Quick Tip to Strengthen Reading Comprehension Strategies for Upper Elementary

Quick Tip to Strengthen Reading Comprehension in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Multiple-choice questions are not my thing.

Before Connecticut shifted to SBAC testing, teachers wrote the yearly state exams. I was on a team that wrote 3rd-grade reading tests. This included the passages and the questions. So much professional development and non-disclosure agreements went into the multi-day training we were provided to be certified to write those exams. 

The entire process was extremely eye-opening and helped me learn a lot about what makes a good and fair assessment for students. After all that training, I stopped using multiple-choice questions to assess students in my classroom.

There is a time and place for multiple choice questions. But on a daily basis, when we read stories and passages, I do not use multiple-choice questions as a form of assessment. 

If you have any of the reading packs from my shop, you know that there are no multiple-choice questions. In fact, I often get asked why there are no multiple-choice questions...well, it is just not something I put a lot of value into when assessing students.

Multiple choice for test prep? Absolutely! I do use multiple choice questions for test prep so that students know good test-taking strategies, but I do not like to use them with daily reading activities. There are better options to use as teachers to get a pulse of students' understanding of what was read. The more you say no to multiple-choice, and yes to open ended tasks you give students as they read, the less test prep you will need to do! This is because the students have learned how to think as they read and develop good reading habits.

active reading tip for 3rd 4th 5th graders

I do not like using multiple-choice questions because...

👎 they try to measure too many objectives or not the right objectives in each question stem
👎 negatives in the question stem and "funny" choice options confuse students
👎 it is a guessing game that does not tell me if students know the correct answer or guessed the correct answer

Instead, I use...

👍 specific tasks that have students highlighting the answer in the text
👍 short answer and open-ended response questions that value text evidence and student-reflective opinions
👍 classroom discussions around multiple-choice style questions without the choices. 

reading annotation guide for 3rd 4th 5th graders

If you want to begin to shift away from using multiple choice questions, try these simple annotation tips to get started. These tips can be used with any text and no fancy tools or resources are needed. 

Simply write these annotation tasks at the board and have students work!

Circle a new vocabulary word you learned and write your own meaning in the margin.
Underline a part of the text you found interesting and want to share with the class. 
Highlight a part of the text that made you ask a question. Write the question in the margin and a possible answer.

By encouraging students to be active readers who engage with the materials that they read rather than have them focus on picking (or guessing) an answer in a multiple choice question, their reading comprehension will strengthen. 

You can get started today using ANY book, poem, or passage that you have on hand. Simply teach students how to annotate using the suggestions above or your own, and watch them become more engaged and develop their comprehension.

Grab the FREE annotation chart and reading passage below to get started!

Looking for more reading comprehension passages and activities? Look HERE!

active reading tip using nonfiction reading passages

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Quick Tip to Strengthen Reading Comprehension in the Upper Elementary Classroom


7 Thanksgiving Picture Book Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Classrooms 3rd, 4th, 5th Grade

7 Thanksgiving Picture Book Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Classrooms 3rd, 4th, 5th Grade

November always seems like such a short month in the classroom! With both Thanksgiving and Parent Teacher Conferences falling in November, it always feels like it ends as quickly as it begins. I never have enough time to read ALL the books I want to read with my upper elementary students. 

While there are so many topics to explore during November and so many different books to read aloud, I have narrowed my favorite read-aloud books for this month to this list of seven must-reads! These books make the cut each year and are always so well-loved by the kids.

Read on to learn more about each of my favorite books for November and Thanksgiving time, and scoop up some fun and free activities to go along with these picture books. Since I love to use one book in many ways, I have included some suggested reading focuses to help you make the most of these Thanksgiving read-alouds in your upper elementary classroom!

Thanksgiving Read Aloud Native American Heritage Month

1. Keepunumk written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten*

Do not let November go by without sharing this Native American story. I love that this book begins with a page filled with important background information and meaningful words for the reader. It truly sets the stage for this read-aloud. This story tells about the first day of thanks or harvest from the perspective of The First People. It is filled with rich information and culture and is truly perfect for November. The back pages are filled with information, recipes, and an author's note that you will want to share, too!

A fun follow-up to this read-aloud would be to connect reading and writing with informational research about Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples who once lived in your area. More info HERE.

Reading focus: Focus on vocabulary and context clues

Balloons over Broadway reading activities

2. Balloons Over Broadway written by Melissa Sweet*

This book is so much fun to read! It is a welcome break from the typical Thanksgiving stories as it focuses on the life and adventures of Tony Sarg, the man behind the puppets of the iconic Macy's Day Parade. The pages are filled with eye-catching illustrations, diagrams, and a photograph of Tony, quickly holding your students' attention with each page flip. Your students will love to follow along with Tony as he changes and improves his designs, making this the perfect book to discuss STEM and engineering concepts. Remember to read the author's note and bio!

Reading focus: Paired text critical thinking with THIS nonfiction reading passage about Thanksgiving Day parades.

Thank You Omu reading activities

3. Thank You, Omu written by Oge Mora*

This one read-aloud has it all! Friends, family, gratitude, appreciation, community, giving, traditions, and so much more! It has become my favorite to read each Thanksgiving. The cut-paper collage illustrations are as beautiful as the story, and the children are always surprised by what happens when Omu sits down to enjoy her stew. When the community members join together to help out Omu, she definitely feels the love! This is a must-read

Reading focus: Text structure analysis: sequencing and problem and solution 

Fry Bread reading activities

4. Fry Bread written by Kevin Nobel Maillard*

Fry Bread is jam-packed with so much goodness! It is not only perfect for kicking off discussions of traditions, families, and holiday gatherings but also a must-read to celebrate and honor Native American Heritage Month this November. Written with a metaphor on each page, the reader is reminded of how important fry bread is to Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. While each page is short and brief, with vivid words and illustrations, the author's note at the end provides more information about Fry Bread and the culture of Native Americans.

Reading focus: Reading nonfiction and understanding metaphors

free thanksgiving activities for upper elementary kids

5. Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey written by Joy Cowley*

This is an oldie but a goodie and always a class favorite! Visit your school library or local library to grab a copy, as this one is hard to find! This book follows the main character, Miguel as he is faced with a huge dilemma...he is gifted with a live turkey meant to be his Thanksgiving dinner. There is one problem, this turkey ends up becoming Miguel's pet and he does not have the heart to turn it into dinner. Your students will be cheering Miguel on, hoping he finds a way to avoid having to give up Gracias. I  love the mix of Spanish words and the glossary at the back of this book, making it easy to celebrate different cultures. 

A fun follow-up would be to have your students write a persuasive essay persuading people to not eat turkey for Thanksgiving dinner!

Reading focus: Text structure analysis: problem and solution and cause and effect

gratitude book activities for kids

6. Grow Grateful written by Sage Foster-Lasser and Jon Lasser*

Gratitude is a concept that we talk about in the classroom year-round, but I always kick it off during the month of November! This book makes it easy to help students understand the concept of gratitude and appreciating all that you have! This book follows the main character, Kiko, as she grows grateful throughout the story. She learned to focus on the small things on life instead of focusing on what she does not have. The students always related to Kiko and what she is experiencing! 

Find even more of my favorite gratitude books HERE.

Reading focus: Character analysis and changing characters

Thanksgiving alternative activities for kids

7. Apple VS Pumpkin written by Jefferey Burton*

Don't let that fact this is a board book stop you from sharing and reading it aloud to your big kids! This book is perfect for the fall and Thanksgiving seasons and a super fun way to introduce debates, persuasion, and opinion writing! This story follows the debate between apple and pumpkin as they spew out supporting details about why each of them is the best treat for the fall. Your kids will love the humor, cute illustrations, and getting in on the fun of debating it out as they cast their vote for apple or pumpkin! 

A fun follow-up to this read-aloud would be to have your own debate!

Reading focus: Text structure analysis: compare and contrast

Grab all the free activities to use with these books right here!

Grab one or all of these picture books to share and read aloud with your upper elementary students this fall, November, and Thanksgiving season! They are not just perfect to get into the spirit of giving and gratitude, but they are also great for revisiting with a reader's and writer's lens, too! Which one will you share this November?

Happy Thanksgiving! 

*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)

You will also love reading:

Thanksgiving read aloud Thank You Omu

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7 Thanksgiving Picture Book Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Classrooms 3rd, 4th, 5th Grade

*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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