Fall Fun for Fast Finishers!

Now that you have been in school for a few weeks (or in some parts of the country, longer), you have probably figured out who those fast finishers in your class are, and you might be looking for some activities to keep them challenged. Here is a free set of 20 autumn-themed, opened-ended task cards that will do the job quite nicely. Most of the activities are writing based and will require your students to think creatively and critically. No worries if your school does not celebrate Halloween; these cards are based on Autumn and none of the activities are holiday based.

These cards were designed to be used for fast finishers, but they would also be great at a center. Another option is to select one card to use with the whole class for a fun bell-work activity. Here are a couple cards from the set. 

While some of the activities on these cards do correlate with Common Core Standards (for example one card require students to write persuasively and several others deal with figurative language), this particular set was not designed with the Common Core in mind. I am a big believer in the importance of teaching creative and critical thinking and it was with that goal that I created these cards. If you are looking for an autumn resource based on Common Core Standards, you may want to check out Autumn ELA Task Cards, which focus on a variety of the Language standards.

Find more great Halloween-free freebies for October at at the link up on Cork Board Connections!
Freebie Fridays

TpT's Top Seller Deanna Jump on CNN!

Here is the whole interview...it is fabulous!

Teaching Inference

I originally wrote this post as a guest blogger for the PediaStaff Blog in February 2012. You can see the original posting here. It is published here with permission. 

If you could see me typing this article in my office right now, you could probably infer several thing about me. The array of papers and books all around me would tell you that neatness is not my best quality. The placement of my computer mouse would tell you that I am left-handed, and the fact that I am currently wearing work-out clothes would tell you that I am planning to get to the gym at some point today. Most of us can make these kinds of inferences automatically, however; as you well know inference does not come so easily to everyone.

While I my background is not with  in special education, I have certainly worked with many students who have social and language difficulties.  I tend to come at learning from a "What can we do to make this activity fun and motivating" perspective, which I think is useful for teachers of all populations.

At its core, inference is using clues to come to a conclusion. This is awesome because most kids love puzzles...they love playing detective and that is exactly what they get to do when they are learning to infer. There are many, many terrific ways to teach inference. Here are a few of my favorites.   

Inference in Pictures
For many children, using pictures is the easiest way to facilitate inference. Unlike text, pictures do not rely on language to get their message across, and unlike real life, pictures are static, so there is time to observe and to discuss. Here are some ways to use pictures:

·         Pinterest is of course an amazing resource. Find interesting pictures that can be used for inference and create questions around the pictures.

·         Picture books is another terrific source for pictures. Here are some questions to ask when using picture books:
o   How do you think the character in the picture feels? What makes you think so?
o   How does the picture make you feel? Why?
o   What do you see in the background of this picture? How is the background important?
o   Why do you think the illustrator used the color _______ for _________?
o   What do you think will happen next? 

·         Choose a concept word such as "love", "anger," or "friendship" and have student use magazine pictures to create a collage depicting that concept. Give students an opportunity to share their colleges, explaining why they selected each picture.

·         Ask each student to bring a picture of him or herself from home and to create one inference question about the picture. For example, if he picture is of the student and his brother playing in the yard and there are orange and yellow leaves all over the grass and the sky is gray, the question could be: In what time of year was this picture taken? You could make the pictures into a bulletin board, a PowerPoint, or simply display them one by one with your document camera and discuss.

·         Play a video with the sound off. Ask your students to infer what the characters are feeling. If you need to take extra time, you can pause the video to discuss a specific character's body language of facial expression. Then replay the scene with the sound to see how accurate the students inferences were.

Inference in Text
Inference with text is an important reading strategy. It can lead to greater understanding as well as enjoyment of the reading material. After all, it is fun to make an inference...sometimes so vague it seems more like a hunch, and then have it confirmed later in the book. It kind of makes you feel super smart.

·         Using the clue approach can be very motivating for reluctant learners. They are inference detectives and their job is to look for clues (aka specific words and phrases). When students make an inference from text, be sure to ask: What makes you think so? Require the student to show which words or phrases led to the inference.

·         When introducing inference, start with very short passages of just a sentence of two. As skills grow, so can the size of the reading material.

·         Create inference bookmarks for students. Students use the book marks to write down inferences that they find in their independent reading (one per bookmark). Require students to complete a certain number of book marks for each book they read. An inference chart would be a variation on this idea.

·         When reading out loud, pause when you come to a section that contains inference clues. Question the class about what they can infer from the passage.

Other Ideas
·         Bring a backpack from home that you have filled with specific items. Tell your students that it is their job to learn as much as they can about the owner of the back pack by examining the contents. Pull out one item at a time to discuss. Group items that seem to go together to tell a story (for example, colored pencils, an eraser, and a sketch book). You could also do this in small groups by giving each group a different backpack.

·         Have your students create Mystery Bags at home to share. A Mystery Bag is a brown paper bag with a mystery item inside. On the outside of the bag, the student writes clues about the mystery object inside. One fun way to use the bags would be to number them and then have students walk around the room with a clipboard and a numbered answer sheet on which they record their guesses for each bag. Of course you will also want to leave time for students to reveal their mystery objects.

·         Consider the mime. Mimes are all about inference. If the audience does not infer then the mime's act makes no sense. If you can find a good mime video, or see an actual performance, you might want to try it. You could also try having your students learn specific mime acts such as pulling on a rope.
By making your inference lessons fun, your students are more likely to remember the skills they have learned.

And don't forget Task Cards!

Image provided by Fourth Grade Flipper

Ideas for Teaching Dollars and Cents

Counting coins, making change, and solving money word problems are all important skills. Here are some ideas to help you teach them!
Counting Coins
First off, manipulatives are the way to go, ideally real coins and "play" dollars, but the plastic version is okay. It is fun and satisfying to handle real money, and it echos real life. This cannot be said for pictures of coins on a worksheet. 

There are many games you can play with coins. Here are just a few:
  • Scoot Cents: Have each child put 4-10 coins on his or her desk of various values. Use an index card or sticky note to number the desks. Students number notebook paper for an answer sheet (or use a pre-made one) and travel from desk to desk counting coins and writing the totals in the appropriate spaces. When you are done, everyone returns to his or her own desk. Check answers by having each student tell what the coins on his or her desk total. You can find more details on how to play Scoot here

  • Coin Counting BINGO:  Write 24 coin totals on the board (eg:  $.53, $1.17 etc.). Have students write the the totals randomly in the spaces of blank BINGO cards. Use your document camera to display coins that total one of the numbers on the board. Students use pennies or other markers to block out the totals as you display them. Circle the numbers on the board as you display them so that you can keep track of the ones you have done. Play till someone has a BINGO...or till everyone has Blackout. 

  • Coin Brain Bender Puzzles:  This is great for reviewing with older students. Challenge students to use a specific number of coins to make a specific total (be sure they have coins to work with). Try the puzzle to the right to see how challenging this can be. You can make your own puzzles or purchase this set of 24 Coin Count Task Cards. Another option is to have your students create these puzzles for each other.

  • You might also want to check the game Allowance From Lakeshore Learning Materials, which would be a great center or indoor recess activity.  
Adding and Subtracting
Fluently adding and subtracting dollars and cents is an important skill...there won't always be a calculator or a cash register to do the work! Here are some ideas to make this more fun:

  • Catalog Shopping: Round up a bunch of catalogs and let your students go shopping. To "buy" an item, the student cuts it out of the catalog along with the price and glues it onto a piece of paper. Once they have bought several items, they can total up the value. You may want to give your students a budget. That way they can also subtract what they spend against what they have. 

  • Plan a Fun Day:  Give your students a budget (say $50-100) and allow them to plan a fun day for themselves and their families. They can use the internet to research how much each activity costs, then they can create a schedule and a balance sheet to show what they are spending. 

  • Use Real-World Situations: Say you are going on a field trip to the zoo. To go on the trip, you will have to cover extra bus fee and admission for the students and  parent chaperons. Part of the money will come from a PTA field trip fund, the rest needs to be split equally among your students. Allow your students to do the math to figure out how much each student needs to pay. Play around with the numbers - what if there was no PTA fund? What if the zoo cost .50 more per person? 

  • Set up a Snack Shack Math Center: Students use this menu to solve task card dollar and cents problems like the one below. Another option is to use a real menu and have students select items to create their own problems. 
How do you teach money? Please share your ideas with a comment!

Idioms Guest Post

Want some ideas for teaching idioms? Head on over to the PediaStaff blog where I am guest posting! I would be thrilled if you would consider leaving a comment while you are there. 

FREE Task Card Tracking Sheets and Award Certificates!

I created this freebie because I heard from some of you needed a way for students to keep track of the task cards they had completed. I hope this will do the trick! There are three different tracking sheets:

  • One for older students to record up to twenty sets of completed cards

  • Half-sheets for recording up to ten sets of completed cards

  • A fun circle format for recording up to ten sets of completed cards

I also thought it would be fun to make circles for a Task Card Bulletin Board. Students can fill out the circles as they complete sets and then post them on the board. You could also have them color the circles before posting for a more colorful effect. These circles could also be used for many other things in addition task cards! 

Finally, it seemed like it would be a good idea to include some award certificates. There are colorful certificates for completing 5,10, 15, 20, and 25 sets of cards as well as a blank certificate so that you can fill in whatever number works for you and a blank, black-line version just in case you don't want to print in color. 

For more freebies and ideas on how to use task cards in your classroom, be sure to check out Totally Task Cards. You may also want to take a peek at this Catalog of Task Cards that I created as a google docs spreadsheet. 

Cooperative Learning from a Student's Point of View

Yesterday, my daughter, a high school junior, came home from her second day of school disappointed and upset because she had just learned that all of her projects in the history class that she had been looking forward to were going to be group projects. Her feelings on the subject were so strong that I asked her to write a guest post for Minds in Bloom

Cooperative “Learning”
by Lucy Lynette
I don’t remember any of the content from my 9th grade history class. I couldn't tell you a single thing we were taught or put my finger on any of the events, dates, or people we studied; what I can remember though is the educational horror that was “cooperative learning”
I'm aware that most educators these days are familiar with this teaching method but for those of you outside the educational world, let me give you a little overview: the concept is to get kids to interact with their peers and think outside the box by giving them countless group activities and constantly putting them in front of the class to do “creative presentations.” Sounds great, right? Wrong. Let me give you a student perspective. 
Public school is a mash up of kids from all different backgrounds and values. Now personally, education is very important to me and my schooling means a lot. Not everyone feels that way and before, that was all fine and dandy. They did their thing and I did mine. But then they started this cooperative learning stuff and suddenly my grade depends on the people that sit next to me; aka a bleach blonde vanity queen and a clueless stoner that probably can't find the right side of his marijuana pipe half the time. 
Further more, even if you do have a good group, not all people work well with other people because they have a specific learning style that works for them. As for me, I have ADHD and am attempting to attend school unmedicated [Mom's note: this is being done for very good reasons and with a plan in place]. This is not easy and takes a large amount of structure and self-analysis. I have a specific way I need to operate to learn or I get distracted and cannot finish my work. This strategy does not in fact include scrambling to organize a last minute “creative presentation” we have to do in front of the class at the end of the period. It's horrible and stressful and humiliating and distracting and all together terrible for anyone actually trying to learn something. Also because of my ADHD, I sometimes cannot gain focus on a class activity and I have to step back and slow down and carefully think everything through. This is not and option while in the cooperative learning program because everything is in a group and must be completed by the end of the period so that your teacher can shove you in front of the class to present it.
I like history. I love to learn about past events and people and all that jazz but I hated that class. I struggled through it and dreaded it everyday. The cooperative system ruined the content and distracted from my learning.
P.S Please do not pass this off as a kid with a learning disability struggling with the content. I got straight As that years and am NOT the only one who feels this way. 

I know this is a hot-button topic for many. Your thoughtful comments on this would be very much appreciated by both myself and my daughter. Also, she did tell me this morning that she is planning to talk to the teacher about her concerns. 

Exploring Multiple Meaning Words - and a Freebie!

How cool is it that a duck can be a common water fowl or something you do to avoid being bashed in the head? Multiple meaning words, while somewhat confusing to those who are learning English, are also loads of fun. Not only that, they are also part of the Common Core Standards across the grades from 1-12:

 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on [fill in your grade here] reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.

Here are some fun activities to try with your students to help them gain fluency with these tricky words.

Clarify the meaning
Be sure your students understand that multiple meaning words (also called homographs) are not the same as homophones. You may also want to discuss heteronyms, which are a type of homograph. Heteronyms are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and different pronunciations such as dove, and bow.

Brainstorm a list
Start you study of multiple meaning words by making a giant list of them. As students suggest words, they can give short definitions or sentences to show how the word has more than one meaning.

Explore the words
Once you have your list, you can dig deeper into their meanings. Here is a free graphic organizer that can help. Students select a multiple meaning word to put in the explosion shape at the top. Then they fill out the rest of the sheet with the meanings, parts of speech, sentence, and an illustration. If the word being used has more than two meanings, the student can either select the most popular two or fill out more than one sheet for the word.

Play with parts of speech
In many cases, a multiple meaning word can be both a noun and a verb. You may want to have your students identify which part of speech the word is being used as in a given sentence. Another fun thing to do is to have your students write sentences using the word two times, once as a noun and once as a verb. For example:
Kate was cleaning her diamond ring when she heard the phone ring
I found some change in my pocket when I went upstairs to change my clothes. 
Dig into the dictionary
Your students may be surprised to find out how many meanings a single word can have! Challenge your students to find a word with more than four distinct meanings. Using the dictionary is also a great way to find new meanings for a familiar word. For example, your students may know that the word, "fair" means to treat someone justly and that is also is a place with games and carnival rides, but do they know that it can also be used to describe someone who has a light skin-tone or is pretty?

Make it a riddle
Have your students create riddles for each other (or create some yourself to give to your class). For example:
I am a flying mammal and something you use to hit a baseball. What word am I? 
I am the correct answer and I am the opposite of left. What word am I? 
Reinforce with Task Cards
Reinforce the meanings of some of the most common multiple meaning words with these task cards. There is also a second set with more words. 

Each set contains a given word two times to show two different meanings. Here is an example of two of the cards using the word "trip."

Not sure how to use task cards in your classroom? You can get tons of ideas (and some more freebies) at Totally Task Cards!

How do you teach multiple meaning words to your students? Please share your ideas with a comment.

Books to Read Aloud for Grades 3-5

When I look back on my own elementary days (so very long ago), I can't remember what books my teacher read out loud to us, with one exception: My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Watson.  Mr. Watson read us the best books and he always stopped at the most exciting part, with all of us begging for more. He read us The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and then I had to read the whole Narnia series. We traveled across the tundra with Julie, ran away the the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Claudia, learned lessons the hard way with JD and his brother Tom. Looking back, I can see that Mr. Watson selected his books carefully. All were great literature, of course. But in addition, most were part of a series, or at the very least from a prolific author so that we could find more to read. I am fairly sure that I have Mr. Watson to thank for my life-long love of reading.

So, this all leads to the question, what can you read to delight and inspire your students? I asked this question on facebook and had over 80 responses! Here is a list of their suggestions (along with a few comments from me). To find out more, click on the book title to go to Amazon.

Sideways Stories from the Wayside School by Louis Sachar
I always start the year with my 3rd graders with Sideways Stories from Wayside School.
-Lynne Billiard. 

There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sachar

"Beginning of the year I always read, There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom; it lends itself to so many different discussion topics. I warn the kids from the getgo that I will cry, happens EVERY year". 
-Stacy Hancock Barnett 

My 4th graders loved it. One of the characters does a major change in the story. (from a bully to learning to get along with others). It was a great conversation piece for the kids."

-Betsy Steele

"I love to read There's a Boy in the Girls Bathroom, I cry every time I read it because of the hope and believing in a child's ability to change.
-Georgia Koepke
I also am a huge fan of this book (and I also cry every time), so much so that I did an entire post on it, which you can read here. 

Holes by Louis Sachar
I also read Holes because I think it it's one out they most brilliantly constructed books ever written for kids.
-Georgia Koepke

This is a great book to teach/model many reading strategies: inference, flashback, compare/contrast... it also has two unlikely heroes which students love to read about and relate to."

-Brian Wiltgen

If you read this and would like to compare it to the movie, you can find a free Book vs. Movie printable here.

Frindle by Andrew Clements
Frindle...my college professor read it to our lit class when it first came out. It is still one of my favorite read alouds ever. Love Nicholas Allen!
-Angie Richter Lowry

Frindle - kids can make a difference.

-Christina Allen

My third graders also went bananas for this book! We extended it by making up our own words. 

No Talking by Andrew Clements

No Talking by Andrew Clements. I read it to my 4th graders; they love the story of the most talkingest 5th grade class ever that one day goes silent as the students have a boys vs. girls no talking contest. It is great fun and opens interesting and important conversations about doing what's right, apologizing when needed, and friendship.
-Brenda Ronnebaum
Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements
There were also days when the kids were a little crazy that we would read Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements. It's the story of a girl who gets sent to the principal's office when she can't stop speaking double-talk. It turns into a fun-filled mouthful that leaves the kids laughing and the reader breathless!
-Jennifer Cramer Armour

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and others) by Roald Dahl
I do a Roald Dahl author study with my third graders. I hook them with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We also learn how chocolate is made and play Wonka BINGO. Then we read James and the Giant Peach and Matilda. I love to read stories where kids are heroes. You could even read The Twits, The Witches, and The BFG. What a great author!
-Melanie Stubbs-Kight

The Witches by Roald Dahl
I love Witches by Roald Dahl....love using character voices and it starts the students off on a love of my favorite author.
-Deanna Blaccoreni

My 4th-sters loved the suspense in each chapter! It's a long book, but the author does an amazing job in developing and describing the characters. The visualization opportunities are fantastic!
-Melissa Broadbent McNamara

The Watsons go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons go to Birmingham  is also fantastic! Great for using when discussing the civil rights movement.
-Leah Fick McCollum
Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko 
My 5th graders looooved it. Even my non readers couldn't put it down. It also leads to many great conversations.
-Leah Fick McCollum

After Hamelin by Bill Richardson
In fifth grade, a little later in the year, I love After Hamelin by Bill Richardson. It continues the Pied Piper story, and is good for multiple time settings, inferences, and fun!
-Debbie Sauer

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O'Brien
I teach 3rd and have many favorites - the one the kids love the most is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I love when they start to connect things that are happening and beg me not to stop reading. I like that it describes things that are happening and the kids have to figure things out. I also like that it is an old book and no kid in all my teaching has ever picked it out to read on their own. Every year the kids tell me it is their favorite.
-Sherie Malta

Silver Crown by Robert O'Brien
Silver Crown by Robert O'Brien...wonderful characters, very suspenseful with a lot of twists...all my 5th graders say it was the best book of the year. No sure I would go younger!
-Faith Siegrist

Poppy by Avi
Poppy by Avi...the imagery that is created by his descriptive writing is a great springboard for learning!
-Lesley Finley Hutton
Poppy by Avi-It encompasses a strong female lead character who is a mouse. This story includes a strong story line, amazing characters, each of which represents different traits, and an opportunity to study an amazing author and his techniques. And, most importantly, it has Ereth, the most lovable porcupine ever!!!
-Julie Slocum Santello
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. I love how the characters have flaws and problems, but are able to overcome them and work together to become friends. Opal learns that friends can come in all shapes and sizes, and are there for you when you least expect it. Wonderfully written book!
-Robin Klein
Because of Winn Dixie was a class favorite last year when I taught a multiage 3rd/4th grade. It was a beautiful story about friendship and acceptance.
-Elissa Weiss Kriesman
I try to finish up the year with "Because of Winn-Dixie". We love to create images and do so many other reading strategies with it.
-Jamie Walters

Because of Winn-Dixie is one I read every year! It has great characters, and the students seem to always love the story. It's a personal favorite of mine.
-Taliha Gipson

There are so many themes, but the greatest one is about loneliness and making friends. Students can create their top ten things about themselves or someone special in their lives. We usually watch the movie later in the year and use a Venn diagram to compare the book and the movie. I also ask students to compare how they pictured characters in their heads while reading with how they were portrayed in the movie. They love it!
-Joy Penner

Because of Mr. Terrupt by Rob Buyea (and others)
If you want to address bullying, Because of Mr. Terrupt is amazing. It is about a 4th grade class, but I used it in Middle school. Also, anything by Peg Kehret because she is reader friendly, but intense. Firegirl is also great.
-Becky Askin

AWESOME!!!! Mr. Terupt is a new teacher to the school and the 5th grade class...his teaching techniques are unique but inspiring...there is a bully, geeks, quiet boy, one that hates school, then tragedy strikes...and the 5th graders have to use all that they have been learning from this teacher to get through this...Read it first...you need to know what happens before you read it aloud!!! One of the BEST Books i have ever read...not even as a child's book.
-Stacy Hindin Stark

Top Ten Ways to Ruin the First Day of School by Kenneth Derby
The students love the advenutures of TB as he tried to get on the David Letterman Show. It is full of laughs and an easy read.
-Janice Edgar

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

I love to read Where the Red Fern Grows - I use it in the second semester as we are discussing figurative language. It is also good to use for teaching various emotions readers go through while reading the book. My fourth graders love it. We laugh and cry all the way through the book.
-Shannon Hickok Bell

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars is my favorite book. We always start the year reading that book. I have a classroom set though, so it may not exactly be a read aloud, because sometimes they read to me. It provides opportunities for class discussions. I am also able to incorporate quite a few different skills into our discussions. (Context clues, main idea, sequencing, ...) For some reason, each year it seems to be the favorite among the majority of my students. We read lots of historical fiction, but they seem to especially get into this time in history and all that was happening in different parts of the world. Without all the fabulous language arts skills I weave into it, the story is just an incredible story of bravery, courage, sacrifice, and friendship.
-Mindy Tripp

This is also a favorite of mine, though I have used it for reading groups rather than read aloud. 

Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
I love reading Gooney Bird Greene to my 5th graders. There is vivid vocabulary throughout, which ties in nicely when I explain that students need to do the same thing to spice up their writing.
-Asher Richmond

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikelson
A favorite with both my third graders and the fifth graders I have taught is Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikelson. The kids are very focused on everything bad that has happened to this "older" boy and they watch how hard he has to struggle to make changes in himself, his life and his family no matter how hard life treats him. It is a great book for watching how a character grows and changes. Best read toward the end of third grade or higher.
-Amy Brannon

Storm Runners by Roland Smith
I teach 5th grade. I began last year with the chapter book Storm Runners by Roland Smith. It is so exciting and really grabs the attention of my boy readers with its strong male character and my girls with its brave and confident female character. I love the book and my students beg for me to continue the series (3 total books). It's a great way to introduce kids to a fabulous writer and start them with a thrilling series!
-Jen Kiger McElroy
I always read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the beginning of the year. My 4th graders love the characters, especially Fudge and his antics!
-Marianna DiPietro Wentz

I love reading Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing, just a funny read and the kids can always relate.
-Marla Rattner 
I've always read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to start the year with my fourth graders....this year I figured I would use this book to launch the reading workshop, reading response logs, etc. The kids love Fudge and his antics!
-Lesley Taylor
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. The main character is a china rabbit who learns to love. My 4th graders beg me to keep reading.
- Shannon Cassevah Smith 

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Di Camillo is outstanding. Great for character study and how a character changes over time. Beautiful book!
-Sandy Bayha Bajczuk

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George. We would read this story before we went on our annual 4th grade camping trip. It's a coming-of-age story about a boy who leaves his home to live and survive on his own in the mountains.
-Jennifer Cramer Armour

The best book for boys is "My side of the mountain", by Jean Craighead George. A real adventure with a beautiful ending.
-Olivia Wolfe
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
This book is so beautifuly written, with many characteristics woven through it, like trust, friendship, acceptance, and love. The author does a wonderful job!!
-Jody Lynne Billiard

Charlotte's Web by  E.B. White
Charlotte's Web. There's no other book like it to teach my fourth graders about friendship.
-Liz Silva Luebke

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rawling

For sheer fun and fantasy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone! Invariably, many of my students pick up the next books in the series after we read this one!-Liz Silva Luebke

Starting School with an Enemy by Elisa Carbone

Starting School With An Enemy - perfect for fifth graders and it talks about how getting even can create even more trouble.
-Rebecca Cox

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

I love The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I have read it to third graders and fourth graders and they are immediately hooked! It is written on a sixth or seventh grade level, but it has a lot of rich vocabulary and sophisticated humor. I model thinking aloud, introduce new words, and make predictions based on foreshadowing clues. I highly recommend the series!
-Jenifer Watson Stewart

Granny by Anthony Horowitz

I have read Granny by Anthony Horowitz to my 10,11 and 12 year olds. They love it and it has some excellent character description in it that I use as models when teaching character writing. Anything by Anthony Horowitz is great really. 

Thank You, Mr.Falker by Patricia Polacco

Thank You, Mr.Falker by Patricia Polacco. This book let's kids know that anyone can overcome obstacles. I love that the teacher "saves" the child, and helps her value herself. Sometimes our students feel that they have to keep things hidden, but this book shows how others can help, when they know the problem
.-Edna Armstrong

Thank you, Mr. Falker is great for awareness of bullying and the strength by the main character (surprise ending). I also love The Junkyard Wonders to show teamwork and diversity. I also love to read stories from Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul or Preteen's Soul...they are perfect for read-aloud time.
-Sonja Gillend McGinnis

4th Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli

4th Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli. I use it at the beginning of the year to tie in with showing good character. 
-Jamie Walters

I love to read Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinneli. It has such a good theme, and the kids absolutely love it. It is something that every student can relate to in one way or another.
-Jill Burkhart Slocum

Fourth Grade Rats by J. Spinelli because it gets the class laughing and sends a great message all at the same time!
-Chrissy Rene

Skeleton Creek by Patricia Carman
I like to read Skeleton Creek to my class. They love, love, love the videos that goes with the book. I chose this book because there are three more books in the series and I like integration with technology and so do my students.
-Hazel Wiley Lochhaas

Islands (series) by Gordon Korman

I read the Gordon Korman series, Island, at the beginning of the year because it really grabs the kids, and it is perfect for character and author's technique. There really is a purpose for each of the characters, and it opens up great discussions. :)
-Crystal Brooks Merrifield

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

My kids love The Boxcar Children. It hooks them to the rest of the series. The look on their faces when THEY know about the grandfather and the children don't yet is so precious.
-Debbi Wilson Watson
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth, The author uses language in the most interesting ways. I use it for discussion about language, and for vocabulary.
-Missy Gaston

If you have missed this classic book, be sure to give it a try...such a brilliant concept!
Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher 
It is a great story and great springboard for talking about traditions, differences between families, and loss. The discussions based on the book are endless. The kids love it. I have made copies of specific text and events in the story to use during reading workshop for independent reading conferences. The kids are so familiar with the text that I recycle it all year long. After this we always read Flying Solo.
-Rande Siper
The 39 Clues Series by Rick Riordan
there are 11 books, we started the first one in March (I never read the entire series - - but this one doesn't tie things up at the end.) By mid-May several students in my class had purchased more in the series for summer reading.
-Sally Wright
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Great Gilly Hopkins is a great character study for my fifth graders. Her boldness and tough spirit is something everyone can connect with in fifth grade, and then the kids learn from her moment of change. 
-Marcia Reidy Barrio
The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
 My students hang off their seats and love the rest of the series!!! It is an excellent mystery, adventure, and story of friendship! I absolutely love it.
-Lily McDonald Page
Skinnybones by Barbara Park
It is about a boy that does some funny things.
-Carla Terrian
Danger In the Desert by T.S Fields
Every chapter ends with them wanting more. Its so exciting to see the kids get into the story.
-Stacy Ward
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I am reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead to my 5th graders. Takes a few chapters to get started, but now they are constantly asking me to read more. Love to have them do character traits and predictions with this book.
-Bonita French

This is also a fun one for those of us who were kids in the 70s
Leon and the Spitting Image by Allen Kurzweil
I LOVE to read Leon and the Spitting Image because the voice of Miss Hagmeier is way too fun! The kids love the magical elements mixed into regular school life.
-Erica Bradford
Once by Morris Gleitzman
For grade 5s I read Morris Gleitzmans Once, Then, and Now - about world war 2 from a child perspective. Serious but with light relief. Kids love the excellent characters!
-Cindy Townsend
Walking With the Dead by LM Falcone
Another one that I like because I teach ancient Greece, it's called Walking With the Dead by LM Falconethe kids loved it this year when I read it
-Marla Rattner
Niagara Falls, Or Does It? by Henry Winkler
Henry Winkler books- gotta love Hank Zipser! The main character has learning difficulties but is always trying new ways to overcome things! Hysterical!
-Meg Lakotos Basker
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever; it magically holds the attention of boys and girls, it's both funny and touching!
-Yvette Lewis
A Christmas Sonata by Gary Paulsen
At Christmas, I love to read the story A Christmas Sonata by Gary Paulsen (4-5 graders). It's a story of a special Christmas in 1943 that restores a hope and belief of Santa.
-Jennifer Cramer Armour

The Day my Butt went Psycho by Andy Griffiths
I had a class that loved gross humor. So, we read some of "The Day My Butt Went Psyco." I laughed so hard that I cried!
-Charlotte Tyson Jones
Picture Books

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
I love reiterating to my students that it is ok to be themselves no matter what others think. I even painted stripes on my face for Read a Loud Day.
- Demarian Hall 
It's just such an excellent book to use as a metaphor for life. It has many lessons about feeling lost, lonely, winning, losing and just about finding your feet and living your own life. 
-Rich Games for Learning
I can't read it without crying. This is an African tale that lends itself nicely to the topic of kindness.
-Judi Donald Cantrell
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Miss Rumphius is the first book I read to my students. I think the message that our job is to make the world a more beautiful place is the most important lesson I teach.
-Linda Hinds Helper
My favorite is Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna. I love it because of the moral in the story about not believing everything you see and hear and how hard it is to undo damage that you cause by spreading tales. The art is gorgeous in this book as well.
-Jennifer Ratliff Sullivan
Mr. Peabody's Apples because it talks about the power of words.
-Denise Mazzarisi Dirlik
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
Because it also talks about words. Each of us has a bucket and we fill ours if we do something nice, while filling another's bucket. We also empty ours when we do something wrong.
-Denise Mazzarisi Dirlik
Here are some more you might want to check out:
I recommend books by Eve Bunting - picture books with intermediate themes like: How Many Days to America? (Immigration), Fly Away Home (living homeless in an airport) Smoky Night (LA Riots) The Wall (Viet Nam memorial) .....etc.
-Nancy Loberg Reinhiller
Also any new Brian Selznick books WonderStruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. They are AMAZING!!
-Marcia Reidy Barrio
I also have to mention Adeline, Falling Star by Mary Pope Osborne, Faith and the Electric Dogs, We Can't All be Rattlesnakes both by Patrick Jennings. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is a MUST read, my 3rd graders LOVED it! And my most favorite if I had to choose one is The Underneath by Kathy Appelt, an incredibly powerful book!
-Jody Lynne Billiard

Stone Fox is wonderful for 3rd grade. I also like to read an A to Z Mystery to introduce that series of books. Last year I read Earthquake Terror and even though it was a bit scary, the kids really liked it.

-Monica Horn
Great "everybody" books for read aloud: Llama Llama Red Pajama, The Recess Queen, Fortunately, There's No Such Thing as Dragons, I Wish I was Sick, Too ....my 4th graders have thoroughly enjoyed the short reads. Choose Your Own Adventure books make for good read alouds as well as encouraging mutual decision making. Sisters Grimm series, Among the Hidden...or any Margaret Peterson Haddix, for that matter! Beverly Cleary, Andrew Clements, Mo Willems, Lemony Snicket. The Graveyard Book, The Black Book of Secrets, Horns and Wrinkles, Catwings, BFG, Walk Two Moons, The Very Sad Story of Betty O'Dare, Stargirl, The Book of Story Beginnings, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Bunnicula, Noisy Nora, Wait Till Helen Comes, Tikki Tikki Tembo, My Great Aunt Arizona, The Book Thief, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle .... So many wonderful books!!!!!
-April Dawn Davidson
Do you have more to add? Please comment with your favorites.

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