Making the Most of Classroom Magazines

Classroom magazines have become an invaluable resource in my classroom for exposing my students to informational texts. With the adoption of common core, there has been a shift in the emphasis on informational texts. With the common core, upper grade students' exposure to texts should be 50% literature and 50% informational. With this shift, came a major obstacle for me, as the texts in my classroom and student textbook were about 80% literature and 20% informational. This forced me to think outside the textbook to find meaningful and engaging sources of informational texts. One answer....

Classroom Magazines!!!

Each year, I am so excited when our magazines start to arrive. However, they would quickly start piling up, week after week, and I found myself squeezing them in whenever I could. Looking back, I  realize that I was using them as filler. My challenge this year was finding a way to integrate them into my language arts program in a way that was more meaningful and focused. So, here are several ways that I have been using magazines in my classroom this year....

1. Use Classroom Magazines to Focus on Text Features

At the beginning of the year, we first spent a lot of time focusing on the parts of a magazine, particularly the text features. We talked about each feature and students identified them in their magazines. Then we talked about the information that can be gathered from different text features, and how they are used to add meaning to the text. Later, my students started “collecting” text features in a packet. We wait until the end of the week, when we are done with the entire magazine, then they cut out the different text features and sort them in their packet, adding to their “collection” each week. They love this!!

2.  Use Classroom Magazines to Focus on Text Structures
After several weeks of reading the magazines as a class, we began to focus on the different text structures. Instead of simply summarizing or identifying the main idea, we began to take a closer look at the structure of each text. We talked about the different structures and identified signal words for each type. Now when my students read and respond to each article, there is an emphasis on the particular text structure.

3. Use Classroom Magazines to Practice Close Reading

Now that my students are comfortable with text features and structures, we put it all together to practice close reading. My students use a checklist to read through a text, at least 3 times to identify text features and structure, to find the main idea and evidence, and to truly comprehend what they are reading. Close reading helps students to dig deeper and to understand what they are reading in different ways. 

4. Use Classroom Magazines to Expand Vocabulary

Reading classroom magazines exposes my students to new ideas and new vocabulary that they might not otherwise be exposed to. They use context clues to determine the meaning of each word. Then they define and draw pictures for each new word to show their understanding, and to help visualize the meaning of the new words they learn. They have developed quite a collection! 

5. Use Classroom Magazines to Talk and Write About Informational Texts

Lastly, I use magazine articles as meaningful topics for class discussions and writing assignments. Sometimes, after reading a debate or opinion piece, my students will share their opinions with their classmates, then write an opinion essay on the topic. I also ask them to choose articles to do additional research on, in order to produce an informative writing assignment. It is so important that students use texts to write, and that they learn to refer to texts when providing evidence in their own writing and conversations. The current events and ideas from classroom magazines serve as a great springboards for both conversation and writing. 

I am constantly looking for new ways to use magazines in my classroom! How do you use them in yours??!!

Click here to learn more about my TpT product: "Exploring Non-Fiction {Using Classroom Periodicals}"

30 Valentine's Day Read Alouds

Students always get excited when a holiday rolls around, especially if it falls on a day they're in school.  Although the holidays do make teaching a tad more difficult (especially if a party is involved), they do lend to discussions about family, friendship, heroism, and love.

I typically spend the days leading up to a holiday reading picture books to my students.  This is a good way to teach various reading strategies and skills with some literature that your students are excited about.

Below is a list of books, targeted at various grade levels, that would be appropriate to read for Valentine's Day.  You can choose one to read every day, check out a bunch from the library and let students choose to read them throughout the week, have a parent volunteer read one to the class, or even have students read to younger grade levels in the school.

If you'd like to read a short summary of a specific book, just hover over the bookshelf and it'll take you Amazon.  :)

5 Ways to Practice Fluency

How.  Do.  We.  Get.  Students.  To.  Stop.  Reading.  Word.  By.  Word?  For a few of my students, fluency is an obstacle that we are trying to battle.  I think it's more of a full fledged war at this point!  I used to think that as long as my students could read and comprehend what they read, then the rate, in which they read, didn't matter.  It might have been hard to listen to, but not extremely important.

Needless to say, that thinking didn't last long.  Fluency is extremely important.  Fluency becomes even more important the older students get.   If a student reads slowly, this can result in a ripple effect.  If it takes them too long to read a text in class, this in turn can cause them to fall behind.   Then grades, self-esteem, and the desire to learn begins to plummet.

So, how does one tackle fluency?  Listed below are five ways for students to practice along links to reading passages, poetry, and readers' theater scripts that you can print off for practice.

Fluency Development Lesson

  • Predictable poems that have between 100 and 200 words work best.  
  • The teacher begins by reading the text aloud several times while students follow along.  
  • Next, chorally read the text with students a few times.  
  • Pair students and have them take turns reading the text to each other.  Have them do this three consecutive times.  
  • After both students have practiced together, have them perform the text in front of the class. 
  • The following day, have students read the text from the day before chorally and individually.

Helpful Links

Teaching Resources Classroom Jr
Poetry4 Kids

Phrased Text Lesson

  • Using a short passage, divide the passage into phrases.  
  • Before modeling, remind the students of the importance of reading in phrases.  
  • Read the text aloud to students several times modeling reading in phrases.  
  • Read the text chorally with the students two or three times.  
  • Have the students read the text two or three times with partners.  
  • Students perform the text for the class.

Helpful Links

Readers’ Theater

  • Read the script to students, modeling the fluent reading of the script.  
  • Assign students a particular part.  
  • Chorally read the script as a class or in small groups.  
  • For two or three days, have students practice their parts on their own and in groups.  
  • Have students perform the script for their own class or another class.

Helpful Links

Repeated Reading

  • Students are given a passage on or near their instructional level with 50-500 words.  
  • Students practice the passage on a daily basis until they are able to reach the number of words correct per minute.  This should be a predesignated goal.    
  • Once students have reached that goal, they are given another passage to practice. 

Repeated Reading of High Frequency Words and Phrases

  • Using the Fry or  Dolch word list, create phrases using the high frequency words.  
  • Students can read them individually, with partners, or whole groups.

Helpful Links


Charting student fluency is a great motivator.  Check out Charting Student Fluency to see how I use this in my classroom.

What's your favorite fluency activity?  We'd love to hear it!  

3 Fun Ways to Get Kids Writing

Here are some writing tips, ideas, and activities to make writing fun. Grab the free writing prompts while you are there.

I love putting a simple spin on "everyday" activities to make them more engaging for my students.  Every year I notice that I have a hard time getting many of my students writing.  Let's be honest...sometimes getting a student to write more is worse than "pulling teeth"!  After lots of experimenting, I found these 3 activities made my students want to write, while improving their skills at the same time.

1. Morning Journals

Why I love it: Builds stamina and confidence.

I start off by giving each of my students a journal, and let them decorate it.  Each morning I put a topic on the front board for them to think about.  My students then write about either the topic on the board, or anything that is on their mind.  My only rule is that they write!

Here are some writing tips, ideas, and activities to make writing fun. Grab the free writing prompts while you are there.
Each day, I collect a small group of journals.  I take a few minutes out of the day to quickly read through and respond to their journal entries.  If they don't want me to read a page, I ask them to fold the page in half, and I promise not to read it.

Needless to say, the fact that I am reading and responding to their entries makes them want to write more.  I don't use this opportunity to correct their grammar/spelling.  I only read what they have to say, and responded.

2. Blogging

Why I love it: Highly engaging, and improves students' editing skills.

Here are some writing tips, ideas, and activities to make writing fun. Grab the free writing prompts while you are there.

I have discussed blogging in past posts, but not when it comes to how it has helped my students in their writing.   At the beginning of the year, I set up a class blog on  I explain to my class that they are now writers on the internet, and must make sure that everything they write is professional and their best work.

When blogging, I encourage my students to closely edit all of their work.  They understand that their work will be posted for all to see, so they are very careful to edit their work much closer than when they are using paper/pencil.  Also, on the blog, I have the ability to "approve" their posts before they are actually posted.  This give me the opportunity to read their work, and make comments on how they could improve their writing.  I ask my students to make their final changes before it is published.

I have found that this process makes my students feel like "professional" writers, and because of this, they act like it.

Here is a complete FREE walk-through on how to set up a class blog.  

3. Paragraph of the Week

Why I love it: Not overwhelming, provides constant practice, gets parents involved, and strengthens their understanding of the writing process.

All you need for Paragraph of the Week is a variety of writing prompts, and a place for your students to keep their work.

Here are some writing tips, ideas, and activities to make writing fun. Grab the free writing prompts while you are there.

Here are the directions I use for this activity...

This activity helps me expose my students to a variety of topics, and gives them practice in developing their ideas when writing. Students love it because it is only one paragraph, which is way less overwhelming then some of the writing we do in class.   Short. Sweet. Effective.  What more can I say?

If you would like a few of these to try out for FREE, you can download them here!

These are by far my 3 favorite ways to get my students writing more!  If you have a great idea for getting students writing, and would like to share it with us, please share it in the comments! :)

Check out even more ideas on my Writing Pinterest Board!

Revisions in Writing- 8 Rockin Steps to Revise!

Common Core Standard:  W.3.5, W.4.5, W.5.5, W.6.5
W.3.3c, W.4.3.c,  W.5.3.c, W.6.3.c
W.3.3d, W.4.3.d,  W.5.3.d, W.6.3.d
W.4.3.e, W.5.3.e, W.6.3.e

Do your students like to copy rough drafts to their final drafts without revising?  I think that is how most upper elementary students think about writing.  Get it done and be done with it.  Or as some of us say in the south:

My name is Pam Olivieri from Rockin Resources and I love writing with my students!  Last year, our test scores rocked and my students developed a love for writing.  Are you wondering how to have the same results?  The key is to teach mini lessons in the order they are needed in writing and be excited about writing!  They will want to imitate your enthusiasm!  Then practice, practice, practice and keep them accountable for all the lessons previously introduced.  One of the steps of the writing process is revising.  The following 8 steps will help your students revise their essays and you will see them smile as their writing transforms into a well-written paper right before their eyes!

Time allotted:  35 minutes per day  (8 days)

Students will need:
* A rough draft essay
* Colored pens or pencils
* Thesaurus
* Notebook
* Glue and scissors (if using interactive notebooks)

I call this step of the writing process DARE TO REVISE.  Read your story out loud!  When students read their own papers out loud, they can HEAR where they are making errors.  I love it when a student is reading a writing piece to me out loud and says, "I didn't mean to say that!"  I reply, "This is exactly why we are revising!"  It reinforces what I've been telling them all along!  After rough drafts are completed, students should either read their essay to a peer or record it on a device where they can play it back to LISTEN for places to revise.

Whether you have your students create interactive notebooks or simply take notes in a notebook, have them add the following acronym:

D- Delete unnecessary information
A- Add more important detail and transition words.
R- Rearrange text to be logical and effective.  
E-  Exchange words for clearer and stronger ones.

As you can see, I tried changing it to READ to Revise.  I have to say my kids liked DARE to revise much more!  Sooooo I changed it back!

It is always good to share a mentor text for revising.  A suggestion is Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Jack Pretlutsky and Dr. Seuss.  The appendix shows how famous authors find the need to revise!  Explain that even the best authors revise, edit, revise, edit, over and over before they even think about the publishing stage.  Roald Dahl's website is an amazing resource to share with your students.  There is an interview with him where he talks about the importance of revising.  I am in awe over this humble man. 

2.  R- Rearrange----- Rearrange text to be logical and effective.  Stick to the topic.

Explain Rearrange and use the class story to rearrange text.  If there isn't an area to rearrange, create one prior to the lesson!  Modeling and/or using a class story helps students get a solid understanding of the lesson.  Students need to go back to essays and rearrange text for a logical progression with color pens or pencils.  Some teachers like students to use one color of pen or pencil and that is absolutely fine!  I allow my students to use as many colors as they like.  My philosophy is if they are excited over colored pens to revise, then so be it!  Any way I can get them motivated with this writing process, I will take it!

3.  E- Exchange ------Exchange words for clearer or stronger ones.

Rockin Beginnings
Mentor Text- Love Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles.  She gets your kiddos excited to change their beginnings!  I stress the fact that nobody should start the essay with Hi My Name is..... Ugh!  That drives me bonkers!

This lists gets their brains a-ticking!  With our class story, we create Rockin Beginnings using each of the ten samples and then decide on one together.  Then I like students to create several beginnings for their own story before choosing the best one.

Inside the flap, they write a Rockin Beginning for their story!

4.  E- Exchange ------Exchange words for clearer or stronger ones.

Million Dollar Words (Word Choice)
Mentor Text:  I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joossee  
I made up the acronym FAAVS to help my students remember what types of words they can use to make their sentences CHA-CHING! 

First I introduce the following poster or slide.....

.....and students take notes:


We then work on adding one of each of the FAAVS to a simple sentence:  
EX:  A dog went down the road.  
When finished, it might read:  
A dog as tiny as a mouse quickly bolted down the steep, rocky road.

After we go through the class story and exchange words, the students write at least one of each of the FAAVS to go along with their own story.  

As I walk around the room, I look for student samples and give a couple students a $$ sentence strip.  They write their samples on the sentence strip and I place them on our Million Dollar Word Wall.  It is fun to have a bulletin board with all their $$Million Dollar FAAVS!!!!  They love seeing their words and phrases up in the room!

Although Million Dollar Words is listed under Exchange,  I tell the students that there are several places you may want to Add them too.  Although that lesson is at a later time, they can go ahead and work on this adding portion along with exchanging.

5.  E- Exchange ------ Exchange words for clearer or stronger ones. 

Variety of Sentences
Do your students start their sentences the same way over and over?  He did this.  He did that.  Yadda yadda.  Explain that they will be changing some of their sentences around for better fluency and to keep the reader's attention.  The following examples can be used for notes and examples, but practicing it together helps a ton!  Let them scour through the class story and their own writing to find places to change.  Does your skin crawl when students change one sentence and say, "I'm done?"  This happens a lot on this lesson but I tell them they have to keep working for the allotted time.

6.  E- Exchange ------ Exchange words for clearer or stronger ones.

Jammin Conclusions
Mentor Texts: First Day Jitters  by Danneberg or Owl Moon by Yolen 

Providing a Jammin Conclusion can end the story, tell the future, surprise the reader, tell the lesson, and/or wrap up the story.  It should make sure the reader will feel satisfied and put a smile on their face.  Share the 10 Ways to End Your Essay and rewrite the class story together.  

Students should take notes and then rewrite their own story ending.

7.  A- Add-  Add more important detail and Transition Words    (Also add Million Dollar Words)
Mentor Text- Through Granpda’s Eyes by Patricia Maclachian 

Transition words.  Share the different types of transition words below and have the students take notes.  Work on the class sample together and then let them work on their own story!

8.  D-Delete -Delete Unnecessary Information

Last, students need to go through their stories one last time to see if there are any places that simply don't belong.  Ex. 
      We started investigating and found many clues.  I noticed that a shelf fell and shattered the window!  Mom saw that our dinner on the counter was gone.  Fluffy ran into the room and was so excited.  Fluffy has big furry hair.  He was licking his chops.  I said, "What did you do boy?"

After they go through their own stories, they have completed the revising step of the writing process! Woo woo!  Although it may have taken a lot of time to go through each revising step, it will show to be beneficial in future writing pieces!  They can do their revising all in one day but use their notes to remind them of all the ways to revise!
I hope these 8 steps help your students want to ROCK 'N' WRITE!!!!!

Do you need free posters for the Writing Process?  Click Here!

Stay tuned for more posts from Upper Elementary Snapshots!  I feel so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful, talented group and I love all of their ideas!  I want to use every single one of them in my classroom!  

Author's Purpose: 8 Steps Easy as Pie

I love teaching author's purpose...maybe it's the cozy PIE image it conjures up, or maybe it's the fact that for most kids, this is a concept that they "get" for the most part (with a little bit of explaining and some hands on practice). It's kind of the opposite of long division that way, if you know what I mean! :)

So, how do I teach author's purpose? I follow an 8 step recipe:

1. Use Mentor Texts
Mentor texts are my go-to strategy for almost anything to do with reading and author's purpose is no exception. I round up some great examples for each of the three PIE strategies (Persuade, Inform, Entertain) and read them to the class over a few days. Sometimes we can even read just a few pages for the kids to get the gist of what the author was trying to do. Doing this as a whole class is always great because it reinforces the kids who are on the right track, and it helps the kids who are lost in the woods, to get some help from others.

2. Use Baskets of Books with Small Groups
I love to put the kids in small groups of about three and hand them a basket full of books to sort into PIE categories. I usually supplement my collection of books with picture books from the school library, especially to find books that are meant to persuade. The kids really love this scavenger hunt type "game" and I like it because it allows them to go through multiple books at one sitting. 

3. Do a Book Order Sort
Here's another way to practice identifying types of purposes and kids really enjoy this one. I save extra book orders (Scholastic, for instance) and pass them out. Kids cut out the tiny pictures of books and determine which category they fall into. A bit of glue onto a three sectioned piece of paper, labeled with PIE, and we're set!

4. Make a Flip Book
After sorting through so many examples, my students are feeling more comfortable with the concepts and are ready to make their own flip book. We make a simple one using 9 x 12 construction paper, fold it hot dog style and then using rulers, we section the top flap into thirds by marking off the 4 inch and 8 inch places, so we know where to make the cuts (on the top side only). Please note that I teach 4th/5th, so they're able to do this themselves. Younger kids might need this step simplified for them. On the top of the Flip Book, we put the three types of author's purposes, with BIG capital letters to start each word. On the inside, you can put a variety of things. Kids can list the titles of the books they sorted, from the small group activity. They can glue the Scholastic Book order books here for each category or they could make a list of the kinds of reading materials that would typically be found under each category. For example, fiction passages are usually "Entertain", a travel brochure is usually "Persuade" and a text book is often "Inform". The possibilities for the Flip Book are endless.

5. Task Cards
No concept in reading is complete in my mind until the kids have done at least one set of task cards. These little gems will give your kids the quick, but oh so meaningful practice that they need. I always give my kids a clipboard and put them into pairs to go around the room and tackle the task cards together. When I hear them quietly discussing the author's purpose, and everyone is on task, enjoying the day while learning, my little heart sings!

6. Introduce Three Topics for One Purpose
This is where it becomes a bit more challenging. We talk about how a topic might be presented in a number of different ways, depending upon what the author wanted to say. I like to use the example of a cat because all of the kids are familiar with them and most generally like them. We make an anchor chart showing how we might persuade someone using this topic. It might be that cats are the best pets, or maybe it's to persuade our mom or dad to buy us a cat...Then we talk about how an author would write to inform us about cats. Maybe he/she might write about different types of cats, or how house cats are related to big cats...Lastly, we discuss how an author would write to entertain us using the topic of cats. Could he/she use a joke book or comic book to tell the story of a superhero cat? Or maybe it's a folktale or a fairy tale about a cat... 

Another idea for three topics for one purpose, is to use fun sized candies (M&M's if you have no peanut allergies or Skittles if you do...if your school allows candy). I like to have the kids make a three sectioned poster describing how they could write for each of the three purposes, with the candy as the topic.

7. Have Your Kids Become the Authors
This is the time when I ask the kids to become the authors and to choose a topic (it could be anything they're interested in) and then to choose a purpose. They can write to persuade, to inform, or to entertain. Each child writes a mini-book that showcases one of these purposes and then we share them out. I like to have the kids share in small groups and to have their classmates identify the purpose after the story is read.

8. Time for More Practice with Text
Next, I like to give the kids practice with lots of passages. I have created an Author's Purpose unit for third grade and one for fourth and fifth. These not only have lots of opportunities for practice with text, but have a set of task cards included too. It's nice to just print and go!

They also include a set of Author's Purpose Posters that I offer as a freebie in my TpT store. Grab them here:

What types of activities do you use for author's purpose. I always love to hear what other teachers are doing!

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