MAT Blog

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

PowToon is Offering Educators $5 Million in Free Accounts

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 29, 2014 12:13:00 PM

disital_storytellingPowToon is probably my favorite digital storytelling application. Everything is as simple as drag and drop and once you’ve completed your animation, you can use PowToon’s easy export system to place your animation on YouTube or download it to your computer.

Although I’ve mentioned PowToon before, this morning I received an email from them letting me know that they are giving away $5 million in free accounts to educators. Each account gives one teacher and 60 students complete access to all of PowToons features which, if you were paying for it, would cost you nearly $100. Not bad.

Click here to sign up. You’ll also need to enter this promotional code when you get there: ToonUp5M




Pedagogy with a Personality

Tags: digital storytelling, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, writing skills, K-6 writing strategies

5 More of the Best Comic Generator Apps

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 18, 2014 9:37:00 AM

comic_book_generatorIt’s been a while since I looked to see if any new comic book generator apps have popped up in the last few months, so this morning I did a little research. Here are five new comic book generators I’d never seen before.

Make Beliefs Comix (free) gives users a choice of over 60 objects and backgrounds, not to mention 37 human and animal characters including a werewolf, vampire, and a myriad of animals. The fact that you can write your dialogue in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Latin or Portuguese will also appeal to foreign language teachers.

Marvel (free) gives users the option of creating a 1 to 3 page panel strip or, if they’re ambitious, a 1 to 22 page comic book where they control the sound effects, characters, thought bubbles and dialogue. Once they’re done, they can save to the desktop or print.

Strip Generator (Free) is a sleek little web application that helps users create black and white comic strips. No sign-up is required to use the site—we also enjoy entering the design contests hosted on the site.

Lego City (free) is a free web application that allows you to create, you guessed it, LEGO-style comic strips. Choose your layout, select your characters, and drag and drop your comic heroes into place. When you're satisfied with your work, you can either save it online or download it to your hard drive.

Strip Designer ($2.99) is a comic book generator you can use on your mobile device. Unlike most generators, Strip Designer allows you to
insert your own photos from your camera, photo album, or Facebook account. You can apply filters, paint on the photos, or even draw your own sketches from scratch.

Photo credit: Marxchivist / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Surfing for Substance II Download

Tags: apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, writing skills, K-6 writing strategies, comic generator apps

5 of the Best Sites for Finding Academic Research

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 11, 2014 9:47:23 AM

academic_researchThe academic year is winding down for most of us, but my students still haven’t turned in their final research papers yet—and many of them are still gathering their sources! In addition to using the books and academic journals our school subscribes to, here are five of what I consider to be the best sites for finding academic research.

5 of the Best Sites for Finding Academic Research

Google books is bursting at the seams with millions (yes, MILLIONS) of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text and stored in its digital database just for you, dear reader. Although those tricky little guys at Google have wisely omitted several pages from the book to encourage you to purchase it, you can still view large sections of the book and use it as a source.

iSEEK Educationis an academic research engine specifically designed for students, teachers, and administrators. Here are some of iSeek’s perks:

  • It’s safe: Every resource you’ll find through iSeek is editor-reviewed
  • It’s reliable: Search hundreds of thousands of trusted resources from universities, government, and noncommercial providers
  • It’s a time-saver: Register to bookmark any URL for storage in your own online library

RefSeek is still in public beta, but I’ve had a lot of luck with this search engine. RefSeek gives students access to more than 1 billion documents, web pages, books, journals, and newspapers. What I really appreciate about the site is how clean the interface is—no ads, sponsored links or commercial results appear when you use RefSeek.

Virtual Learning Resource Center doesn’t omit Google ads, but unlike searches done directly in Google, Virtual LRC conducts its searches on a much smaller scale, using only academic websites previously recommended by teachers and librarians.

Academic Index is another useful search engine that bypasses all the junk you’ll encounter with a Google search, directing users to only those websites previously selected by librarians and teachers.

Photo credit: suttonhoo / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


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Tags: research strategies, web research, writing skills, writing a thesis statement

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

Common Core Writing Prompts for Students

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Mar 27, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Like any craft or trade, writing is a skill that improves when our students practice it—and practice it often. Although I’ve known many teachers who believe “bell-ringers,” warm-ups or informal writing reflections are a poor use of time, I still stand by them. Because I do not “grade” reflections in the traditional sense (students receive credit simply for completing the assignment) I find that students are often more willing to take risks. In fact, many students regularly comment that these exercises increase their confidence and get them excited about putting pen to paper.  

Writing Prompts is a site I continue to use when I’m looking for informal writing prompts. Each prompt comes with an accompanying photo and a brief explanation of how the prompt fulfills Common Core Standards. Below are a few samples of the writing exercises you’ll find on the site.

common core writing prompts
common core writing prompts
common core writing prompts

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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing skills, student engagement

10 Engaging Activities for Students Who Finish Work Early

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Mar 21, 2014 6:36:00 AM

studentsAs a student, I was rarely the first to complete my tests or in-class exercises, but when I was, I held onto my work until it was collected. Why? Because I didn’t want to be “rewarded” with more work; I didn’t want to select a time-killing ditto from the teacher’s filing cabinet.

If I didn’t want to work on dittos while the rest of the students completed their work, I know that my students don’t either.

I consider all 10 of the activities below to be creative, engaging and meaningful. Here’s the rule I used when compiling this list: If I wouldn’t enjoy working on the activity myself, it didn’t make the cut.   

10 Engaging Activities for Students Who Finish Work Early

1Newspaper Blackout blackout art
All you need is a newspaper article (or any form of print media) and a Sharpie. Say something about yourself by blacking out all of the words you don’t intend to use in your sentence.

2Write a Six-Word Story
Flash fiction has been around for a while, but it was perhaps Ernest Hemingway that dazzled us with the flash-fiction concept in the 1920s when his friends bet him that he couldn’t write a complete story in six words. Whether or not it’s true, the story goes that his colleagues each dumped 10 bucks into a pot. If Hemingway’s story wooed them, he’d pocket the money. Once the money was pooled, he grabbed a napkin off the table and nonchalantly dashed off six words:

For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

Then he slid the napkin across the table and collected what was due to him.

Using Hemingway as an inspiration, write a story in six words.

3Read Whatever You Want
Let’s keep this simple: Grab any book, comic book, magazine or newspaper you like from the classroom library. Start reading!

Start with an article related to a personal interest. In that article, find a link to another article that teaches you something you didn’t know. Read that new article and write a summary of what you found interesting or what you learned.


Read a review about a movie, book, music or game that you like. Summarize the author’s opinion and write your response. Quote parts of the original review in your response.

6*Another Middle School
Look up a website of a middle school that you don’t already know about. Browse the pages of their website until you have learned some things about the school. Summarize what you find. Here are some questions you might answer:  What appears to be the best thing about that school? What suggestions do you have for their website that would help you learn more or make it easier to use? What do you dislike about the school based on what you see on the site?

7*World News

Use Google news to find a current world news event that interests you. Summarize the article and write your thoughts about it. Be sure to quote parts of the news article you read.

8*Found Poem - Read this article about how to write a found poem:  

After reading it, find any webpage that you want and create a found poem from it. Write your poem and list the URL for the webpage that you used. Write a sentence or two explaining why you picked the words and phrases that you did for your poem. 

9*Suggestion for Class
- Find a website, game or online program that you wish a teacher would use in class. Write the URL of the resource and explain why you think a teacher should use it and how they could use it.

10*Make a Timeline - Use this online tool to make a timeline with at least 6 events from start to end.  It can be about your life (from birth or maybe just a single season of life) or it can be about some famous person or event(s)

Get a screen capture and paste it into Word.  If it’s too long to fit on the screen, copy it in parts.

*These activities all come from blogger and technology-coordinator, Mike Petty. For more ideas, be sure to stop by his blog, Classroom Games and Technology.


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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing skills, student engagement, current events for students

Can Dim Lighting Make Our Students More Creative?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 21, 2014 10:43:00 AM

student writingI work in the dark. I mean, it’s not pitch black in my office, but I only flip the switch to those eye-melting fluorescents when I absolutely have to.

It’s unusual, I know—but the fact of the matter is that I work better in dim light. I can’t think or write otherwise and according to a recent study, my quirk may actually have a drop of science to it.

According to the findings of a 2013 study by German researchers Anna Steidle and Lioba Werth, darkness may actually reduce feelings of constraint and spark creativity. Here’s what they reported in The Journal of Environmental Psychology.  

One key experiment featured 114 German undergraduates who were seated in groups of two or three in a small room designed to simulate an office. The room was lit by a single fixture hanging directly over the group’s desk. The amount of illumination varied with each group: some received only 150 lux (dim light), others 500 lux (the recommended lighting level for an office), and still others 1,500 lux (bright light).

After a 15-minute acclimation period, each group was asked to work on “four creative insight problems” that required creativity to find a solution. After two minutes, groups were asked to report their level of self-assurance, how free from constraint they felt and the degree to which they felt externally controlled. Here’s what the researchers found:

Those in the dimly lit room solved significantly more problems correctly than those in the brightly lit room. They also felt freer and less inhibited than their intensely illuminated counterparts.

Interesting business. I wonder what would happen if we dimmed our classroom lights during testing, problem-solving exercises and group work. Could it make our students more creative?

To read more about Steidle and Werth’s study, you can find a summary here.

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Tags: mindfulness in the classroom, writing strategies, Writing, writing skills, multisensory learning, mindfulness exercises

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

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