Inspiring Positive Character: A Reading Response Bulletin Board or Research Board

I created this reading response and interactive bulletin board to integrate my two passions, social emotional learning and reading instruction. I’m a strong believer in allowing students free choice of their independent reading, but sometimes it can be hard to plan assignments that keep students accountable for that reading if you don’t know what they will be reading. I have found that this is a reading response that all of my students can do no matter what their book choice may be, and it is just enough of a response that I can monitor their comprehension of that reading.

In my opinion, any time is a good time to have your students thinking about positive character traits. You could choose to use this as an ongoing, year-long, reading response activity, or as a Black History Month or Women’s History Month activity to celebrate inspirational change leaders in history. Because of this flexibility, this reading response could be used as a quick research project, or with any independent reading choice, fiction or nonfiction, during your students’ daily independent reading time.

Another option to note is that you can do this a couple different ways. You could focus on one character trait at a time, a few, or all at once. I take time to introduce all of the character traits with my students. Then, as they are reading and come across an inspirational example or story (from nonfiction or fiction), they can choose the trait paper that best fits the example they want to share. You could set an expectation for a certain number of responses per week, or leave it open-ended.

My favorite way to store all of the writing page choices for the bulletin board is in a large 3-ring binder, with dividers for each trait. I use the cover page of this file as the binder cover page. You may choose to display their responses using the bulletin board option, in a binder for students to review and check out, or just as an assignment your students turn in to you. Students could also keep their writing and share it in a daily response journal that they keep as a record of the characters they read about throughout the year. Really, there are so many possibilities 🙂

I’d love for you to try it out! You can grab it by clicking on the link here to start using in your own classroom.

Test Prep Room Transformation

Can You Defeat the Puzzle Master?

This room transformation was easy, cheap, rigorous, and highly engaging! I centered the theme around growth mindset and mindulness strategies that, when used together, are the puzzle pieces to success. We’ve focused on these concepts all year long in the classroom, so it made perfect sense to “put the pieces together” for test prep. The mindset concepts I used are grit, dedication, perseverance, effort, mindfulness, strategy, positivity, attitude, commitment, confidence, critical thinking, and growth mindset. I’ve added pictures of the puzzle pieces I made and hung on the walls in my classroom below.

These were pretty big, so they pretty much cover all of the free wall space in my classroom, which meant that I didn’t need to do any extra decorations. To me, the minimal decorations were also the right choice because I wanted my focus to remain on the work and being able to use these concepts and strategies for state testing.

I also hung some multi-colored dollar store table cloths on the ceiling to add some “pretty” to the room.

For the work, I needed mixed review of everything we’ve done throughout this year. I used the Reading Skills puzzle centers pictured below from TPT. These are just the right amount of challenging and confidence building for my 4th graders! My students also really enjoyed using them. (You could also use any other task cards or test questions for your subject.). These centers come with answer keys that could be used for self-checking, but I wanted my students to have to correct their thinking and try again, so I created Google Forms Quizzes (that showed a score and if the question was right/wrong, but not the correct answer). My students worked in pairs and had to get an 80% or higher to show mastery and move on to the next step. There were 9-10 pairs working on separate skills during the class time so the Google Forms were extremely helpful for keeping the students accountable (I get grades and know they did the work necessary for the group) and moving at their own pace because they didn’t have to wait on me to check their work.

Once the pair had shown mastery they got one of the following “treat puzzles” to put together (shown in the pics below). If the students were able to put it together completely they got the candy or treat that was referenced in the pun/riddle on the treat puzzle. I made these out of poster board that I got in the school section at Walmart for about $3.00 for a set of five posters. I made the same number of treat puzzles as the reading skills puzzles that I used, so the students got a different treat each time they mastered a skill. I did this for a little extra motivation, but it certainly isn’t mandatory.

In my two hour class, with a mini-lesson focused on each of our puzzle piece mindset and strategy concepts, my students were able to complete two to three reading puzzles per class.

To complete the transformation and theme, I gave each of my students these blank puzzles that I ordered from Amazon to design and keep. I could have had my students focus on a design that used our mindset concepts and success as the theme of their picture, but for destressing after testing (we did this part during the afternoon after state testing in the morning), I allowed my students full creative rights for their puzzles.  You can get the puzzles from the link here.

I had actually worried that it wouldn’t be as exciting to them as I hoped, but they absolutely loved these puzzles.