Saturday, 06 December 2014 21:19

Take 89% Off My Mystery Writing Course for Kids

To celebrate both the holiday season and the recent release of my children's mystery book Chase for Home, I would like to make my mystery writing course for kids on available to you, your children, and your students for just $10.

The course is designed for children 8-12 years of age who are interested in writing their own mysteries. In the easy-to-follow videos and detailed handouts that comprise the course, I take young writers step-by-step from the beginning of the writing process to the end and help them craft stories that keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats! It doesn’t matter whether students are already seasoned mystery writers or brand new to the genre. This course promises to take young writers to the next level.

Latest Course Review
"The Creative Writing Teacher You Wish You Had. The single best mystery writing class I've tried anywhere. Distilled essence of exactly how to write a mystery. Discusses all the elements and then clearly shows you how to put it all together. GREAT for kids, but adults would learn a lot and possibly help them fill in gaps in their understanding." -KB

Click here to learn more about the course and access the 89% discount.

Saturday, 22 November 2014 21:53

Bring Chase Manning into Your Classroom

Thanks for the wonderful response to last week's book release announcement. It's been an exciting time. In this post I would like to share a few of the ways you can incorporate the Chase Manning Mystery Series into your instructional program. 

Chase Against Time and Chase for Home are Level Q on the Fountas & Pinnell scale and appeal to both boys and girls who are seeking fast-paced, engaging independent reading books

• Both books are ideally suited to be used as read alouds and mentor texts during Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop units on mystery and “edge-of-seat” fiction because they include numerous examples of end-of-chapter cliffhangers, red herrings, suspects, motives, and other important mystery elements.

• Please contact me if you are interested in arranging a school visit (Los Angeles area) or Skype visit. Over the past few years, I have conducted numerous book talks in which I describe the process of writing my mystery books, share my original notes and outlines, encourage children to pursue their own writing projects, offer instructional strategies and suggestions, and conclude with a question and answer period. 


Sunday, 16 November 2014 01:21

22 Habits that Empower Students


  • Presenting 9 “Habits of Mind” and 13 “Habits of Character” that promise to enrich your daily instruction and lead to better student learning and behavior. These 22 habits exemplify a “teaching the whole child” approach and address a variety of valuable academic thinking skills, work habits, social skills, and character traits. In this book National Board Certified elementary school teacher Steve Reifman defines each habit in user-friendly terms, describes how to introduce the habits to children, and explains how to foster student improvement with the habits through a series of classroom-tested ideas, strategies, and activities. In addition, Reifman details how Parent Conferences, Student-led Conferences, a morning movement warm-up routine, and discussions of inspirational quotes can all be used to further your efforts to develop enthusiastic, motivated students who work hard, work with purpose, and work well with others.

The book includes a link to a free PDF that contains:
*A printable list of the Habits of Mind and Habits of Character, along with definitions
*A complete set of signs and slides you can use to introduce the habits to children
*A user-friendly rubric that students can use to assess their progress with the habits
*A variety of options that students can use for self-evaluation and goal-setting
*Sample quotes you and your students can discuss to bring the habits to life
*All the printables you will need to implement Student-led Conferences that shine a spotlight on these habits



Riding high in the Spring of his 5th grade year, Chase Manning joins the Apple Valley baseball team, and his clutch hitting leads the squad to within two victories of the school’s first ever league championship. Confidence is high—until Chase’s lucky batting glove turns up missing the day of the semifinal game. Unsure whether the theft represents an attempt to derail the baseball team as a whole or a personal attack against him, Chase must track down the culprit and find the glove before the team boards the bus at three o’clock. Surprising and suspense-filled plot twists fill the pages of this single-day, real-time mystery thriller.

About the Chase Manning Mystery Series

The Chase Manning Mystery Series features single-day, real-time thrillers that occur on an elementary school campus. Written for readers 8-12 years of age by National Board Certified Teacher Steve Reifman, the series launched with the award-winning Chase Against Time, in which fifth grader Chase Manning must investigate the mysterious disappearance of the cello that the school plans to auction off to save its prestigious music program. Chase Against Time has enjoyed rave reviews from children, parents, and teachers. Young readers love the book’s fast-paced, action-packed format while parents and teachers appreciate the book’s kid-friendly tone and content. Chase is now back in the eagerly anticipated sequel, Chase for Home.

Note for Elementary School Teachers and Parents

Chase Against Time and Chase for Home are Level Q on the Fountas & Pinnell scale. Both books are ideally suited to be used as read alouds and mentor texts during Reading Workshop units on mystery and “edge-of-seat” fiction because they include numerous examples of end-of-chapter cliffhangers, red herrings, suspects, motives, and other important mystery elements. If you are interested in teaching children how to craft their own mysteries, check out Steve’s e-book, The Ultimate Mystery Writing Guide for Kids.


What Readers Are Saying

  • "Reifman combines nail-biting suspense with great detail to create an amazing plot."-Kirun Cheung
  • "I couldn't put the book down. I really admire how Chase stands up for himself." -Sara Cooper
  • "A perfect book for both boys and girls of all ages." -Jenny Kean
  • "This book made me think hard." -Ace McAfee

Book Talks & Book Signing Events

Steve has held many Book Talk and Book Signing Events at public libraries, elementary schools, and private homes since the release of Chase Against Time; During these 30-45 minute book talks, Steve describes the process of writing his mystery books, shares his original notes and outlines, encourages children to pursue their own writing projects, offers instructional strategies and suggestions, and concludes with a question and answer period. Steve is also available for classroom Skype visits. To arrange an event, please e-mail Steve.


A few weeks ago I began preparing for my school's annual parent-teacher conference week. I realized that each meeting basically consists of two parts: 1) the time I spend providing general information about the items on the conference agenda (e.g., class policies, units of study, scoring systems, rubrics) and 2) the time I am able to focus on the progress of each child (e.g., strengths, improvement areas, goals, work samples).

To minimize the time I needed to spend on the former and maximize the time I could spend on the latter, I decided to make a short video, and I asked each family to watch it before they arrived at their conference. The video contains the general information that I would normally mention during each meeting. By having everyone watch the video prior to the conference, I was able to jump right into the information that pertained to each specific child and keep the focus there for the duration of the meeting. I found the conferences to be more efficient and effective than the ones I've conducted in the past. An added bonus is that I didn't have to repeat the same information 29 times since I already provided it in the video. Click here to watch.
Every Friday morning before recess, I select a popsicle stick with a student's name on it, and that child becomes our Student Leader for the following week. This ritual has become a class favorite, and the kids love having the opportunity to perform the various responsibilities of the job, such as leading our morning movement warm-up routine and standing at the door after recess, lunch, and P.E. to greet everyone as they enter the room. I think it's important for children to have meaningful opportunities to develop leadership skills, and I also appreciate the fact that choosing a weekly Student Leader allows kids to have their turn in the spotlight. I set aside a bulletin board in the corner of the room for a certificate and invite each Student Leader to post photographs of family members, friends, trips, and other activities so we can get to know that child on a more personal level.

This past week my students and I found a new way to make the week even more special for the Student Leader. It all started when I picked the stick of a child we will call Tracy, who wears a flower in her hair each day to school. Before I excused the class for recess, I jokingly said that everybody's homework over the weekend was to find a flower and wear it in their hair on Monday as a tribute to Tracy's student leadership.

Sure enough, the following Monday, five kids arrived at school with flowers in their hair. When Tracy saw this, she was absolutely beaming. I made a big deal out of this during our morning circle, and even more kids started wearing flowers in their hair for the rest of the week. Our class mission statement includes a sentence that says we want to go beyond the expectations of a typical 4th grade classroom. I explained that if we could find a way to honor our Student Leader each week, we could make that person feel extra special, and it would definitely be a way for us to surpass typical expectations.

Yesterday, I chose a stick, and as a class, we brainstormed ways we could honor the young man who had just been chosen. We came up with ideas such as wearing blue shirts (because he said he liked wearing blue shirts) and doing something to acknowledge his love of reading and volleyball. It will be interesting what the kids come up with. I'm hoping to keep this idea alive throughout the year because it has such potential to strengthen our teamwork and give everyone the type of individual attention that makes us feel unique and special. 
This week I share with you the third and final visual in the set that my students and I have been using during our Reading Workshop to help us improve our comprehension.

This visual focuses on the skill of predicting and includes three main teaching tips.

1) Readers can use their knowledge of the characters to predict what will happen next.

2) Readers can use their knowledge of story structure to predict what will happen next.

3) Occasionally, readers need to revise their predictions as they read.

In case you missed the first two visuals, you can click on the following links to access visuals focusing on the strategies of envisioning and inferring. I hope you and your students enjoy these tools and find them useful.

Click here for a jpeg copy of the predicting visual.
Last week, I shared a visual that my students and I have been using during our Reading Workshop to help us bring to life the strategy of envisioning. This week, I share the visual that we have been using to help us with our second reading comprehension strategy, inferring. As children progress to higher levels of independent reading, they need to be able to combine their own knowledge with clues that authors provide to produce inferences.

Student understanding of inferring increases even more when they perform the following chant while referring to the visual. This chant, along with several others, can be found in my book Rock It! Transform Classroom Learning with Movement, Songs, and Stories.

This "call and response" chant begins when children say the words "story clue,"
put their palms together, and then open the hands as if opening a book. Next, they make the addition sign with their forearms as they say, "plus." In part 3, they point to the brain and say, "my own knowledge." After that, they say "equals" and make the equal sign with their forearms. Finally, they say "inference" and make a capital "I" with their hands: one hand vertical, the other hand going back and forth to make the top and bottom horizontal lines. Doing this chant a few times per day over a period of days leads to excellent results.

Click here for a jpeg copy of this visual.
During our first Reading Workshop unit of the school year, my students and I have been focusing on three important comprehension strategies. To make the learning "stick," I have been using simple visuals that convey the meaning of each strategy in an engaging, user-friendly way.

This week I am sharing with you the visual that brings to life our first strategy, envisioning. For children to understand what they read, they need to be able to see "the movie in their mind" clearly. As teachers, we want to encourage children to picture the story so well that they actually feel like a character in the book.  

Using Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an example, this visual provides a nice introduction to these concepts. The popcorn image located at the top right further reinforces the idea of "watching a movie" as we read. Visuals #2 and #3 are coming soon.

Click here for a jpeg copy of this visual.
In my previous post I mentioned that one of my primary instructional goals for this school year involves increasing the amount of "active learning" that occurs in my classroom. One strategy that has become an early favorite with my students was inspired by well-known presenter Jean Blaydes, and we use it during our 10-15 minute "word work" sessions that conclude our Reading Workshop a few days a week. In the past my students would frequently sit on the rug during word work and gain practice with a variety of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar concepts by correcting sentences that I would show on the board. Kids would work independently to copy the sentences onto their individual dry erase boards and correct the mistakes. We would then come together as a group to go over the correct answers.

This year's approach features a few significant changes. First, instead of having my students copy the sentences, I type the sentences and distribute a sheet to each child. We use transparent "sleeves" that envelop the whiteboards so that when the kids make the corrections with the markers, the actual sheets inside the sleeves stay clean, and I can re-use the sheets in future years. Because the kids are only making the corrections instead of copying entire sentences, we can proceed through each sentence much faster and accomplish more word work in less time.

Second, instead of working alone, every child now has a partner, and the pairs begin each sentence in a standing position. Before the kids sit down to make the corrections together, they "move through" the sentence by acting out specific movements that correspond to the types of changes they need to make. For example, as they read the sentence aloud, the kids spin in a circle every time they encounter a misspelled word. When we correct misspellings on the paper, we circle the word and write the correct version above the circle. So, the spinning corresponds to the circling they do on the paper. At the conclusion of this post, you will find some other examples of the movements we make for different types of corrections. Please e-mail me via this site if you'd like to know moves we make for other types of corrections, or, better yet, simply create your own with your students.

Once the kids have moved through the sentence, they sit down and make the corrections with the markers. After a couple minutes, we go over the answers together as a class. Incorporating movement has added tremendous energy and engagement to our word work, and the kids are paying greater attention to detail than they did under our more sedentary approach. In addition, working with partners allows the kids to help one another more easily and provides an important sense of belonging. In short, the kids are learning more, bonding more, and displaying greater enthusiasm with this active approach. As I mentioned in my book Rock It: Transform Classroom Learning with Movement, Songs, and Stories, movement has the potential to turn potentially dry academic lessons into engaging, multi-modal experiences that kids will remember for a long time. If you use other active learning approaches in your classroom, please contact me. I'd love to share them.

• To show that we need to indent, we do a skier jump from left to right.

• To change a lower case letter to a capital, we duck down to the ground and then rise up and extend our arms (as if doing the wave).

• To change a capital letter to lower case, we start with our arms extended above our heads and duck down to the ground.

• To insert a comma, we hop on one foot.

• To insert a period, we jump on two feet.