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Christmas Holiday December Activities for 3rd 4th 5th Graders

Christmas Holiday December Activities for 3rd 4th 5th Graders

When it comes to December, some schools and classrooms celebrate Christmas, and some do not. 

I have worked in three schools and the holiday focus in December varied in each. I have found that the celebration of different December holidays is usually based on the population of the school. One school celebrated Christmas complete with decorated trees in the halls and Christmas sing-alongs each Friday afternoon during the month. However, another school I worked in only celebrated the season of winter because there were so many different holidays celebrated by the population. I have also worked in a school that did a bit of everything in December: winter, Christmas, and other seasonal holidays.

No matter what the philosophy of your school and district is when it comes to celebrating winter holidays in your classroom, I have some high-engagement activities that your students will love! Some with a Christmas theme, some with a winter theme, all easy to use and perfect for December.

What I especially love about these activities is that they will keep your students engaged throughout the day. You can add them to your lesson plans as formal lessons, use them as fast finisher work, and even turn some of the ideas into your holiday party craft!

Christmas Activities for Upper Elementary

persuasive letters to santa christmas writing activities for upper elementary

These activities are high interest, yet easy to implement! They will help you practice important skills while weaving in a Christmas theme that excites and truly motivates kids. These activities are perfect as standalone lessons, centers, party activities, or any way you want!

Christmas Holiday Close Reading Traditions These reading passages are of high interest and include topics like Ugly Sweaters and the Nutcracker. 

Christmas Opinion Writing These this or that type opinion writing activities will have students writing all month long as they share their traditions and opinions with their peers.

Santa Letters Persuasive Writing This one is always a hit! These persuasive letters to Santa are a fun twist on the traditional letter writing to the big guy! You will be wowed by the work your students complete!

12 Days of Christmas Math These are so much fun as a countdown to break by completing one a day for twelve days, or create a mini-book and have students work on them days before break. Either way, your students will be critically thinking!

Reindeer Games These are so much fun for any time, centers, or holiday parties! All you need is a pencil and paper clip to make the spinners and some manipulatives to use as game pieces. Students can play with a partner or independently.

Tic Tac Jingle These differentiated math games are also good any time and fun for parties! Just print and go!

Christmas Kindness Challenge Bulletin Board Decorate for Christmas with these Christmas kindness posters designed to be festive and spread some kindness cheer! The kindness challenge is a fun way to spend December in the classroom.

Christmas Color by Code Because big kids love coloring too! Use as morning work to start the day with some calm or add these to your lessons and party plans!

December Holiday Activities for Upper Elementary

winter bulletin board and kindness activities

These activities are inclusive of a wide range of holidays that are celebrated in December. These Christmas alternative activities are a great way to engage and include all of your students will no additional prep work. I love using activities like these that build and strengthen our classroom community.

December Holidays Your students will learn about all the December holidays with this pack that is sure to have your students feel represented: Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, St. Lucia Day, and more!

✅ 12 Days of Winter Countdown the days until break with this winter twist on the 12 Days of Christmas.

Holiday Cinquain Poetry This non-holiday specific poetry writing activity allows students to write about the holiday and tradition of their choice!

Gingerbread House Performance Task Can your students create and design a gingerbread house that will make the biggest profit? They will love trying to figure this task out!

 How to Make Hot Cocoa Procedural Project You can still have a hot cocoa-themed party, but it just does not have to be Christmas themed! This project is so much fun as kids try to write the perfect recipe for hot cocoa!

North Pole Reading and Writing Bust out the maps and learn about the North Pole with this close reading pack that combines geography and nonfiction reading, perfect for December.

Holiday Thank You Cards These are great for teachers to give students, but also for students to write out, too! We love writing thank you cards in the classroom...here are some ideas.

Welcoming the New Year Print, copy, and leave on your desk to make the January return to school much simpler!

Bring on the Winter Activities for Upper Elementary

winter sports and snowboarding close reading for upper elementary winter activities

Winter activities in the classroom are favorite to use, because not only do they include all students they can be completed all winter season long! This means that there is no rush to get them done before the holiday break! Yay! Another positive is that when you have winter work prepped and ready to go, it makes the return to school after the break that much more simpler and enjoyable!

Winter Kindness Challenge Bulletin Board Decorate for the season of winter with these winter kindness posters designed to be festive and spread some kindness cheer! The kindness challenge is a fun way to use all season.

Tic Tac Snow Math Games These differentiated math games are also good as centers, any time, and fun for parties! Just print and go!

Winter Solstice We love reading nonfiction in the classroom, and this set is perfect for the winter solstice and all season long.

Snowman Job Designer for Hire This fun persuasive writing unit will have your students applying for the job of snow designer. Complete with a job application, students must persuade you to hire them for the job!

Winter Sports Close Reading  Another high-interest nonfiction close reading pack with creative tasks that kids love to read!

Winter Wonderland Writing Project This is always my favorite activity of the year and is perfect for December or January. Find out how I teach descriptive writing with this project HERE.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the month of December with your students remember to have fun and soak in every moment of that December magic! Happy holidays!

Be sure to grab these free holiday activities!

free Christmas and Hanukkah activities for upper elementary

Looking for more meaningful winter activities like these New Year's ActivitiesTake a look here

new year celebration activities for kids upper elmentary

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Christmas Holiday December Activities for 3rd 4th 5th Graders

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

At the beginning of the year, when we get the school calendar, I immediately circle two dates: Meet the Teacher Night and Parent Teacher Conferences. After teaching for 18 years, I still get a bit nervous for both!

I do love parent-teacher conferences, even though I get a bit nervous! I love meeting with parents and families and working together to make the school year one filled with goal setting, accomplishments, and growth. After many years of planning and prepping to make parent-teacher conferences run smoothly, I have compiled a list of 10 must-do tips to help make any parent-teacher conference a success!

Try one or all 10 of these tips to make your next parent-teacher conference a success!

1. Create a warm environment.

Dim the lights, turn on a lamp, and play soft music to help set the mood for your conference. I have found that meeting at a table in the room is a great way to be a bit more personal versus sitting at your desk. I always have a hot water pot on and offer parents and family members a cup of tea to welcome them and help them feel relaxed before beginning our conversation.

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

2. Celebrate your students and their work.

Display recent student writing, work, and projects around the classroom. Parents love to take a few minutes to see their child's work in action! Don't forget to snap pictures throughout the year of students working in your classroom. Display those for your parents to see, too! The pictures and work you display will show how much you care for your students and give you some great talking points, too.

3. Create a class collaborative book.

I love to create class books and leave them in the hallway for parents to read and look through as they wait for their conference time. it can be a collection of student writing or a simple photograph introduction book. To do this, I simply take a photo of each student, and then they write a few sentences about themselves. This is always a hit! Parents love to see their child's classmates. When conference time is over, this class book earns a permanent spot in our classroom library.

4. Be prepared and organized, and start with a positive.

Use forms and data sheets to be prepared and organized. Sort your paperwork in the order of your conferences so that each child's conference folder is at your fingertips at the start of each conference. Starting with a positive comment about each child is a great way to show parents what an important part of the class their child is. You can start by celebrating any aspect of the child, no matter how small the compliment is, parents are always excited to hear something nice about their child. A simple, your child's smile brightens the room, is enough to kick off the conference on a positive note.

5. Use student-completed forms to kick off your conference!

Keep student work and student-completed reflections in your conference folders. I love kicking off each conference by reading and sharing student reflections about the year, their work, and their progress. There are so many positive talking points that help us start off the conference on the right foot. 

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

6. Be honest.

Always be honest with students' academic and behavioral progress, sharing any concerns that you have.  If there is an area for improvement, be sure to share that with parents. You will want to start with a positive, but then be sure to share your concerns.

7. Take good notes.

Be an active listener during your conference and take notes on the discussion that you have. The notes you take will come in handy as the year progresses and can be referred to the next time you meet about that child. If you do not want to write your notes while the parent is there, be sure to record the notes and thoughts that you have as soon as they leave. Grab these FREE parent forms to keep track of parent communication throughout the year.

8. Invite a colleague.

I always invite support staff to attend the conferences of students who receive support.  It is nice to have another staff member on hand to help answer questions and offer additional insight into the student's growth and areas for improvement. Having an additional staff member attend is also good because they serve as a witness to the conversation. Ex: If you have a student who receives reading support, invite the reading specialist. 

9. Be sure to follow up!

I love sending thank you notes to parents and families who attend the conference. You can send just a quick thank you with any follow-up information that they requested or you can simply just write your own personal message about the conference. If you do include information about a question that parents asked during the conference, be sure to make a copy of the letter that you send home for your own records.

10. Relax, you are done!

Now that conferences are done, celebrate! Enjoy your favorite cup of coffee or treat yourself to something you have been eyeing...you deserve it!

These easy-to-implement tips will make your parent-teacher conferences run smoothly and help you to set the tone that working with parents and families to help students succeed is your number goal. Whether you try one or all ten of these tips, I wish you a happy parent-teacher conference season!

Grab the Parent Teacher Conference Pack HERE.

10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

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10 Must Try Tips for Parent Teacher Conferences

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


8 Gratitude Picture Books and Stories for Upper Elementary Students

8 Gratitude Picture Books and Stories for Upper Elementary Students

When it comes to gratitude, there is no better way to bring it into your classroom than with some picture book read-alouds!

As the calendar flips to November, you probably pull Thanksgiving-themed books from the shelf and prepare to read them aloud as part of your Thanksgiving lesson plans. I do that, too!

Recently, I have been making sure that read-alouds and lessons about gratitude have an equal place in my classroom right alongside traditional Thanksgiving read-alouds each November.

Bringing gratitude and kindness into the classroom is an important part of how I set up my classroom community, build relationships, and help my own students make a difference in the world. While we discuss these important topics all year long, November is the perfect time to make them the focus in our classroom environment.

The following list includes 8 of my favorite books that are perfect to teach students about gratitude, the season of giving, and to celebrate the Thanksgiving season

Be sure to grab the free printables to use with these books at the end of the post.

Gratitude is My Superpower written by Alicia Ortego

gratitude activities for kids

This sweet story follows a young girl as she learns the meaning of gratitude. Once she has her gratitude stone she begins to appreciate everything she has, and not focus on what she does not have. With easily relatable examples of gratitude in action, students will understand the true meaning of being thankful. Grab some smooth stones and give each of your students a gratitide stone, or take them outside and have them find one of their own!

Grow Grateful written by Sage Foster Lasser

gratitude read aloud for kids

Grow Grateful is a powerful book about gratitude that can be read at any time during the year, as it is not holiday or season specific. this book follows Kiko, the main character as she "grows grateful" throughout the story. She learned to focus on the small things and not focus on the scary things or things she felt she was missing. Students will easily relate to Kiko! This is a great introduction to what being grateful means.

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves written by Julia Rawlinson

fletcher and the falling leaves

This one is perfect for the autumn season as Fletcher, the main character works hard throughout the book to protect the tree from losing its leaves. While the word gratitude never comes up in this story, it is definitely a theme to discuss with students. Fletcher tries to catch and return all the leaves that fell from the tree to his friend the tree. The gratitude that Fletcher has for the tree comes through and is a focus of this read aloud and students can reflect on how they are grateful for their own friendships.

Thank You, Omu written by Oge Mora

Thank you omu activities for kids

I love this book for any time of the year, but with its themes of giving, community, kindness, and gratitude, it is just perfect for November.  This story follows the day of Omu, a beloved community member who spends the day cooking stew. The reader meets different characters who pop in for a bowl of Omu's stew. Just when it is time for Omu to sit down and enjoy her stew, she realizes that there is none left because she gave it all away! The community members come together to do something special just for Omu! Your students will love to predict what the community will do. This is a must read in your upper elementary classroom!

Knots on a Counting Rope written by Bill Martin Jr.

Knots on a counting rope activities for kids

This story is perfect for November, especially because this one read-aloud will help you celebrate Indigenous Peoples Month and gratitude at the same time. This story follows Boy, as he listens to the story of the day he was born from his grandfather. As the story goes on, your readers will need to use their inferring skills to figure out that Boy is blind. Once that is inferred, discussion begins about being grateful for the things we take for granted like vision. Definitely a must-add to your library collection! Bonus, you can revisit and repurpose this read aloud for lessons on questioning and inferring as readers!

A Chair for My Mother written by Vera B. Williams

A chair for my mother activities

This sweet story follows a small family after their home is burned down, causing them to lose everything. They work together to save their pennies to be able to afford a comfortable chair for Mama to sit on after a long day of work. With the themes of family, community, kindness, and gratitude this is a must-read for November.

The Scarecrow written by Beth Ferry

The Scarecrow book activities for kids

This is one of my favorite read alouds for the fall season and just perfect to tie into discussions and lessons about gratitude. This book follows the scarecrow and his budding relationship with an unlikely friend...a baby crow. The scarecrow protects and cares for the young bird, growing a deep relationship with it until it leaves and migrates for the winter. One spring day when the bird returns, the scarecrow is happier than ever. This book is perfect to discuss appreciation and gratitude for friends. A fun follow up activity is to have your students write a letter or note of gratitude to a classmate!

The Giving Snowman written by Julia Zheng

being grateful read aloud for kids

Get ready for winter while discussing gratitude and kindness with this read aloud! This sweet story tells about Snowman who gives away literally everything he has to help others,like his hat, carrot nose, and stick arms. After the snowman has given everything away and melts, the rest of the characters work together to rebuild him. This book pairs perfectly with Thank You, Omu as they both have similar themes and storylines.

Grab the free coordinating gratitude activities to use with these books!

When it comes to bringing gratitude into your classroom, start with a book! Students will love the ideas they hear from these books and from discussions, you have about these characters and before long you will see a difference in your students!

Looking for more meaningful Thanksgiving and gratitude activities for your students, like these I wish PoemsTake a look here

gratitude writing activities for kids

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8 Gratitude Picture Books and Stories for Upper Elementary Students

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


Using Reading Strategies to Help Readers Grow

Reading strategy activities for 3rd 4th 5th graders

Do you want to help your students grow as readers and truly understand what they read as independent readers? That is always my goal each year, too!

That is why I focus on reading strategy instruction.

Reading strategies and reading units are quite different. 

Often times the teaching of reading strategies gets lost in the mix of teaching reading units. While teaching reading units such as character development are important, I have found that explicitly teaching students how to apply reading comprehension strategies to be the most effective tool to  help students grow as independent and self-monitoring readers.

Reading strategy instruction can be overwhelming at first to plan and implement, but it is important to teach students how to use reading strategies they read independently. It exposes students to multiple techniques to help them truly comprehend the text at hand. 

When students apply a variety of reading strategies as they read, it helps them become active readers. When students are active readers and apply multiple strategies as they read, they are able to understand the text at a deeper level. 

By teaching reading strategies with explicit instruction, you will help your students:
  • see reading strategies in action multiple times
  • learn how to apply them to their own independent reading
  • have the opportunity to practice the strategy in isolation
  • build their reading strategy repertoire 
  • learn how to apply more than one reading strategy when reading complex texts
  • understand the books that they read at a deeper level

Not sure how to get started?

I can help!

I have compiled tried and true teaching strategy resources that I use with my own students into convenient print-and-go packs to make planning, teaching, and practicing easier!

Each reading strategy pack includes:

  • anchor charts
  • graphic organizers to scaffold instruction
  • student practice pages
  • task cards and reading passages
  • independent reading tasks
  • many sets have modeled examples
  • and so much more in both print and digital formats

Which reading strategy set will you use today?

reading strategy activities for 3rd 4th 5th graes

Take a closer look at each reading strategy set by clicking the images below.

making predictions activities for upper elementary kids

"I have now purchased a few of these reading strategies from this seller and have been very happy with the package and how it is so easy to use in my classroom. I really appreciated the read aloud suggestions - I love using story books in class, they still love to be read to!"

questioning activities for kids

"This was a great resource for my questioning unit. Very thorough and well laid out. The graphic organizers were great for independent practice. Thank you!"

making inferences activities for kids

"This resource was awesome! I couldn't believe all that was included. It has everything you need to teach inferencing in a simple and inviting format. The practice activities are great!"

summarizing activities for 3rd 4th 5th graders

"Wow, I had to reteach this strategy {summarizing} and using your product has made a great difference in my students' success. I reduced the size your poster for summarizing and the summary vs retell and taped them to my students' desk.
Love IT!!"

visualizing activities for kids

"Very helpful tool for teaching envisioning during reader's workshop. Great scaffolded worksheets for written responses."

context clues activities for kids

"I love all of your products. They are easy to use and implement in the classroom. I use them in reader's notebooks and in small groups with my students. Thank you."

nonfiction summary activities for kids

"You have literally thought of every activity to help kiddos understand summarizing in both fiction and non-fiction. This resource is gold! Can’t wait to use it with my students this upcoming year! Thank you."

background knowledge activities for kids
"Extremely satisfied! I have a lot of English language learners and this is very helpful to them as well as an excellent review to the class as a whole. Thank you."

reading strategy activities for kids

Using Reading Strategies to Help Readers Grow

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Be on the lookout for new sets being posted here!

Using Reading Strategies to Help Readers Grow


9 Halloween Picture Books For Upper Elementary

9 Halloween Picture Books For Upper Elementary

There is no better way to get into the Halloween spirit in your upper elementary classroom than with some spooky picture books!

Kids love listening to their teacher read aloud any picture book. When October comes, getting cozy in the reading area with a good old-fashioned Halloween picture book is a great way to celebrate reading, continue building your reading community, and keep your students engaged and critically thinking.

While there is an endless supply of Halloween-themed picture books, not all will help your older students grow as readers, pushing them to think critically and practice reading strategies. After years of teaching big kids, I know what Halloween books work for upper elementary. 

Below is a list of my favorite Halloween picture books that will get your students thinking, analyzing, and enjoying a wide range of stories.

Be sure to grab the FREE Halloween printables to go along with these favorite titles.

1. Gustavo written by Flavio Z. Drago

gustavo the shy ghost read aloud

This sweet story will have your students cheering on Gustavo as he learns the best way to make friends is to be himself, letting his interests shine through. This story truly shows how being shy can make you feel invisible. Reading this book will bring conversations about being a good friend into your classroom.

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • character traits
  • problem and solution
  • figurative language

2. The Widow's Broom written by ChrisVanAllsburg

widow's broom read aloud

This read-aloud is perfect for upper elementary! The story will have readers at the edge of their seat as they ask questions about the magical broom and make predictions on each page. This book tells the story of what happens to a witch's old broom when it loses its magic. Your students will be surprised by the ending!

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • descriptive writing
  • asking questions as readers
  • making predictions as readers

3. Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein written by Linda Bailey

Mary who Wrote Frankenstein read aloud

This book is a must-read during October in your upper elementary classroom. This simple biography tells how Mary Shelley wrote the story of Frankenstein. It also describes how as a young girl she was a dreamer and used her imagination. These skills helped her become a famous writer that is known worldwide even hundreds of years after her most famous story was published. A truly inspirational tale.

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • how writers come up with ideas
  • reading and writing biographies
  • brainstorming, creativity, and using your imagination

4. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything written by Linda Williams

the little old lady who was not afraid of anything read aloud

This is a fun read aloud that is perfect to practice any reading strategy, especially making predictions and summarizing. With a predictable format and an easy storyline to retell, students can easily summarize this story. This book tells the story of a an old lady who is visited by different things that are trying to scare her, but as the title says, she is not afraid of anything. Just when the reader thinks that she is about to be spooked, something clever happens! Will your students be able to predict the ending?

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • figurative language: onomatopeia 
  • making predictions
  • summarizing

5. Hardly Haunted written by Jessie Sima

hardly haunted read aloud

I love books written by Jessie Sima, and this one is no exception! This book tells the story of a spooky old house who does not want to be haunted...until something happens one night to change its mind. This is a quick, fun read that is perfect for the spooky season.

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • figurative language: personification
  • descriptive writing

6. Stumpkin written by Lucy Ruth Cummins

stumpkin read aloud

Stumpkin is such a fun book to share! Poor stumpkin does not have a stem like the other pumpkins who are bought by families and turned into jack-o'-lanterns. Just when stumpkin gets down on himself, something amazing happens to him! This book will leave such a lasting impression on your students that when they go pumpkin picking, they will surely pick a stumpkin!

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • figurative language: similes
  • story elements
  • being yourself and loving yourself as you are

7. Hugo Sprouts and the Strange Case of the Beans written by John Loren

hugo sprouts and the strange case of the beans picture book

This one is not Halloween themed, but it sure is perfect for the spooky season! Hugo does not like being the smallest in his family,not one bit. To do something about it, he concocts a special brew that makes him bigger. Along the way as he gets bigger and bigger, he learns a valuable lesson with a little help from his best dog pal. Definitely a must read, especially for classrooms that are looking for Halloween alternatives.

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • paying attention to fonts, illustrations, and sidebar writing
  • theme, life lesson, author's message
  • being yourself and loving yourself as you are

8. Bone Soup written by Cambria Evans

bone soup read aloud

This is a fun read for Halloween time in your classroom. This twist on Stone Soup follows Finnegan, a skeleton as he collects ingredients to make his Bone Soup. Your students will love following along as Finnegan meets new characters and adds another ingredient into his soup. I especially love the illustrations and text dialogue in this story.

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • problem and solution
  • dialogue 
  • compare and contrast lessons: compare to this version of Bone Soup or Stone Soup

9. Creepy Crayon (and series) written by Aaron Reynolds

creepy carrots read aloud

No Halloween picture book list is complete without the popular "creepy" series written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by the amazing Peter Brown. They are all amazing, but I am going to review Creepy Carrots here, as it was the first written and the first one you should read!

Creepy Carrots is a must read! This cleverly written story follows Jasper Rabbit as he is stalked by the very carrots that he wants to pick and eat. This book is filled with juicy words, fantastic illustrations, and a clear problem and solution structure that makes it easy for students to summarize. As students listen to Jasper's story they too will wonder if Jasper really is seeing creepy carrots. Such a run read aloud that will make you fall in love with Jasper and want to read all of the other books in the series. 

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • problem and solution
  • dialogue 
  • compare and contrast lessons: compare to this version of Bone Soup or Stone Soup

Take a look at the others in the series:

10. Bonus Book Recommendation: The Spider and The Fly written by Mary Howitt

the spider and the fly picture book

While this is not a Halloween story, it surely is perfect to read during the month of October as kids are focused on all things Halloween like spiders! This book is based on the poem by Mary Howitt and tells a cautionary tale about what happens when we meet flattering strangers. This book is perfect to discuss author's message and theme. We often refer back to this book throughout the year for different purposes.

Use this read-aloud for lessons about...

  • problem and solution
  • theme, life lesson, author's message
  • rewriting the ending of stories

When it comes to Halloween excitement in the classroom, don’t ignore it! Instead, use it to your advantage. Grab one of these titles and watch student engagement and meaningful reading discourse skyrocket!

Looking for more meaningful Halloween activities for your students, like these Halloween Haikus?
Take a look HERE.

Halloween Writing Activity Upper Elementary

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Halloween Read Aloud 3rd 4th5th grades

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)

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