Teachers Pay Teachers surprised me today by posting my resource, Harriet Beecher Stowe, as the "freebie of the day." It is so exciting to have my reading comprehension resource get so much attention!   I plan to keep Harriet Beecher Stowe as a forever freebie because it is an example of how my comprehension resources are designed to bring all of the kids in your class together to engage and experience success. I want you to have this free resource to use with your students.

I'm very proud of this resource because it reflects the differentiated scaffolding I like to include in all of my reading-in-the-content-area resources (social studies, science and math too). Unfortunately, compared to my other biographies and non-fiction resources, Harriet Beecher Stowe has abbreviated scaffolding activities due to the 10 page limit TpT requires of freebies.  My other  resources actually have more in-depth reinforcement with a variety of activities. Yet Harriet Beecher Stowe will serve you well to teach and reinforce comprehension skills with your kids. Once your kids understand how various strategies can help them digest more difficult information, they will be able to use those strategies independently.  Then, of course, their comprehension will increase and that will be a great asset during state testing time.

Click on one of the images above to visit my store and get your free Harriet Beecher Stow resource. It's great to use any time, but is especially appropriate for Women's History Month!  Let me know how you like it!

Happy reading!


10 Reasons to Use Alphabet Book in Your Upper Grade Classroom


Many people think that alphabet books are primarily for teaching sound-symbol relationships to emergent readers. However, their use goes way beyond that. I’m not talking about reading them, although that is a good idea, I’m talking about the motivating and engaging activity of writing them. My hope is that after perusing these 10 reasons you will decide that alphabet books are great instructional tools that offer many benefits and want to create one with your class. My students always loved them. In fact, for many years, I taught a graduate-level content area reading course at a local college. The graduate students chose to create them as one of the culminating activities of the unit they were required to write for the course. Writing either one class book or individual books will help your students to better understand the more difficult topics in your unit.

Reason #1

Alphabet books can be written on various levels of complexity making them appropriate for content area subjects in the upper elementary grades on up. It is expected that more sophisticated students will have more sophisticated responses.

Reason #2

Your students’ vocabulary will increase. Vocabulary words are listed on an alphabet chart and discussed as material is read. Students need to have an understanding of the vocabulary in order to write a cogent paragraph demonstrating knowledge of the vocabulary word.

Reason #3

Students learn how to do further research, when needed, to get details necessary to describe the topic. Students re-inspect material read to cite exact details.


Reason #4

Writing a paragraph provides the student with opportunities for language development. Written expression is enhanced when the student must describe what he has learned.

Reason #5

When organizing their books students begin to understanding the importance of text structure or the format of how a book is organized. Students need to know that different materials are organized in different ways. Understanding how text is organized gives the reader clues as to what is coming next and helps students to develop anticipatory responses. Before beginning to write an alphabet book, the teacher needs to collect a few and review their text structure with the class. How are the books different? What do they have in common? When creating an alphabet book, students become aware of the importance of text structure. Each page in their book will include

A letter of the alphabet

An illustration



Reason #6

Concepts of the content area subject are reinforced as students use vocabulary words in context to write a passage for each letter of the alphabet. The task requires students to understand and be able to apply content area material. Completed books are great non-fiction, informational books that can be used to review academic material.

Reason #7

Students have an opportunity to show off what they have learned. Each book is a source of pride to be shared with the class, guests of the class (the teacher next door or the principal) and parents.

Reason #8 

Students learn to understand the difference between reading for enjoyment and reading for information. Students need to know how to use the information they have read. Writing vocabulary words in context helps them to demonstrate this.

Reason #9

Constructing alphabet books in the classroom is an activity that offers differentiated instruction. Poor readers and reluctant readers feel encouraged to participate. They can work at their own pace to choose the words they understand. Working with a buddy will help them to complete the task of describing a difficult concept. The best part is that is the teacher’s choice to set the requirements. Some students may only add a sentence while more able-learners will be required to add a paragraph with a minimum number of sentences.

Reason # 10

Creating an alphabet book is fun and educational! Students should have fun constructing their books and work with a buddy or a small group. Students can draw illustrations or find them in magazines or the internet. Sharing illustrations will add to the fun as well!

Here is a  pictures of ABC books my classes have written over the years. The ABCs of Animals book was written by emergent readers and contains only one word for each letter. All of the other books are on higher levels. The Halloween book was a fun book my resource students wrote after reading a few Halloween stories and poems. The Long Island book was a 4 months long project! As we studied various things about Long Island we added to the book until it was finally done in May of that school year.  When we studied Christopher Columbus we decided to make an ABC book to tell all about him.  I guarantee you that adults reading the non-fiction books will learn something they did not know.


If you would like to write an alphabet book with your class, you can make one using construction paper or you can purchase an ABC book for your students at my store. (The December alphabet book will be appearing shortly).  Better yet, you can enter the Rafflecopter to win a $10 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card and have enough $$$ to treat yourself and your class to a great holiday activity.


Twelve teacher-bloggers have joined together to have this fabulous hop that gives you chances to win one $10 TpT gift card at EACH BLOG.  It's possible to win a prize for every Rafflecopter you enter!  That's a total of 12 TpT gift cards to be given away.  So be sure to complete the hop for your best chance to win some great gift cards! The Rafflecopter ends Monday night at midnight so winners can shop at the TpT sale on Tuesday!

The winner is Hilda from MM Bilingual!


The Bender Bunch
Good luck to you!!
Kathleen in 8 Apples
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show and tell tuesday

I am linking up with Forever in Fifth Grade's Show and Tell Tuesday linky for August.  Teacher-bloggers share their favorite pictures of things they have been doing through the month. Check it out and find out what the  bloggers you know have been up to.

Greenport Boat

We traveled out to Greenport on the eastern tip of Long Island's north fork to have lunch and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Really enjoying this summer!  It was a beautiful day!

show and tell tuesday 2


Love my flower garden! It's been so hot here and there's been no real rain in weeks.  Even with a sprinkler system I need to constantly check to be sure they have enough water. Of course, the weeds are having no problem!  Ugh!

show and tell tuesday 3

Welcome back to another school year!

How valuable is a beginning of the year informal assessment?

I love informal assessments! I learned a long time ago how valuable it can be to get an early assessment of my new students' abilities.  The first day of school for most Long Island schools is usually a Wednesday. I used those three days of the first week to welcome students, make them feel comfortable, and learn as much about them as I could. Because I did not want to accept what last year's teacher said as gospel, I wanted to to conduct my own assessment of my students' academic and behavioral abilities. Every year, before school started, I used a large (5x8) index card to document information about each student. On that card I wrote their name, and a few notes, such as any services they were supposed to receive and mainstream classes they would attend.  During those first three days, I conducted lots of observations/informal assessments to learn about my new students. Then I wrote notes on my index cards about what I learned.





The assessment you administer should require students to do tasks they should already know and maybe a question or two they probably don't know. Sometimes you are surprised at the results!

Write any observations on their cards.  If you have a rubric, highlight the appropriate comments and file it with the assessment sheets in each student's folder you keep on file in your classroom.   Besides academic skills, what else did you learn that can be noted on the student's card?   Behavioral observations should be noted too. Was the student's work neat or messy? Did the student's equipment appear to be organized or was it all over the place? Was the student able to stay on task or did he need prompts to focus?  This is the beginning of documenting your observations about your new students.  As the year goes on, continue to write notes on these cards whenever you observe new things. Of course, every note should be dated.

These notes are a valuable resource for you when preparing for parent-teacher conferences.  At the time you think you will never forget, but the classroom is a fast moving place where sometimes days, and yes weeks, just seem to run together. When you contact a parent, via note, email, phone or an in-person conference, note the type of conference, the date and a brief description of what was discussed.  Your cards will provide you with documentation about what happened and when. More than once, the notes on my cards helped me through a situation where I was being questioned. When a parent says "no one ever told me that," you will be able to remind them of a phone conversation you had on October 3rd.  Also, reviewing these notes means you will not forget to mention something to a parent that they should know and that you want to share.  Hopefully, you will be reporting how much their child has improved! This method of informal assessment is easy, effective and takes only a few minutes to make a note when something is observed.



You can create your own informal assessment or you can try the one I just created.  It is quick and easy to administer. This assessment is for multiplication and division only. Problems start with the times tables and get progressively harder. Can the student multiply a one-digit number by a two-digit number without renaming? Can the student multiply a one-digit number by a two-digit number with renaming? Can the student multiply a two-digit number by a two-digit number?  You get the idea.  There is a separate division sheet, also with progressively harder problems.  Highlighting appropriate comments on the rubric, that is included, makes note taking easy and the information can be transferred to your cards later.

Less work for the teacher, more fun for students and great organization for everyone!


Wishing you a great school year!

I would appreciate your comments about informal assessments!


Kathleen in 8 Apples

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