Jul 20

The Secret Garden — Free Book Unit

Free Book Unit for The Secret GardenThe Announcement

I’m excited to announce that each Monday over the next 27 weeks; The Secret Garden Book Unit will be featured in weekly blog posts. Because many schools are going digital, I have made some changes to this unit. The weekly blog posts are student-friendly.

Reading the Chapter

The full text for each chapter will be included in the posts.


Each blog post will have an audio file that will read the chapter orally. Students may listen to the story on many devices including phones, iPads, Kindles, computers, etc. Students can follow along with the text while listening or simply not press the start button on the audio file to read the chapter independently. These audio files are provided by LibriVox and are in the public domain.


A link to student friendly handouts is provided in each post. These handouts will include the following:

  • The entire text for the chapter

  • Vocabulary Practice ~ focuses on two vocabulary words from the chapter

  • Comprehension Practice ~ a check for understanding with multiple choice, matching, fill in the blanks, and/or short answer questions

  • Writing Practice ~ a Constructive Response Writing Prompt


Where to Begin

Begin by downloading this FREE resource from Teachers Pay Teachers.This packet contains the materials you will need to turn the weekly blog posts into a full book unit. It includes:

  • Lesson Plans at a Glance
  • A Vocabulary List with Words, Definitions, and Sample Sentences from the Text
  • Vocabulary Bookmarks
  • Word Cards with Storage Pocket
  • Multiple Choice Vocabulary Test
  • Instructions for Using the Constructive Response Questions as Interactive Notebook Pages

The First Chapter

Come back Monday, July 24 to see Chapter 1. I hope your students enjoy this wonderful book! 

Free Book Unit for The Secret GardenAdditional Versions of The Secret Garden

 The Secret Garden ~1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV film adaptation

The London Children’s Ballet

The Secret Garden | Level 6 | By Little Fox
(This is an animated abridge version of the story.)

 If you need additional book studies, check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store.




Jul 17

The People of Sparks Teaching Ideas

The People of Sparks

In The People of Sparks, the sequel to The City of Ember, the Emberites leave their cave home. After journeying for a couple of days, they come to a village called Sparks. Here they find a group of people who although aren’t openly hostile are certainly not welcoming. The two groups of people must learn to get along. Meanwhile Lina takes off in search of her dream city.

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau is a must read novel for all lovers of The City of Ember.

Teaching Ideas for the Book

Resources on the Web


Once the Emberites come to Sparks, the community is divided in two. The people in Sparks do not wish to give up their vital resources. They fear their winter supplies will be too low. The Emberites have no concept of winter. They cannot understand why the villagers are being stingy. The villagers provide the refugees with only the bare essentials for living. Over time the quantity and quality of he food provided reduces. Eventually, the Spark’s leaders vote to stop having the Emberites in their homes for dinner.

Communication is low. Hostility grows between the two sets of people. The Emberites learn they will be ejected from the village in the middle of winter. Negative feelings escalate. Petty exchanges of revenge take place. Finally the groups are at war. Ben brings out the ‘Terrible Weapon.’ The machine gun explodes. This creates a threatening fire. 

Discussion Questions

  • How does greed effect the community?
  • By what means does the community support itself? Is raising food a problem?
  • How does the community govern itself?
  • Why is communication vital?
  • How does Sparks compare to other communities in literature?


Refugees are people who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons. Most leave their homeland because they fear their safety. Estimates show that at least 60 million people were displaced in 2015.

Another reason for fleeing a region is global climate change. Water and food are scare in some parts of the world. Have students compare the Emberites to a group of refugees in today’s world.

Resources for Further Study

Discussion on the Effects of War

The reader learns that the Builders took a group of people underground to prevent the race from completely dying. Four wars and plague had nearly destroyed the population. What effects does war have?

Here is a little information to get you started:

Revolutionary War Statistics

Small Pox

George Washington had all his forces vaccinated for small pox. After this the death rate by this disease decreased from 17% to 1%.

Causalities of the Revolutionary War

Battle Casualties 6,824
Americans Wounded 8,445
Deaths from Disease approximately 10,000
Died in British Prisons 8,500
Americans Captured 18,152
Casualties from Battle and Disease 24,000

 The People of Sparks Book Unit

The People of Sparks Free Book Unit SamplesIf you would like to try out The People of Sparks Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:

  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-2
  • Constructive Response Question – Squencing
  • Activities and Discussion for Chapters 1-2
  • Story Mapping
  • English – Lesson 1 – Understanding Sentences


The People of Sparks Book Unit contains vocabulary, comprehension, constructive response writing, and skill practice are all included.

Gay Miller

Jul 10

ECHO Book Activities


Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of Esperanza Rising, writes another hit novel with Echo. The book tells four stories weaved together by a magical harmonica.

The book begins and ends with three fairy-tale princesses and a lost boy named Otto. Otto wanders into the woods during a game of hide-and-seek. There he meets three princesses. He is surprised because they are in the book he has been reading. Otto begins to read the book to the princesses. He soon discovers the end of his book he is reading is blank. The princesses tell Otto he must write the ending. They also give him a magical harmonica with instructions to pass it along when the time is right.

Part 1

One day twelve-year-old Fredrich finds the magical harmonica in an abandoned storage room at his uncle’s harmonica factory. Fredrich lives in Germany during Hitler’s control. Fredrich stands out from the other youth because a large birthmark covers his face. Also, his behavior disturbs his peers. Fredrich hears music inside his head. He waves his arms conducting an orchestra that he only he can see and hear. Can the magical harmonica keep Fredrich’s family together in a time when Hitler is sending undesirables away?

Part 2

Eleven-year-old Mike Flannery lives in the Bishop’s Home for Friendless and Destitute Children in Pennsylvania during the depths of the Great Depression. The wealthy Mrs. Sturbridge wishes to adopt an orphan. Because of their musical talent, Mike and his younger brother, Frankie, are taken to her home for a visit. Mike learns that Mrs. Sturbridge will only adopt one orphan. Mike tries to figure out a way to support himself, so Frankie can be the one adopted. One day Mike sees the magical harmonica in the window of a drug store. He purchases the harmonica hoping that he can become good enough at playing it to earn a spot in a traveling harmonica band for boys. Will the magic be enough to help Mike and Frankie out of their difficult situation?

Part 3

Finally Ivy Lopez comes into possession of the harmonica. Her family moves to a migrant farm in Orange County, California. Her father takes a job as overseer for the Yamamoto’s farm. Because the Yamamotos are a Japanese-American family, they have been sent to an internment camp following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Will the harmonica help Ivy from the discrimination her family deals with by working for the Yamamotos?

What do the three stories have in common besides the harmonica? What does the fairy tale have to do with the rest of the novel? Read ECHO to answer these questions.

Teaching Ideas for the Book

Interview Pam Muñoz Ryan

Compare and Contrast Activities

Because ECHO is four-books-in-one, it is perfect to teach students compare and contrast skills. This free set of organizers do not include specific questions or titles, so they may be used many ways.

Students can compare and contrast different characters, settings or plots within the book ECHO. They can also compare and contrast different books written by Pam Muñoz Ryan. For example, Esperanza Rising and Part 3 of ECHO both center around migrant workers. Students can even use some of the organizers to compare fictional stories to their nonfictional counterpart.  

Free Compare and Contrast Organizers

 ECHO Book Unit

If you would like to try out the ECHO Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:

  • Vocabulary Practice for the Prologue
  • Comprehension Questions for the Prologue 
  • Constructive Response Question – The Chants
  • Constructive Response Question – Setting
  • Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks LikeEcho Book Unit

ECHO Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities. Vocabulary, comprehension, constructive response writing, and skill practice are all included.

Gay Miller


Jul 03

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen Activities

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Roy Eberhardt teams with Beatrice and her brother, Mullet Fingers. They wish to stop the Mother Paula’s All-American Pancake House Corporation from building a pancake house on a vacant lot. The lot has become home to a group of endangered burrowing owls. The three scheme to prevent the corporation from bulldozing the owls’ home. Read the touching and hilarious novel Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. 

Teaching Ideas for the Book

Compare the Movie to the Book

This free printable contains organizers to help students compare the book to the movie.

Comparing Books to Movies

Hoot on the Web

Owl Bag

Owl Treat Bag - Simple easy craft to use with the book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.This idea came from Sweet and Living Simple. You will find step-by-step instructions on her site.

Owl Crafts





 Hoot Book Unit

If you would like to try out the Hoot Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:

  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-2
  • Constructive Response Question – Setting
  • Constructive Response Question – Characters
  • Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks Like


Hoot Book Unit

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen Book Unit contains vocabulary, comprehension, constructive response writing, and skill practice.

Gay Miller

Jun 26

My Father’s Dragon Activities

My Father’s Dragon

My Father’s Dragon tells the story of Elmer Elevator. Elmer runs away to a Wild Island to rescue a baby Dragon. Elmer must use two dozen pink lollipops, rubber bands, chewing gum, a fine-toothed comb, and other objects to tame fierce beasts. The rescue mission on Wild Island turns into quite an adventure.

Teaching Ideas for the Book

Free Printable Activities to use with the Book

Free Printables to use with My Father's Dragon

The printable contains

  • A Story Planner – Guiding questions help students plan a story. Students imagine Elmer has another animal encounter. Elmer must use something from his knapsack to tame the wild beast.
  • Writing paper with animals is provided.
  • Venn Diagram – Students compare My Father’s Dragon to their story.
  • Making Connections with Text – Two organizers are provided to use with the book.
  • Nutrition – Discussion questions guide students to evaluate Elmer’s diet during his trip.

Claymation –  My Father’s Dragon in 90 Seconds

This youtube video highlights only part of the book. It is excellent! Have students evaluate the video.


  • Why did the author skip part of the story?
  • How does the video help students better understand the story?
  • How could the video be improved?
  • What is the best feature of the video?

Free Audio Book

LibriVox records books that are in Public Domain. This excellent audio book is read by a child. You can download the entire story or listen online chapter by chapter.My Father's Dragon Free Audio Book

Online Book

If you are lucky enough to have laptops or iPads for your class, you may enjoy using an online version of the book. This one includes the images.

Online Digital Book ~ My Father's Dragon How to Fold and Origami Dragon

I love this video series. It is great to see the projects can be completed by kids. This episode shows how to make an origami dragon.

Teaching Ideas from Random House

This three page printable is from Random House. It includes the following:

  • Travel Brochure Instructions
  • Make Your Own Dragon
  • Character Web Printable
  • Outcome Prediction ChartFree Printable for My Father's Dragon from Random House

Storyboard That

Student activities from Storyboard That include:

  • Character Map Graphic Organizer
  • Plot Diagram
  • Summary
  • Making Predictions
  • Themes

Character Map for My Father's Dragon for Storyboard That

My Father’s Dragon Book Unit

If you would like to try out the My Father’s Dragon Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:

  • Vocabulary Practice for Chapter 1 [oblige and furnace] plus Chapter 10 [irate and jackknife]
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapter 1
  • Constructive Response Question – Point of View
  • Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks Like

My Father's Dragon Book Unit

My Father's Dragon Book Unit



My Father’s Dragon Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities. Vocabulary, comprehension, constructive response writing, and skill practice are all included.

Gay Miller

Jun 19

Weasel by Cynthia DeFelice

Weasel by Cynthia DeFelice is a historical fiction novel.

After the Removal Act of 1830, the U.S. government hires a man, known as Weasel, to remove the Shawnees from the Ohio Territory. Once all the Native Americans have fled, Weasel stays in Ohio. He then turns on the white settlers. 

One of Weasel’s victims is eleven-year-old Nathan’s pa. Nathan struggles between taking the law in his own hands and letting Weasel go.

Teaching Ideas for the Book

Book Opening Lines 

Great First Lines in Children's Literature

Weasel has a great opening line:

The dogs were dozing in their usual places by the fire when the knock came.

This free set of cards contains 20 cards with great opening lines from children’s literature. Have students sort the cards by type:

  • dialogue
  • question
  • vivid description
  • interesting fact
  • sound effect

Bringing Ezra Back by Cynthia DeFelice

Cynthia DeFelice reads from Bringing Ezra Back, the sequel of Weasel. The sequel takes place five months after the book Weasel ends. In the next book, Nathan sees a handbill advertising a show with a ‘white injun.’ Nathan plans to save Ezra from being an exhibit in the traveling show. He sets out from Ohio to Pennsylvania with Orrin Beckwith, a peddler. Along the way, Nathan encounters others who are both helpful and mean.

Book Covers

Compare book covers for the book Weasel.

 Weasel Weasel

 Weasel Book Unit

If you would like to try out the Weasel Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:

  • Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-2
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-2
  • Reading Skill Page on Analogies
  • English Lesson on Plurals

Weasel Book Unit

Weasel Book Unit contains printables for

  • vocabulary
  • comprehension
  • constructive response writing
  • reading skill practice
  • English skill lessons
  • Activities

Gay Miller

Jun 12

The Tiger Rising Book Activities

The Tiger Rising

As twelve year old Rob walks through the woods near his Florida home, he stumbles upon a caged tiger. The same day, he meets a girl named Sistine Bailey. Rob is full of bottled up emotions. Before long, he begins confiding his feelings with Sistine. Rob even shows Sistine the tiger. When she sees it, she insists they let it go. This leads to tragedy.

Teaching Ideas for the Book

Character Traits

Have students use easek.ly to create character maps of Sistine and Rob.

3D Tour of the Sistine Chapel

Sissy was named after the Sistine Chapel. Have students ‘visit’ the Sistine Chapel using this virtual tour.

3D Tour of the Sistine Chapel

Interview with Kate DiCamillo

Online Tiger Printables and How-Tos

Online Teaching Resources

Free Samples from The Tiger Rising Book UnitBook Unit Samples

If you would like to try out The Tiger Rising Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:

  • Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-3 [harbor and astounded]
  • Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-3
  • Constructive Response Question – Symbolism
  • Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks Like

The Tiger Rising Book UnitThe Tiger Rising Book Unit contains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook and game activities. Vocabulary, comprehension, constructive response writing, and skill practice are all included.

Gay Miller

Jun 08

The Westing Game Book Unit Activities

The Westing Game

Newbery Medal winner The Westing Game will keep the reader guessing ‘who did it’ from beginning to end. The story opens with Barney Northrup selling apartments at the Sunset Towers. Only a selected group of tenants receive an invitation to purchase the luxury estate at affordable prices.

Once the tenants move in, sixteen are invited to a reading of Sam Westing’s will. The heir who can figure out how he died wins Westing’s entire fortune.

This page turner takes many unexpected twists and turns. Not until the last chapter will the reader know the guilty party.

Book Trailer

Wanted Posters

The Westing Game Wanted Poster

Use Storyboard This to create wanted posters for each of the 16 heirs.

3-D Setting Organizer

3D Setting Organizer for The Westing GameI love this idea by Susie Rios. Students not only draw the characters, but write about them inside the window flaps.

Character Trait Cards

Free Character Trait CardsWith so many suspects, students get confused about who is who. Download this free set of cards (including an answer key) to help students


  • Sort the character cards by the places the characters live, families they belong to, etc.
  • Use the cards to discuss suspects.
  • Make a T-Chart on a large piece of construction paper. Sort cards by guilty or not guilty as evidence is revealed.

Book Unit Samples

To prevent you from having to download multiple samples, I included everything in one download. The file includes the following. 

#1 ~ Sunset Towers Organizer

Free Printable to use with The Westing Game

#2 ~ Free Samples from The Westing Game Book Unit

Free Samples from The Westing Game Book Unit

#3 ~ Lesson 1 for Writing a Mystery

This graphic organizer helps students figure out the housing arrangements of Sunset Towers.

Try out the first lesson of


The Westing Game Book Unit The Westing Game

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

Writing a Mystery UnitWriting a Mystery ~ A Common Core Unit

For teachers who would like just the Writing a Mystery without the full The Westing Game Book Unit, I have a product for you. 


Gay Miller


Jun 05

The Dark is Rising Teaching Ideas

The Dark is Rising is an exceptional contemporary fantasy on the Common Core Standards Grades 6-8 Exemplars List. The novel tells the story of Will Stanton who on his eleventh birthday learns he is one of the Old Ones who is destined to save the world from the Dark. Will must collect six Signs and join them together before the Dark destroys Earth. Read The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper to see if Will can defeat the Dark.

Teaching Ideas for the Book


 Artwork for The Dark is Rising  Artwork forThe Dark is Rising

Have students describe the scenes that are taking place in each drawing.


Have students watch the movie version and compare it to the book. This free printable will help students compare and contrast.

Links on the Web

Book Unit Samples

If you would like to try out The Dark is Rising Book Unit before you buy it, this download contains free samples including:


The Dark is Rising Book Unit 

Organizers from The Dark is Rising Book Unit

The Dark is Rising Book UnitGay Miller

Jun 01

Making Connections with Text Lesson #3

Making Connections with Text

Lesson #3

Bloom's Taxonomy

This is the third of three lessons on teaching ‘Making Connections with Text.’ If you missed the first two lessons you can find them here:

In this lesson students will read the story of Aladdin and make connections to the text.

The Lesson

Aladdin Story

Included in the printable is a three page printable story “The Adventures of Aladdin.”

The story is in the public domain, so it may be used freely. Here is the readability information:

Average Grade Level 6.1

You should be able to read the text out loud in approximately 14 minutes.

Vocabulary Words

  • mysterious
  • impatiently
  • cautiously
  • excitedly
  • obedient
  • sultan
  • respectfully
  • incredible
  • apparition
  • possessions
  • respectfully
  • astonished


  • hand to mouth
  • at their wits’ end
  • down to earth


Depending on the level and experience of your students, you may wish to read the story out loud to them. Stop and ask leading questions related to making connections.

Interesting Facts about Aladdin

  • The setting of the earliest Aladdin stories was China.
  • In early stories, Aladdin was not an orphan. He lived with his mother.
  • The popular Disney animated film of 1992 makes Aladdin an Arabian boy.
  • The genie in the Disney film was voiced by Robin Williams.
  • Williams would read each line as written in the script, but he would read it in 20 different character voices. This gave the producers a lot to choose from.

This eight-minute animated story “Aladdin and the Magician” has enough similarities and differences to make it a good version to compare to the text provided. 


Free Lesson on Making Connections with Text using AladdinThis download includes the three page story and organizers needed to complete the lesson.

Gay Miller

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