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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Laughing All the Way Secondary Blog Hop

       As teachers we know how trying the month of December can be for the best of classrooms. This year is going to be no different in my middle school ELA classroom. It's always difficult for my students to keep their heads in the game, instead of off in dreams of sleeping in and not having to come to school for two weeks of break. By this time, we could all use a break, even though it's just not possible.  Even though the students think it's torture to ask them to think for the next 4 weeks until break...I often get the "Ms. U why can't we just watch movies and do easy stuff? It's almost Christmas. We should do stuff that's fun." So I tell them that we are going to do something REALLY fun...sing Christmas carols and decorate our classroom Christmas tree. Keeping to myself the rest of the details. Typically students try to size me up and call my bluff but I always keep my poker face on. Eventually curiosity gets the best of them and they go with it.
       "Singing" Christmas Carols: As a way to pull in the excitement of the holidays while still keeping my eye on common core, I use Christmas carols as text for close reading. By this time, my 7th graders are starting to get the hang of the process so I can push them a bit. I find that these songs are typically ones they can sing but have never thought about the meaning of the text they are singing. It's a perfect close read situation...they are familiar with the text but have not looked closely at it.  For my close readings, I use a lesson structure that allows me to scaffold the questions, increasing their intensity and difficulty with each read. For example, I use the song "Deck the Halls." Using this text, I created three sets of questions:

  • One set for the first read that focuses on KEY IDEAS & DETAILS. These questions assess my students' ability to find the main idea, identify story elements, and determine key details of the passage. 
  • One set for the second read that focuses on CRAFT & STRUCTURE. These questions assess my students' ability to focus in on author's craft and word choices made by the writer. They analyze how the text is structured and why the author wrote the text the way he/she did. 
  • One set for the third read that focuses on INTEGRATION OF KNOWLEDGE & IDEAS. These questions require students to analyze the text further by using all that they have already discovered while also relating to other texts and media. 
       Each of the sets of questions can be done in various ways: partners, cooperative groups, individually. You know your class' ability best. Let that knowledge be your guide.

       Looking for a way to implement this activity with no prep or hassle? You can purchase my exact set of questions along with the text in my TpT store by clicking on the link below.

       Decorate the Class Christmas Tree: It wouldn't be the holidays without a tree in the classroom. My students always love to see the tree show up and I can always get them excited to help trim the tree with their own work. Every year, I have the students choose their favorite book they have read so far in the school year and create an ornament book review. It's a great way to get them reflecting on their reading life and an awesome way to offer suggestions to other students who are looking for the next great book to read. To do this, I created a template for my students to use.

Students draw the cover of the book they chose and then write the feel the book is "a gift". Then they cut them out and fold them. I laminate them and add yarn or string. I then return the ornament to the students so they can trim the tree with them. 

Student Example Using The Seventh Wish
The Trimmed Tree in my Classroom
       You can find this Reading is a Gift Ornament FREEBIE in my store by clicking here.

I hope the holidays are as wonderful in your classroom this year as I am planning mine to be. Happy Holidays!

Remember to enter our giveaway to win a Starbucks or Target gift card!


  1. Oh my goodness!!! I absolutely LOVE this book tree idea!! I'm pinning it right now!!

  2. That is genius! The book tree idea is adorable. I am printing it out!!

  3. What a great idea to keep standards in mind while getting in the Christmas spirit! Thanks for joining us!

  4. I love those ornaments and am off to print them out now! Thanks!! :)

  5. It's very clever to use Christmas carols for close reading! Students love "reading" songs.

  6. Love this variation of a book talk! Thank you!

  7. Hi there to you too, dear Stephanie. Christmas season is like a whole independent holiday. You see how much joy it brings to the kids and you are willing to do even more for them to see them interested in the studying. There are plenty of ways of how the kids can stay excited about school during the holidays season. There is so much exciting that they can do in the classroom, like Christmas themed worksheets and countless reading activities. But when they have finished writing their letters to Santa Claus, you can tell them that soon enough they will need to write college essay papers and start preparing them for their future now.