4 Spring Learning Activities for Upper Elementary

4 Spring Learning Activities for Upper Elementary

By the time spring arrives in the classroom, suddenly students are independent!

It is my favorite time of year!

My teacher heart goes pitter-patter just watching students get excited about new things, work together, and take the reins on their own learning. 

Spring is definitely the time of year when projects like math projects and research projects are front and center in my upper elementary classroom!

There are so many fun and relevant topics to explore with students once spring rolls around! I love to use seasonal topics and projects to engage students and harness the excitement that comes with spring fever. The list below includes my favorite topics and projects to do with students during springtime to keep them motivated and knee-deep in authentic learning.

Changing Seasons

The arrival of spring is the perfect time to learn about the changing seasons. Comparing spring to winter is a great way to kick off learning about the seasons. With winter and spring being so different, students will fill up their Venn diagrams in no time. Be sure to go a step further and have them turn their notes into a paragraph!

Grab this free print and digital activity below {at the bottom of this post} to get your students comparing the seasons!

spring and seasons activity

Upper elementary students are ready to go a bit deeper and understand the science behind how and why seasons change. Following this comparison activity, my students love learning about the spring equinox and why it is such an important day!

Get learning about the spring equinox in your classroom with these:

Bring all things spring to life for your students with these high-interest spring picture books...and bonus, grab the free teacher resources to go along with them!

Earth Day

There are so many different topics to learn about when it comes to Earth Day! The kids always love reading about recycling, pollution, rain forests, and how to do their part to help keep the planet healthy!  Not sure where to get started? The list below includes free videos and engaging activities to help you get started.

Another lesson we dive into during our Earth Day investigations is all about harnessing solar energy! After we learn about different types and forms of energy, the children work to create ways to harness solar power. Students also create solar energy homes that can turn the energy from the sun into energy to run their homes. 

earth day writing activity

Endangered Species

My favorite spring project is focusing on endangered animals! During this unit, we spend a lot of time discussing the difference between extinct and endangered species, as well as the different levels of endangerment that can be found on the endangered species conservation list. 

Students love to research different endangered species! To make this research project manageable for students to work independently, I break down each step of the process for them, assigning them one component each day. This allows them to be independent while doing the research but they are still guided in how to collect and compile the information that they learn.

Once students have collected the information, they write their endangered species essays. Students are responsible for presenting what they learned to the class. I give them a variety of options for presenting. From posters and handouts to slideshows and persuasive speeches, each student can find the presentation format that is just right for them!

Get started on an endangered species project with these resources:


endangered animals activity for kids

Poetry and National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! I love bringing poetry into my classroom every day, but I sure don't mind having a reason to read and write even MORE poetry! 

There are so many reasons why I love using poetry in the classroom! Here are some:

Poetry truly engages all levels of readers and writers! You will see a huge increase in participation when your reading and writing lessons are focused on poetry. Students love to read aloud poems because of their easy-to-follow rhyme and rhythm and they love sharing the poems that they wrote too! 

One type of poem that I LOVE writing during the spring is a Bio Poem. These are so much fun to write about towards the end of the year because they truly show how much students have grown! 

Teacher tip: Have your students write bio poems at the start of the school year to help you get to know them, and then again at the end of the school year. You and the students will be amazed at how much they have grown as writers and as students. I love adding these to their writing portfolios!

poetry month activities for kids

When spring fever is in the air...engage your students in high-interest activities that will promote their love of learning and get them independently researching, reading, and writing! From the spring equinox to Earth Day and everything in between, your students will learn so much and enjoy every minute of it!

Happy spring teacher friends!

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4 Spring Learning Activities for Upper Elementary

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Nonfiction Teaching Ideas Strategies and Activities for Upper Elementary Readers

Nonfiction Teaching Ideas and Activities to Hook Readers

When it comes to engaging students with nonfiction reading, simple strategies can make a huge difference!

I have always found that students either love or hate reading nonfiction informational texts. And those students who do not love it, need some creative ideas to hook them into reading AND enjoying informational texts.

When planning out my nonfiction reading units and strategies, I break it down into three different mini units to help the students digest all of the different elements of nonfiction reading.

  1. Nonfiction Structure: how the informational text is organized {think cause and effect}
  2. Nonfiction Text Features: features found in the text to help students digest the information that they are reading {think captions and headings}
  3. Nonfiction Reading Strategies: reading strategies that help the students understand the text more deeply {think questioning and visualizing}

While teaching each of these nonfiction mini-units, I use different engagement strategies specifically created for nonfiction reading to engage and hook my readers. Here is a list of the six different engagement strategies that I use to engage ALL readers in nonfiction reading:

  1. Allow Student Choice
  2. Brain Dump
  3. Draw It Out
  4. Make an Achor Chart
  5. Be Detectives
  6. Game Time

These strategies are much easier to explain in person! That is why I created a quick video you can watch all about my favorite reading strategies to hook your students in reading nonfiction.

Want to learn about each of these easy-to-implement strategies that will surely yield high engagement? I created a completely FREE 20 minute PD session all about these 6 nonfiction reading strategies to help you hook your students, too!

Grab it right here! 

Remember teaching students to understand nonfiction reading is different than reading strategies to help students comprehend a chapter book, picture book, or short passage. 

Teaching nonfiction reading strategies and structure require different engagement strategies. By mixing up your instruction, lessons, and activities your students will strengthen their understanding of nonfiction reading in no time at all!

Looking for Nonfiction Reading Strategy Activities
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reading strategy activities for upper elementary

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nonfiction reading strategies for upper elementary

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Spring Picture Books for Upper Elementary

Spring Picture Books for Upper Elementary

Spring fever is a real thing!

Especially in the upper elementary classroom!

Why not harness all of that excitement about the changing seasons with meaningful reading and writing activities all focused on engaging spring-themed picture books!

No matter how old students may get, they still absolutely LOVE celebrating all things related to seasons and holidays! And so do I! There is something about a new season that refreshes all of us with new opportunities, especially the arrival of spring. We are all instantly refreshed and recharged and ready to take on the rest of the school year.

These spring picture books and activities are the perfect way to welcome springtime into your upper elementary classroom while providing opportunities for meaningful discussions, content-based lessons, and addressing your grade-level standards.

Here is my list of favorite springtime picture books. They include new and older titles across many different topics, allowing you to engage a wide range of students. Be sure to grab the FREE student activity pack that coordinates with these books at the bottom of this post. 

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring written by Kenard Park

Spring Picture Books for Upper Elementary

I love the entire series of these seasonal books written by Kenard Pak, but this one may be my favorite as we say goodbye to winter and hello to the long-awaited season of spring! This book is perfect to explore repetition in written pieces and poetry, as well as the use of vivid word choice and figurative language to make writing come alive. Have students take what you discussed about making writing come alive by writing springtime poetry.

It's An Ant's Life written by Steve Parker

insect picture books for kids

When spring returns, so do the insects! Students are always so engaged when it comes to insects! This book is a fun one to share as it is written in a journal format from the perspective of an ant, making it a fictional book, chock full of facts and information about these pesky insects! A fun follow-up activity would be for students to pick a different insect or animal, research it, and then keep a journal as that creature!

How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball written by David Shannon

baseball read alouds for kids

You do not have to be a baseball lover to love this book! This book is perfect to practice just about every reading strategy including questioning, predicting, inferring, visualizing and finding the theme. Following a read-aloud of this baseball-themed picture book, and some reading strategy work, have students write about their favorite spring activity. It can be a full narrative piece or a simple paragraph, either way, students will love sharing what they love to do with their peers! 

Down Came the Rain written by Franklyn M Branley

rain and weather picture books for kids

Even though this book is labeled at stage 2, it includes so much information and scientific explanation about the water cycle and how rain is formed! Before reading this book, have students create an illustration of what they think is included in the water cycle and how rain is formed. Then dive in! Have students compare their drawings to the labeled illustrations found in the book. Following a reading, have your students make corrections to their drawings as needed. My kids love to borrow this one from our classroom library and read all the interesting precipitation facts over and over again!

Harlem Grown written by Tony Hillery

garden read alouds for kids

Harlem Grown is one of my new spring favorites! This picture book is based on a true story about Tony Hillery, the founder and director of Harlem Grown, a community garden in New York City. I love this book's message of identifying a problem and working together to fix it. It pairs perfectly with almost any unit: reading strategies, biographies, nonfiction reading, and procedural writing to name a few! I love using this book to write literary essays comparing and contrasting books and themes with the book The Curious Garden (spoiler alert it is the next book on this list!) You and your students will love this book and the note to followers at the end by Mr. Hillery.

                   The Curious Garden written by Peter Brown

spring read alouds for kids

As mentioned above, this book pairs perfectly with Harlem Grown. Bust out your Venn diagrams and compare and contrast every element of these two books! This book makes almost every one of my picture book lists because it can be revisited over and over all year long for different objectives. This book, loosely based on a true story, follows the main character as he works endlessly to bring a garden back to life. He ends up completely changing the community that lives in. Must read for spring and a must add to your classroom library!

How to Find a Bird written by Jennifer Ward

birds picture books for kids

This fun new picture book makes my spring read-aloud list for its amazing illustrations and clearly written procedural writing text. I love that so many different birds are included in this book AND clearly labeled to help students learn so much about birds. From common birds to bluebirds to extinct birds like the dodo, your students will ask you to stop on each page to see the illustrations! Follow up a read-aloud of this book by having your students write their own procedural writing piece on their favorite springtime activity or head outside and go on your bird walk! 

Bonus Teacher Tip: Have Owl Moon? I love Owl Moon! Have your kids compare and contrast this book to that classic and get ready to hear some amazing discourse among your students!

                         Nesting written by Henry Cole

april read alouds for kids

This springtime book's pages are as beautiful as the cover! The black and white pages help the beautiful turquoise robin's eggs stand out. There is so much learning that takes place with just one read-aloud of this book. From how birds build nests, to migrating in the winter and everything in between, this book will motivate each of your students to find robins and their blue eggshell pieces on their next spring hike! This book also has an author's note with facts about these amazing creatures, lending itself to having your students research a bird or animal of their choice.

Miss Rumphius written by Barbara Cooney

free miss rumphius activities for kids

A read-aloud of this all-time favorite is perfect to welcome spring! This book is truly perfect for any lesson character analysis and finding themes in literature. Miss Rumphius is given the task to make the world a more beautiful place, which in turn becomes her life mission. This book also lends itself to discussions about kindness, doing good, and how every person can play a part in changing and helping the world. Have your students take a blank piece of paper and create an illustration to represent how they can make the world a more beautiful place.

Bonus Teacher Tip: Read this book in April to help kick off your Earth Day celebrations and learning!

Spring After Spring written by Stephanie Roth Sisson

april read alouds for kids

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement is a great book to pair with the fictional read-aloud of Miss Rumphius. It is also perfect to read around the time of Earth Day.  This biographical picture book tells about the life of Rachel Carson and how she loved and cared for the environment. Even as a child, she would observe, draw and write about the creatures she found in the environment. She grew up to and worked as a scientist studying how chemicals and pesticides hurt the delicate balance of nature. This book will surely bring out the ecologist in each of your students!

Is spring fever running rampant in your classroom? Harness that energy and excitement with reading to students and engaging them in meaningful discourse. These books and activities are just what you need! 

Happy spring and happy reading friends!

Grab the FREE activities for these books:

Looking for engaging Spring Activities
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spring activities for kids

insect reading activities for kids

spring activities for kids

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April Fools' Day Pranks and Ideas for School and Teachers with Classroom Activities


April Fools' Day Activities and Ideas for Upper Elementary

By now you know that I truly believe in the power of using holidays and seasons to motivate and engage students in meaningful learning activities. No matter how old students may get, they are still truly motivated by seasonal and holiday-inspired lessons and activities. I have seen this year after year in both my third grade and fifth grade classrooms.

One holiday that I KNOW students are always so excited to celebrate is April Fools' Day! And why wouldn't they? It is a day filled with fun, laughter, and silliness...all the things that every student, no matter their age, absolutely LOVES!

Whether you want to prank your students on April Fools' Day or just use it as a lesson motivator, these ideas and activities will surely bring a smile to you and your students' faces this April! Be sure to grab the free lesson, just perfect for April Fools' Day at the bottom of this post.

Make it a History Lesson

April Fools' Day Activities and Ideas for Upper Elementary

My students always love learning about the history of different holidays. April Fools' Day has such a fun and uncertain history. Historians are still debating over its true origins, making it fun to read about and deciding which of the different theories you agree with! 

Take some time on April Fools' Day to read about and watch some short videos about the history of this holiday.

Try these:

Focus on the Power of Laughter

April Fools' Day Activities and Ideas for Upper Elementary

Helping students develop strong emotional health should always be a top priority, especially in today's stressful age. Laughter is known to reduce stress and help both students and teachers feel more relaxed.

Teaching students that age-old idiom, laughter is the best medicine, can really do wonders for students' emotional well-being. Start with facts! Getting your daily dose of laughter can improve your mood and strengthen relationships, too. Doctors agree that even a small giggle can increase endorphins and improve your mood in just moments.

Humor in the classroom has many proven positive outcomes, too. It can:

  • increase perseverance of difficult tasks
  • promote outside the box thinking
  • strengthen friendships and peer relations in your classroom community
  • improve attendance and increase classroom participation

Help your students understand the value of laughter with these high-interest nonfiction articles.

Get Them Laughing with Alliteration

free aprils fools day activity for kids

I am all about using laughter in the classroom to engage students, motivate them, and build classroom relationships. In fact, we start out each and every morning with a joke of the day. But when April rolls around, we spend each morning trying to do some tongue twisters. Not just any tongue twister, but ones my students have written themselves!

Writing tongue twisters is such a fun and memorable lesson AND the bonus is that it is all focused around alliteration, a figurative language strategy that I always encourage my students to use as writers. So while it is a fun lesson, it is meaningful, too!

Grab the FREE lesson and activities that I use to teach alliteration and tongue twister writing in my classroom right here!

Poetry Read Aloud Giggles

funny poetry books to share with kids

I love sharing funny picture books all year long! But when April Fools' Day and April come along, we dive deep into poetry. The first of April is the perfect day to kick off both April Fools' Day and National Poetry Month with a whole lot of giggles from poetry books that kids love! 

Here are some of my favorites:

My favorite time to read aloud some funny poetry is right before dismissal. It is always a good thing when you can send your students home smiling and laughing!

To Prank or Not to Prank

April Fools' Day Activities and Ideas for Upper Elementary

Don't want to play a prank on your students? This activity is for you! Be the judge in your classroom courtroom while your students debate over whether or not students should be allowed to play pranks in school on April Fools' Day.

I love holding debates in my classroom. Not only do debates address multiple skills and objectives, but it allows students to put all of their opinion and persuasive writing strategies and knowledge into action within a real-world activity. Plus it helps sharpen both their listening and speaking skills! 

Want to challenge your students with this activity? Go a step further and have students argue for the side they actually disagree with. It will help them to see things from a different perspective!

Teacher Pranks You Can Easily Pull Off

April Fools' Day Activities and Ideas for Upper Elementary

Not every teacher likes April Fools' Day! You may or may not want to pull a prank on your students, but if you do, read on!

Some tricks I have played on my students in the past include:

  • The popular brown E trick
  • Loof Lirpa Bird prank
  • Swap classes with another teacher: For this, I went up and taught fourth grade, and my colleague came down and taught third grade. I loved it and so did the kids!
  • One year I took away all the students' chairs and told them they were being used for an assembly and that they had to stand all day. I gave in and gave them their chairs after a little bit because I felt so bad with all of them standing and doing work at much shorter desks! 

We polled our audience and asked readers and teachers, just like you, to share the best pranks they have pulled on their students. Below is a list of ideas that teachers have used to have a little fun with their students. Make sure you read to the end, the last one is in my future!

{Be sure to check to see if your school or district has a policy about April Fools' Day pranks BEFORE you play any prank or joke on your students!}

  • I tell students I will bring them in "ipads" and actually bring in eye pads from the first aid aisle. --Dannella Bishop
  • I once told my class that they needed to line up at the door because we were going on a surprise field trip. (Of course, no field trip was scheduled). Students began cheering, then a couple of students said wait.... I didn’t bring my lunch.... I told them we had lunch taken care of already. I looked out the door at the end of the hallway and one of our bus drivers was parked at the end of the sidewalk (she had come in for a bathroom break). I told my class our bus was waiting for us and we needed to go. When we got out to the bus I had my class wait while I got on the bus and got the driver to go along with the joke. She was all for it. My class got on the bus, the driver started the bus and pulled around the parking lot into the parking lot of the middle school next to our school and then back round to the doors we came out. I said wasn’t that the best field trip ever! The kids looked really confused and asked what we were doing back at school. That’s when I said April Fools. That class of students are now seniors in high school and I still hear about that day! - Deb Boocher
  • I did a word search that had no words one year. While they were working on another assignment I pretended like I was timing myself completing the worksheet. I was talking under my breath to get their attention so they would be curious about what I was doing. Then after I passed it out to them I told them if they found all the words faster than me I would bring them lunch from any place they requested. They worked so hard for a good four minutes before finally realizing the words weren't in there at all and that I had pulled a prank on them. They loved it and couldn't believe I got them. They were talking about this day even the next school year on April Fool's Day. It was amazing. -Michelle Haslam
  • Back in the day of February writing tests, we told the kids that the mail lost their tests and they had to redo it. Even the principal got involved. They were just devastated! We read the directions and then the “prompt”. I can’t remember exactly what it said but something along the lines of write about a time you were punked (days of the show Punked). Some caught on quickly but others...not so much! -Nichole 
  • Another audience member told us about this fun prank: Donut seeds to grow some donuts!
  • I have been known to announce pop-quizzes and hand out pretend tests/STARR tests, give spelling tests with super hard words, with the bonus word being April Fool, I have pretended to have lost my memory and forget all names for a full day before and after, spoke in a British accent pretending that nothing was wrong with me -Jill Danklefs
  • I teach 5th graders, so they love this... I buy a package of the Robin's egg candies, and put one in a baggie with a few brown pine needles. I tell my class that I have been watching a bird's nest for a couple weeks, but unfortunately one of the eggs fell out of the nest last night, so I brought it in to show them. I make a big deal of taking it out of the bag and carefully holding it cradled in my hands. I walk around and show them the egg. After they've all seen it, I talk about how I can probably try to put it back in the nest, but hmmm..actually the mother bird probably won't accept it back, oh well...and then proceed to pop the egg right in my mouth and eat it. The kids lose their minds!! -Amy Shuler

If you can't beat'em, join'em! Get in on the fun and laugh a little, well really a lot, with your students this April Fools' Day! And don't forget, when it comes to bringing laughter into the classroom, don't just wait for April 1st to roll around! Start from the first day of school and watch your classroom community grow and become a positive place for everyone to spend their day!

Looking for Spring and April Activities
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April Fools Day pranks for teachers

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7 Opinion Writing Mentor Texts for Upper Elementary


7 Opinion Writing Mentor Texts for Upper Elementary

When it comes to teaching writing, I can not live without mentor texts

Any writing genre is brought to life by reading mentor texts that engage students and get them excited to write their own pieces. Opinion writing is no exception. We love referring back to these opinion writing mentor texts throughout our entire opinion writing unit and all year long!

To kick off opinion writing, we discuss the elements found specifically in opinion writing, create opinion writing class anchor charts, and get knee-deep in these opinion writing mentor texts.

Read about each of my favorite opinion writing mentor texts below and grab a FREE opinion writing starter kit to help your students master the art of writing opinion essays. 

Which Would You Rather Be? 

written by William Steig

7 Opinion Writing Mentor Texts for Upper Elementary

Which would YOU rather be, an adult or a kid? Fun thought, right? This book is filled with just simple questions to ask students about which they would rather be. Students will practice answering opinion questions with their own thoughts and supporting reasons through this picture book read-aloud. This also provides great topics that you can assign students or groups of students to respond to in writing like, Which would you rather be, a cat or dog? This is a great one to read to kick off your opinion writing unit.

I Wanna Iguana 

written by Karen Orloff

opinion writing picture books

I Wanna Iguana, written by Karen Kaufman is one in a series of books that brings opinion and persuasive writing to life for kids. Written in a series of short letters between the main character Alex and his mom, this fun read-aloud will have your students rooting for the main character to get that iguana! Each page and short letter from Alex includes a reason he believes his mom should allow him to get a pet iguana. This fun family debate is perfect for any opinion writing, persuasive writing, and debate writing activity in your classroom!

The Perfect Pet 

written by Margie Palatini

7 Opinion Writing Mentor Texts for Upper Elementary

In this book, the main character Elizabeth really wants a pet. She tries to convince her parents to allow her to have a pet using different supporting reasons and examples of why it would be a good thing. The surprise ending will not only make your students giggle but help them to understand how opinion writing and persuasive writing are connected.

Be sure to grab the FREE opinion writing starter kit at the bottom of this post.

Southwest Sunrise 

written by Nikki Grimes

7 Opinion Writing Mentor Texts for Upper Elementary

This easily relatable story tells the tale of a young boy who moves from New York to New Mexico. When he first arrives in his new dwellings he hates New Mexico. As the story continues, and the main character explores all the wonders his new home has to offer, his opinion begins to change. I love reading this book and discussing its powerful message about how we can change our opinions. This book brings up discussions about how we should not form opinions without reasons or support to back up our opinions and about how our opinions can change. Very thought-provoking and a must-read!

Things To Do 

written by Elaine Magliaro

7 Opinion Writing Mentor Texts for Upper Elementary

Things to Do is an amazing collection of poems, each giving the reader an idea or opinion about what you can do as each topic. If you are a bird, you can stretch your wings. If you are an acorn you can tempt a squirrel. If you are rain, you can freckle windowpanes. I love having the students write quick opinion poetry about an object that they love or use each day following a read-aloud of this book. I especially love reading this book to show children that opinions are in many forms of writing, not just opinion writing essays. This is a fun one!

A Fine Fine School 

written by Sharon Creech

opinion writing read alouds

This book is a staple in my classroom! So many reasons to read and reread this book, one of my favorites is to discuss opinion writing and differing opinions. The principal in the book loves the school so much that he adds more days to the school calendar. The teachers and students have a different opinion about adding days to the school week and calendar. Nothing changes until one brave student decides to share her thoughts and opinions (with supporting reasons) with the school principal. This book provides a great opportunity to discuss differing opinions.

Be sure to grab the FREE opinion writing starter kit at the bottom of this post.

Great Kapok Tree 

written by Lynne Cherry

persuasive writing read aloud picture books

Don't just save a reading of The Great Kapok Tree for Earth Day or your favorite rainforest and endangered species project, read this book to explain opinion and persuasive writing to your students! This story illustrates opinion writing in a more subtle way. Each animal that lives in the Great Kapok Tree shares its opinion about why the tree is important and why it should not be chopped down. There are so many follow-up opinion and persuasive writing activities that you can do following a read-aloud of this book, making it the perfect mentor text for every upper elementary classroom.

When it comes to helping students fully grasp the genre of opinion writing, be sure to share mentor texts. They are perfect to read together, find evidence of the genre, and inspire your young writers!

Looking for Opinion Writing Activities
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opinion writing activities for kids

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opinion writing lesson plan ideas for kids

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