How to Hold Debates in Your Classroom

how to run a debate in your upper elementary classroom


Holding debates in your classroom is an engaging way to have students practice persuasive writing, argumentative discussions, and speaking and listening skills in a safe and structured environment. Debates provide students with the opportunity to see that it is OK to disagree with their peers. It also helps them to understand different perspectives and points of view on a variety of topics. This can include different holiday and seasonal topics like a Groundhog Day debate over more winter or an early spring.

I love using debates in the classroom. Not only does it address multiple skills and objectives, it allows students to put all of their persuasive writing strategies and knowledge into action within a real world activity.

While working on debate projects, students will sharpen ALL of these skills:


  • persuasive writing
  • reading
  • research and note-taking
  • point of view
  • listening and speaking
  • collaboration and teamwork
  • public speaking and eye contact
  • conversation etiquette

The best part about holding debates is that it is naturally engaging for students. By directly teaching students how to participate in a debate even your most timid students and reluctant writers will be ready to participate.

Here is how I break down and explain this genre of writing for my upper elementary students to help them understand the nuances specific to debates, as well as make connections to persuasive writing.

What is a Debate? What is Persuasive Writing?

Writing debates is always part of our persuasive writing unit. I love that debates give students the opportunity to use their persuasive writing skills in real world situations. Here is how I define both persuasive writing and debates for my students:
  • Persuasive writing is a form of opinion writing used to convince others to think in a certain way, and persuade the readers to share the writer's point of view.
  • A debate is a formal argument in which there are two sides that take opposing viewpoints and discuss them in an organized and structured way, while trying to persuade listeners to share the speaker's point of view. 
By using these definitions, students can easily see the connection between persuasive writing and debate work. We also discuss that a judge will listen to both sides of the debate and decide which side made a better "case" and supported argument.

Why Participate in a Debate?

How to Hold Debates in Your ClassroomIt is important to me to let students in on the "why" behind the lessons that I teach. When students participate in debates they develop listening and speaking skills. They begin to understand both sides of an argument and gain perspective from their peer's point of view. Additionally, by practicing public speaking in the form of a speech, students' fear of speaking in front of peer groups will decrease. Students need a lot of time to practice speaking in public. Help students get over any insecurities and fear by having them work in groups to debate different topics throughout the year. The more practice they have, the better!

What are Genre Specific Key Words?

Just like other writing genres have key words to signal key points, so do debates. Together as a class we brainstorm persuasive writing words that would help them successfully write an organized debate speech. For example, In my opinion, Consequently, Therefore, Specifically, That is why, are some key words to help you get started brainstorming with your own students.

How are Debates Organized and Written?


debate templates prompts and free lessons for kidsDebate speeches are organized in a familiar format for students. It begins with an introduction, requires supporting details, and ends with a conclusion. This is the same structure that students use when writing about reading. The major difference is the rebuttal component. The idea of a rebuttal is new for upper elementary students so it takes center stage of my lessons. Here is the debate structure I use with my students:
  • Introduction: Introduce yourself, the topic and the side you will be arguing for, and your claim
  • Support Your Idea: Have 3-4 strong and relevant points to support your claim
  • Rebuttal: Address and state a reason that will counter what the opposing side is claiming
  • Conclusion: Restate your claim and points and then thank the audience with eye contact.
Grab this anchor chart and debate topic ideas for FREE at the bottom of this post.

What Makes a Debate Different than Persuasive Writing?

How to Hold Debates in Your Classroom
The key elements that students need to understand when it comes to debates are pros, cons, and rebuttals. To fully understand these concepts students need direct instruction and practice. I love to use modeled writing to help students identify the different elements of debates, especially these three areas:
  • Pro: The pros or proposition side of a debate is the affirmative side. It is the why you believe in the side of the topic you are debating. The pros are for the topic at hand.
  • Con: The con side of a debate is the negative side. It is the why you do not believe in the topic. A con is against the topic at hand.
  • Rebuttal: A rebuttal is a statement made about the opposing side's claim to explain why their claim is wrong.

What are the Steps of a Debate?

Once students write their debate speeches it is time to actually debate. Since debates are structured and organized in such a way that allows both sides to have equal time to speak, students must be aware of the format. Here is a shortened version of the debating speaking order that I use with upper elementary students.
  • Affirmative side speaks to state their claim and supporting details.
  • Negative side speaks to state their claim and supporting details.
  • Negative side states their rebuttal and closing.
  • Affirmative side states their rebuttal and closing.

A Few Tips and Tricks...


    How to Hold Debates in Your Classroom
  • Help students prepare for the debate by creating a checklist to keep them organized.
  • Allow students to pick their own side or mix it up by randomly assigning which side they will be "for". This is a great way to differentiate for your top writers, too. 
  • Assign cooperative group roles to help students stay on track! I have found the best roles to use for debating units are recorders, time keeper, and speakers.
  • Do not try to have students memorize their speeches. Instead, have students write their speeches in bullet form to help them read it fluently while they are presenting.
  • Encourage students to practice their debate speeches within their small groups several times before presenting to help build their confidence.
  • Since speaking in front of their peers can be intimidating, help them feel positive by giving a lot of encouragement and positive praise.
  • Make it fun! Make the kids laugh and giggle at YOU by dressing up as a judge complete with a gavel to take the pressure off the kids!
  • Use the holidays and seasons to engage students in meaningful topics to debate:
  • Use current events and topics of interest for debates, such as:

Holding debates in the classroom is a fun and engaging way to keep students working hard and practicing so many different skills at once. Provide students with many opportunities to debate over topics in the classroom. Not sure of an idea to have students debate about? Ask them! They always come up with the best topics to debate. 


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debate activities and lessons for 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)

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Simple Activities to Ring in the New Year in Your Classroom

new year resolution and reflection activities for the classroom

I love welcoming students back to school in January after holiday break. There is always a feeling of calm when school begins again. I love that my classroom is clean, all of our projects have been wrapped up, and we are ready to begin new units.

While I am always excited to jump back into teaching, I also like to take the first day back to school to encourage students to be reflective of the past year and set goals for the new year that we are welcoming. These easy to implement, yet meaningful activities are a great way to welcome the new year into your classroom.

3-2-1 Reflection

Simple Activities to Ring in the New Year in Your ClassroomI love using 3-2-1 reflection forms all year long. Their predictable nature and easy to respond to prompts make them easy for students to complete on both a prepared worksheet or blank piece of paper. The simplicity of 3-2-1 reflections allow students to stay focused and truly reflect on the topic at hand. Included on the 3-2-1 reflection form that I use when students return to school in January includes: 3 New Things I Learned, 2 Cool Activities I Did, and 1 Question I have About Something that I learned. The kids love writing to these quick prompts and enjoy sharing their reflections with their classmates. This is perfect to use on the last day before break or on the first day back from break. Grab the form that I use for free at the bottom of this post, or just have students respond to these prompts on a plain piece of paper.

Best Book of the Year

Simple Activities to Ring in the New Year in Your Classroom
This is one of my favorite activity of the year! I love having students fill out these best book reflection pages. Not only does it give them an opportunity to reflect on a specific book that they read, but it also allows students to reflect on themselves as readers and the book choices that they have made so far this school year. This activity provides students the opportunity to reflect on which genres, series, and authors they read most frequently. After all students have completed one of these best book forms, I display them on our reading bulletin board and they serve as book recommendations so that all students expand the genres, series, and authors they read in the upcoming year.

Goal Setting

Simple Activities to Ring in the New Year in Your ClassroomSetting goals with your students does not have to be a "first day of school" activity. It is a great way to welcome the new year. What I especially love about setting goals in January versus the first day of school is, that by the time January comes around I truly know my students. I know their strengths and weaknesses inside and out and am therefore better able to guide them into setting goals that are appropriate for them. Begin by having students brainstorm one specific area of focus. Improving Writing would be too broad of a goal for students to set. Improving written pieces by including detail and figurative language is specific enough that not only gives students direction, but can be measured. When the goals that students set are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and realistic, and timely and tractable) students succeed. Once students set goals, we set aside time each week to reflect on our progress. A simple reflection form is all it takes to make sure students are on track and working towards meeting their goals. Read about how I implement SMART goals in the classroom HERE.

When it comes to welcoming in the new year, go big! Invite students to reflect on their school year, reflect on themselves as learners, and set meaningful goals to continue the year strong! January is a great time for fresh starts and new beginnings. Give your students the opportunity to start the new year on the right path so that the rest of your year, is the best of the year!

I would love to hear from you! How do you welcome the new year in your classroom?

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3 Meaningful Reading Activities for Henry's Freedom Box

henry's freedom box lesson ideas

Every teacher knows that there is nothing more precious than time. We are always in need of more time! More time to help students learn, more time to assess students, more time to plan and create engaging lessons.

One way I love to save time is by re-purposing my favorite read aloud books for different lessons. This is a huge time saver since it cuts down on read aloud time. By being purposeful in selecting picture books to read aloud you will not only gain valuable time in the classroom, but also help students develop a deeper understanding of the books that you are reading aloud.

The picture book, Henry's Freedom Box* written by Ellen Levine is one of my all time favorites. It tells the true story of Henry "Box" Brown who mailed himself from Virginia to Philadelphia to free himself from slavery. His story is one of determination and bravery and became one of the most famous stories from the Underground Railroad.

Here are my favorite reading lessons to do following a read aloud of Henry's Freedom Box:


Character Traits

Connecting character trait lessons with biographies is a great way to help students identify traits in people that they know. Often times, character trait units are focused on fictional stories and characters. By shifting character trait work with biography reading, students begin to make the real world connection. When reading Henry's Freedom Box, try one of these two activities:
  1. Have students use a simple t-chart to record 3 character traits Henry shows throughout the book. On the left side of the chart have students record the trait and on the right side they can  record text evidence. To go a step further, have students reread their work and circle one character trait that they also have. Students can write about how they show that trait.
  2. Instead of having students create a list of character traits, present students with a list of 15 different character traits. Simply create a list on chart paper and display during the read aloud. Have students keep a list of the traits that they can find evidence for as they listen. After the reading discuss the character traits and evidence that students found. Here are a few to start your list: determined, loving, caring, self-control, brave, persistent, and patient. 

Determining Importance

determining importance lesson activities
Determining importance requires students to filter out all of the details within a text to focus on the big idea. I teach my students that information from a text is important if it directly supports the main idea. If it does not, then we consider that information to be interesting.  Henry's Freedom Box, lends itself perfectly to helping students distinguish important details from interesting.
Try this: Have students record information from the book on a t-chart labeled important and interesting. Remind students that in order to write something on the important side it must support the big or main idea. If it does not, it should be written on the interesting side. If you are just beginning work on determining importance, create a class t-chart to record events from the text under important or interesting headings. Grab free organizers for this activity at the bottom of this post.

Summarizing Nonfiction

Once students have sorted all of the events from the story, they are ready to write a nonfiction summary of the book. I have students use TSMIDS to help them summarize informational texts. This stands for topic statement, main idea, and details that support it. It is an easy to use format that allows students to take the important information from their reading and turn it into a paragraph that summarizes what they read. By having students write a summary from their previous determining importance work connects the use of graphic organizers to support writing during reading.

Here are some other lesson topics that coordinate perfectly with this read aloud:
  1. Reading Informational Text
  2. Understanding Biographies
  3. Black History and Learning about the Underground Railroad
  4. Theme and Life Lessons in Literature
  5. Context Clues

No matter which book you read aloud, be sure to use it many ways! Intentionally select books to share with your students that can be used in a multitude of ways. It is also a great way to show students that good readers read books more than once and with different lenses each time. Henry's Freedom Box*can truly be used across all content areas and will engage your students every time you take it off the shelf.


Be sure to check out our favorite things for upper elementary teachers! 
Meaningful Reading Activities for Henry's Freedom Box





*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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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 sign 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 titles are always shared!


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)

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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)
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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)



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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! 





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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)






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