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5 Mentor Texts for Teaching Asking Questions

When I first started teaching, I thought teaching students to ask questions was a waste of time. I guess, in my mind, kids should do it automatically. Once I started analyzing strengths and weaknesses, I realized that many of my kids had no idea what their brains should be doing while reading. Explicitly teaching students to ask questions is essential.

I love the following books for doing just that! Give your students multiple examples and opportunities to practice asking questions by using multiple books that they'll love. 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

This book is so interesting and maybe even a bit odd! When Sylvester discovers a magic pebble, he mysteriously turns into a rock. His parents look everywhere for him, but they aren't able to find him. Will they ever discover that Sylvester is actually sitting near their house? There are so many questions that you and your students can generate as you read this book aloud! 

This is Not My Hat

Where did this hat come from? What will the fish do with the hat? Does someone realize it is missing? This book is simple and funny. My kids love it and it is GREAT for teaching your students to ask questions. Sometimes, we get the answers to our questions by reading further into the story. Other times, we don't.

We Found a Hat

We Found a Hat is just as silly and ridiculous as This is Not My Hat, and my kids love it just as much! In this book, two turtles stumble upon ONE hat. Two turtle and only one hat. What will they do? Will they take turns? Will they fight over it? Will one sneak off to get it? So many opportunities for questions that your students may NEVER get answers to! 

I Want My Hat Back

When this bear can't find his hat, he begins asking all of the other animals around him if they've seen it. Did someone steal it? Did he misplace it? Will he ever find it? How foolish does he feel when he talks to someone WEARING HIS HAT?! Jon Klassen's books are easy to read and easy to understand. And they are perfect for getting kids to ask questions. After all, there are SO many! 

Tuesday

David Wiesner is the master at wordless picture books. I've used many of them to help my students ask questions. They are also perfect because students of all reading abilities can practice the same skill. Tuesday is my favorite because it certainly sparks a hundred and one questions. When frogs begin flying through town on their lily pads on Tuesday night, your students will start jotting down a boatload of questions. Does this happen every Tuesday? Why is this happening? What do the people in town think? How can they make this stop? 


Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don't know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you'll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can't afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.

4 Mentor Texts for Teaching Predictions & Inferences

Active readers are consonantly making predictions and inferences as they read. However, becoming an active reader that makes predictions and makes inferences isn't an easy task. Students need practice and support in order to master this difficult skill. I love using engaging mentor texts to help my students transition to becoming more active thinkers. 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 

The Sweetest Fig

I don't know why I love this book so much, but I do! One day, as Monsieur Bibot is working in his dentist office, he is offered two figs for payment rather than money. He took them but wrote the old lady off as crazy as she told him that they would make all of his dreams come due. After he eats the first fig, he realizes that she was completely right! This book is so perfect for introducing the reading comprehension skill of making inferences. There are SO many things that are left to the imagination in this classic from Chris Van Allsburg! 

The Stranger

If you're looking for a book that keeps you guessing, wondering, and questioning, The Stranger is seriously it. You could create and inference or a prediction after reading nearly every single page. To be honest, after reading the book year after year, I still don't know exactly what happened. I am only left with my own conclusion.

When The Stranger shows up at Farmer Bailey's, everything is different. This poor man can't remember who he is or where he is from. The Bailey's take him in for a bit and realize that things are quite unusual. Summer isn't changing into fall. The leaves aren't changing.

When The Stranger leaves, what will happen? What was the cause? Let your students make their own predictions and inferences! 

The Giving Tree

This book is perfect to use when your students are in the early stages of making predictions and inferences. While reading, you can infer what the characters are feeling and predict what each of them will do next. It is such a simple text with a simple story line. Yet the meaning and thinking are deep! 

The Taking Tree

Many of us have read the classic book "The Giving Tree". We know it. We love it. But have you ever heard of "The Taking Tree"?

One year, after reading it aloud, a student asked if I'd read "The Taking Tree". I quickly did a Google search and was able to read the book online. It was HILARIOUS! It is such a great parody that our upper elementary students enjoy so much! It also offers multiple themes and a great opportunity to compare and contrast. 

Disclaimer: I don't allow my students to flip through this book on their own. There is one part where the boy pees on the tree. I didn't want parents messaging me or emailing my principal about that part! I read it aloud and skip it. 

Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don't know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you'll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can't afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.

4 Mentor Texts for Teaching Story Elements

Understanding story elements are important skills in both reading and writing. In lower graders, we often use the words beginning, middle, and end. We even briefly talk about describing the characters. But in upper elementary, we need our students begin understanding that there is MORE than just these simple words. What is rising action? What is the climax of a story? What is the falling action? Help your students practice identifying each of these elements while using mentor texts! 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 

The Night I Followed the Dog

Have you ever wondered what your dog does while you are sleeping? When this young boy follows his dog, he learns so much that he never knew! This story has a great plot structure that allows you to show students the components that all great stories should include.

The Potato Chip Champ

The baseball team has a new player, Walter. Everyone loves Walter. Well, everyone loves him, expect Champ. Champ can't seem to figure out why everyone loves Walter so much.

When Champ hurts himself and Walter steps in his place, you can image the jealousy and problems that this creates. Will a simple act of kindness change the course of their friendship? It's possible! The Potato Chip Champ is a great example of a story with a good plot structure that will help your students see each component, such as the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion.

Henry's Freedom Box

In this real-life story of Henry's experience with the Underground Railroad, your students can practice finding the elements that should be included in a story. Henry, desperate to escape slavery, mails himself to freedom. Will he make it? 

Grandpa's Teeth

Where are Grandpa's Teeth?! This is a story with a clear problem and a great example of a plot. Plus, the conclusion is PERFECT!

At the beginning of this story, Grandpa realizes that his teeth are missing. They search the house. They call the police. They check out teeth from people all over the community. No one can find Grandpa's teeth. At the end of the book, the mayor gives Grandpa a new set. Forget finding that old set. Once you finish the book, you'll laugh out loud when you see who has the set of teeth...or at least I did! :) 

Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don't know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you'll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can't afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.

4 Mentor Texts for Teaching Making Connections

Making Connections can be as difficult or as easy as you make it for our upper elementary students. I like to use mentor texts to give my students a LOT of practice in order to help my students master understanding each type of connection, as well as help them provide a list of things that might help spark connections, such as movies, books, current events, and problems in our local area or throughout the world. 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 

The Little Red Pen

I absolutely love to use The Little Red Pen for introducing my students to making connections. It is the perfect way for me to model my obsession with office supplies and the hours spent grading papers. The way that the characters talk to one another is entertaining and so fun to read!

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

We've all had a bad day. We can all relate to the minor things that just rub us the wrong way on a bad day. This book is great for teaching your students that bad days happen and give them the opportunity to make connections. It is also great for discussing other books, movies, and real-life stories that stem from a bad day. 

Alexander, Who's Not Going to Move

I really like using this book to teach my students to make connections. I like to use it because many of my students cannot always make Text-to-Self Connections with this storyline. In this Alexander book, his family is moving across the country. He is NOT happy about it. In fact, he is refusing to move at all. This less-relatable book requires students to think of Text-to-Text and Text-to-World Connections. 

Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday

Have you ever had a dollar and felt totally RICH?! I have and so has Alexander. When his grandparents give him a dollar he begins thinking about ALL the ways that he can spend his money. How long will it last? Well, about as long as a dollar lasts. Not too long. This is a silly book that we can ALL relate to! 

Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don't know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you'll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can't afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.

PLOP: What Most People Are Getting Wrong!

I'll be honest. I am an IEP snob. I'm not saying all of my IEPs are perfect. Far from it, honestly. I'm also not saying that every IEP I have ever written has been top notch. Not at all. I'v learned a lot through the years and have worked to correct my errors.

BUT...there are a few things that just drive me crazy when I see them in IEPs. Some of my biggest pet peeves are in the present level of performance and progress monitoring areas of IEPs.

Grades

Ya'll, grades aren't present levels of performance. They just aren't. What if my teacher is the hardest grader I've ever had? What my teacher is the EASIEST grader I've ever had? What if grades are based on participation, and I never say a word? What if homework is a huge factor in a teacher's grading, and I never turn in my homework--better yet, maybe my mom does my homework for me? Grades are subjective. I'm not saying they can't be mentioned in an IEP. I'm not saying there is never a way or a reason to use them to progress monitor a student, but they don't tell me what a student CAN do. 

Standardized Testing Scores

First off, who cares? Thanks for letting me know a student did or didn't pass a standardized test. Unless you are breaking down scores to tell me what their areas of strengths or weaknesses are, that information isn't useful. It doesn't occur frequently enough for me to progress monitoring, and I have no idea how they performed on individual questions. 

School Wide Assessment Scores

At my school, we take NWEA and use the programs iReady and Lexia. At my previous school, we did STAR Reading and Math. While those scores are fine to include, they still aren't the most useful when setting goals. Instead, look closely at the data and find patterns, strengths, and weaknesses.

So...what IS a Present Level of Performance?

Well, this picky-pants-SPED-teacher likes to read a present level of performance and know exactly what group to place a student in. I should be able to read a present level and know what types of words can they read? CVC? Blends? Multisyllabic? Do they read fluently? Can they answer comprehension questions? What type of math can they do? Basic math facts? Regrouping? Multiplication? What does their writing look like? Do they need graphic organizers to get started? Do they need help with spelling? 

Present levels of performance are are critical to guiding a well written goal. They should read like a narrative. It should tell me exactly what a student CAN do with numbers and data supporting it.


How to Assess Present Level of Performance

If assessing your students sounds overwhelming, I understand! I have a blog post just for you. You can read it by click the image above.

I have a course for writing IEP goals. If this sounds like something you might need, click the picture above to take a look at my inexpensive, quick course for crafting IEP goals that are tailored for your students. 

EASY to Use Main Idea Anchor Chart and FREE Printable

Finding the main idea of a passage is critical for upper elementary. My third grade students and I have been hard at work using a reusable anchor chart to help us decide the main idea of a passage.

Main Idea Anchor Chart with text "What was the WHOLE thing about?"

Create a Reusable Anchor Chart

I created this anchor chart (which isn't something I enjoy 😬...I hate my own handwriting) with a specific purpose. I wanted to have something that could be laminated and used over and over throughout the year. 

Using a dry erase marker, we'll be able to recycle the anchor chart as we read through many passages throughout the school year.

Main Idea Anchor Chart with text "What was the WHOLE thing about?" and "Keywords"

Determine Key Words

After reading a passage from our leveled reader, we choose a handful of keywords that would tell us about the WHOLE thing. These words might be about a person, place, thing, idea, animal, topic, or something we learned. We also look for words that were used more than two times. 

Main Idea Anchor Chart with text "What was the WHOLE thing about?" and "Keywords" and "Main Idea"

Write a Main Idea Statement

After we brainstorm keywords, we begin to see if we can use some of the words in a sentence that tells what the whole thing was about. If we can use ALL of them, that's even better. 

This part has taken a LOOOOOOOOTTTTT of practice! Forming sentences is really hard for my special education students--using "big" words makes it even harder. 

Student holding a clipboard with mini main idea anchor chart

Mini Student Anchor Charts

We've been working on this for WEEKS! I finally felt like it was time to start making this a little more independent. Together, we brainstormed keywords and my students recorded them on their own mini anchor chart. 

Students using a textbook to fill in their main idea mini anchor charts

Main Idea Statements

I couldn't wait to see what sentences they generated using their keywords. These two students came up with:

"Animals camouflage from [their prey]."
"Animals hid from [their prey]." 

I snapped this picture a little early and their sentences weren't quite finished! Either way, these sentences are SPOT ON when it comes to describing the passage that we had read, which shared several examples of how animals hide from their prey in their habitat.  

Click here to get your FREE main idea mini anchor chart
Want to grab this mini anchor chart? Click the image above or click here to download it! 

How to Quickly Assess a Student's Present Level of Performance

Assessments on table with text "Decoding Sight Words" and "Letters and Sounds"
Let me set the stage for you, it's high stakes testing time. You have four evaluation conferences coming up, yet you have NO time to work because, well, testing. You get an email from your secretary. New kid. Has IEP. No records from previous school. UGH!

How will you ever assess your students who are in the evaluation process? How will you write a good IEP for your new student? This sounds like hours of work.

Fear not. I have a few assessments to make it so that you can whip out those IEPs after spending a few minutes assessing your soon-to-be favorite student or students.

Assessments on table with text "Decoding and Sight Words" "Early Reading Skills" Letters and Sounds"

1. Prep Assessments NOW

Maybe you have a few assessments that you are currently using with your students. Maybe you have a few assessments that your district or special education department requires you to use. Maybe you don't have ANYTHING and you want to check out my assessments that I use. Either way, prep them sooner rather than later. I make 20-25 copies of each assessment and keep them in these zippered envelopes. They will be easily accessible when that new student rolls in or school and home life gets CRAZY! If you don't have any assessments that you love, take a look at these.

Student sitting at table with teacher and assessment with text "Early Reading Skills"

2. Decide on an Assessment that is Appropriate

When it's time to assess, decide which assessment will be the best for their needs. Do you think they will be able to decode and read basic sight words? Do you think they're still working on letters and sounds? Can they write numbers and letters? How are those addition and subtraction skills? Can they rhyme and manipulate sounds? 

You can do multiple assessments, but you don't always need to. You can often find weaknesses in students' abilities through one! 

Teacher holding a clipboard, pencil, and three plastic zippered pouches

3. Meet with Student for 5-10 Minutes

I often carry a clipboard and my assessment envelopes to their classroom. With their classroom teacher's permission, I pull them to the hallway and assess them for a few minutes. I often do this in the morning after the bell or before dismissal. In my school, these are often times that the classroom teacher is ok with them missing for a few minutes, and I don't have students of my own in my room. 

I might ask them to read words, rhyme, identify numbers, or do a few math problems. I always document notes about their behavior, work ethic, attention, or any other atypical or typical behavior that they exhibit. This gives me a little bit of discussion material at their conference, since I often don't know them or work with them much at that time. 

Assessment on table with text "Decoding and Sight Words"

4. Review the Assessment and Determine Goal 

After I assess a student, I head back to my desk (let's be honest...three days later) and review the assessment. What areas were easy for them? What areas were difficult for them? What coping skills did they seem to have? Were they good at memorization? Did they utilize strategies that have been taught in the general education class? Did they have confidence? Did they erase a lot? What notes did you make as you assessed them? 

From there, you should have a goal that has basically written itself. What will you spend the next school year working on?


Click on this image for a course that will help special education teachers assess their students and write measurable IEP goals.
I created a course for helping special education teachers assess their students and write measurable IEP goals. If this sounds like something you might need, click the image above. It's an affordable way to help you build confidence in your IEP writing!