Tag Archives: reading aloud

Make Way for Ducklings!

by Kelli Lewis

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Quack, quack! Here is a fun activity for kindergarten or first grade. Get your students involved and engaged as they become immersed in this beloved story and cute craft activity.

Read Aloud

  1. Read Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.
  2. Use this time to review concepts you’ve been working on prior to this activity. For instance, ask students to identify the story’s problem and solution, make predictions, point out compound words or proper nouns, etc.
  3. Then, follow up the story by making your own ducklings!

Duckling Craft

Materials for one duckling:

• paper plate

• yellow crayon

• black crayon

• stapler

• yellow construction paper

• orange construction paper

Materials to have pre-made or pre-drawn so that the students can cut out (for one duckling): 1 orange duck foot (start by drawing an egg shape, then make the top part spiky for the toes), 1 small orange nose (triangle), 1 yellow duck head (circle).

Instructions:

• Fold paper plate in half and staple.

• Color both sides yellow with a crayon.

• Trace your hand on a piece of yellow construction paper and cut out. This will become your duckling’s feathers.

• Draw two black eyes on the duckling’s head (yellow circle).

• Glue the orange nose (triangle) on the duckling’s head (yellow circle).

• Glue the duckling’s head to one pointy end of the duckling’s body (folded paper plate).

• Glue the duckling’s feathers (yellow hand print) to the other pointy end of the duckling’s body (folded paper plate).

• Glue the orange foot (egg shape with spikes) to the bottom of the duckling’s body (folded paper plate), in the middle of the curve.

Writing Tie-In

To incorporate writing, depending on level:

  • Students can write their names on their ducks
  • Students can write one sentence on the back of their ducks, describing their duck with adjectives (“My duck is yellow.” “My duck is cute.” “My duck is fluffy.”)
  • Advanced students can write a paragraph about their duck on a separate piece of paper, which can then be glued inside the duck’s paper plate body. To get them started, ask these prompts: What does your duck eat? What does your duck look like? What does your duck do for fun?

The cute little ducks will surely “quack” up your students!

This classic book is often available in libraries, but if you’d like your own copy for $7.99, click here.

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.

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Filed under Activities, Art, creative writing, Reading, reading aloud, Writing

Be Your Own Author!

by Rachel Stepp

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The story Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk is about a small mouse who dwells in the library and decides to become an author. He stays up during the night writing undersized books for his local library. The patrons of the library discover the books and fall in love with them! They become so curious about the author that they leave him a note. They want to meet him, but they don’t know he’s a mouse. Instead of revealing himself, the library mouse puts a mirror in a tissue box to encourage the children to see themselves as their own authors.

Write Your Own Books!

After you have read this book to the class, tell your students that they are going to be creating their own library books…just like the library mouse. Here’s how:

1. Prewriting

First, brainstorm ideas as a class. What would you like to write about? In the story, the mouse wrote about things he knew, such as himself and cheese. Help your students make a list of things that they know and could write about (pets, friends, activities they enjoy, toys they play with, etc.).

2. Drafting

Encourage your students to write rough drafts of their story with a beginning, middle and end.

3. Revising and Editing

Tell your students to read back over their drafts. Make this checklist on the board, for students to follow as they reread their stories:

Does the story make sense?
Does anything need to be added or changed?
Do the sentences all have capital letters and punctuation?
Do I need to check the spelling of any words?

4. Final Copy

Help your students make their own books by folding paper in half and stapling it. On the day that students will write their final drafts, create a tissue box with a mirror in it (like the one in the story). Have each student “meet the author” by looking into the box and seeing themselves. This will help students envision themselves as authors and illustrators!

5. Publishing!

After your students have written their own books, put them on display in your classroom library. Students will enjoy sharing their books with their peers and getting new ideas from others. You can even allow the children to read their books to the class, just like the teacher.

6. A Fun Text-to-Life Connection

A fun way to conclude this unit is to tell your students that the school’s library mouse will probably be visiting the classroom when he hears that there are new books to read! After one night, leave a small (mouse-sized) note from the mouse. Tell your students that the mouse has come during the night and read through some of the books. You can make it personal by including small comments about titles of books, illustrations, student names and even fun suggestions. Students will be enthused by the idea of the school’s mouse reading their books!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who often shares her creative ideas on A Learning Experience.

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Filed under comprehension, creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Reading, reading aloud, Writing

Will You Be My…?

by Rachel Stepp

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Valentine’s Day is one of those wishy-washy holidays. You know, the kind that are sort of tough to justify academically but you’d be black-listed by your students if you completely ignored it. So, I’ve compiled some fun ways to recognize Valentine’s Day in your classroom while promoting literacy (check!), raising school funds (ca-ching!), and building classroom community (sweet!).

Val-Day Idea One: In Love with Literature

Read books to your students about the history or traditions of the holiday. For younger students, my favorite is Little Critter: Happy Valentine’s Day, Little Critter! by Mercer Mayer. For older grades, try Valentine’s Day (Holiday Histories) by Kathryn A. Imler. You can base classroom discussions around what people might do on Valentine’s Day and why we still celebrate the holiday in America.

Val-Day Idea Two: Will You Be My…Friend?

Of course, the traditional idea of having students exchange cards and sweets is ever popular with the kiddos. Remember to encourage students to bring a card for everyone if they are going to bring any (sending home a class list ahead of time helps with this goal). Depending on how involved you want the celebration to be, you can either have your students make shoebox mailboxes or decorate Valentine bags. For the shoebox mailboxes, students can bring in shoeboxes and decorate them with construction paper, stickers, paint, and more. For bags, the same can be done with brown or colored lunch bags (eliminates the need for students to bring in boxes). Allow students to place their boxes/bags on their desks and then invite students to walk around and deliver cards.

Val-Day Three: Cash for Carnations

If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day on a larger scale, encourage your school to participate in a school-wide function. One of my favorite school-wide activities for Valentine’s Day is a carnation sale run by the PTA/PTO. A sale table is set up at the beginning of the week where students can order carnations in advance, which also helps the organization know how many to buy. On Valentine’s Day, carnations are delivered to classrooms with tags on them to say who they are for and who they are from. This allows students to buy carnations for others throughout their school. They can also buy them for their family members at home. Money raised can be used to support other school functions. (Hint: middle-schoolers LOVE this idea).

Valentine’s Day is a day to remember the ones you love…and the job you love! Make the day something that you and your students will enjoy.

For more Valentine-themed goodies for your home and classroom, check out The School Box’s good ideas!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who is a constant resource of great ideas!

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Holidays, Reading, reading aloud

A Wintry Way to Review Patterns!

by Rachel Stepp

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Here’s an imaginative way to create a wintry wonderland in your classroom and also review patterns and counting!

Paper Chains

  1. First start by creating paper chains that you can hang from the ceiling. These chains can be made with different shades of blue and white construction paper.
  2. Mark strips on the paper using a ruler. Place the ruler along the paper and just make the strips as wide as the ruler. (No real measurement is necessary!) Older students can do this themselves. Make enough sheets for each student to have around 20 strips in several different colors of paper.
  3. Once your students have their paper, allow them to cut the strips along the lines.
  4. Now, teach (or review) patterns. Explain and model various patterns such as ABAB or ABBABB. For upper elementary/middle grades, this would also be a great time to get in a little literary integration by whipping out some poetry with various rhyme schemes. You can compare the rhyme schemes with the paper patterns…and students could even copy various lines of poetry onto their strips. For a great list of printable winter-themed rhyming poems, check out Apples 4 the Teacher.
  5. After students have had time to explore different patterns, teach them how to make a paper chain using their strips. Encourage them to hold the glued links for ten seconds to secure the glue. This will also help them count to 10 and review their numbers.
  6. Once your students have made paper chains, connect all of the chains together and hang them across the classroom from the ceiling. The classroom will be filled with snowy skies when you are all done!

(If your county’s fire marshall is anti-ceiling-hanging, you can hang the chains from bulletin boards, white boards, walls and doorways instead. Just as magical!)

Glitter Snowflakes

  1. Add a little extra pizazz to your room with snowflakes from your students. Students just start with a regular piece of white (or light blue) paper. Then have students fold the paper multiple times, until it is a small, folded rectangle. They can fold as many times as they’d like…so long as scissors can still penetrate the folds.
  2. Next, students will cut small snips and shapes out of the edges of their folded rectangle. They can also snip and round out corners. You can review shapes with this lesson (and practice fine motor coordination) by guiding the students in cutting out specific shapes: triangles, circles, squares, rectangles, etc.
  3. Then, when students unfold their snipped paper, voila! A unique snowflake.
  4. Add some glitter so they sparkle in the light.

You can also use the idea of reflection and have students draw half of a snowflake and then reflect their drawing on the other side of their paper.

Then, you could follow up these chilly activities by reading your favorite winter storybook to your class. I love Jan Brett, but if you have another great wintry-themed book suggestion, post it in the comments below! I’d love to hear your favorites!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.

Photo from http://www.bunchfamily.ca/paper-snowflakes-garlands.

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Filed under Classroom Decor, Math, Poetry, Reading, reading aloud, Seasons, Uncategorized

{New} Guided Reading Activities

by Rachel Stepp

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Do you struggle with your guided reading group routine? Here is a simple idea for a five-day reading routine for the lower grades (which could easily be adapted for upper grades, as well).

Imagine your class divided into several small groups. You can work with each group for approximately 15-20 minutes depending on the number of students in your class.

Day 1: Selecting and Introducing the Book

If your school has a guided reading book library, then use it to find books that are appropriate for your students. When you first introduce the book, allow the students to do a picture walk (flip through the book, looking at the pictures) and make predictions. Then read the story aloud to the class the first time through. Make sure that your students are using their ‘tracking finger’ to follow along. After the whole group has read the book together, ask the students to whisper read to themselves as you listen in. Make sure that the students read the book enough times so that you have time to walk around the class and listen to each student read.

Day 2: Learning New Words

Begin the second day by reviewing and rereading the book from day one. Check ‘tracking fingers’ like you did previously, and monitor the students as they read to themselves. After they have reread the book, talk about new words from the story. You can write these words on index cards to add them to the word wall, if your class has one. Have your students practice saying the words and talk about their meanings. You can have the students write out new words on individual white boards if time allows.

Day 3: Be an Illustrator!

Once again, begin the day by allowing your students to reread their stories. Ask comprehension questions related to the text and pictures (“Why do you think he did that?” “What’s going on in that picture?” “What did you think about that part?”)–to get students to think deeper about what they’re reading.

Now it’s time to let your students’ creativity shine: tell them that they are going to become the illustrator for a page in the story! After they draw their favorite scene, they can write a caption. Depending on students’ writing abilities, their captions may range from one word to paragraphs. This will help them practice their spelling and attention to story sequence and details.

Day 4: Social Reading

On this day, once again reread the story, but allow your students to do this with a partner. Let them move about the room for a few minutes as they read to each other. Once everyone has had the chance to read, bring them back together and review the new words. The students can try to read new or unfamiliar words on their own by sounding them out or using context clues. At the end of this day, allow your students to take home their books so that they can read them with their families.

Day 5: Working on Writing

Since you sent the books home with your students the day before, you might not have them all back on day five (let’s be realistic). So, on this day, orally talk about the story. Tell the students to write words or sentences summarizing the story’s content. You might need to remind students what the story was about. Allow them to sound out words and work on their phonics skills. Also, while they are writing, ask them to check for spacing between letters and look for neat handwriting. Children can use their index fingers as a guide for how much space to leave between words.

These five days of guided reading plans are simple enough to be adapted to many classrooms and guided reading units. One final tip: Listen to your students read aloud during guided reading. This may be the only time that you will be able to hear them read one-on-one. One of the purposes of guided reading is to get to know your students’ abilities on an individualized basis, and after this week’s worth of activities, you will have witnessed oral reading, vocabulary skills, comprehension, interpersonal skills, writing, summarizing and drawing. Not too shabby for one week!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia whose good ideas are frequently published on A Learning Experience.

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Filed under Academic Success, comprehension, Cooperative Learning, Reading, reading aloud

Carvin’ Up Some Great Informational Writing

by Kelli Lewis

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Gotta teach informational writing this year and need a way to spice it up a bit?  How about teaching it during the month of October and having your students learn about pumpkins…while carving them in the process, of course!? Consider this fun twist on traditional expository writing assignments: Have your students create instructional books about pumpkins, along with a step-by-step “How-To Carve A Pumpkin” guide to go along with it.

Like the idea? Here’s a detailed lesson plan to follow. (This plan was created for first-graders and designed to take one day, but it could be easily modified for older grades, as well.)

Standards:

ELA1W2 b.) The student produces informational writing that stays on topic and begins to maintain a focus.

ELA1W2 d.) The student produces informational writing that begins to use organizational structures (steps, chronological order) and strategies (description).

ELA1W2 h.) The student produces informational writing that may include oral or written prewriting (graphic organizers).

Materials Needed:

The Pumpkin Book, by Gail Gibbons (available at The School Box)

-sticky notes

-chart paper

-markers

-web/bubble graphic organizer, for informational sentences

-pencils

-pumpkins: choose one of the following, according to your classroom’s needs: 1) small pumpkins for every child, 2) medium-sized pumpkins for each group, or 3) two large-sized pumpkins for you and a parent volunteer to demonstrate.

-carving tools

-large trash bag

-butcher paper/newspaper to lay down on the floor/table, underneath the pumpkins

– “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet for documenting (This graphic organizer should just have spaces for: materials, “First you…”, “Second you…”, “Next you…”, “Finally you…”)

Procedure:

  1. Ask your students: What is informational writing? What is a topic?
  2. Read aloud The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons.
  3. Reread the book again, using sticky notes to demonstrate how to take notes and copy an informational statement as you’re reading. Post the sticky note to the page in which you found it. Make as many ‘notes’ as you have room for on your web/bubble graphic organizer.
  4. Go back through the book and transfer your sticky-note information onto the web/bubble graphic organizer. Demonstrate this process to your class. Write each statement from the sticky notes onto the graphic organizer, around the topic “pumpkins” in the middle of the page.
  5. Have students return to their desks and copy your graphic organizer’s information onto their own graphic organizer. (For older grades, students could repeat this process independently with a second pumpkin story or book).
  6. Discuss the “step-by-step” processes for creating a jack-o-lantern.  Discuss the importance of listing the materials and being sure the steps are in order and nothing is left out. Discuss ideas with your students about what you would write.
  7. Record ideas, as you discuss, onto your “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet.
  8. Decide, as a class, what the “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet should say. Then, start to create the list of materials and steps.
  9. When it is complete, have your students copy it onto their own “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet.
  10. Now it’s time to carve!  As you carve, refer back to the the “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet, made by your class, to see if the steps are in the correct order and that nothing was left out!

Happy carving!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia who often shares her wonderful ideas on A Learning Experience. (Lucky us!)

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Filed under Assessments, comprehension, Cooperative Learning, Reading, Writing

A Great List of Activities…Themed by Alphabet Letter!

Looking for a fun way to teach the alphabet and keep students engaged in reading?  Here’s a super creative list of books and activities to coordinate with EVERY letter of the alphabet. Yowsa, this is a great resource!

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by Kelli Lewis

This list of activities is perfect for students in Pre-K and Kindergarten who are learning their ABC’s! This is also a great way to incorporate activities from several subject areas throughout the day. You can make this as simple or as challenging as needed, depending on your students. After each lesson, the books can be displayed in a special “ABC books” basket or shelf, so that students are able to return to them often.

Alphabet Themed Books & Activities

Letter: A

Theme: amazing animals

Activity: students come to school with their favorite stuffed animal

Book: Corduroy, by Don Freeman

Letter: B

Theme: bogus bubbles

Activity: students play with bubbles outside

Book: Bubble Trouble, by Margaret Mahy

Letter: C

Theme: crazy chalk

Activity: students are given an opportunity to write with chalk on a sidewalk

Book: Chalk & Cheese, by Tim Warnes

Letter: D

Theme: delicious donuts with dad

Activity: dads come to school and have donuts for breakfast with their child

Book: Arnie the Doughnut, by Laurie Keller

Letter: E

Theme: easy elephants

Activity: students will learn about elephants and make elephant masks out of paper plates by stapling on ears, etc. and eat imitation elephant ears (tortilla, butter, cinnamon)

Book: Elephants Can Paint Too!, by Katya Arnold

Letter: F

Theme: funny feet

Activity: students wear silly socks to school

Book: The Foot Book, by Dr. Seuss

Letter: G

Theme: great glasses

Activity: students wear sunglasses, or any type of glasses they want, to school

Book: I Need Glasses, by Virginia Dooley

Letter: H

Theme: hideous hat day

Activity: students are allowed to wear a hat to school

Book: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, by Dr. Seuss

Letter: I

Theme: indescribable ice cream sundaes

Activity: students make ice cream sundaes

Book: Ice Cream Everywhere, by Stephanie Roth

Letter: J

Theme: jammin’ jammies

Activity: students and teachers may wear their pajamas to school

Book: Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney

Letter: K

Theme: kiddy kites

Activity: students bring in their favorite kite and get to fly them at outside

Book: Curious George Flies a Kite, by H. A. Rey

Letter: L

Theme: licking lollipops

Activity: students will be given huge lollipops

Book: Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan

Letter: M

Theme: magnificent muffins with mom

Activity: moms come to school and have muffins for breakfast with their child

Book: If You Give a Moose a Muffin, by Laura Numeroff

Letter: N

Theme: nice necklaces

Activity: students make a necklace out of beads for someone “nice” or special in their lives (ex. Mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend, neighbor, etc.)

Book: The Loon’s Necklace, by William Toye

Letter: O

Theme: outside oranges

Activity: students eat oranges outside and learn facts about oranges

Book: The Big Orange Splot, by D. Manus Pinkwater

Letter: P

Theme: perfect popcorn

Activity: students eat popcorn and/or make popcorn crafts

Book: The Popcorn Book, by Tomie dePaola

Letter: Q

Theme: quaint quilts

Activity: students bring their favorite quilt/blanket to school and have a picnic together outside for snack/lunch

Book: The Patchwork Quilt, by Valerie Flournoy

Letter: R

Theme: ready readers

Activity: students bring their favorite book to school, share their books, and have a reading day outside with blankets

Book: Use your personal favorite picture book to share

Letter: S

Theme: sunny sandcastles

Activity: students are given opportunity to play in sand and make sandcastles

Book: The Sandcastle Contest, by Robert Munsch

Letter: T

Theme: terribly tacky

Activity: students come to school dressed the tackiest they can

Book: Tacky the Penguin, by Helen Lester

Letter: U

Theme: unbelievable unicorns

Activity: students learn about unicorns (mystical animals), and create/invent their own mystical animal

Book: The Dragon and the Unicorn, by Lynne Cherry

Letter: V

Theme: voluptuous vegetables

Activity: students eat a variety of vegetables, learn facts about them, and how important they are for you (ex. carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, etc.)

Book: The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin

Letter: W

Theme: wild & wet

Activity: students bring a change of clothes and play with water guns, water balloons, etc.

Book: Wet Dog!, by Elise Broach

Letter: X

Theme: eXtra xylophones

Activity: students learn about xylophones and play them together

Book: Pooh’s Xylophone Book, by Publications International Staff

Letter: Y

Theme: yellow youngsters

Activity: students wear as much yellow as they can to school

Book: The Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger

Letter: Z

Theme: zany zebras

Activity: students learn about zebras and make zebra masks using paint

Book: Greedy Zebra, by Mwenye Hadithi & Adrienne Kennaway

And that’s a wrap. Enjoy these activities, which make reading as easy as A, B, C!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia.

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Filed under comprehension, Phonics, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers

Anatomy of a Creative Novel Study

by Kristin Woolums, M.Ed.

A creative study based on From the Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is a Newbery Award-winning novel about two children who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The story combines adventure and comedy, and each year, my 5th graders eagerly tell me how much they love it!

Originally published in 1968, one might think that it wouldn’t appeal to today’s youth, but here’s how I foster a love of a novel that’s over 40 years old:

A Virtual Field Trip

Early in the story, the lead characters, Claudia and Jamie, run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I take my students to the computer lab for a virtual field trip to see the sights that Claudia and Jamie would have seen (www.metmuseum.org). The website allows students to see priceless pieces of art that they perhaps would never get to see, so I allow them to browse through the many pieces shown online. Click here for a printable sheet about the virtual tour.

The students supply a few details about their favorite pieces, including a rough sketch, which they record on a note-taking guide (click here to print it). We discuss the proper way to react to art and that there are many pieces that showcase the human body in tastefully, yet unclothed, ways (just a head’s up!).

A Great Debate

There are several ethical decisions that Claudia and Jamie encounter throughout the story:

o Stealing money from the museum’s fountain so they could eat

o Sneaking around and lying so they wouldn’t get caught living in the museum

o Worrying their parents by running away

Each student chooses whether they thought the action was justified or not, and in a traditional debate setting, we civilly discuss the matter at hand. This makes for some very teachable moments, and the students love this!

A Creative Culmination

To end the study, the students participate in a creative “summary-by-chapter” book report. A post describing all of the details about this creative project, including a rubric, is coming next on A Learning Experience. The best part is that this idea can be adapted to any novel!

This wonderful and timeless adventure about two children running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is chock full of adventure, comedy, and a sense of family as Claudia and Jamie learn to survive in the real world. My students enjoy the novel, and I hope Ms. Konigsburg is happy that I’ve taken her exciting novel to the next level by interjecting classroom reading with a virtual field trip, a debate, and a creative book report project!

Kristin’s Chapter-by-Summary book report idea (including a rubric) is coming next on A Learning Experience!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

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Filed under Assessments, comprehension, Field Trips, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, technology, Uncategorized

Books for Reluctant Readers, Part II: Third-Fourth Grades

Welcome to a new series on finding books for reluctant readers! This four-part series will be divided by grade level, from kindergarten through sixth grades. by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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There is a plethora of fantastic kid lit for children ages 8-10. In fact, I take it as a personal insult if I ever hear a child in third or fourth grades say that they hate to read. Nonsense! They just haven’t been introduced to some of these outstanding books, below. This list contains a book for nearly every personality and reading preference out there; I promise! (Tip: This might be a good list to share with parents or send home for recommended summer reading.)

Favorite Titles:

The King’s Equal by Katherine Paterson
Gooseberry Park
by Cynthia Rylant
Skylark
by Patricia MacLachlan
Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein
Stuart Little
by E.B. White
The Indian in the Cupboard
by Lynne Reid Banks
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
by Judy Blume
Tucker’s Countryside
by George Seldon
Chester Cricket’s New Home by George Seldon
Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Clearly
Ramona Forever & Ramona’s World by Beverly Clearly
Skinnybones by Barbara Park
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo
A View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Series/Authors:

Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard
Cul-de-Sac Kids series by Beverly Lewis
American Girl series by Susan Adler, et al
Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobel
Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Cooper Kids Adventures series by Frank Peretti
Trailblazer fictionalized biography series by Dave and Neta Jackson
Any books by:
• Laura Ingalls Wilder • Bill Myers • Beverly Cleary • Andrew Clements

Next in the series~ Part III: Fifth Grade Book Picks

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Characters, Part I: Keeping a Character Chart

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by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

Sherlock Holmes. Huckleberry Finn. Captain Ahab. Anne (with an “e”). These characters shaped our childhoods, our educations…and, on some scale, our lives.

Book characters are like immortal friends, aren’t they? I will admit it, I am often sad when a book ends and my time with those friends is over.  (Well, maybe not so much with Captain Ahab…but definitely with Anne!)

Yes, characters are what connect us to books. If you want a child to love reading, introduce her to a character worth loving. And if she’s never found one she loves, keep trying!

I remember when I taught fourth grade, one of my students was a particularly reluctant reader. And then, one day, he actually carried a book out to RECESS. To READ. I almost passed out. What brought about this sudden change? He was introduced to…wait for it…Captain Underpants. Hey, whatever works.

So, the next time you sit down to read a book with your children or start a novel with your class, take a little time to talk about the characters. Here are two ideas to help you do so:

  1. Have a Character Conversation. Ask probing questions that will lead to a deep discussion about characterization. Here are a few to get you started: What would it be like if that character rang your doorbell and came to dinner? Would you want that character for a friend- why or why not? Are you like that character in any way? How are you different?
  2. Keep a Character Chart. Have students keep track of who they’re meeting while they’re reading by charting character names, descriptions, and sketches. For a graphic organizer for this idea, click here.

Hopefully these ideas will have your kiddos toting their books out to recess in no time…even if it’s only to see George and Harold’s principal strip down to his skivvies.

Look for the next article in this series on characters: Bringing Characters to Life Through a Wax Museum.

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Filed under comprehension, Motivation, Parenting, Reading, reading aloud