One of my favorite reading lessons comes around this time every year. We are going through the novel The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare as a read-aloud. It ties in with our October/November units, as it takes place around the time of the French & Indian War. This is a great story full of adventure, friendship, and suspense.


At the end of chapter two, we read, “So [Matt] was not so quick-witted as he should have been when unexpectedly someone arrived.” I ask the kids what this makes them think. Usually they say things like, “Something bad is going to happen” or “Matt is caught off guard” or “Maybe it’s Indians and he doesn’t now how to react”. I then explain the author’s use of foreshadowing. I explain that foreshadowing is using clues or hints to suggest events that happen later on in the story. We talk about why authors use foreshadowing and how it helps build suspense and makes the reader want to continue with the story to learn what happens next!


In order to discuss this even further, we pause from our read-aloud and spend time reading the short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl. While quite creepy, this is an awesome example of how foreshadowing can be used to create that feeling of suspense in the reader. I found a copy of this online at this website: This is what I use as my teacher’s guide, as it includes questions to ask or things to think about during the story. I personally like reading this story out loud to the class. I think it’s fun to make the landlady’s voice sort of creepy, and I know right where to pause to build that suspense. The students like to just sit back and listen too.

So, we read through “The Landlady”, pausing to discuss the story every once in a while just to make sure the students are on track with what is happening. It is amazing to see how into the story they are – every single one of my kiddos was on the edge of their desk (I allow them to sit on their desk during read-alouds) waiting to see what would happen next!

The end of the story is somewhat….open-ended. It doesn’t really say what happens, but using clues from the story, the students are able to make guesses. I give them a little bit of background information, such as what the bitter almond taste in in Billy’s tea might have come from, or why the landlady sort of smells like pickled walnuts or a hospital. We then talk about how the author’s use of foreshadowing helped make this story so interesting. We discuss how it wouldn’t be the same if the author had right away stated what the landlady planned to do.

After reading and discussing the story, I allow the students to create their own endings. Since Roald Dahl left the ending open, it lets the students be incredibly creative when writing their own endings. This is always one of my favorite parts of the lesson – hearing what my kiddos think will happen next!

I also found “The Landlady” is on Youtube! I’m not sure if I’m going to show this to my class, as I like for them to paint their own pictures, not see someone else’s interpretation. But if you like it, here is the link:

This is a fun activity that my 5th graders always love and still talk about, even those that I taught a few years ago! How do you teach foreshadowing??






It’s that dreaded time of year for most teachers….conferences.

My first year of teaching, I was terrified of my conferences! I had great parents and wonderful students, but just the thought of meeting with the parents to discuss their child’s grades and the possibility of them questioning my actions/motives in the classroom was nerve-wracking. Thankfully, all 11 of my conferences that year went smoothly and, dare I say, I actually enjoyed chatting with the parents! It really allowed me to show them how much I love and care for their child and want to help their child succeed.

Last year, my second year of teaching, I only had eight kiddos (seven later in the year), and a few parents didn’t make it to their conference. Some of these conferences were a bit more challenging due to lower grades on report cards, but they still went smoothly.

So here I am, in my third year of teaching, and I’m finally feeling a little more confident going into each conference. I have an awesome group of students this year and I know most of the parents well. This is the first year where there has not been a conference that I have been “dreading”. I am excited to chat with these families and tell them how well their child has been doing in 5th grade!

I start out each conference with prayer. What better way to begin a conversation?! I then show the parents their child’s report card and give them a minute or two to look over it on their own. Next, I point out several areas where their child is doing well, whether it be in academics, participation, behavior, organization, or some other area. We then look at an area or two where their child may need some improvement. For most of my 5th graders this year, it is in reading comprehension (but that is for another post). We try and come up with an action plan for both at school and at home so that we will see improvement in the next 9 weeks. Sometimes this will involve sending home extra work, or it might be one-on-one help at recess/silent reading time. I then answer any questions they may have about grades, conflicts with other kids, or behavior issues. We sit and chat about any other issues and I try and close the conference with one last positive comment so that they are leaving on a great note! Oh, I also give them a print out of the Accelerated Reader quizzes their child has taken so that they can see how their child is doing with AR.

What are your conferences like? Do you find yourself getting stressed about them? What do you think is the most important thing you discuss at conferences??

November Happenings

So this weekend was K, my 4-month old niece’s baptism at church. I also have a 2-year-old niece, A. They are wonderful and I love them dearly! However they are growing up WAY too fast. It feels like we just had A’s baptism, yet it was a year and a half ago! Here is me and my sweet niece K:

Isn’t she the cutest??

And I had to include a picture with my niece A who is SO fun! I love watching her grow and develop and change – she is incredibly bright for her age!

Ok enough about my two favorite kiddos. I have a class full of 10 and 11 year olds who I love dearly as well, all of whom I am extremely proud of!! Know why??

Out of my class of 13, nine of them got an A+ on their huge Colonial America unit test, and several othr! This was a big sucker at 95 points with lots of matching, fill in the blank, multiple choice, map labeling, and four essay questions. I really thought I had made the test more challenging this year, but they proved to me how well they knew their stuff. Yay for a successful unit!! Doesn’t that make you feel so good?? 🙂

Every month, all the students at JCS do a project relating to the unit topic for the month. This month is one of my favorites. In October, students researched and wrote a report on a famous person in history from colonial/Revolutionary War times. All sorts of historical figures were chosen, from Ben Franklin and George Washington, to Sybil Ludington and Nathan Hale. After reading their reports (which were SO well done!), I learned quite a bit! PS: Interesting fact – can you guess which famous person from early American history I am related to? She is a famous female from the 16th/17th century…

Anyways, for November, the students turn their report into a first person monologue and present a Living Wax Museum! Family members, friends, and all of the other classes walk around the school to the different stations where the kids are set up. Once someone taps a “wax figure” on the should, he/she comes to life and tells the audience about his/her life. This is such a fun thing for the 5th graders to do and is always a highlight of their year. I am super excited to see my current students in action. Some of them wore costumes to present their report to the class, as I offered that option for bonus points, and BOY are their costumes awesome! They look GREAT!

So this year our LWM is on Friday, November 18th. The students have another week and a half to finish preparing their monologue and memorize it. Their monologue must be two to three minutes long – they all complain when they first hear this length, but once they start speaking they realize that time goes by much quicker than they first imagined!

Here are some [edited for privacy] pictures of my kiddos from two years ago:

If you can’t see it on their poster, can you guess who their historical figure is??

I am always so impressed with how well my 5th graders do with this project. It takes a lot of practice, hard work, courage, and diligence to prepare, but they blow me away every year; I have no doubt that this year will be the same 🙂 And…it brings these kids so much confidence! Another plus!

I’m sure I’ll post lots of pictures after the event is over this year. Right now I have been busy getting reports/papers/tests graded as we prepare for report cards and conferences…ohhhh the joy!

Currently November…

I had to get in on the fun from Oh Boy Fourth Grade…

Sorry it’s small…whenever I selected “large” or “full size” it was HUGE!! Anyone know how to make it an in-between size on WordPress??

November is going to be a BUSY month. Our unit is on the American Revolution – one of the longest units in one of the shortest months! Ahh! But I know we will squeeze everything in, even if it means sacrificing something else. Not my first choice, but there is SO much amazing information that I want these kids to know 🙂 The most important thing that we focus on this month is how God played such a huge role in the foundation of our country. Did you know that George Washington had four bullets go through his jacket and two horses shot out from under him, yet he was not injured ONCE?? I wonder if GW knew that he was destined for greatness after the ways that God protected him…I am always amazed when I see how the Lord worked through each and everyone one of the men and women involved in the Revolution!

What does your November look like?? Is this a busy month or a more relaxing one for you and your class?

Verbs Verbs Verbs!

In English, we recently began chapter three which is all about…you guessed it…verbs! In our first two chapters, we discussed sentences and nouns. Most of this was a review for the kids, but this new chapter on verbs is a LONG one. Like, 14 or 15 sections long, several of which will be new to most of the kids.

I decided to start out easy. The first section was all about action verbs. These are generally the easiest verbs to identify. Hop, run, sing, yell, push, kick, well, you get the idea. Any time we do a lesson such as this, there is not much to teach – most of it is review. So instead of sitting around having the kids listen to me give example after example or having them do work from the book, we play a game that they LOVE. I read a sentence out loud and call on the first student to stand up after I finish the sentence to identify whatever we are working on that day.We have established several rules, however. For instance, they must remain seated with their bottoms on the chair until I finish reading that sentence. Also, no shoving their chairs out of the way when they stand up, as it can ram into someone else. With these few rules, we have established a successful way to practice our concepts!

So last week, when studying action verbs, I read a sentence such as “The pig ran slowly to his mother’s house”. I watched for the first student to stand up (although, I try and call on a variety of kids so it is not the same one every time!) and they had to identify the action verb in that sentence (“ran”). The most common error (although there were very few!) was the kids identifying the adverbs instead of the verb (ex: “slowly” instead of “ran”). We discussed how the word “slowly” doesn’t describe WHAT he did as a verb is supposed to do, it describes HOW he did it. For the last question, my kiddos always ask if I can call on the person who jumps the highest out of their chair! It’s amazing what a little “exercise” will do – it totally motivates them to get involved and they have now started to ask if we can play the stand-up game when we complete our English lesson!!

Another motivator for my students is using magazines and making collages. So to tie this into our English lesson, I split the kids into groups of two or three. They had to search through (school appropriate) magazines that I keep in my classroom and find as many action verbs as they could. After gluing them onto paper, they counted them up and the group that had the most at the end of the time limit (15 minutes) got a small prize 🙂 They were AMAZING searching through those magazines and I loved the conversations I heard! Several times I overheard one student ask another, “Is ____ an action verb? I don’t think so…” with the other student responding “Let’s see…can you DO it? No? Then it’s not…” It was wonderful! Here are their collages…




Towards the end of the lesson, when time was up, I had each group choose their three favorite action verbs on their collage and act them out for the rest of the class. The other kiddos then had to try and guess which verb the group was acting out. My favorite was a group that acted out “do” – they went around the classroom and, well, did lots of stuff! That was a toughie to guess 🙂

Teaching English can be a major challenge because of all of the issues with our language – it is not an easy language for kids to learn! But there are ways to make it fun and exciting so that they do not dread our English lesson every week (I usually do two per week). How do you like to teach English? Any fun games you play with your class?

Fun with Figurative Language

So at my school, we started using a new series for reading instruction. This is a fairly new thing for us, as we typically just used novels in the past. However, there was a lack of an actual curriculum, which we felt was needed. Our scope and sequence was not consistent and many important concepts were being skipped altogether.

Now this is a good series – the stories are clever, with many of them coming from popular books, and the vocabulary words are always appropriate while not overwhelming. But the main issue we had with it was the lack of literary elements being taught. At the beginning of the theme (there are 6 total, each with 5 stories), an element is introduced. The problem is that this element is then reviewed over…and over…and over again. It really only goes through maybe 12 elements all year, and skips some really important ones!

One that is not covered at all is figurative language. This is a huge part of becoming a good writer as well, so I knew I wanted to cover it, I just wasn’t sure how. Enter PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is my lifesaver. No seriously, I use it for everything. Slideshows, important lessons, Christmas gifts…I just love it. My first year of teaching, I probably spent at least 12 hours every week creating a new PowerPoint for a lesson or something going on at school. Thankfully, the time has paid off; isn’t it amazing how a little bit of technology can make a huge difference in interesting students?? Crazy…but so wonderful.

So of course I went to PowerPoint for this as well. I decided to focus on 8 different types – similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, alliteration, assonance, idioms, and onomatopoeia. I created several slides for each type, discussing the definition of the term, why authors use it, lots of examples, and chances for the kids to create their own examples.

We went through the PowerPoint together in class last week and the kids were more involved than they had been at any other point during a reading lesson this year. After the PowerPoint, I had the kids fill out a bookmark with all eight types, definitions, and examples of each:


The story in our reader last week was perfect for identifying figurative language. I created four centers, for four of the types of figurative language (similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and personification). The students rotated through the centers with a group. This provided a review of these types and the chance to identify them in our story this week. I told them that if they could find more examples than I did, their group could get a prize – there’s nothing wrong with a little motivation, right?! 😉

Anyways, I am really pleased with how this lesson went. Overall, I think the kids have a good understanding of all 8. To be honest, the one they struggle with the most is metaphors – they still tend to say things like “The stars were dancing” and I have to remind them they need to COMPARE the stars to something, such as “the stars are dancers, twirling across the sky”. I finally realized that having them write it as a simile first is easier, then having them get rid of “like” or “as” helps them turn it into a metaphor.

If you are interested in my PowerPoint, it is posted on my TpT store – feel free to check it out! I’ve also included the centers and bookmark document; I’m happy for you to use them – just be careful when printing the bookmarks as you must print them back to back.

So what is your favorite way to teach? Is there a particular literary element you feel is more difficult to teach? I’m always looking for new ideas for my kiddos 🙂

Figurative Language Bookmarks

Figurative Language Centers