Jan 19

Prefix Spinner Game


Teaching prefixes can be both fun and challenging. This simple game is a great way for students to practice. Be sure to check out the bottom of the post for some additional prefix resources to help with you study.


Plan for a small group activity. Run off the spinner boards for each group onto cardstock. Add spinners to the center of each. These may be purchased spinners or simply a brad and paperclip will work. 

Free Prefix Spinner Game

Free Prefix Spinner GameMake one copy of the game board for each student. [Optional – Duplicate the game boards onto cardstock and laminate for repeated use. With laminated boards, students will need markers such as BINGO discs to cover their boards instead of coloring in the spaces.]

Free Prefix Spinner Game

Note: The game board has prefixes that should be mastered at lower grade levels to the left. Each column becomes more difficult. You may wish to cut column(s) off the game card depending on the level of your students. Elementary teachers may wish to use only the first three columns. Middle school teachers may wish to cut off the column to the far right and the far left. High school teachers may wish to cut off the two columns to the left. [Adjust the rules of the game depending on how large your game board you have decided is appropriate for your students.]

Instructions for Students:

 You are going to move into small groups in a moment to play game similar to BINGO.

Every group will receive spinners. Each player will receive a game board. The players will determine who goes first, and then take turns moving in a clockwise rotation.

When it is a player’s turn, s/he will spin a spinner of his/her choosing. After the spinner lands, the player must think of a word that contains the prefix s/he has landed upon. [Optional: Students must tell the meaning of the prefix, tell a word that begins with the prefix, and define the word named.]

If the group feels the player has answered correctly, s/he may color in the box on his/her game board with the same prefix. [Note: Only the player who is taking a turn colors in a space. If everyone colors in a space everyone would win at the same time.]

The object of the game is to get [3, 4, 5 — Here is where you might wish to adjust the rules depending on the size of the game board.] squares colored in a row. The row may be vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. The first player to have [3, 4, 5] colored boxes in a row is the winner.


  • Did anyone in your group think of words you were unfamiliar with? What were they?
  • How can learning the meanings of prefixes help you with the meanings of unfamiliar words?

Free Prefix Games Additional Prefix Resources

Gay Miller


Jan 16

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Activities


As Marty walks the hills of Friendly, West Virginia, he runs across a shy beagle pup. The pup follows him home. The two form an immediate friendship. Marty names the pup Shiloh after the place he finds him. He soon learns he must return the dog to its rightful owner, Judd Travers, who is unkind to his dogs. After doing so, Shiloh turns up at Marty’s home for a second time. Marty decides to hide him on the hill behind his house. This leads to all kinds of trouble for Marty. Read Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor to see how Marty deals with each obstacle. 

Activity #1

In this interactive online activity, students are asked to solve eight math problems related to the contract between Judd and Marty. The quiz is in a multiple choice format. Students are given immediate feedback for right and wrong answers. Activities to use with the book Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Activity #2

Your class will have a blast with this fun trivia quiz. Twenty questions ask students to “Name the Dog” from books, cartoons, television, toys, and movies. You can easily turn this into a friendly competition to see which student knows famous dogs the best. Activities to use with the book Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Activity #3 

This interactive crossword puzzle ask students questions related to the book. Students type the answer in a blank field, press enter, and the puzzle fills in the blanks. Once all the answers are filled in, students can get a grade for their work by clicking the “check button.” This is a fun alternative to pencil and paper crossword puzzles. 

Activities to use with the book Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Free Samples from Shiloh Book Unit


Try out this Shiloh Book Unit Sample with the first lessons for vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and skills.

Shiloh Book Unit

Shiloh Book Unit

Shiloh Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, constructive response writing, and skill practice.


Gay Miller


Jan 12

Sentence Problems Unit (Combining Sentences and Correcting Run-Ons)

This Sentence Writing Unit includes a PowerPoint and set of graphic organizers that teach students about sentence problems, combining sentences, and correcting run-on sentences. 

Inclusion Classroom Activity

As an inclusion teacher, I was responsible for creating/planning every other unit. One unit I created was a series of lessons on sentences. I used themes and sample sentences from the upcoming novel we were going to study. The unit was great. Students learned a lot and enjoyed the lessons. All was well.

Then, the next year I worked with a different teacher who wanted to use different novels. I reworked the unit, and again the unit was great.

The next year, you guessed it, I worked with a new language arts teacher. [I worked with two teachers who retired, one who took a leave to have a baby only to decide to be a full time mom, one teacher who got married and moved, etc.] Each new teacher that filled the position wanted to read different books. This meant I had to adapt this series of lessons over and over again to go along with different novels.

I decided that I would “fix this.” I reworked the unit a final time. This time, I decided to theme the lessons on our county. The unit would work at any time during the school year with any novel we were studying. YEAH!


Now I am retired. I ran across the lessons and decided to share. I went through the PowerPoint and removed Tennessee and textbook specific slides. The PowerPoint is not locked, so you can change it to fit your needs.


The PowerPoint

Lesson 1

In this lesson, students learn to identify three types of sentence problems: choppy, run-on, and stringy. The sentences tell general information about Johnson County.

Lesson 2

In this lesson, students learn how to correct choppy sentences by combining that have words that are repeated in two or more sentences. All the sentences are about Daniel Boone.

Lesson 3

In Lesson 3, students learn to take choppy sentences and correct them by making compound or complex sentences. These sentences are about Johnson County history.

Lesson 4

In this lesson, students correct run-on sentences. The sentences are about Johnson County’s geography.

Get the PowerPoint.


Foldable Graphic Organizers

The lessons have graphic organizers that can be placed in an interactive notebook. Before uploading these organizers, I rewrote the sentences to topics unrelated about Johnson County. This way they can be used without using the PowerPoint.

Foldable Graphic Organizer for Lesson #1 –  Recognizing Sentence Problems

Recognizing Sentence Problems Organizer

Organizer Chart for Lessons 2-3 – Combining Sentence Rules

Combining Sentence Rules Organizer

Organizer for Lesson 4 – Correcting Run-on Sentences

Ways to Correct Run-On Sentences Organizer

Correcting Sentence Problems Organizers

Gay Miller


Jan 09

The Cricket in Times Square Teaching Activities


The Cricket in Times Square tells the story of a cricket named Chester who is trapped in a picnic basket, travels on a commuter train from the Connecticut countryside, and ends up in Times Square. While in the city, he makes friends with a cat, mouse, and young boy. In this heart warming tale, Chester charms everyone with his ability to chirp familiar songs. The whole city stops and listens as Chester performs concerts. Read this wonderful book to learn of Chester’s fate.

Fun Activities Your Students Can do with the Book 

Students began the unit by creating crickets from clothespins.See more photos.

Students began the unit by creating crickets from clothespins.After reading about Mario and Chester’s trip to the soda shop, students made their own strawberry soda following the instructions listed in the book. Try making your own strawberry soda the way Mickey made it.

Page 38 – Mickey took a table spoon and put a drop of strawberry syrup into it. They he added a drop of cream, a squirt of soda water and a dip of ice cream about as big as your fingernail. That is how you make a cricket’s strawberry soda. See more photos

Making strawberry sodas like the one Chester sampled in The Cricket in Times SquareHaving a Chinese dinner after reading about Mario’s Chinese dinner was great fun! The science lab was decorated with Chinese lanterns and fans. We ordered take out from a local Chinese restaurant and enjoyed trying to eat with chopsticks. See more photos.

The Chinese Dinner from The Cricket in Times SquareFree Samples from The Cricket in Times Square Book Unit

Free Samples from The Cricket in Times Square Book Unit

The Cricket in Times Square Book Unit

The Cricket in Times Square Book Unit

The Cricket in Times Square Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, constructive response writing, and skill practice.

Gay Miller


Jan 05

Genre Flash Cards


Genre Flash Cards contains 21 pairs (picture cards with matching fact cards) in a ready-to-use printable format. These are a free download at Teachers Pay Teachers.  

Free Genres Flash Cards

Ways to Use the Genre Flash Cards

Response Cards – The picture cards may be used as response cards. The teacher reads the definition or names a book title and the students hold up the correct card.

Matching Games – Games such as Slap Jack or Memory may be played by small groups.

Flash Cards – Students work in pairs or small groups holding up a genre card while the other student(s) tells the definition.

Learning Center Activity – Students match definitions to genres then record their answers on the chart provided on page 9 of the printable.

Organization – Place picture cards on the front of storage containers to help organize your class library.

Free Genre Flash Cards

Why Teach Genres

Teaching students about different genres is an important way for students to gain a deeper understanding of the text.

  • Understanding genres helps students with the concept of theme. Specific genres often center on specific themes such as detective genres try to solve a crime.
  • When students realize they are reading from a specific genre, they can rely on the textual schema to get a general understanding of the text. For example, when a student knows s/he is going to be reading poetry, rhyming scheme, figurative language, and rhythm become the focus of the text.
  • Exposing students to fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry, and folklore helps students become better more well-rounded writers. Once students understand a specific genre, they are more prepared to write following the “rules” of the genre.

Download Genre Flash Cards
at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Gay Miller


Jan 01

Where the Red Fern Grows – A Winter Mentor Text


Mentor Text LessonWelcome to the Reading Crew
Winter Mentor Text Blog Linkup

When thinking about a winter related book to use as a mentor text, I immediately thought of Where the Red Fern Grows. In the novel, Billy has to battle the winter weather in life and death situations twice.

In Chapter 10, Little Ann falls into the mostly ice covered river. Billy must save her as she hangs onto the ice shelf. The second catastrophe occurs in Chapters 17-18 when a blizzard blows in during the big coon hunt. First, Grandpa falls on the ice and injuries his ankle. Soon afterwards, Little Ann and Old Dan become lost in whiteout conditions only to be found the next morning nearly frozen solid with thick coats of ice covering their bodies.

My mystery word is blizzard. Use it to to verify your entry in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. 

Even if you do not have time for your class to read the full novel, you can use this activity as the events from Chapter 10 tell a complete mini-story. Because of this, I have placed a three page excerpt from the book on my website for those who do not have a set of novels. The excerpt can also be used for students to highlight.

You can find it here:

Activity 1 ~ Foldable Organizers Going over Summarizing Methods

Free Foldable Graphic Organizers going over Summarizing Methods

Students complete two foldable graphic organizers. The first organizer includes four basic steps for summarizing. The second briefly explains two methods for summarizing (Somebody Wanted But So and Who What Where When Why and How). Use these organizers to explain the basics of summarizing before having students tackle the project.

Activity 2 – Graphic Organizer for Summarizing

Summarizing with Where the Red Fern Grows


Students read the excerpt, highlight details, and complete a timeline organizer. Student then use the details from the timeline organizer to write a summary in paragraph form. 

Activity 3 – Craftivity for Summaries

Free Where the Red Fern Grows CraftivityAfter students proofread their summaries, they rewrite them on the printables provided. Covers for the summaries (pictured) are provided. These make a cute bulletin board. 

Resource Links

 Where the Red Fern Grows Book Unit

Gay Miller


Dec 29

Expanding Vocabulary


When students use the same tired words over and over, their writing becomes dull. The Internet is full of lists you can provide students; however, students learn by creating their own “Wow Word” lists. 

First, decide what you wish to call overused words:

  • Dead Words
  • Other Ways to Say …
  • Worn Out Words
  • Use Wow Words
  • Use Muscle Words
  • Tired Words

Once you decide, stick to it, so students won’t be confused. Here are three activities that will help students expand vocabulary. 

Activity #1 – Word Wheels

Word Wheel

Have students create word wheels. Write an overused word in the center of the wheel. Have students think of words that can be substituted for the overused word and write them in the outer spaces. In this free printable, you will find a full page and half page size sized word wheel.

The half page size makes great books. Print multiple copies of the page. Cut them in half using a paper cutter. Stack the pages together and staple them across the top or side (your preference). You may wish to add construction paper front and back covers to the books to make them more durable.

Throughout the school year, when you come across a word students overuse, have students complete the next page in their books. The books can be used as a reference any time students are writing.

Activity #2

Wow Word ActivitiesThis free printable, published by Educational Insights, has a cute tombstone printable for teachers who like to use the idea of “Dead Words.” This printable also includes some teaching ideas and a word list.

Activity #3

Ideas to Present Students from Using Overused Words

Wow Word Thesaurus is a mini book listing nine commonly used words:

  • very
  • nice
  • good
  • bad
  • mean
  • scared
  • happy
  • funny
  • cool

The printable book contains a partial list of synonyms for each word plus blanks for students to write additional synonyms. This booklet can easily be glued into an interactive notebook for students to use as a reference.

Download Wow Word Thesaurus
at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Gay Miller


Dec 26

Free Teaching Resources to use with The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963


Are you looking for some ideas to use with The Watsons Go to Birmingham? This post contains several free teaching resources.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham reads almost like a diary detailing interesting events in the lives of what neighbors in Flint, Michigan call the “Weird Watsons.” The story is told from the perspective of fourth grader Kenny. Many of his stories detail how Byron, Kenny’s older brother, gets into trouble. Finally,  Momma and Dad are frustrated to the point that they decide to take a family trip to Birmingham. This is where Grandma Sands lives. Bryon is told he is going to live with his no nonsense, extremely strict Grandma until he can learn to behave.

A Real Deal

I know buying a class set of novels can completely consume a teacher’s material budget for the school year. When I saw this deal from the Scholastic Reading Club flyer, I just had to share. Check out the S1.00 price for The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 in the Scholastic 6th Graders Flyer for January 2017. Imagine getting a class set for about $30.00. WOW!

Scholastic Flyer

Free Character Trait Cards

Free Character Trait Cards to use with The Watsons Go to Birmingham

Have students describe each member of the Watson family using these character trait cards. Both full color and black lined copies  are provided. Here are a few details to get you started:   


  • father of three (married to Wilona)
  • jokester – likes to make his family laugh
  • likes to perform for the family


  • mother of three (married to Daniel)
  • caring
  • born in Birmingham, Alabama
  • doesn’t like the cold
  • thinks people are friendlier in Birmingham


  • oldest sibling
  • 13 years old
  • juvenile delinquent
  • likes to bully Kevin
  • proud of his family, but has a difficult time expressing it


  • narrator of the story
  • middle sibling
  • gets picked on
  • smart – Teachers have him read to older students as an example.
  • outsider – not many friends (must give up dinosaurs to play with LJ Jones)


  • youngest sibling
  • gullible believes Byron’s tall tales

Grandma Sands

  • Wilona’s mother
  • strict disciplinarian
  • lives in Birmingham

Free Samples from The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963  Book Unit Free Samples from The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

If you would like to tryout The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 Book Unit, this download contains the following samples:

    • Vocabulary Practice for Chapter 1

    • Comprehension for Chapter 1

    • Constructive Response for Chapter 1 – Comparing Byron to Narcissus

    • + A lot of Photos to Show You What is in the Rest of the Unit

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963  Book Unit The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, constructive response writing, and skill practice.

 Free Resources on the Web 

An Educator's Resource for The Watsons go to Birmingham

This packet was released by the production company that created the Hallmark Channel movie which premiered on September 20, 2013. The resource contains the following:

  • Historical Background Information
  • Writing Prompts for each Chapter
  • Five Text-to-Film Scenes 

A Reading Guide to the Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963This free resource comes from Scholastic. It contains the following:

  • Author Biography
  • Questions for Guiding Reading (3 Questions for each Chapter)
  • Plot Summary
  • Setting Information
  • Themes
  • Characters
Gay Miller


Dec 22

Analogy Lesson


In this post, I am sharing an analogy lesson I created for a planned observation with a class of fourth graders. The lesson went extremely well. Students were on task which really impressed the supervisor. The full lesson can be downloaded for free at Teachers Pay Teachers.  

Activity #1

I love using response cards in the classroom. Response cards require students pay attention because it is obvious when a student holds up the same card each time or no card at all. As a teacher, I can quickly see if students understand the concept I am teaching or need additional practice.

For the first activity, use response cards to make sure students can recognize the difference between antonyms and synonyms. Two versions of the response cards are provided; one pair contains pictures to help differentiate instruction.

Word PairsFree Analogy Mini Lesson

  • early late
  • smooth rough
  • near close
  • full empty
  • large giant

If students need additional practice, use dry erase boards and multiple choice questions.

(Questions are included in the lesson.)

Activity #2


My students love to play “Round About.” I created a blog post explaining the game earlier, so I won’t repeat them here.

Included in the free product are printable analogies with the final word left blank.

Three levels are provided in the printable:

  • Level 1 – On Level Readers 

soft : loud :: slow : ______________

  • Level 2 – Below Level Readers

Level 2 uses the same words as Level 1; however, pictures are included to help below level readers.

Picture Analogies

  • Level 3 – Advanced Readers 

The first set of words in each analogy contains more advanced words. The second set contains the same analogy pairs as Levels 1 and 2, so students can all play the same game.


descend : climb :: slow : ______________________

Activity #3

Divide students into learning groups of four students each. Groups are given three choices of activities

Choice One – Picture Analogies

Each student creates one drawing in a series of four. The group first decides if their drawings are going to be synonyms or antonyms. Students then work in pairs to create drawings that coordinate. The end results look similar to the image below.

Analogy Pictures

Choice Two – Analogy Situation

The group creates a poster that compares two real life events. These simile-like comparisons are often used by writers.

Situation Analogies

Choice Three – Analogy Poem 

Students write a series of analogies. The final words in the sets rhyme giving the analogy a poem feel.

 Analogy Poems

Download this free mini lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers.

FREE Analogy Mini Lesson

Gay Miller


Dec 19

When the Shoe Fits – A Writing Project to use with Crash by Jerry Spinelli


Red shoes are an important symbol in the book Crash by Jerry Spinelli. This made me think about what types of shoes would represent the main characters. This turned into “When the Shoe Fits – A Writing Project to use with Crash by Jerry Spinelli.” This is a free printable activity that can be used as an interactive notebook activity. 

Free Writing Project to use with the book Crash by Jerry Spinelli

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Symbolism Activity

Crash is extremely athletic. Because he excels in sports, he gets attention from the other students in his school. He is especially proud when he can beat the older (8th graders) students.

Crash is obsessive about winning during football games. He doesn’t just want to win the game, but destroy the other team. He is ruthless, running right over top of the other players in an attempt to reach the goal line.

Crash’s attitude about football spills into the way he lives his life. In life, he is also ruthless and doesn’t treat others as he should. Cleats represents Crash both on and off the field as he “walks” on and hurts others.

When the Shoe Fits...A Creative Writing Project to use with Crash by Jerry Spinelli

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Symbolism Activity

Abby becomes good friends with Penn. She loves his Quaker beliefs. She becomes a vegetarian, wants to buy her clothes at the thrift store, and tries to turn her backyard into a wildlife refuge.

Abby joins Penn in trying to stop workers from building a mall in a nearby grassy field. Abby actually gets on television during her protests, but her success is short-lived as construction begins the day after the protest. Scooter does help pull off Abby’s wet and muddy shoes when gets home the day of the protest, but the author makes no mention of the kind of shoes she is wearing; however, Crocs seem suitable for a young girl who wants to build a refuge in her backyard.

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Symbolism Activity

Penn does not have many material things: a Conestoga wagon his great-grandfather made for him, a small house that looks like a garage, no television, and a pet turtle. Material possessions do not matter to Penn. On the first day of seventh grade Crash laughs at Penn thinking — It was Webb-and I mean the same old Webb. Same old supermarket sneakers, same prehistoric pants, probably from that great-grandfather of his.

Later Crash pulls a terrible prank on Penn. Mike gives Crash a squeeze bottle full of mustard. During class when Penn takes off his shoe, Crash empties the mustard from the bottle into Penn’s shoe. He even paints the tongue and laces with mustard. Ironically, Crash sees Jane (the girl he has a crush on who doesn’t return his feelings) at the water fountain helping Penn wash out his sneakers. 

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Symbolism Activity

Scooter is Crash and Abby’s much loved grandfather. He comes to live with the family. They love his cooking and story telling. Scooter also supports his grandchildren in their interests. He attends Crash’s football games and practices. He also supports Abby in her backyard habitat project.

Boots seem to fit Scooter. He is a tough fellow with a big heart.

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Symbolism Activity

Jane is the new girl in seventh grade. When Crash first sees her, he is instantly smitten. He makes it his mission to get her attention. This come to head at the school dance. Jane is friends with Penn. She wants to dance with Penn not Crash. His jock status holds little interest to her. Crash really shows himself when he tries to force her to dance with him and she refuses.

A simple sneaker seems to fit Jane’s personality.

Crash by Jerry Spinelli Symbolism Activity

Scooter has a massive stroke and is hospitalized. Crash realizes that Christmas is day after tomorrow and he hasn’t bought Scooter a present. He thinks this means that he doesn’t expect Scooter to live. Crash throws on his clothes and dashes out on his bike to find a gift, any gift.  He tears into a store and buys the first thing he sees, a pair of bright red high-heeled shoes with glitter all over and a red bow in front. The shoes cost $6. Buying the shoes is a comfort to Crash because he has his grandfather a present.

Later Crash learns the shoes were bought in the thrift shop. This is the place Crash despises because it represents all the things he is trying not to be.

Free – A Writing Project to use with Crash by Jerry Spinelli 

When the Shoe Fits - A Creative Writing Project to use with Crash by Jerry Spinelli

Free Samples from Crash by Jerry Spinelli Book Unit

FREE Samples from Crash Book Unit

If you would like to try the Crash Book Unit before you buy it, this download provides the following samples:

  • Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-4
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-4
  • Constructive Response Question – Character Traits of Crash
  • Plus a lot of photos to show you what the rest of the unit contains

The Crash Book UnitCrash by Jerry Spinelli

Crash Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, constructive response writing,and skill practice.

Gay Miller


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