The Simple Art of Flying

Read Aloud and Book Response Prompts for Upper Elementary and Middle School Readers

I recently finished this endearing story and I’m so excited to share it with you and my students. Cory Leonardo has written a story following the point of view of a pessimistic parrot trying to take care of his sister, a life-loving, lonely elderly woman, and a young boy who wants to be a doctor. As the characters’ lives intersect, parallel, and grow from their relationships, the book includes themes of loss, love, and learning to find gratitude.

Along with just being an enjoyable read, one that just makes you feel happy and good, the possibilities for reading comprehension lessons based on the text are great! And if you’re like me, if I can use the same text for my read aloud, and pull snippets for my mentor and comprehension lessons, I’m feeling like a winner. Take this quote from the book for a tiny example:

I love this book for the connections we can make. I love this book for the discussions we’ll have about the effects of point of view and perspective. I love this book for the comparisons about characters. I love this book because of the possibilities it creates for so many discussions about theme. I love this book for the possibilities the authored created in analyzing use of language and craft. Yep, so many wonderful possible class discussions ahead!

This sweet story is definitely one you’ll want to add to your options for read aloud and on your classroom library shelf. I think it’s perfect for upper elementary and middle readers.

And while I love this book as just a read aloud option, no strings attached, if you’d like to double your impact, grab a copy of my The Simple Art of Flying Book Response Prompts here.

Make Today Matter Digital Gratitude and Growth Mindset Journal

Help Your Students Find Positivity in Each Day

I had a rough week last week. After six weeks of being quarantined, I had a severe case of BLAH.

What I realized was this:

  1. I wasn’t taking care of myself and my mindset. I needed a positivity boost.
  2. If I’m struggling with this, so many others, including my students, must be also.

What I did for myself was to take a day to rest and reset my mind. I exercised, I talked to friends (on the phone), I read, I painted my nails, all the things.

But the next day I honestly didn’t feel any better. On the second day, I opened my daily mindset journal, my Make Today Matter journal that I’d been keeping each day at school for myself and with my students, and I wrote. I wrote about what I’m grateful for, my goals for the day, and my successes. And just like it had made such a big difference in our positivity in the classroom, it made a big difference for me here at home too!

I’ve added it to my Distance Learning Google Classroom for my students now also. Because like I said in realization #2 above, if I’m feeling this way, I’m sure my students and everyone else are also. Because if ten minutes could make such a big difference for my mindset, I’m sure it will do the same for my students.

Maybe it could also do the same for your students. We could all use a little extra sense of joy and sunshine in our day! Grab your copy here!

Using A Digital Fiction Book Project for Distance Learning

One of the problems that I’ve noticed the most with distance learning, is the amount of extra time that teachers are having to take to get resources ready for digital distance learning. The strategies and resources that teachers are using is new for so many of us and the learning curve itself with what works for this, and what teaching looks like in this time, is new and requires big changes. Change takes time.

My Digital Fiction Book Project is one resource that could save some of that time. The beauty of this Google Slides project is the amount of flexibility it allows for the teacher and students. The project can be used with any text and provides two versions (pages with graphic organizers and pages without) of the most common fiction reading comprehension skills. Several of the pages can also be used with nonfiction texts as well. The teacher can assign the reading, with a specific text for students to show comprehension, or have students choose their own book, allowing for differentiation and higher engagement. Yay – said the students!

See a blank version of the project here.

Teachers can either assign the pages with the graphic organizers pre-made, or have their students create their own ways of showing their comprehension and use/mastery of each skill. Teachers can choose to only assign certain comprehension pages, or all, or assign the project to a collaborative group of students and have them work on separate slides in the same project. This is a resource that could be used multiple times, allowing the teacher to also establish a routine during distance learning, making the work easier for their students and parents to navigate each week.

To complete the project, students use digital snapshots (use their snipping tool or screen capture tool) of the text to prove their thinking along with their own explanations to provide evidence of their understanding. This can be done with either digital ebooks or with print text. Students who need to complete the resource without wifi can use a print version of the project pages, or use the “edit offline” option that Google allows. And because it’s a Google apps project, students can use any device that allows them to connect to Google Apps (a PC or device with Google Slides downloaded from the app store).

The project can be easily assigned by using an email link or through your Google Classroom.

My students and I have always enjoyed presenting the projects as well, which could be done through a Zoom or Google Meets class meeting, on Flipgrid using a Screencastify video (free versions available for teachers and students) or any other screen/voice recording tool.

This project has always been one of the favorite comprehension project assignments in my classes and I hope that it would be the same for your students, along with being a helpful and valuable resource for your distance teaching materials!

Hosting a Book Giveaway to Encourage Reading At Home

I don’t know about you, but my number one goal for my students is for my students to love reading as much as I do. Giving them time to read anything of choice in the classroom was made a priority this year, but making sure they continue that at home is a whole different challenge. So, to encourage my students to continue reading while at home while doing this distance learning thing, I’m hosting a book giveaway.

Here’s how it works. Each week, I’m sharing book suggestions with my classes through my parent communication tool. I’m using Class Dojo, but you could easily share through other communication apps, email, or digital meeting tools like Zoom or Google apps. I send a photo of the book I’m suggesting with a quick summary. I usually send two or three of these per week, to give some options, trying to vary my suggestions by what I know my students enjoy reading and to meet all of my students’ different interests.

What the students do in return, is send pictures of themselves reading (or their parents do) anything they have (magazines, recipes, books from home, ebooks, etc.) while at home. Each picture sent gets their name in the drawing. They can also send a new picture each day to get in the drawing multiple times for that week.

At the end of the week, I draw a name out of the jar and that student can choose one of the books that I’ve sent out as suggestions to receive as a reward. All I do is order it on Amazon for them and have it sent to their address. It’s easy, not that expensive at one book per week, and highly motivating! (Also, although I haven’t looked into this, I’m sure you could get donations to help with the cost of sending books to your students to make this even easier for you.)

16 Activity Ideas for Digital Class Meetings

One of the biggest things I miss right now with this Covid-19 pandemic is our class morning meetings. Morning meetings have the power to build and strengthen our classroom communities in so many ways. So when digital meetings became the only way that we could still get together as a class family, I knew it was the morning meeting time, time spent sharing our thoughts and feelings, time spent engaging together, that I would want to continue. And I’ve come up with 16 ways that I can do just that!

  1. Greeting This is an important part of a morning meeting that should and can still be continued. Students can just take time to say hello to each other by name, or you could come up with a hand signal or movement to accompany the greeting.
  2. Share Time This could be a free share or responding to a discussion prompt, but it always means practicing communication skills, sharing personal thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and time spent listening, asking questions, and finding connections between peers and class members.
  3. Charades If you establish a category, students can come up with the rest and act it out as the rest of the class viewing guesses.
  4. Would you rather? Assign a number or hand signal to each of the options and have students show their preferences that way.
  5. Dance Party Choose a favorite class song to sing and dance, or choose any tik tok or popular option. Just have fun!
  6. Rock Paper Scissors If you assign the partners, this game is totally doable. And, as each pair has a winner, that student can move on to compete with the winner of another pair, and so on, until their is only one student left (the winner!).
  7. Read Aloud I love this as an option, by the teacher, or by a selected student to share a story they have read at home and recommend to their class to check out sometime.
  8. Directed Drawing All the students need is paper and a pencil.
  9. Blind Drawing I’m sure this activity has another name, but it’s the one where the students put the paper or paper plate on their head and try to draw a _______ (fill in the blank with anything you can think of). Then share and laugh.
  10. Simon Says This game is still totally possible when all of the participants can see each other (Zoom!)
  11. Guess Who Choose a student to describe without giving away obvious clues and have the rest of the group guess who you are describing. You could even include some clues based on class memories from your time together in school. So sweet!
  12. Inference Mysteries This can be done with items you know the students have never seen before (pictures of those items of course) or with a set of daily mysteries for the group to solve throughout the week.
  13. Riddles These are always fun and require critical thinking and creativity!
  14. Spotlight Student Choose a student for each meeting (different each time) and have the group ask questions for that student to answer about him/herself.
  15. Wordless Picture Book Share a wordless picture book with the group and have them work together to help write the story to accompany the pictures.
  16. Who Remembers? This is a listening activity. While the students are sharing their responses during share time, the teacher writes down notes and then asks the class questions about who shared that information. You could make this a game, girls against boys, students vs. teacher, etc.

No matter what you do, the effort to continue to connect with your students is still SO important. Even if you just start the meeting to allow your students to talk to each other, without a plan involved, what you do makes a difference. You can grab a pdf version of these ideas here.