FREE Leveled Nonfiction Articles

I get questions about teaching nonfiction ALL THE TIME! Here's one I received recently:

How do you teach fiction and nonfiction? Do you teach fiction for half of the year and then nonfiction for the second half? Where do you get your nonfiction articles?


I go back and forth between fiction and nonfiction all year! I usually try to pair something nonfiction with any story or novel we read, but I don't always do it that way.

As far as where I get my nonfiction articles… I've discussed Scholastic SCOPE in depth and you already know that I love, love, love my SCOPE! But I know that many of you don't - or can't - subscribe to something like that.

But that's totally fine, especially now that I've discovered Tween Tribune. Have you checked this out yet? It is AH-MAZING!

Reasons Why Tween Tribune is Awesome

1. ALL of this stuff is free.
2. Every article is available in FOUR text complexities and the Lexile level is right there for you!
3. Current event articles are constantly being added.
4. There's an article for just about every topic, making it super easy to pair an article with something fiction you're reading.
5. You can print the article in multiple Lexiles and BOOM, your classroom is differentiation station.
6. You can set up individual student accounts within the umbrella of your teacher account, assign articles, and students can read and quiz on the article. Then, you get the results in your grade book.


If you're not using it, why on earth aren't you!?

It's perfect for homework readings, extra credit, and just making sure your kids are reading enough and at their target levels.

And if you think it can't get much better than this, it's about to!

I created a graphic organizer to use with these Tween Tribune articles. It's a free download on TpT, and  it works with any article.

Want to glue it into your interactive notebooks? Just print at 80% and you're good to go.

Happy Teaching!

Everything You Need to Teach PLOT

One of the first reading concepts I teach (or review) in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades is plot structure. So, I thought it was the perfect time to share some of my favorite resources to use when teaching plot structure.

1. Posters

First, click the posters above to grab this set of plot posters free from Google Drive. I snatched this mini-set for you from my HUGE Reading & ELA Poster Bundle.

2. Graphic Organizer/Notes

Next, you'll need some fun and handy graphic organizers for taking notes and analyzing stories.

If you don't already have it, click the thumbnail above to download this FREE quick and easy plot pyramid that includes guiding questions for each part of the plot pyramid.

A very sweet and thoughtful reader sent this next PDF to me after she altered it to help her students fill in the plot diagram. Thanks for sharing, Stacie! :)

Just have your students complete a "master copy" by copying all of the information in red. Then, glue it into their notebooks (or keep in a safe location!) and they can refer back to it all year to help them complete the many plot diagrams that you'll no doubt have them doing over the course of the school year WITHOUT constantly asking you what to put where. It's a progressive PDF so you can use it like a PowerPoint and each successive page or slide has one more section filled in until you get to the end.


Of course, if you know me AT ALL, you know I love to introduce, teach, and review literature concepts with pop culture and examples from the real world. You might also know that I'm a Disney NUT - waaaaay more than my kids are! Anyway, this little gem (it's quite big, actually) is one of my very favorite freebie finds OF ALL TIME!

One of the hardest-working people I know, Jonathan from Created for Learning, has put together an absolute masterpiece of a resource to help us teach plot. We can use one lesson today, one tomorrow, one next week, one next month, a few later on in the year, and STILL have some left over! Forserious.

Check. This. Out.

This FREE pack on TpT includes TEN - yes, TEN - plot lessons for Pixar shorts!

Wait for it.

ANSWER KEYS INCLUDED! Yeah! We don't even have to think really hard about the story before we teach it because the hard work is already done for us.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better.. it does! Each short has its own super-awesome-looking custom plot diagram template to really get you in the mood for learning about plot! Thanks, Jonathan!

I like the Canadian version, eh, because I teach inciting incident even though I'm not Canadian. Or you can simply look in the plain ole American file to find conflict instead.

Some of the shorts are available on Youtube, and you can also buy these from Amazon - find the links in the item description here.

4.  Practice/Assessment

And last but certainly not least, you're going to need an easy way to assess what your students have learned. Click below to download two practices and two quizzes from my Practice & Assess Literature Grade 6. The practice is the same format as the test so I use it as a sort of study guide to prepare the students for what I'm about to grade them on. I've also got versions for 4th-5th grade and for 7th-8th grade.

And last but not least, here are some projects that I'm currently working on! The first two should be posted by the end of August (or VERY close to it) and the first social studies notebook will be out in September. Some of those covers are NOT final. :)


FREEBIE ALERT! Clauses & Phrases L.7.1.A


I've just posted a brand new grammar unit to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It's $3.00 on TpT but I just sent a FREE copy to all of my email subscribers!

I created this unit to supplement the activities already in the Interactive Grammar Notebook and focus more on Clauses & Phrases. It includes 3 interactive notebook activities and 5 worksheets.

If you aren't currently subscribed, you can still sign up below. Upon confirming your email, a download link for the grammar unit above will be automatically sent to your email.

* indicates required

In other news, the latest addition to the Practice & Assess series was released yesterday! If you've got one of the growing bundles that includes this, be sure to go back and download it!

I'll be back this week with some more lesson ideas and activities for you.

Your First Day of School Lesson Plans!

As promised, I'm back today with a few lessons and activities to help you get through the first days of school.

First thing's first - don't forget to download and run off these Interactive Notebook Covers. I've included several different ELA titles you might use for your notebooks, but let me know if you need something else that isn't included here.

And when it's time to set up those interactive notebooks, you can refer back to this blog post from last August about how I had my students set up their notebooks.

Those aren't the lessons, of course - I just wanted to remind you while we're all here and in the mood! :)

Now.. When it comes to the first day of school, I've mentioned before that I think it's VERY important to teach a real actual LESSON that day. Teaching something purposeful and important and academic is so important that first day because it sets the tone for the rest of the year. It tells your students that they are here to learn and in your class they are going to be productive and not waste time. It also will give them a nice glimpse into how you teach and the kinds of things they'll be learning this year and that's WAY better than just TELLING them what you teach and the kinds of things they'll be learning this year, right?!

I'm giving you two options below, depending on your needs and the time you've got on that first day. If you're looking for a full-blown lesson with-story-and-all, I've got you covered. And, if you're looking for a 20-minute-quickie, I've got ya covered in that department as well!

The 20-Minute Quickie

The best part of this quickie is that there's enough substance here so that you can make it last longer if you want or definitely carry it over to the next day's lesson. I chose a topic that is important and can easily be explained/reviewed in just a few short minutes: Denotation vs. Connotation.

Start by showing this AWESOME Flocabulary video on Word Choice. If you don't have a Flocabulary subscription, I promise it's worth the 45 seconds it takes to sign up for a 14-day free trial, even if you only ever use it for this lesson.

And just to get your 45 seconds worth, be sure to download the Activity, Quiz, and Answer Keys in the sidebar on the right because they are EXCELLENT!

Of course you know I have an interactive notebook activity for this topic that can be done the first day or later. I like to do it on the first day even though our interactive notebooks aren't set up yet (see link near top of page). All you have to do is have students use a regular sheet of looseleaf paper. Cut off the gutters at the top of the page before the lines start AND on the left side of the red line, cutting the holes off. Now, your students can glue their interactive notebook activity on this sheet of loose leaf paper and you can come back and glue it as your first "real" page in the interactive notebook when you set it up!

The beauty of this is that you can just have students do the 2 definition tabs for today and come back and do the connotation tickets later if this is a quickie. Now they've defined the words and learned a little bit about word choice and connotation and denotation.

And if you still need a little something extra for teaching this concept, I found a great pair of worksheets for FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers. Download them here from Deanna Cross!

OH, and of course, here's a link to the FREE interactive notebook lesson. It's a freebie excerpt from my ALL NEW Interactive Reading Literature Notebooks Volume 2.

The With-Story-And-All

I received this question on my Facebook page earlier this week from Amy:
We do not require students to read anything over the summer… :( I teach 6th grade and need some new ideas for the first thing we read… and go! I plan on starting the year with textual evidence and reading aloud Wonder.

This got me thinking, and after flipping through the rolodex of short stories I've got in my head, I decided that "Charles" by Shirley Jackson would be the JUST RIGHT story for students to enjoy on (or close to) the first day of school.

This short story can be downloaded FREE from the Library of America here. Print these 2 to a page for the right size print.

If you've never read "Charles," it's super short, so kick back and enjoy the quick read. I love stories with a little bit of humor and a twist at the end, and this fits the bill. 

You might read this aloud with students or have them read in pairs.

As a follow-up, I created this little activity on finding text evidence. There's just one basic question for which the students will need to find three examples of text evidence and explain each one. A sample answer is included right on the worksheet so that students can work independently if you so choose.

You can download this activity free through Google Drive by clicking the image above. :) 

Be careful! Don't give students this activity or discuss the question/task before the story is read or you'll give away the fun ending. 

This is an excellent activity to use as a sort of pre-test to gauge how well your students are able to find text evidence as well as articulate that to you. Plus, it's an interesting story and just one little question/task so you aren't overwhelming them with a daunting task straight out of the shoot.

Of course (you know me by now, don't you?!), I've included an answer key with this little activity so that you don't have to do that extra bit of prep work in advance because I KNOW you've got enough goin' on just trying to start a school year!

And just in case you'd like a more official assessment, I found this multiple choice quiz along with other activities in an assessment sample from EMC Publishing.

It is my PLAN to try to bring you at least one fun lesson or activity like these EVERY WEEK on my blog so if you aren't already be sure to follow me on Bloglovin', and for good measure, sign up to receive email alerts when I post new content like this.

I hope you have a great first day of school!

The ALL NEW Interactive Reading Literature Notebook... Everything You Need to Know!

Finishing this notebook has been a lot like birthing a child.. except for that this project took LONGER than 9 months! So, let me go ahead and warn you up front. I don't typically make blog posts that are exclusively about a paid product, but this post is going to be just that!


So why did I make a brand new, completely different notebook for literature? That's easy - because I have soooo many lessons! Before settling into my sixth-grade-only classroom last year, I taught the same students for three years in a row in grades 6, 7, and 8. Each year, I spiraled across what was basically the same material (pretty much what's in the notebooks...) but I definitely didn't use the same lessons year after year. I changed the gimmick or template or whatever it was and repackaged the same material so that it was fresh and different.

I often get questions from teachers who are struggling with just that - teaching the same students for multiple years, or even teaching students who have completed activities in the notebook with another teacher in previous years. Now, with this notebook, you've got a whole new bank of lessons to choose from!

While there's nothing in the old notebook that was totally omitted in the new notebook, there are some topics in the new book that weren't in the old one. Here are some lessons that are new to this notebook:

Denotation & Connotation




As far all of the "old topics" that were covered in the first literature notebook.. Well, they've received makeovers! Here's a peek at a few of my favorite ALL NEW lessons!



Here's a list of what's included in this notebook:

Lesson 1: Basic Story Vocabulary

Lesson 2: Plot Analysis

Lesson 3: Advanced Plot Techniques

Lesson 4: Conflict

Lesson 5: Character Traits

Lesson 6: Types of Characters

Lesson 7: Direct & Indirect Characterization

Lesson 8: Point of View

Lesson 9: Theme

Lesson 10: Mood & Tone

Lesson 11: Denotation & Connotation

Lesson 12: Imagery

Lesson 13: Symbolism

Lesson 14: Irony

Lesson 15: Drama

Lesson 16: Figurative Language

Lesson 17: Fiction Genres

Lesson 18: Folktales

Reading literature is my absolute FAVORITE PART of the ELA curriculum.. can you tell??? 

And as promised.. I'll be back later this week with some lesson plans for you to start off the school year! :) 

Coming August 3rd! ...

Just throwing this out there!

More details to come! :)

Also, be sure to check back next week for your FREE First Day of School Lesson Plans!

Summer News & Helpful Info for Back to School!

I hope you're feeling human again!

I've had a crazy fun summer and I'm currently in the trenches of prepping for Vegas next week! Eek!

Be sure to grab the handout if you're planning to attend by clicking the thumbnail above.

I've also been working overtime to finish up some important projects before the back-to-school crazy is in full swing!

My Practice & Assess series is *almost* complete! Earlier this summer, I finished up the Practice & Assess Poetry packets as well as Level A of the Practice & Assess Writing packets. I'll be releasing Level B Writing by the end of July and Level C by the first part of August. 


When you're ready to get into back to school mode, here are some previous posts that you might find helpful! 

How to Run a Successful Independent Reading Program in the Middle Grades

Middle School Teacher's Survival Guide

Classroom Library Organization (by Genre)

Where to Find (FREE) Nonfiction Articles For Your Classroom

Meaningful Collaborative Groups in Reading

September 11th Reading Lesson

The Wednesday Wars Novel Study

Teaching The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963

Teaching "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"

Tour of My Classroom

How to: Literature Circles

Classroom Library Software (C.L.A.S.)

Sentence Writing: Build a Better Sentence

Automatic Grading in Google Docs with Flubaroo

Symbolism Scrapbooks