Teacher Talk with Kelly and Randi

December 2018 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Happy Holidays! This month we are bringing you our best holiday-themed ideas for inferring, helping students use description in their writing, and a children's book recommendation for math! We also have new professional learning opportunities coming up this winter! Best wishes and happy teaching friends.

-Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson

Making Inferencing Fun!

Teaching students to infer is essential to becoming a proficient reader. When we really dig deep into the strategy of inferring, we notice that it is a skill students (and adults) are already doing each and every moment of the day. Making an inference is making a decision or claim about something using the evidence we are seeing or hearing. Whether we are deciding which food you want off the menu (based on what sounds appealing), or deciding if someone is a good friend (based on their actions and words), we are making inferences all the time! Here are some fun activities to engage students in making inferences throughout the school day.

Primary Ideas

Guess Who?

Play this guessing game using holiday themed figures! Have students use clues to make inferences about a holiday symbol. When students have made an inference, teachers can ask students to provide the clues or textual evidence that guided their thinking. This a great quick game to play while lining up, taking a bathroom break, or even waiting in the lunch line.

Example: Gingerbread Man

I am not a human.

I have 2 legs and 2 arms.

I can run really fast.

I smell delicious.

You can't catch me!

"I think it is a......"

"What was your evidence for that inference?"

Hum It Out

One of my favorite inferring activities is called "Hum It Out". First choose a poem or short read about a topic students know something about. Next choose a word within the text that you are going to hum out (instead of say). Read the text aloud to your students, humming out the word of choice. After every couple of sentences, have them write down what word they think fits in the blank. Ask students to cite specific text evidence to support their guess. Their guesses will change as they add more textual evidence to their schema. When you're finished reading aloud, have all your students share out their thinking about the mystery hummed out word. Finally, reveal the hummed out word to your class. Recap by re-reading the text aloud without the word being hummed out.

Example: The Rat (Seymour Simon)

Elementary Ideas


Riddles are a fun way to get students using textual evidence to make inferences. Start with reading some holiday riddles about Santa Claus or a snowman with students. Have students make inferences and give evidence for their reasoning. Take this activity a step further by having students create their own riddles. You can use the easy format below to write your own riddles or have students create riddles themselves.

What am I?

I have 4 legs.

I eat hay and grass.

I am a mammal.

I can fly at night.

I love helping Santa.

What am I? (A reindeer)

Get our FREE Holiday Riddle PDF.

Secondary Ideas

Secondary Grades

What is the Text NOT Saying?

Mix up typical reading comprehension questions by asking students to focus on what the text does NOT say. This will require learners to think about the text in a new way and get inside the author's head. When students have to think about what it doesn't say, they are having to dig into the author's brain for purpose and motivation. They must think not only as the writer, but as the reader.


"What is the text saying here?" (overall message)

"Now, what is the text not saying?" (Author's feelings, motivations, or purpose)

Creating Social Media Posts for Characters

Have students create a tweet (Twitter), Instagram post, or Facebook post to show the character's feelings, motives, or changes in relationships. Provide students with a checklist of what must be included based on the standards.

Example: 7.6B (Fiction) Analyze the development of plot through the internal and external responses of the characters, including their motivations and conflicts.

Learning Target:

I can analyze the response of the character based on their motivations.

I can explain the character's response based on motivations or conflicts.

Create a social media post as the character (blank). Be sure to explain why the character internally or externally responded to the situation. Give textual evidence to illustrate the character's motives or conflicts.

Is this YOU?

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Adding Descriptions to Student's Writing

Sometimes when we review our students' writing we might feel like it's lacking the "pizazz" needed to make it interesting for the audience. Here is a quick idea to get students adding meaningful adjectives to their writing.

Use the book Animals Black & White by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes as a mentor text for description. The author gives descriptive clues to help the reader make an inference about which animal she is describing. The students will have to put those clues together to infer the correct animal. This is a great opportunity to show students that without descriptive words and phrases, the reader would not be able to answer simple questions like"What am I?", "What kind?", or " Where?"

Task: Challenge students to work in pairs and choose a holiday object (Christmas tree, Gingerbread house etc.) Create a 2 page riddle on the selected topic. On the first page, write two descriptive sentences about the subject, followed by the question "What am I?" On the second page, write two more descriptive sentences to further elaborate on the topic.

As they write, they will need to ask themselves the following questions:

  1. What are some interesting facts or details I want to share with my audience?
  2. What words or phrases will help my reader to visualize my subject? Could I be more specific?
  3. Have I elaborated on the topic so that I included interesting sensory details?

Take it a step further: Compile the student's writing and bind them together to make a class holiday book. Students can read and make inferences using the adjectives list of their peers.

There is also a Baby Animals in Black & White too!

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Using Children's Literature for Math Problem Solving

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, by D.B. Johnson

Summary: When Henry and his friend agree to go thirty miles to Fitchburg to see the country, they each choose very different methods of travel, based on their very different approaches to life.

This beautiful book has so many uses in an elementary classroom. The theme will spur lots of conversation around what is more important: the journey or the destination? Your students will be able to make predictions using their knowledge of other stories and their own personal experiences. .

In math, students can use the text to practice the strategy "guess, check, and revise" as they predict how much a train ticket might cost. They will be able to check and revise their predictions as they read the text and add the payments the friend receives as he does various chores. How much did it cost to ride a train in the 1800's?

This text could also be used for estimating the length of time it might take to walk thirty miles.

Each page presents a mathematical situation that can challenge your students' thinking. Students will need to use background knowledge throughout the text to connect to the author's message and the mathematical situations. This is such a fun book for practicing problem solving!

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Shout Out to Douglas Elementary!

Using Learning Targets and Success Criteria in Kindergarten

Last week I visited Douglas Elementary in Tyler, Texas. I just loved seeing the kindergarten students in Mrs. Lestage's and Ms. Green's class use the learning targets and success criteria as they were working in literacy centers. Children could tell me what the target was and how to use the success criteria to "hit the target." They even turned the targets around into daily goal statements. I think these children are on their way to a life of empowered, self-directed learning!

Countdown to STAAR Reading

February 16, 2019

Saturday Virtual Seminar

9:00am - 12:00pm CST

During this seminar, experience activities and projects that target specific STAAR reading and writing processes, skills and strategies. Discover the difference between test review and test practice and how to incorporate both into daily instruction. You will leave with ideas and activities to help you create an action plan that maximizes practice time and provides “just right” practice for each student. Learn motivation and goal setting techniques to use with students. Registration is limited to 30 participants. Register today! Click here for more info.

Teaching Comprehension Strategies (Figure 19)

February 4, 2019

8:30am - 3:30pm

San Antonio, TX

Grades 2-12

In this energizing, fast-paced seminar, educators will learn research-based strategies students need to use to process a variety of texts. Take your students from think alouds to literature circles as they learn to think about the text and beyond. Explore ready-to-use techniques and activities to help student master Figure 19 Comprehension Strategies. Kelly Harmon will provide instruction, activities, and ideas for engaging students in close and recreational reading. Space is limited to 50 seats. For more info, click here!

Bring a Training to Your Campus!

We offer onsite and virtual trainings! At Kelly Harmon & Associates, we customize each training to meet the needs of our learners. Choose from one of our titles or we can create a training specifically for you. Contact us today for more information. We are currently booking May 2019 to Fall 2019.