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5 Halloween Worksheets & Printables for Reading & Writing Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 28, 2014 9:35:00 AM

We love bringing Halloween into the classroom, but it’s even better when we can turn spooky celebrations into teachable moments. To help you do this, we’d like to share a few of our favorite free Halloween worksheets & printables for reading and writing teachers.

5 Halloween Worksheets & Printables for Reading & Writing Teachers

free halloween printablesHalloween Shadow Makers
These spooky shadow makers are cute, but how can they help your students hone their writing skills? Simple, place students in groups and have them collaborate on their own spooky script. Once they’re done, pull out a projector, sit back and enjoy as your students perform their plays in front of the class.

To download this halloween worksheet, click here.

3-1Halloween Haiku Cookies
While your students probably won’t want to eat these Halloween “fortune cookies,” they will enjoy choosing their template and learning how to fold it. What you have students write on the fortune is up to you, but we ask students to craft their own Halloween haikus, stuff them into the “cookies,” and exchange with their peers on Halloween.

You can download the fortune cookie template here. Folding might be tricky without instructions, so check out the tutorial here.


free halloween printablesAdd an Adjective and Tell a Spooky Story
Sometimes the hardest part about writing is getting started. Thanks to this free Halloween worksheet, your students already have a spooky story outlined for them. All they have to do is add the adjectives!

You can download the worksheet here.






free_halloween_printablesWhat Should My Teacher be For Halloween
This is by far our favorite Halloween worksheet on the list. If you’re a teacher with thick skin and a good sense of humor, give this free Halloween printable a shot.

Just grab a headshot of yourself, photocopy it onto the template, and have your students help you pick out your Halloween costume!

You can download the free template here.

free_halloween_printables.jpgHaunted House for Sale
This is another favorite. The goal of this activity is for students to create their own haunted house and produce a sale ad persuading people to buy their house. Who is the intended audience for this piece of writing? Why, a family of ghouls, ghosts and goblins, of course!

This activity is divided up into five parts:

  • Web: Brainstorm ideas about what features students would like in their haunted house.
  • Page 1: Draw the exterior of the haunted house. Name the haunted house.
  • Page 2: is optional: Draw two interior rooms in the house (most students like to draw the bathrooms or a bedroom). You may choose to leave this out based on time.
  • Page 3: Students fill in the name of the house. They should list the features of the house, address, and the realtor (they should think creatively on who might sell a haunted house). Lastly, they should write an opinionated description of why people should buy this house. Remember, they are writing to persuade the reader to purchase their house.
  • Page 4: Additional page if a student needs more space to write.

To download this free Halloween printable, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.


Spooky Story Starters Guide

Tags: reading instruction, writing fluency, writing skills, Reading, free halloween printables

Burying the Report: 3 Book Report Alternatives

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 26, 2014 9:54:58 AM

book_report_alternatives-1There are only so many book reports one teacher can read in a lifetime! We’ve offered a few book report alternatives in the past, but thanks to Christine Boardman Moen’s book, Better Than Book Reports, here are a few more.

Burying the Report: 3 Book Report Alternatives

Create a Culture Kit
One of our favorite things about reading is that it allows us to travel all over the world and experience different cultures all from the comfort of our favorite reading space. One way to enhance this cultural experience is by having students create a Culture Kit.

To create a Culture Kit, students should follow these steps:

  1. Choose and read a nonfiction book about a family or person from a culture other than your own.
  2. Choose six items to put into your Culture Kit box.
  3. On a sheet of paper, list each item and explain why it is important in the culture you read about.
  4. Be prepared to give a short speech to your classmates about the things in your Culture Kit box. Practice picking each item out of the box and explaining its importance.
  5. Decorate the Culture Kit box. For example, you may want to color it or decorate it to look like the country’s flag.

Grow a Story Tree
The Story Tree is another book report alternative that aims to helps students focus on the basic book report alternativesliterary elements of plot, character, and setting while encouraging them to use exact language to share their book with others.

To introduce this project, you may want to first read aloud a story. Then, as a group, complete a Story Tree that you have copied onto an overhead transparency or on the white board. The statements used to make a Story Tree are listed below.


1. The name of the main character
2. Two words that describe the main character
3. Three words that describe where the story takes place (setting)
4. Four words telling what the main character wanted in the story
5. Five words telling what happened that almost stopped the main character from getting what s/he wanted
6. Six words telling how the main character got what s/he wanted
7. Seven words that describe the best part of the book
8. Eight words that explain why you would or would not tell a friend to read this book.

You can download the Story Tree template here.

A Recipe for a Good Book
Like a master chef who adds the perfect combination of ingredients together to produce a tasty meal, authors also use their own ingredients—plot, theme, setting, mood, dialogue, pace—to concoct an engaging story that holds our attention, surprises, and delights us.

In this book report alternative, students will select and read a book, then create a “book recipe” that lists all of the ingredients that were mixed together to make their book “good enough to eat!”

These are the ingredients students should include in their “book recipe”:

Plot: Tell what happens in the story.
Theme: Tell the message of the story.
Setting: Tell where the story takes place.
Mood: Tell if they story is happy, sad, scary, silly, etc.
Characters: Tell the names of the main characters and if they are good, bad, helpful, mean, funny, etc.

Here’s what your recipe card might look like:

book report alternatives

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Tags: book report alternatives, reading instruction, writing fluency, writing skills

5 of Our Favorite Digital Storytelling Apps for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 29, 2014 10:01:00 AM

Storytelling is an indispensable human activity, one that we use not only to convey our identity and experience, but also to convince others of our arguments. Because storytelling is so important, we believe it’s important that we encourage students to tell their stories—and in a way that challenges and inspires them. One way to get students excited about storytelling is by using a medium that they not only love, but are completely comfortable with: technology.

As with  traditional storytelling, students must write, but what makes digital storytelling engaging—and often less intimidating—for students is that it gives them the ability to add computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. If you’re looking for a few applications to get your storytellers started, we’ve got 5 of them!

5 of Our Favorite Digital Storytelling Apps for Teachers

tellagamiTellagami is a free app that allows users to create short animated movies called "Gamis.” Here’s how it works: After you choose your character, you can alter his or her mood, swap out backgrounds, doodle, record your voice, or add text. When you’re satisfied with your work, all you have to do is save and publish it to your favorite social media site, blog or website.


zooburstZoo Burst (free) gives students the ability to create their own 3D pop-up books. Arrange your characters and props and customize your 3D world by using uploaded artwork or items found in the Zoo Burst database, which contains over 10,000 free images and materials.

We should also mention that readers who have a standard webcam installed on their computer can also experience any ZooBurst book in augmented reality. This feature gives readers the ability to interact with the book and turn pages simply by waving their hands!

superhero_comic_book_makerSuperhero Comic Book Maker ($1.99) is an award-winning app that helps students create personalized, animated comic books with monsters and superheroes. Choose from 27 unique background scenes and over 170 animated stickers with sound effects. Students can also illustrate their work and narrate it.

puppet_palsPuppet Pals 2 (free) builds on many of the features available in the first version of the application, giving users more flexibility and a wider variety of choices. Choose from a collection over 30 unique “puppets,” which include historical figures like Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln, or design your own character from scratch. As with real puppets, users can flex their digital puppets’ joints and alter their poses. If you have access to a microphone, you can also make your puppet speak when you tap on it.

toontasticToontastic Jr. Shrek Movie Maker (free) is always a class favorite, especially with younger students. This app allows students to “remix” and the classic Shrek movie by picking a beginning, middle, and ending for the movie, and recording their voice. Whether you choose to storm the Dragon’s castle, rescue Princess Fiona, or battle Lord Farquaad, the decision is entirely up to you.


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Tags: digital storytelling, apps for educators, Writing, writing fluency, apps for teachers, K-6 writing strategies

How zombies can keep your students from using passive voice

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 2, 2014 11:43:00 AM

Worried about your students using passive voice? Here's a simple, zombie-inspired strategy to help them avoid it. Enjoy!

writing strategy

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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills

Hemingway App Teaches Students the Art of Economical Writing

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 20, 2014 9:33:00 AM

Hemingway AppErnest Hemingway liked his martinis dry, his cats six-toed, and his sentences economical. The new Hemingway app doesn’t come with vermouth or felines, but it does promise to make your writing as “punchy and compelling” as Papa’s.

Here’s how it works: You paste your copy into the app and an algorithm color-codes it. If you’ve pontificated, a chief Hemingway sin, the app will tell you so. 

Text highlighted in red denotes a passage that is too long and complex.

Yellow means you need a grammar lesson.

Green shows you where you’ve used passive voice. For example, “He was moved by her” should be rewritten to say, “She moved him.”

Blue text means that you’ve used adverbs. Get rid of those too!

I think students might get a kick out of this. Just to show you how it works, I plugged in a paragraph from one of my blogs. 

hemingway app

According to Hemingway, I am not quite a hack, but close. One of my sentences was overwrought; another was super overwrought. My other vice: I write at a grade 13 level. “Scrap it!” says Ernest.

If you’re teaching Hemingway, or looking for another activity to pair with your lessons about Papa, check out one of our other blogs, “Teaching Flash Fiction: A Novel in Six Words.”

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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills

Outlawing these 11 phrases will improve student essays

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 25, 2014 6:00:00 AM

If you’ve ever spent any time with a stack of student essays, you’ve seen more than one beginning with sentences like, “Since the beginning of time,” or “In society today…”

Where students pick up these phrases I’ll never know, but one thing I do know is that they should be avoided. Below you’ll find an infographic of 11 other essay phrases your students should avoid.

student essays

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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills

What Do Your Students Want to Be Remembered For?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 7, 2014 2:25:00 PM

rosa parksOver the weekend, I came across an article on Time Magazine’s website and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

The article hones in on a question Peter Drucker—an author, professor and management consultant—has been asking university students, clients and himself for years: “What do you want to be remembered for?”

A question like this is certainly appropriate considering that we are only a week into the New Year. Ultimately, though, it strikes me that this is a timeless question we should all be asking ourselves. Why though?

A question like Drucker’s forces us to reflect on our daily choices and, as Phalana Tiller, the host of the Drucker Institute’s monthly podcast puts it, “places a mirror before [us] where, for a brief second, [we] have to confront whether [we’re] actually living up to [our]stated values.”

I recently shared a list of activities to help students reflect back on 2013 and I thought having students write up a reflective essay that answers Drucker’s question might make a fine addition to this list.

Should you decide to give this assignment a try, you may want to have students read the original article and, in particular, take a close look at how some of Tiller’s interviewees responded when they were asked what they wanted to be remembered for.

If you need a little help getting the discussion going with students, you might also share a few of the quotes below:

  • “I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family—and I don't think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.”
    -Frank Sinatra

  • “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.”
    -Rosa Parks

  • “I do not suppose I shall be remembered for anything. But I don't think about my work in those terms. It is just as vulgar to work for the sake of posterity as to work for the sake of money.”
    -Orson Welles

  • “I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”
    -J. K. Rowling

  • “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”
    -William Shakespeare

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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills

5 Activities to Help Students Reflect on 2013

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 19, 2013 11:04:00 AM

Reflect on 20132014 is less than two weeks away, but before it arrives, we’d like to share five activities that ask students to take a retrospective look at everything that has happened in 2013. We selected the following activities from a larger list put together by The New York Times, so be sure to stop by their site for 10 more lesson plan ideas.

Rap about the news
The New York Times and Flocabulary have partnered up to create a contest for students. Using this lesson plan and rubric (PDF), they are asking students to write song lyrics that incorporate newsworthy events of 2013. Winning lyricists will be featured on The Learning Network and All student entries are due by Jan. 7, 2014. Students can post their lyrics in the contest comment section by clicking here.

Go back to the future
Imagine that it’s 2038. You’re a screenwriter and a major Hollywood studio has asked you to write a screenplay that takes place in 2013. The genre of your screenplay isn’t important. What matters is that the audience knows that your film is set twenty-five years in the past.

Ask students to write the first page of the screenplay and consider the following: How will the opening scene make it clear to the audience that the setting is 2013? What music, fashions or other visual and aural clues make this clear?

Write a eulogy
The year saw the deaths of many important cultural icons. Visit The Times’s “Notable Deaths of 2013″ page, and choose someone to research and eulogize. Your class can read the eulogies aloud as a tribute to the end of an era.

Say it with images
A quick Google search for “Year in Pictures” will bring up hundreds of images from around the Web. Browse these collections and select five or ten photos that you believe embody the most important events of the year. Now write an explanation for why you selected each photo.

Most of us spend a great deal of time setting goals for our students and telling them what we expect of them—but when was the last time students reflected on their own goals?

Have your students write or type an informal letter to you. Emphasize that the content will not be evaluated for spelling or punctuation. In it they should answer the following questions as honestly and constructively as possible:

  • How is this class/this school year going so far for you?  Why?
  • What activities or classroom procedures worked best in 2013 to help you learn?
  • What activities or classroom procedures didn’t work so well in 2013? What could we do to make 2014 better?
  • How can I be more helpful to you in the New Year?

Now it’s your turn to respond.

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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills

Beyond The “Scary White Screen”: A Writing Strategy For Students

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 3, 2013 5:44:00 PM

writing strategyBefore I started teaching, I spent five years as a writing tutor in the Marygrove College writing center. While each student had a unique set of needs, most struggled to commit their initial ideas to paper.

Like most of us, students want to get it right on the first shot. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Writing is chaotic. It’s messy. Why? Because most of us (that includes professionals) don’t really know what and how we’re going to say what we want to say until we actually start writing. 

To help students move beyond the “scary white screen,” I came to rely on a writing strategy called clustering. If you’re not familiar with this invention strategy, the student starts by jotting down a nucleus word; this should be a word or phrase that is related to the assigned topic. The nucleus word should trigger a series of other word associations that students continue to jot down quickly and without censorship.

It’s a chaotic process, but even after five minutes of clustering, most of my students were astounded by how much they knew and how many questions they had about topics they, not even five minutes before, vehemently claimed were “boring.”  

writing strategy 2While I started teaching students to cluster by having them write on a scrap sheet of paper, I eventually turned to a free web application called

During our session, the student and I would read through the clustering handout (you’ll find this below). Then I would pull up on my laptop and turn it over to the student. is convenient for a few reasons: First, there’s no learning curve. Second, it allowed me to save a digital version of the cluster and email it to the student. When we picked up the following week, all I had to do was pull up the file and I would know exactly what we discussed in our previous session.

In my experience, this exercise is helpful with students of all ages and abilities. I even use it myself. To help you teach clustering to your students, I’ve included the handout I used with my own students below.

What is Clustering? And How Can It Help Me Develop My ideas?
Most serious and experienced writers incorporate some sort of writing strategy into their habits, so you should feel no shame in using them. In the following exercise, you’ll learn how to use clustering as a way of developing your ideas.

First, you must think of a word or phrase. You can do this with any random word or phrase, but it is far more effective to choose something that is related to the assigned topic. Say you are writing an essay about your experience with the American Dream….well, “American Dream” might be the best phrase to begin with. Here’s what to do next:

  • Get comfortable with the process of clustering by letting your playful, creative mind make connections. Maintain a childlike attitude by letting whatever associations come to you fall out onto paper. Avoid judging or choosing. Simply let go and write. Let the words or phrases radiate outward from the nucleus word; draw a circle around each of them if you like. Connect those associations that seem related with lines—even add arrows to indicate direction if you feel compelled. Just don’t get caught up in organization and tidiness; it’s not important now.

  • Write down anything that is triggered by the key word—and whatever you do, don’t inhibit or censor yourself. At this point, nothing is silly, stupid, inane or unrelated. If you plateau and can’t think of anything, write, “I don’t know what to say.”

  • Every writer is different, but you should know when to stop clustering when you feel a strong, sudden urge to write—this usually happens after a couple of minutes when you feel a shift that says, “Aha! I think I know what I want to say.”

  • You’re ready to write. Scan your clustered perceptions and insights. Something therein will suggest your first sentence to you, and you’re off. Should you feel stuck, however, write about anything from the cluster to get you started. The next thing and the next thing after will come because your right hemisphere has already perceived a pattern of meaning. Trust it.



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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills

Lively Language: Lessons for Reluctant Learners

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 28, 2013 6:00:00 AM

reluctant learnersR.E Meyers’ book, Lively Language: Lessons for Reluctant Learners, does what most of us English teachers have been trying to do since the beginning of time: make grammar, spelling, punctuation and critical thinking lessons lively.

To do this, each lesson is infused with a dash of zaniness and a pinch of Meyers’ sense of offbeat humor which, in our opinion, helps inject new life into learning objectives that most students groan about.  

The lessons you’ll find in this book will get students writing, but they will also ask them to think critically about the human experience—things like being sensitive, being original, being aware of others’ emotions, hypothesizing, analyzing, letting humor flow, elaborating and the list goes on.

To give you a better sense of what you’ll find in the book, we’ve pulled one of Meyers’ writing activities called “Your Talk Show.” This is a creative activity that will help students practice their punctuation, formulate succinct questions and work with direct quotations.

“Your Talk Show”
Imagine you are the host of a radio talk show that features unusual guests and people phoning to express their opinions. You have a great show lined up for next Tuesday, including these guests:

  • A tea-drinking accountant from Okmulgee, Oklahoma, who has saved every tea bag he has used for the past 27 years. He drinks all brands but never touches instant.
  • A six-year-old boy who can recite the Gettysburg Address backwards. (It takes him a little longer to say it frontwards.)
  • A winsome 90-year-old great grandmother who can beat her 60-year-old husband arm wrestling any day of the week.
  • A man who rode from Washington, D.C. to Boston on a unicycle in January.
  • A salesman from Ohio who set a record for going around and around in a revolving door in a government building for 47 minutes. Since it was at the height of the rush hour, he was arrested by the local police.
  • A girl who talked on her cell phone for 18 hours without stopping, changing ears only three times.

Because of time limitations, you will only be able to ask three questions of each quest. Write three questions to bring forth the liveliest responses from each.

Now that you have written your questions, write one of your interviews to submit to the editor of your program’s newsletter. Use your imagination for the guest’s responses to your questions. Be sure to use quotation and punctuation marks. In a direct quotation, the words of the speaker should be given exactly as they were spoken.

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Tags: writing strategies, struggling students, Classroom Community, Classroom Climate, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills, student independence, student engagement, classroom, management, reluctant learners

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