Amigo Brothers Lesson Plans

My lesson plans for  “Amigo Brothers” by Piri Thomas include the right amount of Common Core standards and fun!  Click the link below for our FREE handouts!

Before we read the story, I teach my students a little boxing terminology and even have them mimic a few boxing moves (not on each other LOL, but in the air).  Together we complete a vocabulary preview handout, and then  I usually read the story out loud as students follow along, stopping along the way to discuss the characters, conflict, and author’s craft.

After reading, I teach my students how to answer a constructive response question by using examples and non-examples.  Then, I give students fifteen questions.  These questions require them to return to the text, draw conclusions, and analyze various elements of the story, including suspense, conflict, setting, and characters.  Many Common Core standards are addressed within these questions.  To add the element of fun, I put the students in groups to answer the questions, and play a fun card game with them once they have their answers.  They can earn points based on the cards, and of course the group with the highest number of points wins a prize!  Click the link below to see the table of contents for the packet I have put together, and download a free handout!


Download our sample packet for “Amigo Brothers” and print a FREE prereading handout!

Double Dutch lesson plans

The novel Double Dutch is perfect for a whole class read or an independent novel study.  However, in our classrooms, we use this book as a choice on our book club list.  Students in book clubs read the book independently and then get together three times to complete activities and discuss the novel.  We would like to share some of our Double Dutch lesson plans with you!  The download will contain activities for the following literary elements:  Chapter 5 – making inferences and drawing conclusions, chapter 6- allusions, chapter 7- point of view, chapter 8 – theme.

Click here to download free printables from our Double Dutch lesson plans!

If you like these free handouts, consider purchasing our complete teaching unit so you will have all of our Double Dutch lesson plans and printables.  All of your plans will be complete, and you can use them for years to come!

While we use this novel as a book club choice, it is also perfect for a whole class read or an independent novel study.  Our seventh graders love this book!  And while it is about double dutch, it’s perfect for both girls and boys.  The Tolliver twins, Randy, and Delia all have secrets, and this is one thing that makes the book such a page-turner!  We hope you enjoy the free lessons.  Happy teaching!


Hearts and Hands Lesson Plans

This past year I introduced my students to O. Henry’s “Hearts and Hands” for the first time.

To make things fun, I decided to allow students to read the story readers’ theater style.  I typed up the story as a script, put the students in groups, and had them read it aloud.  I provided them with a reading guide to complete in groups as well.

The fun part came next.   I assigned each group a section of the story, or in this case the script, and told them to modernize it.  They had to keep the same basic plot but write it as if it were happening this day in time.    Then, the groups took turns acting out their portion of the story.  It was quite amusing to see what the students came up with.  Cell phones, social media, and modern day music all became a part of this classic plot.  This activity really ensured that the students understood the text, and it certainly required them to return to the text and decipher what they read.

Click here to view our teaching packet for “Hearts and Hands” and to print a free handout to use before reading!

“The Ruum” Common Core Activities and Test

“The Ruum” by Arhur Porges is most likely the hardest story in our seventh grade Literature book  for students to read.  This means the story is perfect for a “close read”.

The problem is that many students just don’t know how to read closely.  After I had my students read several paragraphs and groan the ever familiar, “I don’t get it”, I decided to give them a little help.  I split the story into sections and created an active reading guide.  This guide takes portions of the text and asks questions to help them along the way.   After following the guide for half of the story, students read the second half and took notes on their own.  I have found this the best way to teach students to complete a close read!

Click here for a FREE portion of the active reading guide that I use to teach this great story!

The Great Gilly Hopkins lesson plans

Want to hear some good news?  This post has a free The Great Gilly Hopkins lesson plans preview lessons for you to download!  In my classroom, I offer The Great Gilly Hopkins as a choice for literature circles, but this book will also work perfectly as a class read or as an individual novel study.  

It is often hard to incorporate Common Core standards into activities students are completing on their own or in a small group.    One of the activities that students enjoy with this novel is completed after reading chapter four.  In this chapter, Gilly receives a letter from her mom.    I have each member of the Gilly lit circle group reply to this letter by taking on the persona of Gilly herself.  This requires the students to really understand her inner thoughts and feelings and conflicts. After the students in the literature circle have all written their own “Gilly letter”, I have them swap letters and then respond to Gilly from mom!  Both activities require my students to delve back into the chapter and revisit the text.  This is the kind of activity that is included in our The Great Gilly Hopkins lesson plans packet.

Click the link below to print the instructions for this activity and print some other free handouts as well from our Gilly Hopkins Teaching Unit.

Print FREE lessons and handouts for the novel The Great Gilly Hopkins.


Three Skeleton Key Free Common Core Activities and Handouts

Every October, we read the short story “Three Skeleton Key” by George G. Toudouze  in my seventh grade classrooms.  My lesson plans for “Three Skeleton Key”  include Common Core standards as well as a lot of fun!  This story is great to read around Halloween because it has some of the elements of horror!  Being trapped in a lighthouse with hoards of rats would be nightmarish to most!  One year, I purchased a battery operated, remote control rat, which I sent wheeling out into the middle of my classroom right in the middle of the horror!  Needless to say, it made sure all of my students were awake!  These days, to keep the screams down,  I simply place a few rubbery rats around the room on the day we read the story.

Prior to reading, my students complete an anticipation guide, a vocabulary preview, and read an informational article about lighthouses and ships.  You can print the vocabulary preview in the link below.  I feel it is important that students have this background information before reading because the story can be hard for seventh graders to comprehend.    Also, due to the complexity of the text, I usually read this story aloud to my students, of course stopping along the way to question them.  Once we finish, we are ready to analyze the setting,  and theme of the story.  The setting in this story tremendously affects the plot, so together we discuss this.

Once our whole-class discussions are complete, it is time for students to work independently.  Before letting them begin, I use a handout to explain how to support answers with text.  It is best if you show examples and non-examples when doing this.  So many times, students are simply not taught how to answer open-ended questions.  Students work to complete ten questions using the text to defend their answers.  Sometimes I allow them to work with a partner to complete these questions.   Next, students write poems about the story.  Finally, they work in groups to create a tableau based on the story.  They really get into this activity and enjoy presenting them to the class!

You can download all of our handouts and activities for this teaching unit today!  Also, preview the table of contents and print the vocabulary preview free in our “Three Skeleton Key” sample pack!

Happy Teaching!

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street Common Core Activities

“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is one of the best teleplays to read with middle school students!  We use The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street Common Core activities while reading this play, but we have a little fun as well!

Before students even know anything about the story, odd things begin to happen in our classrooms.  For instance, in my room, my class phone rings several times, but noone is ever there.  My timer goes off by itself, and so does my cell phone alarm.  Just as the kids are starting to wonder what in the world is going on, I announce, “I’m sure it’s nothing.  We don’t have time to waste.  We are going to read a play today.”  They forget all about the strange happenings as they eagerly shout out which part they want to read.  It’s only once things start eerily going wrong on Maple Street that they remember the peculiar things happening in our own room!

Take a look at our sample packet to view our detailed table of contents and print a prereading activity FREE!

Before reading, students complete some prereading activities including an anticipation guide and a vocabulary preview handout.  We then assign parts and have fun reading with expression.  After reading, we are ready to dig into some The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street Common Core based activities.  We take a look at how the setting affects the plot and examine the theme of the story.  In addition, students answer a set of questions in which they must return to the text, analyze different elements, and support their answers from the text. When we are finished, we watch the teleplay, which can be found in the Twilight series on Netflix!


Because of Winn-Dixie Lesson Plans

Here’s good news!  This page has a link to free Because of Winn-Dixie lesson plans!  Yipee!  

Because of Winn-Dixie is a heart-warming story that makes a perfect class read-aloud or independent novel study.    Though this book is used in many elementary classes, it is also the perfect read for a middle school student.  In our classrooms, we use this novel as a book club choice, but our Because of Winn-Dixie lesson plans will work for a whole class read or independent novel study too. 

 Our lessons are based on language arts standards, so you will not find just plain generic activities for this novel. Furthermore, our entire Because of Winn-Dixie Lesson Plans unit will help you address Common Core standards. For example, the lesson on chapter 15 prompts students to not only find similes, but it also requires them to analyze the similes and to explain how the similes impact imagery.  You’ll see this activity in the free download link below. These handouts are ready for you to use for each chapter. With this packet, no prep is needed! All of the work is planned out for you! Use these ready to print activities to teach the novel as a whole-class read, for homework, for group work in literature circles, or as independent classwork.

Click the link below this list to print Because of Winn-Dixie lesson plans.   You’ll find a printable to examine the point of view used in the novel, a portion of a test for chapters 1-8, and a handout on using similes to create imagery.  Enjoy!

Download a FREE portion from our Because of Winn-Dixie Lesson Plans packet.                   

COMMON Sense with CORE Standards: Including Informational Text in Our Literature Based Classroom

Common Core…It seemed like a looming monster, yet it has arrived in full force, at least for most of us. And now that it is here, let’s tackle it head on! If it overwhelms us, let’s step back and breathe and do what we as teachers do best…monitor and adjust.

One of the greatest complaints from English teachers is most likely the fact that so much emphasis is placed on informational text. “What about our novels and stories?” we whine. Luckily, as seventh grade teachers, 50% of our text should still be literary. Some high school English teachers only have a 30% space to fill with fiction.

Really, it is all a game of intertwinement.

We must pull in informational text with our current literature, and who says it can’t be fun? Last year, just like always, we read “Three Skeleton Key” by George G. Toudouze in our literature books. In this chilling narrative, sea rats overtake a lighthouse and trap three men inside. After finishing this short story, my colleague Tammy and I decided to create a common core unit on rats. We searched for several articles about rats from books and the Internet. For example, we read a chapter titled “Yummy Rats” from Oh Rats! The Story of Rats and People by Albert Marrin. This chapter explained how people in other countries eat rats! Some of our students were completely grossed out, but we had their attention. After taking notes on these articles and viewing short videos from YouTube, students answered constructed response questions which required them to support their answers with text. At the end of the unit, our students compiled their information and wrote an essay taking the stance that either rats are good and helpful to our world or hideous and disgusting creatures.

Information (and Informational Text) is Everywhere

Here is another example of matching nonfiction with literature. We begin our year reading the unforgettable novel The Man Who Loved Clowns by June Rae Wood. In this book, one of the main characters has Down syndrome. This provides an avenue for us to include informational text on Down syndrome, chromosomes, and even the Special Olympics. However, we don’t stop there. The book is set in the early eighties, which opens up another area of research. At one point in the book, two characters salute the American flag as the television shows signs off the air at midnight. Some of our students have no idea that once upon a time there were no cell phones much less the fact that you couldn’t just wake up at 2:00 in the morning and watch television. What an opportunity to pull in some history that may actually intrigue them! Thus, we include research of this decade — again with articles and constructed response questions.

So before we panic about what type of informational texts we are going to include, we just need to take a look at what we already teach and seek ideas there!