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The Best Books for Teaching Mental Images

Debbie Miller, Reading, Reading with Meaning

I love to use picture books for teaching mental images in my elementary classroom. Creating a mental image or visualizing is an important comprehension skill for all readers. We want students to be able to picture what’s happening or make a movie in their mind to help increase their understanding of what they are reading.  

I use mentor texts when I am teaching mental image skills. When we are working on visualizing – I do not show the illustrations to my students when I read the book. I often hide the cover of a book by putting it in a file folder and then don’t show the pictures as I’m reading. While I’m reading students are closing their eyes and creating their own images. I will often have them stop and sketch their image on a sticky note to see how it changes throughout the story.  

They do love to see the pictures so I will often re-read the story at a later time and let them see the illustrations. It’s fun for them to see if their mental images match with the book’s pictures.

Here is a list of 3 of my favorite books for teaching mental images…

This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

The Napping House

Photo of the cover of the book - The Napping House

The Napping House by Audrey Wood is a one of the books for teaching mental images that I use when we start our visualizing unit.  This is a great book to use to stop at various points to have kids share or sketch their mental images because they will change throughout the book.

The book starts with a house where everyone is sleeping.  The granny is sleeping in her bed and as the story goes on a child joins her and then a dog and so on until the bed breaks at the end!

When I use this book for teaching mental images, I give students four sticky notes and then pick four points to stop in the book. I then send them to sketch their current image and at the end we do a gallery walk and see how their mental image has changed over time.

The Salamander Room

Photo of the cover of the book The Salamander Room for teaching mental images

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer is another one of my favorite books for teaching mental images.  This book is also great to use and stop at various points for students to see how their image changes over time.

In The Salamander Room, a boy named Brian finds a salamander and decides to bring him home with him. Brian’s mom then inquires about where this salamander is going to sleep. Brian tells a very detailed description of all of the things he’ll bring into his room for the salamander – tree stumps for him to climb, wet leaves for him to play with, etc.  He then adds in other animals to keep the salamander company/feed him and his room turns into a forest oasis! 

I use this book like I do The Napping House. Students again will stop at a few specific points and sketch or share their mental image.  We then discuss how and why their mental image changes throughout the story and how it helps them understand the story.


Photo of cover of Mental Images book - Pigsty with photo of kid and 2 pigs.

Pigsty by Mark Teague is a hilarious and fun book to use for teaching mental images. When we read this book in class, we do come up with mental images throughout the book, but we aren’t sketching as we go. For this one, I ask students to come up with their most vivid mental image to record at the end.

In the story Pigsty, Wendell’s room is a big mess and his mother is after him to clean it. She told him it was turning into a “pigsty.” When Wendell went up to his room to clean, he found an actual pig on his bed. As the story continues, more pigs join and also help him create more of a mess.  Wendell then becomes upset when they start to ruin some of his things and decides it’s time to finally clean. The pigs helped him clean, but then decided they were on their way because his room was too clean for their liking. 

When I use this book for teaching mental images, I again do not show the pictures.  Students are coming up with their own visualizations.  At the very end, I ask students to draw their strongest, most vivid mental image and write a sentence describing it.  We then do a gallery walk so the students can see what mental image the other students picked.


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Benefits of Using Book Studies in the Classroom

Book Clubs, Books, Reading
picture of three children laying on their stomachs and reading

As educators, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to engage and inspire our students, and book studies provide a fantastic opportunity to do just that. By immersing students in the world of literature, we can ignite their imagination, encourage critical thinking, foster empathy, and nurture a lifelong love for reading. In this post, we’ll look into the numerous benefits that book studies bring to the classroom, highlighting why they are such a valuable tool for both educators and students.

Improving Reading Comprehension

Picture of Cam Jansen Book Study packet and Cam Jansen the Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones book.

Book studies can improve reading comprehension by providing opportunities for discussion and clarification. By engaging students in a focused exploration of a specific book, educators create a structured environment that encourages deeper understanding. Through guided discussions, thoughtful questioning, and interactive activities, students are prompted to interpret the text, make connections, and extract meaning from the story. As they delve into the characters, plot, themes, and literary techniques, students develop a more nuanced comprehension of the material.

Book studies provide opportunities for students to practice essential reading strategies, such as making predictions, visualizing scenes, and drawing inferences. As a result, students not only become more proficient readers but also develop a greater appreciation for literature.

Fostering Collaboration and Communication Skills

Picture of 3 kids reading books laying on their stomachs.

Think Oprah’s book club and how book clubs provide a great opportunity for people to share and have conversations about a like text. Book studies offer a fantastic platform for fostering collaboration and enhancing communication skills in the classroom, all while having a great time together!

When students come together to discuss a book, they not only share their individual perspectives but also learn to actively listen and respect the viewpoints of their peers. Group discussions provide a safe space for students to express their thoughts, ask questions, and engage in meaningful conversations. These interactions promote critical thinking, as students learn to support their opinions with evidence from the text and respectfully challenge one another’s ideas.

Provides Students a Chance to Practice Written Responses

Book studies photo - Jake Drake Know-It-All book and book study packet

Book studies provide an excellent opportunity for students to hone their written response skills in a fun and engaging way! As students dive into the rich world of literature, they are prompted to articulate their thoughts, insights, and reflections through writing.

Whether it’s composing thoughtful journal entries, crafting persuasive essays, or answering reading comprehension questions, book studies encourage students to express themselves effectively in written form. This practice not only strengthens their ability to communicate ideas coherently but also cultivates critical thinking and analytical skills. By engaging in written responses, students learn to analyze literary elements, support their opinions with textual evidence, and develop their unique writing style.

Providing a Fun and Engaging Way to Learn

Book studies ignite a spark of curiosity and imagination. As students dive into the pages of a book together, they embark on thrilling journeys, encounter fascinating characters, and unravel captivating mysteries. This interactive approach to learning not only increases student motivation but also fosters a genuine love for reading.

By experiencing the magic of storytelling firsthand, students develop a personal connection to the books, making reading an engaging and fulfilling activity. The discussions, activities, and projects that accompany book studies add a layer of excitement, turning reading into a collaborative and dynamic experience. Book Studies can also be a great way to introduce authors and/or a series to students.

Book Studies FREEBIE

Photo of notebook with green paper card that says, "Share a connection you have to the story" with a pencil and Cam Jansen book.

Grab these FREE Discussion Question Cards for your students to use and respond to in their reading response journals. These generic questions will work with most fiction books. Click HERE to get the FREEBIE.

For More Info…

Photo of Surprises According to Humphrey book study packet and chapter book.

How I Use Book Studies in My Classroom

Book Studies on TPT

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3 Book Ideas for Teaching Students to Make Connections

Photo of book Super Completely and Totally the Messiest and schema anchor chart

Teaching students to make connections is an important reading comprehension skill. It’s important for students to be able to connect to what they are reading to help them understand it at a deeper level. Today I’m sharing with you some of my favorite picture books to use for this reading skill. These picture books work great for text-to-self connections. 

Making Connection Book Recommendations

This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

Photo of book Super Completely and Totally the Messiest

Super Completely and Totally the Messiest

This hilarious story has many connections for anyone who is messy or knows someone who is messy. Olivia’s sister, Sophie is the messiest person around and students will love coming up with connections to the crazy things that happen. This is one of my favorite books to use with making connections and I often start with this book!

Photo of book Ira Sleeps Over

Ira Sleeps Over

Most kids can relate to the excitement and nervousness that comes with your very first sleepover, which is the focus on this story. Ira is excited for his first sleepover, but also unsure about bringing his teddy bear. Students often relate to the special stuffed animal, feelings about his older sister, and feelings surrounding the sleepover.

Photo of book Charlie Anderson

Charlie Anderson

Charlie Anderson is a sweet story about a cat who goes between two houses – one during the day and one at night, but the owners don’t know that at the beginning. This is a great book for students who have two or more houses to connect with. Students will also be able to connect to having a pet and worrying about what might happen to that pet if it was missing.

More Book Recommendations

For more book recommendations, check out the blog posts below…

8 Favorite Writing Mentor Texts

Picture Books for Opinion Writing

Picture Books for Place Value

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Comparing and Contrasting Fiction Stories


Comparing and contrasting fiction stories is one of my favorite ELA literature skills to teach! There are so many fun books you can use and I love using thinking maps to help the kids with their comparisons. In this post, I’ll share with you some fun book pairings and also how I use thinking maps to help students compare.

Book Suggestions:

I love using Fairy tale books for this standard! There are so many different versions of each fairy tale that you’ll have tons of options to choose from. Below you’ll find a few of my favorites!

Please note Amazon affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Photos of


Seriously Cinderella is SO Annoying

Cinder Edna


Cindy Ellen

The Egyptian Cinderella

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk Book Versions

Jack and the Beanstalk

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Trust Me, Jack’s Beanstalk Stinks!

Waynetta and the Cornstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries

Jack’s Giant Problem

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Goldilocks and Just the One Bear

Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood

Honestly, Red Riding Hood was Rotten

Petite Rouge

Lon Po Po

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

Little Red’s Riding’Hood

The 3 Little Pigs

The Three Little Pigs

No Lie, Pigs  (And Their Houses) Can Fly

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

The Three Little Javelinas

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig

Tell The Truth B.B. Wolf

Double Bubble Map:

Thinking Maps are one of my favorite ways for students to organize and display their ideas!  I have been trained on this at a past school and used them with my classes ever since! I love that they are easy-to-use and a great way to organize kids thoughts.

For comparing and contrasting fiction stories I like to use the Double Bubble Map. This is very similar to a Venn diagram. For the double bubble map, you put the two books on different sides and on the outside of those you add things from the story that are different about the books. Then, in the middle you put the things that are the same.  Again very similar to a Venn diagram so you could use either.

See below to check out a Double Bubble Map I created with a first grade class comparing and contrasting – No Lie, Pigs Can Fly and The 3 Little Pigs.

ELA Standards:

These book ideas work very well to cover RL2.9 – Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures. Some of the picture books also work well for RL2.6 – Acknowledge the differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.

January Classroom Ideas

Reading, Math

Please note Amazon affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Blog Header for January Classroom Ideas. Photos of Snowmen Book, Free Writing Prompt, Word Activity, and Crumpled paper.

Today I’ll be rounding up a variety of teaching ideas that you can use during the month of January. I will share some engaging books, activities, and a FREEBIE that you can use with your class.

January Book Suggestions:

Photos of 5 January Books - The Mitten, How to Catch a Snowman, Snowmen at Night, Sneezy the Snowman, and Snow Globe Family

Here are five fun books that you can share with your class during the month of January.

January Classroom Ideas for Grouping Students:

Photo of crumpled paper for January Classroom Idea

One of my favorite greetings for Morning Meeting is the Snowball Greeting, which can also be used to help group or partner students. For this snowball activity, each student will need a piece of blank paper and they’ll write their name in the middle of it. Then, students will stand in a circle and crumple their paper up (making it a snowball). Then, you’ll announce snowball fight and students will toss their paper/snowball into the middle of the circle. Students will then go into the middle to grab a snowball (you’ll want to go over expectations for this so it doesn’t turn into chaos). Students will read the name on the snowball they grabbed and that will then be their partner for the activity or discussion. You can also have students continue to do this after each question so they get a different partner to work with each time.

January Resource Suggestions:

Photo of January Slides, Word problem, and making words activity for January Classroom Ideas.

Here are three of my favorite resources to use during the month of January…

  1. January Morning Meeting Activity Slides – You’ll have your entire month of January planned out for Morning Meeting Activities with this easy-to-use resource! Includes activities like Noggle, Word Creator, Story Starter, Quick Draw, and more! Click HERE to grab these for your class.
  2. Winter Word Problems – I love using word problems in the classroom since they hit so many skills (addition, subtraction, strategies, problem solving, and more). These winter themed word problems are great for independent practice, can be used as an Around the Room Activity, and more! Get these word problems HERE for your math students! (Digital and Print and Digital Bundle are also available in my store).
  3. Winter Making Words – Students love this activity and it is perfect for a literacy station! Students cut up the letters and use those letters to make as many words as they can. They also are working to figure out what the mystery word is using all of their letters! Grab it HERE for your class.

January Classroom Ideas FREEBIE:

Photo of Free Writing Prompts with Snowman Prompt - How to Build a Snowman

These FREE Winter Writing Prompts are perfect to use in your classroom during the month of January! This FREEBIE includes 4 different prompts total and cover narrative, opinion, and procedural writing. These engaging prompts are great to use as a writing warm-up, for homework, literacy stations, and more! Grab this FREEBIE >>> HERE.

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Teaching Mental Images

Blog heading for Ideas for Teaching Mental Images

This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

Mental Images is one of my favorite reading comprehension skills to teach! It is such an important concept for students to learn and can be helpful with boosting their comprehension and understanding of stories! Today I’ll be sharing with you my favorite books to use for teaching mental images and some lesson ideas!

Debbie Miller also has an amazing teaching resource – Reading with Meaning – that has lots of great ideas for mental images and many other reading skills! I highly suggest checking it out!

Book Suggestions for Mental Images:

The Napping House by Audrey Wood

The Napping House picture book for Mental Images

This comical story is all about a house where everyone is napping. It starts off with a granny who is asleep and then a child falls asleep on top of the granny. Then, a dog falls asleep on top of the child and it continues on and on. This is a great book to use when stopping multiple times to see how mental images change over time.

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazar

The Salamander Room (Dragonfly Books) - picture book cover

In this story, a boy finds a salamander and starts to imagine all of the ways he could turn his room into a home for the creature. This story paints great images and is a great way for students to come up with mental images on their own.

Super Completely and Totally the Messiest by Judith Viorst

Super-Completely and Totally the Messiest picture book cover

This is my favorite story for mental images. In this book, we are introduced to a character named Olivia whose younger sister Sophie is quite a mess! This story has many situations that kids can relate to which makes it easier for them to use schema to help them create their mental images.

Fireflies by Judy Brinckloe

Fireflies - picture book for Mental Images

In this story a young boy is excited to catch as many fireflies as he can. He thinks they are so enchanting but as the story progresses he realizes he must set them free.  Fireflies can provide a great visual. Now if students don’t have schema this visual could be interesting, but could also be a great way to discuss how people can interpret things differently.

Bedhead by Margie Palatini

Bedhead - picture book

This is another comical book that most students will relate to! We’ve all gotten bedhead at one time or another.  This story has Oliver’s family trying to help contain the bedhead and ends up with him realizing it’s picture day at school. The author writes so descriptively that the kids will have a great time creating mental images.

Teaching Ideas:

Creating Mental Images from Their Life:

First, I have students create mental images from events in their own life. I find it helps them to understand the concept if they can apply it to themselves first. I give them a paper with four boxes – one for each image. Prior to sketching the image, students close their eyes to focus on the specific mental image.  For this activity, I will often have students create an image for the time they learned how to ride a bike, a time they got hurt, their last birthday party, and their favorite place.


Debbie Miller suggests using poetry for mental images and it is a great way to help students use it with text – but on a small scale! I love using Shel Silverstein’s poems for this activity.  Students relate to them and they are funny, which makes them super engaging.  I use Bandaids, Sister for Sale, Rain, and Spaghetti.  

Students get to hear all of the poems and then pick the one that gave them the strongest mental image. Then, students will draw the image on a blank piece of paper.  After we talk about how even though some students chose the same poem, their images are different. We talk about how their schema and point of view plays a part in how they create their own mental images.

Photo of drawing of Spaghetti poem.
Photo of drawing of Rain poem


Next, I use many of the books that I listed above to help with visualizing.  For these read alouds, I do NOT show the pictures! I want the students to create the pictures in their mind. {I will often go back and read the story again after the activity and then share the illustrations).  

With these read alouds, I plan out a few stopping points ahead of time. I will often give students a page with 3-4 boxes. When I pause reading, students will then sketch their current mental image in one of the boxes. Then, I read some more and they sketch their new image. This is a great way to help students understand that their mental image can change over time. See an example below for the story – The Napping House.

Photo of book - The Napping House
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10 Favorite Read Alouds

Reading, Books

This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

Today I’m sharing with you some of my favorite picture books and chapter books to read aloud to my class.  Over the years my students and I have found some great ones that I read year after year!

Here are some of our favorites…

The Day the Crayons Quit – This story and the sequel below are so funny! The pictures are amazing and the story is quite clever. The kids and I both enjoy reading this one every year.
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The Day the Crayons Came Home – The sequel to the book above is just as good as the first. I got this book at our Book Fair a few years ago and it is equally as funny as the first!
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Chester – This book is hilarious! It’s all about how Chester tries to take over this book that the author is writing about a mouse.  Very funny and the kids always love the ending!

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The Pout-Pout Fish – This is a great rhyming book and has a great rhythm to it!  Another cute story that the kids always love.
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Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying! – This book is Cinderella, but told from the stepmother’s point of view.  A great story to explain point of view, great voice, and creativity too.  There are many more out there – Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, etc.  Perfect if point of view is in your reading standards.
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Junie B. Jones– Now, I know many teachers are not a fan of Junie B because of her poor grammar and sometimes poor choices – but I find her funny. I would read most of the series to my class when I taught first grade. Now, I agree Junie B doesn’t always speak properly, however, it does bring up a good teaching moment where you can discuss what the proper way would have been.  She’s funny and the kids relate to her. I even enjoy it! I’m a little sad that there isn’t a second grade part of the series…
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Jake Drake Series – This is a newer series for me. I tried out Jake Drake, Teacher’s Pet last year and my class and I both enjoyed it. There are a few books in the series and you can never go wrong with an Andrew Clement’s book.  He is another character who has many situations at school that kids are familiar with.  I actually just recently bought the whole set on Amazon so I can read all four books to my students next year.
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Clementine – So, as I mentioned, there is no 2nd grade version of Junie B, however Clementine comes close.  Clementine reminds me of Junie B, but is in 3rd or 4th grade.  She is a bit of a goofball, but again a crazy character that the kids find funny.  I’ve read a few in this series to my class and each year a few kids get interested and finish the series on their own.
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Frindle – As I mentioned above, who doesn’t love Andrew Clement’s books? Frindle is creative and funny. This is definitely a book I read out loud towards the end of the year as it is higher than 2nd grade level, but the kids love it. It’s all about how this class led a movement to start calling pens Frindles and started an all-out war of sorts with one of the teachers at the school.
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The Chocolate Touch – The Chocolate Touch is a hilarious book about a boy who is obsessed with chocolate.  He ends up eating this mysterious chocolate which makes everything that he puts into his mouth turn into chocolate.  This is always a favorite in my classroom and some years I’ve even done a book study with it.


So, those are a few of my favorite read aloud books. What are some of your favorites?? Write me in the comments below…



Fun Review Games for the Classroom

Math, Language, Reading
Blog header for Fun Review Games for the Classroom

Reviewing content does not have to be boring! Reviewing is necessary and to make it more meaningful we need to make it engaging and fun! Check out five ideas below for fun review games you could use in your classroom. (These games are mainly math focused, but you could use them for any subject matter).

Connect 4 Review Game

Connect 4 review questions and board

I got this idea from Candance (@themeaningfulmiddle on IG).  Connect 4 is always a fun game and it can be used to review any type of content! I’ve used it in math and to review classroom expectations.  This game can get very competitive and it’s fun to see the different strategies the teams use to win.

To play…

  • Divide your students up into teams.  I typically put 4-5 students on each team.
  • Each team gets a different color pad of sticky notes.  This is where they write their answers.
  • Create any type of questions (Math, ELA, Grammar. Social Studies, Science, etc). I project these on my Smart Board.  This photo is an example from a first grade math review.  (This is done ahead a time).  
  • Students will work with their team to answer the question and place their sticky note on the board.  The goal is to try to connect 4 horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  Students may also place their sticky note in a way that blocks others from connecting 4.
  • Once a team has connected 4, I draw a line through the four and give the team a point.  The team with the most points at the end wins!

This game may get a little rowdy, but they have tons of fun and they are reviewing content all at the same time!

Connect 4 board with post-it notes

Crack the Code

Crack the Code review questions and sample code

I created Crack the Code last year as a way to review math content. This game works well with math because the hidden message is uncovered through numbers.  You could always use this with different content areas too.

To play…

Create your hidden message. I often make it a fun reward like (YOU GET EXTRA TIME AT RECESS) or something with a special treat.  

Then, you create the questions.  I typically create around 20.  You just want to make sure you have enough to cover all of the letters.  

The hidden message is put up on a white board (as seen in the first picture) and I normally show the actual content questions on my Smart Board.

The questions then align to the numbers which help them crack the code. For example, the problem 8 + 7 = ___.  Students will get 15 as their answer which corresponds to A.  You then fill in the letter A in the 15 number spot of the hidden message.

For students, I have them use white boards for this game. This way each child is engaged and participating.  Students will respond on their white boards and then show their answers.  We will then discuss, put the letter in the correct spot, and move on to the next question.

Once all of the questions are answered, the hidden message is complete and the kids will find out what it says. 

Basketball Review Game

Basketball room transformation. The basketball hoop baskets on the tables are used for the game.

This review game came to be because it tied in perfectly with my basketball room transformation during March Madness!

To play…

  • Divide your students up into teams.  I typically put 3-4 students on each team.
  • Each team gets a white board to respond to the questions.
  • Create any type of questions (Math, ELA, Grammar. Social Studies, Science, etc). I project these on my Smart Board.   (This is done ahead a time).  
  • Students will work with their team to answer the question. Once each group has answered any team who has the correct answer gets a chance to shoot a basket. (I gave a clear rotation for this so students knew the order and everyone got equal turns).
  • The basketball shooter would come up to the carpet with one of my tiny basketballs (foam or small ones) and would shoot it into the basketball Easter basket (you can see these on the students tables). If they got the ball in the basket, then their team earned a point. The team with the most points at the end – wins!
  • I didn’t get very clear pictures of this game, but you can see the basketball hoops used in the photo above!

Horseshoes Review Game

Horseshoe game

This review game came to be because it tied in perfectly with our Rodeo Day in February and my rodeo room transformation!

To play…

  • Divide your students up into teams.  I divided the class up into two teams.
  • Each team gets a white board to respond to the questions.
  • Create any type of questions (Math, ELA, Grammar. Social Studies, Science, etc). I project these on my Smart Board.   (This is done ahead a time).  You can see an example at the bottom of this paragraph.
  • Students will work with their team to answer the question. Once each group has answered any team who has the correct answer gets a chance to toss the horseshoe. (I gave a clear rotation for this so students knew the order and everyone got equal turns).
  • The student would come up to the carpet to throw the horseshoe. If they got it around the pole then their team earned a point (see picture above). The team with the most points at the end – wins! I got my horseshoe game at Amazon.
Review questions for finding the rule and the missing numbers.

Saran Wrap Game

Saran Wrap Ball Game

I know this game is often played as a holiday game at Christmas time, but it also works well as a review game!

To play:

  • Teacher sets up the saran wrap ball ahead of time. I included 16 review questions so I had 4 different colors and a total of 16 unifix cubes. I used blue, yellow, green, and orange and had paper that color coordinated.
  • Then, set up the review problems. I used a simple table and made sure the paper color coordinated to the colors in the saran wrap ball.
  • Students are each given their own review packet and each group is given a saran wrap ball. I had my students work in groups of 3-4.
  • One student unravels the saran wrap ball until a cube pops out. If it’s a yellow cube then everyone solves one problem on the yellow page.
  • This continues until all of the cubes are unwrapped and all of the problems are solved.
  • During the activity, I would go around to check for understanding and assist as needed while the students were solving the problems.

I hope this ideas are helpful and can make your review time more engaging. I know my students and I both enjoy these games and they definitely are more fun than a boring review packet.

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How I Use Book Studies in the Classroom

Reading, Literacy Stations

Picture of girl reading a book

I have been using book studies in my classroom for as long as I have been teaching and it is a favorite time of mine and also for my students. Today I’m going to lay out how I use book studies in the classroom and why I find it to be a successful, engaging activity.

Why Do I Use Book Studies?

Book studies have many positive benefits.

  • Provides opportunities for students to practice decoding, reading fluently, and comprehending the story
  • Provides students a chance to practice writing their responses and restating the question in their answer
  • Gives an opportunity for students to work independently or with a team

Grades for Book Studies:

In my opinion, book studies can be used from first grade up.  I know you’re thinking first grade seems young and they are, but I have some students in my current class who are ready and just finished their first Nate the Great Book Study – with teacher guidance of course.  Now will all of my first graders participate in a book study this year….no. I have some students who struggle with reading and a book study would frustrate them.

When I taught second grade the last few years I had three whole class book studies (Charlotte’s Web, The Chocolate Touch, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) that we did together as a class. I also had multiple book studies going in small groups during literacy stations. The nice thing about book studies is there are books at a variety of levels.  So even if you have high readers or lower readers there will probably be a just right book for them to use during a book study.

Choosing Book Study Groups

An important thing to keep in mind when choosing which students you are putting together in a book study is who works well together (which you think about any time you put students into groups).  In addition to students who work well together, you want to also make sure you have students with similar reading levels. The goal of a book study isn’t for the higher student to help the struggling student read, but that they are similar levels and working together to read and comprehend.

You also want to consider how many students you want participating in the book study. I’ve done whole class book studies, small groups (3-4 students), partnership book studies, and independent ones.

So the biggest thing to keep in mind…

  • Who works well together
  • Behaviors
  • Reading levels

Choosing a Book

As I mentioned earlier in this blog post there are tons of books out there that fit many different reading levels.  You want to choose a book that the group , partnership, or child will be able to read independently.  You also want to choose a book that interests them. I will often pull out two-three book choices and give the group a chance to vote on which book they want to read. Choice helps with engagement and buy-in so I always try to let my students choose the book.

How do I find multiple sets of the book?

Scholastic is a great place to find multiple sets of books.  Often in the actual pamphlet/magazine thing that comes with the book orders they have options for you to order certain books in sets of 6.  This is a great way to build a little book study library of sorts.  You can also check out books from the library, shop at Good Will, buy them from Amazon, etc.

First Day

When starting a new book study with a small group I have the book and packet ready to go for day 1.  First, I go over the expectations. I explain to them that this is a special activity that they get to do and I need them to take it seriously.

Then, I hand out the books and the students make predictions about what will happen based on the cover.  We read the first chapter together out loud taking turns on each page.

After we read the first chapter we start answering the questions.  I like using these packets not only because students have to write their answer, but it also gives them practice writing in complete sentences.  I make sure students restate the question in their answer, include capitals, periods, etc.  So not only are the practicing their comprehension by answering the question, but they are also working on their written response skills.

After we’ve gone through the first set of questions I will often send the kids off on their own.  I’ve done this in 2nd grade and up.  I would not do this with first grade unless you have a teaching assistant, parent volunteer, older student they could work with, or if they are super mature.  Students in second grade and up I then send off to read the next chapter with their partner or group and answer the questions.  Once they are finished with a chapter they let me know and I pull them back to meet with them and review what was read.  The nice thing about this is it frees me up to pull other groups while they’re working on the independent portion of this.  This routine continues until they are finished with the book.

Picture of I Survived Book Study

Book Study Favorites

I’ve created a few different book study resources that I have used in my classroom including: Jake Drake series, Ivy and Bean, Cam Jansen, Nate the Great, Surprises According to Humphrey and more.  To see all of my book studies in my TPT store, click HERE.


FREE Book Study Discussion Cards

Grab a FREE set of Book Study Discussion Cards that can be used with any fiction story. Great for discussion and can also be used for written response. Click HERE for your FREEBIE.

Pizzeria Room Transformation

Writing, Math, Reading

Today I’m excited to share my second room transformation with you!  This one was a Pizzeria Room Transformation.  Our pizzeria was called Village Pizzeria.  I’m going to take you through the decor and the different activities that we did during the day.

Decorations and Room Set-Up:

Picture of Pizzeria with lights off and candles on

Here you can see the set-up with the lights out.  The tablecloths are from the dollar store, the battery candles are actually from my wedding registry, and my teaching assistant made the flowers out of tissue paper.  On the Smart Board I had a photo of a pizzeria and played Italian music to help set the mood.  They have tons of great options for this on YouTube!

Picture of Pizzeria set-up

Picture of pizza banner and pizzeria decor

On the back bulletin board my teaching assistant made the cute banner of pizzas.  We also found pizza and pizzeria pictures online and hung them on the walls.

Picture of Village Pizzeria backdrop

My teaching assistant also traced and made this sign from one we found online. We used this as a backdrop to take each student’s photo with their chef hat and mustache that you will see later in the post.

Costume and Staff Roles Idea:

Picture of teacher dressed up as server in front of welcome background

For the pizzeria room transformation I decided to be the server.  Since I wasn’t a teacher that day, I decided to have the kids call me Giana and that would be my pizzeria server name. I wore a name tag, had a server apron, and glasses at times.  My teaching assistant dressed up as a chef with a chef hat and apron.  We also got my assistant principal involved. She helped with the first activity below.  She was the owner of the pizzeria and her name was Barbara.  She dressed up, had an Italian accent, and had a lot of fun with her role in our pizzeria!

Opinion Writing Activity:

Picture of Oreo cookies and writing piece

We have been working on opinion writing in class and I wanted to tie that in to the pizzeria room transformation.  “Barbara,” our owner (our assistant principal) came in and asked them if they would help taste test two different Oreo’s to see which should be added to her menu. The kids were excited to do this and enjoyed trying both. I was surprised because red velvet won and I was sure that many of them would go for the peanut butter. After testing both cookies they wrote their opinion and had to give reasons to support the cookie they picked.

Menu Math:

Picture of math menu and worksheet

I created pizzeria menus that we used for our math lesson. I also created differentiated story problems for three different groups to work on.  All story problems fit around the menu theme and definitely made them think outside the box.  My goal was to push all of my students/customers and these problems did just that.  They loved choosing their own items from the menu for question 2 and did a great job showing work for how they got their answers.

Picture of Menu Math story problems

Above and below you can see the three different story problem pages.  As you can see they are similar, but differentiated to meet all of my learners.

Picture of Menu Math story problems

Book Tasting:

Picture of book tasting table set-up

Picture of book tasting table set-up

The book tasting was another perfect event for our room transformation.  After lunch the kids came back in and I had it all set-up.  There were six tables and three different genres – fairy tale, fiction, and nonfiction. Students were assigned as a specific seat by the hostess (me) and then given directions.  They had about 5 minutes to “taste” their book and write the title and genre.  On the page they also could give their book a rating with stars.  A 5 star book was a fantastic book that they wanted to read again and a 1 star book was one that they were not interested in. They were very honest with their reviews and also had a chance to read books from a variety of genres.  Below you’ll see the book tasting form.

Picture of book tasting form

Making a Mini Pizza:

Next came the part the kids had been waiting all day for! Each student got to make their own mini pizza.  We used english muffins, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperonis.  Our chef (my teaching assistant) did a demo cooking lesson and then each child got to make their own mini pizza.  They wore the cute chef hats pictured below and also each got a mustache.  I took pictures of them in front of the backdrop with both props and they turned out adorable!

Picture of chef hat and mustache

Writing a How To:

Picture of how to writing piece sample from a student

After creating their own mini pizza, each child wrote their own “how to” explaining how to make a mini pizza.  They loved that they got to write down their recipe so they could make them again at home.

All in all it was a wonderful day and the second room transformation of the year was a success! Stay tuned for future transformations and ideas!

Pizzeria Resource

You can grab these activities in my TPT store >>> HERE.