Serve It Up! ~something fantastic for your high-ability learners~

At our "Back-to-School Open House," students in my reading group are given a note letting them know how lucky I am to be their reading teacher!
#1- Jenga

At our first meeting, we play "Get to Know You Jenga!" It's a great team-building exercise and allows my small group to learn a little about one another. Students answer random questions and then move the pieces (hoping not to be the one who makes it fall!). It's fun and this activity helps to make sharing and risk-taking easier because this group of students quickly become "friends."

"Jenga" is a great ice-breaker!
#3-Reading Glasses
My students love to use "reading glasses" when we read aloud together in small-group.
#4-Brilliant Beads
"Brilliant beads" help learners think brilliantly!
#6-Creative Caps
"Creative Caps" are magic tools we use when we are working creatively on projects!

Given (a lot of) space and time, students worked collaboratively to "construct" the setting from our novel. Not only was this a great art project, it was also a fabulous lesson in compromise! We have also completed this art project individually. Students can select different parts of the book and use the setting to retell the story.


Self-reflection is important because it promotes learning from his/her mistakes and past situations. Ideally, it is a structured way to think positively and make better decisions. Giving students a voice is important! In my small group, we often have individual face-to-face conversations, other times students reflect in their personal journals. We have also used To access the 8-question reflection we used, use FCEJI as your access code. Nearpod is nice because it’s easy for the teachers to run reports of the results. Nearpod can be “live” or “student-paced” – (the access codes are different).

#10-Write Your Own Book
Lakeshore Learning sells these blank books for at reasonable prices! The soft-sided books are $12.99 (set of 10) and the hard-cover books are $34.99 (set of 10)

Students as book authors opens a door for endless opportunities! The biggest challenge is determining what the book will be about! Once the “idea” has been determined, students work to fill the pages and assemble the book in a way that makes sense (beginning, middle, end). Students love writing and love being creative and in total control of the finished product! Before securing the text and pictures in the book, students edit and get feedback (I ask parents for help with this). Olive wrote an ABC book as a companion tool for the novel “The One and Only Ivan.”

#11-Character Study
Students work together to create comprehensive word lists of traits for the main characters in our novels using resources from Teachers Pay Teachers.
Using character lists from TPT, students created character posters using and

Students created advertisements for one of novels using The posters were put on display in our library to motivate others to read one of our favorite novels.

#14-Bananagrams Puzzle
My students used tiles to build word puzzles about the novel we completed.
Students used the puzzles in conversations with other students to promote reading the novel!
#15-Build Background Knowledge

Prior to reading a novel, it is important to build background knowledge so students have a greater understanding of the text, the characters, the setting, etc. Prior to reading "The One and Only Ivan," my students took a trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo to research silverbacks.


Our first task was to write questions and answers based on the novel we read--then we used to create a bingo board. This was a great tool for checking comprehension of the text. My students loved being the "teacher" and having a voice to write appropriate questions & answers.

Grace identified important parts of our novel she believed were critical to telling the story through music.

Grace used this sticky note and GarageBand to create her final project and retell the story.
#20-Acrostic Poems

Acrostic poems can be used in a variety of ways. Students can use their own names and then make self-to-text connections to the story or a character in the story. Students can also use the title of the novel to retell important elements in the story. Another idea is to use build acrostic poems using character traits--this allows students to demonstrate a deep understanding of the characters strengths and flaws. Students love to personalize their work by adding graphics and changing the font color and size. I have appreciated using acrostic poems to find out how literature has deeply impacted our students.

Violet loved that her acrostic poem for "The One and Only Ivan" was almost as long as her body!
#21-"Me" bags

"Me" bags allow students an opportunity to share important facts, ideas and opinions about characters from the reading. Students decorate a bag to represent a character and then put 10-15 items inside the bag that would help describe that character to someone unfamiliar with the story.

Olivia created a "Me" bag for Ivan from "The One and Only Ivan."
Field Trips & Clubs

It is important to give high-ability learners the opportunity to work together in homogeneous groups. In addition to clubs and groups offered to all K-5 students, we sponsor several high-ability clubs (Spanish Club, Gamers, Dash & Dot and Visual-Spatial Workshops). We also take our students on field trips. We annually attend the Plum Creek Literacy Festival at Concordia University in Seward. This is a great (free!) resource for promoting reading and writing!

In September 2016, we had a chance to meet Peter Brown!
Created By
Julie Bergstrom

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