More in Category: Reading Activities

Teaching Freedom of the Press in Middle School Language Arts Class

Freedom of the press – it’s such an important and timely topic – and has been ever since the beginning of our country, back when one-page broadsides read aloud on the main street kept citizens informed. Today with an infinite number of pages and screens full of information, it is still just as important – […]

After-Reading Activities for Number the Stars

One of my favorite things about using historical novels for whole-class novel studies is that they present so many connections to current events and so many opportunities for really interesting follow-up activities. For example, Lois Lowry’s novel Number the Stars is a great one to read as a whole class and then use as a […]

Fifteen Favorite Holiday Reads

Some of the most wonderful (but often overlooked) things about the Christmas season are the stories, and the songs, and the poems, and the plays!  Here are some of my favorites that I think you might enjoy sharing with your students. This post is an update of an older one, Fifteen Favorite Stories, which I […]

Diving into Reading Skills with Close Reading

Diving into Reading Skills with Close Reading

Reading a novel in class and focusing on skills as they come up in the story is a common way of addressing reading comprehension, but sometimes you need to take a deeper dive and focus in a sustained way on comprehension skills using close reading lessons. A close reading lesson is a great way to […]

Sharing a Story - Ideas from Walk Two Moons

Sharing a Story – Ideas from Walk Two Moons

In Walk Two Moons, the middle grades novel by Sharon Creech, Sal keeps the long car ride interesting by telling an “extensively strange story” about her friend Phoebe. Also, many of the young characters in the novel share their stories in journal entries that unexpectedly get read aloud to the whole class. Both of these […]

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 unexpected, or maybe serendipitous, not spooky. Although the book itself […]

Classroom Discussion Questions for A Wrinkle in Time

  After reading A Wrinkle in Time, the classic middle grades novel by Madeleine L’Engle, kids will enjoy a class discussion.  Maybe first they will need to tell you all about the special effects and costumes in the movie, but once they get that out of their systems, its time for some real discussion questions.  Here is […]

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 – topics based on themes addressed in the story, story elements, or events from t he plot. […]

Discussion Questions for Pictures of Hollis Woods

  Today, I’m reposting this set of discussion/essay questions for Pictures of Hollis Woods.  For presenting a great assortment of themes for middle graders, this novel is the best!  The themes are at once easily accessible for middle graders and at the same time interesting and complex as you get into them.   Pictures of Hollis […]

Historical Novel Studies for the Middle Grades

  Are you one of the many middle grade teachers who do at least one historical novel with your whole class each year?  If you are, I’d be interested in hearing which time period you chose for your novel study(-ies)?  Especially since three out of my four favorites are set during WWII.  (You’ll find a […]

Finding Reading Comprehension Passages

  It’s kind of like the story of the three bears – some seem a bit too big, some seem a bit too small, and some are just right!   But actually, at least when we are talking about reading comprehension passages, any size can work for a great lesson.  Longer readings (even a novel!) […]

No-Copy Foldables 3 - An Easy Cube

No-Copy Foldables 3 – An Easy Cube

  So, I’ve written before about various organizers that kids can make from just a sheet of printer paper (no copying needed), and about organizers that they can put together from sticky notes. Today, I thought I would add to my posts about no-copy foldables with this one about making a simple cube.   These […]

Task Cards for Big Kids

  As a middle school teacher, I knew that it was important to incorporate movement into my lessons – to let out some of that boundless middle school energy.  But I could also see that movement could get distracting really fast, especially too much movement.   That’s why, whenever I create a new set of […]

Reading Task Card Sampler – Free Resource

  This is a free sampler of reading task cards that includes both print and digital versions!  It includes eight sample cards on a mix of reading skills – enough for one lesson since these cards contain more content per card than many average task cards.   There are even two choices for the digital […]

Novel Study Round-Up

  Are you already thinking about which novels you will use for novel studies next year?  Which novels for for whole class instruction, which ones for small groups, which ones for individual reading?  There are so many great choices, and each one that you pick means leaving out another one!   Here are some of […]

Teaching Figurative Language and Imagery with Task Cards

  Figurative language and imagery are fun to teach, but they can be difficult at the same time!  Fun because these types of language appeal to the senses, which allows the language to become concrete for the kids.  Fun, also, because they appeal to kids creativity.  Difficult because they need to be looked at closely […]

Invent a Character, Invent a Setting

Invent a Character, Invent a Setting

    Do you teach story elements at the beginning of the year?  Review at mid-year?  Teach them bit by bit throughout a semester?  However you teach story elements, they’re sure to take up a good chunk of your Language Arts teaching time!  So it makes senses to get as much bang for the buck […]

Forgotten Christmas Stories

Forgotten Christmas Stories

  “Piccola” is a Christmas story that is not well-known like A Christmas Carol  or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but is is a lovely story that has a great Christmas message, just as the well-known stories have.  It is an old story, so it is in the public domain, and you can read it for free at Project […]

Teaching Chronological Order with Task Cards

Teaching Chronological Order with Task Cards

    Three fun things about teaching chronological order: It’s great for both reading and writing lessons. It’s great for tying your language arts lessons in with other subjects, especially history. There are lots of quick activities that are fun for students to use to practice their skills.   Task cards, of course, are great […]

Teaching Characterization with Task Cards

Teaching Characterization with Task Cards

  Characterization is such an important story element when you are teaching a fiction story or a narrative non-fiction piece such as a biography or memoir.  In reading lessons, kids are often asked to identify character traits and maybe to find text evidence to support those traits.   But have you noticed that kids tend […]

Real News Fake News Discussion Questions

Real News / Fake News – Discussion Questions

  Misinformation, disinformation, fake news – whatever you call it, it’s maybe one of the most important things that students of today need to learn to deal with. So much depends on it  –  in student’s everyday lives and in their future, as well as in their country and their country’s future.   As English […]

The Destination or the Journey – A Writing Prompt Inspired by Missing May

  In Missing May, the novel by Cynthia Rylant, the whole story turns on a road trip.  The trip is suggested by Cletus, a classmate of Summer’s (the main character’s).   Cletus suggests that Summer, Ob, and himself travel to see a medium who, he has heard, can communicate with the dead.  The medium’s home/church is […]

Missing May Follow-up Activity

Missing May Follow-up Activity

  The novel Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant, is set in West Virginia, in an old run-down trailer, that Summer, the main character and the narrator, describes as Paradise.  She loves everything about her new home with her aunt and uncle, Ob and May.   Her classmate Cletus, whom she doesn’t think much of at first, dreams […]

Reading Skills – Free Resources

  A favorite activity for teachers – when not actually in class teaching – seems to be gathering classroom materials and sorting them for use throughout the year.  Teaching materials are one of those things that you can never have too many of!  There always seems to be a class, or maybe just one kid, […]

Free Novel Study Activities

  Doing a novel study takes a lot of planning.  It’s a big investment of a teacher’s time!  Beginning with plenty of good materials to choose from is one way to make the process run more quickly and smoothly.   As I’ve been creating novel studies, I’ve also made a free teaching resource for each […]

Life on the Homefront – Stepping on the Cracks

  Stepping on the Cracks, the middle grades novel by Mary Downing Hahn is all about life on the home front during wartime.  Here are some ideas for connections that might be useful as you read the novel in class – ideas for discussions, research, projects, etc.   Not since the Civil War, has there […]

Stepping on the Cracks – Discussion Questions

  Stepping on the Cracks, the middle grades novel by Mary Downing Hahn, introduces thought-provoking themes as it relates its story of life on the home front during World War II.  Here are some of these themes along with questions for class discussion.   Some of the questions are about the novel itself or its […]

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension – All in One, or One by One?

  Which way do you like to teach reading skills – all together as you read a novel or story, or one by one with practice materials tailored to each specific skill?   My own answer?  Both!   When it’s time to teach a new reading element or skill, I’d go for materials designed specifically […]

Text Structure Activity Sheets with a Climate Theme, Free Resource

If you’re looking for mini-lessons or quick reviews of the text structures, these free activities from Classroom in the Middle might be just what you need.  The free download from my Teachers Pay Teachers store includes three text structure activity sheets with activities based on photos and reading passages. Practice with four text structures is provided in […]

Sticky Note Group Organizer 2

Sticky Note Group Organizers

Isn’t it funny how something as simple as a pad of sticky notes can make a lesson more interesting?  One minute it’s a struggle to get the kids interested in the topic at hand, and the next minute they’re alert and into the lesson.  Why?  Because they’ve spotted the sticky notes!   Take a lesson […]

Election Season LA Resources

Election Season Language Arts Resources, with Two(!) Freebies

  This election season, I wanted new resources focusing on the media.  Eventually, I had these two – Media Literacy, Finding Real News Among the Fake, and this little free one, Media Literacy Free Activity Sheets.  Then, still in the same frame of mind, I put together one more – another little free resource about […]

Media Literacy for Middle Grade Teachers

Media Literacy for Middle Grade Teachers

  With media sources being so divided – many favoring either the left or the right in American politics – it’s more important that ever for kids to learn skills that will help them to evaluate their sources.  And for teachers, there is so much to teach – so many things that we want our […]

Non-Fiction Genres Posters

Non-Fiction Genres, Free Teaching Posters

  Do you have students who can’t seem to get interested in class novels or short stories but love to check out informational books on library days!   When I was in the classroom, I seemed to have a number of these every year.  Sure there was always one or two who just wanted the […]

Informational Texts Roundup

Informational Texts for Middle School and Upper Elementary Round-up

  There are so many ways that you can go with informational texts, and that seems to go for not only reading lessons using informational texts, but even for blog posts about the topic!  Once I started looking over my posts related to informational texts in preparation for this article, I found quite a mixed […]

Descriptive Text Structure and Revising – Pairing Reading and Writing Topics

  The descriptive text structure seems to be the one that is often overlooked, and that is a shame because there are so many fun and interesting lessons that you can do with descriptive writing.  Teaching students to take note of this text structure prepares them perfectly for working to add more description to their […]

Fake News - What Do Kids Need to Know?

Fake News and Checking Sources – What Do Kids Need to Know?

  When it comes to fake news, there’s a LOT that kids need to learn, and even teaching the meaning of fake news can be complicated because the term has been spun so often.  Does it mean news that really isn’t true, or does it mean attacking real news by calling it “fake”?   This […]

Free Back to School Resources

Free Teaching Resources for Language Arts and Reading Back to School

  For many teachers, it’s about that time – time to start collecting materials, buying new supplies, searching for free resources, and sorting through old stuff to see what will will work for the upcoming year.  Back to school instruction may look different this year that it did last (in a way isn’t that how […]

Why Teach a Controversial Book Like Wringer

  The first time I started to read Wringer, I almost didn’t.  I love the other Jerry Spinelli books that I’ve read, but when I saw that this one was about a pigeon shoot (!), I almost stopped right there.  Reading a little further, I still wasn’t sure. Yes it addressed important themes in a […]

Using Book Response Bookmarks

Using Book Response Bookmarks in the Classroom and at Home

  How can our kids maintain their reading skills over the summer without feeling like they’re still in school?  One of the best ways, I think, is by leisurely reading books – novels and informational text – that they might not have time for, or the inclination to read, during the busy school year.   […]

Summer Review Activities

Summer Practice

  It’s that time of year – time to round up some simple, easy to use resources for kids to take home for summer practice.  Maybe your kids (or their parents) want some review work to take home.  Maybe you are required to send home some practice work to help students keep their skills current. […]

Blog Posts about Classic Middle Grades Novels

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. […]

Book Response Bookmarks, and Reading at Home

  Other than lessons on the computer, what is your favorite assignment for kids to work on from home?  School time at home seems to me like the perfect opportunity for certain assignments that may be difficult to fit into the usual school day – such as book studies.   A book study seems especially […]

Poetry Month in the Classroom (or at Home!)

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 out […]


Characterization – Teaching the Skills and Character Traits

  When reading a novel for myself, characterization is usually my favorite story element.  To me, that’s what a story is really all about – character development and how a character changes as the story progresses.  As a language arts teacher, I found that while it can be difficult for kids to come up with […]

Fun Activities with Latin and Greek Roots

Fun Activities with Latin and Greek Roots

As essential as Latin and Greek roots are to vocabulary growth, to a middle schooler or upper elementary student they can seem more than a little dry.  For an English teacher, it’s easy to get interested in a new root that can open up a whole new selection of words, but for a kid, probably […]

Getting Into Informational Texts and Close Reading

  Informational texts can be high-interest for many kids, but first the topic of the text needs to look appealing.  Maybe it’s the pictures, the title, or the topic itself, but something has to appeal to the kids right off the bat to get them into the text before they can begin to get to […]

Little Celebrations in the CLassroom

Little Celebrations in the Classroom

  In language arts class, a reason to celebrate can be just what’s needed – to get things done!  As middle school and upper elementary teachers know so well, education is not a priority for kids at this level; having fun with friends, on the other hand, is.  So we are always on the lookout […]

Story Elements-A Fun Quick-Check

    Every year (at least in the middle grades!) teachers address the topic of story elements.  After all, it is an essential skill for a good understanding of fiction and even for good basic reading comprehension.  But each year, that means starting out with some method of finding out what your kids already know […]

Autumn Activity Sheets for Free

Autumn Activity Sheets for Free

  This Autumn Sampler is my freebie of the season.  It’s a set of three autumn-themed activity sheets with a little bit of reading, writing, and vocabulary practice on each one.  I call it a “sampler” since each activity is one little part from one of my larger resources, and this week just seemed like […]

Seasonal Reading Skills

Seasonal Reading Skills

  Kids don’t learn reading skills just once!  Reading skills take repetition and practice, not just yearly reviews but practice throughout the year as well.  But to kids, this essential practice can sometimes look like just a rehash of something they learned last year.  That’s one reason why seasonal and holiday activities are so welcome […]

Winning the Right to Vote

Winning the Right to Vote – Close Reading

  If ever there was a time when kids needed to learn to how to make sense of what’s going  on in politics, it has to be now!  Every year, it’s becoming more essential that citizens learn to dig out and really understand the facts behind what they see on social media.   And with […]

Crash's Yearbook freebie

CRASH’s Yearbook, free resource

  CRASH, the middle grades novel by Jerry Spinelli, is such a fun read for the beginning of the school year with it’s cast of unique character types that any middle school or upper elementary student will recognize.   Heading the cast are Crash himself, a football star and a bully, and Penn, a quiet, […]

Close Reading - Ready!

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 can have their place – depending on  your teaching style and how much time and […]

Teaching Reading Skills with Mysteries

Teaching Reading Skills with Mysteries, Plus Free Task Cards

  Kids love puzzles, and I suppose that’s why they love mysteries!  Each mystery is like a new puzzle that has to be solved in a different way.  Luckily for us, that makes these stories (fiction or true) a great vehicle for teaching all manner of reading skills.  At the top of the list, I […]

Story Elements - Ready to Go

Story Elements – Ready to Go?

  Planning to teach story elements gets trickier as kids move into upper elementary and middle grades.  As much as they still need to fully understand the elements that make up the stories they love, many have still just scratched the surface when it comes to fiction-reading skills.  They may remember what characters, setting, and […]

Thinking Skills in Reading Activities

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.  They require close reading.  Kids gradually become proficient at these deeper thinking skills by putting them to use.  One good […]

Journey Vocabulary

Working with Story Vocabulary from the Novel Journey, Plus a Freebie

Journey, the middle grades novel by Patricia LacLachlan, lends itself really well to related vocabulary activities, and it’s a great choice for upper elementary kids as well as those middle school students who do best with shorter easy-to-read novels for whatever reason.  Actually, people of all ages enjoy reading this easy little story.  Mainly it’s […]

Task Cards - a Go-To Resource

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, […]

Journey novel study

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 guidance […]

Wringer - Related Readings and Activities

Wringer – Related Readings and Activities

  With my novel study for Wringer completed, I’d like to share some additional resources for teaching with Wringer in the classroom.  Wringer, the middle grades novel by Jerry Spinelli, is an interesting springboard for classroom discussions and lots of other language arts activities, and there are plenty of good resources that can be paired […]

Freedom of the Press - Quote Activities

Freedom of the Press – Quote Activities

  Freedom of the press is a topic that is both timely and perennial as a subject for classroom activities.  Whether in language arts, reading, or social studies class, a discussion of freedom of the press can lead into all kinds of great reading and writing lessons as well as friendly debates!   As I […]

Text Structures Anchor Chart

  Here is a little anchor chart about text structures that you can download for free from this post.  It includes definitions and an example for each of five text structures: Chronological Order Cause and Effect Problem and Solution Compare and Contrast Description   The chart is a one-page size that might come in handy for […]

Voice and Tone – Teaching the Concept

  Voice and tone – it can be a little bit hard to explain. OK, maybe a lot hard to explain, especially to middle grade kids.   Maybe it’s because voice and tone are so similar. Maybe it’s because many of the adjectives that describe voices also describe tones. And then there’s the problem of […]

Reviewing a Class Novel with a Fun Card Game

  Beginning a new whole-class novel is an exciting event.  Teachers talk up the story, and kids start to make connections to their own experiences right from the beginning.  Then they get to meet the new characters; it’s almost like getting new students in class – always exciting!   As the story progresses, there are […]

Close Reading Time?

  Is it that time of year when you can finally settle in a spend the time to do some close reading with your kids?  Time to choose a few articles that will appeal to the kids, and really dig in –  show kids how much they can actually get out a piece of reading […]

Presenting and Practicing the Text Structures

  I’ve finally finished all of the text structure resources that I’ve been working on!  Here are the details.   I’ve made resources for five text structures: Cause and Effect Chronological Order Compare and Contrast Problem and Solution Description   For each one, there is a set of 30 task cards and a slide presentation. […]

Focus and Persistence - How about Snowflake Bentley

Focus and Persistence – How about Snowflake Bentley?

  If it’s that time of year when your kids need a little reminder about staying focused or working persistently, the picture book Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, might be just the ticket!  It’s a Caldecott winning winter-themed story, and the main character demonstrates the characteristics of focus and persistence to an amazing degree.   […]

Introducing Imagery with Grass Sandals

Introducing Imagery with Grass Sandals

  The picture book Grass Sandals, by Dawnine Spivak, would make a perfect introduction to a language arts unit focusing on imagery of the five sense, poetry, or descriptive writing in general.  Grass Sandals tells the story of the poet Basho’s journey on foot across Japan.  Basho was a Japanese poet who lived in the 1600s and […]

Introducing an Immigration-Themed Reading Unit with Grandfather’s Journey

  As I’ve mentioned before, using a great picture book is one of my favorite activities for introducing a new reading unit.  Short and sweet, with lots of engaging pictures, it’s a sure way to get kids interested in the theme and a quick way to introduce a reading skill or two that you plan […]

Cause and Effect – Teaching the Text Structure

  “I’m not finished my assignment because Billy pushed my paper on the floor, and then Stan stepped on it, and so I had to start over. And that’s why it’s not finished yet.”   From missing assignments, to ice cream melting in the sun, to snow causing holidays, kids are great at explaining WHY […]

Compare and Contrast – Teaching the Text Structure

  There’s so much you can do with the text structure of compare and contrast.  As a reading skill, kids can compare two things, characters, or places from a story or article.  They can also compare two articles about the same topic that have different points of view.  Or students can practice writing a compare […]

Story Elements Mini-Lessons

The fun part of reading class is reading the stories, not teaching lessons about stories, but sometimes a story will provide a great lead-in to a lesson on a particular story element, and of course, these lessons in context are often the most effective ones! For example, maybe a story that your class is reading […]

Activities for Celebrating Banned Book Week

Near the end of September each year, schools, librarians, English and reading teachers, and students across the country celebrate Banned Book Week.  Kids may not know why we celebrate banned books – after all,”banned” sounds like a bad thing, right?  So starting with information about the event, which is all about freedom to share ideas […]

Good Inferences, Sound Conclusions

  Scientists aren’t always right.  But they are pretty good when it comes to making inferences and drawing conclusions (using that scientific method of theirs).  Wouldn’t it be great if kids took an approach that’s just a little bit more scientific when they are called on to make inferences or draw conclusions, even if it […]

Using the Story Elements Foldable Bookmark

  This little foldable bookmark is by far the most popular item in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!  It’s an easy to use reading response format for any novel.  And it’s FREE!  The picture above shows the bookmark folded for keeping a student’s place in her book.   Open, it’s a full sheet of paper […]

Back to School, Football, and a Fun Read

  Does your class usually include kids who are really into football at the start of the school year?  Does it also usually include kids who think football is violent and a waste of time?  In that case, you should definitely meet Crash and Penn.   Crash is a bullying middle school football star.  Penn […]

A Wrinkle in Time – Discussing a Controversial Classic

Since it was first published in the early 1960’s, Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time has stirred up controversy.  The novel, which is a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and  realism tells the story of Meg, a high school girl who defeat the forces of evil in the universe to rescue her father from the evil […]

Practicing Higher Level Reading Skills WITHOUT Difficult Texts

  Kids need to learn to handle increasingly complex texts, and that includes putting higher level reading skills into use to really comprehend those texts.  Making inferences and drawing conclusions are two of the most important of those skills.  But before they can become expert at using those skills on difficult texts, sometimes kids just […]

Seven Posts with Ideas for Close Reading

Seven Posts with Teaching Ideas for Close Reading

  Close reading!  Just the term conjures up visions of hard work for the teacher and the students.  For the teacher – preparing a long, involved lesson.  For the students – marking up the text, reading number one, reading number two, reading number three, using text based evidence, etc.   Close reading can be a […]

Teaching Close Reading and Inferences with Settings

Teaching Close Reading and Inferences with Settings

  Setting was one of the story elements that I used to spend little time on when teaching story elements. Once  the kids could identify the time, place, and duration of a story, that was it.  On to more interesting topics.  But lately I’ve noticed that story settings are an untapped source of material for […]

Walk Two Moons paired passages

Walk Two Moons Paired Texts

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech, is a novel for upper elementary and middle school kids about a girl who goes on a life-changing journey with her grandparents.  So for related texts to use in paired passage language arts activities, I began looking for writings related to travel and journeys.  There was so much to […]

Christmas Story Studies

Christmas Story Studies, and a Holiday Freebie

For this holiday season, I’ve been working on two new resources – a set of story studies for seven classic Christmas stories and a free resource with three activity sheets for the winter holidays.     Christmas Story Studies for classic holiday stories includes story questions and two additional activity sheets for each of seven traditional stories.   […]

Riding the Tiger – Group Vocabulary Presentations with a Theme

  Picture books are great vehicles for clarifying one particular story element for the class.  For example, the book Riding the Tiger, by Eve Bunting, is a great one for introducing theme.  One way to do that, of course, would be to discuss the theme of the story after reading the book to the class.  But […]

Ten Ideas for Teaching Figurative Language and Imagery

Ten Ideas for Teaching Figurative Language and Imagery

Figurative language and imagery!  Teaching these concepts can be a fun part and a dreaded part of the language arts curriculum – all at the same time!  Kids in middle school and upper elementary are still much more comfortable with writing whatever comes to their minds rather than working slowly to craft language, and so […]

Point of View and Theme w Two Bad Ants

Introducing Point of View and Theme with Two Bad Ants

This week, I’m re-posting an old favorite.  It’s about teaching point of view and theme – two reading skills that are, to say the least, not the easiest to teach! Luckily, I found a picture book that works great for introducing, or practicing both of these topics, and it works great for upper elementary and […]

Bud, Not Buddy – Extension Activities with Non-Fiction Readings

  Bud, Not Buddy is a great read.  Who wouldn’t enjoy this story of a spunky orphan who’s had such a rough start in life and suddenly finds adventure and a real family at the end of it all!  Bud, Not Buddy, a middle grades historical fiction novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, is a wonderful […]

Organizing Literature Choices for Middle Grade Language Arts Classes

Organizing Literature Choices for Middle Grade Language Arts Classes

  Choosing novels and other readings for a new class might well be a favorite task of language arts teachers.  There are so many great choices, and it’s pleasant to imagine your students responding to a book or story that you have enjoyed.  But organizing those readings for the year can easily become a least-favorite […]

Story Elements Lesson Planning Ideas

  So I was looking through old posts the other day and found all of these ideas for teaching story elements – lesson planning ideas, picture books to use for specific story elements, and other resources.  Here are the best of what I found.  Just click on any image to see the original post. Story […]

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. […]

Discussion Questions for Bud, Not Buddy

With it’s setting in the 1930’s and its connections to American history, the novel, Bud, Not Buddy, by Christoper Paul Curtis, is a great choice for a novel study in middle school or the upper elementary grades.  It brings up lots of interesting questions for discussion, some that could apply to kids of any time […]

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 […]

History and Figurative Language From Miss Ida’s Porch

  The picture book, 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.  This story would be a great one to read aloud to the class, maybe in a couple of sittings since […]

Favorite Novels Activity for the End of the Year

  With this end of year activity, kids get to discuss and recommend their favorite novels that they have read this year, and they also end up with ideas for titles to try over the summer.   To set up, take the novels from your class library and set them up around the room where […]

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 […]

Pictures of Hollis Woods Novel Study and a Freebie

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 to […]

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 gain this […]

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 finding […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

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 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 […]

Women Who Ran for President – Informational Texts

How many women who ran for president of the United States can you name?  Hint: there were more than you might imagine!  I’ve included links at the end of this article to three news articles about this interesting and diverse group of women.  Here are just a few: Victoria Woodhull Victoria Woodhull ran for president […]

Ten Back to School Poems

I was looking for poems that would work great at the beginning of the school year with middle schoolers and upper elementary kids, and I’ve found some great ones!  Some are about starting back to school, and some are about perennial school topics. Some are funny, and some are serious.  If you’re looking for poems to […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

The Summer Slide

What to Do About the Summer Slide?

    The summer slide, of course, is that step backwards in their literacy skills that kids take during the summer while they are enjoying a break from school and having fun in the sun, but there are a number of ways to combat this phenomenon.  Some kids enjoy reading during the summer and keep […]

Possum story in The Van Gogh Cafe

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 […]

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 […]

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

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 […]

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 the others, this […]

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 looking at a simple advertisement as a way of introducing close reading. An ad can be used as an effective illustration of the layers of meaning in a picture or text.   One way to do close reading is to have the kids read the text three times, focusing on a different […]

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 […]

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 […]

Task Cards Designed for the Middle Grades, Including a FREEBIE

    These task cards are all designed specifically for the middle grades – four through seven.  There is more content per card than on the typical elementary school task cards, so kids still get to move around when you’re doing an activity, but they also will spend a few more minutes on each card […]

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 how to sue context clues 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     Related […]

Planning to Write with Story Dice

    These story dice look like a fun resource for introducing narrative writing.  The set that I’m looking at here are called StoryTime Dice, and they’re from Imagination Generation, but there are a number of different choices from various companies.  This set had dice for: • heroes •villains •settings •vehicles •tools •obstacles •and prizes […]

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 […]

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’s a fun one to read together in class.   There are plenty of twists and turns of the plot as the first […]

Mirette in the High Wire – Story Elements Plus Persistence

  Story elements and persistence – two great lessons for the beginning of the school year.  In the Language Arts classroom,  introducing or reviewing basic story elements is a longstanding favorite activity for starting off the year’s literature studies.  And the quality of persistence is a good one to demonstrate to kids at this season […]

Teaching Proverbs and Adages

    A barking dog seldom bites.  What does it mean?  Well, first of all, it means that just because a dog barks and sounds scary, that doesn’t mean that he is going to bite anyone.  To me, this seems like a good place to start – have students explain the literal meaning of the […]

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. […]

Learning about Tone and Voice

Kids first learn about speaking in different tones by listening to the responses of the people they are talking to. They learn that certain tones are appropriate for certain situations and that different tones get different reactions. Learning to use various tones in writing is much more difficult because those cues from a listener are […]

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 […]

Crash - novel study theme questions

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 […]

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 […]

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:  

Novels with 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 […]

Parts of Speech Hunt with Gorky Rises

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 […]

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 […]