Common Core lesson plans for Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall is an award-winning novel, and we’ve got the following free Common Core lesson plans from our Sarah, Plain and Tall novel unit.  Read on for the ideas, and make sure you click the link below to download FREE printables to help you teach this novel!

When we were writing our Common Core lesson plans for Sarah, Plain and Tall, my colleague and I wanted to make sure we had both activities that would help us examine the author’s craft and analyze literary elements.  We went through each chapter searching for one or the other and outlining what our activities would be like.  For example, after reading chapter one, we have students complete a chart in which they examine the characters.  For each of the characters  mentioned in chapter one, students jot down a description of who each character is.   Then students analyze the setting and the current conflict.  You can print the charts that we use in the link below.

Here’s another fun idea that we include in our Common Core lesson plans for Sarah, Plain and Tall!  After reading chapter six, we have students take a look at the original similes used in the chapter.  Then, we ask them to write some of their own original similes.  Sometimes we do this as a class, and other times we allow them to complete this activity in groups.  We have even had each student pick his/her very best simile, illustrate it, and showcase it or paste it into his/her literature interactive notebook.

Click here to download our FREE sample packet for Sarah, Plain and Tall, and you can print the handouts that we use in these two activities, plus a portion of a test!

If you enjoy these free samples, consider downloading our entire teaching unit for Sarah, Plain and Tall.  All of your plans – done!  You only buy it once, but you can use these activities for years to come!  These activities are perfect to use in literature circles, as a whole class read, or for independent novel studies.

Lesson Plans for On My Honor

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer is a touching story of friendship, death, grief, loss, and honesty. Your students will not want to stop reading this awesome and powerful story!  Look at this packet to see how we use this amazing novel in our classrooms.  Read on for a few of our activities and lesson plans for On My Honor.

This novel is short and an easy page-turner.  When developing lesson plans for On My Honor, we wanted to make sure we took a look at literary devices and the author’s craft while at the same time appreciating such a powerful, moving story.  For example, after reading chapters four and five, we have students reflect  on what happened to Tony and make a prediction.  Then, students analyze the tone created with the author’s use of figurative language, symbolism, and specific words and imagery.     As the student’s analyze the author’s craft, they are provided with an unique look into Joel’s inner feelings.

After chapter nine, Students first revisit the text and spend time answering discussion questions.  Then, students analyze the dialogue.  After looking at Bauer’s craft, students write a dialogue for a hypothetical situation.  This activity allows students to grow as writers by studying this author.  We feel this is an awesome way to read and learn from a novel!  While we have used this novel as a whole class read, we currently use it as a choice for book clubs, or as some call them, literature circles.  This is the perfect book for groups to read, and it’s especially a good choice for reluctant readers.  It’s not too long, catches attention quickly, and pulls in the reader with a powerful story.  Check out some of our handouts below.

Print free handouts by clicking here for our sample packet for On My Honor.

If you enjoy this free sample, consider downloading our entire teaching unit for On My Honor.  All of your planning will be done, and you’ll have this resource to use year after year!



Lesson Plans for The Island of the Blue Dolphins

Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins is an amazing story.  Read on for ideas, and print FREE lesson plans for The Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Wow!  I loved it when I read it with Mrs. McKenzie, my seventh grade ELA teacher, and I love using it in my seventh grade classroom each year with my students!  Boys and girls alike are quickly enthralled with Karana as she faces many exciting dangers on the island.  She battles fierce animal enemies, faces off with Russian hunters, and explores old, hidden cave.

Our lesson plans for The Island of the Blue Dolphins will help students appreciate the book and, at the same time, examine the literary devices and author’s craft.

The animals on the island provide many Common Core teaching moments!  For example, after reading chapter 16, students complete a mini-research project on devilfish.  Students brainstorm a list of all they have learned in the novel about devilfish, and then they make a list of questions they have about devilfish.  Finally it’s time to research. The final product – a poem!  🙂  Students don’t moan and groan as much when they see that they just have to present their findings in a poem.    Students are shown a sample poem written about komodo dragons and a rubric is used to score the projects.  It’s important to keep lessons fun yet also standards based, and that’s what we tried hard to do in our lesson plans for The Island of the Blue Dolphins.  Click below to download this activity.

A portion of the project handouts are given to you in an Island of the Blue Dolphins sample packet.

In chapter 18, specific facts about gulls, sea otters, and the cormorant are given.  Students are asked to skim back through the chapter looking for information on these animals and complete charts to emphasize what was learned.  You can use this activity for chapter 18  in your classroom today!


Lesson plans for Stargirl and Love, Stargirl – Great Literature Circle Ideas

When we started to use lesson plans for Stargirl with our middle school students several years back, we quickly fell in love with Leo, free-spirited Stargirl, and even Cinnamon!  We were able to enjoy Spinelli’s fantastic novel while also teaching Common Core standards.   What a wonderful combination!  I am including a sample from our lesson plans for Stargirl.   These handouts will let you see how we engage our students with important ELA standards throughout the entire novel.  After you look at the table of contents, you can purchase the entire unit for Stargirl and begin to use the unit in your classroom today.

Last year we started to use Love, Stargirl as a follow-up unit.  We did not have time to read the sequel to Stargirl as a whole class, so we developed a unit that allowed us to use Love, Stargirl as an independent read in two classes and a literature circle novel in two classes. Since Love, Stargirl is a letter (the “world’s longest love letter” no doubt!), we divided the unit into dates.  Each handout begins with comprehension questions to ensure students are “getting it”.  Many activities were created with support in the Stargirl unit so that students are likely to have successful experiences on their own or in a small group.  For example, an extended metaphor is written in each unit.

We have included the extended metaphor Love, Stargirl handouts in our sample for you to enjoy!

Extreme Makeover Writing Edition ~ Teach Students How to Revise!

For years, I struggled with how to specifically teach revision.  Then the six traits came along, and life as a writing teacher became much easier.    One night on the couch while watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition, a bright idea popped into my head.  Why not let my students treat a rough draft as something that needed to be completely “made over”?  I could still use the six traits by teaching mini lessons on word choice, sentence fluency, and voice.  Then, I could put students in “design teams” and let them “tear down” a rough draft and “rebuild” it with the tools of revision.

This idea came to me seven years ago, but it is still something that I use in my classroom each year!  Students become excited as soon as I mention working in “teams” and they become even more excited when I tell them that we are having a competition to see which team can create the best extreme makeover on a piece of writing.  I start by giving them all the same story.  It’s bland, boring, and in need of a lot of work.  Most of the time, I let students work with a partner, but sometimes I allow them to gather in groups of four, and revise the piece of writing by improving the grabber, word choice, ending, details, voice, and sentence fluency.  Of course, at this point, we have already covered all of these writing traits in mini lessons and with various activities.

Take a look at this free sample packet that I have put together for Extreme Makeover Writing Edition.   You can print one of the mini lessons and see a little of how I accomplish this in my classroom.   If you like these free samples, you may consider ordering the entire teaching unit.  Like me, you can use it year after year!

The Man Who Loved Clowns Lesson Plans

There is no other novel quite like The Man Who Loved Clowns!   Scroll down to download FREE printable handouts and The Man Who Loved Clowns lesson plans to teach chapters 1-3 of this novel. 

My seventh grade students absolutely LOVE this book, and I will most likely read it every year until I retire.  It will make you laugh; it will make you cry; and  you nor your students will ever forget it!  I run into students that I taught ten or fifteen years ago, and they say, “I still remember that book about Punky.”  It truly is an amazing story!

When we created our The Man Who Loved Clowns lesson plans for our teaching unit, we wanted to make sure that we used every opportunity to examine the author’s craft.  June Rae Wood weaves together such a heartwarming story, and it is not by chance that readers fall in love with her main characters. How is it that we love Punky so much?  What phrases and lines linger on in our memories?  How does she make us feel as if what happens to Delrita is happening to us too?  These questions make great discussions.

I want to share some of our lessons for this novel.  In August, we start reading this book.  Most chapters, I read aloud with my best voices for each character.  Some chapters I allow students to read readers’ theater style, and some chapters they read on their own.   We finish it in early October, and by then my students love my class, mainly because of Delrita and Punky, the man who loved clowns.

Download our FREE sample packet to teach The Man Who Loved Clowns.

This novel is perfect for a whole class read aloud, but would also be a great literature circle choice.

tales of a fourth grade nothing lesson plans

Fudge!  The beloved character created by Judy Blume is introduced in the novel tales of a fourth grade nothing.  Scroll down to read about some of our activities with this novel and to print FREE tales of a fourth grade nothing lesson plans.

While reading the novel, don’t think you have to worry about not covering Common Core standards.   You can ensure your students get the maximum educational benefit from their reading.  When we developed these tales of a fourth grade nothing lesson plans for our middle school students, we had our struggling readers in mind.  We knew that we could use this unit as a title for literature circles and even do some guided reading lessons with small groups.

Several of the common core standards we address with our tales of a fourth grade nothing lesson plans include interpreting figurative language (idioms as well as similes), correctly using capitalization, and completing an in depth analysis of a character.  You don’t have to wonder what character we give an in depth look at, do you?  Nope!  You are exactly right!  FUDGE!!

After we read chapter two, we really look closely at Fudge.   In chapter four, we look at several idioms that are often overlooked and pose a bit of a challenge!  Judy Blume’s use of strong verbs in her novel is our focus after reading chapter ten.  We have our students identify her verbs, then select a couple and practice using stronger verbs in a mini writing assignment.  With this activity, students easily learn that the nuances in verbs can have a huge impact on our sentences.

Now, we’d love to share these lesson plans with you!  If you click here, you are going to see the plans we use for chapters two, four, and ten. We have even given you a portion of a test we use with tales of a fourth grade nothing! Enjoy!

Freckle Juice Novel Unit

Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice is a classic, must read with your students.  Everyone is able to relate to Andrew as he wants something he can’t have. And, even though this is a novel that will have your students laughing, you can still use this Freckle Juice novel unit to teach Common Core standards!  Read on to see our reading focus for some of the chapters and to print FREE handouts from our Freckle Juice novel unit.

Hyperbole is explored and analyzed in chapter one.  We have students write a sentence that uses hyperbole that is of course about  – FRECKLES!

In chapter three, we use Blume’s craft to be sure our students  can distinguish shades of meaning among verbs that describe the same action.  We even have them act out the sentences from the story.  (Common Core Language Standard 5)   We use five sentences from the chapter, and students must pick out verbs such as crept and gulped.  Then, we laugh as they “creep into a room” and “gulp down a disgusting drink”.  Fun!

The kids in our classrooms even read an informational text to learn all about freckles!

Now, if you click here, we would like to share the handouts we use for chapters one and three of our Freckle Juice novel unit.  We have even given you several of our test questions for the Freckle Juice novel unit test.  Enjoy!


Hoot Lesson Plans

The first year that I decided to teach the novel Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, I did not want my Hoot lesson plans to simply consist of reading a chapter, answering comprehension questions, and discussing the plot diagram and conflicts.  So, I read the book chapter by chapter looking for literary techniques that could be analyzed and the craft of the author that could be examined and challenge my students to become better writers themselves.  I ended up with Hoot lesson plans with titles like “Beatrice and her Barbecue Sandwich” in which we take a look at Hiaasen’s brilliant technique of suspense and voice.  It was then that I fell in love with creating solid, standards-based fun lesson plans for novels.  It all started with this novel, Hoot, and I must say, I think it’s one of the best teaching units we have ever created.  

Scroll down to print free lesson plans for Hoot!

Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen, is one of our very favorite novels to use in our seventh grade classrooms. Some years we use it as a class read.  Other years we use it as a book club choice along with Flush by the same author.  We’ve even used it as an individual novel study unit.

Filled with realistic and quirky characters, this book has just the right amount of humor and suspense to keep our students begging to read. We take a good look at Hiaasen’s craft, how he uses voice, suspense, imagery, and creates such realistic characters.  This book also has an omniscient point of view, so we examine that, as well as other literary devices such as irony and symbolism.

Many teachers have said so many kind words to us about our teaching unit for this novel.  We encourage you to try it out.

hoot free samples blog cover

Print our FREE sample packet for Hoot which includes a prereading activity, handouts for you to use for chapters 1-3, and a portion of a test!