Comprehension Toolkit and Saying Goodbye

We've gotten in our first Comprehension Toolkit lesson.  I wasn't sure how it was going to go, but it was great!  We read Coming to America: A Thanksgiving Story.  It's not your regular Skippy Jon Jones/Lily's Purple Plastic Purse elementary picture book.  It's deep y'all.
It's the story of a family that escapes Cuba to come to America.  It gets into nothing political, but is a "simple" story of a family traveling to America on a small boat.  It is told from a child's point of view.

Needless to say, the challenges they face are a little trickier than what my kiddos and I are navigating in our lives.  This makes it a perfect book for a lesson introducing them to their inner voice.  The experiences the girl and her family go through on their trip are shock the kids and create a lot of questions.

I modeled recording questions and comments my thinking voice was saying on Post-It notes for the first five or six pages.  After those first five or six pages, I had them start recording.   I stopped at the end of each page to give them a chance to record something their thinking voice said to them.  I had given them four post its before they sat down.  They only had to record one thing on each note, but almost every single child drew lines on their post notes as the book progressed so they could continue recording.

My little teacher heart was pitter pattering with joy.  Here are some of their post its:
When I finished the book, I put them in groups of 3 or 4 and told them to use their post it notes to have a conversation about the book.  It was beautiful.  I have always read in professional books these fabulous lessons where the children get in groups and have these deep, amazing conversations.

I did the lessons.  The conversations were never beautiful or deep.  They usually went like this:
"Um, so the book was good."
"Yea, uh, I liked the end."
"The beginning was sad."
Awkward silence.
"So, this weekend we went to see . . . ."

Turns out, I had never given them the tools to have a great conversation.  The Comprehension Toolkit is an amazing resource.  My 8 and 9 years had awesome, deep fabulous conversations on the 15th day of school.

Now this isn't my genius lesson (too bad), but a lesson I took straight from my favoritest resource.

After the lesson was over, they had to choose one of their post-it notes to put on our door.  I saw many a great exit slip chart over the summer.  Like these two:

But neither would work for me.  Two reasons:
1.  I have two sections.  The reality of me taking post it notes down between sections is nonexistent.  I don't have room for two different poster areas except for on the back of my door.  Leading us to problem #2.

2.  Our fire marshal.  The perfecto place for this would be on the back of the door, right?  No paper on the back of the door per the fire marshal.

But you can't keep a good teacher down.  I finally dreamed up this:

It's not paper.  It's VINYL.  Two totally different products.  I used my uh-mazing Silhouette to cut out the letters.  I can have post-its on them every once in a while because "they are temporary in nature."  That's fire marshal code for it's only going to be up there for a very short time.

And lastly, we recently had to say a very sad goodbye.  It was this precious girl's turn to go to the great dog park in the sky.  We'll miss you sweet Stella.


  1. I love that book! Sometimes I read it at Thanksgiving to compare to the Pilgrims or Jamestown, but like the idea of thoughtful response. Also, sorry to hear of your loss, Megan. Hope your family finds comfort in your memories with Stella : )

    Young Daze in 5th Grade

  2. What a great lesson! Thanks for sharing! I love your little vinyl numbers, too. I've been meaning to make an exit ticket chart as well but haven't found any that work for me. Thanks for the idea!:) Lattes and Laughter

    1. PS So sorry to hear about your doggie! Sending good thoughts your way...

  3. Hi Megan. So sorry to hear about your doggie. :(

    I am an education student and just ran across your blog. It is wonderful! I'm your newest follower.

    Thanks, Sharon

    The Tennessee Teacher

  4. Hi!!! Sorry to hear about your dog! LOVE the idea for the back of your door! way to get around the rule!! :)

    Just Diving In

  5. Love the comprehension toolkit...powerful modeling and really digs in deep. We just did the inferring word meanings lesson. Although I teach fourth, I utilize the primary grade kit for intervention for the low low babies :).
    Rock Stars At Work

  6. I'm also just starting the Comprehension Tool Kit and I have found that same problem about the convo but it does get better! lol I am so sorry to hear about your doggie and my thoughts are with you. Good luck with that fire marshal, I'm all about bending the rules ;o)

    Teaching with a Touch of Twang

  7. I love the exit pass posters you posted. I originally had a spot on my white board marked off for them, but post-its do not stick to a white board very well, so I need to make a poster stat. I love to take the exit passes that I really love or the ones that show me a student really isn't getting something and put them in their journals that they use for warm ups with a comment.

    Also, so sorry to hear about your puppy! I know it is not an easy thing.

    Another Day in the Silver Mines

  8. Love your exit poster! And I am so sorry about your dog. :(
    Third Grade All Stars

  9. Hi Megan--so sorry :( Been there and know. This sounds like a great book--thanks for sharing. Eve Bunting always makes me well up.

  10. So sorry about your dog. Losing a family member is never easy. As a follow up to "How Many Days to America?", I checked out a stack of Eve Bunting books, partnered the kids up, and had them practice writing more questions.

  11. Hi, Megan,
    I konw this comment is really late, but I just received your e-mail about this lesson (with the butterflies), and wondered what the Comprehension Toolkit book is. It's too little for my 45-year-old eyes to see well!

    1. Brooke,
      I love the comprehension toolkit. It's a set with six books. Each book contains 3-5 lessons on teaching kids how to THINK while they're reading. I used it previously in 4th grade and wasn't sure how well it would go over with my 3rd grade kiddos, but it's been great! So much of our comprehension is us teaching and then checking the results. I love this resource because it really does impact kids thinking. You can tell I like it just a little. ; )