Gingerbread Man Literacy Unit & Stem Challenge

Gingerbread Man Literacy Unit with Stem Challenge by The Reading Roundup


When I started teaching, we planned everything by thematic units. Since then the words "rigor" and "Common Core Standards" have become more prevalent and thematic units seem to be a thing of the past. I missed the fun and creativity of thematic units, so I implemented a Gingerbread Man unit with my 3rd graders which was standards based. Continue reading to find out more!

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The 3rd grade team was focusing on the skill of comparing and contrasting which naturally lent itself to a unit on the various versions of Gingerbread Man stories. I began by working with our school librarian to collect a large collection of Gingerbread stories. (Click to see a list of suggested Gingerbread books to use!)

retelling

Even though 3rd grade was working on comparing and contrasting during their LA block, the students in my remediation group were continuing to struggle with story elements and retelling. As a result, we first practiced this skill with individual books before working on the more advance skill of comparing books. 

As I read various Gingerbread stories to the students, they each had a story map. They recorded the story elements and wrote the events from the beginning, middle, and end of the book. 

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The students used a story map similar to the one in the picture above. I love placing story maps in the dry erase pockets to reuse the graphic organizers again and again. Students can use dry erase makers or post-it notes to allow for reuse.

gingerbread man book chart

After we read each Gingerbread book, we added it to a chart. We recorded the following story elements for each book: setting, characters, problem, and solution. You can create an anchor chart to keep track of the books, but I decided to document it digitally using Padlet. (Click here to learn more about using Padlet for your literacy instruction).


Gingerbread Man Literacy Unit with Stem Challenge by The Reading Roundup: Compare and Contrast Stories digitally with Padlet
The Padlet we created to compare the story elements in various Gingerbread books.

compare and contrast

After reading several Gingerbread books to the students, I allowed them to pick a book to read with a buddy that was at their independent reading level. We then worked to complete a venn diagram together to compare the two stories. Since we had done so much scaffolding and work together over the previous days it allowed the students to be successful with this skill.

Gingerbread Man Literacy Unit with Stem Challenge by The Reading Roundup: Venn Diagram to Compare and Contrast Gingerbread Stories

stem activity

For our culminating activity we read the book The Gingerbread Pirates which the students LOVE. As I read the book, we discussed the problems in the story. We chose two problems in the story: the captain needed to find his pirate crew and he also needed a ship. The students selected which problem they would like to solve and we made it into a stem activity! Our school purchased HUGE Imagination Playground Engineering Blocks with a grant, which is what we decided to use. But you can just as easily use wooden blocks, crafts sticks with tape, or play-doh to create a solution to the problem in the story. As you can imagine, this hands on literacy extension activity was a HUGE hit with the students! They keep asking when we can do this again! 

Gingerbread Man Literacy Unit with Stem Challenge by The Reading Roundup
Students built a solution to the problem in the story Gingerbread Pirates.


the value of thematic units

The students enjoyed all of the activities and kept asking me if we could do more. Not only that, they were able to master various literacy skills through this unit including: story elements, retelling, problem/solution, and compare/contrast. By completing a thematic unit such as this, we are able to teach students the standards in a more engaging and authentic manner!


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Let's make learning more engaging for students and bring back thematic units! In this Gingerbread Man literacy unit, we focus on the following skills: story elements, retelling, and compare/contrast. The culminating activity is a STEM challenge that students are sure to LOVE! The Reading Roundup

Practice Making Words to Improve Students' Phonics Skills

Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics and spelling skills.

Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics skills. Keep reading for tips on implementing this strategy in your classroom!
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Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics skills.

What is the Making Words strategy?

Making Words is a hands on phonics activity that promotes students' phonological awareness and spelling skills. Students manipulate letter tiles to create words by blending the sounds together. They will need to change letters, add letters, and move letters around to spell new words. This multi-sensory approach deepens students' understanding of how words work.

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Patricia Cunningham offers the Making Words book that explicitly leads teachers and students through the activity. The teacher begins with the "secret word" in mind and then guides students to create smaller words using the letters in the secret word. The word difficulty gradually increases and the words build off of each other until the students eventually determine the secret word.

Some skills targeted by this activity:

  • Initial and ending sounds
  • Vowel sounds (long, short, silent e, digraphs)
  • Blends and Digraphs
  • Word families and rhyming words
  • Prefixes and Suffixes
  • Sight words

What is an alternative approach to this strategy?

I modify Patricia Cunningham's approach and implement a more open ended activity. I provide students with the letters of various holiday and theme words. They then brainstorm all of the words they are able to make using those letters. It gives me an opportunity to see students' independent phonics and spelling skills, but I can also scaffold the learning for students when necessary.

Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics skills.
For Halloween, we used black lights and highlighters to complete the activity!


What are the benefits of using Making Words?

When students use this hands on approach, it makes their knowledge of how words work more concrete. This multi-sensory strategy is highly effective for struggling readers and students with Dyslexia to improve their phonological awareness. The open ended approach is naturally differentiated. Some students may only be able to change initial/ending sounds in CVC words while others may be able to add affixes to make more complex words. 

Making Words is an extremely beneficial informal assessment. Teachers can quickly see which specific phonics skills students have mastered and those that require additional practice. Students may surprise you by either achieving more than you thought they could or struggling on skills you thought they knew. I've been surprised by 5th graders still missing short vowel sounds in CVC words or a struggling 2nd grade reader adding -ly to make the word sadly

Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics skills.


What are the steps for implementing this activity?

  1. Determine the final word you want to use.
  2. Provide students with all of the letters in the word you choose.
  3. Give students a recording sheet.
  4. Encourage students to manipulate the letters to see how many words they can make.
  5. Provide prompts to help students who may struggle coming up with words independently.

How does this fit into my Reading Workshop?

There are two options for implementation depending on the needs of your students. When introducing the activity and/or working with struggling readers, I recommend completing this within a small group. It allows the teacher to model and prompt students to help them find success. The small group format also makes informal observation and assessment easier.

Another option is to incorporate this activity into literacy centers, specifically Gail Boushey and Joan Moser's Daily 5 Word Work center. You may choose to print letters for individual students to use or larger letters for students to collaboratively manipulate using a pocket chart.


How do I organize the materials?

I have letters and recording sheets for holidays and themes already prepared that can be used throughout the entire year. They have each been printed on cardstock and laminated for reuse. You can also use the dry erase pocket sleeves to reuse the recording sheets. Each set of letters is stored in a small sandwich bag. The recording sheets and letter bags are kept in a small file box. By preparing it this way, I save paper and always have the activity ready. Plus I avoid fighting with the copy machine!

Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics skills.

How do I support students with this skill?

You may need to model strategies to students to show them how to add/change letters to make new words. Here are some prompts you may need to provide to students:
  • Change the first letter 
  • Change the vowel sound 
  • Add a silent e 
  • Add an ending (-s, -ing) 
  • Think of a word that rhymes with ____
  • Think of sight words you know
  • Add a digraph to the beginning/end of the word
  • Add a blend to the beginning/end of the word
  • Add a prefix
  • Add a suffix 
  • Combine words to make a compound word
  • Segment sounds and have students blend the sounds together to figure out the word 
  • Provide clues for words to make: A big yellow circle in the sky 

Are you interested in using this engaging phonics activity with your students throughout the entire school year? Click to download the resource!
Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics skills.
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Making Words is a highly effective strategy to reinforce phonics and spelling skills with your students. Have you tried this activity with your students? Let us know your experiences with this hands on strategy!



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Are you looking for an easy and engaging literacy center that you can use with your students all year? Making Words is the perfect activity to help improve students' phonics and spelling skills.


The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books

The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - The Reading Roundup

As teachers, we always say that we want to "help our students develop a love of reading." But how do we actually do that? Literacy gurus and researchers tell us it all comes down to finding the right book for our students. As we all know, sometimes that isn't always as easy as it sounds.


The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - The Reading Roundup

Through many years of trial and error, I've found a strategy that has proven to be highly successful with my students: a special delivery mailbox! Continue reading to find out how I've implemented this approach to help my students truly get excited about reading!


The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - The Reading Roundup

Special Delivery Mailbox for Book Recommendations

I wanted to find a fun way to provide students with personalized book recommendations. I bought a mailbox and a small table to keep outside of my room. I created several envelopes with a "Special Delivery" label and laminated them for durability.

The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - The Reading Roundup

Throughout the year, I randomly place books in an envelope addressed to specific students. These are books I think they will like based on their individual interests. They are books I have in my room, borrow from the library, or order from Scholastic. Each day students are eager to check to see if there is any mail in the mailbox! This alone adds a tremendous amount of excitement for reading!


Ways to Discover Your Students' Interests.


1 - Administer Reading Interest Surveys

Every year I always administer reading interest and attitude surveys with my students. These surveys provide me with a wealth of information about how students feel about reading and more importantly how they feel about themselves as readers. 

The interest surveys tell me the types of books students enjoy reading, any specific books/series they already like, as well as their interests in general. (Remember to accept ALL types of reading - graphic novels, books you feel are below their reading level, etc.) This information helps me come up with book recommendations specifically targeted to each students' individual interests. To find out more about reading interest and attitude surveys, click here.

Reading Interest and Attitude Surveys - The Reading Roundup
Click to download the surveys I use!

After I administer the surveys, I create a master document listing each students' personal interests as well as any favorite genres, books, authors, etc. I refer to this list to gain ideas of which books to deliver to students in the mailbox. 


2 - Scholastic Wish Lists

Another way that I gain additional information on the books students are interested in reading is by giving them Scholastic book flyers. I allow them to shop through the book orders and circle the books they want. Who doesn't love creating a wish list? I use their wishlists to select which books to purchase. I make sure to get at least one book on every student's wish list. (Be sure to use bonus points and select the $1 books on a student's wish list when possible!) 

The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - Scholastic Book Flyers - The Reading Roundup

At Christmas, I wrote the younger students a letter from the elf asking the students to select books. This just added an extra element of excitement! 

The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - Scholastic Books - The Reading Roundup

When the books arrive, I do not tell the students. Each day I randomly put a book in the special delivery envelope and put in the mailbox. This builds excitement for the students because they don't know when it will be their turn to get one of their books. They also are excited because they don't know which book(s) I've selected for them! 

Keeping Track of Book Recommendations

I use several documents to help me keep track of everything. I have a master list that tells me each students' interests and book picks. That list is helpful when selecting which book recommendations to deliver to students.

I also have other documents to keep track of book deliveries. I want to make sure that each student is receiving book recommendations. I write down the dates to make sure they all receive book suggestions within a reasonable amount of time.

The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - Special Delivery Books FREEBIE - The Reading Roundup
Click to download the FREE recording sheets!

Delivering Book Recommendations has Made my Students Truly Love Reading

One of my 5th graders said, "I love reading now, and that is something I never said before." They beg me for more time to read. These are students who previously only pretended to read and were very resistant when it was time for independent reading. A second grader, who was a very reluctant reader, started to refuse to participate in our review games because she just wanted to read. In fact, she would have been content to miss recess to continue reading! 

The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - The Reading Roundup

My students are truly excited about reading because they feel they have a choice in the books they read. Previously, they would complain that their teachers always tell them what to read and it was never anything that interests them. By making their voices heard and finding books tailored to their individual interests, they honestly do love reading now.

What other methods have you used to help students find the "right" book that have led them to develop of love of reading?


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The Best Way to Develop Your Students' Love of Books - The Reading Roundup



Bring the HEAT to your Book Talks

The Reading Roundup - Bring the HEAT to your Book Talks title

Hi. My name is Melissa, and I'm here to talk to you about Book Talks.... 

BORING!!


Long gone are the days of the traditional book talks. The ones where the students simply recite the same script: introduce themselves, state the book title, tell a fact about a book, and encourage the audience to check it out. Our students are way too creative for that, so we need to give them a chance to let their creativity shine through their book talks! 


Dr. Brad Gustafson, an elementary principal, encourages students to "Bring the Heat" to their book talks. His strategy moves students beyond the same old script in order to create more engaging book talks. Isn't the purpose of a book talk to spark interest and make someone want to read the book?

Check out Dr. Gustafson's YouTube video below explaining the concept of bringing the HEAT to book talks. 


Book Talks: Bring the Heat

Let's take a quick look at each of the elements of the HEAT method.

The Reading Roundup - Bring the HEAT to your Book Talks poster
Click to download the HEAT poster.

Hook

Grab the attention of the audience to make them want to know more about your book. Some ways to do that include: asking a question, stating an interesting fact, or getting the audience to imagine something. I've even had students have a snowball fight to hook in the audience!

Energy

How will you show energy in your book talk? Can you change your volume, talk with an accent, use props, or add lots of emotion? This will help create an engaging book talk for your audience.

Audience

Consider who is your audience and how can you connect with them. Why should they care about your book? It is helpful to make a connection by mentioning a place they might have been, things they might have done, or people they might know.

Time

Keep it short! The ideal book talk is less than a minute long. Teach your students the art of adding a cliffhanger to leave the audience wanting to know more. 


Scaffolding Book Talks for Students

In order to support my students with creating their own book talks, I created graphic organizers based on Dr. Brad Gustafson's Bringing the HEAT method. These scaffolds walk the students through the process in order to create more engaging book talks.


Heat Planning Guide

The first graphic organizer helps the students plan out the strategies they want to implement to make their book talk engaging. It provides suggestions and prompts for each of the HEAT elements. The QR Code leads to the YouTube video explaining how to "Bring the HEAT to Book Talks." For students who need additional support, it has sentence stems that they can fill in the blanks. (Example: Imagine  a scary event . That's what it was like for  character  in this book.)

The Reading Roundup - Bring the HEAT to your Book Talks graphic organizer
Click to download the graphic organizers!

Book Talk Rough Draft

The rough draft graphic organizer walks students through the creation of their actual script. It provides suggestions for the book introduction, talking points, and closing. Several sentence stems are also provided for students who need additional scaffolding.
The Reading Roundup - Bring the HEAT to your Book Talks graphic organizer
Click to download the graphic organizers!

Book Talk Final Draft

The last document allows students to write out their entire script. If students are working with a partner, I have each student write the exact same script on their paper. They then highlight their individual lines on the script. This just helps make it easier when rehearsing their book talk. 
The Reading Roundup - Bring the HEAT to your Book Talks graphic organizer
Click to download the graphic organizers!


Finalizing the Book Talk

Students can perform their book talks for their classmates, but I highly recommend making it into a video. My students used iPads to record their own book talks and edited them using WeVideo. Our school also has our own YouTube channel where we can post the videos. It just adds an extra level of excitement for the students.

Examples of Engaging Book Talks

Currently Dr. Brad Gustafson is hosting a Book Talk Tournament featuring 30 second Book Talks from 8 Lead Learners and 8 Literacy Legends. Check them out for some inspiring book talks to get you and your students excited to start creating your own! You can also vote in the tournament. Be sure to check out my principal, Andy Jacks, really bringing the HEAT in his book talk!

Have you implemented book talks in your classroom before? What tips and strategies have you found beneficial in help your students create engaging book talks?


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An Easy Way to Save Your Anchor Charts

An Easy Way to Save Your Anchor Charts - The Reading Roundup

Teachers LOVE using anchor charts! But we don't love how much wall-space they can take up in the classroom. Am I right? Read on to find a simple way to save your anchor charts in a way that students can still easily use them as a reference! Which isn't the point of anchor charts to have them accessible for students to refer to when needed?


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What is the purpose of Anchor Charts?

Anchor Charts are a valuable visual for students to help them understand a specific skill, strategies, or other content. The most beneficial anchor charts are co-constructed by the teacher and students. When students are involved in creating the anchor charts, it helps them better understand and remember the content. Students are also more likely to refer to the co-created anchor charts due to their sense of ownership. 

Anchor charts are displayed around the classroom as a visual reminder of the content. Teachers refer to previously made anchor charts to build off of prior content as well as refresh students' memories. Students use the anchor charts as a reference as they gradually become more independent with the strategies highlighted in the chart.


Anchor Charts that Don't Take up as Much Wall-space

Teachers typically create and display anchor charts that correspond with their current units of study. But when you are doing that for several subject areas, the amount of anchor charts in a classroom can quickly add up! Ultimately, the purpose of the anchor charts is for students to refer back to them when necessary. They aren't always able to do that when teachers only display the current units of study.

One simple solution for keeping anchor charts easily accessible to students all year is to take pictures of your anchor charts. This is a huge help since pictures obviously take up a lot less space! Think about a large poster compared to a 5x7 picture. I found this 2 sided picture frame from Ikea, which has worked perfectly as a display!

An Easy Way to Save Your Anchor Charts - The Reading Roundup
Click to purchase the frame.


It was so simple to turn this 2-sided picture frame into an anchor chart display! 
  1.  Remove the paper and plastic from the inside of the frame. 
  2.  Print the anchor chart pictures and whole punch the top.
  3.  Add binder rings to attach the pictures to the frame.
EASY!!
An Easy Way to Save Your Anchor Charts - The Reading Roundup

Keeping Anchor Charts Accessible All Year

These anchor chart displays are perfect to keep at your guided reading table as a quick reference. If your students sit at tables or groups of desks for independent work, you may even want to make an anchor chart display for each group. This makes it easy for them to refer to the anchor charts independently when needed.

How do you display anchor charts in your classroom? How do you provide access to the anchor charts all year for your students? Share your tips in the comments below!


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An Easy Way to Save Your Anchor Charts - The Reading Roundup






The One Tool You Need to make Reading Response Digital

Make Reading Response Digital with Padlet - The Reading Roundup

Are you looking to go paperless with your reading response notebooks? Padlet is an AMAZING digital tool that makes it engaging for readers to respond to text. 


What is Padlet?

Padlet is an free online bulletin board that allows multiple contributors to post ideas, images, links, videos, and more. Teachers can use the website or the app for students to access the Padlet boards they have created.

Using Padlet to Annotate Text

Make Reading Response Digital with Padlet - The Reading Roundup
When setting up the padlet, teachers can create columns that correspond with text annotations. I created Padlet boards for each book club book with the following columns: questions, important details, and interesting facts. Rather than annotating text using post-it notes, students can type their responses into the shared Padlet. 

Students can also comment on the ideas posted by other students! For example - one student asked a question about an unidentified character in the book. Another student responded in the comments with new details to help figure out that character's identity.


Using Padlet to Track Characters

Make Reading Response Digital with Padlet - The Reading Roundup
When reading chapter books, students can struggle to keep track of all of the characters. I created a Padlet that had columns for each of the main characters and a column for new characters. As students found additional information about each character or met a new character, they could add it to the Padlet. It was a visual way for students to easily remember what they knew about the characters.

Additional Benefits of Using Padlet for Reading Response

  • Students can easily collaborate with other students who are reading the same book. 
  • Students can immediately see new ideas on their device as other students contribute to the board.
  • Displaying the Padlet on the Smartboard leads to more student accountability and encourages them to take the activity seriously.
  • Students can respond to other students ideas in the comments. They can also like each other's comments - which adds a whole new element of excitement for them!
  • There is an option for students to add pictures, so they can take a picture of their evidence from the text. 
  • Teachers can customize the backgrounds of the Padlet boards. This is helpful when multiple books are being discussed at once. Different backgrounds make it easier to quickly distinguish which book is being discussed.
Make Reading Response Digital with Padlet - The Reading Roundup


Setting up Padlet for Reading Response

The following video provides step-by-step instructions for setting up Padlet boards for reading response.



These are only a few ways that I've used Padlet with my students, but there are limitless options for other ways to use it. How else could you use Padlet for reading response? Are there other digital tools you use for your students to response to text? Please share your ideas in the comments below!


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Are you looking to go paperless with your reading response notebooks? Padlet is an AMAZING digital tool that makes it engaging for readers to respond to text and collaborate with others.

Reader's Theater is NOT Just for Fluency Practice

The Reading Roundup - Reader's Theater is NOT Just for Fluency Practice

Reader's Theater is an extremely effective strategy for fluency practice. It allows students to practice reading fluently in an authentic manner. But there are so many other skills you can teach using Reader's Theater! 


5 Alternative Ways to use Reader's Theater

Read to find out some ways I've used Reader's Theater with my students to work on more than just fluency practice. By focusing on these other skills, it improves the students' overall comprehension and leads to a more expressive and fluent final performance of the script!

Reader's Theater to Identify the Setting of a Story

Have your students look through the script to identify the parts of the story which refer to the setting. After reading those parts, write down the adjectives used to describe the setting and decide where the story takes place. The students can then use Google images to find photos of each setting which best match the description. These photos can be added to a green screen app or simply displayed on your Smart board as the students perform. 
The Reading Roundup - Reader's Theater is NOT Just for Fluency Practice


Reader's Theater for Vocabulary Development

Sometimes students are unfamiliar with some of the words in the Reader's Theater scripts. You can use this as an opportunity to practice using context clues to determine the meaning of those words. Not only are there words they do not know the meaning of, they may find words that are hard for them to pronounce. You may want to work with the students to find synonyms for these words but that students can accurately read.


Reader's Theater to Teach Comprehension

Reader's Theater is a great opportunity for students to practice making inferences about the characters. Many scripts offer a moral of the story. The students tend to find it easier to identify the moral of a Reader's Theater script, because they are more personally invested in the story compared to just reading a passage out of a text. 

Reader's Theater to Analyze Character Traits

We spend a majority of our work with Reader's Theater analyzing the characters. Take the time to identify the character traits and have students provide text evidence to support their inferences. Encourage students to think about how their character must be feeling in the story. I even have students draw faces in the margins based on how their character is feeling. This is a great reminder to add the appropriate expression when performing the script!

The Reading Roundup - Reader's Theater is NOT Just for Fluency Practice

Reader's Theater for Writing Practice

There are many opportunities to use Reader's Theater for writing practice. Allow students to rewrite some of their lines or change the ending. In fact, you may even want to have your students write an entire script themselves! 


What are some other ways you've used Reader's Theater with your students? Please share them in the comments below!


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The Reading Roundup - Reader's Theater is NOT Just for Fluency Practice