Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Literacy Strategies for Festive Fall Lessons, Part 2

Editor's Note: This blog was previously published, we're re-sharing it today as the Halloween season begins.  


By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger

If you're as excited as I am to use Halloween-themed leveled readers to help struggling readers, then continue reading this post wherein I'll explain how you can teach literacy strategies with fun fall reading materials. The focus of part two will be about using level I books as a part of your next Halloween-themed guided reading lesson for first and second-grade students. If you missed the first part on using leveled books between levels C–F for kindergarten and first grade, you can read it here !  

                                                                                                     Jack-o'-lanterns are tons of fun to make at school and at home. This is why the first level I book that's great for an autumn lesson is Jack-o'-Lantern Pie from the Kaleidoscope Collection , which is also available in Spanish . Common Core State Standards for reading literature call for students to retell stories by referring to key details and events. Since this book is about a family that follows steps to make a pumpkin pie, your students can practice sequencing events in the correct order to improve retelling. 

You can create a sequencing activity by having students write sentences or illustrate pictures. In the example shown below, you can have students improve writing by completing a sentence from the sequencing word you provide in the box on the left side. Then you can encourage students to illustrate each sentence in the box on the right. Be sure there are enough writing and illustration boxes for each key event in the book.

  • Ask students to predict what they think the book will be about based on the title.
  • Ask students if they have any prior knowledge about making pumpkin pie.
  • Read Jack-o'-Lantern Pie to the class.
  • Review with students the steps the characters took to make a jack-o'-lantern pie.
  • Write the important events on sentence strips prior to the lesson and place them on a chart out of order. Show students the sentence strips and ask them to help you rearrange the strips in the correct order.
  • After practicing as a class, ask students to retell the story to a partner. Monitor each pair to make sure everyone includes each key event.
  • You could also give students a blank sequence chart with sequencing words as a prompt in each box that is meant for students to write sentences. Then they can illustrate each key event of the story.

                                                Many students are afraid of eight-legged creatures that spin webs, but Spiders is a level I book from Fables & the Real World written by an author who has a different opinion. Since Common Core Standards for reading informational texts ask for students to identify an author's main purpose of a text, you can use this book to help students use supporting details to determine the author's opinion.

  • Explain that authors write for many purposes and that sometimes when authors have an opinion of something, they may share it with their readers to entertain, to inform, or to persuade. Ask students to name books they've recently read in class with different purposes. Ask them to explain the purpose of each book they name.
  • Ask students to share their opinions about spiders and to explain why they feel that way. Write students' opinions and supporting details on the board.
  • Give students a purpose for reading by telling them you want them to listen carefully to understand why the author wrote the book.
  • Read Spiders to the class.
  • Review some of the students’ opinions of spiders from your earlier discussion. Ask students if they think the author agrees with the opinions written on the board.
  • Ask, "What evidence do you see in the text that supports your answer?"  Guide students to pages that offer more supporting statements in the text about helpful spiders.

                                               If you're looking for another first and second grade book that will help your students locate key facts by using nonfiction text features, then Spiderwebs is a great resource. This nonfiction book's table of contents, bolded words, glossary, and index provide a great way to help students find important information while reading.

  • Talk to your students about where they can find a table of contents, headings, glossary, and index. Ask what type of information each feature has, and ask how it may be helpful. For example, try asking, “Where would I look if I want to know what a new word means?”
  • Read Spiderwebs to the class. As you read, model important reading skills, such as looking at the table of contents to find headings in the text or flipping to the glossary after coming to a bolded word.
  • Give students their own copy of the book. Ask students questions that begin with “Where would I look . . . ” and have them show you where they found the answer to your question in their own copies. For example, you can ask, “Where would I look if I want to know what spinneret means?” Students should respond by finding the word in the text to see that it's bolded. Then they should turn to the glossary to find the word's definition.
  • To help them use the table of contents effectively, you can ask, “Where would I look if I want to find information about using silk lines?" Students should respond by opening the book to the table of contents where they will find that the section about using a silk line is on page 8.
  • After reviewing and practicing the use of several different text features, encourage students to develop their own questions to ask the class that begin with “Where would I look . . . ”

There are so many engaging ways to connect elements of the fall season and Halloween festivities with Common Core Literature and Informational Text Standards. With a range of text types, you'll easily improve students' comprehension skills while fostering a love of reading. Don't forget to check back often for more engaging lesson ideas!


Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog .