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September 25, 2017

50+ Language Arts Lesson Ideas for Elementary Teachers

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X 50+ Language Arts Lessons for Elementary

50+ Language Arts Lessons for Elementary

Consider it the ultimate list of language arts lessons for elementary teachers! With over 50 teacher-tested, classroom-proven lesson and activity ideas, this list is filled with teaching goodness. Bookmark it and return later for ideas for every week of the school year!

50+ Language Arts Activities and Lessons for Elementary

1. Word of the Day

Idea by Stephanie, 3rd Grade Teacher, Lafayette, CO

First thing in the morning, we will choose a Word of the Day. Our word might be a vocabulary word harvested from a unit we are studying or a word a student has nominated from his or her own reading. We then define the word and brainstorm examples or synonyms for reference. I write the word on the board, and, throughout the day, before students can act on my instructions, they must listen for the Word of the Day. This technique keep them listening and gives them lots and lots of auditory practice with the target word in context.

2. Parts of Speech Made Easy

Idea by Terri, 6th, 7th & 8th Grade Teacher, Leesburg, OH

To help students learn parts of speech, we make “Parts of Speech Foldables.” I have each student fold a piece of paper in half vertically and label the left side of the page with the part of speech, the definition of that part of speech, and examples of that part of speech. Students then locate examples of that part of speech from books, magazines, and newspapers and place those on the right hand side of their folded papers.

3. Use Sign Language

Idea by Marie, 1st Grade Teacher, Las Vegas, NV

When teaching phonics, I always use American Sign Language. I have a poster of the sign language alphabet in my room. I also use hand signs for things like flower, tree, run, kick, and more. Students remember the sounds because they associate a movement that goes with them. They not only see and hear the sound, but also feel it. I see students frequently going to the sign language poster to make letters as they mouth the sounds. Even if you do not know sign language, it is easy to incorporate it into your teaching by availing yourself of the numerous posters, picture books, and websites that display and demonstrate the symbols.

4. Have Students Write What They Know

Idea by Doreen, 1st Grade Teacher, Griffith, IN

I have found that when I have my students write about personal experiences, they tend to produce better writing samples. By focusing on what they know, students are more easily able to craft beginnings, middles, and endings that make sense.

5. Practice Writing with Purpose

Idea by Patty, Special Education Teacher, Cold Spring, MN

Good writing practice dictates that students need the opportunity to engage in a wide array of authentic writing experiences. These can include making lists, taking notes, crafting stories, creating journal entries, formulating essays, jotting notes to you and each other, formulating summaries, etc. For students to perform their best, there needs to be an underlying purpose for every writing assignment you ask them to complete.

6. Literature-Based Word Wall Activities

Idea by Rachael, 4th Grade Teacher, Holden, MA

In addition to employing traditional strategies for teaching grammar, I find my students truly enjoy learning and using the language employed by their favorite authors. In our classroom, we have a “Fabulously Rich Word Wall” that offers students the ability to readily view new words and use them in their own writing. The words primarily come from our Read Aloud book.

At the beginning of each Read Aloud session, I preview the chapter for vocabulary words, write them on sentence strips, and cut each word individually. I give each word to one student. (I don’t have enough words for every student in the class every time, so students take turns.) As I read, the students listen for the enrichment words. When they hear one such word, they hold up the vocabulary word on the sentence strip. We then talk about the word and its definition, review the context clues, and put it in a sentence. Then we display the word on our “Fabulously Rich Word Wall.”

A couple times a week we play the game “Anything Goes” with the words on the Word Wall. I may give the definition and the students will need to find the word on the wall, or sometimes I will ask for parts of speech, synonyms, antonyms, etc. It’s a great grammar review, as well as vocabulary enrichment. The students are then encouraged to use the words in their own writing, either during Reading Response Journals or Writing Journals. Each time a student uses a Fabulously Rich Word he or she highlights it and shares it with a peer. We also then participate in the Word Detective game in which students must look for Fabulously Rich Words outside the classroom, record where they found them, and post them on our Word Detective bulletin board.

Once students learn how and why specific words are chosen, they can submit words to the wall from their independent reading selections.

7. Use Photo Ops as Writing Inspiration

Idea by Judy, 4th Grade Teacher, Atlantic Highlands, NJ

To help my students grow their language and observation skills, I plan a walking trip around our school. As we walk, I offer students a camera and invite them to take turns snapping photos of interesting people, places, and things they observe. Each time a student takes a photo, we talk about what he or she just shot and use colored index cards to create a photo label then and there.

When we return to class, I print out the pictures and pair them with their corresponding labels. I also record students using as many English words as they can to describe the pictures and then display the photographs, the labels, and the recording in a pocket chart. Students can replay the recordings whenever they have some free time. Because the students are the ones snapping the photos, the experience is personal, meaningful, and memorable. The activity provides practice in visual literacy, reading skills, sequencing skills, auditory awareness and recall. I repeat this activity throughout the year by taking students on various walking tours of our school campus, playground, and nearby neighborhood (thus adding to our display of resources as we go along).

8. Write What You Love

Idea by Gabrielle, 7th Grade Writing Teacher, Saint Rose, LA

All great writing stems from a topic that interests the writer. That’s why I encourage my students to choose ideas that are interesting to them. If one of my students wants to write 20 stories about the sport of basketball, so be it! If that student has already written about the time his team won the basketball state championship and wants to write another basketball piece, I might encourage him or her to approach the topic by experimenting with different writing forms, voices, and perspectives. For example, I might suggest that student tell of his or her experience in the locker room before that big game, or he or she could recount the story of the fan in the stands who screeched more loudly in the fourth quarter than the buzzer or he or she might write a poem using basketball terms. If a particular topic gets the student motivated and interested to write, eventually he or she will naturally expand into exploring other topics.

9. Give Them Free Choice

Idea by Danielle, 1st Grade Teacher, Delaware, OH

In order to meet the needs of many students, I differentiate as much as I can. For example, during word work, students must practice their sight word list but are allowed the freedom to choose which resources they will practice with. Some students play “Hangman,” some use tactile tracing cards, some go on word hunts, some play Concentration, some spell the words using American Sign Language, etc. This approach empowers students to take responsibility for their own progress while honoring their particular learning styles.

10. A Day for the Books

Idea by Felicia, 3rd Grade Teacher, Oberlin, OH

To promote literacy, my school hosts a Read-a-Thon Day.  Students arrive at school in their pajamas and bring a pillow, blanket, and possibly a favorite stuffed animal. We spend the entire day focusing on literacy-based activities. Some of my favorites are book scavenger hunts, in which I provide clues and ask students to search non fiction text to find answers, Readers’ Theater performances, book character charades, in which we act out different characters in books we have read, and matching games involving pairing teachers with their favorite books. We invite faculty and staff members (principals, teachers, custodians, etc.) and family members to come in as guest readers. Students are excited as they hear fresh voices delivering delightful stories and books.

11. Punctuation Switch-a-roo

Idea by Brian, Teacher, Titusville, FL

Here’s a fun idea for teaching punctuation as you practice fluency.  Use sentence strips to record a series of sentences that could be read with a variety of ending punctuation marks. Then, use three 3 small cards to record three ending punctuation marks (one per card): a period, a question mark, and an exclamation point. Place sentences in one bag and punctuation marks in another bag. Have students take turns drawing one selection from each bag. Have students place the punctuation at the end of the sentence and then read the sentence using that punctuation. Repeat using the other two punctuation marks and see how the reading changes each time.

12. Use a Highlighter

Idea by Jennifer, 4th/5th Grade Teacher, Matthews, NC

When I have students complete a fill-in-the-blank sentence activity that has them selecting answers from a word bank, I use a highlighting marker to indicate the blank space(s).  I use one color for each separate word the blank space calls for; I then use the color markers to color-code the word bank words to the corresponding blank spaces. This way, when students encounter a blank space, instead of needing to search through the entire word bank, they only have three or four highlighted word choices to choose from.

13. Create a Phonics Tool Box

Idea by Leanne, 1st Grade Teacher, Forest Hill, MD

To boost phonemic awareness, I cover a hinged shoebox with pretty paper to create a mystery box. I place letter and letter combination cards I’ve prepared into the box. The cards feature spelling patterns (e.g., blends, digraphs, etc.) we are working on.  Each day we draw one card from the box, identify the letters and the sound(s) they represent and then locate items in the classroom with names containing those sounds. Students also look around our room and in books to find words containing the sounds. We make a master list of all our words. Afterwards, I invite students to build the words using flat discs, color-counters, beans, or thematic shapes on which I’ve used a permanent marker to print the same letters and letter combinations. My students love our mystery box and corresponding letter manipulatives.

14. Vocabulary Passports

Idea by Diana, 2nd Grade Teacher, La Junta, CO

To broaden my students’ word power, I issue each student a Vocabulary Passport.  Each time a student learns a new word and completes a graphic organizer, he receives a “stamp” in his passport. Students also get to move their world globe to show how many new words they have learned. They can learn new words during a vocabulary lesson or at literacy center time. While at the vocabulary center, students can watch “Word on the Street” podcasts on iPads to learn new words and create differentiated graphic organizers. Students are eager to learn new words, collect stamps, move their globe, and add new words to their writing.

15. Vocab Development Through Clues

Idea by Ashley, 4th, 5th & 6th Grade Teacher, Ventura, CA

For vocabulary development, I have my students practice using new vocabulary words in their own sentences laced with context clues.  I model how context clues in a sentence provide clues to the word’s meaning. Students compose their sentences in writing then share their sentences aloud with each other. Based on the clues inherent in each sentence, students must guess the meaning of each other’s vocabulary word. This activity fosters vocabulary development, reading, and writing skills as well as listening skills related to context clues.

16. Play Hangman!

Idea by Laurie, 2nd Grade Teacher, Bronson, IA

When learning new vocabulary words, or for spelling practice, I rely on an old favorite: Hangman!  For some children this classic game—in which you decide on a word for the two players to take turns spelling, provide that number of blank spaces, and then, for every incorrect letter guessed, you draw one more feature on a stick man— is brand new. The object of the game is to see which player can guess the word correctly before you complete drawing the man. Try playing a non-competitive version whereby students take turns guessing the letters that make up the word. (Of course, you can arrange it so that students win each time—there is, after all, no finite number of features you can add to your man.)

17. Teach How-To Writing

Idea by Julie, 4th Grade Teacher, Akron, OH

As an introduction to “How-To” writing, I ask my students to write directions on how to do something.  They might offer me directions to the gym, explain the procedure for turning in work, or tell me how to button my coat. I read aloud from their directions and perform the steps they have written for me to follow, even if the steps involve omissions or errors. After noting how important it is to break a how-to task into very small, careful steps, we discuss sequencing words: first, then, next, after, etc. I then ask them to write down the steps to tying a shoe. Students trade written directions with each other and follow the steps outlined. I then have them pick a topic they know well and complete a graphic organizer that includes information about their topic, any materials needed as well as the steps involved. With their prior experience and new organizational tools in place, students then write, edit, and polish their final “how-to” pieces.

18. Harvest Words

Idea by Jennifer, 1st Grade Teacher, Fairfax, VA

To help my first graders discover and celebrate new words, we make books of Harvested Words.  I give them each an index card and tell them to use any words they heard during a pre-selected read-aloud that they didn’t understand or that sparked their interest. We then share these “harvested words,” and work as a class to define them. I have students record these and other harvested words in individual books. Each book page includes a target word, an illustration of the word, the word’s definition, plus a sample sentence incorporating that word. Students can use the words in their books to spice up their writing, or simply to read and review for fun.

19. French Fry Facts

Idea by Ta, 5th Grade Teacher, Auburn, WA

To promote informational reading, I have the students cook up French Fry Facts.  I visit fast food restaurants and ask for donations of empty French fry holders. I then have the students cut strips of yellow construction paper to resemble French fries. As students read in the content areas, they record facts on the yellow strips of paper which they store in their French fry holders for future reference. As an extension activity, I let the students give a presentation using their fry facts and award them with fast food restaurant certificates.

20. Don’t Assume Prior Knowledge

Idea by Rebecca, 4th-8th Grade Teacher, Norwood, OH

I have found that when my students lack essential background knowledge, their ability to comprehend material is compromised.  To deal with this problem, I like to find high interest articles with low readability levels that do not assume a prior knowledge framework. These materials help students gain confidence as well as the background knowledge necessary for them to progress to more difficult pieces.

21. Aim for Spelling Success

Idea by Alison, 1st Grade Teacher, Logan, UT

At the beginning of the year, I used lined writing paper to prepare a Sound Spelling Book (about 5-1/2” x 11”) for each child.  Each day, I give the name of the “Sound Family” for that day and the children write that family at the top of a page. Then I give a word and ask students to “sound spell” (i.e., segment phonetically) that word. For example, I might announce that our Sound Family for the day is the “–am Family” and have the children write “-am” at the top of their pages. Then I would give a word such as “ham” and have the students sound it out: /h/ /a/ m/. We then “sound spell” it again, this time writing the letters for the sounds we hear. I model the writing the first few times on my electronic whiteboard via the doc cam. I have found this technique to be very helpful during writing time when my first graders ask to have every word spelled for them. I tell them to “sound spell” the words the best they can. I believe this technique helps students who have not had a lot of experience with invented spelling. It also doubles as a vocabulary mini-lesson as I offer words they may be unfamiliar with, such as “cot.” Sometimes I will give clues as to what a word is rather than giving the word outright.

22. Dance to the Alphabet

Idea by Amanda, 1st Grade Teacher, Stanley, NC

In first grade we are learning letter sounds and how to blend those sounds into words.  I found a great video on YouTube: Have Fun Teaching. In class, my students get up and sing and dance along with the Alphabet song featured on the video. Have Fun Teaching also offers videos of individual letter shapes and sounds and I have used these to introduce a letter sound a day as well.

23. Create Student File Folder Kits

Idea by Christine, 1st Grade Teacher, Arlington, VA

For word building activities, I have found it helpful to create a file folder “kit” for each student. I begin by printing alphabet letters on the inside of file folders (one folder per student) and then laminate. I print corresponding letters on index cards (6-8 per card), laminate these, then cut the individual letters apart. I use interlocking hook and loop fasteners to attach the letters to the corresponding letters printed in each file folder. (Tip: You can color-code letters making it easier for students to replace letters to correct storage spots. Also, consider making this a letter-matching activity by printing uppercase letters in the folders and lowercase letters on the cards.) When a student wants to build a word, he or she simply removes the letter or letters needed. This method is engaging and eliminates students rummaging through sandwich bags in order to locate letters needed. It’s also easy for students to replace letters because the storage spots are in alphabetical order. Also, lost or missing letters are a snap to replace.  (Tip: Engage parents’ help in making these resources at home; supply them with laminated materials and let them print letters over lamination using permanent markers.)

24. Hands-on Handwriting

Idea by Kate, Preschool Teacher, Williamsburg, MI

For pre- and emerging readers and writers, let letter and number formation become a multi-sensory activity.  Simply have children practice writing in sand or water—or on bathtub foam soap squirted on tabletops. (Tip: Send home a note inquiring about any skin allergies.) Also try having children form letters and numbers out of clay, play dough, cookie batter or bread dough! You can bake and eat the edible dough varieties.

25. Proofread in Color

Idea by Kerri, 4th Grade Teacher, Arlington, OH

When we are working through the writing process, I have students “Proofread in Color.”   We use green to trace the first letter of the first word in each sentence and the first letter in each proper noun to highlight the capitalization. We print end punctuation in red. We mark paragraphs (and places that should be separated into paragraphs) with a pink “P.” We underline the topic sentence and the closing sentence in blue. We use a yellow highlighter to accentuate words with questionable spellings, and use purple to circle any special vocabulary words. “Proofreading in Color” is a fun way for my students to check their writing for mistakes and to call attention to changes that need to be made before they prepare their final copy. The colors make it easy for me to review papers as well.

26. Increase Reading Fluency

Idea by Aurelià, 1st Grade Teacher, Greensboro, NC

I’m a big believer that when it comes to increasing fluency, repetition is key.  I select poems, songs, and level text and have students read these repeatedly in order to increase their comfort level with the material and hence their fluency levels. Experiences with echo reading, choral reading, read-alongs, and Readers’ Theater are also great ways to increase reading fluency.

27. Introduce a Week’s Worth of Vocab

Idea by Julie, 4th/5th Grade EBD Teacher, Pinellas Park, FL

I have a weekly plan for introducing a set of new vocabulary words.  On Mondays, I introduce the words by giving the meaning and having the students generate a movement for each word.  On Tuesdays, we explore the Questions, Reasonings, Examples (QRE) of each word in use. Wednesdays, we do a Synonym/Antonym Stretch, in which we find as many synonyms and antonyms for each word as possible and write them on a chart. Thursday’s vocabulary routine is Pictionary/Charades day. Each student picks a word out of a bucket and either acts it out or illustrates it. Friday involves a cloze activity whereby I have written the definition or a sentence using the word, on chart paper and the students must fill in the blank with the correct word. To assess the students, I give them a 4 Square vocabulary template that invites them to write the word, give a definition, a synonym, antonym, write a complete sentence using the word and draw a picture relating to the word. Having students complete this week’s worth of activities allows them to demonstrate complete understanding of the words. We also use a Word Wizard chart in which we tally “Vivacious Vocabulary” words used throughout the week. The students love to use the new words to see how many tallies they get by the end of the week. This weekly routine works with vocabulary in Reading, Science, Math, and Social Studies.

28. Colorful Pencils for Writing Success

Idea by Christina, 2nd Grade Teacher, Summerfield, FL

I have found that the simple use of green and red pens or colored pencils really helps my students progress in their writing abilities.  The green signifies the beginning (or topic sentence) and the red signifies the ending (last sentence) of their writing piece. Green for go, red for stop.

We spend time crafting beginning and ending sentences. In the beginning of the school year, we all write the same sentences. Over time, I move them on to creating their own. When I edit, I use colors other than red and green. In addition, we discuss why something needs editing. Later on, when students are tested on their writing skills, even though they aren’t allowed the colored pens, they can visualize the colors, which are representative of what they need to do to have a successful writing piece. This is a long but worthwhile process that yields positive results without frustrating the students.

29. Use Authors as Mentors

Idea by Mary, 2nd Grade Teacher, Middlebury, CT

I use authors and their words as mentors.  I highlight a skill I want the students to focus on, such as transitions, details, description, etc., and use examples from mentor texts to create mini lessons on these topics. I reserve a bulletin board to showcase the authors and words from their books. The students constantly refer to the board and try to mimic the style of the featured author.

30. Use Emotions to Write

Idea By Brooke, 1st Grade Teacher, Edison, NJ

Whenever my students are experiencing strong emotions, I encourage them to write about it in their notebooks.  Each day, I invite them to revisit their writing and to ask themselves questions such as “What caused this emotion?” and “Do I still feel this way?” In this way, children see for themselves that extreme emotional responses are temporary and that, in time, they will pass.

31. On the Ball Writing

Idea by Jenni, 3rd Grade Teacher, Lebanon, OH

To warm our brains to writers’ workshop I have begun using fun writing prompts. At the beginning of the year, I ask my students what their interests are or what kind of topics they think might make for interesting writing. I use permanent fineline markers to jot their ideas on ping pong balls, then place the balls into a basket. Anytime we need a quick writing prompt, I ask one of my students to remove a writing prompt ball. We then write for a quick five minutes on the topic printed on that ball before turning our attention to the larger topic of focus for the day. My students are always excited to write about the ping pong ball topics they and their friends generated.

32. Increase Fluency with Presentation Practice

Idea by Shelley, 4th Grade Teacher, Bolingbrook, IL

About 5 years ago, I initiated an after-school drama/poetry/dance club at my school. I opened the club to any student in elementary school, but the suggested levels for attendance were students in Grades 3-5. I help club members memorize and perform funny poems so as to build fluency and presentation skills. Once a year, we present a production to the student body with a second evening performance for community and family members. The production also includes singers and dancers, which helps showcase additional student talent. My club, which has had as many as 65 students in attendance, has helped to develop confidence in its members, including the incredibly shy ones.

33. Create a Real-Life Writing Activity

Apply this idea by Tina, a 5th/6th Grade Teacher, from Slayton, MN for total class participation!

At back-to-school conferences or open house, I hand out my first writing assignment of the year, namely a job application form. The form itself is very official looking with our school logo at the top; it invites students to apply for classroom jobs they might like to have for the year (or half a year).  Students provide basic information typical of that requested on a real job application: name; age; date of birth; address; phone number and family e-mail address. Students list their top job choice from a list featured on the application and enlist parents’ help in writing a complete sentence for each of the following: • Why do you want this job? • What experience do you have? • What are your qualifications?  It’s a fun way to start the year with a real-life writing activity; it works for various grade levels.

34. Spelling Aerobics

Idea by Deborah, 2nd Grade, Whistler, AL

A fun way to review spelling words is to have students perform Spelling Aerobics. Using shakers, or pompoms (I got mine at a college football game) the students first say a word then spell it by reaching high for tall letters, placing hands on hips for short letters, and stretching hands to their toes for letters that dip down below the line. They then say the word again by shaking their pompoms. So, for the word “big” they would reach high as they say letter b, place hands on hips as they say letter i, then touch toes as they say letter g. My students cheer for Spelling Aerobics and the kinesthetic movements really help them remember how words are spelled!

35. Create a Twitter Board to Get Students Writing

Try this “tweet” idea by Katherine, a 2nd Grade Teacher, in Bennington, KS, to get your students writing!

I created a “Twitter Board” for my students as a way for them to practice their writing and communication skills. First, I glued individual class photos to sentence strips and laminated them. We then used a pocket chart to display the thread and responses. Kids took turns being the leader responsible for posting the first post, and students had an opportunity to respond. As a class, we used the print generated by the “tweets” to focus on the topic at hand as well as on grammar and appropriate discussions for public. Student response has been great. My kids love this activity.

36. Make Connections with Craft Sticks

Make connections with this idea by Christine, a 1st Grade Teacher, in Arlington, VA.

When I teach reading strategies involving making connections (text-text, text-self, text-world) I offer my students specially prepared craft sticks to identify these connections in their reading. I (or a parent volunteer) use cute pictures to represent these connections (e.g., a picture of a book + a picture of a person, for text-self, etc.). We glue these pictures directly on to the craft sticks. Then, during our shared or guided reading sessions, students hold up the appropriate sticks that indicate connections to the text. It engages every student in the story! They are always asking, “Can we use our connections sticks?”

37. Foster a Love for Reading

Foster a love for reading with these ideas by Mary, a 2nd Grade Teacher, in Minooka, IL.

Despite our best intentions, it can be very hard to get students to want to read. The best way to do this is to make available a variety of books (picture, nonfiction, poetry, fiction, etc.) and to then encourage your students to find books they think they’d like to read from among these selections. To introduce students to different titles, try reading aloud a few pages from your favorites. This cliffhanger approach tempts children to try the books that capture their ears. As the year progresses, you will discover your students’ interests and can better point them in the direction of books they will most readily enjoy. The most important thing to remember is to allow the students to read what they want to read.

38. Read to Stuffed Animals

Motivate readers with this idea by Julie, a K-4 Reading Teacher, from Pickerington, OH.

To motivate my struggling readers to want to read, I introduce them to my stuffed animals who love to be read to! Now my reluctant readers beg me to let them reread their books to my plush pals. My students are having fun as they improve comprehension and fluency.

39. Expand Vocabulary

Expand vocabulary with this idea by Ann, a 2nd Grade Teacher, in Brunswick, GA.

To introduce vocabulary words, I post images around the room that serve to illustrate the words on our list. I then display each word in turn, and play I Spy in an attempt to have students match each word with its illustration. For example, for the vocabulary word “harvest,” I point to the word harvest and then tell my class that I spy a picture that helps me understand this word. The children scan the room to locate my picture of a farmer bringing in the crops. My students eagerly participate in this activity and always beg for more.  I use the game as an end-of-the-year activity with parents, and suggest they play this game at home with children through the summer.

40. Plan a Book Hunt

Build a great classroom library with this idea by Cindy from Houston, TX.

During the summer months, I have fun scouring the Internet and shopping retail bargain bins, rummage sales, and yard sales all in an effort to locate inexpensive books for my classroom. After purchasing titles, I set aside time to carefully read through each one to determine its genre and reading level. I then use labels to transfer this information to the cover of each book. I repeat this process with those books I’ve accumulated in my classroom over the past year. I then sort all my books into baskets that together will serve as my updated class library. By the time the school year starts, my low-cost library is all set for instructional use and independent reading fun.

41. Host a Tall Tales Show

Language learning gets creative with this idea by Christine, a 4th Grade Teacher, in Hamlin, Iowa.

To get my 4th graders really excited and into reading tall tales, I have created the Tall Tale Talk Show. To begin, we head to the library and gather all the tall tale books we can find. Kids are encouraged to read at least three. Each student then chooses one character and composes ten questions and ten answers about his or her character; these questions serve as interview scripts for our show. After editing and polishing our questions and answers, we team up with partners for the show. After several rehearsals, we are ready to record our show. Each student dresses in costume and brings props appropriate to his or her character. Students take turns interviewing each other. (Tip: Interviewers always dress in street clothes.) After half the class has been interviewed, we switch roles and continue until all interviews are completed. We enjoy watching the video recordings and kids often request copies to take home to share with their families. In addition, they are encouraged to read each other’s stories.

P.S. Time permitting, we create commercials to air between interviews. As the teacher, I am the only one to create a character not based on a book – I am Ms. Rita Book. We have a blast with our show. (Tip: You can easily include this activity as part of your Earth Day celebrations.  Just choose characters inspired by nature!)

42. Explore Figurative Language

Kids can get involved with decorating and learning with this idea by Brenda, a 6th Grade Teacher, in Smiths Grove, KY.

I like to encourage my students to become aware of figurative language in print.  To help this process, I prepare small posters labeled with figurative language terms I expect students to encounter in our reading experiences. As we come across these phrases in the material, the first student to notice each one is allowed to add an illustration to the corresponding poster. I then display the posters around the classroom and add to the collection throughout the year.

43. Play Vocabulary Word 20 Questions

It’s like a twist on the game 20 Questions with this idea by Melody, a 3rd Grade Teacher, in Nampa, ID.

To review vocabulary words, I tape a different word to each student’s back as they come in from recess.  We then sit in a circle and invite one student at a time to “model” his or her word (e.g., spin in place in the center of the circle) so everyone can read his or her word. The students take turns giving that student hints about his or her word until the student guesses the word on his or her back.

44. Start a Book Club

Support reluctant readers with this really good idea by Dee, a 1st Grade Teacher, in Galesburg, IL.

I have found that establishing book clubs really help small groups of readers who just need that extra hand.  I have three children in a Monday Book Club and three students in a Tuesday Book Club. We meet for 20-30 minutes each time and each time we discuss a new book. I allow children to take copies of the book home to read independently; they then bring the books back to school in time for our Book Club meeting. The kids have been very excited by this and I am encouraged by their enthusiasm for this shared literature experience.

45. Get Parents Involved in Reading

Support parental involvement with this idea by Janice, a Reading Teacher, in East Stroudsburg, PA.

Come fall, we have an annual Parent Night during which time we make a special effort to reach out to parents of students receiving extra reading services. We entice parents to attend by offering simple refreshments (cheese, crackers, fruit, vegetables, and drinks) as well as childcare. The purpose of the meeting is to give parents ideas about how they can assist their students in reading at home. We supply parents with family-friendly, compact flip charts that explain the basic “Big Ideas of Reading.” These charts also provide simple tips for how parents can support their children in areas related to comprehension skills, vocabulary, and fluency.

We’ve received excellent parent feedback on both our presentation and the flip charts. Many parents expressed gratitude saying that while they are eager to help, they are not always sure where to begin. We, in turn, were grateful for their response and will continue our efforts to empower parents as well as our students.

46. Write About Pretend Experiences

Writing becomes fun with this creative idea by Judy Lynn, a 3rd Grade Teacher in Cache, OK.

For our first writing assignment, I encourage my kids to write about their summer – which usually brings groans and complaints of, “But I didn’t do anything good,” and “I just stayed home.”  However, I tell them that their descriptions of summertime happenings must be limited to pretend experiences that never took place in reality. In other words, their recounts of summer adventures must be complete fantasy. I give them prompts such as, “I lived at Disney World for the month of June and talked to all the characters every day, “ and “I traveled to all the planets and walked on the moon.” The kids love crafting and sharing their wild and wacky summer tales; consequently, our first writing assignment together is a big hit.

47. Use Field Trips to Build Vocab

Reach out to other professionals with this idea by Pat, a 6th-8th Grade Health Teacher, in Rio Rancho, NM.

As a health teacher, I’m always on the lookout for ways to expand my students’ vocabulary related to health studies. This year, I hit on the idea of contacting local doctors, podiatrists, chiropractors, nutritionists, ophthalmologists, and acupuncturists to learn if they would be willing to meet with my class and explain the importance of their work. Much to my surprise, no one had ever approached them with that request before. The medical professionals all agreed to either have me bring my class to the office or to come visit us in school. Before each meeting, I had students research and prepare detailed questions they could pose to each professional. In addition, each of our medical pros supplied students with goodie bags that included vocabulary-rich brochures and information. I then used these handouts for follow-up activities and discussions in class. It was a healthy win-win for all.

48. Eat Your Way Through the Alphabet

Learning letters and sounds is fun with this idea by Marilynne, a 1st Grade Teacher in Bemidji, MN.

At the beginning of the school year, we review all the names and sounds of the alphabet letters. To help emphasize this letter exploration, I have my class eat their way through the alphabet. For the first 26 days of the school year, our class snacks on foods representing the beginning sound of each letter of the alphabet in order (apples for Aa; bananas for Bb, etc.).

I work with parents to provide the alphabet snack of the day, but I keep their actual contributions a secret until snack time. That way, I can encourage students to guess what the next day’s snack will be. In an effort to guess, students name many foods that begin with each letter sound. We list these on charts and vote on the most probable winner. Then as we snack on the food for that day, we see if that food was among our guesses.

49.  Create Letter Lifeboats

Break out the Life Savers for this idea by Judy, a 4th Grade Teacher, in Middleton, MA.

At the beginning of each week, I pass around a bag filled with letter tiles. Students each choose one tile at random and keep a running record of the words they encounter (while reading, listening, etc.) that begin with that letter. At the end of the week, the student who has the most syllables (not words) on his or her list receives a Life Saver candy for “buoying” his or her vocabulary in the Letter Lifeboat. We also have a “Captain’s Table” Word Wall for displaying words containing three or more syllables.

50. Make a Digital Writing Portfolio

This idea by Cynthia, a 1st Grade Teacher in Flanders, NJ, gives families a digital portfolio to treasure!

Each marking period, I meet with each of my students to review their writing portfolios.  We decide on which pieces of writing are the strongest and which ones (if any) the students want to polish. I then scan their polished selections and save them on the computer file to share with parents on my interactive whiteboard. Then, at the end of the year, I create a CD of each child’s writing (8 selections in all). This “Electronic Portfolio” offers families a digital record of their child’s progress and serves as a treasured family keepsake.

51. Create a Wax Museum

Did you know there is a wax museum in Pinehurst, North Carolina? Just visit Christine’s class to see literature on display!

To celebrate and share the books we enjoyed in our literature circles, we created a Literary Wax Museum. To do this, I divided the class into small groups. Then each group chose a scene from a book and discussed how they could recreate the scene and place themselves in it in the process. We then used large rolls of craft paper to design backdrops suggesting scene settings. Each group also wrote a short explanatory blurb to display in front of their scene along with a copy of the book they were trying to depict. We also created brochures that included a brief review of each book as well as digital photos of the works in progress. On the day of the museum opening, just moments before family members and other classes were set to arrive, the students fixed their blurbs in place, donned “costumes” (created from simple pieces of clothing from home) and posed like motionless statues in front of their settings. Our Literary Wax Museum was a huge hit. My students are already asking if they can do it again with their next literature circle book!

52. Meet Alphabetasaurus

Looking for a great language arts idea for the first day of school?  Try this one from Eileen, a Kindergarten Teacher in Boca Raton, FL!

Here’s a great idea to put into place on Day One. It helps build your classroom library while generating new sight word centers.  Every year we plan a birthday party for our class sight word puppet, “Alphabetaurus,” a purple dinosaur sock puppet. I begin by having my kids make birthday cards while I plan fun sight word centers to serve as party activities. Then, with the help of some parent volunteers, the children use dyed purple tube socks to craft their own sight word puppets for use on the day of the party.

In addition, each child brings in a new, wrapped book for Alphabetaurus. (I always have a few extra wrapped books on hand for those who forget.) When it’s time to open the gifts, each child reads his or her handmade card aloud and helps Alpha opens his gift. We inscribe the inside of each book with the child’s name and the year it was presented to Alpha. Each year, many parents contribute extra books for those children who may have forgotten theirs. That means each year I end up with about 30 new books for our class library. Each day following the party, I read aloud from one of these books. Every year, former students return to my class to visit Alphabetsaurus and to look for the birthday books they gave him.

53. Build Vocabulary with Memories

Helping children connect language and the world around them is an integral part of teaching.  One creative way to do this comes from Randi, a 3rd Grade Teacher from Tunnel Head, Georgia.  This third grade class combines vocabulary building with the memories they make throughout the year.

Each year, we build a yearlong memory Word Wall consisting of word cards and sentence strips documenting the exciting classroom and school events we have participated in together. Here’s how we do it:  after each school event, we add a word or description to our memory wall. Then, at the end of the year we make an ABC memory book out of the words.

Each child chooses a topic from our memory wall (if we don’t have something that starts with a particular letter, we create one on the spot), and each child writes a short paragraph about that event. We help each child build a corresponding PowerPoint page. We add each child’s photo to his or her own ABC page, then print a class set of each page. We organize each set of pages in ABC order, then bind the completed pages into books the children use as keepsake memory/autograph books.


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