Editor's notes

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.

 

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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! 

 

 

Join me on a virtual field trip!

By
Lauren Tarshis

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.)

Lauren

Our Favorite Tweets From You

By
Kara Corridan

Seeing your tweets about Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. makes all of us so grateful and proud. Please keep 'em coming! Here are some of our favorites of late:

 

How cool are blackout poems? Kyle Kessering, a 5th-grade teacher in Ohio, found this creative second life for issues of Storyworks:

 

Third-grade Texas teacher Kyndra Hartzler shows her students reading Anansi, Storyworks Jr.'s December/January read-aloud play, and using our new "Why Guy" slideshow that provides background information about the concept of tricksters in literature:

 

 

This fourth-grade class in North Carolina showed us how they use Storyworks for text mapping:

 

We got a kick out of this teacher's comment on her post about the prediction sort she created for "The History of Television" in Storyworks Jr.—none of her students knew what MTV was! 

Emily Francis, an ESL teacher in North Carolina, included a fun video of her students engrossed in our paired texts in the September issue of Storyworks Jr., "Hamburger History/Tacos Take Over"

 

 

If you're not following us already on social media, please do! We love connecting with you. 

 

Lauren Tarshis, editor of Storyworks: @laurentarshis on Twitter and Instagram

Allison Friedman, associate editor of Storyworks: @alli_friedman on Twitter

Kara Corridan, editor of Storyworks Jr.: @kcorridan on Twitter and @karastoryworksjr on Instagram

Anna Starecheski, associate editor of Storyworks Jr.: @annastarecheski on Twitter

Aimee Dolan, director of teacher outreach for Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.: @Dolan_AS

Rebecca Leon, education executive editor, education: @RebeccaLeon12

 

 

 

Student Writer Spotlight: Emilia C!

By
Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. We get so many fantastic entries, and it's truly a joy to read them! We love to recognize our winners and their hard work, and thus the Student Writer Spotlight was born. Each issue, we'll choose one winner from Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. to celebrate here on the Ideabook. We hope that this will both encourage your students to enter and provide you with some great examples of successful entries.

 

Without further ado, meet our first Storyworks Jr. Spotlight winner: Emilia C! Emilia wrote a great response to the prompt that went along with our nonfiction story "Into the Dark Water," about the sinking of the Titanic. The prompt was: "Which text features helped you understand what it was like to be a passenger on the Titanic?" See her response below!

 

I found different text features that helped me to understand what it would be like to be a passenger on the Titanic. The title "Into the Dark Waters" sounded eerie and made me feel that the story was going to be scary. The pictures helped me to see and feel the story in my mind. The pictures expressed the words better to me. Some of the pictures showed me how big the Titanic was and how people thought it would not sink. The captions helped to explain the pictures. One caption told us about Jack and how excited he was to be on the Titanic in the beginning. The map of the Titanic showed how far away it was from the land. There was literally no land by it. This made me feel nervous for Jack and everyone else because it looked like they would not be able to survive out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. These text features stood out the most to me and let me understand the story more.

 

Our fabulous contest judge, Alicia, summed up why Emilia was chosen as a winner: "Her use of grade-appropriate adjectives to describe the atmosphere on the Titanic brilliantly illustrated how she would have felt if she were in Jack’s place." Indeed! Nice job, Emilia! To learn more about Storyworks Jr. contests, click here.

Student Writer Spotlight: Abir B!

By
Anna Starecheski

One of my favorite parts of my job is managing student writing contests. We get so many fantastic entries, and it's truly a joy to read them! We love to recognize our winners and their hard work, and thus the Student Writer Spotlight was born. Each issue, we'll choose one winner from Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. to celebrate here on Ideabook. We hope that this will both encourage your students to enter and provide you with some great examples of successful entries.

Without further ado, meet our first Spotlight winner: Abir B! Abir submitted a great entry to Storyworks' Umbrella contest. Students were asked to "imagine you're hiring an inventor to create a better umbrella. Using the information above, write the inventor an email describing the flaws you'd like fixed." We were utterly charmed by Abir's entry—read it for yourself below!

 

October 5, 2017

Dear Inventor,

I am so delighted that I finally found a willing, clever designer like you. I am doused in water even though there is an umbrella in my hand. I hope you can help the 21st century evolve the umbrella, so all of us can stay warm and dry for the upcoming rainy season. I believe that the umbrella can use an upgrade. After all, it has been around for 165 years! The common design that most people use is harmful, wasteful, and inconvenient. But there are several ways that it can be fixed.

First of all, tinker the umbrella out of strong but biodegradable material, like the rind or skin of citrus fruits, so that it is environment-friendly. They can be thrown away and be recycled and disintegrated by bacteria instead of getting dumped in a landfill. Today's umbrella is unstable and inadequate. It turns upside-down with one quick squall of wind. With decent material, it will not be as flimsy as the regular one and be more suitable.

Second, the umbrella tips should be tucked inside, or folded and glued to the bottom. May be you can encase the metal framework with a comfortable material like rubber. This way, 3,000 Americans will stop getting hurt each year.

Finally, I wish to have another key feature - wrist cuff. With a strong, sturdy attachment for the wrist we don't have to carry it or you could attach a hat to the bottom of the umbrella so we can wear it and have a free hand. It won't blow away, and that flaw should be fixed. PLEASE make a disposable sturdy umbrella for all. I would really appreciate to hear back from you soon, possibly with more suggestions.

Sincerely,

Your Drenched friend Abir 

 

Abir's entry was chosen as a winner because of his fantastic grammar and vocabulary, clear structure, and attention paid to the prompt. Well done, Abir! To learn more about Storyworks contests, click here. And keep encouraging your students to enter: We love hearing from them!