Editor's notes

A Sneak Peek at Storyworks Paired Texts: Christian the Lion

Allison Friedman
You’ve probably already heard of Christian the Lion, the subject of Storyworks’s October/November Paired Texts. 
Doesn’t ring a bell? Allow us to refresh your memory:

Okay, now take a minute to blow your nose!
It’s easy see why that video, first posted in 2008, quickly became one of the most popular YouTube videos of all time. Your students can read all about the incredible interspecies friendship behind the video in author Tod Olson’s upcoming article, which tells the amazing true story of Christian’s upbringing in London, his release into the wilds of Kenya, and his emotional reunion with Ace Bourke and John Rendall. We’ve paired it with a lovely Rebecca Kai Dotlich poem that echoes the article’s powerful theme: that wild animals belong in the wild.
You and your class can get your paws on this powerful paired texts package on September 12, when the Storyworks October/November issue goes up on our website. In the meantime, we won’t blame you if you watch the video a few more times!


Check Out Storyworks Jr.'s Newest Vocabulary Feature!

Anna Starecheski

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!

A Sneak Peek at Storyworks Nonfiction: The 2016 Louisiana Flood

Allison Friedman

We can’t wait for you and your students to get your hands on Storyworks’ September nonfiction feature, “Our World Turned to Water.” It tells the story of the devastating flooding that struck Southern Louisiana in August of last year—the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy.

In the days after the flood, editor Lauren Tarshis received an email from a Storyworks class in Baton Rouge, inviting her down South to visit their school and hear their stories of survival. The experiences they shared were harrowing, but also deeply inspiring: a testament to the power of resilience, community, and hope. Lauren wove these stories into a thrilling nonfiction story that will move your students and hold them rapt.

And to take them even further into the story, we have a behind-the-scenes video in which Lauren gives students a firsthand look at her trip down to Baton Rouge. It features emotional interviews with students and teachers affected by the flood, and is probably our most moving and personal video ever. I’ve been working on it for almost a month, have seen it no fewer than 50 times, and I still get a giant lump in my throat every time I watch. You and your class are going to love it.

Luckily, you don’t have to wait too long. The article and video (as well as the rest of the Septepmber 2017 issue) will be up on the Storyworks website next Friday, August 11—so make sure to check in then!

Sneak Peek at Next Year's SEL Focus

Anna Starecheski

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 storyworksjr@scholastic.com!

Don't Miss Storyworks Jr.'s Nonfiction: the Titanic!

Anna Starecheski

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, we're psyched about the nonfiction feature in the September issue of Storyworks Jr.: "Into the Dark Water."

The topic is one that's always a home-run with students: the sinking of the Titanic. This riveting feature by the fabulous Lauren Tarshis tells the story of the doomed ship through the eyes of 17-year-old Jack Thayer. Jack was a passenger who miraculously survived, even after jumping off the sinking ship into the icy water. Our story has rich vocabulary and a skills focus on Text Features. 

Right now, I'm working on the Video Read-Aloud for this story (Not familiar? Check out this one from last year's September issue), and I cannot wait for your students to see it! Like pretty much everyone, I've been a bit obsessed with the Titanic ever since I saw the movie as a middle schooler, so I was extremely excited to work on this video. I think I can safely say: It's gonna be a great one!

Tune back in next Tuesday for our next Teaser Tuesday!

Our Favorite Moments From You

Anna Starecheski

Happy summer, teachers! Here at Scholastic HQ, we've been reflecting on the year. It's been a great one! One thing we've been doing this year is becoming more active on Twitter, and we've all loved connecting with you. I wanted to round up some of our favorite Twitter moments from the past few months—it was no small feat! There were so many amazing, adorable, inspiring tweets from you. Here are just a few of our faves! And don't forget to follow us:

Monica Taddeo has truly become one of our teacher BFFs this year! We loved that the Storyworks article about slime inspired her class to make their own!

We were so impressed that two kids from Jessie George Elementary School won one of our Storyworks Jr. writing contests! If your students win, tweet us a picture! Those proud faces absolutely make our day.

We could barely contain our joy when we saw that two of our teacher friends, Mrs. Smothers and Mrs. Cruikshank, are planning to connect their students next year with a penpal program. Seeing Storyworks teachers connect on Twitter is truly amazing!

Mrs. Cruikshank tried a lesson she found right here on the Ideabook, and we loved seeing the results! I can particularly relate to the girl on the bottom right—I felt the same way when I learned about "hyena butter!"

We love nothing more than connecting with teachers and classes, so don't be shy! Follow us on Twitter and reach out anytime. I, for one, watch the #Storyworks and #StoryworksJr hashtags like a hawk!

Your thoughts on Storyworks Jr.'s first year

Kara Corridan

Last month we sent out a survey to all of our Storyworks Jr. subscribers. These surveys help us see exactly how we were able to help you this past school year, and how we can improve in the coming year. This feedback is critical for any magazine, but considering this was Storyworks Jr.'s first year, it's even more vital. So I offer a huge thank you to everyone who responded. We know these come at a time when you have a million deadlines to hit and plenty of end-of-year activities to attend. (By the way, if you got an email about our survey and you didn't click on the link to take it, it's not too late!) We've been poring through the results, and every single response and comment is helping us fine-tune our content, our support materials, and differentiation tools. Here are 5 takeaways that you might find interesting, too:

1. Nearly all of you want our stories to address SEL topics. 98% of you felt it's important to include social-emotional learning in our articles. We're glad to hear that, because in 2017-18, we'll have a special emphasis on SEL--not just in our fiction stories, but in our paired texts, too, and anywhere else it makes sense.

2. Most of you don't know about one of our best features.  We know how it is when you're done reading a story to your students, but they want to learn more about the topic: You'd love to keep the learning going, but you don't have time to dig around for learning extensions. Guess what? You don't have to! Our Can't-Miss Teaching Extras, which are on the Story Pages on our website, give you exactly what you're looking for--whether it's a short video, or a book, or a link to an infographic, or a cool fact we didn't have room to include in the story. (Can't find them? For our story about the Boston Molasses Flood, you simply scroll down and look for the white bar on the right side.)

3. Sometimes, you consider our stories to be a treat for your students. We loved when one teacher told us that she "lets" her students act our our read-aloud plays as a reward!

4. You can't get enough biographies. When we asked what you want to see more of, an overwhelming majority of you requested biographies. You can bet you'll be seeing more biographies in the next school year!

5. You want a sneak preview of content. Consider it done! All summer, starting in July, watch out each week for a peek at what we're cooking up for our fall and winter issues. For now, I'll give you a hint: Our September 2017 nonfiction feature has to do with a certain luxury liner that met an untimely end just over a century ago...

Teacher Appreciation Week Giveaways!

Lauren Tarshis

Dear teachers,

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 storyworksideabook@scholastic.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.

Good luck! 

With warmest wishes,


Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Anna Starecheski

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! Here at Scholastic, we have great respect for teachers. And on a personal note, I am in awe of all that you do every day. So I wanted to share a little story about a teacher who changed my life.

When I started high school, I was apathetic about school. I've never been good at math and science, and the emphasis on those subjects was discouraging. I felt stupid. Why even try? Junior year, I was placed into the lowest-level English class. But I was excited, because I had a notoriously great teacher. His name was Mr. Brandt, but everyone called him Bucky. He was one of those teachers that every kid loves. 

Bucky gave us a summer assignment, and when I handed mine in on the first day of school he took me aside. "Why are you in this class?" he asked me. "You're too advanced for this. I'm going to make sure you get moved into my higher class." And he did. And for the first time in high school, I felt smart. Bucky made me feel like I was capable, even special. He praised my writing and suggested additional books for me to read. He even made sure I was in his AP English class senior year. 

Bucky gave me one very important thing that great teachers can give to students: confidence. He made me feel like a good student, and so I became one. Not just in his class, but in others. He even wrote my college recommendation letter. And so the girl who was placed in the lowest-level English class became a writer and an editor at Scholastic. And Bucky is still teaching today.

I feel like almost everyone has a story like this one, about a teacher who changed their life for the better. All you teachers are doing such important work, and we are relishing this week where we get to shower you with praise and gifts (keep your eyes peeled for a special giveaway, coming soon!). Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, from all of us here at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.!

Storyworks Has The ELL Resources You Need

Rebecca Leon

About a year ago, one of our beloved advisers, a wonderful fourth-grade teacher from New Jersey, reached out to me with a generous offer: She wanted to share her ideas and strategies for helping the English language learners in her classroom. She inspired me to explore what we could do at Storyworks to help you support your students who are acquiring English.

Fast-forward a year, and I'm happy to draw your attention to the resources we've developed.

1. Vocabulary Slideshows

I've discovered that "make it visual" is a mantra for supporting ELLs—and our Vocabulary Slideshows not only match words with images, they're also a fabulous way to boost pronunciation and fluency.

2. Questions for English Language Learners

Our nonfiction feature and paired texts come with Questions for English Language Learners. They include yes/no, either/or, and short-answer questions, as well as prompts to discuss words and idioms that could be challenging for English learners.

3. Spanish-Language Debate

And did you know that you can now download a version of our debate in Spanish? With more than 75 percent of ELLs coming from Spanish-speaking homes, this version can be a great bridge to reading the debate in English, or for sending home to discuss with parents.

4. Tips for ELL Students

Be sure to check out the Teacher's Guide for Tips for ELL Students. We help you find the idioms, language structures, and cultural references in a feature that could be stumbling blocks for English learners.

Finally, many of the Storyworks differentiation offerings lend themselves to supporting your ELLs. These include our lower-Lexile versions of articles, audio versions, and lower-level activity sheets.

As with so much in Storyworks, these resources started with an idea from a dedicated teacher just like you. I'd love to hear how they're working and what we can do to make them even better. Drop me a line anytime at RLeon@Scholastic.com!