. Students chose one of the pages for their project, reread the page, and found or determined the main idea and wrote it on the "Main Idea" index card. Then they reread the page to find at least three details that supported the main idea and wrote them on the "Details" index card. Last, students wrote a summary of the entire book on the "Summary" card. (Note: Summary is a skill that we have been working on in class almost weekly. It is not a new skill.) 

I took large pieces of construction paper (12" x 18") and cut them into 1" x 18" strips. I gave each student one strip of paper. Each student then glued the dolphin index card to the top of the construction paper. Below that (leaving about a 1" space) each student glued the "Main Idea index" card. Then, skipping about 1" below that, each student glued the "Details" index card, and the "Summary" card was glued to the bottom. I know my students loved this because one student said, "We need to do this more often. This is fun!" 

Other great model texts to use with your students when finding main idea include: The Statue of Liberty by Mary Firestone and Matthew Skeens, You Wouldn't Want to Be a Worker on the Statue of Liberty by John Malam, Ice Cream by Gail Gibbons, Chicks & Chickens by Gail Gibbons, Great Migrations Whales by Laura Marsh, and Great Migration Butterflies by Laura Marsh. Any of these books would work very well with this lesson.

Who doesn't love ice cream? This text is not only high interest, but it is also a great text if your students are struggling with main idea. 

Students love learning about the Statue of Liberty, especially with this high interest book. Students will also love drawing a fun little Statue of Liberty for their Main Idea display.  Once complete, hang these in the hall or on a bulletin board. They are a great way to display the skills that your students have been learning.

I hope you find something here that you and your students will enjoy. Have a blessed day!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Personification Lesson Ideas

One of my favorite things to teach is figurative language.  I enjoy helping students identify figurative language, discover it in stories and poems, and ponder what it means and why the author chose to write or describe something in such a creative way. Often times, students are able to communicate ideas and  meanings of figurative language that I have not considered. I love these discussions and discoveries that we make together.

Personification is a type of figurative language in which authors give non-human objects or things human characteristics. When students are exposed to personification in literature, the words create a startling and unique visual image that captures the reader's imagination. I have found that personification can be challenging for some students, but with much exposure to literature containing personification, students are able to become equipped with the skills needed to identify and discuss personification.

Here are a few ideas to help your older students understand personification.


The Widow's Broom, Hello, Harvest Moon, Lonely Scarecrow, Apples to Oregon, and The Spider and the Fly are excellent books for teaching personification.

There are many great books that can be used for teaching students personification. A few of my favorite fall books include: The Widow's Broom, Hello, Harvest Moon, Lonely Scarecrow, Apples to Oregon, and The Spider and the Fly. Each one of these books has great examples of personification, but my favorite to use is Hello, Harvest Moon

Hello, Harvest Moon poetically describes the beauty of the harvest moon as well as its effects on nature using figurative language. This book is packed full of many unique examples of personification. Similes and metaphors are abundant as well. Because of the sheer number of examples of personification, this is an excellent book to use as an introductory lesson.

Anchor Chart:

I created this anchor chart to help my students identify and remember personification. I thought the fall theme went great with the fall themed books that I shared with my class. I don't always have a lot of time to create anchor charts. One time saving tip: enlarge and print out your favorite clip art to glue to your anchor chart. Then add the wording as needed. This adorable clip art is from Creating4 the Classroom. 

Show Me the Card:

This easy game is a fun way for your students to review personification along with similes and metaphors. To play, students will listen as you read a sentence aloud. The students will then listen for a simile, a metaphor, or personification and will hold up the corresponding card. Also included in this packet is a graphic organizer and a worksheet to practice or to use as an assessment. You and your students will enjoy this easy activity.  Simply click HERE to find everything you need for this activity in my Show Me the Card Activity.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a blessed day!

By the way, I'd love for you to follow me on Instagram!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

October Reading and Grammar Ideas

It is hard to believe that October is already here! This month can be a great time for teachers to fill lesson plans with some fun activities that are fall and Halloween related. To add a little fun to your lessons, here are some simple, but fun ideas for the month of October.

Read-Alouds for October:

One of the easiest ways to add some October fun to your reading lessons is with books. Here are a few of my favorite read-alouds for this month.

The Best Halloween Ever

The Best Halloween Ever is another book in the series by Barbara Robinson that will have your students laughing nonstop. (If you have not read The Best School Year Ever and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, they are some of my students' favorites!) The hilarious antics of the Herdmans continue in this funny book that your students will love. This is a perfect book to read and enjoy in October!

The Spider and the Fly

Now, I love a beautiful picture book, and this one definitely fits into that category. This picture book beautifully illustrates the poem by Mary Howitt originally published in 1828. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, but they will help students to understand the poem. I love to engage students in discussions of the illustrations and how they contribute to the poem, how the illustrations contribute to the mood of the poem, and once the book is read, discuss the theme of the poem.

The Widow's Broom

Chris Van Allsburg is one of my favorite children's authors and illustrators, and The Widow's Broom is my favorite October picture book, hands-down. This book can be used to teach a variety of strategies and skills, but best of all, this is such a wonderful story to read.

The story begins with a widow named Mina Shaw. While flying her broom over the widow's farm, a witch falls to the earth when her broom looses its magic. When Mina Shaw finds the witch, she decides to welcome her into her home so she may heal from her injuries. Once better, the witch leaves, leaving the broom behind. At first, the widow finds the broom ordinary, but eventually she realizes it is magical, and it becomes annoying because of its constant sweeping. Soon she teaches it other chores, and the broom becomes a very helpful companion to Mina Shaw. The neighbors, the Spiveys, cannot see the good the broom is doing, and they believe the broom is evil. After the broom teaches the Spivey boys a lesson, the father wants it destroyed.  When men come to take the broom, Widow Shaw shows them where the broom sleeps, and Mr. Shaw along with other men take the broom and burn it; however, the "ghost" of the broom is soon seen around the Spivey house causing the scared Spiveys to move away. At the end, readers discover that the widow tricked the Spiveys by giving them a regular broom.

 Students must make inferences to understand the end of the story. It is always so much fun to see the "light bulb" moment when students realize and understand what truly happens to the broom at the end of the story. This book also great to teach story elements, theme, foreshadowing, point of view, as well as acceptance and bullying.

Graphic Organizers for October:

Whether you are reading an October themed book or not, October themed graphic organizers are a great way to add some fun and interest to your reading lessons. My set of Halloween themed graphic organizers are great to use with not only the books listed above, but they are also great to use with almost any book or text. A variety of fun graphic organizers are included such as the one seen in the picture above. There are also graphic organizers that can be used with nonfiction text, like the one pictured below. Click on either picture to find them in my TpT store.

October Parts of Speech Quilts:

My Halloween themed parts of speech quilts are a fun way for your students to review the parts of speech. Your students will love coloring to identify the parts of speech while creating fun quilt pieces that make a great hallway or bulletin board display. I love using these after a test or on days that we do not have specials (activity). 

October Callbacks

A great way to keep your students focused this October is to use callbacks. These are my favorite October callbacks to use with my students. Surprisingly, even 4th and 5th graders enjoy using callbacks. Best of all, they really work to get students focused and ready to listen. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Superhero Activities for Back to School

Each year our school incorporates a school-wide theme at the beginning of the year. The theme is always the inspiration that we use to decorate our hallways and create fun activities for the beginning of the school year. This year, our school-wide theme is Superheroes. For me this is such an appropriate theme this year because I could use a few superpowers to help with the changes that are taking place for me. I am moving up to 5th grade this year, and although I have been in 5th before, it has been a long time. Even though it will be a lot of work, I am looking forward to a super year!

There are so many fun ways to incorporate this school-wide Superhero theme into our first day and first week activities. Be sure to read the entire article for some free and easy activity ideas for activities for a Superhero theme back to school year.

Superhero Activity Packet

The Superhero First Day Activities packet is filled with some easy print-and-go activities that your students will love! 10 fun hero themed activities are included in this back to school packet. Activities included range from get-to-know-you activities to art activities that can be displayed in the hallways. The fun activity pictured above is included in this packet. Students draw and write about themselves to create this adorable and fun display. This is perfect for your hallways or bulletin boards. Just click the link above for a link to the packet.

Superhero All About Me

What better way to get to know your students on the first day of school than with the All About Me Posters? This Superhero All About Me Packet is a perfect way to incorporate a hero theme in your first day activities. My students love completing these posters, sharing them, and seeing them displayed in the hallway. Use these for the first day of school, birthdays, student VIP's, and more! Find them in my store.

Superhero Motivational Posters

One simple way to incorporate a superhero theme throughout your entire school year is to use these Superhero Motivational Posters. Not only are these posters bright, fun, and colorful, but they also provide students with a reminder of goals to work toward during this school year. Display these on a wall or on a bulletin board. Use them each day to help teach students positive classroom behavior. You and your students will love these Superhero Posters found in my store. 

Superhero Easy Activities

Here are some fun and free ideas that fit in perfectly with a superhero theme!

Superhero Goals

Post 4-5 pictures of recognizable Superheroes around the room. Tell students that they are going to pick a Superhero picture to stand next to. They need to think about which Superhero's qualities best relate to them and describe the goals that they would like to reach this year. Once the students move to the Superhero of their choice, give each group a sticky note and assign a writer. Students will write down how their goals relate to this Superhero. Then share. This activity requires some deep thinking and is probably best for upper grades. My 5th graders loved this, and they came up with some wonderful ideas such as, "We want to be like this superhero because we want to fly high with our grades this year."  "We want to be like this superhero and be a strong reader." This activity is a fun way to get the students up and moving, working with others in the classroom, and get them thinking.

Superhero Collage

Divide your class into groups of 4-5 students. Give each student a large sheet of paper, glue, scissors, markers, and an assortment of printed superhero pictures and symbols. Instruct students to create a Superhero collage that represents them and this new school year. Students might even think of a Superhero classroom name and place it at the top of the page. After all groups have finished with their collages, students may share with the entire class. 

Superhero Comparison

Give each student a Venn diagram. Instruct students to label one side with their name and the other side with a famous superhero of their choice. Students will use the Venn diagram to write about differences between themselves and this superhero. Then they will write about similarities between themselves and the superhero in the center. For example, a student might be like a particular superhero because they both like to do nice things for other people.

Play Guess Which Super Student

Pass out index cards. Instruct students to write his/her name at the top. Then tell students to each list 2 facts about themselves that they would like to share with the class. Finally, have students name the superhero they are most like and why. Take cards up. Read each card aloud and allow other students to guess who wrote it. This is a fun ice breaker that the students love. Another option is instead of reading all of the cards at once, share them throughout the day or even the first week.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a blessed day and a super year!