Books Teachers Love [June]

I'm back with the lovely ladies who bring you Books Teachers Love to get us through this last month of school!

Before you check out this month's book, you might want to take a peek at the last book I shared (and snag the freebie)

May to June is a great time of year... a time to begin to wrap up ends, but even more important, a time to try to push our kiddos to help them prepare for the next grade. The book I bring you this month can serve so many purposes!

I remembered being introduced to Chris Van Allsburg during my student teaching placement 5 years ago. My coteacher did a whole author's study on his books and I was amazed at how captivating and unique they all were.  Fast forward to this year and I've discovered also how amazing they are at teaching a variety of sentence structures... particularly with complex sentences.

One of my team's goal for writing in this last unit was to get students to use more compound and complex sentences. Jumanji is LOADED with complex sentences and even better, a variety of them. I took some of my favorites and put them on little cards. Then I wrote simple sentences that matched them and printed them out on strips.

After a lot of work around what a complex sentence is, what subordinating conjunctions are a part of them and when to use them, I noticed that students struggled with identifying sentences in their own writing they could change and upgrade. Prior to the activity I did with Jumanji, we talked about the parts of a complex sentence using the chart below. I then noticed that students didn't always pick the best subordinating conjunction so we did a little sorting activity. Nothing fancy or cute, but it got them up and moving. We basically just read a bunch of examples with missing conjunctions and realized which ones sounded right and why.

To then help them take one of their simple sentences and make it stronger, we did the activity using an old mentor text. So I had students take a simple sentence and go find a matching complex sentence from Jumanji. We then discussed how Chris Van Allsburg created strong, interesting sentences. Some things we noted were the use of subordinating conjunctions to create complex sentences (and where they were placed in a sentence). Others revolved around word choice of verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

To help students and make the art of revising a bit more fun, I created these spinners to use. They had to pick a simple sentence in their fairy tale drafts and then spin the spinner. They then had to rethink that sentence to incorporate the part of speech they landed on. I hope to practice this a bit more, as I think they are finally getting stronger in this skill.

I really wanted these beautiful spinners that the Brown Bag Teacher uses, but I didn't want to spend $25.00 on 5 spinners.

Call me cheap.

But I wanted them. So I had an idea as I was trying to find an alternative on Amazon. I ordered spinner parts where you get 8 sets for less than $7.00.  Here's how I assembled them!

1. Materials needed: Spinner Parts, Scissors, Push Pin with Grip, Laminating Pouch that has gone through the machine.

2. Cut the laminated sheet into the size you want for spinners. I got 2 squares out 1 sheet, but you could cut strips and get more out of them... you just need enough space to hold the sheet for when you spin. Hang the square half way over the table and push the push pin through the middle to make a whole. I wiggle it a bit to make it bigger to make it easier to cut.

3. Cut out a small circle. It took me 3 tries to get the right size. You need it to go over the top part of the bottom part of the spinner, but not too big that it will easily slip out.

4. Put the sheet on top of the bottom part of the spinner. Then snap the top part of the spinner into the hole and...

5. Place it on top of the circle template you want for your game or activity!

I had two different spinners on 1 piece of paper to allow for differentiation. I can't wait to make more templates now for other games and activities. The spinner pieces worked amazingly! They spin beautifully and easily as long as you snap them together correctly (which I didn't at first but figured it out quickly).

What else did I use this mentor text for? Dialogue, setting, author's craft (foreshadowing) and comparing/contrasting... because yes, we did watch the movie as well. Gotta love books that are also movies!

Looking for a great text to teach into sentence structure and so many other things as well? You can pick this one and 3 others if you win our monthly book give away! Enter now!

And you MUST go check out the other posts and books that are loaded with resources and ideas to get you through this last stretch of the school year!



  1. Kelli thank you for sharing these fun activities to help the kids write stronger sentences! Thanks for sharing your cool spinner hack! ;)
    Peggy @ Primary Flourish

  2. Those spinners are the BOMB! (Just like you!)

  3. What a great way to get the kiddos writing complex sentences! I bet they loved the spinners!


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