Editor's notes

A Sneak Peek at the Storyworks May/June Issue!

By
Allison Friedman

We’re counting down the days until you and your students get your hands on the May/June issue of Storyworks, which is packed with thrilling, moving, and deeply important stories. In fact, we can't resist sharing a sneak peek! Here are just a few of our favorite features:

 


We couldn’t be more in love with the fiction that came out of this year’s Create a Character contest. Storyworks reader Gia Hilal inspired author Nora Raleigh Baskin to craft a breathtaking story about a girl whose love of singing helps her connect to her Syrian heritage. And as an added treat, we have an audio version recorded by the author herself!

 


The issue’s nonfiction feature tells the powerful story of Ben Kamm, a Jewish teenager who escaped the Warsaw ghetto during World War II and joined the partisans—bands of brave fighters who launched attacks on the Nazis. In focusing on heroic young people who fought back against unimaginable evil, the article offers an age-appropriate entry point into the difficult subject of the Holocaust. And our behind-the-scenes video will help students understand why it’s important to learn about this horrific chapter in history.

 


This issue will hit your classroom just in time for Earth Day—and reading our biographical play about Rachel Carson is the perfect way to celebrate. It follows Carson as she writes and publishes her now-classic book Silent Spring, exposing the dangers of pesticides and forever changing how Americans treat nature. The play pairs beautifully with the issue’s poem, a moving tribute to the majesty of the ocean.

 


Your students will be charmed by the issue’s delightfully silly infographic, which encourages them to bring a camel along on their summer vacation. We can’t wait to see all their camel selfies!

 

Getting excited? Luckily, you only have a few more days to wait until these stories hit your classroom. We’ll be standing by to hear what you think!

A Sneak Peek at Storyworks Jr.'s May/June Issue!

By
Kara Corridan

I can't believe that we're wrapping up our second year of Storyworks Jr.! We've truly loved creating this resource and sharing it with all of you—your feedback, comments, and insight have been invaluable in making Storyworks Jr.'s second year a success! I'm so excited to share a special sneak peek at some of the content you'll see in your final issue of the year.

 

This issue's Word Power feature might make your students yawn, but we can guarantee they won't be bored! Check out a special slideshow online in which our Why Guy explains the meaning behind common idioms about sleep.

 

Get ready for summer! Our Paired Texts are about the history of ice and ice cream—more fascinating than you might imagine! Your students can practice compare/contrast as they learn about the obscure history of chilly things they might take for granted.

 

We're wrapping up the year with a totally thrilling nonfiction feature about the Apollo 13 disaster. Students will practice problem and solution as they learn all about this catastrophe and the ingenious astronauts and engineers who made sure everyone got home safely. Don't miss the Video Read-Aloud for this story—it's shaping up to be a great one! Bonus: The poem in this issue has a special connection to this story!

 

We're sure your students will have a strong opinion on this issue's debate: Should kids be paid to do chores? We can't wait to hear if any of your students will be swayed to the "no" side when they read this one!

 

Our May/June issue will be online April 18th and shipped to you soon after—don't miss these and other fantastic stories in our final issue!

Student Writer Spotlight: Hika H!

By
Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. On the Ideabook, we like to highlight extraordinary student writing through our Student Writer Spotlight. See our previous Storyworks winners here and here!

 

Our fabulous winner for the Storyworks December 2017/January 2018 issue is Hika H! Hika sent us a clever, funny entry to the Hedgehog contest, which asked students to write a letter to a friend dissuading them from getting a pet hedgehog. (We also got some impassioned letters from students on the pro-hedgehog side, which we greatly appreciated!) See Hika's letter below!

 

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If you ever think hedgehogs are easy, quiet, social or all of the above, don't be tricked into getting more than you bargained for. Seeing adorable pictures online may tempt you, but know that being cute does not mean you're worth it.

Hedgehogs are noisy. They squeak, snort, and squeal. What's also terrible? They are nocturnal animals, so good luck drowning out annoying sounds as you try to sleep.

What do bears, raccoons, and even wildcats fear? The hedgehog of course. No wonder no animal can shove a softball-sized animal with thousands of razor-sharp needles down its throat. If you want to avoid a pet that can be detrimental to your health, the hedgehog is not for you.

Compare and contrast, hedgehog and dog. Difference? A dog is man's best friend. A hedgehog? Not so much. Do dogs curl up when they are upset and take hours to unroll? There will be no snuggling here and definitely no fetching. Instagram may love you from the moment you sign that form. But your life will change. I assure you not for the better.

 

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Hika's entry was chosen as a winner because of her use of casual, friendly language and her fantastic sense of humor! She incorporated details from the infographic in Storyworks and even added some of her own. Well done, Hika!

To learn more about Storyworks contests, click here!

Student Writer Spotlight: Seth F!

By
Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. On the Ideabook, we like to highlight extraordinary student writing through our Student Writer Spotlight. See our previous Storyworks Jr. winners here and here

 

Our winner for the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Storyworks Jr. is Seth F! Seth sent us an incredible response to the prompt for our Penguin Contest The prompt for this contest was to write a journal entry as a penguin from our nonfiction story, “The Amazing Penguin Rescue.” See Seth's entry below!

 

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By Seth F (Peter P. Pennysworth, the penguin)

Fifteen weeks ago I was in what humans call "an oil spill." You see, I was almost chock full of sardines when the water suddenly changed. It felt heavy on my wings. It stung my eyes. Soon, I realized I was drowning. I filled myself with air and floated to the surface. I saw my brother, Percy, on the shoreline. I also saw my dad out at sea far away from me. All of us were covered with slimy black stuff. Everyone around me was terrified. At last, I forced myself onto the rocky beach. I licked my feathers to stay clean. I huddled with friends to keep warm. Finally, I gave up. I stood on the pebbles, cold and miserable. After a while, tall, hairy creatures started invading my home.

"Run!" someone squawked.

"Hurry!" another honked. Suddenly, I got caught by one of the monsters!

"Get off!" I threatened. I was forced to bite his neck. When that didn't work, I snapped at his arm.

The thing loaded me into a box with a bunch of other penguins. A cover crashed onto the box top. Then, we moved. As the box rocked around, my eyelids grew heavy. I fell asleep.

Suddenly, I woke up to something strange. I was no longer in the crate. Instead, I was in a huge blue bowl-shaped box with two chairs and a bunch of fish. Dead fish. “Disgusting,” I thought. “Who would ever eat THOSE!” Next, more of those strange creatures came and sat in the chairs. One of the things grabbed my friend, Joe. After they were done “feeding” us, they poked us with brushes and put white bubbly stuff on us. After that, I smelled like peach. Then, they put a pathetic sweater on me.

Days…Weeks…

Finally, after I was cleaned, one of those humans loaded me into the box. I started to move again. Before I knew it, I was at a sandy beach. After a while, I couldn’t help it. I plunged into the water and swam wherever my instinct guided me. Finally, I came to a rocky island.

My island!

I ate, drank, and staggered around. Suddenly I remembered those humans, how they rescued me, how they cared for me.

I felt lucky. I felt safe. I felt, happy.

* * * * *

Seth blew us away with his incredible writing! His descriptions were vivid and he captured the details and feeling of the story but still managed to put his own spin on it. And we laughed out loud at the detail of the "pathetic sweater"! Great job, Seth!

For more information about Storyworks Jr. contests, click here!

The Most Delightful Test-Prep Tool in Your Toolkit!

By
Rebecca Leon

We know that test prep can be a stressful—and less than exciting—time in your classroom. Making your teaching life easier and your students' learning deeper and more joyful are our top goals, so we have a recommendation we're dying to share with you: Try digging into the Storyworks Core Skills Workout: Making Inferences. 

This unique 64-page workbook helps students practice one of the most important analytical reading skills—and one that's most needed for test readiness. We believe you and your students will find it not only effective, but truly delightful to use! Here's a delightful short video summing up the resource.

Students will be guided through the process of making inferences with this fun and engaging workbook, bursting with activities across the genres. They’ll be bulking up their “inferencing muscles” and be ready for tests, without the boring test prep!

With the Storyworks Core Skills Workout: Making Inferences you get:

  • Captivating fiction, poetry, and nonfiction selections, perfectly curated to teach inference with classic children’s literature and beloved Storyworks articles
  • Kid-friendly explanations to make the hows and whys of inference meaningful and easy to understand
  • Dozens of fun scaffolded activities that can be used in whole-class or small-group instruction. They'll give students the practice they need to grow their skill mastery and confidence! 
  • Assessments in formats modeled on rigorous standardized tests, offering the perfect low-intimidation practice
  • Brand-new standards-aligned Teacher’s Guide with lesson ideas, pacing guides, and an answer key. It will make planning, teaching, and grading a breeze (available for free download!).
  • Tips to support every learner, with suggestions for differentiation, English language learners, writing extensions, and so much more!
  • And for our Texas teachers! Additional test-prep questions modeled on the STAAR exam, plus specific TEKS and ELPS alignments!

We're excited to hear how this resource works for you in your classroom. To learn more and place an order, click here!

Short Nonfiction Leads to Rich SEL

By
Anna Starecheski

For the September issue of Storyworks Jr., I had the honor of writing about an amazing young girl named Jesselyn Silva. Jesselyn is 11 years old, and she loves to box. I was bowled over and inspired by Jesselyn's passion and dedication, and I hoped Storyworks Jr. readers would be too. But I never could have imagined the lesson one class got after reading her story.

 

 

Upstate NY teacher Teresa Weinmann saw that Jesselyn's story could open the door to an important social-emotional learning lesson on the importance of being yourself. And she had the perfect person to help her deliver this lesson: her friend Karen. Karen is a mother, an insurance agent, a singer, and a boxer. Teresa invited her into her classroom, and what followed was an experience her students will never forget.

 


Karen started by showing some photos of a boxer from behind. She asked the students what they saw, if they could tell if it was a man or a woman. The kids' minds were blown when Karen declared "Well, it's me." She talked about gender stereotypes and was thrilled when she asked the kids what kinds of jobs girls should have. "Any job," one boy said. And what kind of jobs should boys have? "Whatever they want." These kids had the right idea already!

Karen spoke about her journey to finding her passion in boxing and how it makes her feel strong and confident. 

She told the students that they can be anything they want to be, and that it's important to do what you love and be true to yourself. They discussed positive words they could say to themselves when they feel down or defeated by themselves or others. 

The conversation went in many directions, from bullying to being a male ballet dancer to not judging someone by how they look. And then came some fun!

 

 

Karen showed the kids her boxing equipment and even taught them some moves! But the learning wasn't over then: Teresa gave the kids paper boxing gloves and had them write positive words to describe themselves on one glove, and on the other glove they wrote phrases that might encourage them when they are faced with a challenge.

 

 

A short nonfiction story about an incredible young girl led to a learning experience these kids will never forget. We are always thrilled when teachers take a story from our magazines and turn it into something we never could have imagined. Do you have a story like Teresa's? We want to hear about it

Student Writer Spotlight: Ransym W!

By
Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. On the Ideabook, we like to highlight extraordinary student writing through our Student Writer Spotlight. See our previous Storyworks Jr. winner here!

 

For Storyworks Jr.'s "One of a KIND" contest in the October/November issue, we asked students to describe a time they had trouble fitting in. This month's spotlight winner, Ransym W, was chosen as a winner because of her detailed, honest, and original essay. See Ransym's entry below:

 

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The first day of second grade was a disaster! Everybody was making fun of me because my hair was so frizzy! When I got home I was so sad. Then my mom came up to my room and said, “Don’t let people make fun of you just because you don’t fit in.” So then the next day everybody tried to make fun of me with my frizzy hair but they did not! I said, “You cannot make fun of me just because I have frizzy hair. I am the way I am.” So for the rest of the year they did not bother me again.

 

***********

 

Ransym's opening sentence hooked us right away, and we found her essay super relatable and detailed. It's short, sweet, and gets her point across! And we loved her "I am the way I am" message. Well done, Ransym!

Student Writer Spotlight: Danilo B!

By
Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. On the Ideabook, we like to highlight extraordinary student writing through our Student Writer Spotlight. See our previous Storyworks winner here!

 

Our fantastic student writer for the Storyworks October/November issue is Danilo B! Danilo sent us an amazing entry to the Good Deed contest. The prompt was: Write a conversation between Heather and Risa in which Heather apologizes for how she acted and explains what she learned. See Danilo's entry below!

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

The Good Deed Story Continuation

By Danilo B

 

The next day, I went back to Risa's apartment with a book bag over my shoulder. The heavy bag was filled with poem collections, classic novels, short stories, and, of course, read-alouds for Risa's little brothers. Anxiously, I knocked on the door.

Will Risa be glad to see me? Probably not, I thought knowing our previous interactions. Still, I wanted her to know, I am not as I appeared earlier, judgemental and snotty. I needed to make things right and apologize. As I contemplated my apology, the door opened. Standing in the doorway was Risa, glaring at me intently, sleeping Andrew resting on her shoulder.

Why did I ever look at her in disdain? All my confidence was lost.

"Reeead to us pleeease!" Begged one of Risa's brothers, holding onto her leg. Risa and I stared at each other.

"Can we read to your brothers again? Together? I said softly, breaking the silence.

"Just as long as it's not a good deed!"

"Don't worry; it is definitely not." I stammered.

"Come in." She made a motion with her head as she opened the door completely.

''Y-Yeah." I stuttered.

As I entered, I noticed Risa's other brother sitting on the couch with Stories that Never Grow Old on his lap.

"That's Matthew."  Risa nodded towards the brother on the couch.

"And this is Lukas." She patted the head the brother still holding her leg.

"Nice to meet you two!" I said as sweet as I could.

Risa gave Lukas gentle push and he ran to the couch. The wide couch was old, but clean. We joined them, boys seated between us. Risa reached for Stories that Never Grow Old, and started to open it.

"How about this one?" I interrupted, pulling a short story compendium from the book bag, that somehow went unnoticed all this time.

"Uhm...sure." Risa said, surprisingly.

Matthew and Lukas loved listening to stories. They would sigh in relief, yelped in surprise and smack their hands laughingly as Risa and I took turns, reading stories to them for hours. Risa's reading was getting better too, as she was gaining more and more confidence with every page read.

The afternoon went by quickly. I packed my books and was ready to head home, when I remembered I still didn't apologize. I pulled Risa aside. I wanted to apologize, but still couldn't bring myself to do it.

"Risa. I...I—", I stuttered. She gave me a confused look.

Lukas was grabbing her leg and making puppy dog eyes, as if to say "Keep reading!" I couldn't bring myself to say 'sorry'.

"I really liked today. It was fun." I said instead. I left the apartment in shame.

 

Following day I went to Miss Benson's apartment. I knocked on the door. "Who is it?" Miss Benson's voice was soft from the other side of door.

"Heather."

"Come in, sweetheart."

I entered quickly and shut the door. The aroma of snickerdoodle cookies filled the small apartment. Miss Benson was sitting in her chair as usual. Taking the empty chair next to hers, I picked out a classic novel from my book bag and started reading to her. However, thoughts of apologizing to Risa cluttered my head.

"You know, Miss Benson..." I started to say.

"Yes, Heather?" She replied sweetly.

"Risa, she, she has flowing brown hair, and brown eyes like cinnamon."

''Thank you," Miss Benson nodded, ''I'm sure the two of you are great friends."

"Yeah..." I trailed off.

 

I continued to read to Miss Benson, but apologetic thoughts invaded my conscious.

Will my apology make things worse or better between Risa and I? Will she judge  me, like I did her? Will she know I am sincere and not be snooty and judgemental to me like I was to her?

I closed the book and placed it in bag. No matter what, my apology to Risa cannot be put off any longer.

"Miss Benson, I was so wrong." With that unusual goodbye, I left her apartment.

 

Heading to Risa's apartment, I was determined to apologize and hopeful she will accept!

With sweaty palms, I knocked on Risa's door twice. "Back again?" Risa asked dumbfounded.

"Y-Yeah." I replied nervously.

"Come on in, then." Risa opened the door. Lukas and Matthew were chasing each other around the small apartment. I came in, sat down my book bag on the couch, then pulled Risa aside. It was time. Before I lost my courage again, I cut straight to the point.

"Risa, I know that I should have done this sooner, but I'm sorry. I'm really, really, sorry. Without any reason, I was mean to you and very judgemental. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me, but if you don't, it's probably what I deserve."

Risa's mouth curved in gentle smile.

"Don't worry Heather, you're fine. I forgive you."

"R-really? Th-thanks."

"No problem!" She said grabbing my hand and pulling me to the couch. Her brothers were ready for storytime. "C'mon, let's read to Matthew and Lukas. Together!"

My heart swelled with joy. I had done what needed to be done and it felt good!

 

Risa and I spent the rest of our summer reading to Miss Benson and her little brothers.

We became best of friends. And the best part was that it wasn't a good deed.

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

Danilo's entry was chosen as a winner because of his clear writing, excellent dialogue, and thoughtful response to the prompt. I, for one, was blown away by the quality of his writing! He demonstrated a great understanding of emotion and expression, which made the dialogue in his story come alive. 

To learn more about Storyworks contests, click here!

Win a Skype With Our Editors!

By
Kara Corridan

We could talk about how much we love teachers all day. Luckily, Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to do just that! As we go about our jobs here at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr., we constantly ask ourselves: How can we make teachers' lives easier and more joyful? We think of our subscribers as part of our Storyworks family, and we love connecting with you. Whether it's through a phone call, a Skype, a school visit, or an in-person meeting, we are always thrilled to get the opportunity to speak with you. 

That's why our Valentine's gift to you is also a bit of a gift to us. (We couldn't resist!) 

So, between now and Wednesday, share on Twitter or Instagram why or how you love Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. Two lucky winners will get a Skype with our editors! Don't forget to use the hashtags #Storyworks or #StoryworksJr to make sure we see it!

Happy Valentine's Day, wonderful teachers!

Celebrate World Read Aloud Day with Storyworks!

By
Anna Starecheski

World Read Aloud Day is coming up on February 1st, and all of us here at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. are super excited! We've got several tools to help making reading aloud with your class easier and more fun. We can't wait to hear about how you all celebrate in your classrooms!

 

 

Audio Articles

Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. offer audio versions of many of our articles, including nonfiction, fiction, paired texts, and poetry. We have a lot of fun creating every aspect of our magazines, and audio is no exception: We record the majority of the articles ourselves in our in-house sound booth. We love giving your students a real live voice, rather than a computer. So if you want to give your students a great read-aloud experience but your voice needs a break, press play on one of our audio articles and have students follow along in their magazines.

 

 

Storyworks Jr. Video Read-Alouds

One of the most popular resources from Storyworks Jr. is our Video Read-Aloud. In these show-stopping videos, the author of our main nonfiction feature reads the story aloud as gripping photos and footage bring the story to life. It's a great way to build background knowledge and add context to tricky subjects. And students love them! Teachers always tell us, "You can hear a pin drop in their classroom when we play these videos!"

 

 

Get Creative!

There are so many ways you can use our magazines to get into the spirit of World Read Aloud Day!

  • Host a fiction reading party: Have students get comfy and read a selection of our fiction stories (there's one in every issue of Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.!).
  • Pair up students as reading buddies and invite them to read aloud their favorite stories from this year's issues. 
  • Start a poetry club, where students can come and enjoy poems from our archives. Students can take turns reading, or you can read aloud to them, followed by a discussion about the poem.

 

If you use our resources on World Read Aloud Day, we want to hear about it! Tweet about it with the hashtags #Storyworks and #StoryworksJr or shoot us an email!