Thursday, October 27, 2016

10 Thanksgiving Literacy Centers Including Critical Thinking!

Do you want Thanksgiving literacy ideas that would be great for centers in the upper elementary classroom?  Several of these centers also go beyond the regular curriculum and delve into deeper thinking strategies and there is a free critical thinking activity included for you to use today! Although the examples are used from a resource in my store, you can duplicate the following activities and ideas to create your own in your classroom!
reading, writing, poetry, literacy, critical thinking centers

1.  Thanksgiving ABC Order- Provide students with 10-20 words to sort in ABC order.  Make some  of the words challenging by going to the second and third letter for ordering.

Use words like:
Mayflower, Squanot, Plymouth, Samoset, Cape Cod, England, feast, turkey, alliance, November, crops, prayer, biscuits, democracy, religion, fertilize, deer, celebration, squash.

Thanksgiving words and cards to put in alphabetical order

2.  Pumpkin Pie Possessives-  Use the following words to have students sort according to 's and s'.

The childrens games   *   Ninety Wampanoags gifts   *   Several animals meat   *   A settlements feast   *   Samosets friend   *   Many of the Maple trees sap   *   All of the crops fertilizer   *   Ten pilgrims pies   *   One pilgrims pies   *   Squantos crops

Sort the possessive nouns in plural or singular

3.  Squanto's Syllable Sort-  Create cards with Thanksgiving words on them and students will sort them according to the number of syllables.  Use 2, 3, 4, and 5 syllables.  

Examples:  celebration, Massachusetts, democracy, traditional, establishment, generosity,  representative, constitutional, fertilization, communication, Pilgrims, Plymouth, Squanto, thankful, turnkey, settlement, alliance, abundance, religious, Mayflower
sort the thanksgiving words in syllables 2,3,4,5

4.  Thanksgiving Story--  Read a Thanksgiving story and provide students with reading comprehension opportunities.   Some skills that work well for any Thanksgiving story is:

Use the 5 W's- Who, What, When, Where, Why.

Open ended questions:
Why did the Pilgrims want to get away from England?
Why was the Mayflower Compact needed for the new colony?
After the harsh winter, how did the Pilgrim's luck turn around?

Create a text-to-self connection:
Think of Oceanus's experiences.  What connections can you make to them?

Cause and Effect:
Pilgrims left for the New World.  What was the cause?
The first winter had harsh weather, starvation and disease.  What was the effect?
The Pilgrim's luck turned around.  What was the cause?
They had an abundance of food.  What was the effect?

Vocabulary/Synonyms/Antonyms in the text.

cause and effect, vocabulary, 5W's, text connection with Thanksgiving story

5.  Compare and Contrast Story and Poem
analyze the the story and poem to find similarities and differences

6.  Poetry Analysis:  Theme, tones, rhyme scheme, narrator, point of view.  Practice reciting.

analyze a thanksgiving poem

7.  Thanksgiving Bio Poem- Choose an important person from the story.

choose a person from thanksgiving and write a biography poem

8.  What Plymouth Rock Saw-  Pretend you are Plymouth Rock.  From your point of view, tell about the day the Mayflower arrived.  Use 5 senses.

9.  Turkey Persuasion-  Pretend you are a turkey and you want to persuade your owners to eat something else at Thanksgiving.

wriiting activities for Thanksgiving, turkey persuasion, if you were plymouth rock

10.  Notice Think and Wonder-  Download this resource for FREE!  Students look at the picture and think deeply at this illustration.
Notice:  What do you notice in the picture?
Think:  What are you thinking about from your observations?
Wonder:  What is happening?  What triggers your curiosity?

critical thinking deep level thinking of a picture

If you would like all of these activities and ideas for Thanksgiving centers, they are found in one bundled resource.  They are prepped and ready to be used in your centers.  Print and go!  Click HERE for more information.

Find reading, writing, poetry, critical thinking centers for Thanksgiving

If you need pocket charts for your centers, I have two that I would recommend.  I like both of these because they can be hung on a door to save space AND they fold up so you can take them home with you!  See my reviews below:

1.  Smead Cascading Wall Organizer with 6 folders- I like this because it has the colorful folder included.  Each folder holds about 25 sheets.  The organizer and folders are both durable plastic.  It is the cheaper of the two.  $14.49


2.  Wall Hanging 7-Slot Fabric File Organizer-  I like this because it is fabric material and has two holes for hooks and the hooks are included.  It also has slots for 7 folders.   The downfall is the folders aren't included.  $25.97

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Friday, October 21, 2016


I've used writing notebooks for several years and have made changes along the way to find the best possible way to use them. This post will show how to set up your notebook!  There is a video at the bottom too!

the best way to set up interactive writing notebooks

(You will find some Amazon affiliate links on this page. The small commission I make goes back into my blog so I can provide teachers with ideas and activities for their classrooms!)

A. Decorate the Outside Cover

Use a composition notebook, create a personalized outside cover, and seal it with packaging tape.  This is a great homework assignment!

Click to purchase from Amazon

personalize the cover of notebook  personalize the cover of the notebook

B.  Create a Table of Contents and Page Numbers

Start a table of contents on the first page.  Save the first 4 pages for Table of Contents.  As students add their notes, they number their pages and keep track on the Table of Contents page!  We used colorful dot labels for page numbers.

record the lesson and page for the table of contents

example of interactive writing notebook pages

Colorful dots:  Any 3/4 inch dot labels will work, but the ones below are my FAVORITE because they offer 10 different colors. 


lists skills and pages for table of contents  

C. Tabs and Cover Sheets

To make tabs for notebooks, there are 3 options.  Post Its, Redi-Tags or TABS from my store.  (Please don't purchase tabs from my store if you have already purchased an Interactive Writing Notebook.  They have been added to that resource and you can download it from your purchases!)

1.    2.       

3.  tabs for ideas, paragraph writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, informative writing with  

Create tabs (and covers)

Ideas- 3 pages using front and back.

Paragraph Writing-  5 pages using front and back.

Writing Process- 1 page using front and back.

Narrative Writing- 14 pages using front and back.

Opinion Writing- 8 pages using front and back.

Informative Writing- 11 pages using front and back.

Rough Drafts-  the rest of the notebook

Take notes in all sections except rough drafts.  Use this section to create stories, revise and edit. Then write final drafts on a separate (final copy) paper and place them in writing porfolios.
create a cover sheet for ideas in writingcreate a cover sheet and tab for paragraph writing in notebook

The least expensive way:
I know all about teaching on a budget.  Make Tabs with Post Its- This is the least expensive way. Collect as many colors of Post-It notes as needed for the amount of tabs you want to create and cut them in strips. Fold it over once. Then tape each color strip in the notebook.  Use clear packaging tape and place it on both sides of the tab and both sides of the page so it looks like it is a laminated piece.

easy way to create tabs for interactive notebooks

Redi Tags are easier but more expensive than Post Its.

D.  3-Prong Pocket Folders-  2 per student

1.  Student Resource Folder:  Place FREE spelling dictionary and any resources neccessary for students to use during writing workshop.   Place the resource pages in the fasteners and the spelling dictionary in one of the pockets in the folder.

give students resources for writing workshop

If you need a Resource Guide, click below.  

student resources for writing workshop

Free Spelling Dictionary!

for writing workshop

2.  Writing Portfolios:  Use the second folder for final copies.
Collect everything that they have published throughout the year! Poems, stories, writing across the curriculum, bulletin board pieces, etc. Place them in a folder with brass fasteners. At the end of the year, they get to keep their final product! It is a great end-of-year gift! Another idea is to set them out on table during parent/teacher conferences so parents have something to look at while they are waiting.

folder filled with final copy or published copies of student work

Here is a video to show you how to set up your notebooks!  Click on pic below!

a video link to how to set up interactive notebooks

I hope these ideas helped you organize student notebooks!  If you are looking for a step-by-step writing approach TO MOTIVATE STUDENTS AND BOOST TEST SCORES that includes anchor charts, forms, tracking, model samples, printables, rubrics, slides, posters, etc. etc. Check out the all inclusive writing bundle:
step by step writing program with interactive notebook pages, mentor text, graphic organizers, lesson plans 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

October Books for Upper Elementary

Are you looking for great literature to introduce to your students in the month of October?  You will find some of my favorites for upper elementary students.  Read on for a summary and why they are my favorites!  Happy Haunted Reading!  CLICK ON EACH BOOK PICTURE TO FIND IT ON AMAZON!

1.  Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe.

A chapter book:  4.2 reading level

Harold, the narrator of the story, is hysterical! He is just like my dog, Romeo, who begs for food 24-7! And Chester, the cat, oh my. My students and I fall off our chairs when reading about his shenanigans! He thinks that the new bunny in the house is a vampire and performs crazy acts to get rid of the vampire!  I love this character so much that I call my own cat Chester when he acts a little crazy.  Chester wears garlic around his neck, tries to pound the bunny with a steak..yes steak not stake, and wears a towel around his neck to look like a vampire cape to get everyone's attention. The poor bunny can't get a break so Harold steps in to help him. It is a must read! Teachers, there are so many different reading skills you can pull from this book.  The great thing about this book, is there is a series so my students ran to the library asking for the next book!

Bunnicula Series-  All of the Bunnicula Books
Howliday Inn
Bunnicula Strikes Again
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Nighty Nightmare
Return to Howliday Inn
Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow

2.  The Ghost of Fossil Glen by Cynthia DeFelice

A chapter book:  Reading level 5.1

This has been my favorite read aloud for years!  My students begged and pleaded for me to keep reading each day.  It is so realistic that students can relate to it.  It is about eleven-year old Allie Nichols who loves climbing at Fossil Glen, which is dangerously steep and rocky.  As she is clinging to the side of a cliff, she hears a trusting voice to bring her down the cliff safely.  The mysterious thing is that there was NOBODY there!  As she begins to investigate, she realizes that some of her friends were not true friends and she decides to only confide in her long time friend Dub.  Allie continues to hear voices and is given clues to a mystery.  As Ali and Dub gets closer to discovering out the ghostly voice and clues, they realize they uncovered a very gruesome crime and they are now in danger!  Just like Bunnicula, this book has a series, so my students ran to the library to grab the next one!
The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs
The Ghost of Cutler's Creek

3.  It's Halloween, I'm turning Green!  by Dan Gutman

A chapter book:  3.7 reading level

This book comes from the My Weird School series.  During trick-or-treating, A.J. and his group of friends plan to get enough candy to last them through the year.  They have to beware of the Halloween monster who is ready to steal all of their candy.  There are so many funny sayings and exaggerations!  What would happen if a kid ate a million hundred pounds of chocolate in one night?  I love all the words of imagery used to fill pictures of hillarious scenes in our minds!  It is an easy read with many new words and phrases.  The bonus content at the end of the book is motivating too!  It includes Halloween facts, a word search, puzzles and more.

4.  The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

A chapter book: 4.7 reading level

This fast-paced tale is about eight boys dressed for Halloween who are meeting their friend Pipkin at a haunted house outside of town.  I love the black and white drawing to make it even more haunting.  The boys encounter Mr. Moundshroud and Pipkin gets swept away by something dark and eerie.  Mr. Moundshroud takes the boys on the tail of a kite through time to search for Pipkin and the meaning of Halloween.  It is saturated with great Halloween history including ancient Egypt, cavemen, persecution of witches in the Dark ages, gargoyles of Notre Dame, and catacombs of Mexico.  In the end each boy has to give up something (I don't want to spoil the story) to save Pipkin's life.

5.  Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 4:  The Battle of the Labyrinth

A chapter book:  3.3 reading level

This book is full of humor, adventure, and heart-pounding events!  Percy Jackson reluctantly goes to a boring freshman orientation only to find shocking surprises of a mysterious mortal acquantance and demon cheerleaders!  Camp Half-Blood is no longer safe!  Percy and his demigod friends set out on a quest through an underground world to stop the invasion of Titan lord Krono's army.  This war between the Olympians and evil Kronos has many surprises and action twists as they try to avoid the time from running out!  My boys loved this book!

6. Tell Me a Scary Story..But Not Too Scary by Carl Reiner

A Picture Book: Grade level 3.3

Who doesn't love a scary story?  This hilarious one is perfect for upper elementary!   I especially like it for giving students ideas for suspense in writing!  Carl Reiner brings in the fun of suspense by inviting readers to huddle closer and asking, "Shall we turn the page- or is it too scary?  The story is about a young boy's tale of the mysterious house next door.  The descriptive language used makes the story so intriguing.  It uses phrases like "the hair on the back of my neck was sticking straight out."  My students scream---turn the page!!!!!!!

I hope you found a good book for your students!  If you choose Bunnicula and are interested in a unit, click on the pic below.

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