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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.

Football Room Transformation

Math, Reading, Writing

So today I am super excited to share with you my room transformation that I did a few weeks ago.  For my first room transformation this year I decided to do a football theme. What started out as just a transformation for a math review turned into why not make the whole day football themed! Go big or go home – right?? So this room transformation took on a life of it’s own and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!  In this blog post I’ll take you through the decorations and different events of the day.  I had a blast and my kids had a blast! It was probably one of the best days we’ve had this school year so far.


Room Transformation Info:

For the room transformation I got items from Amazon, Party City, and we made many of them too.  The football backdrop and football runner were from Party City. My ref shirt came from Amazon. I printed and made the football logos.  My teaching aide made the tablecloths with a football stamp and the other football signs.  The decorations definitely helped set the mood!

Each child had their picture taken in front of the backdrop. The posed with the football. I so wish I could show you the pictures because some of them took it rather seriously!


If I Were a Football Player Page:

During morning meeting, which I called a team meeting, we discussed some of the questions on the page above. Students then got to create their football name, pick their number, decide the team name, mascot, etc.  They had fun being creative and coming up with some interesting mascots and names!


Jersey Design:

Next students got to design their own jerseys. I showed them a few examples of real NFL and college jerseys and then they got to work. They used their team colors and number on the jersey. The t-shirt page was from Heather Toomey.


Football Math Review Game:

When students came back from PE I had the game set-up for them. I used a long football yard-line table runner on the floor and that was how we showed we each team earned a point (10 yards) for each correct question. When they came in the room I had the Sunday Night Football song playing to get them pumped up and ready!

I broke the class up into two teams for the math review game. Each team had a designated “captain” who came forward for the coin toss. Another teacher happened to stop by so she became our NFL commissioner and actually tossed the coin for us!  Heads won and off we went!

The review game included some of the questions above. This unit in math covered items such as: combos of 10, counting and adding on, solving word problems, identifying and labeling numbers.  Teams worked together to figure out the answer and a different child gave the answer each time to make sure everyone was included. Each time they got an answer correct they earned 10 yards. I planned it ahead of time so that each team would end up with the same points so we had no hurt feelings.  At the end of the game, each team added up all of their tens to see who won! Since each team won, each player got a football bracelet from Party City that had sports sayings on it.


Football Math Stations:

To continue reviewing for out test we also completed math stations with activities practicing the different skills.  The football popcorn holders held the activities and these were from Party City. Each group rotated to each station as you can see below.


This activity was completed with my teaching aide. She would give the kids a number and they would fill it in on the ten frame. Then she would ask further questions like how  many more would you need to make 10.

This tens frame Around the Room activity I got on TPT from Resource Ranch. Students would add the two numbers together and record their answer on the recording sheet.

Students worked on football story problems when they came to my station. I created similar problems but differentiated the numbers to meet the different levels in my classroom.

Students worked on ordering numbers at this station. There were baggies with ten numbers in it and the kids had to put them in order from least to greatest.  The football numbers are from Teacher Trish.

At this station students played Memory with the football cards.  This was a great way to practice combos of 10!



During reading we read and discussed the story Football Dinosaurs.  Then, during snack we watched the Tiki Barber story on Tumble Books.



To tie in writing, students wrote their opinion about their favorite sport. We brainstormed all the different kinds of sports and students picked one to write about. They also had to give a reason for their choice.  This page is from The Simplified Classroom.



All in all this one was of my favorite teaching days ever! We had so much fun and was I tired at the end of the day!  You exert so much energy during days like this that I had no trouble going to sleep that night!


Stay tuned…I have another room transformation coming in a few weeks! Be sure to follow me on Instagram to stay up to speed with all of the latest in my classroom!



TPT Bonus Sale Tomorrow

Writing, Reading

Tomorrow – Tuesday, August 21 is the TPT Back to School BONUS Sale!! My entire store – Team J’s Classroom Fun- Jordan Johnson – will be on sale for up to 25% off with the code BTSBONUS18!

Here are a few ELA resources you might be interested in:

Grammar Fix-It BUNDLE: Great way to practice a variety of grammar skills! Can be used as a formative assessment, in a literacy station, or as a whole or small group activity.  Includes: capitals, end marks, commas, apostrophes, high frequency spelling words, quotation marks, and verb tense agreement.

Grammar Practice BUNDLE

Opinion Writing Prompt Cards: Great way to cover opinion writing for first and second grade! These are perfect to throw into a Writing Station! 30 different opinion prompts included.

Opinion Writing Prompts

Surprises According to Humphrey Book Study: I use these during literacy stations. I have students partner up and work on book studies together! I then meet with students to discuss and we have a little book club of sorts!

Surprises According to Humphrey - Book Study

Load up those shopping carts for tomorrow! Also make sure you leave feedback on past purchases to earn credits that you can use on future purchases.


Test Prep Review Ideas

Math, Reading

It’s getting to be that time again….the dreading testing season is about to begin! I know April and May can be quite chaotic for teachers with all of the end of the year activities, but it is also chaotic with all of the testing!  We test in early May so April tends to be a lot of review. And, while reviewing can be boring, I’ve done a few things the last year or two to spice it up a bit.

Reviewing content is important throughout the year, but refreshers are always good as testing approaches. Last year I wanted to freshen things up a bit and try to make reviewing as fun as possible.  One way I did this was by changing up the way we reviewed each day.  For example, in math, we reviewed different skill areas each day. One day we worked on place value, one day operations, one day patterns, etc.  To keep it fresh, we reviewed these skills in different ways. This way no two days was the same. And – it helped! The students enjoyed reviewing more and were more engaged (which is the whole point of this :-)!)

Here are some ideas for how to review math skills…these can be applied to different grade levels and skills:

  • Egg Hunt – Yes, I know Easter is over, but an egg hunt is fun for everyone. To practice our operations skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) I created an egg hunt for my kids.  They were able to go around the room hunting for eggs and then they had to solve the problems inside the egg on the recording sheet. They loved it!  I also differentiated by putting more difficult problems in certain colored eggs and more on-level problems in others. This way I was able to challenge the kids who were ready.

  • Match-Up – Another activity I did was a match-up activity with partners. Students had the multiplication or division problem and had to match the problem with the answer card.

  • Around the Room – Kids need to move and they especially need to move as we get closer and closer to the end of the year. Last year I created an Around the Room activity to review place value. It included expanded form, place value model, comparing numbers, and writing numbers in standard form.  Kids were up and moving and able to review the different place value skills we worked on. You can find Place Value Review – Around the Room in my TPT Store…here.  I also created an Around the Room activity to review the pattern skills that we did a different day to avoid repetitious review activitie

  • White Board Review – Another skill we reviewed was understanding story problems. Our standards include being able to solve story problems, but also being able to identify the operation and the number sentence that matches. I put a PowerPoint together and the kids would respond to the question on their white boards and then we’d do a quick show and discussion.


  • Kids Sharing Out – This was an idea I saw on Instagram last year and I wish I could remember where because it is genius!  I put different operation and story problems on larger poster paper around the room. Students then went around and solved the problems on their own recording sheet.  Once they finished that, I partnered the kids up and gave each partnership one of the hanging poster boards.  They had to solve that problem on the chart paper. Then, they had to get up and present to the class how they solved it.  Great way to practice math communication and review!




I know many of these ideas are focused around math, but you could still use the same review activities, but with reading or ELA skills. I will also be doing language arts and reading review with lots of task cards.  For reading – I also highly recommend looking at ReadWorks. They have tons of multiple choice passages like the students will see on many of these standardized test.

How do you review for standardized testing? Share your ideas in the comments…

Be sure to sign up for my email list below! This Tuesday (April 10) I will be sending out a FREEBIE to all of my email subscribers with some cute testing signs you can use during testing season!

March Madness Fun

Math, Reading

So a little bit of background info about me.  I used to be a huge Phoenix Suns fan. I was such a big fan that my room back in AZ was decked out in basketball and Phoenix Suns decor.  This is also where the name Team J’s 2nd Grade Fun came from.  My husband is also a basketball coach. So – basketball is very important in our household and this is always a fun time of year with all of the March Madness excitement.  Today I want to show you a few ways you can bring some of this excitement into your classroom.

Classroom Decor:

My awesome room moms last year decorated my classroom with all kind of March Madness goodies. I know they found some of these items on Amazon and some at the party stores around town.


The room decor also carried on outside to my hallway bulletin board. I decided to have students solve a math word problem – basketball themed – on an actual basketball cut-out that would be attached to the bulletin board. To differentiate, I had different types of problems (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with varying degrees of difficulty. I let the students pick which problem they wanted to solve.  It turned out amazing!




I also created a task card version of these story problems and they are in my TPT Store.  The product is called Basketball Bonanza Story Problems.


This year I am also doing a Tournament of Books March Madness Challenge with my students.  Last week was Reading Week, which fit in perfectly with this activity! I found the bracket board online and picked out the picture books myself. I tried to pick books that had similar features, characters, or storylines to go against each other in the first round. For example – Chicks and Salsa and The Big Chickens. I also tried to pick books that were unfamiliar to my kids.  This past week we finished up the Sweet 16 Round. I would read both books going against each other to my kids and then they would vote.  The winner moves on to the Elite 8 Round.


Do you celebrate March Madness in your class?  Comment below and let me know.

Holiday Activities for the Classroom

Holidays, Math, Reading, Science, Writing

I know how crazy the last few days/week before winter break can be. We are entering crazy times teachers and we need to have as many fun, educational activities in our back pocket ready to go as we can.

So, here are a few things I will be using with my class this week….

Christmas Writing Prompts – This is a FREEBIE in my TPT Store.  It includes two writing prompts that are focused on personal narratives.  Great way to incorporate writing into the holiday excitement.

Candy Cane Science Lab – I did this activity with my class last year and will be starting it this week. We’ve been learning about lab reports during Writing Workshop and this is a fun science experiment to do this time of year. Check out my blog post on it….here

Olive, the Other Reindeer Book Study – This is a cute story and my students love hearing it every year.  This book study is now in my TPT Store. It includes comprehension questions and four different writing prompts. This could be used whole group or as a small group activity.

Christmas Story Problems – We will be starting these today.  I love using holiday story problems as one of my rotations during our daily math time.  The kids love that they are themed and fitting of the season.  The Christmas Story Problems include addition and subtraction problems with and without regrouping.

Winter Story Problems – I will actually be using these when we return to school in January, but if your school focuses on winter instead of the specific holidays – these story problems would be great. These can be used whole group, small group, or at a math center.  These winter themed problems focus on ice skating, hot chocolate, snowmen, etc.  Includes addition and subtraction problems.

Hope these activities and ideas help with the last bit of school before break. I’m down to 7.5 days left with students. We can do it teachers!

Five Fun Halloween Books


This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

I love doing read alouds with my students and love reading holiday books too!  Today I’m sharing with you 5 Fun Halloween books that I read with them every year!

How To Catch a Monster – This was a new addition this year to my Halloween read alouds, but super cute!!!

Crankenestein – The kids loved this one!! They enjoy helping make the “Crankenstein” noises.
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Goodnight Goon – Who doesn’t love rhyming books?

The Hallo-Wiener – This has been on the Halloween read aloud list since I student taught. We used this book for one of my student teaching lessons and it’s been in my rotation ever since.
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There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat – My students always love the “There Was an Old Lady…” series.  This is a great one too! I love how they have themed books for each holiday!
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What are your favorite Halloween books? Comment below…

Jake Drake Know-It-All – Book Study

My students love reading Jake Drake books and we just finished up reading Jake Drake Teacher’s Pet as our first chapter book read aloud! We had a class set of Jake Drake Know-It-All with our reading series so I decided to make a book study to along with it!
I use book studies as an activity for my higher students during literacy small groups. Students work in groups of 2-3 on these projects. They read the text together, answer the questions together, and then discuss with me afterwards! Kids love doing book studies and I find it a great way for students to gain some independence and learn how to work with others.
Check out my Jake Drake Know-It-All Book Study – now available in my TPT Store.  I have other book studies available too…here..