Mentor Texts Your Students Will LOVE in May

As you know, I LOVE using picture books to teach and review upper elementary reading comprehension skills. In today's blog post, I share a few books that are perfect for May as well as a few books that could be used at any point during the year! 

If you don't have any of the books listed below, you can click each picture to find them on Amazon!

Where Oliver Fits

Where Oliver Fits is my absolute favorite book in this set! Maybe I should have saved the best for last, but I just couldn't! This is an amazing story about a round puzzle piece named Oliver. No matter what puzzle he tries to fit into, he can't find where he belongs. The theme of this story is absolutely perfect for showing students that although it may take a while, you'll find your place if you give it time and stay true to yourself. 

Blacksmith's Song

Ahhh! I wish I had discovered this book when we were studying the Underground Railroad! Although this story is not based on factual events, it is still a great read aloud to get students thinking about the interworkings of the Underground Railroad. In this story, the narrator's father is a blacksmith on a southern plantation. He helps guide travelers of the Underground Railroad by playing a specific rhythm as he hammers the anvil doing his daily blacksmith work. The narrator longs to take his turn helping others through their journey, and in the end, he gets his chance! 


This is so childish, but I love it anyway! This simple book is told from the perspective of a dog, Robert Exelby Perdendo, or as everyone calls him, Lazybones. He tells how he has his owner trained, why he hates to go on walks, and how he falls in love! It's the cutest book and perfect for teaching and reinforcing various points of view and how they impact the story. 

On a Mission: Undercover Police Officer

In honor of Police Appreciation Week during the month of May, I thought I would share something nonfiction to help students learn about an interesting topic and the job of a police officer. I like using a main idea graphic organizer with multiple copies on a page to allow students to find the main idea and details of each section of the book.

El Chupacabras

Maybe it's just because I'm teaching at a school with a high number of English Language Learners this year, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It uses a combination of Enligsh and Spanish to tell the story of the legend of the goat sucker. It is such a great way to help your students retell or practice sequencing events. 

If you are interested in the graphic organizers that I used in the pictures for this post, you can find them in my TpT store. Included in the file, you find both digital and printable versions of each graphic organizer.

Mentor Texts Your Students will LOVE in April

As you know, I LOVE using picture books to teach and review upper elementary reading comprehension skills. In today's blog post, I share a few books that are perfect for April as well as a few books that could be used at any point during the year! 

If you don't have any of the books listed below, you can click each picture to find them on Amazon!

This wordless book is so perfect for upper elementary students to REALLY put those drawing conclusion skills to work! The illustrations in this book are beautiful, and it is perfect for spring. I also love that I don't even know if my inference is correct regarding what is happening!

Since April is National Poetry Month, I wanted to share a couple of books that are perfect for sharing poetry with your students. I love that the Emily Dickenson poems are classic and something that all students should read at some point. Put Your Eyes Up Here is a fun book that shares an array of poems about school that my students really enjoyed! It also offers many opportunities for your students to imitate and create poetry of their own.

This month, we also celebrate Earth Day, and I love bringing nonfiction text into the classroom for our students to learn new information in an engaging way. By printing multiple copies of a main idea graphic organizer on one page, your students can find the main idea of each section of this book!

I could probably go on and on about both of these books! They are both PERFECT for teaching theme, character traits, and story elements. When I began my review, I read Janine. first. I really loved it, and I thought it would be a great story for all students to read.

Then, I read Millie Fierce. In the beginning, I felt like I was reading the same story! Two young female characters who were struggling with being different. As the story progressed, I saw that each of these characters handle themselves very differently. Both learn valuable lessons. And both are completely worth the read!

This book has amazing illustrations! The story is excellent and shares how Boo, the dog, helps his owner, Tom, meet new people in the park. It is a simple story that is great for practicing sequence, story elements, or problem and solution.

If you are interested in the graphic organizers that I used in the pictures for this post, you can find them in my TpT store. Included in the file, you find both digital and printable versions of each graphic organizer. 

Mentor Texts Your Students Will LOVE in March

I'm back once again with this month's mentor texts for reading comprehension skills. This month, I discovered several really great books. 

If you don't have any of the books listed below, you can click each picture to find them on Amazon!

12 Questions about the US Constitution

You can read about the Constitution at many points throughout the school year, but I like reading about it during the spring. It usually takes me this long to reach this in our social studies curriculum. This book is a great nonfiction book to help your students discover the answers to common questions about the US Constitution.

I like adjusting my printer settings to print four (or more) graphic organziers to one page. Then, my students can find the main idea and supporting details of each question or section throughout the book!

The Lost Hour

Daylight Savings Time happens every March in most areas of the country. When I stumbled upon this book, I couldn't resist it! What happens to that lost hour? What does he do? This book is perfect for demonstrating story structure as this lost hour searches for a new job. 

Once Upon a Daylight Saving Time

While this book is at a higher reading level, I absolutely LOVE it! In this short story, the rattlesnake needs help adjusting his clock at Daylight Savings Time. He learns that people aren't willing to help him out when he talks nasty to them. It is written as a poem, with several lines that repeat throughout. It's so cute and my upper elementary students do really well with this when we pick apart and discuss each part. It is also a great way to expose your students to new vocabulary!

Long Shot

I am NOT a basketball fan, but I wanted to find a great book that could work well with March Madness. While Chris Paul is now in the NBA, I fell in love with the lesson in this book and couldn't resist sharing it. In this book, Chris Paul is a great basketball player, but people often don't take him seriously because of his height. The theme in this book is excellent and there are so many opportunities of evidence that your students can find. My favorite quote comes from Chris's Papa Chilly who says, "Work harder than everyone else on the court and your size won't matter."


First of all, I love Gail Gibbons. Her books are absolutely amazing, and this book is no exception. In Tornadoes, she shares many facts and details about Tornadoes, but the portion that I love the most is where she explains how tornadoes are classified on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale. I also love the book Tornadoes by S. L. Hamilton because it has an amazing graphic with pictures that show the differences in each classification rank. Maybe the differences are common knowledge to others, but I learned a lot.

In addition to the classification of tornadoes, there is more information about safety, famous tornadoes, and other basic information.

If you are interested in the graphic organizers that I used in the pictures for this post, you can find them in my TpT store. Included in the file, you find both digital and printable versions of each graphic organizer. 

5 Simple Ideas for a Classroom Valentine's Day Party

Are you allowed to have a Valentine's Day party? If you do, you'll need a few fun activities to spice up your afternoon. But if you're like me, I want to have fun without breaking the bank. Today, I want to share a few of my favorite simple and inexpensive ideas for having a little fun on Valentine's Day! 

Hot Potato

I don't care how old your kids are, they will enjoy playing Hot Potato, especially when you use Valentine themed objects! I found a Valentine's Day balloon for $1 and an adorable stuffed animal for $2 at the Family Dollar. I always let the winner keep the object as a prize! 

Candy Hearts Relay Race

Relay races are always great for getting the kids moving and having fun. I bought plastic spoons, a four pack of candy heart boxes, and a six pack of cups at the Dollar Tree! The object is to get an entire box of candy hearts from the starting line to the cup. Students can take as much or as little as they like in their spoon, but if they drop them, they have to go back and start again. 

Sock Hands Relay Race

This is always so much fun! I found these socks at the Dollar Tree and bought enough for four teams. I also found little mesh bags that contained 12 chocolate hearts wrapped in foil. We brake up into even teams and do this relay race style. The first team to unwrap all 12 chocolate hearts wins!

STEM Vases

This is ALWAYS so much fun! Give your students two tubs of Play-Dough and a small box or container of toothpicks. I already had the Play-Dough on hand and found a three pack of toothpicks at the Dollar Tree! I set a timer for fifteen minutes and let them go at it.  Through trial and error, they worked to find a way to hold my dozen roses, which I also found at the Dollar Tree. There are really three different bundles, which added to the difficulty! 

House of Cards

This was hard, but it was so fun! I bought several boxes of cheap Valentine cards from the Dollar Tree. Each group worked together to create a house with the most stories. I always start with by showing a few YouTube videos for students who are unfamiliar or need an idea or two to get started. There are many strategies for building, and I love watching my students experiment. You can give them a time limit, but it really takes a bit of time to build confidence. 

I couldn't have done this post without the help of my own children! I do these games each year, but I didn't have the permission of the parents to share them. In the end, my daughters and I had a really fun time playing these games together and snapping a few pictures for the post! We were really proud of our house of cards! 

A Simple Idea for Helping Students Easily Cite Evidence

Teaching students to cite evidence from the text can be tricky but is so essential for upper elementary students. Today, I'm sharing one idea for helping introduce your students to the idea of citing evidence accurately.

Yesterday, we spent our small group time reading a passage, discussing it, and completing a graphic organizer. Today, we focused our time on answering an open ended question about the story. This week, we read about a couple who made a house, church, wishing well, and bathroom out of glass bottles. It was really a cool story!

Before turning them loose, we brainstormed a list of ways that we could describe Bob and Dora. I allowed them to choose one of these options or something they developed on their own.

We've been practicing restating and answering the question, so they began there. The first post in this series is all about restating! It can be found here. Then, I handed them a skinny blue Post-It Note and asked them to write their "answer" again on the Post-It. I stressed that EVERYTHING they write from here on out has to be about their answer. 

Then, I gave them a second Post-It Note to write a piece of evidence from the text. This student first wrote, "They collected bottles together." We were able to quickly discuss that these two things didn't quite fit together! Collecting bottles didn't support that they were happy sharing their bottle collection with others. By using Post-It Notes, it was easy to remove it and try again. The second time, he wrote, "Bob and Dora like sharing their collection."

The Post-Its Notes are also great for helping them skim the text while looking for evidence that fits their answer. I have them stop and stick the Post-It when they feel like they've found something. Then, they can easily copy it down. I also have them write the page number in the bottom corner. If we are reading a short passage, I have them write the paragraph number instead of the page number.

In the end, we have one answer with TWO supporting pieces of evidence.

Then, it's time to begin putting this into an actual answer, which we all know can be the hard part for many of our students. I've found with my students, especially my special education students, it is best to give them sentence stems to help get them started. They can easily choose a stem and add a sentence from one of their Post-Its.

Mentor Texts Your Students Will LOVE in February

I absolutely love to use picture books to introduce, practice, or review reading comprehension skills, even my fifth graders LOVE hearing a great read aloud. Below you'll find five great books that I love to read aloud in February, as well as suggestions for reading skills that you could cover while reading them.

If you don't have any of the books listed below, you can click each picture to find them on Amazon!

Groundhog's Day Off

Have you ever thought about how used the groundhog feels? Ever wondered what his favorite food is? No, we only care about him on February 2nd. That poor groundhog. And that's exactly how the groundhog feels in Groundhog's Day off. He packs up and takes a vacation right before Groundhog Day. The town is a mess as they try to find a replacement and realize how much they've taken him for granted. It is a great way to discuss drawing conclusions based on character actions. 

Mr. Goat's Valentine

When I first read the end of this book, I thought, "This is adorable, by my fifth graders will laugh in my face if I read this." Buuuuut, as any teacher does, when we like something, we FIND a way to use it in our classrooms. After careful thought, the surprise cheesiness of this book made it perfect for making predictions.

In this book, Mr. Goat gathers all sorts of disgusting, goat-like Valentine gifts for his first love, like a rotten egg and an old tin can. It's cute and funny, and my students laughed at the crazy things that goat was planning to give to his first love and that he let the skunk spray him with "perfume". On the last page, his first love opens the door. It's his MOTHER, ya'll. It's so adorable, and sweet, and absolutely appeals to my mama-heart. This same cutesy love that I had for the book, made me feel like it was too baby-ish for my students. But is it also an ending that they don't really see coming, making it PERFECT for predictions!

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever

Now THIS may be my favorite Valentine book! It's a humorous tale of a boy, Leon, who creates a valentine for his crush, Zoey Maloney. All of the sudden, the Valentine jumps up and runs from him, telling him and anyone they encounter that love is yucky and it will turn your brain to goo! The boy and the Valentine have very different perspectives on love and Valentine's Day and are great for comparing and contrasting. Plus, the end is adorable too! This is the perfect Valentine's Day book for upper elementary kids who are crazy "in love". 

The Red Hat

I am so glad that I ran across this book at the library, and while it never mentions Valentine's Day, it's a great kiddy love story. It is perfect for discussing sequence, problems and solutions, and cause and effect.

While Billy Hightower is standing on the rooftop of his apartment building on a windy day, he spots a girl in a red hat on the rooftop of the next building. He wants to introduce himself, so he writes a note on a paper airplane, which was caught by the wind and never received. He tried multiple ways to introduce himself, but the wind proves to be a problem. In the end, the wind helps them meet face to face. 

Louise Loves Art

Although this book could be used at any time of the year, I like it during the month of February because of the theme and connections that students could make. Louise is focused on herself and creating her own art for her pretend art gallery. As she is busy creating and preparing, she doesn't notice that her little brother, ironically named Art, is trying to get her attention with his own version of art.

When she realizes that he has ruined her art in order to create his own, she is obviously upset but realizes that maybe his masterpiece deserves a little attention too.

If you are interested in the graphic organizers that I used in the pictures for this post, you can find them in my TpT store. Included in the file, you find both digital and printable versions of each graphic organizer. 

A Simple Idea for Helping Students Easily Restate the Question

When I was teaching fifth grade, I really had a nerdy love for teaching my students to answer open-ended questions and quote accurately from the text. Now that I'm in special education AND working with younger students, I've been wondering WHY I used to love teaching this so much. It is such a struggle for my students, and I've really had to slow down my brain and explicitly teach each part of the process. Today, I am sharing my simple strategy for teaching your students to restate and answer open-eneded questions. 

We use the intervention included with the Reading Street series, which I absolutely love. With each reading passage in our leveled reader, there are questions for students to discuss verbally or in writing. Even though I type the question and hang it on our table basket, I have started writing the words on a blank piece of paper and cutting them up as well.

After we have read the passage and are ready to answer the question, we lay out the word cards and begin to decide how we are going to restate the question.

Here are the steps that we take: 

(1) Get rid of any "question words".

We talk A LOT about realizing that when you hear certain words, you are hearing a question, not an answer. When we are restating, we are giving an answer, meaning we don't care about those question words.

(2) Change the pronouns. 

Most questions include the word you, such as "What did you learn?" or "What do you think about..." When we are answering questions, we use first-person pronouns like I, or we if your students are working in groups.

(3) Rearrange the words to begin forming an answer. 

In this case, when we were rearranging, we didn't like the word about and thought that while would be a better fit. That's ok. Begin writing an answer that makes sense and sounds fluent when it's read aloud.

(4) Insert the answer to the question. 

At first, you may have to model this for your students. Over time, allow them to begin answering the question on their own. Obviously, this is a much harder task for your students. Give them time to make inferences and create their own answers.

I have a fun product to help your students answer basic questions about themselves and applying that to answering questions about reading passages. You can find it HERE on TpT.