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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