Join me on a virtual field trip!
As I work on my Storyworks articles and I Survived books, I’m always wishing that I could bring your students along with me on my research journeys. And finally my dream is coming true. I am writing to you to invite you and your students to join me on a “virtual field trip” to the Museum of the American Revolution, an amazing new museum in Philadelphia.
The virtual field trip, called “Beyond the Battlefield,” is a 30-minute video extravaganza in which I take kids (and teachers!) behind the scenes of the museum.
They will delve into the background of the Revolution and War of Independence. They will see historical treasures. They will meet historians and hear stories of young people — like them — who were a part of America’s fight for freedom.
Our goal is to bring this exciting and frightening time in history to life for your students, to supplement your curriculum, and to open new doors of curiosity.
It’s a great companion to my book, I Survived the American Revolution, 1776. It also pairs perfectly with my March/April article “Blood, Smoke, and Freedom” (appearing in both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.)
The virtual field trip will be available for streaming starting on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. It's available to everyone—you don't need to be a Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. subscriber to participate!
Click here to register and you’ll receive a downloadable virtual field trip classroom kit and helpful reminders via email.
For more ideas for teaching the American Revolution, check out Top Teaching Blogger Mary Blow's fantastic post here. Her ideas are perfect for 4th grade and up, and especially for struggling older readers. Top Teaching Blogger Genia Connell also has a fantastic lesson plan to go along with the field trip here.
I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Huzzah! (That’s how they said “hooray!” in colonial times.)
How to Honor Teachers, Texas Style!
Knowing that as teachers, you aren't always properly recognized for the all-encompassing work you do, we were so blown away to hear about an amazing program to honor top teachers in a Houston, Texas-area district known as Cypress Fairbanks (Cy-Fair). We think you'll be impressed by it too—and we hope that it can be modeled in other districts throughout the country!
Once Cy-Fair's Top Teachers are identified, they are surprised with a crowning ceremony (see photos!) where they're presented with books and gifts, and they listen to their colleagues shower them with praise. Teachers never know when the next crowning ceremony will take place—these pop up throughout the year in this district made up of 56 elementary schools. (Yep, 56—this is Texas, after all!) ELAR Curriculum Coordinator Jenifer Jones describes the thinking behind the program: "It is our privelege to crown these extraordinary teachers with top honors. It is so important for our community to recognize their talent, creativity, and dedication to their craft. We know their skills have taken years to hone, and they have an enormous ability to support others in pursuit of excellence too." Emilie Manner, the 2-5 ELAR/SS curriculum coach, adds, "This is one of the great pay-it-forward programs at CFISD. I am so excited to have these dynamic new inductees as part of our program, and know they will bring us so many new ideas."
Our Storyworks/Storyworks Jr. team has begun a special relationship with CFISD. Last August we presented at their PD week, just days before Hurricane Harvey hit, and we were witness to how this incredible community pulled together in beautiful ways in the aftermath of the storm. We are so enjoying getting to know this amazing team of literacy coaches and 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-grade teachers. Our editorial team can't wait to hear how these joyful educators are using Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. in their schools and will be sure to share some of their Genius Teacher Ideas with all of you in 2018.
If your district or school also has a special way to acknowledge teachers, please share it with us!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
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 email@example.com 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!