November 2016 archive

Comparing Cinderella Stories – Ella Enchanted


Ella Enchanted is a Cinderella story with a twist. When Ella is born, a fairy named Lucinda gives her the gift of obedience. Now whenever anyone gives Ella an order, she must follow it. At first, Ella’s mother and their cook protect Ella. When Lady Eleanor dies, Ella’s father remarries.

As you can imagine, this causes Ella all kinds of trouble. Her mean stepsisters, Hattie and Olive, pull simple pranks. For example, Hattie tells Ella not to eat. Hattie even orders Ella to stop being friends with Areida.

Ella meets Prince Char. Even though she cares for him, Ella fears that she will cause someone in his kingdom real danger.

Ella decides to go on a quest to find Lucinda. She wants her to remove the “curse.” Read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine to see if Ella is successful.

Comparison Activity

Literally thousands of Cinderella stories have been told. Some popular versions include:

  • The Rough Face Girl
  • Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
  • Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters
  • Cinder

In these books, Cinderella is a Native American, from China, from Africa, and even a cyborg.

This free printable may be used to compare Ella Enchanted to any Cinderella story.The three mini-books include guiding questions such as:

  • first line – last line
  • royalty
  • good vs. evil characters
  • magic
  • problems and solutions
  • events in groups of three or seven

If you wish to go with the traditional version, you may download my free unit. This unit includes the story in an illustrated book form. It also contains a paper friendly version. The reading level is G.E. 5.1. This makes it the appropriate level for students reading Ella Enchanted.

Download the free mini-books printable here.Cinderella vs. Ella Enchanted ActivityCinderella vs. Ella Enchanted Activity

Student Projects

These links show some student created projects completed during our novel study.

Ella Enchanted Projects

Book Marks

Samples from Ella Enchanted Book Unit

This free sample contains the following:

  • Comprehension for Chapters 1-3

  • Constructive Response Question

  • Skill Lesson – Citations (Creating a Bibliography)

Book Unit

Ella Enchanted Book Unit

Ella Enchanted 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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The Giver Teaching Ideas


Enjoy these five teaching ideas to use with your novel study of The Giver including a free downloadable activity and samples from The Giver Book Unit.  

Twelve year old Jonas lives in a futuristic world where prejudice, war, hunger, crime, as well as the freedom to select a spouse has been eliminated. Jonas is chosen by the Elders to receive memories from the past. These memories come from the time before free will was removed from the society. Will Jonas be able to handle the memories of pain and war? Will these memories change Jonas? Read Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver  to see how Jonas’s world is turned upside down by the past.

Teaching Ideas

Utopian Society

When reading The Giver for the first time, the Utopian community is a real shock for students. They often wonder if a society such as Jonas’s could really exist. Many thought provoking questions are asked in classroom discussions. Having students plan their own unique Utopian community is a natural result. Here are several links that will help you get started:

Build Your Own Utopia: ‘The Giver’ PBL Unit

Project Utopia: Based on Lois Lowry’s The Giver

Utopia Project- The Giver by Lois Lowry

 Audio Version

The Giver Read Aloud by Mr. Koch

Symbols Interactive Notebook Activity 

Free The Giver Activity on Book Symbols

Free The Giver Activity on Book Symbols

In this free download, you will receive card-like foldable organizers for students to write about the symbols. The download also contains a detailed answer key. In brief:

The Color Red – strong emotions such as danger and excitement

Gabriel – too young to understand the rigid rules of the community. His innocence is a symbol of hope. He stands for a brighter future, a way to change the society.

The Sled – symbolizes both pleasure and pain. In the end, Jonas finds a real sled which he rides into his new life. This time the sled symbolizes freedom from the past and entry into a new world.

Light Colored Eyes – people associate eyes as a way of seeing inside a person.

The River – symbolizes many things. It can be a border between the community and Elsewhere. It is a peaceful place to meditate. The river can also be dangerous and destructive. All-in-all the river is a boundary or a dividing line between the society and freedom and life and death.

The Giver – symbolizes choice and freedom to the community by releasing the memories to everyone.

Free Printables for The Giver SymbolsFree Samples from The Giver Book Unit

 The following download contains several samples from The Giver Book Unit. You will find the following:

  •  Lesson Plans at a Glance

  •  Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-2

  •  Multiple Choice Comprehension Quiz for Chapters 1-2

  •  Constructive Response Question and Organizer for Chapters 1-2

  •  Skill Lesson 1 – Using Context Clues

The Giver Book Unit

The Giver Book Unit


The Giver 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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Crossword Puzzle Generators


Making Free Crossword Puzzles
Literally billions of crossword puzzles can be found online or in teacher resource books, but they often don’t fit the words you are studying. In this post, I have reviewed six free crossword puzzle generators. I hope these reviews will help you find the site that best fits your needs. Each title is linked to the generator website.

Site #1 ~ Discovery Education’s Puzzle Maker

Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker

Pros This generator is super easy to use with just four fields to fill in: puzzle title, number of squares, size of squares, clues with definitions. You won’t need to spend time trying to figure out how to work this generator.

Your finished puzzle is an image with text below for the clues. This is a great feature because you can easily correct any mistakes you made while typing the clues. You can also copy and paste the image and clues into another document such as Word or PowerPoint.

Cons This generator does not give you the option of printing an answer key. You have no choices of font, color, etc. [Note: This is not really a problem since you can easily change font after the puzzle has been copied into another document.] 

Site #2 ~ The Teacher’s Corner Crossword Puzzle Generator

The Teacher’s Corner Crossword Puzzle GeneratorPros One of the best features of this site is you can click on an icon beside the field where you type in your clues and can select a preset definition from the The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition. This makes creating the puzzle super quick.

You can customize your puzzle by selecting one of seven font options (free version) and over 90 from the paid version. Under the “Advanced Tab” you can highlight the puzzle so that it can be copied and pasted into Word. The puzzle has many options for customizing your puzzle such as name line, title, and instructions. You can add an image to the page from their bank of stock images. (With the paid version, you can add additional images and even upload your own.) Options are provided for changing the size of your puzzle, color in the puzzle boxes and font, and save the puzzle as a pdf or image.

Cons You must pay to have all the options available. While the generator is fairly simple to use, you will need to spend a little time to figure out all the options the first time you use it. 

 Site #3 Instant Online Crossword Puzzle Maker

Instant Online Crossword

Pros This site is super easy to use. You have just four fields to fill out: instructions, title, subtitle, and word and clues. 

Cons When you opt to print your puzzle, you are taken to a new page with eight ways to get your puzzle; only one of these options is free. With the free version, you may print a simple puzzle with no images. The final puzzle cannot be copied and pasted to Word. (When I tried, the puzzle boxes lined up in a row.) 

After creating the puzzle, you can see how it will look with images behind the puzzle. To get the beautiful crosswords with images, you must pay. In the free version, your finished puzzle has advertising on it for a program to customize the puzzle called Crossword Weaver®.

Site #4 Make a Crossword Puzzle

Crossword Puzzle Maker

Pros ABCYa offers the easiest generator to use. Students could easily make their own puzzles using this site. Each page asks you a question: title, type or copy (clues), word and clues, computer or print.

Cons You must have between 10 to 20 words.  The puzzle cannot be copied and pasted into Word. You can not customize your puzzle. The logo is on your final puzzle.

Site #5 Make Your Own Printable Crossword Puzzles 

Make Your Own Printable Crossword Puzzles

Pros Edtools offers a super easy to use generator. Just type in a title, words and clues. The generator produces the crossword as an image that can be copied and pasted into Word. The final copy has a place for students to write their names and the date.

You can open a puzzle someone else has created, add to or change the puzzle, and then create a new puzzle.

Cons The answer key is listed in clue form, not the completed puzzle. In the two sample puzzles I created, several words would not fit and were left out of the finished puzzle. You cannot customizing font style, color, or size. [This shouldn’t be a problem since the puzzle can be copied into Word.]

Site #6 Crossword Labs
Crossword Labs


Pros Only two fields must be filled out: a puzzle title and words and clues. The completed puzzle can be opened in Word or as a pdf. You can view and print puzzles others have created, but you can’t edit them without the passcode.

Cons You must create a passcode to come back and edit your puzzle or to get a key. If you forget to create the passcode, you are out of luck. You can not customize any options.

Making Free Crossword PuzzlesHappy Puzzle Making!

Gay Miller


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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


Mrs. Armstrong breaks her leg, so Mother must direct the Christmas pageant. Everything goes wrong when the Herdmans, the worst kids in the history of the world, are the only ones to volunteer for all the main roles. Will Mother be able to pull it all together? Read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson to see how one disaster after another is averted.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Activities

Free Interactive Notebook Activity 

In this activity, students summarize the two events in the book where the fire department comes to put out a fire. Students then contrast the two events from the story using a T-Chart. The activity makes a small four page shape book which can be glued into an interactive notebook. Two versions of the cover are provided: a full color version like the one pictured and a blackline version.

Free Activity to use with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Free Activity to use with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Free Activity to use with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


Free Samples from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Book Unit

Free Samples from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Book Unit

I wanted to let everyone try a sample of this book unit. This download includes the multiple choice comprehension questions plus the constructive response question for Chapter 1. I also included the “Table of Contents” and “Lesson Plans at a Glance” page, so you can see the variety of skills and activities that are included in the unit.

Following each constructive response question, you’ll find a full page answer key like the one pictured here.

Click the links below to download the samples.

Comprehension and Writing

Skill Practice


  • Crock-Pot Cake
    (Students enjoyed baking a cake, crock pot style in the classroom. See photos of this activity.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Book Unit

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Book Unit

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

Free Shape Book to Use with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Merry Christmas

Gay Miller


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Thanksgiving Activities for Big Kids


With Thanksgiving just two weeks away, I’m sure you are looking for some activities that both celebrate the season and teach valuable lessons and skills. Check out these free Thanksgiving activities for upper elementary students.

Activity #1 ~ Oreo Turkeys

Thanksgiving for Big Kids

Your students will have a blast creating this Thanksgiving turkey from Oreos, candy corn, Hershey Kisses, and Smarties. The turkey was “glued” together with icing. 

Activity #2 ~ The Story of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving for Big Kids

The Story of Thanksgiving from Two Perspectives includes a turnaround upside down book as well as a comprehension game. With the turn around upside down book, students read about the Pilgrims from the beginning of the book to the center. They will then close the book, turn it upside down, and read the story of Squanto from the “new” beginning to the center.

After reading the book, students can play a game with comprehension questions related to the stories. Students move around the board game while answering inference questions including cause/effect, problem/solution, importance of setting, etc. covering several Common Core Standards. 

 Activity #3 Would You Rather

Thanksgiving for Big Kids

Have you ever used “Would You Rather Questions” in the classroom?The questions make great classroom discussions or writing prompts. Rachel Lynette has free “Would You Rather Questions” for most of the major holidays including “FREE Thanksgiving Would You Rather Question for Kids.” You’ll definitely want to download this free printable.

Activity #4 Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving for Big Kids

Sarah Svatos from LaProfesoralFrida has a free download titled “Giving Thanks.” The printable is full of activity and project ideas related to Thanksgiving. Her ideas vary from a classroom Thanksgiving tree where students write things they are grateful for on leaves to learning how to say thank you in different languages. Be sure to check out Sarah’s great ideas.

Activity #5 Reader’s Theater 

Thanksgiving for Big Kids

Chrissy Beltran provides “The First Thanksgiving: Reader’s Theater Adaptation” which she adapted for the children’s book The First Thanksgiving. The script contains nine parts, so it will work well with small reading groups.

Activity #6 Thanksgiving Maze 

Thanksgiving for Big Kids

Class Crown is a husband and wife team who have a series of free mazes for different holidays. Their “Thanksgiving Maze Puzzle – A-MAZE-ING Thanksgiving Leaf” looks quite challenging. This would make a great activity for early finishers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gay Miller


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The One and Only Ivan Setting Activity


If you haven’t read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, you are in for a real treat. The story is told from the perspective of Ivan, a silver back gorilla in a journal-like format.  The reader learns about Ivan’s past through flashbacks, his struggles in the present living in the small confined cage at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, and his dreams for the future. This post contains several teaching ideas to use with the book. 

Anchor Chart

The One and Only Ivan Activities

Throughout his life, Ivan lives in four different places. This anchor chart lists those places. For this chart, the class brainstormed details about each place Ivan lived. Students wrote details on sticky notes. The students then placed the sticky notes on the anchor chart in the correct locations. 

Free Setting Interactive Notebook Activity 

The One and Only Ivan Pocket Activity

The anchor chart activity was such a hit with my students that I decided to make a similar activity for interactive notebooks. The activity contains four pockets naming the four places Ivan lived. Twenty-seven cards with details from the story settings are provided. Students can also write their own details on the blank page of cards included.

In this print-and-go activity, students cut out the pockets and cards. Students fold the the left, right, and bottom flaps toward the back to form the pockets. Students glued them into an interactive notebook.

To complete the activity, students sorted the details in the pockets based on the place the cards describe. 

Free Samples from The One and Only Ivan Book Unit

Free Samples from The One and Only Ivan Book Unit

If you are looking for more resources for your The One and Only Ivan unit, check out the free samples from The One and Only Book Unit.

The One and Only Ivan Book Unit

The One and Only Ivan Book Unit

The One and Only Ivan 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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Text Structures ~ Problem and Solution Teaching Materials


My newest book unit Matilda contains a series of six lessons on writing a problem and solution essay. After I finished the book unit, I realized  that I haven’t seen many activities on the web for this skill, so I thought I would do a bit of scrounging and pass along what I found.

Here are the results:

Activity #1 ~ Story Elements Match Up

Story Elements Match UpMary from Teaching with a Mountain View has this free item called Story Elements Match Up on Teachers Pay Teachers. Students match characters to setting to problems and solutions. It looks like a lot of fun for 2nd through 4th graders.

Activity #2 ~ Books that Have a Clear Problem and Solution

Picture Books with a Clear Problem and Solution The Teaching Mama has written short book summaries for “Books with a Clear Problem and Solution” in her blog post.

Activity #3 ~ Posters for Your Classroom

Problem and Solution Classroom Display

Scholastic has a set of printable posters for your classroom in a post titled “My March Top Ten List: Nonfiction Reading Resources.” These free printables include a set of 23 text features and 5 text structures. These would make a super quick and informative bulletin board display.

Activity #4 ~ Problem and Solution

Problem and SolutionsCassie from Create-Abilities has this free resource “Problem & Solution” on Teachers Pay Teachers. It includes 24 pages of posters, graphic organizers, and picture prompts. This looks like a fantastic addition to your 2nd – 5th grade classrooms.

Activity #5 ~ Resources found at Book Units Teacher

Text Structures Anchor Chart

Problem and Solution Anchor Chart

Grab these two free printable organizers here.

Free Printable Graphic OrganizerFree Printable Graphic Organizer


If you like this post, you may wish to check out these other posts and webpages on text structures:

Compare and Contrast

OrderingAnchor Chart

Problems and Solutions

Cause and Effect

Text Structures

chevronribbonblueDo you need additional teaching resources? Check out Problems and Solutions at Teachers Pay Teachers. This unit is centered around nonfiction texts and uses the theme winter. It contains the following:

  • Mini Posters with Rules and Definitions
  • Foldable Graphic Organizers ~ The organizers make a cute lap book or may be added to an interactive notebook.
  • Task Cards using Scientific Text with Student Response Sheets
  • Three Activities
    • Pictures to use for Discussion and/or Writing Prompts
    • Snowflake Bentley Book Unit
    • Writing Prompts, Decorative Paper, & Organizers to Aid in Writing

Problems and Solutions from the Nonfiction Text Structures Series contains a variety of fun and engaging activities to aid in teaching text structures.

Gay Miller


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