Foldable Fortune Teller Study Tools

If you tell an elementary student to study for a test, he stares at a page of notes for a few minutes and then declares that he is finished. In my 4th grade classroom, if I want my students to do more than passively glance over a review sheet and regurgitate a few definitions without really seeing a bigger picture, I have to strategically provide study options for them. Foldable study tools are always a good idea because students love to work on anything that is a distant relative of a paper airplane, and many foldables provide a study option that is interactive.

foldable fortune teller study tool for students

This year, I have been using fortune tellers as one way to prepare for tests and quizzes. The original fortune tellers I made as a child had numbers on the different flaps and after flipping the sides back and forth a few times, you would lift a flap to reveal a fortune. I adapted that idea into a study tool.

I give students pieces of copy paper cut into 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ squares, and we fold. The students write different related concepts on the flaps, so they will be reminded to review the information in a variety of ways. The fortune tellers have the added benefit of a student being able to quiz himself or use it with a friend, parent, babysitter, or other study partner.

How to Make a Fortune Teller

  • Fold the paper in half diagonally matching one corner of the paper to the opposite corner. Press the fold to make a sharp crease. Open the paper and repeat the other direction. Place the unfolded paper on a flat surface, and you will have a page that looks a little like a kite with two creases.

fortune teller fold 1

  • Fold each corner carefully into the center, which will result in a smaller sized square.

fortune teller fold 2

  • Turn the paper over, so the flaps are facing down. Then, fold each corner into the center of the paper again resulting in an even smaller square.

fortune teller fold 3

  • Fold the paper in half making a rectangle.

fortune teller fold 4

  • At this point, gently place your fingers under the loose flaps and wiggle the fortune teller open, so you have diamond shaped flaps and a foldable that kind of resembles an umbrella shape.

fortune teller fold 5

How to Make a Spelling Fortune Teller

  • On the top of the fortune teller, you have space for 8 spelling words. Use words that relate to one central spelling rule or pattern.
  • On the related triangle in the center of the fortune teller, write a variation of the original spelling word. For example, add a suffix to the original spelling word (play on the top and plays on the interior).

fortune teller spelling

  • On the underside of the interior flap, write an explanation of the rule you used when adding a suffix to the original spelling word. In my example, students were practicing the drop the Y rule. The underside of the flap listed what was happening with the letter Y when a suffix was added. In the case of the word play, it ends with the vowel, A, followed by the letter Y. When a word ends with a vowel then the letter Y, the Y stays when adding a suffix. When a word ends with a consonant followed by a Y, the Y goes away and is replaced with an I (cry to cries) When you add ING to a word that ends with Y, the Y remains no matter how a word is spelled at the end (say to saying or dry to drying).

fortune teller spelling rules

  • Students say aloud all of the different pieces of information on the fortune teller. They may look at the flaps to confirm if they are remembering the words and information correctly.

How to Make a Vocabulary Fortune Teller

  • On the top of the fortune teller, you have space for 8 vocabulary words. Write words that relate to 1 or 2 roots or prefixes or another central topic you might be reviewing (electricity, geography terms…).
  • On the related triangle in the center of the fortune teller, write the definition of the vocabulary word, the definition of the root or prefix, or the explanation of the key ideas from your unit of study. For example, if you are reviewing the root, numer, write the definition number on the interior triangle.

fortune teller vocab definition

  • On the underside of the interior flap, write a situation or example where the word might be used. With a word like numerical, an example could be numerical order in a book series.
  • On my flaps that listed the root by itself, I wrote additional words that use the root. On the flap for mot, which means to move or to do, I have words like motor, motion, and motel on the underside space.

fortune teller vocab samples

The goal of the study tool is to have students think about information in more than one way. Rather than memorizing a word and its definition, we want children thinking of ways to apply the word. Unless students have knowledge of topics from several different angles, they may not fully grasp a concept. These fortune tellers are a great way for students to review material, but it should not be the only way they study. What are additional study tool ideas? I would love to hear about your favorite review method.

I Believe in Cursive

cursive handwriting

Almost every year, I develop a new learning theory that is not based on research or educational best practices of any kind. It is simply an opinion based on my experiences with students. This year’s theory relates to the deterioration of spelling skills and the de-emphasis of handwriting instruction– cursive handwriting in particular. I partially blame e-mail and texting for the spelling problem, but I think the fact that schools do not demand better penmanship is a larger contributor to the increase in poor spellers I see every year.

I suspect that students spell better when they spend time learning, practicing, and using cursive handwriting in the elementary grades. Cursive connects letters together creating a muscle memory between your hand and brain. Your brain will then remember common letter connections, patterns, and rules and subconsciously guide the hand to order letters correctly more often. Try to spell your own signature with a different letter order. It is difficult to force your hand not to put the letters of your name in the correct order. Your hand is on auto-pilot to write the name correctly. Students can achieve the same success with common words and common spelling patterns if they correctly write them in a connected way on a daily basis.

Here are a few activities I am asking my students to complete this year. They work well at school or at home to reinforce the correct spelling of the words we use most often and the patterns that repeat frequently. If you are looking for a new way to study for that weekly spelling test, have your child practice writing the words in cursive.

cursive handwriting spelling patterns

Make a list of words that a student often misspells. Have the child write the word in his/her best cursive multiple times. Provide a sample to copy, so the letter order and letter formation are correct.

Group words that have similar letter patterns and write the portion of the word that is the same in all words multiple times. For example, if the student has a handful of words in a list that end with the letters le (settle, riddle, struggle), require the student to write the letters le together 5 times or 10 times or 10+ times.

I watch my students’ papers and track the cursive letter connections that are hard to form. M and n are particularly tricky because kids want to add an extra “hump” and don’t see that the hump is actually a connector piece. O is also hard to connect to the next letter because it ends “high.” Letter pairs like os and ol are challenging. Compare the difficult connections with misspelled words and make a list of those letter groups. Practice writing the letter pairs together correctly.

cursive handwriting connections

Always provide a sample with the correctly formed letters. Sometimes, this is the hardest part because my own cursive handwriting is adequate at best. I have tried harder this year because I need my students to be able to use cursive more effortlessly, so I can prove my theory.

I will admit that I completed a mini Google search about handwriting and spelling. There are articles here and there that support my theory (ha, I knew I was right). While I also have my students complete a lot of keyboarding and typed writing assignments, I think there will always be a place for handwritten documents. If you have read any of my letter writing posts, you know how I feel about handwritten thank you notes! Does anyone else have an opinion?

To purchase cursive handwriting practice pages at my TeachersPayTeachers store, CLICK HERE.

Letter Writing

addressing envelopes

I never liked the term, “friendly letter.” When I was in elementary school, we reviewed the parts of a letter EVERY YEAR for like six years straight and then wrote pointless “friendly letters” that went nowhere. Huge snore. I disliked letter writing as a student, and I avoided letter writing activities for a long time as a teacher. Well, times change. I spend a lot of time on letter writing with my students now and here is why.


  • Students have a hard time addressing an envelope (and I teach 4th grade where they have been doing the friendly letter drill for awhile). They are unsure about how to organize the three address lines, don’t know state abbreviations, and have trouble capitalizing correctly. When I ask students to address an envelope, they get to practice these skills. They are reminded how to write a complete name with a title (like Mrs. or Mr. or Dr.). They practice writing street abbreviations as part of the name of the street with capital letters (Center St. or Liberty Blvd.). They review state abbreviations and reinforce the comma between a city and a state.
  • If students add a return address to the envelope, they get a little extra work remembering their own address too.
  • So I am not necessarily referring to anyone I know, but for those of us who become slightly unbalanced when the address lines are all uneven on the envelope, slide a lined index card inside the envelope with the lines facing up. If the envelope is sheer enough (like a basic business envelope), you can see the guidelines when you press down to write. Your address lines will be straight and even making my the world a happy place.


  • We usually type our letters, but I am a fan of handwritten letters too. Either way, students learn to format a letter in a logical order. There is contact information at the top, a date, and a proper salutation. Even if our students in future years are handling all communication with employers, co-workers, or clients electronically, they will still need documents formatted in an order that is easy to read. This is just a good lifeskill.  


  • If students know they will get tangible results from a project they complete, they are more likely to engage at a higher level. I have students write letters to people who reply (most of the time). In order to get a reply, my students have to communicate effectively in their letters and then address and mail it correctly. A formal letter requires full sentences, organized ideas, and a beginning, middle, and end. When we do receive a letter back, students gain experience with cause and effect– they wrote a letter asking for or providing information and received a reply responding to the content in the original  letter. 

Here are a few letter writing activity suggestions.

They are ideas that work at home as well as the classroom.

  • One of my favorite types of letters are thank you notes. The format of this letter does not have to be a full fancy business format. Casual is definitely acceptable. One benefit (among many) of the thank you note is that it requires children to reflect on something nice that has been done for them and then specifically recognize in written words why they appreciate the nice thing. I have a rating system for thank you notes on the post here.

thank you notes

  • An ongoing activity in my room is an author letter project. Students search contact information for a favorite author. The contact information could be an e-mail address, mailing address, or a publisher address. The students prepare a letter that details why they enjoyed a specific book by the author and gives reasons the book may have had an impact on the student. About half the time, we receive personal replies from the authors. You would not believe how an author reply can motivate a student to read! For more author letter tips, click here.

author letters

  • This year, students researched a state and contacted an alum from our school to ask for more information about the state and the history of our school. Again, we had about a 50% return rate. The men and women who wrote back to our students included many stories about their life at school when they were in the 4th grade. The connection to the history of the school made a much bigger impact than the rest of the state research project. I could not have replicated that by sharing something from a history textbook. The students made a personal connection with the alum. I liked that the students participated in an activity that stretched well beyond the classroom, and they created a link that was outside their everyday world. Write to a relatives or friends who live in a different town. Ask about how their life might be different from your own. It is a great way to discover old family stories or compare differences in cities, states, and regions. (Visit my teacher store to purchase the State Postcard Project).

new york reply

Set in New York City

NYC skyline

Why is New York City so appealing as a book setting for juvenile literature? I have several theories. New York is real, but crazy things can happen there. It is easy to believe that a child “just like me” fell into some fantastic adventure. A child has more opportunities to be independent, to be noticed, to get lost on purpose, to solve a crime, to defeat a magical beast, or to gain an unusual power in New York. Anything is possible for the main character– and the reader who wants to be the main character.

basil e frankweiler

I consider From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg the gold star of New York City children’s books, but there are many others to enjoy, and they cover all book genres. The list below includes realistic fiction, historical fiction, adventure, mystery, and fantasy. You name it; it can happen in NYC.

  • Red Blazer Girls by Michael D. Beil
  • Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
  • Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
  • Floors by Patrick Carmen (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory read-alike)
  • The School Story by Andrew Clements
  • The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier
  • The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio (keep a tissue close by)
  • Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
  • Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (read with Wrinkle in Time)
  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  • Hank Zipzer Series by Henry Winkler

The book titles above work well for upper elementary (~4th to ~7th). Since I am more of an upper elementary literature specialist, I did not include high school level (e.g. Catcher in the Rye by Salinger) or picture books (Eloise by Thompson or Knuffle Bunny by Willems) to the list, but I will get to it… one day.

That Book Sounds Familiar

charlotte's web    one and only ivan

I teach fourth grade and have elementary school aged children, so I have a legitimate reason for reading children’s books. The truth is– I just like them. They are (usually) fabulous stories; they are fast reads, and it is an activity I can share with my children.

Many of the stories my children and I have been reading lately have a familiar ring to them. Authors are recycling the same plot details and character types from the best books I read growing up. I was so struck by the similarities between Phantom Tollbooth and Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes that I wrote the Peter Nimble author to ask about it. He responded! The Just Deserts section of the book is a small tribute to Jester and his play on words. Jody Feldman credits Dahl as a source of inspiration for her book, The Gollywhopper Games (See the Author Letters post about contacting authors).

Below is a list of some new and old favorites. Is there something on the list that brings back memories of your favorite childhood book? Is there a recent version that is almost as good?

The Classic

The Re-Make

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The One and Only Ivan by Applegate
  •  Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice by Flanagan
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by Konigsburg
  • Wonderstruck by Selznick
  •  Wrinkle in Time by L’Engle
  • When You Reach Me by Stead
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Dahl
  • The Gollywhopper Games by Feldman
  • Floors by Carmen
  • Remarkable by Foley
  •  The Phantom Tollbooth by Jester
  • Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Auxier
  •  The Boxcar Children Mysteries by Warner
  • The Sherlock Files series by Barrett
  •  Peter Pan by Barrie
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Barry
  •  Hatchet by Paulsen
  • Far North by Hobbs
  •  Nancy Drew Mysteries by Keene
  • Red Blazer Girls by Beil
  • The Borrowers by Norton
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Banks
  • The Doll People by Martin and Godwin