More in Category: Reading Activities

Blog Posts about Middle Grades Classic Novels

  Classic middle grade novels are some of my favorite things to work with.  There’s just so much to draw from with great novels like Number the Stars or The Cay.  With perennial favorites like these, there is something for everyone, and plenty of connection to any reading skill you might want to work on. […]

Teaching Idioms, Proverbs, and Adages

  At a certain point in elementary school, students have learned their phonics and have a big enough store of sight words that reading then becomes more about comprehension and less about the words.  In the early grades, kids had been working with words and expressions that then already know from speaking and listening.  But […]

Poetry Month in the Classroom

  National Poetry Month comes at such a great time.  Just when everyone is ready for a break, here it is – a month dedicated to playing with words!  Great little readings, or writing assignments, that grab kids attention!   I’ve been looking over some of the wonderful ideas out there for getting the most […]

Discussion Questions for Pictures of Hollis Woods

  Pictures of Hollis Woods, the middle grade novel by Patricia Reilly Giff, introduces a number of great themes that kids in middle or upper elementary school will relate to – themes that can be used to spark a class discussion, for long-answer questions or writing prompts, and for hands-on projects.  Although most kids will […]

Pictures of Hollis Woods Novel Study and a Freebie!

  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Patricia Reilly Giff’s novel, Pictures of Hollis Woods, and I also thought that it would appeal to a wide variety of middle grade kids.  That’s why I chose it for my most recent novel study.  Since I’ve recently finished writing my final activity, I thought it would be a good time […]

Text-based Evidence in Novel Studies

  Whole-class novels are fun to do, but they can also be a great opportunity to work on those close reading skills and using text-based evidence.   Students can use text based evidence from a novel in two main ways – to “prove” their answers are correct or to support their own conclusions about the […]

Women’s History Month Resources

    Many girls today have grown up hearing the message that they can become anything they want when they grow up – just one of the positive results of the women’s movements of years gone by.  But these girls may know very little about the tradition of women who struggled over the years to […]

Personification in The Scarebird

  If you’re using picture books to introduce figurative language, you might want to look at The Scarebird, by Sid Fleischman, when you get ready to teach personification.  Although the readers know that the scarecrow is just a scarecrow, the main character, Lonesome John, interacts with it as if it were human.  In fact, most […]

Introducing Metaphors with Hurricane, the Picture Book

  Hurricane, by David Wiesner, is a great picture book for introducing metaphors, and you’ll find examples of other types of figurative language in there as well.  Hurricane tells the story of a hurricane that knocks down a big tree in the yard of a family with two boys, David and George.   The story starts by […]

Introducing Figurative Language with Picture Books

  Picture books are great for teaching figurative language – similes, personification, metaphors, or hyperbole – for any age level!  For one thing, there’s lots of figurative language in there, and also the great artwork in many picture books enhances the figurative language and makes the images seem even more real.  The only difficulty is […]

Teach the Final Step of the Writing Process with a Fun Picture Book

  The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, is a funny picture book in which the characters interrupt the stories by arguing about their writing and publishing problems.  This side story is all about that final step of the writing process – publishing.   The main stories, the […]

Teaching Vocabulary Skills with a “Top Secret” Picture Book

  The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups, by David Wisniewski, is an attention-grabbing picture book that middle grade kids will love to read on their own.  It would also be a good choice for a mentor lesson about writing with parts of speech and vivid vocabulary.   The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups is about those rules we […]

Alliteration with Animalia for All Ages

  Animalia, by Graeme Base, is an alphabet book that is entertaining people of all ages. And it would be a great mentor text for lessons in either alliteration or sentence building – or better yet a fun lesson that combines both!   As with many language arts skills, kids have come across both alliteration and […]

Best Ideas- Novel Study Format

  Best ideas this year?  I think one of mine was the format I finally settled on for my novel studies.  After some trial-and-error and trying various ideas, I’ve come up with a format that I like and that seems to work well for other teachers who have downloaded my novel studies.  I wrote about […]

Christmas Themes with the Perfect Christmas Tree

  The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, by Gloria Houston, is a sweet story for the weeks leading up to Christmas, and it lends itself well to a study of the story element, theme.   The story is about Ruthie, a girl who lives in a small village in the Appalachian Mountains.  It is […]

Introducing Close Reading with Context Clues

  In it’s simplest form, using context clues can mean looking back at a textbook page to find the definition of a word embedded in the text.  It’s using text based evidence at its most basic, and that is a great place to start when introducing close reading.  Most likely, students are already doing this […]

Context Clues Roundup

  For practicing close reading, using text based evidence, and just basic reading skills, using context clues is one of the most useful topics out there among the many possible reading skill practice topics.  There are lots of good context clues activities that work well with whole class review, small group practice, and individual exploration. […]

Choosing Classroom Novels

  Teachers have so many choices and decisions to make, but one that can be really fun is choosing a novel to read with your class.  Choosing a class novel can also be a little overwhelming because there are so many good ones.  In my latest guest post for Hojo’s Teaching Adventures, I talked about some […]

Fifteen Favorite Holiday Reads

    It’s that time of year – the time that I always started thinking about which of the many great Christmas stories, poems, plays, and informational texts I wanted to read with my class for the holiday season.  This year, I’ve put together a list of fifteen favorites, some classics and some new, some […]

Winn-Dixie Resources, including FREE Resources

  So, all of my Because of Winn-Dixie resources are completed!  This novel by Kate DiCamillo is such a nice read and it was so much fun to work with!  In fact, that’s why I decided to work on resources for this novel even though there are lots other resources out there already.  I just […]

Language Arts Lessons for Thanksgiving

  Are you already thinking about ways to incorporate the fun fall holidays that kids love into your language arts lessons?  Here are some suggestions using a 5Ws theme with a historical painting, the natural tie-ins to social studies, especially in the “where” and “when” categories, and comparisons between early and modern Thanksgiving celebrations to […]

Discussion Questions for Because of Winn-Dixie

  Sometimes when you’re reading a novel with the whole class, you just want to have an informal class discussion to talk about the story with your kids.  And kids are sure to love talking about Because of Winn-Dixie, the novel by Kate DiCamillo.  The characters are interesting, and Winn-Dixie himself is sure to be […]

Teaching Language Arts Terms

  How do you organize all the various types of vocabulary that you want your kids to learn in language arts throughout the year?  Do you start with certain groups of terms so that you can have plenty of time to review them as the year goes along?  Check out my post, Teaching the Vocabulary […]

Election Resources

  With the presidential election a few short weeks away, it’s the perfect time to incorporate informational texts on elections and candidates.  It’s something kids don’t read often and should work well with a close reading approach and text dependent questions.  So I thought this would be the perfect time to demonstrate the election-themed resources […]

Good Readers Make Inferences

  Making inferences is a skill that all reading teachers want their kids to master.  Even when you’re not teaching kids specifically how to make inferences, inferencing is probably in the background of your lesson somewhere.  So many other reading skills involving inferences in one way or another.  For just a few examples: Characterization – […]

Halloween Stories Middle Graders Will Love!

  Half-Minute Horrors, a collection of really short stories by renowned authors including Lemony Snicket, Jerry Spinelli, James Patterson, and many others is a book of short stories that kids will love, especially at Halloween time.  The stories are very short, a half-page to maybe two pages, and some of them are in graphic novel […]

Literary Genres – Free Poster

    Literary genres is one of those topics that English teachers come back to little by little throughout the year. There are many genres, and lots of ideas about which ones  to include.  Here is the list I like to use.   Fiction Novels and short stories:  realistic fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery […]

Literary Terms List

  Learning terms and definitions by themselves doesn’t provide much value to kids, but they need to know, and be able to use, certain terms in order to discuss and understand what they read about literature – story elements, types of figurative language, vocabulary terms, etc.  What other categories of terms do you teach to […]

Back to School Poetry

I’ve been looking for poems that would work great at the beginning of the school, and here’s what I’ve found.  Some are about school, and some are about perennial middle school topics. Some are funny, and some are serious.  Check these out and see if some of them might work for your class, or if […]

Introducing Figurative Language and Imagery

I used to introduce figurative language with our poetry unit, but now I’m liking the idea of introducing it early in the year along with reading fictional stories and writing narratives.  That way you can come back to it throughout the whole year, using the bits and pieces that fit best with whatever types of […]

Starting with Stories – Classroom Charts 3

  Here are the final two posters in my “Starting with Stories” set; these two are about conflict and plot.  The conflict poster defines conflict and lists basic conflicts, such as individual versus individual, individual versus nature, and so on.  The plot poster defines plot and includes a plot diagram demonstrating the arc of a […]

Starting With Stories – Classroom Charts 2

  As promised, here are the second two charts in my “Starting with Stories” mini-poster set.  The first two, which I posted about a week ago included a chart of basic story elements and one on characterization.  Today’s charts are about setting and theme.  You can download them both here: Setting, Theme.     If you missed the […]

Starting with Stories – Classroom Charts

One of the most enjoyable things about being an English teacher is teaching stories.  Kids love them, and it’s fun to read new stories with an eye to which ones might work best with your class.  When you introduce kids to story elements and show them how to read closely, it’s great to see the kids […]

Teaching Story Elements

  It’s great for students to read stories, discuss stories, and write about stories, but to get the most out of the books they read, students also need to spend time learning about individual story elements.  Knowing more about characterization, for example, can help students relate to the characters they read about and get into […]

Informational Text Skills

Today’s students are surrounded by an immense amount of information,  quantities of information that teachers of the past wouldn’t have even dreamed of, but all of these resources are of little use if the students don’t have the skills to use them.  That’s why informational text skills are so important in today’s classroom.  The more students […]

Close Reading? Ready!

There are two ways to do close reading without a LOT of prep work.  One is to wing it, and the other is to find some good readings of a suitable length with activities already prepared for you.  Both ways have their place, I suppose.  If you’ve taught close reading for a while, you can […]

What’s in Your Task Card Stash?

Task cards are a favorite item for teachers to stockpile.  They’re so versatile and can be used over and over again.  Task cards work great for a full lesson, for individual practice, or for small group activities.  So it’s not a surprise that task cards are one of those things that teachers collect over the […]

What to Include in a Novel Study?

    Do you have a hard time deciding what to include, or how much to include, whenever you are beginning a new novel study?  These were the same choices I was thinking about as I designed the novel studies for Classroom in the Middle.  Some of my favorite activities and questions are the ones […]

Setting the Scene – Diving into a Novel Through Its Setting

The end of the year is in sight; testing is finished.  But, with weeks of school still to go, it’s the perfect time for a novel study – at least from a teacher’s perspective. Kids, on the other hand might need some convincing!  One way to do that is with plenty of activities leading up […]

Upside-Down Possum Brings Out the Best in People

  The first story in Cynthia Rylant’s book The Van Gogh Cafe is titled “Possum,”  and this particular possum seems to be on a mission!  At least, once the possum arrives at the Van Gogh Cafe, things begin to happen. As explained in the story, the arrival of the possum is something of a story, but then […]

The Magic in The Van Gogh Cafe

The back of the book describes Cynthia Rylant’s The Van Gogh Cafe as being about a place where anything can happen.  The stories in The Van Gogh Cafe are all about magic, but not magic of a very supernatural kind.  The unusual events in the stories are more unexpected, or maybe serendipitous, than any spooky kind of […]

It’s a Mystery to Me!

Mysteries is another great theme that kids really get into!  In this guest post at Minds in Bloom are suggestions for a unit that combines reading, writing, and other language arts skills with a fun mysteries focus!  Included are suggestions for using fiction and informational text, finding resources, and using incentives.  And of course there is a […]

Reading a Play to Practice Close Reading

    Love to read plays but just don’t have the time!  Read my suggestions for practicing close reading skills while reading a play with the class; just check out my guest post on HoJo’s Teaching Adventures!  While you’re there, you might want to pick up my close reading FREEBIE, too!  And thank you to […]

Meet an Unforgettable, Unconventional Family in Missing May

    Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May is a lovely, short novel about a twelve-year-old growing up in an unconventional family that will appeal to students with family issues as well as students in general.  The protagonist, a girl named Summer, came to live with her elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ob in the mountains of West […]

Scavenger Hunt on a Kid-Favorite Site

  Do you have kids who don’t really like to read and head for the Guinness Book of World Records every time you go to the library?  I always had a few, so I thought why not make use of this interest in trivial facts by having kids do a little research into world records. […]

Ancient Art Ideas from Saint Valentine

  Tired of the same old Valentine’s Day crafts?  Kids do love the cut-and paste fun of Valentine’s Day projects, but once they are in the middle grades, kids are ready for something a little different.  This year, how about a project that reflects the ancient origins of Valentine’s Day?  I got this idea from […]

Spark Class Discussions with Fish in a Tree

    With its message of acceptance and its positive outlook, Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, is a popular novel among teachers.  So I decided to give it a try to see how it might work with older kids.   The story is about a 6th grader, Ally, who first discovers that she […]

Fun Metaphors in Schooled

    After reading a novel with the class, one thing I always enjoyed doing was choosing one or two of our language arts objectives to teach or review with examples from the novel.  After reading the novel SCHOOLED, by Gordon Korman, I was surprised to see that one thing which really stood out in […]

Mini-Mysteries Teach Text Based Evidence and Drawing Conclusions

      A book or two of mini-mysteries are great to have on hand for when a lesson runs short or you have a few extra  minutes at the end of the day, but that’s not all they are good for!  Mini-mysteries are great for getting kids to pay attention to details of text-based […]

Discussion Topics for SCHOOLED

  After reading a whole-class novel, many teachers like to add follow-up activities such as class discussions, essay writings, posters, or other projects.  To make the most of these activities, it helps to have some specific topics in mind.  Since I’ve just finished working on materials for Gordon Korman’s novel SCHOOLED, I thought I would […]

Opening Lines-Examples in Picture Books 3 – Hint at What’s to Come

        Picture books provide great examples for students of beginning sentences.  In my last two “Opening Lines” posts, I wrote about beginning sentences that introduce the setting and beginning sentences that introduce the main character.  This time, I’ll show you some examples of opening lines that hint at what’s to come.  Like […]

Learning Sixties Style and Having Fun with the Novel SCHOOLED

    SCHOOLED, by Gordon Korman, is a fun novel to read as a class.  Kids are sure to enjoy learning about ideas that might be new to them like living on a commune and fun stuff like tie-dying.  This novel is easy to read, around fourth to fifth grade level, and provides plenty of […]

Opening Lines: Examples in Picture Books 2 – Introduce a Character

    Last week I wrote about using opening lines from favorite picture books as examples for students of different ways to begin a story or an essay.  The problem was that there were so many choices I couldn’t narrow it down to enough for one blog post.  So, “Opening Lines” is now a series […]

Close Reading of an Advertisement

Today I’m continuing the theme that I started talking about in my recent guest post on Education to the Core – using pictures to teach kids about close reading.  In that post, I compared a piece of text to a picture created in Photoshop layer by layer.  You can see that post with the illustrations […]

Close Reading: Unlocking the Layers of Text

  How is close reading like a photoshopped image?  Read my guest post on Education to the Core to find out.  It’s an illustrated explanation of the close reading steps that you can share with your class.  Thank you to Emily for the chance to write again for her wonderful blog!  

Vivid Verbs and The Boy Who Drew Cats

    To write with specific, vivid verbs, students need practice, and they also need exposure to good examples.  To practice writing skills like this one, I like the idea of starting with a short story that the kids will enjoy.  The update of “The Boy Who Drew Cats,” in Fairy Tale Comics would work […]

Close Reading Routine

Sometimes a handy chart just makes things easier.  This seems to be especially true for something like close reading!  There are so many steps and so many variations on how to do close reading that just getting it all organized can be a lot of work for teachers!  And keeping track of what they need […]

Using Context Clues with Baloney (and Words from Other Languages)

    My middle school kids had a great time with a lesson on using context clues using the picture book, Baloney, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, who also wrote and illustrated The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! and The Stinky Cheese Man. This picture book looked a little young for this age group, but the […]

Planning a Group Reading Response Activity

    So you’ve just finished reading a novel or a short story with the class, and it’s time for a fun small group activity.  But you also want to review the basic story elements and get the kids thinking about the characters and the theme of the story.  How do you combine the two? […]

Getting Into Your Classroom Library

    Now that school is in full swing and the newness of back-to-school has word off for the kids, it just might be time for an activity to drum up interest in some of the great resources that you already have at hand.  One activity that my kids always enjoyed at this time of […]

A Day’s Work Introduces Themes of Immigration and Learning from Elders

    A Day’s Work, by Eve Bunting, is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book relevant to middle grade kids that would make a great class introduction to either of the themes addressed in the story — immigration  or learning from elders.  One use might be to introduce one of the themes before reading […]

If You Only Read One Chapter . . .

    I’m re-reading, and writing, about Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl – an old favorite middle grades novel.  I picked up on chapter 4 today, but it was such a fun part of the book that I decided to write about just this one chapter.  Chapter 4, “My Father’s Deep Dark […]

Danny is Still the Champion

I’m linking up with Focused on Fifth with some ideas about a long-time favorite novel for the middle grades!         Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl, has been a favorite of middle school kids, and many teachers, for years!  It tells a modern story – about a boy who grows […]

Context Clues Chart

Here is a handy anchor chart to show students how to search for context clues in a piece of text.  The chart explains and gives examples of three types of context clues that students can look for.  You can download a copy here: How to Use Context Clues        

Teaching with Fairy Tale Comics

Fairy Tale Comics, edited by Chris Duffy, is a book that middle grade kids will love for its comic book style.  There is even one story done by the designer of the SpongeBob SquarePants movie characters!  Middle grade teachers will love this book too, because the stories in Fairy Tale Comics are perfect for demonstrating […]

What Is Success? with Acoustic Rooster

Another great picture book for older kids.   Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band, by Kwame Alexander, is another picture book that will appeal to kids of all ages.  Once students have learned a little about the Jazz Age and have become familiar with names like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, they are ready to […]

Journey – Picturing Family Scenes

Taking photographs is an important element in the novel Journey, by Patricia MacLachlan. In the novel, Grandfather, who loves to take pictures of his family, says, “Sometimes pictures show us what is really there.”  Grandma put it this way, “The camera knows.”     Journey, their grandson, is angry because his mom has left.  When […]

Plotting the Story – Dragon, Dragon

The short story, Dragon, Dragon, by John Gardner is a traditional-style dragon tale with an added dose of humor.  Because of the humor, middle grade kids easily get into the story.   It is a favorite of mine for starting the year because it’s a sure-fire success with the kids, and because it’s great for teaching […]

Task Cards – A Go-To Resource for Middle Grades Teachers

For a class of middle grade kids who love to work in groups and love to move around the room, task cards can be your go-to resource.  They are so handy to have around and pull out throughout the year as needed. And task cards work great for any language arts skills – reading, writing, […]

Novel Study Activities Kids Will Love

    I’m posting at Education to the Core today.  A big thank you to Emily for that!  It’s all about fun activities for students to do with a class novel.  Lots of suggestions; check them out here.    

Journey – Photos, Families, and Discussions

  Journey, the short novel by Patricia MacLachlan, is a wonderful choice for whole-class reading.  The story reads like a simple tale, but there is plenty of depth to it.  Many sections of this novel would lend themselves to great class discussions.  With an 11-year-old main character who comes to new understanding of his family with […]

Alliteration – A Fun Introduction for All Ages

Animalia, by Graeme Base, is one of those picture books that appeals to all ages because of its intriguing pictures, and it is the perfect introduction to alliteration.  Each page features one animal, described with creative alliteration and pictured with artwork that is expressive and animated.  Each page is also full of interesting objects in […]

Thinking Skills in Reading Activities

It’s no surprise that some of the most useful reading skills are also some of the most difficult for kids to master.  Skills like making inferences, characterization, and making use of text structures take practice.  Kids gradually become proficient at these deeper thinking skills by putting them to use.  One good way to practice is […]

Mirette in the High Wire to Teach Story Elements and Persistence

Mirette on the High Wire, by Emily Arnold McCully, is the story of a young girl, Mirette,who grows up in a Paris boardinghouse where performers often took lodging.  When a wire walker named Bellini arrives and sets up a practice wire across the courtyard, Mirette can only think of one thing – walking on the […]

The Lost Colony – What Do You Think?

For teachers, and students, who like stories, The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Jean Fritz, is a great choice when only a non-fiction book will do.  It tells the true story of the colonists who disappeared from Roanoke Island and discusses the theories about what might have happened to them.     This story is full of […]

The Mysterious World of The Library Card

  The Library Card, by Jerry Spinelli, can make a great introduction to a summer reading program. What better way to motivate kids to check out the library over the summer than these mysterious short stories with their magical library cards?   The Library Card consists of four short stories that will appeal to middle grade kids. […]

All Four Stars – A Good Summer Read

If you are looking for novels to recommend to your middle grade students for summer reading, All Four Stars by Tara Dairman might be a good one to add to your list.  In All Four Stars, the young heroine, Gladys Gatsby, cooks her way through a sequence of unlikely misadventures and somehow becomes a New […]

The Fun Is in the Search!

    A scavenger hunt is a fun way to follow up on a class novel.  Kids will get to explore a range of reading materials, and you may end up with some good readings to use  in class – great for some “paired passages” activities!   Plan a visit to the library where you […]

History and Figurative Language From Miss Ida’s Porch

  From Miss Ida’s Porch,by Sandra Belton, describes a summer evening gathering on a neighborhood porch. To the young narrator, this is “the best time,” a time when wonderful stories are passed down.   The parents and neighbors on the porch tell about the time when famous entertainers who came into town to perform stayed […]

CRASH – Theme Questions for Reading Responses

    CRASH, by Jerry Spinelli, introduces several interesting themes that suggest interesting  topics for writing prompts.  Here are some ideas for questions that students could write reading responses about after reading CRASH.  For any of the questions, students might be directed to be sure to use evidence from the story, along with their own […]

Introducing Point of View and Tone with THE WALL

  In the picture book, The Wall, by Eve Bunting, a very young boy goes with his dad to find his grandfather’s name on the Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This story would work well to introduce the story elements of point of view and tone, which students can then apply to their readings in novels and other […]

Favorite History-Related Picture Books

Picture books are great for introducing a new topic or time period in history!  They also provide a great tie-in between language arts, or reading, and history.  Here are three of my favorite history-related picture books.     The Wall  is a fictional story about a boy and his father visiting the Vietnam Wall. Duke Ellington […]

Big Talk – Fun Poems for Choral Reading

Big Talk, by Paul Fleischman, might be just what you need if oral reading is on your list of things to do.  If you’ve read Fleischman’s previous book of choral readings, Joyful Noise, you’ll know what I’m talking about.     Joyful Noise, used by many teachers, is a book of poems for two voices, but Big Talk is, like […]

Introducing Point of View and Theme with Two Bad Ants

For a great picture book connection to point of view and theme, read Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg.  With its ants-eye point of view and lessons learned at the end its perfect for introducing these two story-telling elements.         The story is told from the point of view of the […]

Introducing Research Skills with a Kid’s Almanac

  Research doesn’t always need to involve a trip to the library or the computer lab.  Especially when you are introducing certain research skills and just want the kids get in a little practice, a kid’s almanac may be the perfect solution.  Scholastic’s Almanac for Kids is one good choice.  Ideally, you will need one […]

Theme Questions for The Cay

Theodore Taylor’s novel, The Cay, is a great one for working on the concept of theme.  You can talk about themes in a variety of categories – man against nature – with the storm, man against society – with the war, man against technology – with the ship and the torpedoes, and man against self […]

Great Books with a World War II Connection

During the second semester, kids in US history class are probably studying World War II.  It’s a great time for English teachers to choose a novel or personal narrative with a history connection for their class to read.  Here are some of my favorites.     Number the Stars  is an interesting choice because of […]

Extended Activities for Number the Stars

Lois Lowry’s novel Number the Stars is a great one to lead into a variety of other reading, writing, and even research activities.   For extended reading, Number the Stars could be paired with current events articles to provide a mix of fiction and non-fiction.  For example, in the novel, Annemarie’s sister and her fiancé, […]

Making Inferences Practice

Making inferences is one of the most difficult reading skills that middle grade students need to master.  It involves higher level thinking skills and requires students to put their background knowledge to use and make connections between things that they have read. Practicing with short passages can help your students become more proficient at making […]

Story Elements Foldable Bookmark

For a simple and convenient way for students to keep track of story elements as they read a novel, try this foldable story elements bookmark – a freebie from my TPT store.  It’s the most popular freebie from Classroom in the Middle!       Front of page:   Back of page: Linked with Classroom […]

Autumn Reads

Two picture books that I love to pull out this time of year are Look What I Did With a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi and Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott. The first one is all about fall crafts, and the second is a Native American tale. Look What I Did With a […]

Veteran’s Day Tie-ins

Two novels that tie in well with Veterans day for middle grade kids are Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry,  and The Cay, by Theodore Taylor.  Both books are about kids who are dealing with the effects of World War II on their families and would fit in with a discussion of how kids cope with […]

Parts of Speech Hunt with Gorky Rises

  Parts of speech is one of those topics that seem to need a little something extra to get kids interested – especially kids in the middle grades!  So I like to add two favorite elements – a picture book and a contest.   With kids who have already been introduced to the parts of […]

Story Elements Step by Step

Mapping the elements of a story can help students to see the big picture of what goes into making a good story, but story elements is also one of those topics that gets repeated over and over throughout the years in an English curriculum. What do you do about teaching story elements to students who […]

The Stranger, and Riding the Tiger

My guest post on Minds in Bloom, which is all about making inferences, includes inference questions for the pictures books The Stranger  by Chris Van Allsburg and Riding the Tiger by Eve Bunting. One interesting idea might be to begin a lesson on inferencing with the photo activity described in that post, and then follow up with either […]

Riding the Tiger – Group Vocabulary Presentations

  There are so many good vocabulary words that go with the theme of Eve Bunting’s Riding the Tiger, especially words that have to do with character  qualities.  After reading and discussing the story is a perfect time for a vocabulary activity in which student groups each focus closely on one word.  Here is a list […]

I Have . . .Who Has . .?

For a review game that gets the whole class involved, try “I Have . . .Who Has . .?”  It’s easy to make, works with nearly any content, and gets the whole class involved.   The only materials that you will need are a set of question and answer cards – preferably one or two cards […]

Saving Sweetness, and Similes

For some great, funny examples of similes, try the picture book, Saving Sweetness, by Diane Stanley.   The sheriff in Saving Sweetness has a way with words.  His descriptions of the little girl, Sweetness, and the outlaw, Coyote Pete, are sure to make your students laugh.  He also has some choice words for Mrs. Sump, […]

Teaching Setting with The Cay

The Cay, by Theodore Taylor, is a good choice for teaching the story element of setting.  Since the two islands where Phillip lives in The Cay are so different, students can practice looking closely at each setting, by focusing on details from the novel, to compare the two.   Curacao, the island where Phillip lives […]

Schooled: A Teenage Problem Novel – Sixties Style

  Schooled, by Gordon Korman, is a teenage problem story with a twist.  Much like those picture books for little kids that feature teddy bears with very kid-like problems, Schooled serves up the story of a teenager boy who doesn’t resemble everyday teenagers – a boy named Capricorn who wears tie-dyed shirts and homemade sandals […]

Teaching Characterization with The Cay

There is more to teaching characterization than just having students name character traits.  Another important characterization skill for students is to recognize how a character changes over the course of a novel.   The Cay, by Theodore Taylor, is a great novel for teaching this characterization skill. The main character, Phillip, matures and undergoes many […]

Characterization Activity for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Here is a characterization activity for Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos; it asks students to read closely in order to select quotes from the novel.     Having students choose specific quotes to illustrate character traits is a great activity for developing characterization skills because it requires students to be specific in their […]

Riding the Tiger

Riding the Tiger, by Eve Bunting, is great for teaching inferences and extended metaphor!   Riding the Tiger is the story of ten-year-old Danny, who is offered a ride through his city neighborhood on the back of a tiger.  He would like to take the ride, but says that he has to ask his mother […]