3 Easy Ways to Instill a Love of Books with Students

As teachers it is in our very nature to love books! We love reading, learning, books of all shapes and sizes, and of course sharing that love of reading with our students. However, not every student that we work with loves books, or even likes them. Research shows this is primarily due to two reasons: the student was not read to as a young child and/or that student is a struggling reader.

My goal each school year is to always turn all of my students into readers, but especially I aim to reach those students who do not love, or even like, books when they first enter my classroom. These three simple ways have have helped me to turn non-readers into readers who love and devour books.

Teacher Favorite Book Bin

reading strategies for struggling readersAll it takes is a little tag on a basket that says your name! My students love to shop for books to read in the "Mrs. Schneider's Favorite" basket. I make sure that there are a variety of levels and genres in the basket at all times. I swap out the titles every three weeks or so, but leave staple titles in there that my kids always make a wait list for! Two series that they are willing to wait for are Doll People Series* (even my boys become obsessed with these) and The City of Ember Series*. I also like to mix in poetry books since their rhyming pattern is enticing to all readers, especially struggling readers. When I change the books in this basket I always make a quick announcement. I do not give a book talk and instead let them explore the books on their own. 

Previously Read Bucket

classroom library ideasHaving a previously read bucket is a serious classroom game changer! I cannot live without my previously read classroom library bucket. The concept is very simple. Get a large bucket and label it "Previously Read Together." After you read a book aloud, picture book or chapter book, it goes in the previously read bucket. Struggling readers consider these books "safe" because they have already heard the story, discussed the important elements, and have comprehended the text. Struggling readers love to grab a book from the previously read basket. It builds their confidence as readers and helps them make connections as they read these stories. I love to go to the previously read basket myself, to help save time with my mini- lessons!

Book Reviews and Recommendations

reading tips for upper elementary studentsThere is nothing more powerful that the influence of a peer. Positive peer pressure helps keep students on track, working hard, and reading new books in my classroom. Before students start sharing book recommendations I model my expectations. Students fill out a recommendation card (grab these for free at the bottom of this post) and sign up to share. The sigh up sheet is available to students the first of each month and has four sign up slots, one for each Thursday during morning meeting. The slots do go fast, and often times students ask me to open up more slots. While strong readers are the ones who usually share the first month or two of school, by the third month, all readers feel comfortable signing up and recommending books to others. 

When it comes to instilling a love of books within your students make sure you celebrate every student reading success, big or small! Read aloud every day, share what you are reading, and implement these three simple strategies and your students will be loving books in no time.

Looking for more book recommendations? Follow along on Instagram where I share my favorite books each week, old and new!

Check out these other AMAZING ideas for turning your students into avid readers!

*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)



4 Quick Tips to Effectively Differentiate Summarizing Instruction

summary mini lessons upper elementary

Teaching students how to summarize is no easy task! It is often the most difficult of all the reading strategies for students to grasp. The concept of gathering all of the important information from the reading and recapping it in a short, yet informative paragraph is a challenge for most upper elementary students. While introducing the concept of summaries to students can be taught in a whole group setting, to truly help students master the skill of summarizing differentiated instruction is a must! By doing so, students will not only understand how to summarize, but the why summarize, too. When students summarize a text as they read they are able to:

  • Remember the most important parts of a text.
  • Carry important information from one chapter to the next.
  • Talk about the important parts of the book with other readers.

When readers summarize, they grow. They begin to enjoy discussing what they are reading, and not just with the teacher, but with their peers, too. Conversations about reading begin to take place throughout the day, all thanks to the students' ability to summarize. These tips for differentiating summarizing instruction are not only easy to implement, but are highly effective. After you have introduced the concept of summarizing with your students, try these activities during your small group instruction. (Grab free summarizing teaching points at the bottom of this post.)

Teach With Modeled Writing

4 Quick Tips to Effectively Differentiate Summarizing InstructionI love using modeled writing in the classroom! It provides students with visual examples of what is expected. To do this, take a few minutes to write summaries of the books that you have previously read in class before you meet with a small group. You can type the summaries and provide students with their own copies, or you can write the summaries on chart paper and display in the classroom. When students have a model of what is expected, it helps them begin to write summaries correctly. The key in using modeled summary writing is to dissect the written model with students. This shows them each important component included in the summary paragraph. Highlight the parts that you included in the summary that you want students to also include in their own summaries: character names, specific problem, event, and solution, and the use of your own words to write it. I love using the book, The Curious Garden*, written by Peter Brown for summary writing and many other reading strategies, too, like making predictions, questioning, and visualizing. It is perfect to use for modeled summary writing.

Teacher Tip: Save or copy your students' summary writing this year to use in future years as modeled writing!

Scaffold with Graphic Organizers

summarizing teaching ideas and lesson upper elementaryScaffolding with a wide variety of summary graphic organizers is a great way to have all students writing summaries at the same time, but with different levels of support. To challenge students, provide them with a basic T-chart to record important and interesting information from their reading. At the end of the reading period, students will take the important information and write a summary. This type of organizer provides very little support and requires critical thinking from students. Alternatively, to support struggling readers graphic organizers with sentence starters, fill in the blanks, and checklists are more appropriate. Using the SWBST frame is a great way to help students to remember the key story elements needed when writing summaries. Use this frame to guide struggling readers to write the perfect summary. As they write more summaries, they will need this support less and less.

Somebody- Who is the main character?
Wanted-What did the main character want?
But-What problem did the main character face?
So-What events happened to try to solve the problem?
Then-How was the problem solved?

When using graphic organizers to scaffold summary writing support, be sure to move students through different organizers until they can write a summary using their own words and including important information from their reading.

Task Cards Activities 

Task cards with short text is a great way to squeeze in a lot of summarizing practice in a quick and controlled setting. When students are all reading different material, it can be a challenge to assess their summary writing. By using typed text or task card text you know exactly what the students have read, allowing you to assess their summaries with accuracy. Here are my favorite ways to use task cards to differentiate summary writing instruction:

differentiated summarizing task card activity
  • SWBST - Have students read the short story on the task card and use the SWBST frame to write a summary. Short text is perfect for this using and practicing this frame!
  • Do They Match? - Make multiple copies of task cards or typed text. Have different groups of students read and write summaries for the same task cards. Have groups of students meet together and see if their summaries include the same important information, discussing why or why not.
  • Model Match Up -  To support struggling readers, use task card short stories and modeled summaries and have them match together the story and its coordinating summary. This can also be turned into a game of concentration. Don't forget to have students explain why the summary matches the short story and is correctly written.

Use Leveled Reading Materials

After different practice opportunities it is time to send students off to read their independent reading books to summarize as they read. One of the best and simplest ways to differentiate summary writing instruction is to make sure that students are reading just right books. When the level of the book is just right, students' summary writing will become naturally differentiated. Make sure students have read their independent reading book for at least 20 minutes before they attempt to write a summary. This will ensure they have read enough material to write a summary. It is critical to make sure students are in just right books, as students who are reading more complex chapter books are required to hold on to important information as they read and to differentiate important and interesting information. Students who are reading simpler chapter books will have less to hold on to and summarize. By reading the right leveled book, students will be able to appropriate summaries. Encourage students to take notes as they read to make their summary writing easier.

Teacher Tip: Have students summarize their reading each day. At the end of the week have students reflect on the summaries they have written and ask themselves:

  1. Do my summaries reflect what happened in the book?
  2. When I read the summaries all together, does it summarize the entire book? 

These simple questions help students to self-reflect on their own summary writing and focus on ways they can improve as they continue reading and summarizing.

Teaching students to summarize effectively right from the beginning of the school year is critical to helping them grow as readers. The more practice students have with summarizing, both orally and in written form, the better they will be at it. It will also help to make your reading conferences run smoothly, too! What is your best summary writing tip?

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summary lesson upper elementary

*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)


3 Must Do Veterans Day Activities for Upper Elementary

veterans day programs elementary school

When I began my teaching career, my grandfather, a WWII veteran, asked me to make sure that my students always understood the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It seemed silly to me at the time because I grew up always knowing the difference between these two American holidays. I quickly learned that my students did not. Teaching students about Veterans Day became a passion of mine, and a day that I always looked forward to celebrating in the classroom.

Through the course of my career, and within the different districts that I worked in, Veterans Day was honored and celebrated quite differently. From having the day off, to having a school wide all day celebration, and everything in between; I have done it all. With such varied experiences, I have found that I still rely on the same three activities to help students truly understand what Veterans Day is all about.

1. Comparing and Contrasting Veterans Day and Memorial Day

3 Must Do Veterans Day Activities for Upper ElementaryI always start discussing Veterans Day by comparing and contrasting it to Memorial Day using a large chart paper size Venn diagram. You can complete this organizer through information you share in your discussions, reading informational text on the two different holidays, or after a read aloud of the book, The Wall* , written by Even Bunting. This book tells the story of a man and his son looking for the grandfather's name on the Wall in Washington DC that honors military men and women who died in the Vietnam War. While at the Wall, the young boy sees an injured veteran. This lends itself perfectly to discussing how a veteran is someone who is honored on Veterans Day and the grandfather who died in the war,  is honored on Memorial Day.

Teacher Tip: Be sure to hold on to this Venn diagram and bring it back out again when Memorial Day comes around and revisit this conversation with your students. 

To further help students understand a day in the life of our military men and women, and the sacrifices they make, read aloud the picture book H is for Honor* the week of Veterans Day. (Grab a free copy of the informational article and Venn diagram that I use with my students for this activity at the bottom of this post.)

2. Focused Jigsaw Style Lessons

free veterans day activities
Students love to learn about our country's military, its history, and our veterans. One way to have focused Veterans Day lessons is to plan lessons about each military branch. Instead of doing all the lesson planning on your own, collaborate with your grade level partner teachers. Each year, I teach a short 15 minute focused lesson about the Navy. This lesson includes a brief overview of the Navy, how Naval ships are named, and a hands on measuring activity that has the kids working in groups using meter tape to measure the lengths of different Naval ships. (We go outside if weather permitting or take our measuring to the hallway if it is too cold.) While I am teaching this lesson, each of my colleagues is teaching their classes a short lesson on a different branch of the military. We then rotate our students through each classroom so that every student participates in a variety of focused lessons about each branch of the military. The kids love traveling to different classrooms and learning all about our military and honoring the brave work that they do. By the end of the rotation, they have had several Veterans Day lessons and learned about each branch of the military.

3. Community Service Projects

3 Must Do Veterans Day Activities for Upper ElementaryOf all the activities that I have done with students on Veterans Day, I have found that community service projects that connect students with local Veterans are the most meaningful. Some ideas that I have implemented include:
  • Sending student written letters or cards to local veterans
  • Sending student created "forever flowers" in red and white and blue like the ones pictured here
  • Hosting a Veterans Day assembly and inviting local veterans. Have students sing American songs in honor the veterans. 
Any community service idea that you come up with that connects students to veterans is a great way to show students how they can give back to the men and women who give so much to protect us. Ask students for their ideas, too! They often have the best ideas when it comes to community service projects.

Spending time learning about Veterans Day and our American military shows students how much we value and appreciate the bravery of our armed forces. Reach out the families of your students to find out if anyone has anyone has veterans in their families. If they do, you might choose to have your students write letters and cards of gratitude to them, too! How do you celebrate Veterans Day in your classroom or school?

You might be interested in reading: 6 Autumn Picture Books for Upper Elementary Students

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free Veterans Day Activities for Upper Elementary

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)



3 Easy to Implement Halloween Writing Activities for Upper Elementary

halloween writing prompts

There is nothing more motivating to upper elementary students than the holidays! I love to use special days throughout the year to engage students across content areas. We read holiday and seasonal picture books, practice close reading strategies with nonfiction holiday passages, play holiday games during math, and of course you can find holiday writing activities adorning the walls

There is no holiday or season more exciting to students than Halloween! Here are my favorite writing activities to do with students to harness all of their Halloween excitement into focused learning opportunities.

Haunted Haiku Writing
Fall themed alternative: Harvest Haiku

halloween writing prompts free
Haiku poems are focused on one narrow topic and written with exactly 17 syllables. Since haiku poetry follows a strict pattern, all students, including struggling writers, see this form of poetry as an attainable task that they will finish successfully. Have students write a Halloween haiku about any Halloween topic they like, or create a brainstormed list of topics together as a class such as: candy corn, bats, spiders, costumes, and ghosts. Teacher tip: Write each topic from your brainstormed list on small pieces of paper and place them into a basket. Next,  have students select a topic from the basket. This will not only ensure a variety of topics will be written about, but also helps students to get to work writing their haiku immediately! (Grab a free Halloween haiku template to use with your students at the bottom of this post.)

How to Carve a Pumpkin Writing
Fall themed alternative: How to Enjoy Fall

3 Easy to Implement Halloween Writing Activities for Upper Elementary"How-To" writing is the most engaging of the writing genres, yet it is also the most forgotten! Students love to be the expert and write "how-to" pieces! If you want to write Halloween how-to's students can write the steps of carving a pumpkin. If you want to write seasonal how-to's, students can write the steps of any fall activity, like leaf pile jumping or making candied apples.  Keep this project simple by using lined paper and plain white paper. Have students fold the plain white paper into eighths and label each box 1-8. Next, have students illustrate each step to carving a pumpkin in the boxes to illustrate their written piece. What I love about procedural writing is that it provides students with the opportunity to not only write about how to do something, but illustrate how to do it, too. This makes an adorable and informative bulletin board for fall!

Persuasive Writing Teacher Halloween Costume
Fall themed alternative: Book Character Day

halloween writing prompts for upper elementary
This is my favorite Halloween writing project and is perfect to complete with students as early as the first week of October. The concept is simple: students must pick a costume for you to wear on Halloween and write a persuasive writing essay to convince you to pick their costume idea. What I love about this persuasive writing prompt is that you can turn this into as big or as small of a project as you want. I have used this prompt as a simple morning journal entry and I have also done an elaborate writing project complete with bulletin board display of student's writing and illustrations of me in their costume (which are priceless). This is a highly motivating project for all students and makes a great introduction to persuasive writing, as well as adorable bulletin board display.
Teacher tip: Read aloud students' writing pieces anonymously and allow students to vote on what costume they want you to wear!

Whether you want to welcome Halloween or fall into your classroom, engage your students with high interest and holiday and seasonal themed writing activities. Not only will your students love it and be highly engaged, but you will love the writing that they produce!

Looking for more Halloween activities to engage your upper elementary students? Check out the activities below:

Ghostly STEM Fun! // Tried & True Teaching Tools

Speak, Listen, Draw Halloween Communication Activity // Feel-Good Teaching

Pin to use year after year! 



4 Simple Ways to Teach Students to Make Meaningful Predictions

free making predictions activities

Making meaningful predictions is an important reading strategy that students must master as they begin to read more complex texts in the upper elementary classroom. Predicting requires students to collect information from the book that they are reading and think ahead to make an educated guess about what will happen next. Making predictions helps students:

  • Be an active and alert reader.
  • Anticipate the next event and ending of the book.
  • Think about how a character may react or solve a problem.
  • Get into the world of the book.

As we teach students to make predictions, we must be sure that students are making valid and reasonable predictions that are not just based on what is happening in the book that they are reading, but also supported by their own personal experiences. This is no easy task! So how can we get students to make meaningful predictions as they read to help them be active readers and better understand the books that they are reading? Here are four simple ways to help your students make meaningful predictions and grow as readers, even as the books that they are reading increase in complexity.

Explicit Instruction 

4 Simple Ways to Teach Students to Make Meaningful PredictionsAs students get older and read more complex books, they should still be making and discussing predictions. While in the younger grades, students primarily made predictions based on the cover of the book. As the books they are reading increase in difficulty and length, students have to be able to hold on to information as they read for longer periods of time to be able to make predictions through the end of the book. Since students use a combination of text clues and personal experience to predict what will happen as they read, students can sometimes confuse making predictions with making inferences. The main difference between predicting and inferring is that by the end of the student's reading, the predictions that they have made can be confirmed to be correct or not, while the inferences that they make cannot. This is primarily because the inferring that they do as they read is based on implied or indirect information that they gather through the questions that they ask as they read. Since students at this age are learning to balance multiple reading strategies as they read, they still need explicit instruction on how to use different reading strategies like making predictions, both in isolation and simultaneously with other strategies.

Initial explicit prediction instruction should include lessons focused on:

  • What a Prediction Is
  • How to Make a Prediction
  • How Predictions Help Readers Grow
  • When to Make Predictions
  • The Difference Between a Prediction and Inference

These lessons are perfect to teach using picture books to model how to make predictions. There are so many great books to use help students master making predictions. The key to picking a book to use for prediction lessons is to make sure that students have not heard the story! Sounds simple, but often times as teachers we pick our favorite books to share with students. This increases the chances of the students having heard the book before. One way to check to see if students have heard a story before you read it is to leave the book out in a spot where students can see the book, but not take it to read. Students will quickly tell you that they have heard that book before! My favorite books to use for prediction lessons are Enemy Pie* and Too Many Pumpkins*. These books have story lines that offer many story clues to collect and relatable story lines that will help students make valid predictions. (Grab free prediction teaching points to guide your lessons below.)

Use a T-Chart Organizer

making valid predictions in upper elementary classroom
An important step in teaching students to make predictions is to show them the connection between  collecting and recording story clues and their own experiences with making valid predictions. As you read aloud with students to practice, simply chart story clues on chart paper, have students share their experiences and record them. Then pause to allow students time to make predictions based on both pieces of information that you have written down. This is critical so that students see the point in taking notes to collect story evidence! A simple graphic organizer like a T-chart, is a great way for students to visually see how the story clues that they are reading are driving their recollection of past experiences and the predictions that they make. Once you have practiced this together, students can work independently collecting information to help them make predictions using a range of graphic organizers from a simple bullet list to more complex graphic organizers. I have found that students love the simplicity of the T-chart like the one pictured above. Since it is easy to make, students can use plain paper or notebook paper to keep track of the story clues, their experiences, and the predictions that they make. Having any organizer makes it easier for students to turn their prediction ideas into written reflections about books. (Grab free prediction teaching points to guide your lessons below.)

Before, During, and After Reading Tasks

making predictions free activityMaking predictions is a strategy that students use throughout reading an entire book. Do not let students falsely think that predictions are made only at the beginning of a new book or new chapter. While it is important to predict at these times, good readers make predictions throughout the whole book, on each and every page. While focusing on making predictions, try using "before, during, and after reading tasks" to reinforce prediction making throughout the text. I love using using these types of tasks because it allows readers to complete a task based on the lesson of the day, no matter where they are in the book that they are reading. To make these, I simply decide on a prediction task that students can complete whether they are just beginning a book, knee deep in a book, or just wrapped up a book. You can assign students a before, during, and after task, allow them to select one, or simply write a prediction task on chart paper and have every student respond to it on a sticky note by the end of reading. (Grab these before, during and after tasks activities for free below.)

Illustrate the Ending

My students love any and all activities that allows them to be creative! Tying art and reading together always means instant engagement in my classroom!  Have students who are almost finished with a chapter book illustrate the ending by rereading the predictions that they made during the book. Their illustration should represent what would be on the last page of the book. This activity makes a great visual reminder that the predictions they make are based on text evidence, clues, and their own experiences that they have carried throughout the whole book.

Making predictions is a reading strategy that truly engages the reader. When students make predictions as they read they become excited to forge ahead to see what happens next. After students practice how to make predictions explicitly, it becomes second nature. Making predictions is a must teach reading strategy as it lays the ground work for more complex reading strategies like inferring and making connections. What is your favorite making predictions activity?

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making valid predictions reading workshop lesson idea

*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)



What are Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies?

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 themes in literature and understanding character development are important, I have found that teaching students how to apply reading comprehension strategies is critical in helping them grow as independent and self-monitoring readers.

While reading strategy instruction can be overwhelming at first to plan and implement, it is important to teach reading strategies explicitly. This allows students to be exposed to multiple techniques to help themselves as readers and truly comprehend the text at hand. When students apply a variety of reading strategies as they read, it helps them become active readers. This is important because active reading keeps students be alert as they read. When students are active readers, alert, and applying multiple strategies as they read they are able to understand the text at a deeper level. By teaching reading strategies with explicit instruction, students are able to:

  • see a given reading strategy in action multiple times
  • learn how to apply it 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

I truly believe in the power of teaching reading strategies explicitly and am often asked many questions about reading comprehension strategies instruction in my classroom. I have compiled the questions I am most frequently asked to help you make decisions about how you want to approach the teaching of reading strategies in your upper elementary classroom.

how to teach Reading Comprehension Strategies

What are effective reading comprehension strategies?

Reading comprehension strategies help readers make sense of the material that they are reading. Proficient readers use multiple strategies as they read to make the most of the text. The most frequently used reading strategies upper elementary students utilize as they read are:

  1. Activate Background Knowledge
  2. Predict
  3. Visualize
  4. Monitor and Clarify
  5. Question
  6. Infer
  7. Summarize

What is the difference between reading strategies and reading units?

There is a big difference between reading strategies and reading units, both are important in the upper elementary reading classroom. Reading strategies are the techniques that readers use to understand the books that they are reading within different reading units. Reading units are focused units of study around a given reading topic or genre such as character understanding or learning about mysteries. To understand how reading strategies and reading units are connected, let's use a unit on character understanding. Within the reading unit of character understanding, readers will use all of the reading strategies previously taught to help them better understand the characters they meet. For example, they will predict what the character will do, visualize a character in action, infer how a character might be feeling, and question why a character did something. Without explicit instruction on how to use each of these reading strategies, students will not be able to dive deep in character understanding. We can NOT expect that students understand what it means to predict or infer, it must be modeled and taught.

Is there a specific order that you teach reading strategies?

upper elementary reading strategies lessonsYes!! Since reading strategies build upon each other, it makes sense to teach reading strategies in the order that allows students to build upon each and begin to practice using multiple reading strategies at once. Here is the order that I teach reading strategies: activate prior knowledge, predict, visualize, question, summarizeinfer, and monitor and clarify. When I teach a new reading strategy I always use previously read books. This is a must in my classroom! By using books that students have already heard before, they can focus on applying the newly learned strategy instead of focusing on comprehending the book. The exception to this is when teaching predicting.  Students should practice making predictions with newly read material.

How do you come up with reading strategy mini lesson ideas?

The focus is always on how good readers use the reading strategies above as they read independently. The reading strategy mini lesson objectives that I use always begin with an introduction of each strategy where modeling takes place to allow students to see that reading strategy in action. Students describe what I am doing as a reader, and then we discuss what the strategy is, how it helps students as readers, and how they can put it into action independently. (Grab free strategy mini lesson ideas at the bottom of this post.) Once you introduce each reading strategy allow students time to try them out. Observe and confer with students so that you can teach any additional mini-lessons based on the needs of your students. Do not spend more than a few days teaching each reading strategy. Students will be able to have additional practice trying out each of the reading strategies as they learn new strategies and while you are knee deep in teaching reading units. (Grab free strategy mini lesson ideas at the bottom of this post.)

How do you differentiate reading strategy instruction?

What are Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies?
There are many ways to differentiate reading strategy instruction, the most effective is to make sure that students are reading books that are just right for them! This will ensure that students are able to practice the reading strategies appropriately instead of being hung up on comprehending a book too difficult or not being able to apply higher level comprehension strategies to a book that is too easy. Although I strive to have students practice reading strategy work in their own independent reading, sometimes it is necessary to provide students with a short text to practice the strategy. This is when I use task cards. It allows me to differentiate and work with each student individually, practice the strategy a few times, and then send them off to their independent reading book. I also differentiate reading strategy instruction by using a variety of graphic organizers that allow me to scaffold as needed to support students. Some students may be ready for open ended organizers right after instruction while some would benefit from a structured frame to help them organize their thoughts. By constantly assessing students, both formally and informally, I am able to differentiate reading strategy instruction for each student.

What are Effective Reading Comprehension Strategies?

Reading strategy instruction is a must for every upper elementary reading classroom. It builds student independence, encourages self monitoring while reading, and promotes critical thinking of the texts students are reading. The work that you do teaching students how to apply reading strategies will help students grow as readers as they dive deep into the reading units that you are going to teach later on in the year. Lay the ground work now and watch them succeed all year long!

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reading comprehension strategies upper elementary



Thank you! 



8 Picture Books to Honor and Remember September 11th

september 11th upper elementary activities

Being a classroom teacher I am naturally drawn to picture books. I love reading picture books to address and meet reading and writing standards, support social emotional learning, address behavior issues, and to help enhance content area lessons. Picture books have helped me over the years get words across to students when sometimes my own words have failed. It is no surprise that picture books have become the cornerstone of my September 11th lessons beginning with the first anniversary of September 11th in 2002.

I was in my second year of teaching on September 11, 2001. One minute I was beginning the first lesson of the day, a grammar lesson on using commas, and the next minute my principal was taking over my class and I was driving home to say goodbye to my husband, a NYPD officer, who was just mandated to go into work.

Being a NYPD wife, New Yorker, and elementary school teacher made the next months extremely difficult.  The days were filled with high emotions both at school as both my students and colleagues all lost loved ones during the attacks. There was also no relief at home since my husband was working around the clock at Ground Zero. While talking in depth about the events that took place that September day was something that did not take place in the classroom that year, I knew that I wanted
to make sure that on every anniversary September 11th was not just acknowledged, but was honored and remembered in the best possible way.

With September 11th being such a delicate topic and part of history to discuss, especially with elementary students, turning to picture books was, and still is, a must for me. The following picture books are among my favorite books
to read during September.  They are perfect to read aloud to simply honor the day, spark meaningful discussions, or kick off social studies lessons in your classroom. Grab FREE activities to use with any of these books at the bottom of this post.

september 11th upper elementary activities
September Roses
By Jeanette Winter
This book is a beautiful short story offering one of many examples of kindness that took place in the wake of this horrible event.  Your students will be inspired to do random acts of kindness after listening to this sweet and true tale.

September 11th Then and Now By Peter Benoit
This book is a nonfiction short chapter book with real photographs that tells the informational side of the events that took place on September 11th. This book provides background knowledge for students and will help guide your classroom discussions and answer student questions.

This book is a flashback story to 1974 when Philippe Petit walked on tightropes between the towers in New York City. This book offers happy memories and a description of the towers when they were first built.

september 11th upper elementary activities
This story is one of my favorites. It is a story written in poetic form and tells a story of hope. This special chapel and community by the towers stood tall that day, literally and figuratively, helping others, while everything around them crumbled. Without many details of the events, the story is still told about what happened on 9/11. I highly recommend this book. (Note: Grab this from your local library. I have not been able to find this in any book store or online at a decent price.)

By Maira Kalman
This book tells the story of an old retired fire boat that came out of retirement to help the firemen and citizens of New York after the Twin Towers collapsed. This book is a positive tale that truly illustrates how the community came together after the attacks in New York and will inspire students to work together to help others.

september 11th upper elementary activities

By Don Brown
Written by a New Yorker who lost many friends during the attack, this book is a detailed and specific retelling of the events that took place on 9/11. I would recommend this book for students fifth grade and older.

September 11th 2001 
By Nancy Poffenberger
This book is a basic retelling of the events of September 11th with kid drawn and friendly illustrations. It provides an overview of the day without many specific events. Perfect for any grade.

By Carmen Agra Deedy
This book is a very gentle true story of one African man’s recollection of September 11th.  It truly brings to light how the whole world felt and also suffered for Americans after the events and tragic losses of the of 
September 11th.  Beautifully illustrated, this book shows how every person from all corners of the world wanted to give what they had to America. I love this one!

Remember September 11th in your classroom with one, or more of these picture books*. Today, September 11th is also known as Patriot Day. It is a great opportunity to not only honor the victims and heroes of the September 11th attacks, but to also honor our country, the freedoms that we have, and the people who make our country great. If you are looking for informational text to help support your lessons, you can see the formal activities I use with my students HERE.

Love using picture books in your classroom, too? Read about my favorite fall (non-Halloween) picture books, winter (non-holiday) picture books, and community building picture books to kick off your school year.

*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)

september 11th picture books and activities upper elementary


How to be Organized for Reading Conferences

organizational tips for reading conferences

I am often asked how I organize my materials, and what materials I bring along, when I hold reading conferences with my students during reading workshop. Having a designated reading conference toolbox or basket is a great way to be prepared, organized, and house all the materials that you need when you confer with students individually. By creating a toolbox or basket of the materials that you need ahead of time, you are able to use the time you have with students effectively, and not scrambling around looking for materials. Some of the materials in my toolbox are specific to a unit, so each time our unit or area of reading focus changes, I swap out those materials.

reading conference conferring guideHere is the low down on what is in my reading conference toolbox that I bring along to every reading conference I hold!

  1. Conferring Guide to stay on track
  2. Data Collection Forms or Notebook 
  3. Reader Take Away Cards
  4. Reading Strategy Teaching Points (Grab the set of teaching points that I use at the bottom of this post.)
  5. Previously Read Picture Book
  6. Previously Read Chapter Book
  7. Basic Supplies: pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, book marks
  8. Reward Stickers for reader shutouts during mid workshop break

Be sure to bring along both a previously read picture book and chapter book that was just recently read with the whole class during the unit you are currently in. These books are so important to bring with you as you can refer back to them when teaching and modeling with the student during your conference time. Since the book is familiar to them, they will be able to focus on the learning of the reading strategy you are teaching them, and NOT the comprehension of the book.

No matter what is in your reading conference toolbox, make sure it is items that will help you make the most of your one-on-one time with your students to discuss the books that they are reading and to help them grow as readers.

We are so excited to get this school year rolling and helping you focus on easy classroom management! Check out these other classroom management ideas for upper elementary!

Six Classroom Management Ideas for the Science Classroom // Samson’s Shoppe

Managing Your Science Labs // The Owl Teacher

3 Tried & True Tips to Start the Year Off Right // Tried & True Teaching Tools

Pin for later!

classroom management tips upper elementary


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