Berenstain Bears: still great for fun & character education

BBearsTeasingMany of today’s kids have little experience with the Berenstain Bears, but once you introduce kids to this lovable family of bears, they’re hooked. 

Berenstain Bears books come in three main types:

  • Easy readers (AR reading level 0.5-2.0; very short books mostly in the “I Can Read!” series. )
  • Picture books (AR reading level 2.5-4.0, 1200-1500 words)
  • Chapter books (AR reading level  3.5-5.0 ; about 7,000-12,000 words or 100 illustrated pages)

My students just love these books, and reading the collection raises the reading level of both individual students and the class as a whole.

My family used to have all the Berenstain Bear books, but we gave them away when my younger brother and sister grew up.  This was before I became a teacher. I had to buy our childhoods back on eBay.  It wasn’t too expensive; I got most books for $1 each or less.  I bought lots of Berenstain Bear picture books and chapter books.  Some of the easy readers were mixed in, but I didn’t seek them out.

I started a Berenstain Bears challenge in my classroom.  I gave the class two weeks for everyone to read 10 points of Berenstain Bears books.  For most kids, this involved 20 picture books.  Some of the higher kids read a mix of picture books and chapter books.  For many third graders, the Berenstain Bears picture books are a stretch.  (This is because many third graders read below the third grade reading level.)  We paired our struggling readers with higher readers for read-aloud sessions.

At the end, we celebrated with a Berenstain Bears teddy bear tea party.  The pictures are adorable, but they’re of other peoples’ kids, so you’ll just have to imagine how cute it was to have a classroom of third graders and their teddy bears.

Berenstain Bears books can be a little didactic, which I think would make them difficult to publish in today’s climate.  Preachy books are out.  However, kids love them.  Berenstain Bears books make it easy to broach a variety of topics.  Here are some sample titles, all available at

The Berenstain Bears and the Truth
The Berenstain Bears: Kindness Counts
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers
The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners
The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room
The Berenstain Bears Show Some Respect
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV
The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Chores
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Teasing

Click here to read my post about how AR reading levels are determined.  Then visit ARBookfind, a site that tells you the reading level of books.

Posted in Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Nov 10, 2014


Book Review: Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

AR book level 4.0
AR points 0.5
Available at Amazon.comAcross the Alley

Across the Alley is a powerful picture book about what separates people: cultural and racial differences, not the small alley between their buildings.  Richard Michelson’s prose and E.B. Lewis’s illustrations meld into a lovely book that’s perfect for a readaloud and discussion.

The story takes place in New York City, where Abe and Willie live across the alley from each other.  Abe is Jewish and Willie is black.  During the day, they don’t talk.  But at night, they have a secret friendship across the alley.

The boys are hemmed in by their cultures, not only in their friendships but in their pursuits.  However, they find that Abe doesn’t really like playing violin—but Willie is a natural.  Likewise, with a little help from Willie, Abe soon outdoes the teacher when it comes to pitching.

Then one night, Abe’s grandfather catches them.  What will happen to their friendship Across the Alley?

*Spoiler alert: the boys inspire their families and everyone becomes friends in the light.

Across the Alley segues nicely into classroom discussions about a variety of topics:

  • One advantage of befriending people who are different from you is that you learn new things.  How does Across the Alley illustrate this point?
  • Young people have a way of crossing cultural divides, sometimes persuading their families to do so.  How do the young people in Across the Alley influence the old?
  • New York City life and the culture of Jewish and African-American people at the time of Across the Alley
  • Baseball: Negro LeaguesSatchel Paige and other players mentioned in the book
  • Jewish culture: learn about synagogues, such as the one where Willie gives a recital
  • Prejudices against both boys’ cultures: Abe faces anti-Semitism and Willie faces racism.  This isn’t shown in the book, but it was all but inescapable at the time.
Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 12, 2014


Free worksheets for the Tapestry series by Henry Neff

TheHoundOfRowanBring the fantasy series The Tapestry into the classroom with FREE worksheets written by a National Board Certified teacher.

Have you discovered The Tapestry series? It’s a richly imagined fantasy about a Chicago boy who stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.

The Tapestry series stands out because of the beautiful writing and gorgeous illustrations. The illustrations are my favorite part. Author Henry Neff is a great artist, and it’s interesting to see the world so vividly illustrated by the person that created it.  Click here for a gallery of Henry Neff’s illustrations for Book One: The Hound of Rowan.

The Tapestry series is four books strong and growing, with Book Five set for release in 2015. I met author Henry Neff early on, when we presented together at the International Reading Association Annual Conference West. Henry presented his book; I presented worksheets and ideas for teaching The Tapestry in the classroom.

Books in The Tapestry series, all available at
The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry

The Second Siege: Book Two of The Tapestry

The Fiend and the Forge: Book Three of The Tapestry

The Maelstrom: Book Four of The Tapestry

The Red Winter: Book Five of The Tapestry

My worksheets:
What Do You See? In The Tapestry, Max saw a tapestry depicting the Cattle Raid of Cooley. He later learns that he may have abilities like those of Cuchulain, the Irish folk hero. What qualities link you to heroes of the past?

Vye Detector: In The Tapestry, Vyes are minions of The Enemy. It is important to be able to identify them:

“A vye is not a werewolf. The vye is larger, with a more distorted and hideous face—part wolf, part jackal, part human, with squinty eyes and a twisted snout. In human form, however, they can be most convincing….They are clever in their deceits and their voices are wound with spells to ensnare you.”

After a Vye attack at Rowan, students receive extra training in identifying and fighting Vyes. In the following scenarios, how would you identify and fight a Vye?

Create Your Own Charge: In The Tapestry, students are paired with mythical animals who will be their charges and companions for the rest of their lives. In the book, the animals choose the students. Max was chosen by Nick, the lymrill. It is difficult to describe a mythical animal—until you organize.

Workers for Rowan: Like any school, Rowan depends on workers to help the school run smoothly. The cooks are a reformed hag and ogre, and a leprechaun is the bathroom attendant.  The following creatures want to work at Rowan. Match the creatures with the best job for them.

Enjoy The Tapestry!


Free Divergent Worksheet: Create Your Own Faction

DivergentEngage your students with a FREE Divergent worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher.

Students love Divergent, with good reason.  It speaks to the clique-plagued teenage experience.  It shows students a way out of the conformity while acknowledging that individuality has a price.

Challenge your students to create their own faction within the Divergent  universe.  This worksheet walks students through the process, allowing them to think deeply about their faction.  The questions serve as a window into an author’s prewriting process.  Students can imagine author Veronica Roth pondering these possibilities as she crafted her story.

The printable pdf worksheet poses eight questions that should take students a class period to answer.  You can extend the assignment by asking students to write an essay, advertisement, brochure, or editorial about their faction.  Creative students might want to try their hand at fan fiction, describing an initiate’s experience of joining the faction.

  1. Faction emphasis: which virtue or value will your faction emphasize?  Brainstorm, then choose.
  2. Faction name: use a thesaurus to give your faction a distinctive name.  For example, Dauntless sounds much better than Brave and Abnegation sounds better than Selfless.
  3. Contribution to society: what role does your faction fill?  What are its responsibilities?
  4. Faction manifest: describe your faction’s mission and vision.
  5. Overkill: what is the downside of the faction’s emphasis on one value?  What does the faction lose by emphasizing one virtue?
  6. Aptitude test: what challenge would identify people who are well-suited to your faction?
  7. Initiation: what is your faction’s rite of passage?
  8. Wardrobe: how do people in your faction dress?  What accessories do they choose?
Posted in FREE Worksheets,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Apr 14, 2014


Memorize poetry and learn vocabulary: “There is no frigate like a book” by Emily Dickinson

argenrechallengeStudents learn a great deal from memorizing poetry.  Repeated readings build fluency, familiarity with vocabulary, and appreciation of language.  The act of memorizing helps students learn how to teach themselves.  Memorizing poetry is a great activity for National Poetry Month.

“There is no frigate like a book” by Emily Dickinson is a great poem for your class to memorize.  The poem sets the tone for a language arts class because of its theme of “reading takes us places.”  The structure and rhythm of the poem are very much like a nursery rhyme, but with more sophistication.  The poem has some challenging vocabulary, but students can handle it.

I got the idea for memorizing this particular poem from my younger sister’s AP English teacher, Tom Meschery.  Fun fact: he was the first Russian to play in the NBA.  Seriously!  He played in the NBA, and was a rookie teammate of Wilt Chamberlain’s during the game in which he scored 100 points. Mr. Meschery, besides being an inspiring English teacher and NBA player, is also a poet.  What a guy!  Click here to read an article about Tom Meschery.  His most recent book of poetry is Some Men.  His book of basketball poetry is Over the rim.

Mr. Meschery challenged his AP English classes to memorize “There is no frigate like a book.”   Every student did.  You can imagine how grown-up my third graders felt when I told them that memorizing the poem was a high school assignment, but I felt they could handle it.  A bribe of candy when they completed the task and bam!  Every third grader learned it.

Below is the poem with vocabulary words at the end.  Click here for a printable pdf of the poem with vocabulary.  I formatted it to fit on half a sheet of paper so you can conserve resources.

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry –

This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
–Emily Dickinson

frigate: a fast and heavily armed naval vessel of the late 18th and early 19th centuries
courser: a swift and strong horse, frequently used during the Middle Ages as a warhorse
prance: to spring from the hind legs, to move by springing, like a horse
traverse: the act of passing through, or a crossing
oppress: to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints
toll: a payment or fee charged for some right or privilege, as for passage along a road or over a bridge
frugal: not wasteful, economical, inexpensive
chariot: a type of carriage (as in horse and carriage)
bear: to hold up or support

Posted in Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 7, 2014


The Dave Barry Essay Challenge: Talk Like a Pirate Day

MuppetTreasureIslandChallenge your students to write a humorous newspaper column using only the facts Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry had at his disposal when he wrote the column that made Talk Like a Pirate Day an international phenomenon. (Or at least an awesome tradition in Miss Green’s class!)

I got the idea for this lesson after reading the incredibly basic website that explains International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a “holiday” created by two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers.  They sent their facts to humorist Dave Barry, hoping he would help promote the holiday.  Did he ever!

It’s remarkable what Dave did with such simple facts.  He created a truly memorable column.  This lesson could run for a week or so because you need to develop students’ knowledge of Dave Barry, teach them about Talk Like a Pirate Day, give them time to write, and then let them compare their essays to the master’s.  I highly recommend that you celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day at the end of the unit!

The official Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19, Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday.  I like to have my class’s Pirate Day at the very end of the school year, well after standardized testing.  The second-to-last day of school is my favorite time to do this.  (It’s a full day; the last day is a half day with unpredictable attendance.)

Talk Like a Pirate Day Unit Plan

1)      Learn about Dave Barry.  He is a columnist for the Miami Herald who now writes adult novels and children’s books, most notably Peter and the Starcatchers with Ridley Pearson.  I recommend that you read aloud from vintage columns on his website.  Or, take your class to the computer lab and let them peruse the site.  (Depends on the age level you teach.)

2)      Learn about Talk Like a Pirate Day.  You can read aloud from the website, let them peruse it themselves, give them my Factsheet, or make students take notes like real reporters.

3)      Write a humorous essay/column about Talk Like a Pirate Day.

4)      Finish writing, turn in the essays, read Dave Barry’s column aloud.  Note: the dialogue at the end is a little edgy, so I have given you two versions: original and abridged.  Use your judgment on which to choose.  (I’d use the without-dialogue version myself.)

5)      Celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Printable pdf Resources:

Ideas for Talk Like a Pirate Day activities:

  • Talk Like a Pirate!  Teach pirate vocabulary
  • Pirate ships: make ships out of aluminum foil.  The ship that holds the most treasure without sinking wins!
  • Pin the patch on the pirate
  • Pirate word search, crossword puzzle, Mad Libs, etc.
  • Pirate movie: Muppet Treasure Island, perhaps?
  • Pirate math: write fun word problems for classmates to solve
  • Pirate stories: write fun mini-stories about pirates
  • Visit the Pirates in the Classroom section of the Talk Like a Pirate Day website for more ideas

Arrr!  Have a great time, mateys!

Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Feb 27, 2014


Choose Your Own Adventure Books in the Classroom

CYOA_JourneyUndertheSea_medium Kids love Choose Your Own Adventure books!  (CYOA for short.)  The books are fun for everyone, but they are magic for reluctant readers.  Here are some tips for using the books in your classroom.

Buy Choose Your Own Adventure books for all reading levels.  Classics are appropriate for students in grades 4 and up—provided those students read at grade level.  Remind your students that CYOA books look longer than they are, because you don’t read the whole thing.  Just know that the favorites from the 80s are not super easy.  Were kids better readers back then?

Check out the CYOA Dragonlarks series for younger readers.  These books are good for all students in grades 3 and up.  The print is bigger, there are illustrations—these books just look easier.  Everyone in an elementary class can enjoy these, although the truly struggling readers will need a buddy.

Make Choose Your Own Adventure a celebration!  Have class events to promote these books. Some ideas:

Set aside time for groups of 2-4 students to buddy read the books.  You’ll need space for everyone to read aloud, yet not be disturbed by nearby readers.  Your best behaved students might be able to form a group in the hall, freeing up space inside the classroom.

Use the books as readalouds.  This works well if you only have a few titles.  You can read, then let the class vote on what to do next.  This will hook students on the books, and then they can read on their own.

Create CYOA literature circles.  If you have multiple copies of a book, have students read independently, then meet as a group to discuss.  They can talk about different options, analyze character, and create a fun advertisement for the book to interest their classmates in reading it.

Write your own CYOA stories. this is a good challenge project for Gifted students and other high achievers.  Explain that students will want to map out their plot—that’s the easiest way to create the CYOA structure.  Then, they can write the pages for each section.

Click here to visit the Choose Your Own Adventure site.  You can read about the books, order individual titles or small group sets, and learn more about the renaissance of this fun series.  Click here for CYOA teacher’s guides.

Happy adventuring!  Choose wisely.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Nov 1, 2013


Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part six: values)

LearningGet Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part six: values)

I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Kids often face writing prompts that require a little soul-searching.  The question asks students to make a value judgment, decide how they’d act in a hypothetical situation, or describe an ideal friend.  Kids love to write these paragraphs, particularly if they get to share their work at the end.  The sharing is especially important for values-based prompts—it encourages quality work and lets students get to know each other on a deeper level.)

Writing to a values-based prompt is not so hard:

Make a decision: don’t waffle.  Commit!  You will not be judged favorably if you change your mind halfway through the paper.  Remember, this paragraph is about your writing, not your value judgments.  (Within reason—really questionable ethics may leave a bad taste in the judges’ mouths.)

Think through your reasoning before you write.  Plan three good reasons for your value judgment, then jot down a detail for each one.  Students who don’t do this often run out of ideas quickly, and their writing reflects this.

Use the traditional structure: topic sentence, reasons, supporting details, conclusion.  Stick with what works.

Here are the Paragraph POW! how-to writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.


Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part five: how-to or instructions)

I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Kids often face how-to prompts.  Kids are not the best at breaking tasks down to their component parts.  Hence, kids should really practice how to mentally break down a task—and how to write about it.

How-to prompts can easily become culturally biased.  I tried to think of the most basic how-to prompts that I could, but they are still based in a certain culture.  For example, not everyone in the world eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Heck, these days kids think that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches come from the freezer!  But I’ve seen it as a practice prompt, so I included it here.

Some suggestions for writing a how-to:

Pick a topic quickly: This becomes important if the prompt lets students write an instructional paragraph on whatever they wish. Kids will spend forever thinking of just the right thing.  I suggest that they choose quickly, based on what is easiest to write about.   That leaves time for better planning, more vivid details, more interesting syntax, etc.  (You’d hope!)

Break the task into steps—but not too many.  I recommend no more than five.  If possible, stick to a magic three structure.  After all, details can always flesh out the paragraph or essay.  When you’re being judged on your paragraph/essay writing, you don’t want a laundry list of steps.

Use transitions: the basic first, next, last are good—if you know how many steps you’ll need.  Otherwise, you may say “last” and then add one more thing.  To be on the safe side, consider “first, second, third.”  It won’t win any awards, but it’s foolproof.

Remember that it’s still a paragraph: give a topic sentence and a conclusion.  Try to fit in details.  Vary sentence structure as much as you can.  Little things will elevate a simple list to something resembling a paragraph.

Here are the Paragraph POW! how-to writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun!


Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part four: persuasion)

Test TakingI invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make standardized writing practice more fun.  We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the test.  One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Practice writing persuasive paragraphs helps students with their reading skills as well as their writing skills.  Students often face “author’s purpose” questions on standardized writings tests.   When students write to persuade, they are more likely to recognize when an author is writing to persuade (as opposed to writing to inform or entertain.)

This is Paragraph POW! and not a formal essay, so the organizational requirements are not as stringent as they would be if students were writing to a prescribed formula.  Nevertheless, students should abide by a few basic rules:

State your purpose: this works well in a topic sentence.  That way, everything about the paragraph should support the purpose/

Give a few reasons: as with many things in life, three is a good number.  One or two are not enough, four gets unwieldy.

Support your reasoning: this is where detail sentences come in.  It’s not enough to just give a reason—state why it is important or offer a detail.

Close with a call to action: this is really just a fancy type of conclusion sentence.

Paragraph POW! works best when students know their writing will be published and assessed.  Since I assign it so often, I don’t box myself in by promising to grade each paper, copyediting every single page.  Instead, I choose the papers that best exemplify qualities that I know standardized test graders value.  I put those papers under the document camera and read them aloud, giving many compliments.  Students want to see their work spotlighted and they put in their best effort.

I always insist that students do these things:

  • Write in the box (on standardized  tests, only writing in the box is graded)
  • Give your piece a title (test assessors love titles, apparently)
  • Start with an attention-getter.  This can be part of your topic sentence, or some fluff just before it.
  • Give examples and description.

Here are the Paragraph POW! persuasive writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.


Your Class Will Love Bruno and Boots books by Gordon Korman

I cannot recommend Bruno and Boots books highly enough!  Prolific author Gordon Korman was a seventh grader when he began writing this sorta-series about two mischievous boys at a Canadian boarding school.  Your students will love these books!!!

Bruno and Boots love to play pranks and cause trouble at their boarding school, Macdonald Hall.  Bruno is the ringleader, a wisecracking con-artist-(or lawyer)-in-the-making who loves to stir the pot.  Boots is his faithful sidekick, a realistic boy who helps Bruno with mischief but also acts as a voice of reason.  The story works because the boys are good at heart.  They love their school and they do the right thing when it counts.  They are never mean to others—they are always in it for fun and looking to recruit new jokers.

The books are great for reluctant readers, boys in particular.  Readers must be reluctant, not remedial, because these books are not simple.  The AR levels range from 4.5 for the first, shortest book to 7.0 for the longer, more complex stories.  Students who can comfortably read at the 5.0 level will be fine with all of these books.  Don’t AR block kids from these books!

Bruno and Boots make good readalouds.  Your students will be in stitches, and you will be exposing them to higher vocabulary, longer sentence structure, and more complex plots that.  Plus, there is an element of rebelliousness to reading these books aloud.  Bruno and Boots operate outside Macdonald Hall law, and it’s pretty cool for a teacher to share these mischief-making secrets with students.  You may find your students attempting Bruno and Boots style shenanigans, but don’t worry.  Real-life kids will probably not achieve the success of Bruno and Boots.

Gordon Korman was in seventh grade when he turned an English assignment into his first book, This Can’t be Happening At Macdonald Hall!  Gordon was the Scholastic Arrow Book Club monitor for his class, and clearly he felt that gave him an “in” to the publishing industry.  After completing the assignment, he mailed his manuscript to Scholastic.  They published the book when Gordon was only 14 years old.

Gordon’s high school years yielded more fun Bruno and Boots books.  He continued to revisit the characters over the years, and readers eagerly devoured new Bruno and Boots books.

Geek out with the Wikipedia page about Bruno and Boots.  You can learn all about the characters, the setting, etc.  Then, learn more about Gordon Korman at Wikipedia or at his website.

Here are the books in order.  You don’t have to read them in order, though.  I didn’t.  As a kid, I read them in the order I found them at my local used bookstore.

This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall! (AR reading level 4.5, 3 pts)

Go Jump in the Pool! (AR reading level 5.0, 5 pts )

Beware the Fish! (AR reading level 4.8, 5 pts )

The War With Mr. Wizzle (also published as The Wizzle War) (AR reading level 4.6, 7 pts)

The Zucchini Warriors (AR reading level 5.0, 7 pts)

Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood (also published as Lights, Camera, Disaster!) (AR reading level 4.7, 7 pts)

Something Fishy At Macdonald Hall (also published as The Joke’s on Us) (AR reading level 4.6, 6 pts)


Posted in Book Lists,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Aug 23, 2013


A Smart Girl’s Guide: Advice Books from American Girl

knowingwhattosaySavvy girls will love the Smart Girl’s Guide series from American Girl.  Everything connected to American Girl is top quality, and the Smart Girl’s Guides are no exception.  I highly recommend them for classroom use and feel they would be excellent for the school psychologists and social worker’s lending library.

Titles abound, but the first one I read was A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation.

The books are really fun, with lots of pictures and whitespace, but ample content.  The books are easy on the eyes and relaxing to read.

…Knowing What to Say really does cover any situation.  Here are the subsections:

Small Talk (I love “25 things to say after ‘hi'”)
Asking for What You Want
Making It Right
That Hurts
Sad Times
I’m Embarrassed
Saying the Right Thing

Illustrations show students the importance of posture, body language, and facial expressions in communication.  That way, girls can make sure their nonverbal signals are on par their newfound conversational prowess.    The book is full of quizzes, simple exercises, and demonstrations.

The American Girl books are excellent, and I encourage my boys to read the fiction series.  However, these Smart Girl’s books are way too girly for boys to read with any dignity during class.  Even reading them at home is risky–the wrong kid finds out, and the boy’s rep takes a dive.

Not to worry: as a teacher, you can read the books, then teach students these tips.  (Just don’t mention your source.)  If you’re like me, you will find the books relaxing and fun to read.  You will be positively itching to share the information with students.

There are many books in the series.  Enjoy Smart Girl’s Guides to…

Liking Herself, Even on the Bad Days
Friendship Troubles
Her Parents’ Divorce: How to Land on Your Feet When Your World Turns Upside Down (American Girl)
The Internet
Knowing What to Say
Starting Middle School
Staying Home Alone
Surviving Tricky, Sticky, Icky Situations
Understanding Her Family

The books retail for $9.95 each*.  A smart teacher will try to get the school library fund to pay for the series, or apply for a grant—from an outside source or from the PTSO.  I really think many schools would be better for owning these books.

*They run a little cheaper at bookstores: most are about $8.95 on Amazon


What it’s like to be an elementary school teacher – Part 12

A National Board Certified Teacher explains what an educator’s life is really like.  The series is a value-added collection of Best ClassAntics Posts EVER!  Each post explains something about a teacher’s life and links to ClassAntics posts with relevant teaching tips.

Part Twelve: We know a million ways to get kids to read

Teachers take great pleasure in turning children into lifelong readers.  We employ a million techniques and tricks to hook kids on reading.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Get the Most out of Accelerated Reader (AR)

Many schools use the Accelerated Reader program, which is basically just a huge test bank of quizzes about individual books.  As you can imagine, AR can be pretty dry if the teacher doesn’t spice it up.

New to accelerated reader?  Get started with  How AR levels are determined and How to Print AR Labels.  Check out my thoughts on the AR Report: What Kids are Reading.  I cut through the media hype and explain the real story on kids’ reading habits.  Parents will find it interesting; children’s book authors will find it invaluable.

Looking to make AR more exciting?  Try the Accelerated Reader Genre Challenge.  Also, Encourage Kids to Take AR Vocabulary Tests.  The tests give students excellent practice and encourage them to pay more attention to new vocabulary words.  The tests are plenty exciting if you give students incentives for taking them.

Need to motivate your students?  Try So You Think You Rock? An Accelerated Reader (AR) Game.  The post explains how you can turn progress monitoring into a fun motivational and teambuilding activity for the whole class.

Special Events

Teachers love to create special events that promote reading.  Sometimes, we latch onto existing events.  One good example is National Poetry Month.  In the following two posts, I share printable worksheets with excellent poems (written by my sister!) and thought-provoking questions.

During National Poetry Month, I like to use some of my favorite resources: serious poems, fun poems, and excellent workbooks that teach students how to analyze poetry.

By the way, April is School Library Month.  It’s a good time to thank the school librarian, spend extra time in the library, and do a little community service with A Quick Way to Help the School Librarian.

Another popular literacy holiday is NEA read across America Day.  This year, you might Try a Dr. Seuss-Themed Reading Buddies Session on Read Across America Day.

Special Techniques

Teachers love to help kids improve reading skills.  One of my favorite things to teach is Speed Reading.  This simple technique helps students at every level, in every grade.  I also love to Read aloud to build vocabulary.  Students can listen at a higher reading level than what they read independently, so your read alouds can introduce them to higher-level vocabulary words than students could read on their own.

It’s also fun to use technology, such as the highly effective computer program Ticket to Read.  Even TV has its place.  If you use the closed captioning, you can do a lesson on Watching TV to build reading skills.


Kindles  (and other e-readers) are a great addition to the classroom.  My series on Kids and Kindles shows their many uses and offers tips on bringing them to your classroom.

Favorite Authors and Books

We love to help kids find their new favorite author.  We also love introducing kids to a variety of authors, genres, and resources.

We even build literacy skills through song.  My “Figurative Language with Taylor Swift” lessons are wildly popular in the classroom.  Kids love to apply their knowledge of literary devices to Taylor’s catchy tunes.  Here is the complete series:

·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: You Belong with Me
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Love Story
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Hey Stephen
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Mean
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Speak Now
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Our Song
·         The Hunger Games: Analyzing “Safe & Sound” by Taylor Swift


Try a Dr. Seuss-Themed Reading Buddies Session on Read Across America Day

NEA’s Read Across America Day coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday.  Your students are either the right age for Dr. Seuss—or way too old.  Either way, pair up with another class for a fun Dr. Seuss-themed event.

“Class reading buddies” is a time honored tradition in elementary school.  Typically, a primary class pairs with an intermediate class.  The older kids read aloud to the younger kids.

The two classes can have a great time with a Dr. Seuss-themed session.  Get as many copies of Seuss’s books as you can.  Try the school library, the public library (put BIG labels on these books and keep track of them), and ask families to send in their well-loved Seuss readers.

Pair the kids up however you wish.  There are many options:

  • Randomly
  • By reading level (pair higher-achieving primary readers with higher-achieving intermediate readers)
  • Let the little kids pick their buddy (empowering and interesting—watch them choose someone who looks a lot like themselves)
  • By interest: who wants to read The Cat in the HatOne Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish?

Then start reading!

It’s nice if you have enough computers so kids can take Accelerated Reader (AR) tests.  I would let intermediate kids take the tests, too—assuming they haven’t already in earlier grades.  They should be rewarded with AR points for reading aloud to little kids.

Consider Cat in the Hat themed art activities.  Keep it simple with coloring pages or making bookmarks.  After all, you’ll have up to 60 kids in the room (or split between two rooms.)  Here are templates:

Seussville Printables for Cat in the Hat

PBS Kids Printables

Happy Read Across America Day!

Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Fun With Literacy,Holidays by Corey Green @ Feb 28, 2013


American Girl Teaching Guides

American Girls SeriesThe American Girl series is just wonderful for introducing elementary school students to history. For each era, there is an irrepressible character with many books, games, and often even a movie to hook students on that time period. Students comprehend history lessons more easily if they can relate them to the experiences of an American Girl.

Today, the American Girl Teaching Guides! These are high-quality materials, just like everything from this company. You will find printable worksheets, easy-to-teach lessons, and ideas for connecting the books to character lessons as well as academic content.

Example: the Kit teaching guide focus on the Great Depression, giving, and resourcefulness. Worksheets encourage students to relate to Kit’s experiences with the Depression, make judgment calls about giving, conserve today’s resources by applying the lessons of the Depression, and even create their own messages in hobo code.  The materials are very high quality, and the worksheets would have taken you a while to develop. Good, time-saving stuff!

Here are the teaching guides. Each link opens a file in pdf format.

Addy: Freedom, the Civil War, and Life After Slavery

Caroline: Patriotism, Heroism, and the War of 1812

Chrissa: Bullying and How to Stop It

Felicity: Loyalty, Independence, and the Revolutionary War

Josefina: Spanish Culture and the Settlement of the Southwest

Julie: Equality, the Environment, and Facing Change

Kaya: Native American Life and the Nez Perce Tribe

Kirsten: Pioneer Life, Cultural Differences, and Helping One Another

Kit: The Great Depression, Giving, and Resourcefulness

Lanie: Animal Habitats and Observing Birds and Butterflies

Marie-Grace and Cécile: Diversity, Community, and Point of View

McKenna: Self-Esteem, Goal Setting, and Encouraging Self & Others

Molly: Cooperation, Adaptability, and Resourcefulness

Rebecca: Immigrants, Old Ways and New Ways, and Doing the Right Thing

Samantha: Innovation, Generosity, and Family