An Engaging Lesson for RI 5.1

A blog post and free resources to help you teach RI 5.1

Students are expected to become more proficient at comprehending informational passages every year.  Teachers should be given high-quality resources to help students meet these high expectations.  That’s why I’ve created a lesson to help fifth graders learn how to draw inferences using an informational text about NBA star Steph Curry (CCSS ELA Standard RI 5.1).

Click here to grab the free lesson.  Continue reading to see how I teach RI 5.1.

Preview the Material

Tell your students they are going to read about the childhood of Steph Curry.  You’re going to see some of your reluctant readers perk up a bit!  If you really want to excite the sports fans in your class, show them this video.  It has eight minutes of highlights from Curry’s career.  It even shows him as a young kid.  If you’re short on time (or if you’re a Cavs fan) you can just show the first few minutes of this video.

Now that your students have seen these amazing plays by Curry, it’s time for them to think about how he became a superstar.  Ask students to predict what Curry did as a young kid that helped him become successful.  What habits did he begin forming as a young boy that benefit him today?  It’s interesting to hear these predictions before kids read the passage.

After students have brainstormed their ideas, ask them to share with the class.  Ask them to explain WHY they have this idea.  This will prepare them to justify their answer, which is something they will be doing when they use text evidence to justify their inferences later in the lesson.

For more information, download the free resource and read the suggested lesson progression, which is shown here.

Lesson Ideas for Drawing Inferences RI 5.1

Read the Passage

I’ve been a huge basketball fan my whole life, so this passage was fun to write! It was also fascinating to research Steph’s childhood.  His parents REALLY made him work hard when he was young.  I tried to make this crystal clear when I wrote the passage.  Students should understand that Steph’s success didn’t happen overnight.  Steph had to establish these habits as a young boy.

I hope students are able to draw inferences about how much work it takes to become an NBA superstar.  More importantly, I hope students realize they will have to work hard to achieve their dreams.

Engaging passages to help students learn how to draw inferences RI 5.1

Practice the Skill

Here’s an engaging way for kids to practice the skill.  Students are given four inferences that can be made about Steph’s childhood.  They will glue them into their notebook as shown here.

Lesson resources for drawing inferences RI 5.1

Students are also given eight pieces of text evidence.  They have to match two pieces of text evidence that support each inference.  I’d recommend matching the text evidence for at least one inference together as a class.  The final result is shown below.  The inferences are written in bold.  The text evidence is not bold.  More instructions are provided in the lesson progression.

Resources to teach a lesson on drawing inferences RI 5.1

Writing Prompt

Students must write why Steph’s childhood helped him become an NBA superstar.  They will have to use text evidence to support their ideas.

Quiz

All four quiz questions correlate to RI 5.1.  Three are multiple-choice and one is short-answer.  This makes a great exit slip or quick assessment.

Resources to assess drawing inferences RI 5.1

You can adapt this lesson to meet the needs of your students.  You know your students better than anyone.  Only use the sections of this lesson pack that will help your students improve their ability to draw inferences from nonfiction text.  Click the image to download this free resource.

Ideas To Teach a Lesson for Drawing Inferences (RI 5.1)

I have also created lesson packs for other fifth-grade RI standards.  Click the images for more information.

Lesson Resources for Main Idea and Summary RI 5.2

Lesson resources for teaching relationships in historical texts RI 5.3

Lesson Resources for Determining the Meaning of Words and Phrases RI 5.4

I’ve also created a bundle that includes lessons for all 10 fifth-grade RI standards.  The bundle is offered at a discounted price, which means you get one lesson for free.  Click the image below for more information.

Lessons for all 10 Fifth-Grade RI Standards

 

 

A Book That Will Help Students Learn Why They Should Speak Out Against Hate

I’m writing this a few days after white supremacists marched around Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting horrible things.  Thankfully, I’ve seen many teachers post messages on Facebook saying they will help their students understand the importance of speaking up against white supremacists and the hate they stand for.  One of my favorite posts was written by Love, Teach which said,

#1 teaching objective in my class this year: Love is louder than hate, but only if we choose to open our mouths.  Clearly, the rest of my curriculum can wait.”

I have also seen teachers post the importance of using specific vocabulary when describing the events of Charlottesville, like this, by Digital Divide & Conquer.

Use Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry to teach students to speak up against hate.

Teachers can talk about this every day in their classroom, but we all know students learn much better through engaging lessons.  I love using books to teach students important lessons because kids can develop a strong connection to the characters of an awesome book.  Once that connection is made, the lesson you’re trying to teach can be learned much more effectively.

Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry is an excellent book you can use to teach your students about the hatred that white supremacists stand for and the importance of speaking up for people who are oppressed.

The book is set in Mississippi in the 1930s, but it’s important that students realize there are still many people who act like the hateful, racist people they read about in the book.  Curriculum often implies that racism is something that happened a long time ago.  Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry teaches students what it’s like for a black family to constantly be affected by hateful things racist people do.  It’s up to teachers to ensure their students realize this sort of hatred still exists.

Brief Synopsis of the Book

The main character is a young girl named Cassie.  She lives with her three brothers, mother, father, and grandmother.  They are very proud of the fact that they own land.  Cassie’s parents simply want to enjoy their land and take care of their children.  Unfortunately, they constantly hear stories of white people doing horrible things to black people they know.  This causes a lot of tension for the family throughout the book.  By the end of the story, the violence hits close to home for Cassie, whose father is forced to make a drastic decision in order to keep people safe.

Several events in this book are powerful teaching tools to help students understand the importance of speaking out against racism.  

Cassie’s family is amazing.  Your students will develop a strong connection with them.  Cassie experiences many things your students can relate to.  She argues with her siblings, but will do anything to protect them.  She has to help with lots of chores at home, but she loves her family deeply.  She has some difficulties at school, but she wants to get a good education.  It’s impossible for the reader to dislike Cassie’s family.

Since your students will develop a connection to Cassie and her family, your students will also feel the tension of the violence and racism that occurs in the book.  (Sadly, you may have students who can relate to it.)  While this may make students uncomfortable, it opens the door for many teachable moments.  For example:

Event #1:  Early in the book, when Cassie and her siblings are walking to school, a white bus driver swerves toward them and forces them to jump off the road into a muddy ditch to avoid being hit.  Your students need to realize there are still white people who would like to do this to black children.  Also, that bus was full of white students.  Ask your students what they would do if they witnessed something similar today.  Hopefully, they would tell their parents to call a school official and get that bus driver fired.  Teach students that someone on that bus should have spoken up against the bus driver for what he did to Cassie and her siblings.  Students must realize this is NOT Cassie’s responsibility.

Event #2:  In chapter five, Cassie helps her grandmother sell milk and eggs at a town market.  Cassie is angry because they have to set up their stand at the back of the market.  Only white people can sell at the front.  Even though Cassie is angry about this unfair rule, she knows she can’t say anything because someone would hurt her.  Your students need to realize there are still ways that black people are not given the same chances as white people to succeed.  Also, discuss with your students how amazing it would have been for some white people at the market to speak up and say that black people should not be forced to the back.

That’s a theme that keeps occurring throughout the book.  Terrible things happen to black people, but Cassie’s parents feel like saying something will only put their family in danger.  Emphasize the importance of speaking up for people who are the victims of racism.  Be sure your students understand things like this happen today.  Again, that won’t come as a shock to some of your students.

Event #3:  A white girl yells at Cassie for accidentally bumping into her at the market.  The white girl then says horrible things to Cassie.  The girl’s dad grabs Cassie’s arm and starts yelling at her too.  As a crowd starts to gather, Cassie’s grandmother is terrified that things could soon become violent, so she tells Cassie to apologize to the girl.  Cassie is furious that her grandmother made her apologize.  When Cassie gets home and tells her mother about it in chapter six, her mother says, “Baby, you had to grow up a little today.  I wish…well, no matter what I wish.  It happened and you have to accept the fact that in the world outside this house, things are not always as we would have them to be.”  The conversation continues for several pages.  Some of your students probably haven’t been forced to have conversations like this with their parents.  It’s important these students realize that many kids today, including some of their classmates, are forced to have difficult conversations similar to this with their parents.  Based on the Facebook posts I’ve read about conversations black parents must have with their children, too many kids today are forced to “grow up” far too soon.

There are several other events where racist white people do horrible things to the black characters in the story.  Students need to understand that these kinds of things still happen.  It’s also important for students to think about what they’d do if they witnessed something like that.

If you need more resources to teach Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, I have created writing prompts and quizzes that are available in my TpT store.  Click here to learn more.

If you’re looking for more lesson ideas, here are some websites and blog posts that may help.

Teaching Tolerance 

Their website states, “From film kits and lesson plans to the building blocks of a customized Learning Plan—texts, student tasks and teaching strategies—our resources will help you bring relevance, rigor and social emotional learning into your classroom—all for FREE.”

A Collection of Resources for Teaching Social Justice, by the Cult of Pedagogy

In addition to resources, this blog post offers helpful advice for teachers who are planning lessons about social justice.

Social Justice Book List (August 2017) compiled by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year

This PDF gives short descriptions of numerous books sorted by early learning grades, elementary, middle school, and high school.  You can definitely find an awesome book to read on this list.

Words can’t express how grateful I am for all that you do for your students.  Teaching becomes a more important profession every day.  I hope this blog post has given you a few ideas that will help your students understand the importance of speaking up against hateful people.

 

 

 

Resources to Differentiate Reading Centers

I had a love-hate relationship with reading centers when I taught fifth grade.  I loved working with small groups of students.  I loved holding my students accountable for independently completing a list of expected assignments each week.  I hated the expectation from my district that students were supposed to work at centers every day (including the day before breaks) with NO EXCEPTIONS.  I was also told that each center activity needed to be differentiated depending on the reading level of the kids in each group.

I have listened to administrators give endless research about the benefits of kids working at reading centers.  I’ve known plenty of teachers who are so awesome they have center rotations for every subject they teach!  I have no issues with being told to teach centers.

Unfortunately, many teachers are not given the appropriate resources to accomplish this.  Sometimes they aren’t given anything at all.

I was so thankful when my grade departmentalized for two years.  One reason I loved it was because I taught science, so I didn’t have to worry about finding resources for all these differentiated reading centers every week…then having what I did find scrutinized when people walked through the room on a weekly basis.

I know I’m preaching to the choir.  Here’s how I’d like to help.

One of my go-to centers involved kids reading and responding to nonfiction passages.  I imagine many other teachers have a similar center.  So I have written free nonfiction paired texts about famous athletes on a variety of reading levels (grades 1-6) that include quizzes and writing prompts.  This will allow you to provide nonfiction reading materials on the students’ level.  All you have to do is put the passages in different colored folders, depending on the reading level of the kids in that group.   Then tell each group which folder to pull passages from.  This is just one of many ways to facilitate that.

I’ve tried my best to create these passages to look similar, so it won’t be obvious which passages are written on a lower reading level.  I try to avoid giving reading material that looked like it was straight out of a first-grade classroom to my struggling fifth-grade readers.

Middle-school teachers — I’ve also heard from teachers in grades 6-8 who said these were helpful for students who are reading below grade level, but need high-interest reading material that doesn’t look “babyish.”

Each set of paired texts comes with a quiz and writing prompt.  Each set of paired passages compares two famous athletes.  For example, the passages pictured above compare famous NBA players LeBron James and Steph Curry.

If you feel like your kids need a break from answering quiz questions, there are several other ways they could respond to these passages:

–Write a paragraph/essay comparing and contrasting these two athletes.  Compare and contrast how they became famous, what their childhood was like, what they’ve accomplished in their pro career, etc.

–Write a paragraph/essay giving your opinion as to which athlete is better.  Use text evidence to support your opinion.

–You could have also students verbally debate which athlete they think is better.  They could spend their time at the nonfiction reading center writing out facts to support their argument.  Then your entire class, regardless of which group students are in for centers, can debate which athlete they think is better.

–What are some things these two athletes did to become incredible players in their sport?  What did you learn about the importance of working hard from reading about their stories?  (I try to include examples of these athletes working hard in all of my passages!)

Click the images below to download a free set of differentiated passages.  I hope they help make planning for centers a bit easier.

If you need more, I also have differentiated paired texts about athletes in other sports like soccer, gymnastics, swimming, baseball, and more.  Click any of the images below for more information.  These products include three times the number of paired texts as the free products above.

I hope these resources will help you provide reading material that kids love on a reading level that won’t frustrate or bore them.  Thousands of teachers have used my paired texts.  Many have said how much their students love them.

I recently volunteered at a school to help with standardized testing.  I brought a few of my passages for the 3rd graders to read during breaks in testing.  One boy, who said on the first day that he hated reading, literally started dancing in his seat when I gave him reading passages about Ronaldo, who is a famous soccer player.  I’m confident you have students in your class who will feel the same level of excitement if they get to read about famous athletes during reading class.

The Perfect Book for Teaching Growth Mindset

Teaching growth mindset with Hatchet

Hatchet is the perfect book to help students understand the benefits of developing a growth mindset!  The story is about a 13-year-old boy, Brian, who survives a plane crash.  Then through sheer will power and determination, he survives in the wilderness for months until he is rescued.  Reading Brian’s story of survival gives you plenty of ways to teach your students growth mindset because Brian never gives up.  He forces himself to keep trying even when he fails.  The author does a brilliant job of illustrating how Brian talks to himself as he wills himself to accomplish tasks.  Brian is the perfect character for your students to read about as you teach them to develop a growth mindset.

In this blog post, I’ll give you three ways your students can learn why it’s important to develop a growth mindset after reading Hatchet.  After that, you’ll see three discussion topics that you can use with your students after they read Hatchet to reflect upon the growth mindset lessons they learned from Brian that they can apply in their lives.

Growth Mindset Lessons

Brian is never successful at first when he tries something new.  But the harder Brian works to achieve something, the more pride he feels when he accomplishes it.  

Brian finds berries to eat within a few days after crash landing.  Then he figures out how to catch fish.  But nothing compares to the pride he feels when he cooks his first bird and eats delicious meat.  Several chapters give details about Brian building tools to catch animals.  Then he improves those tools over and over again until they work.  In chapter 15, Brian starts craving meat.  So he figures out a way to finally catch birds that he calls “fool birds.”  It takes him a long time to figure out how to catch one.  Brian fails the first several times he tries to catch a fool bird.  But he never gives up.  When he finally catches one to cook, he says the meat tastes better than anything his mother has ever cooked.  Brian feels tremendous pride because he worked so hard to catch it.  The author does a brilliant job of illustrating all the work that went into catching a bird and the immense pride Brian felt when he was eating it.  This is a tremendous example for your students to see that nothing compares to the satisfaction of working hard to accomplish something.

 

Brian is a normal kid, but he learns a lot about surviving in nature because he is willing to learn from his mistakes.

The text is clear that Brian is not a genius or expert outdoorsman.  Brian is used to living in the city.  He had problems doing simple bike repairs before the plane crash.  He survives because he keeps trying to learn new things and realizes that failure is part of learning. In chapter 14, a skunk sneaks into Brian’s shelter at night and steals food.  Brian realizes he was foolish to bury them in the ground where any animal can get it.  After this failure, Brian realizes he needs to store his food in a high place where animals can’t steal it.  He finds a place, then he has to use tree branches to build a ladder for him to reach this place.  Once he has his food out of reach, he feels extremely proud.  He never has any more food stolen for the rest of the book.  It’s an outstanding example of Brian learning from a mistake.  There are MANY scenes like this where Brian fails, then learns from it.

 

Facing problems head-on becomes a habit for Brian.

The story is full of challenges for Brian.  But instead of getting discouraged by them, he always forces himself to think of solutions.  In chapter 16, Brian was attacked by a moose.  Later that night, his shelter was destroyed by a tornado.  But the next morning, Brian started thinking about how he would rebuild his shelter.  He realized he was “tough in the head” because he had gotten so used to facing problems rather than getting discouraged by them.  It had become a part of who he is.  This is an outstanding lesson for your students.  Just like working out can make you stronger physically, forcing yourself to solve problems rather than getting discouraged can make you stronger mentally.

Discussion topics:

In chapter 18, Brian retrieves a huge bag of supplies from the plane that crashed into the lake.  The bag is full of incredible things that will help Brian tremendously.  But the text in chapter 19 said the pack “Gave Brian up and down feelings.”  Why would Brian feel “down” about the contents of this bag?

Possible response:  Brian had spent about two months surviving on his own in the wilderness.  Other than his hatchet, he built everything on his own.  He figured out everything on his own.   These supplies are like a bunch of shortcuts.  Nothing about the last two months has been a shortcut for Brian.  Students may also think Brian is sad that he didn’t have these supplies at first.  But I feel like most of the text evidence suggests that Brian is not fond of using supplies that will make things like hunting, catching fish, and starting fires, a lot easier.

 

At the beginning of chapter 8, Brian is attacked by a porcupine in his sleep.  Besides the pain of the needles in his leg, why does he start crying?  Then what makes Brian realize that crying accomplishes nothing and how does that help him during the rest of the story?

Possible response:  At the end of chapter 7, Brian falls asleep feeling more content than he has since the plane crash.  He has a shelter and he’s full from eating a lot of berries.  But in the middle of the night, a porcupine gets into Brian’s shelter and shoots several sharp needles into Brian’s leg.  The pain is bad, but Brian feels terrible because he hasn’t figured out how to make fire yet.  He wonders what will happen if a larger animal gets into his shelter at night.  Then he feels like he will never be able to survive and starts sobbing uncontrollably.  When he’s done, the text states, “Later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work.  It wasn’t just that it was the wrong thing to do, or that it was considered incorrect.  It was more than that — it didn’t work.”  When Brian had problems later in the book, he didn’t cry.  He just kept thinking and trying new things until he found a solution.

 

After the rescue plane flies away in chapter 12, Brian feels like all hope is lost.  Then in chapter 13, the text states, “In measured time, forty-seven days had passed since the crash.  Forty-two days, he thought, since he had died and been born as the new Brian.”  Summarize what this means.  How has Brian become “the new Brian?”

Possible responses:  The rescue plane came a few days after Brian’s initial crash.  After Brian watched it fly away, he realized no one was coming for him.  He felt incredibly depressed and tried to kill himself.  But he didn’t.  The text states Brian returned to his shelter that night and realized, “He was not the same.  The plane crashing changed him, the disappointment cut him down and made him new.  He was not the same and would never be again like he had been.  That was one of the true things, the new things.  And the other one was that he would not die, he would not let death in again.”  This flashback that Brian has in chapter 13 happened 42 days earlier.  Students could also point to the fact that Brian never even thinks about quitting and never stops until he has figured out a way to accomplish what he sets his mind to.

I have created quizzes and writing prompts to help you teach Hatchet.  The prompts are excellent ways for your students to connect with the events in the book.  The quizzes are a quick way for you to ensure your students are comprehending the story.   Click the image below to see the novel study in my TpT store!

Teaching growth mindset with Hatchet

I hope your students enjoy this book and become more determined to get “tough in the head” just like Brian did!

 

The Key to Extraordinary — A Book That Will Spark Amazing Discussions

The Key to Extraordinary Discussion topics

Be warned:  You will pause many times while you read The Key to Extraordinary to ponder the words that you’ve just read!  I’ve never read a children’s book where I’ve stopped so many times to write down an awesome quote.

In this post, I’ve pulled out 10 excerpts that will lead to incredible discussions, or make excellent writing prompts, that are ideal for students in grades 4-7.  You’ll find PLENTY more as you read The Key to Extraordinary!!  I hope this post encourages you to read the book, which was published in January 2016!

Quick synopsis:  The story is about a 12-year-old girl named Emma whose family owns a business.  When Emma’s grandmother is forced to sell the business, Emma becomes determined to find a way to help keep it in her family.  Emma, like every other woman in her family’s history, has a dream that gives clues as to something extraordinary she will do in her life.  Emma is an extraordinary character, but she doesn’t realize how until the end of the story.

Here are some incredible excerpts for you to discuss with your students.  I’ve included the page number and the character who said it:

“In the eyes of many people, I may never live an extraordinary life.  But I will love in extraordinary ways.  And I hope I choose to always see the best in people.”   Emma, page 225

“Every creature in the world needs to be reminded that they aren’t alone.  That somebody cares about them.  That they have a friend to lead them out of the present mess.”  Emma, page 193

“Every day you live is a day for dreaming.  Every day is a day for adventuring.  And every day is a day for sharing with people you love, because love’s all that lasts.  It’s the only thing we carry out of this world.  It connects us all, in the end.”  Emma, page 224

“I think it’s kind of a cool way to live — to find something to celebrate every day.”  Emma’s friend, Cody Belle, page 111

“Fear is just a flashlight that helps you find your courage.”  Emma, page 42

“I think about how nobody knows how long they have in the world.  And how we only get a certain number of words to say and share.  I’d hate for the last words that come out of my mouth to be mean ones.  I don’t want my words wasted.”  Emma, page 95

“My mama used to say that everybody you meet is a walking, talking broken heart.  Some people put the pieces back together better than others.”  Emma, page 113

“But in the moment Cody Belle told me Earl was missing, I came to an important conclusion:  My treasures weren’t just in the walls of that place.  My treasure was the people I loved.”  Emma, page 190

**You may want to delete the first part of that quote about Earl being missing if your students haven’t read it yet, as it does give away a dramatic event that happens.**

“I learned that courage and fear always come as a pair.  If you’ve got one inside you, you’ve surely got the other.”  Emma, page 200

In chapter 13, Emma reads a relative’s letter.  This relative’s house was burned down by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.  The girl was blinded in one eye after the soldiers attacked her.  People wanted the girl to speak about this attack, but here’s how the girl responded:  “They wanted bloody details.  But I talked about forgiveness and family.  I talked about learning to rebuild a farm and a life, even though we started from ashes…sometimes, even doing the right thing will leave you with scars.  But beauty comes from ashes, too.  And I know that to be true.”  Rachel Miller, page 138

Trust me, there are MANY MORE thought-provoking words in Natalie Lloyd’s book!  I have eight more written down, but I didn’t want this post to go on forever!

I’ve created a novel study unit for this book because I want to make it easier for teachers to read The Key to Extraordinary with their class.  The writing prompts give your students more ways to respond to the book, in addition to the excerpts in this blog post.  The quizzes serve as quick comprehension checks after every two chapters.  Click the image below to grab these resources.

Key To Extraordinary Novel Study

I hope your students enjoy discussing what it means to be extraordinary!

 

Discussion Topics For 3 Books That Third Graders Will Enjoy

Books third graders will love

I taught third grade for nine years and it seemed that every one of my students loved reading books that involved animals!  All of the stories pictured include main characters who change because of a dog in the story.  These main characters also have to make difficult decisions based on their love for their dog.  There are also tons of great discussions you can have with your students as they read these books, so I’ve provided five ideas for each book.

Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo (AR level 3.9)

Plot:  The main character, Opal, has just moved to a new town and is lonely.  Her mother left when she was young, her dad is always busy as a preacher, and she is having a hard time making new friends.  But her life improves as soon as she brings home a stray dog, which she names Winn-Dixie.  Opal makes several new friends of all different ages and backgrounds as a direct result of things she is doing to take care of her new dog.

Third graders will enjoy this book because Opal loves talking about everything that’s on her mind when she’s around Winn-Dixie because she feels like the dog listens to her.  Many other characters fall in love with Winn-Dixie as the book progresses, which helps Opal make new friends.  Winn-Dixie seems to have a knack for gravitating toward nice people.  This helps Opal become friends with an older woman whom other kids call a “witch” and a man who people stay away from because he has been arrested.  Thanks to Winn-Dixie, kids learn why we shouldn’t judge people.

Discussion or writing topics:

–Which of Opal’s friends do you feel are the most unlikeliest friends she made?  Why do you feel this way about these two characters?  How did Winn-Dixie help Opal become friends with these two people?

–Why does Opal feel closer with her dad at the end of the book?  What three events do you think had the biggest impact on this?

–Would you like to have a dog like Winn-Dixie?  Explain why or why not.

–Why do you think Stevie, Dunlap, and Amanda started acting nicer to Opal at the end of the book?

–If Littmus Lozenges were real, do you think lots of people should eat them or not?  Explain why you feel this way.

I’ve created quizzes, writing prompts, vocabulary activities, cloze passages, and character-analysis pages to help you teach this awesome book.  Click the image to see this product in my TpT store.

Books about animals

Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (AR level 4.4)

Plot:  The main character is a boy named Marty who tries to keep a dog (Shiloh) away from an owner who abuses the dog.  Marty has always wanted a dog, but his parents say they can’t afford to take care of one.  But when Marty realizes that Shiloh’s owner abuses him, he does everything he can to keep the dog away from this owner.  Marty’s family lives in a rural area, so he finds places to hide Shiloh from his family while keeping him away from the owner (Judd).  He sneaks food from dinner and gives it to Shiloh.  Marty feels terrible that he lies to his parents, but he justifies it because he is keeping Shiloh away from a terrible owner.

Third graders will enjoy this book because it shows a young boy going to extreme lengths to keep a dog safe.  Marty bravely stands up to Judd by telling him that the way he’s treating Shiloh is wrong.  The author also describes how Shiloh acts happier around Marty.  At the end, Marty agrees to do odd jobs for Judd in exchange for letting him keep Shiloh.  Marty’s parents are still nervous about affording this dog, but warm up to him because he brings so much joy to their family.

Discussion topics:

–Would you lie to your parents to keep a dog safe?  Why or why not?

–How would the story have been different if Marty had immediately told his parents that he was keeping Shiloh at their house to keep him away from Judd?

–At the end of the story, why do Marty’s parents feel better about keeping Shiloh, even though they’re not earning any extra money?  Is there something in your life you think is this valuable, even if it’s really expensive to keep?

–Reflect on all the things Marty did to keep Shiloh safe throughout the story.  What would you have done differently to keep Shiloh safe?  What do you think is one thing Marty did that was a really good idea?

–After reading this story, what have you learned about why it’s challenging to stand up for what’s right?

I have created writing prompts and quizzes for each chapter of Shiloh.  Click the image below to see more!

Books for animal lovers

White Fur Flying, by Patricia MacLachlan (AR level 3.1)

Plot:  The main character is a girl named Zoe whose family often keeps animals who need help.  A family moves in across the street with a mother who hates dogs and a young boy who does not speak.  As Zoe gets to know this young boy, she learns he doesn’t speak because he blames himself for some family problems.  But Zoe learns this boy also loves dogs.  The story ends with people doing brave things, the young boy talking, and the woman changing her feelings about dogs.  Zoe’s pets contribute to all of these events.

Third graders will enjoy this book because the young boy, Phillip, has a lot of troubling thoughts on his mind.  It seems like he will never speak.  But once he starts interacting with Zoe’s dogs, he opens up a bit — not by his words, but with his actions.  Zoe’s family are experts with animals and show a lot of love and care to all animals.  Her dad is a vet and her mom rescues dogs who need a home.  There are lots of examples of Zoe and her family treating animals extremely kindly and respectfully.  But it’s the care that one of their dogs shows to Phillip in a dangerous situation that causes this young boy to open up for good.

Discussion topics:

–How did Zoe’s dogs have such a tremendous impact on the way Phillip’s behavior changed?  Do you think it’s possible for an animal to have a huge impact on people in real life like that?

–What do you think is the biggest reason why Phillip started talking?  Explain why you think this.

–Near the end of the story, Phillip calls Jack (Zoe’s dog) a hero.  Do you agree with Phillip?  Why or why not?  How would you define the word “hero?”

–Have you ever known someone like Phillip who doesn’t say much?  What would you do to help someone who is really shy?

–Describe what Zoe’s house is normally like.  Would you like to live in a home like that?  Why or why not?

These are some quizzes and writing prompts I’ve created for this book.  Click to see this product in my TpT store, where you can download a preview.

Books for animal lovers

Meaningful Assignments for Students Serving In-School Suspension

I always hate the assignments I send with students when they serve ISS.  I hate everything about ISS.  Obviously, when students are fighting or behaving extremely disrespectfully, they need to be removed from class.  But once he/she is taken to ISS, I despise gathering work for the student to do all day because I know I’m going to do a terrible job of doing so.

I always end up feeling guilty for the work I send.  I know I should have already prepared packets of work, but planning ahead is not exactly my strong suit.  So I end up grabbing workbooks and textbooks.  I spend about two minutes looking for things that will take this student a long time to complete.  Then I slap a few post-it notes with pages numbers to complete.  The entire time, I’m thinking, “This is such pointless work.”

These are the students who need the most support and I’m sending pointless work for them to do right after they’ve had a serious altercation with another student or teacher.  I always feel guilty, but I feel like I have no options because I only have a few minutes to find work because I’m in the middle of class.  The work also has to keep the student busy for a day without requiring too much effort from the ISS teacher who already has a million other things to do.

These are the students I’ve kept in mind as I’ve written over 200 passages about famous athletes.  As I research athletes like Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Usain Bolt, I look for stories about times they’ve made mistakes and how they overcame them.  When Kevin Durant was in high school, one of his basketball coaches was murdered.  Kevin was really upset because this coach was like a father to him.  Kevin’s performance on the court suffered because he started disrespecting opponents and hogging the ball.  Then Kevin realized his old coach would not want him to play like that.  Kevin stopped doing those things and his play improved.  The students who are sitting in ISS need to realize that huge celebrities like Kevin Durant make mistakes just like them.  Our students need to read stories of successful people who learn from mistakes and are determined never to make the same mistake twice.  Now, Kevin Durant is one of the most respected players in the NBA.

When I write these passages, I also include stories of how hard these athletes have worked to achieve success.  I describe how these athletes have put in years and years of insanely hard work to be successful.  When NFL quarterback Tom Brady was growing up, he hated that his sisters were better athletes than him.  He was determined to do whatever it took to be the best athlete in his family.  Now he is one of the greatest quarterbacks in American football history!  Here are some passages where the headline shows you the focus of the passage.

Meaningful work for ISS

I’ve written three sets of passages about most athletes.  For example, my set about LeBron James and Michael Jordan includes paired texts about their childhood, pro sports career, and charity work.

Meaningful work for ISS students

Each set of paired texts includes a quiz.  There’s also a writing prompt that ties all the passages together.  The first page, which you can give to the ISS teacher, explains which two passages go together.  Answer keys are also provided.  You can print a few copies of each set to have in a file folder for those times when you have to immediately send work for ISS.

Meaningful work for ISS students

Some teachers have told me the work for ISS should be boring busy-work, which I totally disagree with.  The punishment for the student should come in the form of isolation from his/her peers, not pointless assignments.

In addition to classroom teachers, I encourage ISS teachers to try a few of my paired texts. A few ISS teachers have left feedback on my paired texts saying they were helpful when kids in ISS finished the assignments sent by the classroom teacher.  They are also helpful when the student’s classroom teacher is unable to send work on time.

Click any of the images below to see all the paired texts I have available in my TpT store.  I’ve written passages on more than 70 athletes who compete in a variety of sports, so I’m sure you’ll find topics that will interest your students.  I also have passages written on a variety of reading levels to help you meet the needs of your students.

Paired Texts About Famous Athletes for Grades 5-6Paired Texts About Famous Athletes for Grades 3-4

Paired Texts About Famous Athletes for Grades 1-2

Feel free to email me at keithgeswein@keithgeswein.com or leave feedback in my TpT store to let me know how these work for you.  Thank you for the 5,236,823 things you do for your students every day!

Inspirational African Americans Your Students Need to Learn More About

 

 

Dr. Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman

I taught third grade at an international school in China for four years.  Most of my students were Korean children whose parents worked in China.  Our big project every year was a wax museum presentation, where students would dress up as famous people and stand like wax statues, speaking only when people walked up to them.  EVERY YEAR, I had several boys ask to be Martin Luther King and several girls ask to be Harriet Tubman.  It was so cool to see my Korean students in China be so inspired by these two!

During my ten years of teaching the US, I tried to keep as many books about Dr. King and Harriet Tubman in my classroom library because my students loved reading about them.  It was a no-brainer for me to write informational texts about them.  I think it’s great for students to see how hard these two worked to help African Americans.  It’s also cool for students to compare the way they worked — Tubman often worked in secret to help slaves escape via the Underground Railroad, while Dr. King wanted most of his actions to be made publicly.  This leads to some excellent class discussions about how two completely different techniques can be used to achieve the same goal.

Here’s what my paired texts about MLK and Harriet Tubman look like.  Click the image to see the product in my TpT store.  From there you can download a preview to see more of this or purchase the set for $4.

Paired texts about inspirational African Americans

 

Edmonia Lewis (sculptor) and Garrett Morgan (inventor)

These two should receive more attention.  Edmonia Lewis is the first African-American woman whose sculptures received international recognition.  She attended college in 1859 to study art, but she had to leave before earning her degree because she was accused of crimes she didn’t commit.  Then she had to break into a profession that was dominated by white men.  She refused to take no for an answer and eventually found someone to mentor her.  She made a sculpture that helped her earn enough money to move to Rome.  But my favorite fact about Edmonia is how she carved her own marble sculptures in Rome.  Most other sculptors who worked in Italy made a model, then hired locals to do the physically-demanding job of carving the sculpture into the marble.  BUT NOT EDMONIA!!!  Even though she was about four feet tall, she refused to hire help because she didn’t want anyone to question the validity of her work.  Edmonia’s sculptures featured characteristics of her African-American and Native-American (Chippewa) heritage.  Kids who love art will be inspired by her story!

Garrett Morgan invented things that saved lives.  He saw problems, then invented things to solve them.  He noticed the firefighters sometimes died from suffocation when they entered buildings full of smoke.  So he invented the first gas mask in 1912 that allowed firefighters to breathe in smoky buildings.  This invention helped him rescue miners who were trapped in a tunnel in Cleveland in 1916.  Garrett’s gas mask helped him breathe long enough to rescue two men who were trapped.  A few years later, he witnessed a terrible car accident at an intersection in Cleveland.  So he invented a traffic signal that included a “warning” signal to give people time to slow down before the signal turned red.  It’s why traffic lights today have the yellow light.  Garrett’s story will inspire students who have a passion for creating things that help people.

Click the image below to see my paired texts about Lewis and Morgan.

 

Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles:  Olympic gold-medal gymnasts

Simone Biles dominated gymnastics at the 2016 Olympics like no one else has ever done before.  But in 2011, she missed making the US team by one spot.  She made the US team the next year, but she was a year too young to compete in the 2012 Olympics.  So that meant she was going to have to train for four years to compete in the Olympics.  Instead of getting discouraged, Simone got to work — and she did so with an amazing attitude.  Her story is a perfect example of how to handle disappointment and how years of hard work can pay off in incredible ways.

Gabby Douglas is one of the few US gymnasts to compete in two Olympics.  She became a superstar when she won the all-around at the 2012 Olympics.  She was disappointed that she didn’t win any individual gold medals in 2016, but she was more disappointed at all the criticism she received.  For some reason, Gabby has been the focus of lots of unfair, hurtful criticism on social media during both Olympics.  Some reporters in Rio seemed more interested in getting her reaction to mean tweets than asking about her gymnastics routines.  But I hope you show your students this quote from Gabby because it sets such a powerful example of how to respond to people who criticize you:

“When you go through a lot and you have so many difficulties and people against you sometimes, it kind of just determines your character.  Are you going to stand or are you going to crumble?  I have no regrets coming back for a second Olympic team.  It’s been an amazing experience.  It’s been teaching me a lot.”

My paired texts about Gabby and Simone are FREE!  Click the image below to download this free item.

Inspirational paired texts about African Americans

 

LeBron James and Michael Jordan (NBA)

When LeBron James was young, he moved a lot and was raised by his mother.  They didn’t have much money.  I think it’s powerful for young people who are living in a similar situation to realize they can grow up to be successful.  Sports played a huge role in stabilizing LeBron’s life when he was young.  When he started playing football and basketball, he met lots of awesome people who were great role models for him.  Maybe you have students who are in a similar situation…maybe sports can be the positive thing they need in their life, just like LeBron when he was young.

Michael Jordan is one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he didn’t make his high-school varsity team his sophomore year.  Lots of kids know that story, but it’s important for your students to read about his failed attempt at playing Major League Baseball.  Michael abruptly retired from the NBA in 1993 at the peak of his career.  He then tried out for the Chicago White Sox because he has always loved baseball.  But he wasn’t very good.  He spent his brief baseball career in the minor leagues, where he didn’t hit very well.  It was so strange to see one of the greatest athletes ever struggle so mightily on the baseball field.  Michael retired from baseball in 1995 and returned to the NBA.   It’s great for your students to read about one of the world’s greatest athletes TRYING something new, FAILING, then returning to DOMINATE the NBA!

Click the image below to see more of my paired texts about LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Paired texts about inspirational African Americans

I hope your students will learn a lot by reading about these inspirational people!

Paired Texts That Will Have Your Students Begging for More

Engaging paired texts about famous athletes

When I think about my experiences in school, I remember being bored during reading class.  The stories in our reading book were always so boring.  I remember rushing through my work so I could read the things that I wanted, which were books about sports!

My best memories of school came during the Scholastic Book Fair because they had books about football and basketball!!  Every year, I eagerly bought all the books about my favorite athletes and teams.  Then I returned to class and rushed through my work so I could read them.   I credit these sports books for developing my reading skills because I was such a picky reader.  I bet some of my teachers considered me a “reluctant reader.”

Fast forward (more years than I’d like to admit) and I realize that several 5th graders in my class are just like me.  There are lots of kids who are desperate for something to read that they can relate to.  I feel like there are lots of great fiction books, but it seems a lot of students zone out when they read nonfiction.  There are lots of kids who are huge sports fans, but I’ve noticed there’s a shortage of high-quality, nonfiction reading material about sports.

That’s why I have written over 200 passages about famous athletes for grades 1-6.

Here’s what a set about Steph Curry and Kobe Bryant looks like.  (Steph and Kobe are famous basketball players.)  If you click the image it will take you to that product and you can download a preview.

Engaging paired texts about famous athletes

Students will perform better in reading class if they are reading about a topic they care about.  We have tons of kids who love sports, but it seems like there aren’t enough stories about athletes.  The passages I’ve written about LeBron James, Cam Newton, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt, or Simone Biles will light a spark under some of your reluctant readers because they will finally be reading about a topic they care about.

I’ve been pleased to hear from many teachers that these passages engage even their most reluctant readers, students who sound just like me when I was in school!  Here are some of the things teachers have said after using my paired texts with their students:

“It really peaked the interest of my 4th graders, especially the boys…kids were asking to do extra!

“Students loved these and begged for more!”

“My students cheer when they see these selections.  The question that comes after is, ‘Can we have more?  We love reading about sports figures.'”

“All of the texts are full of great information.  Finally, I’ve found something that my kids will read!!”

“We used it for center time and they were talking about the players long after!”

“My students really enjoyed reading them which makes teaching a whole lot easier.”

“Boys in my middle school intervention class loved this!  Something they would finally read about willingly!”

“It really makes reluctant readers want to read.” 

“The kids loved how they could relate to the topic.  They’re much more engaged when they love the topic!”

“All of my students enjoyed the passages and they sparked lively discussions.”

I started by writing these passages on a 5th-6th grade reading level.  Then I had several teachers say they needed these passages written on lower reading levels.  So I have also created several sets for kids who are reading on a 3rd-4th grade reading level and 1st-2nd grade reading level.

The following three images show an example one set of paired texts written on a range of reading levels.  Click any of these three images to download a free sample that best suits your needs, or grab them all so you can differentiate!

      

If you’d like to see more, click any of the three images below to browse my selection of paired texts for the reading level you want.  Most sets are either $3 or $4.

If you need passages for Google Classroom, be sure to grab this free resource about LeBron James and Steph Curry (grades 5-6).  The passages are in a Google Slides file and the quiz is in a Google Forms file so you can assign these activities digitally if you have the resources to do so.

Paired passages about famous basketball players for Google Classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I make sure to include stories about these athletes working hard, overcoming challenges, and dealing with criticism.  I also include passages about each athletes’ charity work.  I’m confident your students will learn a ton about hard work, perseverance, and helping others by reading about these athletes.

I spent 30-40 hours researching, writing, and proofreading each set of paired texts.  I ensure all of the quiz questions are aligned to new standards.  I triple check facts in the passages for accuracy.

I’ve been a huge sports fan my whole life.  These passages will help some of your students become a huge fan of your reading lessons.

 

 

Four Books That Fifth Graders Won’t Stop Reading

Books Your Fifth Graders Won't Stop Reading

(Yes, that’s my daughter reading Hoot.  My legs are still sore!)

The best part of teaching fifth grade is watching kids get really excited about a good book.  It’s such a shame that reading “experts” in so many districts require teachers to use test-prep passages to teach reading.  Fifth graders are at an age where they crave relationships.  They love reading good books because they feel a connection with the story’s characters — something that’s impossible to do with a 2-3 page test-prep passage.

I’ve got about 8-10 awesome go-to books that I know fifth graders love.  But I always struggled to find time to read new books.  Then if I found a good book, I had to find resources to help me teach the standards using that book.

My goal with this blog post is to give you a brief description of four books and link you to resources I’ve created that can help you cover the standards while using quality literature.  I want you to be able to enjoy these books with your class, not worry about finding activities.

I know you can Google the synopsis of these books, but I will explain a few reasons why fifth graders will enjoy them.  Click the images if you’d like to see the novel study resources I’ve created for each book.

Ungifted, by Gordon Korman

This is about a boy (Donovan) who gets sent to a new school so he can avoid a huge punishment.  But then he surprisingly ends up enjoying this new school way more than his old one.

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Donovan does not fit in at his new school because he’s not as smart as everyone else.  But he finds ways to fit in, earn the respect of his new classmates, and show that intelligence is not something that is only measured by grades on a report card.

–Donovan is very loyal to his family.

–Donovan is not afraid to take risks.  Here’s a response from one of my 5th graders who loves that Donovan is not a “normal” character.

Five Books Fifth Graders Will Love

 

Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen

This is about a boy named Roy who helps two other kids stand up to a major corporation so lots of animals will be able to keep their home.

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Roy’s new friends delay this corporation’s project through some creative and funny methods, one of which involves putting gators in port-a-potties.

–They are protecting adorable baby owls.

–Roy stands up to a boy who is bullying him, but not by fighting him.

–At first, Roy has problems adjusting to his family’s move from Montana to Florida.  I’m sure you have students who have moved and miss their old home.

As you can see from the picture above, my daughter couldn’t put this book down!  Here are the novel study resources I’ve created that gave my students things to write about and discuss as they read Hoot.

Books fifth graders will love

 

Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor

This story does a brilliant job of illustrating the life of an African-American family living in Mississippi in the 1930s.  Students will learn how racism affected the lives of African-American families during this time.  Students should realize how racist comments and actions have a devastating impact on people’s lives.  Hopefully, after reading about Cassie’s family, your students will think twice about making racist comments and/or posting hateful messages and images on social media.

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Cassie is a very strong-willed young girl who stands up for what is right.  She has to make many difficult decisions.  Sometimes she regrets her choices.  But she always tries to do the right thing.

–Cassie’s parents and grandmother refuse to respond to racism with violence.  Instead, they come together in support of the entire black community.

–Your students have probably heard, or been the victim of, racist comments.  Cassie and her family will help your students learn the importance of standing up against racism, and ways of doing so without fighting.

–Your students will develop a STRONG connection with Cassie’s family.  They will feel angry and sad about the racist things that are done in the story.  Prepare for some deep questions and strong emotions as your students read this…which is exactly what we want when kids read, right?

There are LOTS of ways for your students to respond to this book!

Books Fifth Graders Will Love

 

Pie, by Sarah Weeks

This is a fun book about a girl’s mission to carry on her aunt’s legacy of baking wonderful pies as a way to unite her community.  The girl, Alice, also mends her rocky relationship with her mom, solves a mystery, and gains a lifelong friend.  If you’re looking for a new book to try with your class, I highly recommend Pie!

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Every chapter starts with a pie recipe!  Don’t read this book on an empty stomach!

–After Alice’s Aunt Polly (the famous pie chef) dies, many people try to get their hands on her secret recipes.  There are several mysteries that Alice attempts to figure out regarding this recipe.  Alice also has to figure out who is trying to steal these recipes.

–In the end, Alice learns to be content with whatever life gives you.  She gets along much better with her mom.  And she carries on her aunt’s legacy of baking pies to unite the community.

–This book was selected by Florida students in grades 3-5 as the best book on the state’s 2015-16 SSYRA list!  Every year, the SSYRA (Sunshine State Young Readers Award) committee selects 15 awesome books for students to read that year. Then  kids across Florida who read them vote on a winner.  It’s a really cool process!  I taught fifth grade in Florida for five years and always loved the books on the SSYRA list!

–Again, discussion and response topics are numerous with this book!

Four Books Fifth Graders Will Love

I know the pressure to teach test-prep passages is enormous.  It’s a shame that lots of teachers feel like they have to “sneak” good books in during their reading block instead using those boring passages.  But I hope you are able to read these books with your class this year.  I have created writing prompts and quizzes for each book.  For Hoot, I also have made vocabulary pages, cloze activities, and task cards with discussion topics.  Click the picture below to check them out!  They are available together at a discounted price, or individually if you’d prefer.

Novel studies for books that fifth graders love