Gus the Ghost and Thanksgiving Poem: Reading Comprehension Activities

What happens when Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all mixed together? Find out in this whacky poem! These activities can be done on any device; the specific commands listed here are for an iPad running VoiceOver.

Gus the Ghost and Thanksgiving poem is anything but predictable! 

Activity 1

  • Have your student open the poem on his/her device. If the student is accessing the poem on an iPad, open the poem in Apple Books. (Apple Books enables the student to easily navigate the poem by lines and paragraphs, which is important for the next activity.)
  • Have your student read the story - version 1 - as one big chunk (not split into paragraphs).
    • If using a screen reader, watch the student and note if he uses one command to read the entire poem or if he uses a different method.
  • Ask your student to briefly retell the story.
  • Ask your student to find and read the line about Mom hearing the clatter outside.
    • Observe how your student navigates to this line. Does he read everything from the beginning? Does he skim the first few words in a line and drop down several lines and repeat? Does he have a general idea where in the story that line is (first section, middle, or end)?
    • Ask your student what this line reminds him of or what it refers to. ('Night Before Christmas Poem")

Note: To turn the page in Apple Books, navigate to the bottom of the page. Right swipes will take you through the content on the page then to the Page Chooser or simply touch the very bottom of the screen. Once the VoiceOver focus is on the Page Chooser, swipe up to move to the next page or swipe down to move to the previous page.

Gus the Ghost and Thanksgiving Poem version 1

Activity 2

Stories are formatted into paragraphs and poems are formatted into stanzas. This is a way to group the sentences by topic or common interest. It also helps students to organize the content in their minds. Stopping briefly between paragraphs enables the student to process the content within that paragraph, before going on to the next paragraph. Students should learn to organize information by paragraph and have a general idea of how many paragraphs are in the short story or document. This subtle organization method will help the student be able to quickly navigate back to a desired paragraph. When using a screen reader, if the student reads the poem straight thru - in one chunk - he/she loses the ability to process and organize the content by paragraphs. This is a critical skill that is often overlooked; this skill transfers to reading large quantities of information including reading textbooks!

  • Ask your student to open Gus the Ghost and Thanksgiving version 2. This version is broken into bite-size paragraphs.
  • Read the poem by stanzas.
    • Open Poem in Apple Books: Use a right swipe to navigate by paragraph; toggle right or 4+space with a braille display to navigate by paragraph.
    • Depending on the student's current skills, you can stop after each paragraph and ask the student to tell what happened in that paragraph.
    • For a student who is able to organize content independently, prompt him/her to organize by paragraph before reading. Have him/her read the poem again and then ask leading questions such as how many paragraphs/stanzas are in this poem? Which paragraph talked about the reindeer? 
  • Ask the student to navigate to Herman's confession.
    • On an iPad, he should navigate by paragraph, listening to just the first few words or the first line of each paragraph. The student should mentally recall that Herman is at the end of the story and there are 9 paragraphs, so he can efficiently start his search on the second page (or swipe quickly past the paragraphs on the first page).
    • Ask your student to state the main character (or main idea) in each paragraph - in sequential order.

Gus the Ghost and Thanksgiving Poem version 2

Mainstream Reading Comprehension Strategies

With young students, we often focus on answering the 'WH" questions: Who, What, When, Why, and How. (See Audio Memos App and WH Questions post.) We then throw in prediction, and drawing simple conclusions. The next step is to help the student build stronger reading comprehension using a variety of strategies.

General education classes frequently use these seven reading comprehension strategies:

  1. Discussing or activating prior knowledge
  2. Building Vocabulary
  3. Developing questions while reading
  4. Connecting what they are reading to another text, something they have seen, or something they have experienced
  5. Visualize or picturing what they are reading
  6. Make predictions about what will come next in the text
  7. Looking back for keywords and rereading in order to clarify or answer

Who Said This and What Does It Mean? Activity

Gus the Ghost and Thanksgiving poem does not have challenging vocabulary; however, it does expect the student to draw on his or her knowledge of holidays and knowledge of a classic Christmas poem. Read the phrase. Ask your student, "Who said this?" and "What does it mean?" As needed, encourage your student to quickly navigate to that section of the poem to re-read the phrase in context.

  • "White as his sheet" Who said this and what does it mean?
  • "I'm thankful I have four more weeks" Who said this and what does it mean?
  • "I was back at the pole" Who said that and what does it refer to?
  • "I'm thankful I still have my sheets" Who said this and what does it mean?


"Twas the Night Before Christmas Teaching Comprehension post