Using Picture Books to Teach Transition Words and Phrases

In the past, I've never considered buying pictures books when I hit up the thrift stores and yard sales. Instead, I tend to search for young adult and classic novels. However, after attending HelloLitCon with Jen Jones, a nationally recognized literacy and reading specialist, I was enlightened to the value of pictures books.

After attending HelloLitCon in July, I wrote a donors choose grant for picture books: Picture Books are Powerful Books. I requested 30 children's books to use for teaching a variety of reading and writing strategies. Four months later, a few days before my project deadline, my project was fully funded! I was beyond excited.

My books came in on a Tuesday afternoon; by Tuesday night, I had my lesson plans changed to incorporate these books the very next day. Can you tell I was excited?

Step 1: IDENTIFY MINI-LESSON TOPIC BASED ON STUDENTS NEEDS (??? time varies based on class size and data load)
Based on the data from our previous interim assessment, my students really needed some work on transitions. Even my AP students struggled with knowing which transitions were appropriate in which situations. So I pulled out my picture books and got to work. Once I decided on which books to use, I cut chart paper in half and labeled the halves with types of transitions: introductory, contrasting, time/location, and etc. 

I read through each of my picture books and made sure that each one included an acceptable amount of transition words and examples. I wanted books that would give my students plenty of examples to work with. 

Step 3: READ THE BOOK ALOUD (5 minutes)
If your students haven't read this particular book before, or if it's been awhile, read the entire book aloud without stopping. This isn't time to point anything out or ask questions; just read the book. If you try to work with the content without reading the book, it's likely they won't be able to focus because they're trying to think about what's going on in the story. Do yourself a favor and take the five minutes to read the book to them. They will enjoy it, and it will get them in the right mindset to work and focus. 

Step 4: MODEL THE SKILL aka TEACH A MINI-LESSON (10-15 minutes maximum)
First, I tell my students what we're learning about during this lesson. This particular lesson was about transitions. So, we used a hastily drawn graphic organizer, think two columns and four rows on notebook paper, to discuss the purpose of transitions and the different types of transitions. (I'll try to get a picture of that once I get back to school) Then, I told them that we were going to look at how transitions are used in the book we just read. I use my doc cam for this, but you can also have you students gather around you for this part. 

I show my students each page of the book. If they see a transition word, we add it to a sticky note and place it to the side. Each word gets its own sticky note. We work through the whole book one page at a time. 

Then, we take those sticky notes and place them in the correct chart paper (from step 1) category. We talked about the difference in time and sequence transitions and the difference in cause/effect versus compare/contrast transitions. Once all of those are placed, it's time for students to practice on their own. 

Next, I laid out all of the available options for students and let them choose a picture book. I didn't include the book that we'd read as a class because I wanted them to practice this skill on a new set of material. If you don't have enough books for everyone to have their own book, you can always pair students up or place them in groups of 3-4.  Each student/pair/group also needs a set of sticky notes. You can give them a whole pad of post its, or you can give each student/pair/group a set number based on how many examples you want them to identify. Either way works just fine. 

Step 6: STUDENTS READ THEIR BOOK (5-7 minutes)
This step mimics what I did for them earlier, a read aloud. This allows them to familiarize themselves with their book. Depending on the length and how quickly your students read, this shouldn't take more than 5-7 minutes. Remind them that they're just reading. They're not looking for anything or noting anything yet. 

Once students are done reading, they're going to mimic your mini-lesson. They'll read through the text, write each transition word on a separate sticky note, and then evaluate the word to decide which category it fits into. 

I've got the original anchor charts, with our sticky notes from the whole-class text, around the room. When students are finishing reading and identifying transition words/phrases, they get up and place their sticky notes on the appropriate anchor chart category. 

When everyone finishes reading, noting examples, and evaluating them to place them in the correct location, the work begins. As a class, we start looking at where everyone has placed their sticky notes. If we look at the time/location anchor chart and notice that there is a sticky note that belongs, instead, in the sequence category, we move it to the correct category. We do this for each category. This is a great discussion and learning time because it allows students to discuss why each word works the way it does and in which situations it works best. This part isn't to be skipped since it provides feedback for students. It allows them to make sense of their decisions to place a word in a specific category and gives them the opportunity to discuss why it was or wasn't the best fit for that particular transition word. 


Use a formative or summative tool to see if your students learned from the mini-lesson and application. This is important as you need to evaluate the effectiveness of this type of lesson. You can use a kahoot, a short quiz, a computer based lesson (IXL or Moby Max etc.), a board game, or one of many, many other options. Just make sure your students understand the content before moving on. 

Some things to consider/tips:

Sticky notes: I love using sticky notes for everything, but they're ridiculously expensive if you buy the post-it brand (that actually sticks to things). A suggestion that I have is to sign up for a NAEIR teacher account. It's free and you can buy a ton of sticky notes for a little bit of nothing. I recently bought 21 pounds of sticky notes for around $60. That's a steal considering sticky notes are $1 per pad. 

Children's Books: You can write a grant for picture books which is an amazing option, but if you can't do that/aren't allowed to, there are other options. I've found great children's books for cheap at the goodwill and salvation army thrift stores. You can also shop at yard sales or ask for donations from friends/family/students. One of my favorite options is thrift books. You can get really good, used children's books for around $4 each, which is cheap considering new picture books range from $15-$20 in store. 

Chart Paper: You can also use rolls of paper from IKEA or Amazon for this if you don't have chart paper available. Parchment paper from walmart will also work if you're in a pinch. 

If you're interested in other lessons using picture books, check out this Text Structure Lesson

I'd love to see what you do with this lesson. If you have questions, please feel free to drop them in the comments below or use the contact section to send me an email. I look forward to hearing your great ideas!

First Week of School

After posting a snapshot of some preplanning for the first week of school, I've gotten lots of questions about how I'm going to conquer it all. So, I'm going to break it down for you with explanations and links where applicable. I hope this helps!

Creating a Culture of Reading

As a high school teacher, it can sometimes be challenging to convince students to spend their time reading instead of on their phones or in front of the tv. Me? I'll take a good book any day! Therefore, I try use my love of reading to convince my students to feel the same.

The Holy Grail of Interactive Notebooking

This post was sponsored by Five Star® as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Ok, so in the past, I've written a lot about interactive notebooking. I should have a lot to say about it since I've been doing it for four years and counting. I love how interactive notebooks let students really engage with the content, but they still allow me to provide students with the information they need. They're able to really stop and think about what they're studying and then personalize that content based on their learning style, which is so much better than just copying notes

However, I've faced some challenges in notebooking because of my choice to use composition notebooks. I have to resize all of my handouts because composition notebooks are usually 7.5 x 9.75. That's really time consuming when you're in a hurry. I'd love to use spiral notebooks because of the sizing issue, but then I run into the perforated pages that my students just love to tear out. Ugh! It sometimes seems like no matter how good of an idea something is, there's always some type of obstacle to overcome.

After four years of looking, I've been presented with the answer to my problems. Yes! Five Star® Interactive Notebooks, that I've used for years, has released a line of interactive notebooking supplies. I'm so excited to share these with you!

These notebooks were designed specifically for interactive notebooking. They really thought this through y'all! These notebooks are going to make interactive notebooking so much easier for us and our students. 

There are four different options: Five Star® Customizable Interactive NotebookFive Star® Interactive Notebook, College RuledFive Star® Interactive Notebook, Wide Ruledand Five Star® Customizable Interactive Composition Book. These are seriously awesome. I may or may not have squealed when they came in the mail!

Ok, so lets talk about the basic solid color spiral notebooks first: Five Star® Interactive Notebook, Wide Ruled and Five Star® Interactive Notebook, College RuledThese notebooks come with a nice, sturdy poly cover with an area for a name, subject, and teacher in the top right corner. 
When you open each of the available notebooks, there is a clear plastic page that has different pockets with closure flaps for students to store manipulatives, or spare pieces, in. I love this since we don't always finish up an assignment in one class period. This is a great place to store those pieces that we'll need later. This also rids us of the need to keep an additional folder on hand at all times. Can you say "thank you"? Yes, please!
The next cool part about all of these notebooks is the provided table of contents. It's labeled with a spot for the date, topic/description, and a page number. No more rulers and markers to make a TOC. This comes in handy when it's time to study for finals. Need information on allusions? Check the table of contents. Can't remember how to organize a paragraph? Check the table of contents. See where I'm going?
The inside pages are lined with a left and right margin, a title box at the top, and a page number box at the bottom right corner of the page. I really like that this streamlines the notebooking process. I'm all about creativity, but it doesn't do much good for kids to label things if they don't know where they labeled it or where they put the page number for reference. This layout fixes that.
The last page in this notebook is a full-size foldout reference page that is gridded front and back. They suggest that this page be used for things like a periodic tables or a glossary of terms. However, I'd probably use mine for all of those things that my kids are constantly searching for: log-in information, passwords, websites we use daily, steps to check their email, and their syllabus. This would be fantastic! I can just hear myself saying, "check your reference foldout." Dream come true!
I know what you're thinking though. "Krisanna, you just said that you don't use spiral notebooks because kids tear the pages out." Yes, yes I did say that. BUT...these notebook pages are not perforated, so it's far less likely that kids will just tear a page out hear and there. Problem solved. Another plus? There aren't any holes that students have to write around in the margin. #winning.

The Five Star® Customizable Interactive Notebook comes with all of the features listed above, but the front cover has a plastic slip for students to slide in a piece of paper or decorated printout to make it uniquely theirs. It also has a interior pocket on the inside of the cover in addition to the clear pocket pages. 
The Five Star® Customizable Interactive Composition Book isn't exactly like the other notebooks, but it comes with perks of its own. It still has the table of contents, specific areas on each page for title and page numbers, and an interior pocket. The difference is that this notebook isn't spiral bound. Because of this, there isn't a page of clear pockets and the reference guide doesn't fold out, both of which aren't a deal breaker for me. The game changing moment is now: this composition notebook is 11" x 9 & 1/8", full size! You won't have to shrink your handouts for them to fit. This my friends is a match made in heaven! 

Y'all, although we're just now finishing up the school year, I've already got this on my must have list for the next school year! I'll be really working with these over the summer to figure out which option I like best, but they've all got great qualities. It's going to be so hard to choose which one is the best fit for my students, but you should definitely add this to your students' list once you're ready to think about next year! You can head over to Five Star's ® Interactive Notetaking website to check out these products and more! 

Commonly Confused Words: Freebie

Hey! It's that time of year. We've completed more days than we have left to go. It's also the time of year where my students may try to be lax with their writing and spelling. Ewww. Gross.

I get it. I totally do. That's why I've made a free set of commonly confused words posters. Print these out, hang them up, and have your students reference them...often. :)

Here are some quick examples from the set. 

 Swing by and grab them for free, and if you do, be sure to leave some feedback while you're there!