Taking Summarizing to a Higher Level
Here at Storyworks, we're always searching for ways to make our support offerings the best possible learning tools for your students. That's why I'm super excited to share with you our new-and-improved higher-level summarizing activity for our nonfiction and paired-text features. It's called "Quick, Tell Me What Happened!"
If you're a fan of our lower-level summarizing activity, with its handy sentence starters and prompts, don’t worry—you'll still find it with your resources. It's a great way for students to get started with this challenging skill, and it provides a model of what to include.
But for students who are ready for the next step, I wanted to create an activity that would not only get them to produce a summary, but also teach them how to apply the skill to any text. Our new format walks them through the process.
We've even included a helpful pre-writing tip: Summarize the article out loud with a partner before writing.
Our Storyworks teacher-advisers were invaluable in giving me feedback on this activity, as they do with so many of our resources. Our fabulous adviser Allie Curtis even had her 5th graders "test drive" an earlier version, leading to some smart revisions. (Those are her students in the photo above!)
My hope is that this brand-new activity will prepare students for an even more-advanced activity: a blank sheet of paper with the instruction "Write a summary." I can't wait to hear how this works in your classroom. Please let me know anytime! Contact me at email@example.com.
Introducing: Pacing Guides!
“Do you have a pacing guide?”
I’ll be honest. When teachers asked that question, I’d always cringe, for two reasons. Number one: we did not have a pacing guide. Number two: Creating one would be a huge undertaking. We’re a small team at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr., and with everything we’ve wanted to create for our resources, we just hadn’t had the opportunity to work on the kind of comprehensive pacing guide you deserve...
…until now! Here are our brand-new pacing guides for both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. This is where you’ll discover how our resources can fit into your teaching calendar as you map out the rest of the year, and as you break out your plans day by day. You’ll also find the genres and skills you can expect to cover with your students, plus the differentiation, assessment, and standards information you need to create a complete, powerful, and robust schedule of lessons.
Speaking of standards, we have hot-off-the-presses documents that outline exactly how Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. align with Common Core and similar state standards. And for our Texas teachers, we’ve got documents dedicated solely to TEKS. We hope you’ll share them with your administrators. See below for links to these documents:
We can’t wait to hear how these resources work for you. Please share your feedback with us!
Help Your Students Celebrate Their Differences
Hi, teachers! We're thrilled to share with you a fantastic social-emotional learning opportunity available to all 4th grade students in the U.S. A wonderful organization called Don't Hide it, Flaunt It! (DHIFI) has teamed up with Scholastic for its National Kids Flaunt Essay Contest. DHIFI encourages kids and adults alike to celebrate—to flaunt!—what makes them different and awesome. Meg Zucker, who runs DHIFI, is a dear friend to us here at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. We've featured her sons, Ethan and Charlie, in both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. Meg, Ethan, and Charlie all have a condition called ectrodactyly, and they are missing most of their fingers and toes. And yet all of them have full lives, with lots of friends and lots of passions.
Our readers have responded to our articles about Ethan and Charlie in a big way! We heard from many teachers and students that these articles helped to build empathy and encouraged students to be proud of what makes them different, whether it's a visible difference like the Zuckers', an invisible difference like having a food allergy, or even a positive difference, like being a twin.
You'll find all the details about the contest here, including the essays from last year's winners. Be sure to show your students the fantastic video introducing the contest, too. The deadline to enter is November 3. We hope your students will be inspired to enter. Good luck to your students!
Family Engagement Made Easy!
We are thrilled to offer letters for you to share with your students' families, introducing them to Storyworks and Storyworks Jr., and providing simple tips for sharing the joy of reading with their child. We realize how vital the school-to-home connection is, and our goal is to make it easier for you to build that bridge.
You'll find the letters - in English and Spanish - on our website with every issue.
Here's what is included:
- An introductory letter with tips for exploring any issue at home
- An optional second page, if you wish to send home the classroom password for our online Student View (now also available for Storyworks Jr.)
- An issue-specific letter with ideas for talking about stories in the current issue
- Each of the above pages in Spanish
- Choice of PDF or Word documents
Select the pages you wish to distribute. Send them home in kids' backpacks, post them on your class webpage, email them to parents, or hand them out on back-to-school night. The Word documents allow you to personalize the letters, or to copy and paste them into a text or any other method you use to communicate with parents or guardians. You can also copy them into a translation program if you need them in a language other than English or Spanish.
We'd love to hear what you think. Drop me a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check Out Storyworks Jr.'s Newest Vocabulary Feature!
We know there's still plenty of summer left, but many of you are deep into planning for the year ahead. We've been hard at work too, and we just can't resist sharing the stories we're so excited about! Check back here every Tuesday for a new special teaser of upcoming content in Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.!
This week, I'm excited to tell you about a brand new feature in Storyworks Jr.: Word Power!
Every issue will now open with a fascinating piece of short nonfiction with a vocabulary-building twist. When we're picking topics for Word Power, we ask ourselves: Will this knock students' socks off? Will they immediately want to read this? It's a unique challenge, and we've loved hunting down topics for this new feature!
Our September Word Power, "The Power of Stink," definitely checks all our boxes. In this short piece, we explore animals that use disgusting smells to protect themselves. And let me just say... my life hasn't been the same, for better or for worse, since learning about "hyena butter."
Your September issue and resources will be up on our site on August 11th—we can't wait for you to see everything we've been cooking up this summer!
Sneak Peek at Next Year's SEL Focus
Knowing how crucial social-emotional learning is for third graders, we've been buzzing with ideas for how to incorporate SEL into our content, and we're so excited about what we've come up with! We're going to work an SEL focus into many of our stories next year: not just fiction, but also plays, short nonfiction, paired texts, and more. I've been working on a story that I'm dying to tell you about, so here's a special sneak peek into some of our Fall 2017 content!
Jesselyn and me at the gym where she trains
In May, I took a bus to a boxing gym in Hackensack, New Jersey to meet a truly awesome kid. Jesselyn Silva just turned 11 and she's been boxing for four years. That's right—she started when she was 7! Jesselyn is instantly engaging, with a big braces-clad grin and lots to say. I sat with her in a small conference room at the Police Athletic League, where she trains 5 days a week. "I'm adding Sundays soon," she told me. When I asked her what the hardest thing about boxing was, she said "It's like I said in the documentary, I never ever ever ever—maybe like a hundred evers—think anything is too hard for me." She was talking about a New York Times Op Doc made about her earlier this spring. It's clear that Jesselyn's confidence is genuine, and it's hard not to be inspired by her.
I'm writing a Paragraph Power, a short nonfiction text with an accompanying writing exercise, about Jesselyn for our September issue. My goal for this article is to show that girls can buck all the stereotypes and be tough. Jesselyn told me that when she first started boxing, some of her friends wouldn't let her play with them because she did a boy's sport. Other kids assume that she's mean or not-so-smart because she partakes in such a rough sport. Now, she has a group of friends that don't judge her. I was very excited to write about a young female athlete for an age group for whom gender stereotypes are starting to take shape. I think your students, boys and girls, will be inspired by Jesselyn's tenacity and, to use an outdated term, moxie!
Other SEL-themed stories coming up include:
- Kevin and Daisy: A super-sweet paired text about a boy with autism who finds comfort in equine therapy, specifically a horse named Daisy. We're pairing his story with a sidebar from a young girl with a brother who has autism. She tells readers what she wants people to know about her brother.
- Like Magic: A fiction story about a boy who is fed up with his family, especially his two little sisters. When he meets a mysterious magician, he gets his wish and is no longer a part of his family. Every student will be able to relate to this story!
- The Empty Pot: This read-aloud play based on a Chinese folktale tells an important lesson about honesty.
Do you have any suggestions for SEL stories? Don't hesitate to send us an email at email@example.com!
Teacher Appreciation Week Giveaways!
If you spent the day with us in our office, you might be surprised to hear what we are constantly talking about: YOU. Basically, we are in awe of all you do, and so honored and thrilled to be a part of it. We try to express our respect and devotion through our work on Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. But as a little added touch, we put together a “Teacher Treat" giveaway for Teacher Appreciation Week.
What do you have to do to be eligible? NOTHING. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Teacher Treats” and the grade(s) you teach in the body of the email. We will randomly choose 9 winners next Monday, May 15th. And as a bonus, we'll add you to our list to receive bimonthly updates from the Ideabook! Here are the prizes:
- 5 teachers will receive signed copies of my latest book, I Survived Tornado Terror
- 1 teacher will receive Storyworks Jr. branded post-it notes
- 1 teacher will get to be “Editor for a Day”: We’ll bring you into our editing process for a September story! We’ll send you a rough draft and you can give us feedback and suggestions. We could even Skype with you!
- 1 teacher will receive a class set of the Storyworks Inference workbook
- 1 teacher will receive a class set of Storyworks OR Storyworks Jr. May/June issues, depending on what grade you teach.
With warmest wishes,
Enter to Win a Test-Prep Essential!
Hello, teachers! We know that testing is on your minds at this point in the year, and we want to help make your test-prep lessons as meaningful, simple, and joyful (yes, I said that!) as possible. It's a tall order but we've got an effective and delightful solution. It's Storyworks Core Skills Workout: Making Inferences, a 64-page workbook focused on one of the most difficult skills to teach. What you'll find in this uniquely designed activity book is a multigenre, scaffolded, treasure trove of test-prep goodness!
Take a look at just one way you can tackle inference:
We're giving away a full class set of this fabulous activity book to three of you.
All you need to do is enter using this form. As a bonus, when you enter, you'll be subscribed to the free Storyworks Ideabook newsletter, where you'll find simple and exciting ways to teach with Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.! We send out two awesome emails every month featuring Genius Teaching Ideas from your colleagues, alerts on our latest content, and amazing strategies for using our texts in your classroom.
We will randomly select three winners by March 13th, 2017. Good luck!
Share Your #MyStoryworksMoment with Us!
Hello, teachers! In addition to my work as assistant editor of Storyworks Jr., I also coordinate social media for all of our wonderful ELA classroom magazines. One of my favorite things to do is to simply search #Storyworks and #StoryworksJr on Twitter. Nothing makes our day more than seeing a tweet from a teacher who has had a classroom success, or wants to share her students interacting with our resources. We realized that you're all tweeting, pinning, and Facebooking moments like this regularly, and not only do we want to see them all, we want you to see each other's! And thus, #MyStoryworksMoment was born.
We want to see your students' reactions when they crack open a new issue!
Yes, we even want to see you planning lessons!
Because we can't throw that giant Storyworks house party we've been dreaming up, we hope that we can stay connected with each other by sharing our collective moments in our newly launched #MyStoryworksMoment hashtag. We'll share our own Storyworks moments with you too, so we hope you'll join us!
(Don't worry about putting a fancy schmancy border on yours: Simply snap a pic and post it! Just be sure to use the hashtag so we can see it!)
We'll share our own, too: Here are Storyworks editors Rebecca Leon and Allison Friedman, hard at work on activity sheets!
Check out the hashtag #MyStoryworksMoment on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, and share your own moments! We'll be featuring our favorite classroom pics every week, and hosting Skypes this spring with winners chosen at random. We can't wait to see how you've captured the joy of learning with all of your amazing students.
A Dazzling New Tool: The Vocab Slideshow!
We are SO excited about the newest differentiation tool for both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.: the Vocabulary Slideshow! It's a dazzling multimedia feature that will help your students unlock the challenging vocabulary in our resources. It's especially helpful for English language learners, as well as visual and auditory learners.
We're confident you'll find our slideshows an effective tool to introduce or reinforce new academic and domain-specific vocabulary words from our magazines.
They're simple to use: Click through and you'll see each vocabulary word accompanied by its definition, an image or video that demonstrates its meaning, and a recording of the word and definition read aloud. We hope they're a WOW in your classrooms!
For Storyworks, we offer a vocabulary slideshow with every nonfiction article. Click here to see a sample vocabulary slideshow from Storyworks.
For Storyworks Jr., we offer a vocabulary slideshow with every nonfiction article, paired text, and play. Click here to see a sample vocabulary slideshow from Storyworks Jr.
We suggest showing your students these easy-to-use multimedia slideshows before reading a feature to introduce new and unfamiliar vocabulary words. Or show them after reading to reinforce meanings. As a bonus vocabulary activity, have students create their own slideshow or PowerPoint presentation with additional words that are new to them. Use your own genius ideas! And please share them with us and other subscribers too!
We've gotten wonderful feedback from teachers, and hope it fast becomes one of your must-use tools in your ELA teaching kit! And of course our fingers are crossed hoping that your students will find it both engaging and helpful as they grow their understanding of new words!