Teaching Characterization Through Spring Mentor Text

It's spring! And, there are so many wonderful books you can use for teaching reading and writing skills. The Reading Crew has joined together to share our our love of literacy. We have a collection of ideas and lessons in teaching mentor text. In this post, I've provided you with a wonderful spring book for teaching characterization through spring mentor text. (Make sure to look for the secret word typed in BLUE.)

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}


Did you know that butterflies were once believed to be evil? They were even called "Summer Birds." Back in the middle ages, people believed that butterflies and other insects were born from mud by a process called "spontaneous generation."

Summer Birds, The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle, focuses on a certain period of Maria Merian's life. At the age of 13, Maria set out to disprove the theory by studying caterpillars. Maria had to study in secret to so she wouldn't be accused of witchcraft. When she captured and studied the butterflies, Maria illustrated her findings with detailed notes and sketches. Maria eventually became a scientist, an artist of plant and animal books, and an explorer. During that time period, women rarely traveled.

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}

Try reading Summer Birds to introduce a life cycle unit. Students will understand the importance of observation, the development (life cycle) of plants and insects, and documentation. And, this young girl had a huge impact on science and art.

As students read a book or story, they learn to visualize the characters in the setting and paint a picture in their minds of the characters. Students can think of the characters as real people. In this biography, Maria is real. Students may even develop emotional connections to the characters and understand how they may act and feel about a situation or around others.

In the book Summer Birds, students learn about a young girl who displayed perseverance, independence, curiosity, creativity, and determination in a time when people were superstitious and women had no voice.


Need ideas for teaching character traits? This post gives you ideas in teaching characterization with spring mentor text. You'll love the book I'm sharing. Summer Birds is about Maria Merian who used beautiful illustrations to prove butterflies were not evil.

- When introducing Summer Birds, I suggest that you go through the book with your students and enjoy the unique illustrations. By studying the illustrations, students see that the book is about a young girl who catches butterflies, the life cycle of the butterfly, and a young girl loves to draw.

- You may first choose to read the Historical Note at the back of the book so the students understand more about Maria Merian's life.

- I also suggest displaying Maria's art which illustrates the life cycle of insects and plants.

- Ask students if they know what "Summer Birds" means and why do they think this name is used in the title? (It's a medieval term for butterflies and moths.)

Need ideas for teaching character traits? This post gives you ideas in teaching characterization with spring mentor text. You'll love the book I'm sharing. Summer Birds is about Maria Merian who used beautiful illustrations to prove butterflies were not evil.

I used Wordcloud.com and Google Slides to create the activities for Summer Birds. With Google Slides, students can collaborate during the book study and not have to worry about paper and pencil. When downloading the Google Slides, you will be prompted to make a copy for each student and save in your Google Drive. I did include two pages of character trait activities for those who wish to not use Google Slides. This will help you in teaching characterization.


1. Good or Bad Traits

In describing characters in a book, students may think of the characters as being good or bad. Ask them to give examples of good traits? Then, ask your students to give examples of bad traits. This is a great opportunity to teach vocabulary with words such as sincere, driven, motivated, hateful, mean-spirited... Instead of using an anchor chart, try using word cloud applications with your students. (I had to add additional words about the book to get enough words for the design.)

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}

2. Physical Traits vs Character Traits

Students sometimes have trouble telling the difference between what a character looks like with your own eyes and how the character feels, their actions, and personality. To tell the difference, have your students to list the physical characteristics of Maria and then list all of her character traits. Students can use the book to look at Maria and write down all of her physical traits. Then, close the book and list her character traits. Character traits cannot be seen. This is information gained from the character's actions, feelings, and what he/she says.

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}

3. Inferring Character Traits

Authors may indirectly indicate the character traits through their writing. Character traits can be inferred through dialogue or the character's actions in the book. The book Summer Birds is written in first person, so there are no quotes of what Maria says. Through reading, there's text evidence of Maria's thoughts and actions that helps students infer the character traits.

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}

Need ideas for teaching character traits? This post gives you ideas in teaching characterization with spring mentor text. You'll love the book I'm sharing. Summer Birds is about Maria Merian who used beautiful illustrations to prove butterflies were not evil.

Your students may want to learn more about Maria Merian and her work as an artist and scientist. I've provided these Google Slides so your students can research to learn more about Maria, her art, and accomplishments. I've also included a slide of the life cycle of the butterfly. The boxes fade out to display a visual image of each stage of the life cycle. With everything included in this post, you'll be all set for teaching characterization!

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use the book Summer Birds. Your students will learn how Maria Merian used illustrations to change how butterflies were viewed. With the FREE Google Drive download, your 2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade classroom or home school students will better understand the concept while working on necessary reading comprehension skills. {second, third, fourth grader - freebie}

Click on the image below to download your free character traits activities.

Need ideas for teaching characterization or character traits? This post gives you ideas with a spring mentor text. Click through to see how to use Summer Birds.

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Spring Project Based Learning: Environment, Animals, & Economics

For a break during or after testing, try implementing a spring project based learning unit. Your students are guaranteed to be engaged with hands-on, real-world challenges and activities. With project based learning, curriculum standards will still be covered, along with 21st century learning skills. In this post, I'll provide you will pbl units about the environment, endangered species, and economics. These units can even be used for Earth Day. Let's celebrate spring with project based learning!

Spring Project Based Learning is a great, hands-on way to get your students thinking about and solving real world problems. This post shows you PBL units about the environment, endangered species, and economics. These will work great for your upper elementary 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classroom or home school students. You'll be covering the curriculum standards AND 21st Century learning skills. What more could you want? {third, fourth, fifth graders, springtime}
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Using Online Resources to Study Women in History

As an instructional technology specialist, I always emphasized the importance of learning about the history of technology and important people who invented tools and techniques we use today. One famous woman in the history of technology is Dr. Grace Hopper. With National Women's History Month being celebrated in March, I've provided online resources to research biographies about important women in history.

Find great online resources for various social studies research projects, but particularly for learning about women in history in the upper elementary classroom. This blog post gives you great, credible online sources where students can find great information - including the Library of Congress, Newsela, WhiteHouse.gov, Bio.com, and EdPuzzle. Click through to see how you can use these tools with your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom and homeschool students today.


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Why Teach Media Literacy? Distinguishing Between REAL and FAKE News

Why teach media literacy? With information overload, it's becoming more and more difficult for our students to distinguish between real and fake news. A recent Stanford study has reported that today's students lack the skills to determine the difference. Media Literacy is an important skill to teach in today's classroom.

Help upper elementary, middle school, & high school students with media literacy by teaching them to distinguish between real and fake news. Learn why what students research and read needs to be up-to-date. Watch videos learning more about legitimate websites, and find out what to look for to spot great information. Tips and tricks are included in this blog post. {3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade classroom or homeschool students, reading, writing, research, PBL}

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Ideas for Teaching Digital Citizenship With EdPuzzle

Classrooms all over the world are sharing the many innovative ways technology can be used in learning, which is why today's post is all about teaching digital citizenship

"Digital Learning Day was started as a way to actively spread innovative practices and ensure that all youth have access to high-quality digital learning opportunities no matter where they live." 

I'm sharing ideas with 5 other technology lovers from the Tech With Us Community. We are teaming up to share our tips in teaching Digital Citizenship which can be infused into your curriculum throughout the year. 

Celebrate Digital Learning Day (or any day where you want to incorporate technology) by using EdPuzzle in the classroom. This post will show you how to find and customize great videos to use with your primary, upper elementary, and middle school students. You'll be teaching digital citizenship in no time! Click through to see example videos and get started today! {Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade classroom or homeschool, computers, lesson plan, unit study}
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Teaching Tolerance and Acceptance Through Project Based Learning

At most main intersections, you will see signs that say, "Will Work for Food!", "Former Vet", "Lost My Job", "Two Kids", "Anything Will Help."

How do you react when you see a homeless person? Do you wonder if you should give them some cash, a Granola bar, or water? Or, just try to ignore him or her and act like the person isn't there. Treat the homeless as if they are invisible. We can help by teaching tolerance and acceptance to our students through project based learning.

Allow your upper elementary, middle school, & high school students to research the different causes and effects of homelessness. Then use this project based learning unit to allow student to plan a community for the homeless with services and activities. This PBL unit focuses on a real world problem, while also incorporating 21st Century skills. You'll also be teaching tolerance and acceptance of others. Great for the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th grade classroom or homeschool.

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Building Growth Mindset During Project Based Learning

Building growth mindset does not have to be a challenge, especially when integrated with project based learning (or PBL). Stick around to learn more. 

Building a growth mindset in your upper elementary students does NOT have to be challenging. Learn how to integrate it with your project based learning unit. Check out the PBL video here, and get five ideas for how you can start this in your 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom today. Resources and book recommendations are also included. Click through now to learn more! {third, fourth, fifth, sixth graders}

"Every time they (students) are pushed out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in the brain can form new stronger connections and over time, become smarter." - Carol Dweck, Stanford University psychologist 

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Apps for Setting Project Based Learning Goals

If you're like me, every year my goal or New Year's Resolution is to lose weight and spend less money. Even though these are great goals for me to achieve, I need an organized, systematic way to achieve my goals. And, setting goals helps me with short term and long term motivation. After I decide on my achievable goals, I need to decide what tasks I need to complete in order to achieve these goals. 

In setting goals for our students, especially during a project based learning, there are important elements we need to remember. Read more to learn these elements and about a great app I use to help students in setting project based learning goals.
For setting project based learning goals, I recommend several including Mindmeister, Popplet, Idea Sketch, and Simple Mind. This blog post highlights using Simple Mind for Mindmapping. I've included a sample as students learn how to use the app.


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Random "Apps" of Kindness: Teaching Character Development


Teaching your students different ways of showing acts of kindness is important in teaching character development. Today, with the emphasis on anti-bullying, there are many ways for students to do good deeds to show empathy, appreciation, and display a caring attitude toward others.

Teaching character development does not have to be difficult with these random "apps" of kindness. See which of the six would work best for your students to share some random acts of kindness in the classroom. It's a great way to integrate technology into your classroom, homeschool, or your character education lessons. Click through for all the details and to see how you could make these work with your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th grade classroom or homeschool students.

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Using Mentor Text to Study Folktales

This post is about using mentor text to learn about folktales from other cultures. The Polar Bear Son is a beautiful tale that I've used as an example. Freebie included.

The Inuit people inhabited the Arctic regions of Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, and Canada. During the long, dark winters, families would play games and tell stories. The stories were about animals, strong hunters, and the supernatural. The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Taleretold and illustrated by Lydia Dabcovich, is a story that has been handed down for generations. It's a tale about an old woman who finds a polar bear cub and raises it as her son. Even though the old woman sends the polar bear away, he remains faithful by continuing to supply her food.

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