Join the GRA Discussion

{F0F0CC0D-D171-4AFD-B3B8-62991F0328E2}Img100.jpgMy class will be participating in the Global Read Aloud this October. We’ll be reading the middle school book, A Long Walk to Water. My kiddos are in 5th grade, but this novel is definitely appropriate for 4th and 5th graders. If you don’t already know about the Global Read Aloud (GRA), it isn’t too late to get on board. HERE is a link to the GRA website for more information. The schedule requires you to read about 3 small chapters a week, so it isn’t overwhelming to add to your plans. With so many classes participating, it is an excellent way to break down the four walls of your classroom and expand your students’ worldview by connecting them with the global community. It’s also an excellent way to generate excitement around reading!

A Long Walk to Water is a short novel that tells two seemingly separate stories that take place in different time periods. One story takes place in the 80s and is about a lost boy of Sudan. The other story takes place over twenty years later and tells the story of a young girl living in Sudan. In the end, the two stories are woven together. This novel is going to lead to valuable discussions.

In order to collaborate with students from around the world, I’ve put together a website where I will post discussion topics based on the chapters of the week. Our students can participate in a global discussion by responding to the discussions questions and one another. I hope you’ll check this website out and consider participating with your class. Please check in HERE to build some excitement by letting others know where your class will be connecting from.

The GRA starts October 2nd. Here’s the weekly chapter breakdown that was published to the GRA website:

Week 1 – Chapters 1-3

Week 2 – Chapters 4-6

Week 3 – Chapters 7-9

Week 4 – Chapters 10-12

Week 5 – Chapters 13-15

Week 6 – Chapters 16-18


Choosing, Sharing, and Spreading Kindness

Here is a picture book for you to consider for your upper elementary classroom, as well as an activity to drive the powerful message of the story home.


About the Book: Each Kindness is a picture book about a girl, Chloe, who is unkind to a new student named Maya. One day, Maya doesn’t return to school. After a lesson about kindness from her teacher, Chloe recognizes the impact of her choices to be unkind. She hopes Maya will return so she will have an opportunity to be friendly to her. But Maya doesn’t return. And Chloe doesn’t receive another chance. Instead, she is left only with the memories of her unkind choices.

Teaching Point: This book doesn’t have a feel-good, fairy-tale ending, but it shares a wonderful message: We don’t always receive a second chance. Sometimes we have to live with our choices and we don’t get a do over. On Jacqueline Woodson’s website she shares the following explanation for why she wrote this book: “At some point in our lives, we are all unkind. At some point, we are all treated unkindly. I wanted to understand this more. I think too often we believe we’ll have a second chance at kindness – and sometimes we don’t. I do believe, as Chloe’s teacher, Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world. I wrote this because I believe in kindness.” This is a truly great message that students are ready to hear in 5th grade.

Student Response to the Story: The pictures are engaging, and the characters are relatable. My students were moved as I read it aloud. They were, however, disappointed with the ending. “What?!” they blurted. “That’s it?!” But these reactions are great, because they lead to the teaching point – we don’t always receive a second chance. You’ll be left with an excellent opportunity to discuss kindness, second chances, and choices after reading this book. If you read this book with your class or child, ask them, “How did you expect it to end?” and, “How would most authors choose to end this novel?” After discussing the ending and the meaning of the story, their final impression shifted. As we transitioned to our next subject, I overheard students talking positively to each other about the book. “That was a really good book.” “It was sad, but it’s true.” Message delivered. 🙂

Kindness Activity: After reading the book, begin a daily activity inspired by the following lines in the story,

Each Kindness

Each Kindness – By Jacqueline Woodson

Ms. Albert had brought a big bowl into class and filled it with water. We gathered around her desk and watched her drop a small stone into it. Tiny waves rippled out, away from the stone. This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.


At the end of each school day, have each student share a kindness. Through this activity, students become more aware of their choices and the impact they have on others. Sharing kindnesses is fun and promotes self-love as well. I enjoy seeing the pride on my students faces as they share, and I absolutely love the effect recognizing and sharing kindnesses has on the ambience of our room.



Student Anaphora Poems Inspired By Absolutely Almost

My class finished Absolutely Almost over a month ago now, but as we cleaned up our Google Drive accounts today and organized our writing folder, we were able to revisit some of our previous work, and I realized how much I liked the anaphora poems they created after this read aloud. At the end of the novel, Albie recognizes all the things he can do, rather than those ANAPHORAhe cannot (as he did in the beginning of the novel). Inspired by this ending, my students were tasked with writing their own “Things I Know” poems.

This was a fun assignment that shows just how honest students are and allows them to celebrate what they know. At the end of the school year, I will put a book together of each students poems and stories from the year. This one is definitely going in there.

Below are a couple of examples.

Things I Know

By Student B

I know that I always have to put the cap on my pen when I’m done using it

I know that parents are sometimes scared, but don’t show it

I know that I don’t have to believe in what other people think, but what I think

I know that you can’t have friends when you’re not a friendI know that being proud of who you are (1)

I know that I’m not that good at math, but at least I try

I know that whenever I’m scared I’m not alone

I know that if you want a neat drawing you can’t draw outside of the lines

I know that if you want to accomplish something you have to work hard

I know that I can’t always get what I want

I know that being proud of who you are is important

There are a lot of things I know

Things I Know

By Student C

I know my way around town.

I know school is good for me, but I’m not ready to believe that yet.

I know that I struggle at some things.

I know that I’m not the best at baseball.

I know that I’m lactose intolerant.

I know that people will be mean.I know that being proud of who you are (2)

I know I’m not perfect.

I know nobody is perfect.

I know how to throw a nasty slider.

I know I’m sad 3 of my friends left California.

I know that Aroldis Chapman’s fastball can reach 106 mph.

I know that I take longer to do things.

I know a good baseball when I see one, Golden, with grass stains, and the seams are soft, but not so soft that I can’t get a grip.

I know how to say the rosary.

I know that the tree is Stanford’s mascot.

There are a lot of things I know.

Things I Know

By Student A

I know that God and my family will always love me and that I am blessed.

I know that Michelangelo’s Pieta is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Italy.

I know the first 22 elements in the Periodic Table by heart.

I know that people with Autism can do a lot of things really well and they have feelings too.

I know how to run 5 miles without getting tired or sore.

I know that there are 206 bones in the human body.

I know that when my dog Bella bats her hanging bells on the patio door she has to go outside.

I know how to make banana chocolate chip bread without a recipe.

I know a lot about golf but mostly I know that golf teaches me all about life itself.

I know that Ketchikan, Alaska is famous for its totem poles and bald eagles.

I know a lot of things but I know how much I DON’T know and still have to learn too!

Absolutely Almost Class Resources

Yesterday, I posted a guide to use with the novel Absolutely Almost. I’m starting this read aloud with my 5th grade class tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see how my kiddos receive this novel. I loved it, but I’m curious to see if this novel is actually better received by adults than children. Kids are so used to action-packed, plot driven novels like this one. Which makes me want to use this book even more! Students need to hear Albie’s story, and I think delivering it as a read aloud is the perfect way to present it. Without constant action, I speculate that many of my students would want to put this book down if they were reading it independently.  However, as a read aloud, I think they’ll be able to get engrossed in Albie’s character. This novel allows the reader to hear Albie’s internal story, reflect with him and go along with him as he discovers who he is. Hopefully, this will also teach students to appreciate character-driven books. I hope this book is as big a hit in my classroom as I believe it can be. We’ll see! 

I’ve created a few more resources to use as I read this book aloud. Feel free to use them.

Protagonist Character Web


I plan to use the Protagonist Character Web throughout the novel. We’ll identify traits, important actions and sayings as we read the novel. I have a jumbo web that hands on the wall; I complete it along with my students.

Albie’s “Helpful Hints” Fun Printable for Students

prettykind copy

Albie’s last helpful hint to Betsy put a huge smile on my face. This was probably my favorite event in the novel. I think all my students are pretty great they way they are too, so to have a little fun, I plan to cut these out and sneak them in their desks after we read that chapter.

Supporting Character Character Web

supportingweb copy

The character web above would be best used for Albie’s father or Calista. Throughout the novel, students identify traits and provide evidence.

If you’d like to use any of the above resources, click HERE to download the document through GoogleDocs. The formatting looks off in the preview (this happens frequently with uploads to Drive), but everything will look good after downloading.

Absolutely Almost Read Aloud Guide


I just finished reading Absolutely Almost. And. It. Was. Good. This is a must-read for upper elementary school teachers, parents and students.

This is a character-driven realistic fiction novel with an unlikely protagonist, Albie. Albie is a fifth grader who is “absolutely almost”; he struggles doing well in school, being “cool”, or finding something he is a good at. Throughout his life, he’s always been an almost — almost good enough, almost ready. This is a book about being average. To Albie, nothing comes easily.

I follow a reading blog by Katherine Sokolowski who sums Albie up perfectly — “School is hard for Albie. He tries, and tries, but nothing comes easy. Not reading, not writing, not math. He’s not an artist, not a jock, he’s just Albie. He’s good, and kind, and loyal, but he does not stand out. For the most part, he’s ok with that, but his parents aren’t. Albie struggles against their expectations and tries to figure out where he fits in. He is aided by a new babysitter, Calista, who sees Albie for the wonderful person he truly is.”

In this novel, Lisa Graff offers an honest portrayal of a low-average student in a school (and world) where honors is the expectation. This book allows the reader to see inside the mind of a student who is struggling academically, to see that learning doesn’t come easily to us all. Through this novel, students are able to hear the thoughts of an ordinary kid who struggles to meet his parents expectations and understand where he fits in. In the end, we learn that Albie does have a strength, just not the conventional academic kind.

This novel also has many ties to Wonder, so many connections can be drawn. My class read Wonder over the summer, and The Julian Chapter was our first class read aloud. I’m looking forward to keeping the theme of kindness going with this novel, as well as discussing the similarities and differences of the protagonists.

Currently, there aren’t any guides or read aloud resources to use with this novel. I put a guide together for myself. Please feel free to use it and adapt it as you see fit. I hope you find it helpful! Click here to view my guide.