Tag Archives: Literacy Strategies

Getting Students to Think Outside the Box

We are always looking for ways to get students to think outside the box and to expand on their thoughts.  My gifted education supervisor gave us the book, Making Thinking Visible, in hopes that we’d use some of the routines in the classroom.  I’ll be the first to say that I immediately thought of this as just ANOTHER thing to do, but quickly changed my mind when I opened this book.

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 8.14.12 PMI’m not much of a reader, so I randomly picked what I thought was  one of the shortest routines and started reading.  This was a routine called, Step-Inside.  This allows students to step inside the shoes of a character or object from a book, passage, picture, or poem.  This is a wonderful routine to use when you want students to open up their thinking and look at things from a different point of view.

I used this with my first graders.  We were already in the middle of a study on the book, Charlotte’s Web, and Step Inside worked perfectly.  I gave my students some academic choice by allowing them to choose if they wanted to “step inside” Zuckerman’s barn as Wilbur or as Charlotte.  At this point they were given Post-It notes with the chosen name to use for answering the proposed questions.

  • What does Charlotte/Wilbur see, feel, notice in the barn?
  • What might she/he know, understand, or believe?  Why?
  • What might she/he are deeply about?
  • What might she/he wonder about or question?


Notice the keyword is “might” in each question.  This is because we don’t truly know what anyone or anything else is feeling.

After all the questions were answered we went back through each question and discussed the student responses.  This thinking routine helps students explore perspectives and develop empathy.

Our next step is to use what we learned from this thinking routine and create a writing piece from the point of view  as our chosen character.  They, of course, will be writing in first person.  The sentence starters I will be giving them are:

  • Hello there, I’m Wilbur______________________________.
  • Salutations, I’m Charlotte __________________________.

This activity really requires students to think outside the box and look at things from a different perspective.  So far, I’ve been really impressed with the depth my first graders have gone to really “become” their character.  I can only imagine how they will grow the more we explore this thinking routine.

Have you used any Visible Thinking Routines in your classroom?

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Sight Words: 4 Interactive, Fun Ideas

To type “sight words” into Pinterest will result in hundreds of ideas on how to teach this important subject. I have, however, got my own list of Sight Word activities which I love to use for remediation and practice…

Sight words

An active activity…
Treasure Hunt Sight Words is a lovely outdoor game. It can be done in the garden or on the school field. If the weather does not play along, the school gym would also work. I printed full sets of sight words onto different colored stockcard. (I use these for various other games as well – meaning the sets don’t get mixed up.) Decide on the desired words and take some from each colored pack (so you would have maybe 10 green, 10 yellow and 10 blue words – all of which are different, although, you might decide to have some words repeated but in different colors). Strategically hide these words around the garden. Students then need to race to find a word. Once a word is found, the student returns to the teacher and reads the word. They then need to complete a task in order to move on to find the next word. For example, if they return with a yellow card, they need to do walk to the wall with a bean bag on their head, if they return with a green card they need to hula with a Hula hoop and if they return with a blue card they need to bounce a ball on a racket three times. The aim is to get as many cards as possible.

Treasure hunt

This is such a fun, active activity which is sure to burn off some energy AND get the heart pumping!

A thinking activity…
Astronaut and Aliens: The aim is for Astronaut to try and catch Alien and Alien needs to avoid Astronaut. Astronaut rolls the die and reads the sight word at the top of the pile. If he gets it correct, he moves the number indicated on the die towards Alien. Alien, in turn, moves away from Astronaut when it is her turn to read and roll. Watch out though… there are obstacles along the way which need to be avoided!

Astronauts and Aliens

This is a great activity for thinking and planning as well as practicing sight words!  Click on the picture or here to download the game board for FREE.

A speedy activity…
Race Time is a fun, competitive game that can be played at home or in pairs in the classroom. Students have their own set of words, either those prescribed by the teacher to the whole class or a set of words suited to each individual’s needs. These words are then written in the race track with a dry wipe marker (if the race track is laminated it can be used a number of times with different words). A partner or parent then times the student, using a stopwatch, as they make their way through the words by reading them one at a time as fast as they can. As soon as they get to the end, and read the last word, the timer is stopped. The time is then recorded on the record sheet. The aim is to try to improve on the previous time. Set an attainable goal (time) for students to aim towards. Once this time has been achieved, the next set of words can be written on the board.  Grab this game for FREE by clicking here or on the image.

Race time


A drilling activity…
Stop by my store to for a Christmas Sight Word PowerPoint. This PowerPoint automatically flashes sight words in 1, 3 and 5 second intervals. It can be used as a whole class activity to drill the necessary sight words.



I’d love to know how your students took to these activities!

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Fifteen Fabulous Reasons to Use Quick Writes in Your Class!

Since this is my first post to this blog, let me start by saying I’m over-the-moon excited to hop aboard and join the two-step! I’m Sherri of “Literary Sherri” and I bring 22 years of teaching experience, mostly in Middle School English Language Arts, to this dance.

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I’m especially passionate about literacy, so the vast majority of my contributions will be literacy-based. Posts such as this . . .

Are you using Quick Writes in your class?

WHAT: Quick Writes (a fancy way of saying, “We’re going to write a quick response to a writing prompt”) is a versatile literacy strategy used to develop writing fluency, build the habit of reflection into learning, and informally assess student thinking. Quick Writes prompt learners to respond in 10 minutes or less to a given prompt, then share their response with peers. (I try to give students 10 minutes to write on most days – but some days we can only spare 5-7 minutes. No worries – this is informal writing!)

WHY: I’ve done Quick Writes with my students for years and I really believe it’s one of the most important activities on our agenda! I learn so much about my students that I would never know otherwise. Their writing helps me get to know students on a more personal level, builds rapport, and fosters a nurturing and caring classroom environment! Quick Writes (when shared aloud) frequently prompt my students to laugh together, celebrate together, and offer support to one another with hugs, fist-bumps, or high-fives.

Quick Writes also help students think critically about significant issues and broaden their worldviews as they hear their peers’ viewpoints. The most important ideas are often the most difficult to articulate. Quick Writes help students learn to articulate their thoughts in a safe environment, knowing the content of their writing is not going to be criticized.

HOW: When students enter the classroom, the Writing Task Card of the day is displayed using a document projector. Students go directly to their seats, open their writing journals, and choose one of the prompts to write about. This allows the teacher to care for housekeeping items, such attendance, lunch orders, checking homework, etc. while students are actively engaged in a productive learning activity.

If I finish my housekeeping chores with time on the clock to write, I write in my own journal. Students love it when I join them on a Quick Write! So without further ado, here it is . . . Fifteen Fabulous Reasons to Use Quick Writes in Your Class:

Quick Writes

When used consistently, Quick Writes:

  • Help students brainstorm their thoughts
  • Activate prior knowledge
  • Help students make personal connections
  • Promote reflection
  • Foster critical thinking
  • Prepare students for discussion
  • Increase background knowledge
  • Broaden students’ worldviews (when shared)
  • Reinforce vocabulary and language development
  • Informally assess student knowledge about a given topic
  • Increase engagement in Think-Pair-Share activities
  • Increase writing fluency
  • Improve writing organization
  • Increase students’ confidence in their writing abilities
  • Develop skilled thinkers

Those are some pretty fabulous reasons to implement Quick Writes, yes?!? I’m in the process of developing Writing Prompts for secondary teachers to use as Quick Writes (meaning, I’ve finished 4 months and intend on having the rest of the months finished before each month rolls around!) If you’re interested, here’s a link to November’s writing prompts:

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Happy (Quick) Writing!
Literary Sherri


Fifteen Fabulous Reasons to Use Quick Writes in Your Class was written by Literary Sherri. If you enjoyed this post, connect with me on Bloglovin, FacebookPinterest, TSU, and TpT!