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!
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!
The Storyworks Teacher's Guide - New and Improved!
Back-to-school is here, and just as you have beautifully redecorated your bulletin boards, thoughtfully arranged the desks, and maybe even unfurled a new classroom rug, we have freshened up the Storyworks Teacher's Guide to make it even more user-friendly for you. Be sure to check out these changes:
1. The "vital stats" are right up front
Just a glance at the first page of each lesson tells you how we've got you covered. The "About the Article" column lists reading levels, learning objectives, key skills, and standards correlations. (If you need to submit this information on your lesson plans, it's right at your fingertips!) "Your Teaching Support Package" lets you know about all the fabulous material you'll find online: videos, audio recordings, lower-Lexile versions, printable activities, and new this year, vocabulary slide shows. Missing the complexity factors? No worries! You'll find them on our website.
2. Even more ideas for using Storyworks with every learner
Our "Differentiate Your Teaching" section on the third page of each lesson still has helpful ideas for tailoring lessons for struggling or advanced readers. This year, we've added tips to each lesson for supporting your ELL students. From vocabulary support to help with cultural references, we've got ideas for you. (Plus, don't miss our questions for English language learners, available online!)
3. Tips for the way YOU teach
Whether you use Storyworks for whole-class, small group, or independent reading, we've got suggestions with each lesson, so you can use this flexible resource to best fit your classroom. Storyworks for book groups? Check. For guided reading? Check. What else can we help you with? Please let us know - we'd love to hear!
We hope these changes make Storyworks an even better fit for your classroom. But we haven't thrown out the baby with the bath water (there's an idiom for your students!). You'll still get our Step-by-Step Lesson plans with a focus on vocabulary, text features, close-reading and critical-thinking questions, and critical skill-building.
I'd love to hear your feedback on the Teacher's Guide and to know what else you'd like to find there. Email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll look forward to hearing from you!
Your Students' Jaws Will Drop Over This Video!
I know, this isn’t the first time we’ve told you about our new Video Read-Aloud. But now that our September issues have arrived in your classrooms (or should have—if they haven’t, please call Customer Service at 1-800-SCHOLASTIC), we want to take another opportunity to talk about this resource, which we’re positive your students will love.
The best way to describe our Video Read-Aloud is this: It's everything you love about audio combined with everything you love about video. The author narrates our main narrative nonfiction feature—in this case, "The Snake That's Eating Florida" by Lauren Tarshis—as your students watch authentic footage and gripping photos, bringing them further into the story. The best compliment we've gotten from teachers who've used it in their classrooms? "This is a game-changer." That's music to our ears, because our goal with the Video Read-Aloud is to transform the way your students interact with our content. This can happen in a few important ways:
It enhances comprehension for your most challenged readers.
The video footage and photos provide excellent background information, especially for topics your students might not be so familiar with (like the Burmese python that's invading the Florida Everglades by eating everything in its path).
Hearing the author read the story and seeing the text and vocabulary words highlighted on the screen boosts fluency.
You can use the Video Read-Aloud as a key differentiation tool. We've shared these tips before, but they bear repeating:
To use it with on-level readers:
As a class, watch roughly first two minutes of the video, up to the section "Out of Place." (You want to pique your students' interest but not give everything away.) Then turn off the video, read the entire story together, and then watch the remaining four+ minutes of the video.
Read the article as a whole class or in small groups. Then show the video in full as a second "read." Afterward, have students return to the text to help with close-reading and critical-thinking questions.
To use it with struggling readers:
Use the video as a "first read," and then have students read the article in small groups or with teacher support.
Have your students watch the video while reading along at home, or in the classroom (with headsets) to reinforce the story and build fluency.
And one little fun fact: Lauren's dog, Roy, makes a cameo in the video. We predict this'll get a big "Awww!" out of your class!
Please tell us what your students think of our latest Video Read-Aloud. We're so eager to know!