The winter season with all it’s wonder and beauty is upon us. I am excited to be teaming up with other teachers from the Reading Crew to share some of our favorite mentor text lessons for the season.
Mentor texts are one of the most valuable resources in my classroom because they highly engaging and can be used to teach a variety of skills. Regardless of your curriculum needs, there is a mentor text available that your student’s are guaranteed to love.
I have chosen to share with you one of my new winter favorites. “Toys Meet Snow”, written by Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky, tells the story of three toys who venture out into the snow while their owner is away.
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and easy for the children to relate to. The illustrations are full of details that kids will love exploring. The pages of this book seem to come alive as the author creates authentic personalities for each character.
Before we start reading, I ask my students to make a prediction based on the cover illustration. Predict how the toys got out in the snow. The students turn to their partner and share their prediction.
As with most mentor texts, I introduce the book to my students using an interactive read aloud model. Prior to reading the text for the first time, I plan talking points for the text where I want to stop and model strategies for my students. While reading, I stop at each talking point to support and build upon the students’ comprehension of the text. Each talking point allows for either teacher modeling or student discussion.
With mentor texts, any text worth reading once is worth reading again. Rereading a text helps students to develop a deeper level of understanding. It also gives the teacher a chance to focus on a particular comprehension skill or strategy. “Toys Meet Snow” is perfect to teach about character traits. Each character has a distinctive personality that is easy for children to understand. Lumpy, the stuffed animal is curious and asks questions because he wants to learn. StingRay uses descriptive language to give poetic answers to Lumpy’s questions. Plastic is an avid reader who is able to give scientific answers to Lumpy’s questions.
Want to share this adorable book with your students? You can grab the interactive read aloud lesson and character traits lesson FREE to enjoy with your class. These two components are part of the complete mentor text book unit for Toys Meet Snow. The complete unit includes lesson guide for the week, interactive read aloud lesson, character trait lesson, nonfiction passage with comprehension questions, graphic organizers, vocabulary activities, mentor sentence lessons, and more. You can check it out BELOW.
If you love mentor texts as much as I do, you will definitely want to check out this giveaway being hosted by my friends at the Reading Crew. The winner will receive a copy of all these fabulous winter mentor texts. In order to enter the giveaway, you will need to know my secret word which is TOYS. That’s all you need…so be sure to enter! Good Luck!
Whether your students celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, (or all of them!), they are always excited to learn about other countries and their holiday celebrations too! In this post, you’ll find tons of creative ideas and resources for an awesome and engaging unit on Christmas Around the World!
My students have always loved learning about the holiday traditions and beliefs of other cultures! This topic is filled with opportunities to ALSO teach about geography too! Plus, it’s always great to expand your students’ horizons as they learn about other countries. They will become more culturally aware and the world becomes a smaller, friendlier place for them when they can relate to, and empathize with, other world citizens.
With the excitement of the holidays in the air, it’s a great time to take advantage of the kids’ energy level and have them absorb all they can from some fabulous holiday books! As a reminder, reading stories aloud to our students benefits them in so many ways.
develop an understanding of story structures
form connections between print elements and genres
obtain deeper levels of understanding.
Here are a few read-aloud stories that are super-fun resources for teaching about Christmas around the world….
Holidays Around the World – Celebrate Christmas: With Carols, Presents, and Peace
by Deborah Heiligman
This book details the origins of Christmas as well as how it’s now celebrated throughout the world. Great pictures, facts and fun extension activities are to be found just inside!
The Legend of the Poinsettia
by Tomie dePaola
Newbery honor-winning author & Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola has illustrated the legendary Mexican tale of the well-known Christmas plant. Children will learn a valuable lesson on what makes a worthy Christmas gift.
by Katharine Holabird
Though most likely written for younger kids, this touching story is set in Britain–where Father Christmas visits, not Santa Claus. A beautifully illustrated lesson about a small town and how it works together to take care of one of its special residents. Yet, it also teaches kids to appreciate and value the older generation. Many great discussions will arise from this story…
The Polar Express
by Chris Van Allsburg
An award-winning story with magical illustrations! (One cool way to intro the book is to explore the geography and location of the North Pole.) This is a delightful story of a young boy’s wondrous Christmas journey! Every picture is worth discussing and/or can be used as a separate activity (a story starter) for writing about! You can also learn about the geography of Europe (where reindeer really live) and how to find the North Pole on a map before reading the book. And of course, there is also the classic holiday movie that you could watch and compare to the book.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
by Dr. Seuss
Set in Whoville (what country is that in?)…this CLASSIC Seuss story is one that every kid loves! It emphasizes the values of family and friendship over commercialization in a fun and engaging tale! Your class can delve deeper and analyze, compare & contrast the culture and traditions of Whoville and your home country.
The Legend of Old Befana
by Tomie dePaola
This book tells the story of Befana who brings gifts to Italian children on Epiphany. I love how this book tells such a beautiful legend in an obviously well-researched manner.
Trees of Cranes
by Allen Say
Tree of Cranes is the story of a young boy living in Japan. His mother has lived in California and wants to teach him about the traditions in both cultures.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats
by Patricia Polacco
This book takes place in a village where many of the families have come down with Scarlet Fever. As Trisha and her family prepare to celebrate Hanukkah, they realize that many of their neighbors will not be well enough to celebrate with them. Trisha’s family decides they will take a special holiday dinner and decorations to sick members of their community. I love the example of unselfish giving!
Lucia Morning in Sweden
by Ewa Rydaker
This book is my favorite to introduce my students to the Lucia Day holiday traditions in Sweden.
Do you love holiday books as much as I do? These are some of the books that I share with my students during the month of December. In my classroom, I use the interactive read aloud model to make the time I spend reading to my students more purposeful.
I model comprehension strategies for my students using purposefully written talking points. You can check it out for FREE BELOW.
Love it? Want to see more? Head over to HERE to check it out.
Want to improve your students’ fluency rates? HERE is a perfect set of fluency strips that ALSO educates students about how other countries celebrate. It’s a unique way of getting twice the learning in one resource! Perfect as a literacy center station, these purposeful strips will improve student fluency while also teaching about Christmas around the world.
Looking for an effortless way to give your students access to the traditions and celebrations from around the world? Take a look at these nonfiction reading passages. The are full of kid-friendly information. Students are able to practice locating evidence in the text. They are also able to demonstrate their learning using graphic organizers. Click HERE to take a closer look.
Hurray for HOLIDAY hands-on learning with art!
I was so excited when I found this amazing resource from Art with Jenny K! An agamograph is a series of images that changes when viewed from different angles.
The traditional method of creating an agamograph is very complicated, but Jenny has masterfully created a kid friendly version. All the kids need to do is color the image, fold it correctly, and display their masterpiece. These would go great with mini-research projects on the traditions in each country. I can’t wait to see my students’ masterpieces displayed alongside their learning for this unit. You can check out Jenny’s amazing resource HERE.
Finding one is EASY PEASY! Just take a moment to think about a parent, fellow staff member, or community member(s) who are from another country. You’re sure to find someone who would LOVE to speak to your class about what typical holiday celebrations & traditions are like in their country.
Sing Along to Feliz Navidad! This version also has the text to the song to help students unfamiliar with it.
Your students will have fun learning this French Christmas carol.
This is a collection of videos about Christmas traditions around the world.
This video is full of amazing picture of holiday traditions around the world.
Holiday Foods from Around the World
Click HERE and HERE to show pictures of holiday foods from around the world. This can lead to a fun discussion of how geography and food source options affect the foods we eat!
Any future video stars in your class? Make videos of students (or have them make them with their families) explaining about holiday traditions in their home. They can them to you to share with the class.
Christmas Around the World Word Search FREEBIE
Pick up this FREEBIE as a fun addition to your Christmas Around the World Unit.
I hope you have found this information useful in planning your upcoming unit on Christmas Around the World! Feel free to comment below with any other ideas you have to share!
Also, so you’ll always have access to this information, please pin this post to save and share!
The end of the school year is always such a bittersweet time! Teachers start to count the days until they are able to relax and recharge from an absolutely crazy a hectic school year. However, not all of our students are looking forward to weeks without the comfort of coming to school daily.
This year, I have been on morning arrival duty for my campus. I spent many early mornings…in every kind of weather…watching my kids arrive at school. Some of them get out of a car driven by their mother who packed them a lunch, kissed them good by, and told them to have a great day. Then, there are the other kids. The ones that get off the bus after getting themselves and their siblings ready for school without any help from a parent. The ones who got out of a car with an adult screaming and fussing at them. The ones who were dropped off by an adult under the influence of who knows what. These kids are able to put a smile on their face and learn because they know their teachers love them. For these students, the long summer months won’t be something to look forward to. Being reminded each morning of the difference teachers make in the lives of their students, make me treasure the last few days with my precious children even more.
Celebrating the End of the Year
A special awards day is the final celebration with my students and I try to make it as memorable as possible on a budget. With a little help from Dollar Tree and some personalized awards, I am able to make a special day to be remembered.
I have created awards that can be personalized and matched to the each student.
I designed the awards so that I could match a gift from Dollar Tree to the award and present it along with the certificate to the child on Awards Day.
If you would like to try these awards in your classroom, I have made the fully customizable Perfect Attendance and Excellent Citizenship Awards available from FREE to use in your classroom. You can download either of these awards by clicking on the image.
You can check out the complete set here.
Summer Reading Print and Go
As a reading specialist, I get to work with students from grades K-4 each day. They have made such gains in reading this year that I want to do what I can to minimize the summer slide. Over the last couple of weeks, my students took interest surveys from students in each grade level. We researched new book and old favorites to find the best matches to their peers interest. My students read summaries of each book, reviews from people who have read the book, and checked out the actual book. Based on their findings, they helped me put together a suggested summer reading list. This picture show a sampling of the books they selected.
I also created a fun Summer Reading Bingo to go along with the suggested Summer Reading List. You can download both for FREE to use in your class by clicking on the image above.
Summer Reading Practice
I also wanted to share these great summer reading passages by ReadWorks that are available for free. You will need to create an account to download the pack, but it is free to create an account. This picture show all the articles and questions from students entering 3rd grade in the fall. You can check out the other grade levels here.
Do you teach a butterfly unit with your class? It is one of my favorite topics to teach because my kids are always so excited to see first hand how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. I have gathered some of my favorite butterfly lesson resources to share with you.
Read Aloud Books About Butterflies
Integrating reading with science is a great way to make instruction meaningful for students by providing connections to the real world. I love picture books that help to introduce students to the world that they live in while exposing them to quality literature and boosting their love of reading. I like to choose at least one related read aloud for each day of the unit.
I Wish I Were a Butterfly
This book is about a butterfly, but it is so much more. A little cricket stops singing because a frog told him that he was ugly. It takes a while but the other animals of the pond are able to convince the cricket to be proud of who he is.
Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly
Velma is a young girl living in the shadows of her older sisters. She desperately wants to find something that will make her stand out and make her special. It is easy for young readers to make connections with this book. This book uses expressive language and beautiful pictures to share facts about butterflies.
This is another butterfly story with a great message. Oscar, the caterpillar, is inspired by a beautiful monarch that migrates to Mexico. He dreams of migrating to Mexico, but when he come out of his cocoon, he is a simple gray moth. Oscar learns a great lesson about never giving up on your dreams.
Farfillina and Marcel
This book tells the story of Farfillina, a caterpillar, and Marcel, a gosling becoming best friends. Although major changes happen in both of their lives, they are able to keep their friendship alive. I love to relate this to the friendships between my students.
Hurry and the Monarch
This book tells the story of Hurry, an old tortoise, making friends with a beautiful monarch butterfly. Hurry lives in Texas and the monarch is migrating to Mexico for the winter. The monarch’s visit with the old tortoise is short which allow the reader to follow along on the journey to Mexico. This book has beautiful pictures that show the life cycle of a butterfly. The book also has a simple map that shows how far the monarch butterflies migrate each year.
Butterfly Nonfiction Reading Passage
In addition to read alouds, I like to give my students as many opportunities as possible to interact with nonfiction text. I love this type of passage because it gives the students a chance to use text evidence to prove their answers in a less intimidating format.
During response to reading time, the students are able to chose from these two graphic organizers to complete independently.
You can grab this butterfly set for FREE to use in your classroom by clicking on the image above.
Butterfly Life Cycle in the Classroom
If there was a bucket list for elementary school….watching the butterfly life cycle would definitely be on it. This has been a classroom favorite for many years. I order my caterpillars from Insect Lore. I am sure there are other places to get them, but I have not checked into it.
It usually takes about 3 weeks for the butterfly to complete its life cycle.
Concrete Model of the Butterfly’s Life Cycle
You have probably seen this idea before but it is such a great way for students to build a concrete model of a butterfly’s life cycle.
A lot of times the life cycle is shown on a paper plate to show its circular pattern. I like to have my kids make a book with a page for each part of the life cycle so they can integrate more writing into the project.
After we made a concrete model of the butterfly’s life cycle, my kids were able to create their own life cycle book. One of the simplest apps that I have found for this is Story Creator.
Students are able upload pictures they found on the internet to their books and add text.
I also have my kids photograph their own work to add to the book.
Butterfly Life Cycle Video
This video is produced by Duncan Scott for the Chicago Nature Museum. He uses time-lapse photography to travel through the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly. I particularly like this video because there are actual close-up images that the kids love. My class will watch this video over and over on the I-Pads….it’s that good!
After reading about how butterflies are able to get nectar from flowers, my students were curious about the butterfly’s proboscis worked. They were having a hard time visualizing what it would look like. So, we set up a simple butterfly simulation station.
As students move through the primary grades, they should move from learning to read to reading to learn. Students who struggle with fluency have difficulty reading to learn because they simply aren’t fluent readers yet. Fluency is not the only characteristic of a successful reader but the research is plentiful showing its importance. Students who can read fluently are able to focus their cognitive efforts on comprehending and interacting with the text. Are you looking for easy ways to improve fluency levels in your class? Check out these tips….
Model Fluent Reading
It may seem obvious, but a reminder to model fluent reading is always a good idea. Students must hear fluent reading often to understand what it sounds like. It is much easier for students to become fluent readers when they hear fluent reading often. Make sure to use as much expression as possible when reading It is helpful to expose students to a wide variety of genres. After reading, ask your students what they heard in your reading is a characteristic of a good reader. Allow them to discuss their ideas with a partner.
Have Students Read Everything Out Loud
Looking for a totally effortless way to improve fluency? Start having your students read everything possible out loud during the day. What can they read? The possibilities are endless….Morning message, math problems, directions to assignments, etc. Especially in first and second grade, I would encourage you to limit the number of times you have students read in their heads when they could be reading out loud and improving fluency. If you were able to work in the opportunity for your students to just read five sentences out loud with you per day, that’s almost 1,000 sentences read fluent during the year.
One of the most effective ways to improve fluency is through repeated readings. Repeated reading allow students frequent access to high frequency words and content vocabulary. The more times a student is exposed to a word, the more comfortable they are. Here a couple of ideas that have been successful in my class.
Each student has a two pocket poetry folder. We add 2-3 poems to our poetry folder each week. When I pass out a new poem, I read the poem aloud to the students first. Then, we chorally read the poem. If time allows, we will chorally read the last 1-3 poems added to the folder for additional practice. During independent reading time or literacy stations, students are able to read their choice of poems from the folder. I talk up the importance of the poetry folder and for the most part the kids take excellent care of them and they last all year.
Fluency Practice in the Content Areas
I take absolutely every chance I can to integrate reading throughout the day. The more reading practice that I can work in, the better readers my students will become.
I create fluency practice strips to go along with units of study. Students are able to practice fluent reading while reinforcing skills and content in other areas. By doing this, you help to develop fluency and content vocabulary at the same time. You can download this set of fluency strips to use in your classroom FREE HERE.
If you would like to using fluency strips throughout the year, be sure to check out this Money Saving BUNDLE.
Reader’s Theater is another fun way to develop reading fluency. Students do not need to memorize their parts like they would for a more traditional play. In fact, it is best if they don’t memorize their parts. Students will work with a partner or in a small group and take turns orally reading their parts.
When looking for reader’s theater scripts for your class, look for ones with a lot of natural dialogue. I have found it best to try and limit the number of lines any one reader reads at one time. This helps improve student engagement by limiting the amount of time the other students are waiting for their turn. Always allow students to perform the reader’s theater more than once. The first time through a script, it is likely they will be struggling with words and understanding the play. With each reread, the students are able to enjoy their roles and the entire play more and more. There are a plethora of reader’s theater scripts available for free. Just do a google search for “free reader’s theater scripts” and you will find plenty to get you started.
Each week, students practice fluency using a voice recorder. I have six iPad minis in my class. I have installed this voice recording app that is free from the App Store.
If you don’t have iPads, any voice recording software will work. One of the weekly tasks at our fluency practice station is to read the passage(s) of the week three times to prepare for recording. Then, the students record themselves reading it. The students LOVE listening back to themselves read the passage. I actually have the students listen to their own reading at least twice. The first time, they just listen. The second time, they are looking for two things they did well on and one thing they could work on. I have the students record their reflections on post it notes to add to their reading journals. Once they have completed their reflections, they are able to record themselves a second time and listen for improvements.
I know that there is much more to reading than fluency. However, as a reading specialist that works with struggling readers all day, I know that it is an important component to developing a successful reader. If you are looking for other ideas for improving fluency in your classroom, check out these posts.
Did you grab your FREEBIE? If not, you can give fluency strips a try in your class by clicking on the image above.