Studying Novels

Like all of my posts, this one contains affiliate links.

When I first started teaching, I taught littles – three-year-olds, kindergartners, and first graders. Picture books were my jam. I used picture books to teach everything. Some of my favorite authors were (and, honestly still are) Maurice SendakVera B WilliamsEzra Jack KeatsKevin HenkesWilliam SteigLeo LionniBill Martin, Jr.Eric Carle, and Audrey Wood. I had a clawfoot bathtub in my classroom that I bought at an antique market so, every year, my kindergartners would put on a little play of King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub for their parents. We set many of the sing-song texts of the books we read to music to help us learn to read.

I left the classroom in 1997 and became a reading interventionist. After the birth of my first child in 1998, I stayed home for a few years. I slowly returned to teaching when my younger child was a toddler by teaching babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. I also taught college and was an interventionist. When I decided to return to the classroom full time, I took a position teaching third grade. One of my first thoughts at the time was, “How will I transition from working with children who are learning to read, to working with children who are reading to learn?” Nonfiction was a “no brainer”. Obviously, we would read nonfiction during guided reading, practice reading strategies, and discuss what we had read. I had spent years facilitating book clubs at my children’s school and I loved that. I knew that I wanted to incorporate book clubs in my third grade classroom. As a reading interventionist, I had trained parents to read with students individually, so I wanted to teach parents to facilitate book clubs. Having parents lead book clubs for the two years that I taught third grade went really well. The parents and the kids loved it! We divided up into our groups every Wednesday and talked about books in a relatively informal way – much like an adult book club. Students were expected to read a certain number of pages every week and then the group would come together and talk.

In 2011, I moved to fifth grade. I knew I wanted to have my students study novels again. I needed to make some tweaks because I would be teaching the same group of students I had taught in 2009! Since it was my first year in fifth grade, things didn’t go as well as I had hoped. Students joined Goodreads and interacted around the books they were reading – sometimes. Sometimes, they did lame things like create “groups” where the primary goal seemed to be to exclude people and gossip. UGH. So, during the 2012 – 2013, I (gasp) skipped book clubs altogether.

On to the fall of 2013. A new teacher joined our fifth grade team and, in addition, I had a student teacher – lots of hands on deck. We decided to give studying novels another go. My new teammate had some great ideas and we ran with it. We wrote structured novel packets that included discussion and constructed response questions that addressed the Common Core State Standards. The structure really helped students stay on track during their meetings.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017. I put a lot of thought into how I could improve novel discussions. We completed a whole class novel study of Wringer which went extremely well. How could I improve small group literature discussions that weren’t teacher or parent led? Task cards. I began to develop task cards using the questions I had developed for novels in the past.

Wringer, Complete Novel Study

Wringer, Novel Study Packet

Wringer, Discussion Questions in Black & White and Color

Wringer, Discussion Questions in Color

Riding Freedom, Novel Study Packet

Riding Freedom, Discussion Questions in Black & White and Color

Danny, the Champion of the World, Discussion Questions

Hoot, Discussion Questions

The Jacket, Discussion Questions

Just Juice, Discussion Questions

Wonder, Discussion Questions

How do you incorporate novel studies in your class? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


I’m Loving Animoto and RIPL

Are you using Animoto and RIPL? I started using RIPL about a month ago and I am really thrilled with it. It links to my AmazingMaterials4You Page and my AmazingMONAT4You Page, as well as my AM4Y Instagram accounts and my AM4Y Twitter account. I can make eye catching slide shows with cool effects in seconds and post them to all of my accounts with one touch straight from my phone. What?

Here’s an example of a video I created using RIPL:

I stumbled across Animoto yesterday! I think it may change my life. A friend I met on Facebook and Instagram suggested that I add videos to my Teachers Pay Teachers Previews and I thought, well, I’m not sure how to do that with RIPL and started searching. I played around with the free version for about 20 minutes and willingly upgraded to the paid version when I realized what I could do. Adding the videos on Teachers Pay Teachers was so easy, too! You just drag and drop.

Here are the videos I’ve made with Animoto so far:

I am absolutely over-the-moon with excitement about this!

All of you youngsters out there can feel free to have a laugh at my expense, but these options offer something I never could’ve fathomed in my wildest dreams growing up! I didn’t own a computer or a video camera until I was in my 30s and had a flip phone as recently as 2010!

When I was a senior in college in 1985 – 86, I got an electric typewriter that would allow me to see a line of text and make corrections as I went rather than having to keep that handy dandy bottle of liquid paper by my right hand to correct inevitable mistakes after I made them. If someone had told that twenty one year old English major that technology like Animoto and RIPL would exist when I reached my 50s, I might have laughed in his or her face! Thanks to Back to the Future, I think I would’ve been much more willing to believe that I’d be driving around in a flying car!

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Did you suddenly remember that you needed white out?

Are you thinking about a Back to the Future binge watching day?


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I’m learning so much from fellow educators on Instagram and Facebook! I’m so excited.

Why I Love Wringer So Much

When I was in the fifth grade, I went to a new school and became invisible. I truly have no memory of any peers speaking to me that year. I was pretty shy and don’t remember it bothering me. I’m sure it did, but I don’t remember. Fast forward to sixth grade. In sixth grade, people started to notice me, but not for the reasons I had hoped. I was tall and awkward, developing, and my face was starting to break out. I was dubbed the ugliest girl in the school, specifically “Medusa”. Boys would look at me and pretend to “turn to stone” ostensibly because I was so hideous. The sixth grade was the year that I officially started to hate school. I didn’t have any friends or champions and I had no desire to be there. I just wanted to disappear. I was “sick” a lot.

However, in the 7th grade, something miraculous happened. I was placed in homeroom with THE most popular girl in the grade and ALL of her friends were in the other homeroom. I will never forget the look on her face when she walked into class on the first day of school that fateful day (for me) in 1976. She made a sweep of the classroom with her eyes, then rolled her eyes, then sat next to me. That was it. The rest, as they say, is history. Sinking or swimming in that moment would make the difference between having friends and being lonely and friendless. I swam. One thing that I discovered about myself was that I was resilient. One thing my popular friend discovered was that I was hilarious (a coping strategy we “ugly girls” are forced to develop). The popular girl and I are still dear friends to this day.

Dorothy, one of Jerry Spinelli’s secondary characters in Wringer, is a lot like I was back in middle school. Yes, she’s younger, but she is bullied relentlessly by Beans, Mutto, Henry, and even Palmer. I relate. I connect. I respect Dorothy for having the guts to stand up to her bullies. She’s resilient. Palmer is a weasel for not standing up for her, but soon enough, he discovers that she is a good friend and a worthy confidante and he becomes an upstander for Dorothy and for his beloved pet, Nipper. I suspect if Palmer and Dorothy are based on real people that they are still friends to this day – like my popular friend and I.

If you’re a teacher, you are currently teaching a Dorothy (someone who is being tormented mercilessly, yet is forging on), a Beans (a bully), a Mutto and a Henry (bystanders), and a Palmer (someone who just wants to be accepted and is confused and hurting in his own way). I have found that reading Wringer aloud to my whole class (sometimes 2 or 3 classes depending on the year) is a great way to broach and discuss these painful coming-of-age topics. The bonus is that in all of my years as a fifth grade teacher, I have never taught a student who has read it! It makes for a great read aloud experience filled with surprises.

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Wringer – Full Color Discussion Cards

Wringer Discussion Cards in Black and White and Color

Wringer Complete Novel Study for Independent, Partner, and Small Group Work

Wringer Complete Novel Study for Whole Class Read Aloud

Affiliate Links:
     Click on the book cover to buy one (or more) copies of Wringer!

Click on the image above to buy these INCREDIBLE Dry-Erase Clipboards

Holiday Fun

Ugly Sweater Antonyms IMG_0369

It’s holiday season and we all know how hard it is to keep students engaged and learning. One of my goals this year is to help students develop their vocabularies. I created two “ugly sweater” activities – one for homophones and one for synonyms and antonyms. Yesterday, my students worked on synonyms and antonyms. Everyone (and I mean that sincerely) was excited to complete the activity. They enjoyed finding the synonyms and antonyms as well as connecting the dots and decorating the sweaters. I had bought some stick on “jewels” at Dollar Tree that came in blue, green, silver, gold, and red. Students were able to adorn their sweaters with jewels after they colored them.

This is an easy, engaging activity for the holidays.

Ugly Sweater Synonyms and Antonyms

Ugly Sweater Homophones

Ugly Sweater Synonyms IMG_0368

Google Forms

If you’re anything like me, you have difficulty keeping up with the mountain of papers that needs to be graded on a daily basis. As someone who loves and wants to preserve our environment, I also hate making copies of exit tickets to grade. In Google Classroom, I have had students create documents and slide shows for years. This year, I have started using Google Forms more and more and I am loving them!

I just finished teaching a unit on Narrative Nonfiction. Our touchstone texts included, The House That Jane Built (Tanya Lee Stone), Catching the Moon (Crystal Hubbard), Wilma Unlimited (Kathleen Krull), and Rosa (Nikki Giovanni) among others.

Here are the exit tickets and affiliate links:

The House That Jane Built

Catching the Moon

Wilma Unlimited


My resources include:

Catching the Moon – Storyline Online

The House That Jane Built – Storyline Online

In addition, I have PowerPoint presentations for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that go along with these lessons:

Catching the Moon – PPT

The House That Jane Built – PPT

Wilma Unlimited – PPT

Rosa – PPT

I hope you enjoy using the exit tickets!

Finding Theme

Here is my latest creation that can be found on Teacher’s Pay Teachers! I taught this lesson on Friday, November 17th and it was a great success! My students LOVED the story.

Finding the main idea and the theme of a text can be challenging. I find that repeated teacher modeling and student practice helps considerably! I like to emphasize that there is an element of opinion in a theme whereas a main idea is a statement or very short summary of a work.

Ada’s Violin, by Susan Hood is a great text to use for determining both main idea and theme. In this presentation, teachers and students are guided to find both. You can also add a very brief geography connection by having students find Paraguay on a world map or globe. In addition, I have included a list of vocabulary words for discussion before reading.

Students love learning about real people and their stories of perseverance and triumph. Children can never have too many role models!

This lesson is aligned with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as well as Virginia SOLs.

Ada’s Violin

Blogging, at Last

Blogging is something I’ve considered doing for quite some time now. It took me a couple of years to muster up the courage. I spent the past two years thinking, “What will I say?” Then, over the summer of 2017, I became a Teachers Pay Teachers seller and, voila! Now, I have something to say.

Although I’ve only been marketing my products since July 2017, I have created them for (and more importantly tested them on) my fifth grade students since 2011. Kids are tough critics. I’m proud to say that they’ve responded well to my lessons. I hope that your students will, too.

I’m excited to begin sharing teaching anecdotes with you on this blog.

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