fbpx
Browsing Tag

Reading

Strategies for Running a Successful Book Study

Book Clubs, Books, Reading
Picture of 2 chapter books that could be used for a book study
Blog header for Strategies for Running a Successful Book Study

Using a book study in the classroom is a great way for students to practice fluency, build comprehension skills, learn how to write a response, and more.  I often use book studies with my second graders in the classroom and have also used them with first and third grade.

Book studies have many benefits including:

  • Improving reading comprehension
  • Providing opportunities for collaboration and independence
  • Giving students a chance to practice written response
  • Fun and engaging books to get students excited about reading

The first time you launch a novel study it can seem a little overwhelming.  I felt the same way too when I had my students work on their first book club.  But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  In today’s blog post, I’m going to share with you some ideas and things to think about to make it easy to launch your first book study in your elementary classroom.

Choosing the Right Book

Photos of chapter books - Surprises According to Humphrey and Cam Jansen

I take a number of things into account when choosing a book for a book study. First, I look at reading ability. I want to make sure the book I pick is just right. I don’t want it to be so challenging that they don’t understand, but also not too easy.

Second thing I look at is students’ interests. I want to pair students with books that they will be interested in. This is important for engagement and for building lifelong readers. I want students to enjoy what they are reading so I try to put them with books that they’ll be interested in.  

I also try to have students use books that are a part of a series. I have found that if a student enjoys one book, they can easily become hooked and want to read the whole series. This again can help with student buy-in and engagement.

At times, I will also provide students a choice with their novel study. I’ll pick out two books that I think would work for the group and then let them choose which one they want to work on.

Planning and Organizing a Book Study

Photo of chapter books - Ivy and Bean and Jake Drake

When planning and setting up the book study, I like to decide on a start date and get the whole group on board. I tend to use my small group and/or reading time as a time for the group to meet. 

Depending on the group, you’ll need to decide how you want them to work on the book club. For my more independent readers, I will often meet with the group the first time they start reading, but also give them some freedom to work on their own. I will then check in with them after each chapter to discuss and go deeper with comprehension questions. 

Some groups will need more guidance. Some groups I plan to have only working with myself or a volunteer/instructional aide. This requires some thought as to when you’re going to fit it all in.

Management

Photo of 5 kids reading a book together

For novel studies, you want to have clear and high expectations for students. Being a part of a book study is fun, but it is also a privilege. Before starting the book study, make sure to go over your expectations for the book study time. This way students know what is expected of them. I also review the expectations before I send them off to work independently as a group.

Volunteers

Photo of 4 students reading a book together in a library setting

Parent volunteers or instructional aides can be a great asset during book studies. I will often have parent volunteers work with one of the book study groups. This can help them stay on task and provide support if they need help reading or understanding.

Book Study FREEBIE

Photo of FREE Book study discussion cards

Grab these FREE book study discussion cards, which can be used with most books.

Book Study Resources:

Photo of book study pages from Nate the Great

If you are interested in book studies that are already created for you, check out my book study resources in my TPT store.

Favorite Book Study Books:

Photo of 5 chapter books used for successful book studies

This contains affiliate links for your convenience.

For more info…

Benefits of Using Book Studies in the Classroom

How I Use Book Studies in My Classroom

3 ELA Morning Meeting Activities Your Students Will Love

Morning Meeting
Blog header for 3 Morning Meeting Activities Your Students will Love - photo of 2 students writing in a notebook.

Morning Meeting Activities are an important component to the morning meeting routine.  The activity portion is a great way to review academic skills, build classroom community, and more.

Morning Meeting itself is extremely beneficial in the elementary classroom because it…

  • Starts the day off in a positive way
  • Provides an opportunity to practice speaking and listening skills
  • Eases students into the day
  • Is a fun and engaging way to start the morning

While the activity component can be a great time to play fun games, it can also be a time to review academic skills or start to introduce new ones.  I love using ELA activities during Morning Meeting so my students can continue to get even more practice with various language arts standards.

Here are three of my favorite ELA activities for students to work on during Morning Meeting.

Story Starter

Photo of Story Starter from Morning Meeting activities - Picture with words - 3, 2, 1 - Blast off! The rocket ship was headed to...

Story Starter is always a class favorite when it comes to Morning Meeting Activities. For this activity, I give the students a start to the story and then they finish it. I’ve done this activity together as a class, had students work in groups or with a partner to write their story, or work independently.  I always tell students they can use their imagination, but have to keep it appropriate for school! They love being able to be creative with their storytelling!

Here are a few example story starters

  • 3, 2, 1 – The rocket ship blasted off and then….
  • I jumped off the bus and then…
  • The snowman came to life and then…
  • My car started flying and then…

Word Ladder

Photo of word ladder activity with a blue pen - words written in a vertical line are bat, bet, bed, fed, fad, dad, sad

Word Ladder is a great way for students to practice their phonics skills. For word ladder, I choose a starting word and then students create new words from that word. But, the trick is- they can only change one letter each time! 

For example – cat, bat, bet, met, mat, hat, hit, bit, bin, fin

For this activity, I like to try to pick a starting word that focuses on our current phonics skills – short vowels, digraphs, etc so students can continue to get practice with words focused on those skills.

For this game, you can play as a whole class, in a partnership or group, or independently. Their goal is to create as many real words as they can.

Word Creator

Photo of Word Creator board for morning meeting activities.
Photo of white board and white board marker with words written from Word Creator board.

Word Creator is another great opportunity for students to practice phonics skills and building words.  Students are given a grid of letters and have to create words with those letters. The trick in this activity is the letters have to be touching. I typically have students do this activity independently and tell them they’re trying to beat their score from last time. I remind students they can come up with one-letter, two-letter, three-letter, four-letter, five-letter words, and more! 

GRAB FREE WEEK OF MORNING MEETING ACTIVITIES

Photo of example of Free Morning Meeting Activities - Picture of Story Starter

Check out this FREE week of Morning Meeting Activities! Your students will be engaged and have a blast with these fun and academic activities! Click HERE for your FREEBIE.

If you are looking for more activities, check out these resources of ready-to-go activities in my TPT Store:

Morning Meeting Activities – Volume 1

Themed Morning Meeting Activities – Year-Long Bundle

Generic Morning Meeting Activities – Year-Long Bundle

Looking for more ideas…

How to Engage and Energize with Your Morning Meeting Activities

4 Ways to Include Academics Into Your Morning Meeting

Morning Meeting Round-Up

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.

Pigsty

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.

MORE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Picture Books for Making Connections

8 Favorite Writing Mentor Texts

Picture Books for Opinion Writing

Picture Books for Place Value

Teaching Mental Images

Reading
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.

Poetry:

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

Books:

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
Pin Image for "Teaching Mental Images"

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!

 

Reading:

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

 

Writing:

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.

 

Conclusion:

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!

 

 



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!