Halloween Books for Kids

Hey there everyone! It's Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead. I am here today to share some ideas for Halloween themed literature you can use in the classroom, suggest to students for their library visits, or share with parents.  And I wanted to be sure to cover books for students through at least elementary school or perhaps evening for middle schoolers! Of course we all know books for students of a certain age can be appreciated by much older or younger children too. Some of the books I read to second graders are aimed to much younger readers and some are advanced chapter books. So treat my age recommendations as just that- recommendations! If the books are new to you, read them yourself first before you decide what direction to go in with them. You can find these books at your local library or click for more information about each book before you decide.

Lets  check out some ideas for the very youngest of children up to about kindergarten.
The Spooky Wheels on the Bus by Elizabeth Mills- The counting in this Halloween version of the famous book goes from One Spooky Bus to Ten Goofy Ghosts. Kids will be singing this one all month!

Spooky Pookie by Sandra Boynton- This cute book has Pookie the pig trying to choose a Halloween costume! Awesome for very young babes and preschoolers.

Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan - While this is not technically a Halloween book, lots of classes do owl units during October so I thought it deserved a mention. Its a cute twist on a bedtime story. Little Owl doesn't understand why anyone would want to miss the full moon. He ends up getting to sleep as the sun begins to rise. Great for babies-preschool.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson - this fun story includes a witch who loses her hat, then lets a bunch of friends on her broom one by one and has kids wonder if there will be room on the broom for anyone else. It would work for preschoolers- grade 2.

The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin by Sonali Fry is a cute little twist on the Itsy Bitsy Spider and would be great for preschoolers.

Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'Connell - in this story a witch moves into a ghosts' house and has to scare them off one by one. It is also useful if you are trying to find a book to make some math connections. This one would probably be appropriate for preschoolers-grade one.

Bone Soup by Cambria Evans is a tale of a little guy named Finnigin who is always hungry! He gets to a new town and no one will share their food with him. What will he do? If he stirs up a little magic, he must just create something good to eat.

The Night Before Halloween by Natasha Wing - great for kindergarten, first and second graders, this book in the Night Before series will get kids excited for Halloween and as a teacher I love the rhyming text!

Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey is just awesome. I bought it back in 2007 and have taped and retaped it several times because the students can't seem to put it down. Its a cute story about a weiner dog who is teased for his costume but ends up saving the day (or Halloween night, actually). It appeals to kindergarteners-grade 2 or 3 I'd say.

The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson- this is the author of the well-known books The Best School Year Ever and the Best Christmas Ever. In this story, the six Herdman siblings always ruin Halloween by stealing candy and stirring up trouble - until the mayor cancels Halloween! Can it be saved?!

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Spears - a classic story that you probably already know. This is definitely for older children, perhaps ages 12-13+ and explores what would be like to be a young  girl in the 1600's who is suspected of witchcraft.

Zombie Chasers by  John Kloepfer -  Great for grades 5-7, this book combines silly and spooky as three kids try and deal with a zombie outbreak!

 So what is your favorite Halloween book to read? Let us know in the comments below.


Gross Books and Why I Use Them

Hi! It's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late. We just started a new literacy system with our Title I students this year from Fountas & Pinnell called Leveled Literacy Intervention. So far, I'm loving it! It's created to use with small groups daily and accelerate the process to reach grade level expectations. Every day, we read a new high-interest book on their instructional or independent level, and I've got to say they did an amazing job with these books.

But I'm not here to sell LLI because (1) it's really expensive and (2) you don't HAVE to have it in your class to help students reach grade level expectations. It's all about selecting books that students can relate to and read at their instructional or independent level. What I do want to talk about today is "gross books".

I have already read about poop multiple times this year (along with many other topics ranging from art, amazing heroes, and some really neat fictional books as well), and I'll be honest. I LOVE it! Why? Because it immediately hooks the students. Maybe it's just my kids, but they are fascinated with gross things. I do have a large number of boys in my program, so maybe that's why. But books like the one above are the kind of books they eat up!

One of the bonuses was that all of the books I have read this year about poop also talked about how it was somehow beneficial to us (in the book above, they used fibers from elephant dung to make paper).

I feel like too many teachers want to avoid these books or keep them out of the classroom because it's not "appropriate". Captain Underpants? I say if a kid can fall in love with reading through those books, then by all means, sign me up!

Does this mean that you can't introduce them or steer them toward "classier" choices? Absolutely not. Like I said earlier, we are reading biographies about really special people I've never heard of, interesting stories about art, and lots of other things. But if I give in occasionally to these "less-than-desirable books", then I have a better chance of getting them to at least attempt something else when the time comes.

And be honest, you're a little curious what's inside these books, too...


When Parents Ask: What Did You Do Today?

"What did you do today?"

I have heard about it from parents year after year.  I have heard about it from friends with kids year after year.  I have experienced it myself.  The dreaded answer to that question....


The child comes home from school and they have absolutely nothing to say about their day.  Was it boring?  Were they not challenged?  Are they unhappy at school?  What is going on?

 I think that having this conversation with a child is very important. It promotes:
  • reflection
  • retelling skills 
  • vocabulary
  • language skills
 But it can be very frustrating when you hear day after day the same response, "nothing."  So how can we help our students be more responsive when this question is asked and how can we help parents get answers.

Asking the Right Questions

Now that I have two school age children, I have received the dreaded answer several times.  "Nothing"... "I can't remember" or even "Mom, it is the same thing everyday!"  Okay.  I know that none of these are true.  So I had to change my questioning technique.

I still ask each day "What did you do today?"  But if I don't get the answer I want, then I probe a bit further. 
  • What book did your teacher read?
  • What math game did you play?
  • Who did you play with at recess today?
My questions are more specific.  And sometimes the newsletters that are sent home can help me with this.  That leads me to my next idea...


This may seem a little obvious because I think pretty much most/all teachers send newsletters to keep families up to date on what is going on in the classroom.  There are a few small things that we may be able to add to help our parents.
  • Specific book titles--this allows parents to ask questions about the exact book being read
  • Vocabulary words--this year I am including these specific words and asking parents to use them, too
  • Questions--last year I started listing some questions that parents could ask their students about the lessons that were occuring
  • Apps--I list one app or website that we will be using so that families can try it out as well
My newsletters are pretty short and sweet.  I try to make sure that I have a fair amount of white space so that they seem less overwhelming.  But I try to make sure that I put information in the newsletter that will provide parents with a springboard to conversations with their children.

Social Media

Another way to help our parents engage in these conversations is through social media.  This summer I learned about several teachers using Twitter and blogs to reach out to their families daily.  I really wanted to try this out and I decided to use the Remind app.

Remind is a free communication tool for teachers.  Parents can get the message through email, a text message, or the app.  It is very easy and quick to use.  The message can be a sentence or two, an image, or a voice clip. Once the account is set up by the teacher, parents choose to sign up for these notifications. 

With this app, I have been sending one image a day highlighting something that was done.  My hope is that this daily information will provide parents with information to ask questions about their child's day.   Here are some examples:

There are so many other apps and methods to this approach available to teachers; however, this one has been quick and effective for me this year so far.  I look forward to talking to parents at conferences about the impact that this has made on them.

 What do you do to help promote these conversations at home?


Turn and Talk...and then some.

I’m Cathy Collier, from Cathy Collier’s The W.I.S.E. Owl and I’m a talker!  Always have been, always will.  My mother used to start parent conferences with, “I know Cathy talks too much, what else can you tell me?”  My very favorite high school English teacher used me in a vocabulary example, “Cathy is loquacious.” Yep, it means talkative. 

Get them talking.

One of the best ways to let children demonstrate their understanding in the content areas is to let them talk.  Of course, controlling the talking is the secret they don’t have to know.  Here are a few conversations your students can have that will let you know just how much they know.

Good Noise

Years ago I had a teacher assistant who would complain every day about the noise in the room.  I would constantly tell her, “They are 5.  It won’t be perfectly quiet for long.”  I’d also say, “They need to talk to communicate their thoughts.”  I kept trying to tell her there was a difference between noise and good noise.

Turn and Talk Better

We all do it, but do you know how valuable it truly is.  Make sure there is procedure for talking.  Make rules. 
1.     Get a partner.  Make sure they know WHO they should be talking to.
2.     Make sure they know what to talk about.  Set a purpose.
3.     Make it mandatory that both partner’s talk.  Give roles:  the talker and the listener.  Each   student gets a role on a popsicle stick.  They rotate holding the signs to share the talk.    You can also use the roles to have the students share their discussion with the class.

4.     Make them justify.  Hold the partners accountable for the “because…” part of the statement.  They can’t just give an opinion or a fact, they have to back it up.

Oral Projects

Students love talking…so letting them choose what to talk about can help you focus their attention to details.  One year, I had a monthly family project.  In the middle of the month, I sent home a template due at the end of the month to be displayed for the following month.  For example, half way through September I sent home a pumpkin for the students to decorate.  It was due the end of the month, to be displayed outside our door for the whole next month.  We spent the day they were due letting the students describe their project.

Let’s talk Social Studies and Science

A great way to get students talking is to link the discussion to a social studies or science standard.

            Magnets – According to Virginia Standards of Learning, our kindergarten students needed to understand the laws of attract and repel.  It can be a tricky concept for 5-year-olds to express.  After magnet play with several types of magnets, including a brief explanation of North and South Poles attracting and repelling, students are put into pairs with “sandwich boards” made of red and blue construction paper with “N” and “S.”  They need to have a conversation with each other to determine something that would help them be “attracted” to each other.  They also need to determine something that would make them “repel” from each other.  They share with the class the things that would attract (donuts, candy, ice cream) and those that would repel (bees, snakes, spiders). 

            Reuse Something – Our kindergarten students also need to learn about natural resources to reuse, reduce, and recycle.  We always have a “reuse” project due at the end of the unit.  Students need to create something from something else that would typically be thrown away.  When they return their projects to the class, they need to tell the students what they “reused” and made into something new.  
This student reused paper plates, a paper towel roll, an old CD (as the base) to create the game.

            President – What would they do if they were president.  I’ve seen it as a writing assignment for older students, but younger students can’t get their thoughts down on paper easily.  Let them talk about it.  You can have them dress up as a President for the Day.  They can tell you what they would like to do, if they were president.  Cupcakes for lunch every day?  Video games were mandatory?  You’ll love what they say.

Talk…use it wisely and it will make them wiser.

IF you'd like a copy of the Talking/Listening Sticks, CLICK HERE.


Writing Models for Younger Students

Hello, everyone!  It's Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars here with some writing help for young readers.

As I work with students throughout the day, I am constantly working to make sure they are getting every aspect of literacy instruction to help them get the full picture of all things literacy.

One easy way to help young readers learn to write is through models.  This may seem simple, but it is such a perfect way to introduce them to the conventions of writing.

I read a simple book with the students called Color It Blue from Scholastic.  After reading it, we made these books with other colors.

 The students first made a Circle Map to list some things that were the color they chose.

Then they used the book as a model to help them write and illustrate their very own books.

I love using this to help students understand the conventions of writing.  It is a simple way to help them gain insights into the conventions of writing with sentences and words.


5 Tips that will help you LOVE your Listening Center

Do you have these problems with setting up and running a Listening Center?

You don't have enough books.
It's too noisy.
You don't have the "fancy smancy" listening center that costs hundreds of dollars.
The kids fight over who is running the Listening Center.

Here are a few ideas that may help you have a more organized Listening Center.

Have teachers put their resources together.  Share your listening center books.  Our first grade team has done this.  We have a common area where we keep our books.  Luckily, we had a great parent helper organize our books for us.

She was WAY organized and would seriously come all afternoon almost every day last school year.  Honestly, it was like having a personal assistant at school.  We miss her!

Anyway, here is what she came up with.

They are put in order first by "theme" that goes through the entire school year.  Then, the rest are in alphabetical order.  When we check out a set of books, we put the clothespin with our name on the books that we are using.  This way, others can see where the books are at and I know quickly where I need to return them.  

For years, I had students listen to books without any headphones.   My listening center is in the hallway right outside the door so they could listen directly from the CD player.  Here's the problem:  They were always talking and goofing around.

I got a headphone jack this year.  I thought it was going to be expensive, but it really wasn't- I got one that has 10 headphone jacks.  I had ordered it out of a school supply magazine for about $25.

Here is one from Amazon that only has four.  

Have you ever looked at the prices of a "fancy smancy" listening center?  Ridiculous!  I use a Boom Box (yes, I just said Boom Box).  It does the job.  It has both a CD player and a tape player in it.  I think I got mine at Wal-mart about 10 years ago and it still works!

I have "leaders" at the listening center.  I put a list of the center groups at the listening center (laminated) and then I just put a black dot next to the name of the person who is the leader that day.  I just go down the list each time I put a new book into the listening center.  We practice "A LOT" how to be a leader.  They are in charge of getting the books and handing them out, putting in the disc, and they are the ONLY ones who are touching the CD player.  

I mentioned above that I didn't use headphones for years.  I do now.  It is SOOO much better.  Each student has their own set of headphones.  We keep them at their "bookshelf" that is next to their table groups where we keep a lot of the supplies.  When they go to the listening center, they grab their headphones.  It is now QUIET at the listening center.  


Top 10 Literacy Tips for Teens

For many teens, reading is something done in elementary school. Why?  This post explores where we've gone wrong and what we can do to encourage reading in middle school and high school.

If you have lived with a teen recently or are beginning your career in middle or high school, then chances are these kids look familiar to you. Perhaps you've noticed that teens are very tech savvy often listening to music while they're working on a paper for English, sending messages to friends through Snapchat, and checking the latest game scores on ESPN.  Yes, our teens are multi-taskers to the extreme, and if you are teaching them, then chances are you've become pretty tech savvy yourself and observed these and many other teen behaviors.