Free and Easy with Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Did you know my Sarah, Plain and Tall Comprehension Packet is my featured freebie on TPT and has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times? That number still staggers me. I just kicked off the year with with this Comprehension Packet with my own class, and I'm here to share six free, fantastic ideas for teaching this beloved book.

The first reading skill I focus on each year is genre, and this novel provides an excellent yet accessible example of historical fiction. What I mean by that is that other than I Survived books, which I love!), many of my students come to me with limited experience with historical fiction. Many upper grades historical fiction books are tough reads, but this one is manageable in most any third, fourth or fifth grade classroom. This book short (58 pages),  has a low word count (under 10,000) and has less than ten chapters (nine to be exact).

The story takes place in the late 1800's in the prairie lands of the midwestern United States. If you haven't read this book, the premise is that a widower with two children places an ad for a wife and a lady named Sarah (who is plain and tall) comes from Maine to give it a shot. The first day we read, we talked about how this seemed like such a strange concept and definitely let us know the story was set in the past. But then I asked, "How is this similar to dating practices today?" It took my kids NO time to make the connection to dating websites and idea #1 was born...

I made a quick, simple Google slide and pushed it out to my kids (we are a Google school system). They had so much fun creating a "dating profile" for either Papa (Jacob) or Sarah (their choice) and called it which the kids thought was hilarious. This was their first attempt at a Google slide to be shared in class, and they did a good job considering. I even included one box where they had to insert a photo that they believed could represent what Papa or Sarah looked like. If your students don't have access to Google, you could use this simple template and delete the text boxes and "insert photo here" before printing.  Click here to access!

A big theme of this story is patience as the narrator, Anna, waits to see if Sarah will like life on the prairie with her family or if she'll return home to Maine, which she talks about often. We looked at these two locations on the map, but I wanted my students to have an even better sense of the contrast of the two settings, so we did some research.

If you don't have Epic set up for your classroom, why not? It's an amazing, FREE resource for online viewing of books, and it has a wealth of nonfiction easy reads. I went on and searched for Sarah, Plain and Tall and immediately found a saved collection by a third grade teacher. I saved the collection to my library, shared the "shelf" with my students, and they did some quick research while making a Venn diagram comparing Maine and the prairie. It was so easy and informative!

One of my favorite (and SIMPLEST) novel activities is to have the students choose a character (animals count!), setting or object from the story, create it and explain its significance to the plot on an index card. This activity makes an eye-catching hall display and gives those artistic learners a chance to express themselves. This works with any book, just wait until you are almost done or completely done reading. Which brings me to my after reading activities...

I have Kahoot quizzes for vocabulary of many of my Novel Units.  We played Kahoot for the first time this past week, and this is a screenshot of my Instagram story that day. My kids were literally squealing with excitement over playing this online game! To access my Sarah, Plain and Tall Kahoot, make sure you have a Kahoot account and click here.

This next idea is the only one that isn't entirely free (unless you count the fact that you must have technology to play Kahoot), but it's WELL worth it! There is a Sarah, Plain and Tall full length Hallmark movie that was made in 1990. I don't always show the movie every time we read a book for which one exists, but this one is a must-show! It's rated G and it follows VERY closely to the plot of the book, often using exact quotes and vocabulary words. It stars Glenn Close (one of my students said, "That's the lady from 101 Dalmatians!") and Christopher Walken. Right now, it's showing on Amazon Prime for only $8.49! To order your own copy on Amazon, click here.

I also created a Movie Companion for my students to follow along with as they watched the movie. You can download a free copy by clicking here.

Last, but not least, download my FREE Sarah, Plain and Tall products on TPT! They are truly everything you need to teach this book effectively. Once you click on the link for the packet, you'll also find links to FREE vocabulary activities and a final test. Please feel free to share feedback, questions or suggestions. I truly love this book and believe you and your students will too!