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January Reading Activities for the Upper Elementary Classroom

January is cold and dark, and did I mention cold?  But there’s so much fun and whimsy that comes with this wintery month too.  Welcome your students back to the classroom and help them get back into the “school routine” with some fun January reading activities designed for the upper elementary classroom.

January Reading Activities

January Reading Activities

January reading passage with comprehension questionsYour students are going to love these January themed non-fiction reading passages.  Your students will read about two important January holidays, New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and two not-so-well-known January holidays, National Popcorn Day and National Pie Day.

Each of these high interest passage includes  reading comprehension questions to work on a variety of important comprehension skills.  Students will practice:

  • reading for details
  • vocabulary
  • supporting answers with text evidence
  • writing short answer responses

and more reading skills!

In addition to the nonfiction passages, your students will also get practice with reading and understanding poetry.  Poetry is one of the genres that is most difficult for students, so practicing poetry comprehension throughout out the year can really help.  Students will work on comprehension and identifying poetic elements.

January poetry with comprehension

January Center Activities

These January activities will help your students focus on specific language arts skills that connect to reading and reading comprehension.  While you will love the skills based activities, your students will love having fun while learning.  These activities are great for independent centers, whole class instruction and small group instruction.

1. Genre Matching Game

genre matching gameBeing able to identify the genre of a text is an important skill that can help students in understanding the text.  By determining the genre, students can better understand the reading and its purpose.

Through this activity, students will work on identifying the following genres:

  1. non-fiction article
  2. science fiction
  3. legend
  4. historical fiction
  5. biography
  6. fantasy
  7. fable
  8. mystery
  9. realistic fiction
  10. poetry
  11. autobiography
  12. textbook

This memory style genre matching game will have your students practicing genre identification in a fun way.   Students will also be using context clues from the title to help identify the genre.  A great thinking game working on logic and analytical thinking. This game is perfect for partners or small groups.  You could even use it whole class by doing a couple of cards each day as a reading warm-up.  It’s a fun way to expose your students to a variety of genres.

2. Cause and Effect

Understanding the concepts of cause and effect is an important skills for our students not only in reading but in life.  This cause and effect sorting activity will have your students determining whether the wintery sentences are a cause or an effect, and matching the two together in a logical way.  This fun, hands-on activity is perfect for a pocket chart, but can also easily be completed on the floor or table.

cause and effect sorting center

Your students will love working with a partner or on their own to put these sentences together.

3. Snowball Synonyms

synonym matching game with a snow themeWho doesn’t love a good old snowball fight?  Let your students have some fun with snowballs as they try to match synonyms.  Learning synonyms is a great way for students to develop and increase their vocabulary.  By learning new words for words they already know, they are able to apply them in speaking and writing more quickly.

Students can simply work to match the word pairs, play like a matching style game or even use a timer to see who can match all the pairs the quickest.

You can also challenge students to come up with a third word that is a synonym of the words provided.  Students can finish up by using this list of synonyms in their next writing activity.

4. Text Structure Sorting

The final language arts activity is a printable sorting activity.  This cut and paste text structure sort has students reading short paragraphs and identifying the text structure used by the author.  This is such a valuable skill for our students to have because they can dig deeper into their understanding of the text when they can identify the type of text it is.  Students will practice identifying cause & effect, chronology, problem & solution and compare & contrast text structures.  This is a great review if you have previously taught these text structures, or a great informal assessment if you are teaching them now.

January Writing Fun

January is the perfect time to work on writing steps in a process.  Students will focus on a New Year’s goal or resolution and write about how they can accomplish it. This guided writing activity will have your students thinking about something they would like to accomplish in the year and why it is important to them.  Then they will think through the steps they can take to make it happen.  Once they have developed their thoughts and a plan, students can prepare their final writing.

What’s great about this activity is that it has the potential of helping students for years to come.  The ability to set a goal and develop an actionable plan to reach the goal is a life skill that will serve our students well.

New Year's Resolution Guided Writing for upper elementary

Also included in this Janaury resource is the opportunity for students to do some poetry writing.  This Who Am I? Keenings poem is a favorite year after year.  Students will use a two word noun and verb combination to describe someone or something.  You can have students write about themselves or allow them to choose the subject of their poem.  With only 2 words per line, even your reluctant writers will have fun with this!

who am i poetry writing activity

Fill Those Lesson Plans and Save Time!

Your students are going to love these engaging January reading activities and you are going to be confident knowing that they are working on important reading and writing skills.  And the best part is that you you can do both of these things without spending hours preparing.  You can find all of these January reading activities in this one resource pack:

January Reading Activities for Upper Elementary

Looking for More Winter Fun?

January and winter are a fun time, but can also be the beginning of a long spring semester.  These blog posts and activities will make the winter season one filled with lots of learning and fun!

Save these January Reading Activities

If you’re not quite ready for these January reading and writing activities, then pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back when you are.

January reading and language arts activities for the upper elementary classroom


Amy Hughes

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I'm Shelly Rees of Appletastic Learning. First and foremost, I'm a mom of 4 boys, wife of 25 years to Aric, and Wyoming girl at heart. I love being creative, making resources for teachers, baking cookies, Diet Coke, teaching, public speaking, and spreading kindness wherever I can. After teaching in the upper elementary grades for over 23 years, I retired early and focused on creating and helping teachers around the world with my teaching ideas and resources. I also serve as a mentor to hundreds of teacherpreneurs and help them get focused on growing their own successful businesses. With 100% honesty, I LOVE my life! Thanks for visiting! I hope you'll stay awhile and come back often. Read More

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