Book Theme: Change is in the Air

Sunday, October 4, 2015

October Theme of the Month: Change is in the Air

Indian Summer has ended, the nights are starting to cool off, and soon the leaves will be changing. Fall is my absolute favorite season of the year, I love everything about it! I thought we could celebrate that in the classroom with the theme: change is in the air.

The perfect book for our October theme is the Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg. The stranger is a mysterious book with a very ambiguous ending, lending itself open to different interpretations and amazing discussions!

Here’s a mini “movie” based on the book:

Activities and Resources for The Stranger:

Other books with the theme “change is in the air”:

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Flipping for Fall Mentor Texts

Friday, October 2, 2015


Welcome to Reading Royalty! I'm so glad you're stopping by The Reading Crew's blog hop! 

Fall is my favorite time of year! I love the cooler weather, beautiful New England scenery, and pumpkin spice everything! We're getting back into the swing of things at school and diving into some fabulous fall themed mentor texts. 

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything
by Linda D. Williams is the mentor text I chose to focus on. This is one of my absolute favorite Halloween themed books! It's about an old lady who goes for a walk in the woods and is confronted by different scary items that follow her on her way back home. I use it in grades K-2 to work on sequencing. 

The Little Old Lady Who is Not Afraid of Anything is such an engaging book with lots of opportunities for beginning readers to play a part in the read aloud! 

My favorite part of this book is that each scary item that follows the little old lady is accompanied by it's own sound. For example, when she encounters the first item in the woods, the text states: "The shoes went CLOMP, CLOMP." These items and their sounds build on one another and repeat throughout the story. The sequence of each item that follows her home is very clear and the repetition is a perfect way to practice sequencing with young students. 

There are a lot of ways you can use this book to help young students with sequencing. I love to teach using multi-modalities as much as possible and The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything allows me to do just that! Using movement, sound, and props will keep students engaged and help them remember the sequence of events. You can have students join in while you're reading the repetitive text or (and the little kiddos love this) you can come up with a movement to go along with each sound. 

There are a lot of ways you could use these companion activities! 

During reading, you can use the phrase cards and or picture cards to engage students. Laminate, glue on to craft sticks, and pass out to students to hold while you read the story aloud. When students hear their phrase or the name of their item, they can hold it up and repeat the phrase.                                                                                           After reading, you can use the phrase and picture cards as a matching activity by matching the picture to the correct phrase from the book. They can also be used to get the class up and moving to practice sequencing. Place your students into groups of six, give each student a picture card to hold, and have them work together to sequence the pictures. Extend the activity by having each student retell his or her part of the story. 

A differentiated printable activity is also included. One version includes traceable phrases from the story in order. The other is blank. Students can trace, cut and paste, or write the phrases on their own depending on their ability level. For both activities students cut, sequence, and paste the picture cards in the numbered boxes to retell the events in the story. 
If you like this freebie you may also enjoy these other Halloween activities: 
Trick or Treat Graphing $1 Deal
Descriptive Writing: Create a Monster $1 Deal
Halloween Literacy Centers

Did you catch my mystery word?  If not, it's clomp. Now it's time to hop to the next stop! Thanks for visiting my blog!

Happy Teaching!   
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Book Theme: Perspective

Sunday, September 6, 2015

September Theme of the Month: Perspective 

It is so important for our students to consider multiple perspectives, whether it is in reading or in their everyday lives. Oftentimes, children (especially younger children) do not realize that people have a perspective different from their own. Exposing them to this through books is important in helping them realize it applies to their everyday life as well.

Hey Little Ant, which is based on a song written by Phillip Hoose and his daughter Hannah, is a fabulous way to introduce perspective to students. This book is written in the perspective of the ant negotiating with the “kid” who is about to flatten him. The book is left open-ended, which allows for some wonderful discussion about what the “kid” should do, persuasion, and how each character feels.

Here’s a read aloud for Hey Little Ant:

Activities and Resources for Hey Little Ant:

Other books with the theme “perspective”:

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Book Theme: Back to School

Sunday, August 2, 2015

August Theme of the Month: Back to School

With school starting up again soon (how fast did the summer fly by?) I thought it would be a great time to focus on back to school books. Students and teachers are always nervous starting a new school year, but we need to embrace the new beginning and start fresh!

One of my favorite back to school books to read is Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes. This little mouse reminds me SO much of myself as a child (and sometimes as an adult). I worry about EVERYTHING. It’s a great read aloud to remind students that everyone has worries, especially on the first day of school.

Wemberly Worried Book Trailer:

Activities and Resources for Wemberly Worried:

Other books for the first day of school:

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Favorite Back to School Book

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


My favorite book to read to students on the first day of school is A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. I love it so much that I featured it as my book of the month in May, and felt like I needed to revisit it for my favorite back to school book!

A Bad Case of Stripes is about a girl, Camilla Cream, who loves lima beans. She is afraid to admit it because no one else in her class likes them and she wants so badly to fit in. She is sent home from school when she begins to suffer some strange transformations, like turning red, white, and blue, and breaking out in stars during the Pledge of Allegiance. Being true to herself is the only cure.

I've used this book successfully with students in grades 2-5. The first day of school is a perfect time to read A Bad Case of Stripes because students are often feeling nervous about fitting in with their new classmates. This book shows students that being true to themselves is important.

If you plan on using this book, use my free bulletin board activity to accompany the read aloud! It includes 4 sets of mini posters (2 boy versions and 2 girl versions). After listening to the read aloud, students create their own "Bad Case of..." mini poster by decorating it with their favorite foods, activities, sports, books, etc. Students can share their mini-posters as a way to introduce themselves to the class. Collect each student's poster to make a quick and easy bulletin board for the beginning of the year!

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Unlocking the Levels of Comprehension

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Reading is an active process. In order to become proficient readers, students need to be able to not only decode the words they are reading, but also deeply understand what they are reading.

When upper elementary teachers share concerns about their most struggling readers with me, nine times out of ten, they're concerned with comprehension. Comprehension is such a HUGE umbrella! Used broadly, it's extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly where a student's comprehension breaks down, or to implement an effective intervention for them.

In an effort to break it down into more manageable chunks, think of comprehension in three levels: literal, inferential, and critical.

Literal Comprehension

Literal comprehension is understanding information that is directly stated in the text. Literal comprehension involves recalling information, sequencing events, summarizing, identifying the main idea and details, and categorizing.

Sample literal questions:
  • What are the key details from the story?
  • Who are the characters in the story?
  • What is the problem/solution?
  • What is the main idea of this section?

Inferential Comprehension

Inferential comprehension is understanding something that is not directly stated in the text. Students use evidence from the text along with their background knowledge to make inferences - reading between the lines. Inferential comprehension involves making predictions and connections, understanding figurative language, drawing conclusions, and synthesizing.

Sample inferential questions:
  • Based on what you know, what might happen next?
  • What is the message or lesson in this story?
  • What kind of person is the character? How did the author show what the character is like?
  • How did the character change from the beginning to the end of the book?

Critical Comprehension

Critical (evaluative) comprehension requires the reader to respond to the text based on their prior knowledge and their opinions. This is a high level of comprehension because the reader is evaluating the writing. Because opinions vary and everyone has their own background knowledge, answers to critical comprehension questions will vary. Critical comprehension involves analyzing, evaluating, and making judgments.

Sample critical questions:
  • What did the author do to make the book surprising?
  • Do you agree with the character's actions? Explain.
  • Is _____ (title) a good title for this book? Explain. 
  • How could the character have reacted differently to the problem?

Being able to determine where a student struggles within these three tiers can help teachers to focus their instruction and create a more effective intervention.

Last year, I began compiling all of the comprehension questions I would ask students before, during, and after reading. I categorized the questions into grade levels using the CCSS and broke them into the three tiers of comprehension. I use these question lists while working with each of my intervention groups.

Interested in using these comprehension questions? The sets can be used one-on-one, in small groups, or as a whole class. Use them to set reading goals, track student progress, and to help students dig deeper and propel them toward more difficult texts.

They are available for grades K-8. Each grade level set is $4 in my TpT store.

Happy Teaching!
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Book Theme: Patriotism

Saturday, July 4, 2015

July Theme of the Month: Patriotism

America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynn Cheney is a fabulous, quick read aloud for all elementary aged students. The younger students seem to enjoy the alphabet structure of the book, while older elementary students are engaged with the concepts about the history of America.

Activities and Resources for America: A Patriotic Primer

Patriotic Activities and Crafts:

Other books with the theme patriotism:
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Summer Reading Series - Week 4: My Grown Up Summer Reading List

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Welcome to the fourth and final week of my summer reading series! 

I thought I would make myself a grown up summer reading list. We leave for Las Vegas in 9 days (can’t wait!) and I need some reading materials for all the travelling! I came up with a list of books I’m going to read for the trip and hopefully over the rest of the summer! Not professional books.. Not kids books.. But actual fun grown up books. It’s a shame I don’t read those as much anymore, but summer is the perfect time to catch up!

Michaela's Grown Up Summer Reading List:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A New York Times Bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. 

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Cecilia Fitzpatrick finds a letter from her husband to be opened in the event of his death, but he is not dead. What happens next changes her existence forever. 

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
The little-known history of North Carolina's Eugenics Sterilization Program, in effect from 1929 to 1975. While working with 15 year old Ivy and her family, Jane Forrester, a social worker, encounters the state program that seeks to sterilize "mental defectives". 

The One and Only by Emily Giffin
33 year old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas. When an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit community, Shea's world is turned upside down. She discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she's always trusted most and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets. 

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
This psychological thriller will be released on July 28, 2015. Heidi Wood sees a teenage girl standing on a train platform clutching an infant in her arms. She invited the girl and her baby to take refuge in her family home. Clues into the girl's past begin to surface and an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could've anticipated. 

I’m always looking for new books to read. What’s on your grown up summer reading list?
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Summer Reading Series - Week 3: Professional Books

Sunday, June 21, 2015

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Thanks for checking out week 3 of my summer reading series! 

In week three, we're focusing on professional books. I know most of you are already out enjoying summer vacation. We are SO close. Two more school days! When I am on vacation, I try to keep up to date by reading professional books over the summer.

I chose this book because I’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of teacher language. This is a short read, only 120 pages. It suggests that how teachers talk to children is critical to how they develop as learners. Creating a healthy environment  in the classroom through appropriate lessons is just as important as selecting content.

This doesn’t necessarily have to do with school, but I felt like it might tie in enough to include! I’ve been thinking a lot about my own experiences as an introverted teacher. It’s difficult, especially among my many extroverted colleagues. I think it could be particularly helpful when thinking about those introverted kiddos in our classrooms.

Falling in Love with Close Reading

by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts
Close reading has been a hot topic in ELA this year and I’ve been wanting to learn more about it! I work strictly with struggling readers and hope that the strategies of close reading can help them to dig deeper and strengthen their comprehension skills. The authors give a three step close reading ritual that students can apply to any text.

Reading in the Wild
by Donalyn Miller
I loved the Book Whisperer, so I know I will be just as engrossed in Reading in the Wild! This book offers advice and strategies on how to develop, encourage, and assess five key reading habits to instill a lifelong love of reading in our students.

I was given Teach Like a Champion by my principal during my first year of teaching. I love the book. I found it very easy to read and I still use many of the strategies I learned to this day. Teach Like a Champion 2.0 gives 62 techniques that put students on the path to college. Many of these techniques are included from the first edition, but have been refined and adapted by teachers.  I’m especially excited about this book because there is an online community available with videos of teachers modelling techniques in their own classrooms.

What professional books are you reading this Summer?
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Motivate Reluctant Readers this Summer

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Head over to Who's Who and Who's New to read my newest blog post: Motivate reluctant readers this summer! 

We all know a reluctant reader, whether they are our students or our own children. What can we do to ease the stress and tension summer reading creates for families? Read my blog post for some easy tips! There just might be a really fun FREEBIE - so check it out

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TPT Seller Challenge - Week 1: Makeover Madness!

Monday, June 15, 2015

I've joined up with Third in Hollywood, Sparkling in Second, Peppy Zesty Teacherista, and Teach Create Motivate, along with about a zillion other amazing TPT sellers for the TPT Seller Challenge! 

I may be in a little over my head since I STILL have three weeks until I'm on Summer vacation, but I'll do my best to keep up!

This week, the challenge is to makeover a resource from my store. Luckily for me, I am in the midst of completely overhauling everything in my store!

All of the products featured below sell in my TPT store for $5. In celebration of their new makeovers, each of the items will be on sale for $3 through June 18th! If you already own them, be sure to check your purchases tab on TPT and download the new and improved versions! 

The original product contained 30 themed postcards. I have created an additional 10 postcards, updated all of the fonts, and added beautiful new clip art! I LOVE the new look for these postcards and so will your students! They will be perfect to get your students excited for the new school year. 

The set below is not grade specific. If you're looking for a specific grade level, check out my other postcard sets:  
Kindergarten Postcards 
1st Grade Postcards 
2nd Grade Postcards 
3rd Grade Postcards 
4th Grade Postcards 
5th Grade Postcards 

I loved the content and layout of everything within the product, but was not impressed with the cover, so I gave it a facelift! This is one of my very favorite products and can be used with ANY text! It includes 7 posters, 24 task cards, 24 question stems, and a graphic organizer to help students develop critical thinking skills! 

Don't forget to check out #TPTsellerchallenge on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to find hundreds of other teacher authors who are participating!
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Summer Reading Series - Week 2: Books for Kids

Sunday, June 14, 2015

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Welcome to week two of my four week summer reading series!

Last week, I wrote about ideas to make summer reading more "social". Today I’m going to focus on some amazing books for kids!

Here are some of my personal picks:

Picture Book:
The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
I am obsessed with this book! It is SO adorable and funny! Kids of all ages will be enchanted with this book.The Day the Crayons Quit is about a young boy, Duncan, who just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit!

Early Chapter Book:
Clementine (Series) by Sara Pennypacker
Series are a perfect way to get children, especially our reluctant readers, hooked on reading! Clementine, a third grader, tries to help out her friend Margaret, but ends up in a lot of trouble. Things get worse each day of the week and Clementine worries that her family might think they'd have been better off if they only had her little brother. 

Middle Grade Chapter Book:
I could give you a list of 1,001 phenomenal middle grade books. My 5th graders would always tell me "Mrs. Almeida, every book can't be your favorite book!" I just LOVE this age range!

I stumbled upon this book in a gift shop on our field trip last year. We were studying the American Revolution and one of the kids asked if I'd read it. I bought it and read it all the way home on the bus.. and at my desk after school.. I couldn't put it down! The opening chapter is RIVETING!

Sophia's War by Avi 
In 1776, Sophia Calderwood witnesses a horrific event and resolves to help the American cause. Recruited as a spy, she becomes a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of the British forces in America. Through her work she becomes aware that someone in the American army is switching sides, but their identity is so shocking that no one believes her, so Sophia decides to stop them herself, at great personal peril. 

Even More Book Lists:
Stay tuned next week for part 3: Professional Books to Read this Summer
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Summer Reading Series - Week 1: Social Summer Reading

Saturday, June 6, 2015

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This is the first part of a one month series about summer reading!
In this post, I want to share a few summer reading ideas for schools and families! It is so important that students continue to read over the summer. According to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association: "A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months (roughly 22 percent) of the school year.” So let’s prevent the summer slide!

Here are some fun ideas to make summer reading more "social":

(be super careful. Apple’s emojis are copyrighted, so don’t use and distribute them illegally!) I've created a freebie perfect for student responses to summer reading! Download it here

Does your school keep in touch with families through social media? Create your own hashtag! For example: #Yourelementaryschoolsummerreading
and encourage parents to post pictures of their children reading over summer vacation. One of the elementary schools in my district did this over Spring break and it was a HUGE hit! The teachers even set up a slideshow of pictures to show students upon their return. We all know how connected everyone is to social media these days! This could be a way to keep students and parents motivated!

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge – Power Up and Read is
a free online program for students to log their reading minutes with the goal of setting a new world record! 

Stay tuned for part two of my Summer Reading Series: Must Read Books for Summer (Grades K-6)
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Book Theme: Perseverance

Monday, June 1, 2015

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June Theme of the Month: Perseverance

I think we all need a little perseverance when it comes to the end of the school year, especially with 17 school days ahead of us (it was a particularly brutal winter in New England and we’re paying for it now). This is one of my favorite themes and it is SO important to instill this in our students.

Perseverance through a difficult assignment, persevering through an emotionally tough time in life, these are all things are students are going to encounter as they grow. They need to realize that it is possible to never give up when faced with these difficulties, because they are inevitable and how we respond can shape our lives.

An amazing book with the theme is The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. I love this book! It is so relatable!

Here’s a book trailer for The Most Magnificent Thing: 

Activities and Resources for The Most Magnificent Thing:

Other books with the theme "perseverance":

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Table of Contents Structure: Part II

Sunday, May 24, 2015

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Last week, I shared how we began thinking of different types of structures for tables of contents. Now that we've figured out ways we could organize them, we have to make a decision!

Each of the ideas we came up with for setting up our tables of contents would give us a very different book. This was something that the students struggled to understand. I tried to help focus their writing by asking “what do you WANT to teach others about your topic?” I think I asked this question 235 times during my conferences. The set up that came the easiest to them ended up being the one they all chose to work with.

Here’s how it works: Students first need to decide what they want their book to focus on. They will use the parts, types, ways, or first to last graphic organizer to come up with a list (see last week's post for more info). They will choose the one that fits their topic the best to create their table of contents.  For example, I’m choosing a first to last structure about the Fujita Scale. That column will become my table of contents. Each of my bullet points will become my headings/chapter titles.

Authors want their table of contents follows a logical sequence. Continuing with my topic of tornadoes, I've organized the table of contents in the order of the Fujita Scale from least to greatest. I've chosen to add a chapter in the beginning explaining what the Fujita Scale is and its history. This will help readers understand the chapters that follow.

To keep readers engaged, authors also want to create chapter titles that align with the main idea of their book. Instead of just listing F0-F5, I chose to give a short phrase describing the damage at each level. Students may also want to set their chapters up as questions, with alliterations, or short descriptions.

The Power of Tornadoes
Chapter 1: Measuring Power - The Fujita Scale
Chapter 2: F0 – Broken Branches
Chapter 3: F1 – Snapped Tree Trunks
Chapter 4: F2 – Roofs Ripped Off
Chapter 5: F3 – Damaged Walls
Chapter 6: F4 – Houses Leveled
Chapter 7: F5 – Everything is Blown Away

The students and I created a table of contents about dogs as a guided practice. We chose the ways structure about taking care of a pet dog. Students wanted to set it up in question form. Another option I thought would be fun is to incorporate alliterative dog names into the chapter titles. 

Devoted Dog Owners
Chapter 1: Should I get a Pet Dog?
Chapter 2: Feeding Fido
Chapter 3: Walking Wally
Chapter 4: Playful Pal
Chapter 5: Cleaning Cooper
Chapter 6: Training Titus
Chapter 6: Obedient Otis

After the guided practice, students worked on their own topic. Once students narrowed their thinking and focused on what they wanted their book to teach readers, this came much more easily to them. We are loving our new tables of contents! 
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Table of Contents Structure - Part I

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Have you ever heard about the different ways you can structure a table of contents? Neither had I… at least not until I was asked to model a lesson in third grade. I looked everywhere for information, but didn't find much. All I had was Lucy. (I have an ongoing inner dialogue with Lucy Calkins. I start out asking her “why are you doing this to me?” and then I continue on, dive in, and I always end up telling her - in my head - “you’re a genius! I love you!”)

My third grade friends are coming to the end of their nonfiction unit. They’re beginning to use their expertise to write nonfiction books. In order to structure their books, they needed to make a plan. Creating a table of contents was a good place to start. It can be set up in a variety of ways: parts, types, ways, or first to last. Keep reading. I promise it’ll make sense!

Here’s our example for tornadoes. Tornadoes is such a HUGE umbrella topic, so this activity will help focus in on something more specific. In addition to the information on the anchor chart, I could have done a variety of other parts, ways, types (can also be called characteristics, which helped some of my students understand it better), and first to last categories! 

  • Parts of a Tornado (shown)
  • Tornado Alley: Information by state
  • Be Prepared (shown)
  • How a tornado is formed
  • Types of tornadoes (shown)
  • People (meteorologists, rescue workers, storm chasers, etc.)
First to last: anything on a scale
  • Fujita Scale (shown)
  • Famous tornadoes in history (time/biggest to smallest/most to least destructive)

After I talked them through my anchor chart, we made an anchor chart together (below.. don't judge. Real life anchor charts aren't pretty). The students picked animals as their topic. We brainstormed different subtopics within the category of animals and came up with dogs. The picture below is before we finished the chart, so first to last isn't there. The kids came up with a few ideas from first to last, you can see them below:

  • Body parts (shown)
  • Items needed to take care of a dog (shown)
Types (characteristics):
  • Dog breeds (shown) *could break it down even further!*
  • Kid friendly dogs
  • Hypoallergenic dogs
  • How to take care of a dog (shown).
First to Last:
  • Smallest to biggest dog breed
  • Famous TV and movie dogs in history
  • The life cycle: puppies to adult dogs
  • A day in the life of a dog from morning to night.

I had students practice with a partner on a very familiar, topic (not their actual topic) to see if they understood the process. Then we moved on to their area of expertise! They don’t have to fill out the entire chart, if there is a specific set up that works best for their topic, I let them go with it!

Want these graphic organizers? Download them for FREE on Google Drive. This is also an excellent companion to my nonfiction text features resource.

Don't forget to check back next week to find out where to go from here! 
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