The Best Reading Extension for "Escape From Alcatraz"

Kara Corridan

Now that the year's final issue of Storyworks Jr. is in classrooms, we're in major fact-finding mode. We're doing class visits and Skypes and sending out questionnaires and surveys, and one of our most important questions is: What story did your students love the most? And a clear winner has emerged: "Escape from Alcatraz," our December/January nonfiction feature.

The praise this story has generated is incredible. (Some students also found it scary, and we do not take that lightly.) As one example, here's an email that I got from a principal in New York:

I just had to share that at dismissal time today, I had several third graders come see me with persuasive letters, all asking to go to Alcatraz on a field trip.  Here are some quotes to make you smile:

“We have learned so much about Alcatraz and we have to see it to believe what we have read.”

“We’ll all pitch in the money and our parents will buy us train tickets.”

“Can we PLEEEEASE go to the famous San Francisco prison Alcatraz?”

“If you let us go we will write you a book and tell you all about it when we get back.”


Your article made a difference for these learners!


Maybe the highest praise came from the third grader I met during a class visit in New Jersey: For spring break, her family was planning to go to Disneyland. But after reading our story, she begged her parents to take her to Alcatraz—and last I heard, they were trying to rearrange their itinerary to make it happen!

I could relate. I was going to California for my own family's spring break, and only because of the Alcatraz story, my daughters, 8 and 11, wanted to visit the prison during our two days in San Francisco. (They had a choice between a day tour or the potentially creepy night tour: "Night tour!" "Night tour!") Here I am with my third grader on Alcatraz Island, with San Francisco a mile away in the distance. Our tour guide mentioned that inmates could see and, depending on the way the winds blew, even hear everything they were missing in the beautiful city, which made their imprisonment even more torturous.

And if you're familiar with our story, you'll surely recognize the photo up top: It's of the fake head inmate Frank Morris created to fool the prison guards while he escaped from his cell. Visiting Alcatraz was a highlight of our vacation, and the ultimate learning extension.

If you've got fans of "Escape From Alcatraz" in your class, be sure to check out other perfect opportunities to keep the learning going. This post by our advisor Beth O. is about a clever way to "visit" the prison. And our Can't-Miss Teaching Extras have links to videos and extra facts that'll open more doors for your students.


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