Creative Reading Review


This review project is a favorite in my class!  I was looking for a way to assess my students’ fictional comprehension of ALL of the skills I teach in our fiction unit. The problem with assessments, though, is that they aren’t always fair to all students. You reading teachers know what I mean! We differentiate our instruction to make learning fair for all of our readers, so assessments should also be fair! With this project, I can assign leveled text, individually or by group, allowing me to actually assess their comprehension skills without questioning if the real problem was that they couldn’t read the passage. As the teacher, you can even choose whether you assign the pages with graphic organizers or blank pages for students who need more of a challenge.

While working on this project, my students are given free rein, meaning they are completely in control of how they show their understanding. Text dependence is easy too. With digital text, students can take a snapshot or copy/paste exactly what they need to prove their thinking. Altogether, I’m assessing their understanding, giving my students opportunities to use creativity, critical thinking skills, and their communication skills. If not being used for assessment purposes, it also makes for a great collaboration project for group assignments.

If you want to check this out for your own students click the link below.

Fiction Book Analysis Project

Eight Beach-Themed Genre and ABC Order Activities


Every year I wonder how I could make my reading genres unit more engaging.  I’ve tried book tastings, a powerpoint with notes, concentration games, videos, and it goes on and on.  My students never fully master this unit and I know that it’s my fault.  So … when it was time to plan the unit this year, I knew I needed more exciting and active learning.  These eight beach-themed genre activities and ABC order activities include ideas for beach volley(genre)ball, a cornhole game, building a sandcastle, and saving the baby beach crabs!  When I showed up in a lei and pineapple sunglasses, playing hula music in the background, I’m pretty sure the students thought I was crazy.  As the learning activities progressed they were so involved and excited about what they were learning, that they asked to do it again the next day!  Even more, I had students from other classes asking about what we were doing in our room!  They wanted to join us!

And you know what, my students know their reading genres! Learning was fun and effective!  Click here to get all of these fun activities and take your students back to the beach!

thanks for reading!

Flight School: A Reading Research-Based STEAM Lesson and Digital Task Journal

Flight School STEAM

I’m super excited to share this lesson!  I love STEAM projects and shared my digital task journal to make STEAM more reading and research-based so that it fits better into the Reading and Language Arts classroom in an earlier post.  This is the lesson that I used to first implement this idea and it worked SO WELL!   This lesson includes a Growth Mindset read aloud and discussion, task journal prompts that require the students to be text dependent, reflective, and to apply the information they learn from their research, and to use that information to analyze their own success or lack of success throughout the STEAM process.  This is totally higher level thinking!  I was able to find texts that ALL of my students could read (in a 4th grade classroom with reading levels ranging between two grade levels) and I was even able to find research passages that still allowed me to assess comprehension skills we were working on and incorporate the STEAM project into my reading groups to continue working on close reading skills.  Suggestions and links for research texts are included in the lesson.  This is what reading SHOULD BE!  I’ll be working on more of these lessons to continue incorporating STEAM into the reading classroom and can’t wait to share them!

To get my Flight School reading STEAM lesson and task journal, click here.

thanks for reading!


Reading Research-Based STEAM

How do you get students to understand the importance of comprehension?  The thing is, I push my classes all year to think on a higher level, to dig deeper into the text, to read every word for its meaning and purpose in the text, and to push themselves to give 100%, and then give a little more.  I teach my classes about the importance of learning to read; more importantly that we read to learn.  I want my students to understand that what we do has a purpose.  In our reading class we aren’t just reading passages to answer questions.  We are answering questions about the passage as a means of becoming more text dependent, leading to a higher level of understanding while we read.  I want my students to understand that their future as a successful adult, in whatever career they choose, depends on the ability to comprehend and analyze, whether it’s text or media.  Along with that, I want my students to be able to work successfully with a team, to think creatively, to learn how to improve upon mistakes,  and to be reflective.  We teachers do so much!  What we do in our classroom everyday is the key.  For that reason, the learning tasks we assign to our students everyday matters!

At the beginning of this school year my administrator sent out a question about how we could incorporate more STEAM into the classroom, along with how we can meet the needs of our TAG students.  Many of us reading teachers had a hard time finding ideas on the web that incorporated our reading instructional needs with STEAM activities.  This was especially true for those of us in upper elementary grades.  Around December it hit me, STEAM projects could and should be research-based.  My students read informational text almost every day.  Why not assign that text for a specific purpose?!  My idea was to mix Maker Space, STEAM, and Project-Based learning ideas with the reading that my students do on a daily basis for their skill practice assignments.  It was May before I finally had what I wanted.

My students loved this!  It’s simple and works with ANY STEAM project.  You just assign the task journal through your Google Classroom, or print it and make some minor adjustments to how your students complete the journal (the instructions are for digital completion).  Next you assign the research reading and set a time frame for your students to complete.  Then introduce your STEAM project challenge and the rest of the task journal and watch your students’ learning, critical analysis, problem solving skills and engagement soar.  To get a copy click here.


Giraffes Can’t Dance

giraffes can't dance growth mindset

After weeks of test prep I’ve gotten bored.  I actually realized that I was out of great ideas early last week.  My students were doing great, but we’d done so much and still had more time to keep on going.  I couldn’t make a decision.  After a few years of teaching 4th grade I’ve accumulated A LOT of great stuff from other teachers, and I was using all of my favorites, but it was time for a new challenge.  For the students … and for me.  I had a few thoughts in mind.  I wanted to get back to reading good books.  I wanted to continue the growth mindset theme I’d picked back up on.  I needed to continue the momentum we’d gained with so much time doing individual review practice, remediation and test-taking instruction.  And I wanted talking, happy students who were excited to continue learning.  So I came up with this Growth Mindset Test Prep Activity that works with any set of task cards or test questions for any subject and skill, and adds a fun challenge to your review.
It works with the book Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae.  Basically, I read the book (yay) and the students shared their own goals they’ve had to work on and find their own strategies for in reading.  Then, I grouped the students into trios and gave each group a small set of review task cards.  For my needs I used the Fictional Skills Review and the Informational Text Review Skills task cards from Teaching With a Mountain View, however, you could use any set of task cards or questions.  For each correct answer I gave the group a point.  Once they’d earned all of the points for their task cards, they were given a mystery word in the form of a bag of letters.   I used my growth mindset related words, but I’ve included a blank page for the option to use subject-related words.  The group had to figure out their word.  They were so excited to get to this challenge that their skill review work was amazing.  They crushed it!  (Yep, we’re also building confidence for the big day here!)  Last, they earned a fun coding reward that also goes along with the theme.  This activity worked.  It’s not completely conventional, and it’s not at all quiet.  It’s fast-paced, engaging, confidence-building, perfect for one-on-one remediation as needed throughout the activity, peer teaching and learning, and has high impact.  I’ll definitely use this one again!  If you’re interested, you can get it at  Mrs Gentry’s Class on Teachers Pay Teachers here.
thanks for reading!

Main Idea Test Prep Review and Enrichment

Just like many fourth graders, determining the main idea and identifying supporting details is a “heavy hitter” review topic in my classroom right now.  My students can easily identify “right there” main ideas in informational text, but when it comes to inferring, our skills are much less consistent.  As a teacher, I struggle with making my writing lessons compliment my reading test prep review.  Unfortunately, at this time of year, writing often gets put on the back burner to make more time for test practice and review before state testing begins.  I’ve found what I think is a great solution to these two problems.

Main Idea & Details mini-book project cover & link - 4th5th

This project works great as a quick review of the purpose of supporting details and inferring main idea.  I use this Google Slides activity in small group first to introduce it and give the students a chance to read the supporting details.  I even have a differentiated version for my 2nd and 3rd grade level readers.  You can get both projects here.  So, we read the details and then review the process of determining main idea and the role of the supporting details.  I tell my students to think about that strategy while rereading to themselves.  Right away the students are able to sort the supporting details by their topic.  The hard part is figuring out the point the author is trying to make based on those details.  This part of the task requires much  more in-depth analysis of the given supporting details.  How are they related?  What is the purpose of the language used?  These questions lead to the implied main idea, which the students must write as a leading sentence to the paragraph they are writing based on their details.  This also, of course, to finish the “hamburger paragraph”, leads to also writing a closing sentence for their paragraph.  And there you go, reading and writing combined.  I like this activity because the reading is short and quick, and the activity is more focused on the skill and strategy of determining the implied main idea.  It’s challenging and to the point, exactly what the students need for remediation.  And, to make it even better, I add the challenge of creating text features such as diagrams, charts, graphics, etc. that will clarify the paragraph’s meaning and main idea.  My students are so engaged by this part of the activity that the demanding critical thinking and creativity required to complete it isn’t a struggle.  They are excited to dig deeper and challenge themselves.  If you’d like to try this with your own students, just click this link to get the two leveled projects for your own classroom.

thanks for reading!