You all, I was searching for some ideas to teach students about the famous Thanksgiving Day Parade when I found the book, Balloons Over Broadway. This story is based on a true story about Tony Sarg who invented the “upside-down puppets.” When I was young, our whole family would gather around the television to see the parade while my mom was in the kitchen cooking a Butterball turkey!
The Great Puppeteer
Tony Sarg was born in 1880. He was a German American puppeteer and illustrator. He was raised around puppets and inherited his grandmother’s collection. Once he watched a marionette show and wanted to know how the puppets were moving. They would not tell him, so he sat in the front row, attended many shows and drew pictures of the movement until he could figure it out on his own. Tony moved to New York. Macy’s contacted him about his amazing animated puppets. They wanted him to put his puppets in their store windows for Christmas. The windows were a huge success. Thousands of people would gather around the windows to watch the amazing puppets.
Then, Macy’s asked him if he would put his puppets in their first parade. He quickly realized after the parade that the puppets were too small for everyone to see. He worked with a couple others to design the large “upside-down puppets” that we all love to watch today in the parade!
Reading about Tony was fascinating. He had a great sense of humor. One time he floated a monster puppet in the ocean at Nantucket. The joke made national news. You can see a great video capturing the event here. He loved to make toys, illustrate books and made games.
An Idea Born
Learning about his life and reading the book Balloons Over Broadway, inspired me to design a digital escape room for kids to accompany the book. If you wanted to extend the activity you could have kids use permanent markers to color and create their own balloon for a “Hallway Parade” at school. If you wanted to do this lesson during Christmas, you could have students design a puppet window for a department store.
Winter is an exciting time for kids of all ages! For teachers of young children, it’s an especially fun time in the classroom. While the students may be a little distracted by all the holiday events, winter provides a perfect opportunity to join learning and celebrations. Children can learn about holidays through listening to stories, reading, music, art, and even food.
Celebrations from around the world provide an opportunity to discuss geography and culture in a way that gets students excited.
They may see similarities between their own lives and those of children in other countries. They may even enjoy bringing elements of the winter holidays they learn about into their own celebrations!
Holiday celebrations in the classroom are another way to teach students about other cultures. For a class party, foods from other countries could be served. Students could participate in art activities using themes they’ve learned about in their world studies. (
Instead of just focusing on the American traditions they are familiar with, kids can experience the ways that other cultures celebrate with their friends and family. While increasing a connection between kids around the world, these activities will keep students learning during the holiday season!
On each page, students will read a short passage about a winter holiday celebration, trace key words, and draw a picture to demonstrate comprehension. There is a flag to color for each country’s page. They can also locate the country on a map or globe and color the illustrations. Teachers can also facilitate further research into the winter holiday celebrations using the Internet or other media.
Students will have a great time learning about different traditions while practicing their reading and writing skills!
Have you ever felt frustrated or at a loss when teaching the main idea to your students? Sometimes it can feel like you are going around and around without making progress on your students comprehension of the concept. Teaching the main idea to elementary students sounds simple because all the students need to understand is what the story is mostly about. However it can actually be a little tricky.
Reading comprehension itself is one thing (you can check out my tips for reading comprehension here), catching onto the main idea is another, and this can be a difficult concept for young learners. You want your students to truly understand how to find the main idea and supporting details of a story, but to do that they need to know what it is. I have tried different ways of teaching this concept, and after some trial and error, have found what seems to work for my students.
Here are some tips for teaching main idea and details
Utilize visuals. For younger students, the more visuals you have, the better! You can use anchor charts or pictures to get students more practice with finding the main idea of different things.
Use the title. This method is easy and straightforward. Show your students how the title of a story can many times be a clue about what the story is mostly about.
Read together. When you are reading with your students, pause throughout the story to think out loud with your students and ask them comprehension questions. Showing them how to think about the story when you are reading can help them to do it themselves.
Use a graphic organizer. There are a lot of graphic organizers out there, but I like to use one that can help my younger students visualize to better understand. A table doesn’t stay up without the legs to support it. This table top organizer uses that concept to help your students put it all together. The tabletop itself is where you put the main idea and the table legs are where the supporting details go.
This graphic organizer goes along with my reading comprehension passages and questions resource. This resource is a yearlong program that helps teach your kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade students reading comprehension with passages, questions, graphic organizers, posters, awards, and more. This resource is versatile enough that you can use it with any of the stories you read with your students.
Some of the topics covered include:
Cause and effect
Fact and fiction
72 different reading comprehension passages
Do you have any tricks for teaching main idea? Let me know in the comments!
As a teacher, you know that family involvement is an important aspect of developing successful learners. Studies show that when families are involved in students learning, the students are more likely to succeed. However, it can be hard to find activities that families actually want to do together and that aren’t too time consuming.
The Turkey in Disguise project incorporates listening, writing, and problem solving in one activity. In a busy classroom, finding activities that address multiple objectives is necessary. When they are fun for students and parents as well, that’s even better!
This fun turkey project includes everything you need to get your students’ creative juices flowing. First, students will listen to a read-aloud featuring a turkey that tries several disguises to save himself from being Thanksgiving dinner.
Then, they will work with their families to come up with a disguise to protect their turkey. They will use their writing skills to describe the disguise. This simple project will engage students in creative problem solving, writing for a specific purpose, and making connections to text. As an added bonus, they will enjoy getting creative with their families.
What ways do you use to get families involved in learning? Let me know in the comments!
If you are teaching VIRTUAL, try the digital version of this activity here.