Engaging Readers in Informational Text

Do your students gravitate more toward fiction books? I have often faced this problem as well. When I think about it, maybe it isn't a problem, but it is something I need to be aware of in the classroom.

We want our students to have a wide variety of interests. Different genres are important for students and they need to find ways to become engaged in many different areas of reading.

Reading informational text helps the students understand more about the real world, learn facts about real things, and helps them learn to use tools in reading that they may not find in fiction resources.

The question remains though...

How do we get our students interested and engaged in informational text?

Some kids just love informational books. My son for instance is one of those kids. He is only in Kinder but he doesn't favor Critter books, he wants space books or snake books. However, most of the kids I have taught favor fantasy or even realistic fiction.

There are five things that you can do as a teacher to help the student engagement of informational text increase in your classroom (not matter what age of student you teach!)

1. Direct teach the difference between a fiction book and a non-fiction book.

This may seem very basic, but so many kids (even in 5th grade) come up and say..."is this informational?" They truly do not know! It is not the fault of anyone, it is just something they have not learned to grasp yet. I always show this video, and I LOVE it! Kids of all ages love it too!

Fiction Vs. Non-Fiction Video

It shows two movie clips about penguins. One is a fiction movie and one is a documentary (informational is what I call it in class!) I feel it really helps the kids grasp the difference. Then of course we look at actual books and discuss the difference.

Making an anchor chart helps tremendously too! I like this one from Mrs. Denson's Adventures!

Part of the Common Core ELA Standards requires students to be able to read informational text and determine meaning. We think this reading note can be really handy and useful!:

2. After you know they understand the different it is time to immerse them in the text. 

Kids need to have time to read informational text to become familiar with the types of texts they like, and learn how to work their way through the text. The best way to do this is to provide informational text sections in your room.

I love Creating Readers and Writers Blog and she has a picture on her blog of a set up for the younger kids with informational text!

Creating Readers and Writers:  Nifty Nonfiction Blog Post  {See Mrs. DuMoulin's classroom library... it's packed with fun and exciting nonfiction!}:

It is easy to duplicate this with the older kids too though! Just book baskets, labels, and informational books!

3. Read informational text aloud to students! 

If the kids know you are interested in it, they will be too. Also, there is something that we teachers add to ANY text that makes it more special. :) My favorite sets to read to my students are the I Survived Series and the Who Was or Who Is Set!

The kids LOVE these books and they are great for the teacher to read because you can get in some history lessons too! :)

4. Teach the students how to work through text features. 

Text features can be a bit overwhelming for struggling readers. The bold print, captions, graphs, etc. The students see all of those "extra words" and "numbers" and want to give up.

I have fallen in love with this DIY text feature poster from Create Teach Share's Blog!

I have fallen in love with Non-Fiction over the past few years. I used to find…:

The kids love putting all of the pieces on and they have a great visual to look back at throughout their readings! We used file folders and old magazines from Scholastic! Worked like a charm! The students really need to understand all of the features or they will want to shut down while reading.

5. Lastly, encourage students to choose books they are interested in reading. 

So many times, students just go grab a book, flip through it, then grab another 5 minutes later. Lather, rinse, repeat until reading time is over. Am I right? I love this blog post from Conversations in Literacy!

Giving Students Choices with Informational Text- great freebie for doing this!!:

She talks about giving the kids choices but also about helping the kids choose a book that is right for them. Students can be easily disenchanted with reading if they are not interested in the books. Having the students take time to think about what attracts them to a book, what topics they are most interested in, and what they are curious about will help them develop a love for reading informational text!

I hope these 5 things have helped you think about informational text in your classroom and how you can better assist the students in your room to become engaged in reading all types of literature!

Happy Teaching!


Snow, Snow!

Do you get much snow where you live? Well, we live in Texas and snow is rare around here. I have a Kindergarten son and he so badly wants to see snow. He saw it a few years ago, but when he heard the weather man say it might snow on Friday (this past Friday) he was so excited. Well. It did not snow. Not a flake.

Luckily I had seen on @mrsplemonskindergarten instagram that she had bought some fake snow on Amazon! I found it, clicked purchase, and it was here two days later (well before Friday, which I knew would be a bust with no snow!) lol.

Needless to say, after we did this (on Saturday), I just had to blog about out so you could go get some and do it with your students! Any age!! So before I chatter on, if you are in a hurry and can't finish reading this blog...that is totally fine! You can find the fake snow I bought here. If you can hang out, I have a freebie you can do with the younger grades after they are finished playing with the snow!

The snow is easy to prepare. Just pour it into a bucket (it looks like salt.)

Then add two quarts of water!

After you do that, just mix it up with your hands or a spoon!

Yep, it looks and feels like snow! It is cold and wet, it does not melt, and if it does get on the carpet or whatever, it dries out quickly with no mess (trust me!) lol. It is the strangest, yet coolest stuff EVER! It is not cold enough to need gloves, but it is cold. 

I had some finger puppets from Christmas laying around that we put in the snow and my kids played with those! They had the best time! After we were done, I just stored it in a cabinet (it lasts for days and days!) When you get ready to dispose of it, sprinkle it in your yard and it will add water to your grass (or plants!) 

I know this is not real snow, nor can kids go and play in it or build a snowman, but when you live in Texas and never see snow...you are happy with anything that resembles snow! My son and daughter LOVED this! I just knew it would be a great sensory bin for younger grades!

Now, for the freebie I promised! This is obviously for K or 1st kids but my son is in Kinder and is working on writing. So I made this mainly for him and wanted to share it with my blog readers! If you don't teach K or 1st, maybe you can share it with your team at school or something! :)

My son isn't a fan of writing...anything, but he loved this. I know it was because the activity before it was so fun! When kids have fun with something, they don't mind writing about it!

The kids simply use words to describe the snow (sensory words.) Then the kids write two sentences about the snow. My son is working on expanding his sentences. He is very much a "I like the snow" writer. When I (and his teacher) want him to be an "I like the snow because it was cold and wet" writer. :) However, we are getting there and he is doing wonderful! 

We ran out of time and had to go somewhere before he could color, so I colored these later. He was unhappy that I did not let him color them. (oops.) 

You can find the freebie in a google drive link here! 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and share this with a friend if you think they will enjoy it too! Here is the links for both things one more time! Have a great week!


The Twisted Elf?

Honestly, this does not have much to do with teaching but I knew that some teachers would benefit from these Elf on the Shelf ideas in their classroom! I have been doing some fun Elf on the Shelf ideas at home this year! In the years past, I have literally moved the Elf from one place to another each night. This year, I decided to be a bit creative and what do you know...my son is actually having fun with the Elf! lol.

The hardest part for me is coming up with ideas and of course I get many from Pinterest! Here are a few that I have done this year!

First, I just had the Elves bring the book, a note and some fake snow! :)

Next, we of course did the junk food picture!

A cotton ball bath in the crock pot!

Playing Candy Land! I mean, elves LOVE candy!

This was one of my son's favorites! Snowball Fight!

A sack race with some friends!

Delivering Rex's letter to Santa...since Mom kept forgetting! lol.

Building a snowman out of toilet paper! :)

Santa asked the elves to wrap Rex's legos...this is not what he meant. :)

Total Pinterest FAIL! lol. It was suppose to be snow angels out of sprinkles. My son said, "I think they are trying to do their body shapes but it didn't work." *whomp whomp*

Santa wanted to say hi!

Green food coloring made for a a distgusted 5 year old in the morning! Rex wouldn't touch this milk! :) My *almost* 2 year old daughter LOVED it though! 

Elf Cookies! Yum!

My son loves his paper chain we made together, so I had to have the elves make one too!

On tonight's elf shenanigans?? Elf Twister! We are far from being done with all of the fun things the elves will do but so far, so good! I hope these ideas have helped you a bit! Click on the link above to grab the Elf Twister board! Just print and arrange your elves! EASY! 

Also, check out this Elf of the Shelf Freebie for the classroom! Almost 12,000 teachers are using this in their classroom this year!

Lastly, you can also snag this Reindeer Food Passage and Activity for the classroom! I used it with my children at home (just the recipe) and they loved it! I also used it with my 3rd and 5th graders and they thought the passage and everything included was so much fun! 

If you want to see how the rest of the month will play out for Buddy and Snowflake (our elves), feel free to follow my on instagram (@hillarykiser).

I hope you are having a great December and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas Break! 


Anchor Chart Frustration

Making anchor charts has always been hard work for me. In fact, I never liked making anchor charts for the classroom. I did it, because it helps the kids, but I am not a fan of my handwriting, my drawing is even worse, and let's not even talk about the time it takes to make nice looking anchor charts.

As teachers, we do not possess much of that thing called, "time." I mean really, I found myself shoving down carrots and ranch dressing (because I want to be healthy) then devouring allll the chocolate (because I really don't care about healthy anymore) while making anchor charts. 30 minutes later, lunch done, anchor chart almost complete...and oops...I misspelled the title. I mean really? Rip it off the chart paper pad, throw it in the trash, and rush out the door. 

Unfortunately I didn't wise up for a long time. 8 years of teaching...and light bulb goes off. Pre-make the anchor charts. In the comfort of my own home...I make the anchor chart...on the computer. Then print, and glue! Done, done...and done. Now...I still eat all the chocolate, but now I get lunch and I am no longer in the need of anger management courses over misspelled words. 

I may sound like a crazy person to you...but I know you have been there too. Honesty is the best policy. :)

Now, I KNOW I am not the first one that has ever pre-made anchor charts, or printed items off of the computer for an anchor chart. I am in NO way claiming to be the first to do this. But, I have been a TpT seller for a few years now and the idea just popped into my head..."if I make all of my centers, lessons plans, etc...why not anchor charts?" And there you have it. 

Below are a few of the anchor charts I have made and so far I love them and other teachers are loving them. I waited to do this post until I knew others found a need for these too! And yes! I was not alone! It was confirmed I was not crazy and other teachers in fact DO have anger problems when it comes to making hand-made anchor charts. 

There are many more in my shop than just the ones posted here and I am continuing to add to the Growing Bundle! So you can check out the ones I have posted, or hey, feel free to make your own! Making these are fun and easy! More than anything, feel free to share with a friend that they do not have to have anchor chart frustration anymore!


Student Motivation

Student motivation will not only help your students do their best work, but it will also help your job become easier.

When I lost all of my excuses, I found my results. #IINspiration #motivation #wisdom:

I love this quote. I made excuses for a long time about student motivation. I was raised in a home (a great home) where I was taught to do things because they are the right thing to do. Not everyone needs a trophy, not everyone needs a sticker, you do what you do because you are supposed to do it! Now, I will be honest...I still feel this way. I raise my kids this way. You may not agree with me, and I am okay with that. But I have also learned that I did not raise the children in my class. I can instill good values in them, and hope that they learn to do the right thing because it is right...but a little rewarding never hurt anyone. I also know that I am okay with this decision because I am thrilled when my son's Kinder teacher rewards him for doing something great.

Now that I have rambled a bit, I lost my excuses and found my results. Student motivation builds the student's confidence, does not always have to be a reward, and makes learning (and effort) fun!

One thing I love using in my classroom is Brag Tag Student Chains.

My fifth graders felt they were too cool for brag tags, so they loved these student chains. Mine hung them in their cubbies and were so proud of them!

These are easy, just print, cut, and I have the students assemble them!

Another great motivation I use for outside of the classroom is Mystery Student! I did a FACEBOOK LIVE video about this that shows you details about it and is pretty fun to watch! :)

I use this motivation tool in and out of my classroom and it works like a charm with any grade! I hope you will give this a watch and begin to incorporate it in your classroom! There is also a great blog post about it and you can find that here.

mystery walker- a great incentive to motivate students to walk quietly in the halls:

This was a fast and furious post, things are so busy right now for all of us I am sure! I hope you all have a great start to you the year! Thanks for tuning in! :)


5 Benefits of Whole Class Journals

Writing time is crucial for students. Each child needs to be writing multiple times a day. Parts of the day, that writing needs to be teacher directed, so the student is learning a new skill and improving with teacher guidance. Other parts of the day, that writing needs to be student (or self) directed.

I use Whole Class Journals with my students and there are numerous benefits to using these journals but I am going to discuss 5 main benefits from incorporating these journals into your daily routine.

1. Whole Class Journals build CREATIVITY.

Creativity is stifled in classrooms more and more these days. Now, I am a teacher myself so I am in no way faulting the teacher. When we think about it, how do we have time to allow the children to be creative? I mean we have Guided Reading, Guided Math, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Science, Social Studies, Handwriting and let us not *ever* forget...ASSESSMENTS. (audible groan) But we all know as good teachers (okay we are great teachers) that creativity is a MUST!

Whole Class Journals allow the students to grab a journal, and write. Yep, I said it...grab a journal...and write. No rules, no one standing over their should correcting their grammar...they. just. write. My kids are so creative during this time. I absolutely love going through and reading these journals (and so do all of the students.) Which brings me to point #2.

2. Whole Class Journals build COMMUNITY.

Students love to support one another. Now when we are breaking up that fight on the playground, it may not *seem* like they enjoy lifting each other up, but they really do. With Whole Class Journals, children can choose any journal, and any topic in that journal. After writing, the can flip through and read other student's entries in that journal. My students become so much closer because of these journals. Sounds crazy right? I love building community in my classroom anyway...but many times I feel like I am forcing it and it is not coming organically. With these journals though, I might have a student's mouth drop open and say to his friend at his table "I had no idea your Dad played pro football for 3 years." (true story.) Students that might otherwise not ever notice they have anything in common will read these journals and find a common link in the classroom.

3. Whole Class Journals build on WRITING SKILLS.

These Whole Class Journals build on different writing skills. In my classroom I have Letter Writing, Poetry, Procedural, Persuasive, Expository, and Narrative Whole Class Journals. The students get to choose the journal they want; it does not matter to me because I need each of them working on every skill. I love how it just magically works out sometimes that Jimmy wants to do Letter Writing for the 10th time but it isn't available so he tried Procedural and LOVES IT! (true story, made up the name.) :) I also love it when Jimmy gets a reading passage two weeks later that has "steps" in it and he says "Oh, this is like that Procedural Whole Class Journal." (another...true...story.) #win.

4. Whole Class Journals build WRITING FLUENCY.

Well, let's face it...all five of these reasons can't be mushy and gushy. Writing Fluency is a real struggle. I have my students grab a journal any time they are done with work and sitting there making faces across the room at another student (you know it is true.) I pride myself on setting up Choice Boards (which are amazing), and Fast Finisher Activities (which are equally as amazing) but in the end...the Whole Class Journals win. Why? Writing Skills-check, Handwriting-check, Sentence Fluency-check, Reading (other journal entries)-check...the list goes on. I can conquer many skills with one fun activity for the student.

5. Whole Class Journals build PRIDE.

Back to the mushy, gushy I suppose. :) I love seeing the PRIDE in my student's faces when they complete a writing. The students are proud that their peers will see their work, I will see their work, and that they are forever imprinted in the Whole Class Journal. At the end of the year, I draw names and give journals out to the students so they can take them home. These journals become part of our class and daily lives.

I appreciate you reading this post and I hope you will take the opportunity to try a page of these labels for FREE

I am including my instructions from my store on here so you will understand how to use these on Avery Labels! These are cheap and so easy to use!

What are Whole Class Journals?

Whole Class Journals are journals (or composition notebooks) you keep in your classroom for all of the students to use. The students can grab them any time they have extra free time and write in the journals or read what other students have written.

In my classroom, I like to do Whole Class Journals for major skills such as Letter Writing, Persuasive Writing, Poetry, Procedural Writing, Narrative Writing, and Expository (or Informational) Writing.

The cool thing about these though...they are perfectly aligned to be printed on Avery 18163 Labels. You can print and have 30 stickers to use on your journals (see pictures in the preview.) I have also included a cover for your journal, an instruction page for the students (glue this on the first page of the journal), and a back cover where the students can write their name after they finish a prompt.

The students love these journals because the entire class can take ownership for the writings! The students also love to read other writings from the students in their class. 

NOTE: The PowerPoint is set perfectly with JPEGs of the labels so they will work on ANY PRINTER! Please do not move any of these or it will not print correctly. I have tried these on multiple printers and I assure you they will line up perfectly without changing anything. PLEASE do not adjust margins or try to make the labels bigger.

Follow me on Social Media:
Follow me on Facebook!
Follow me on my Blog!

Engaging Readers in Informational Text

Do your students gravitate more toward fiction books? I have often faced this problem as well. When I think about it, maybe it isn't a ...