Editor's notes

Sneak Peek at Next Year's SEL Focus

By
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 I think your students, boys and girls, will be inspired by Jesselyn's tenacity and, to use an outdated term, moxie!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!

By
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

By
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

By
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!

By
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,

Lauren

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

By
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

By
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!

One More #MyStoryworksMoments Round-up!

By
Anna Starecheski

In February, we asked you to join our social media community at #MyStoryworksMoment to share your quintessential and out-of-the-box moments using Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. in your classroom. (See our previous round-ups here and here.) We've been blown away by all of you, and seeing your classrooms alive with engagement makes logging on to Twitter fun. We so appreciate you sharing your #MyStoryworksMoment tweets for this school year, and we'll keep finding fun ways to keep our community going with all of you!

We wish we could come visit all of your classrooms! By sharing the creative learning taking place all across the country, we hope it's been fun making connections with like-minded teachers making the most of our resources. You can always reach us at #Storyworks and #StoryworksJr, and we hope you'll continue to invite us into your classrooms by capturing the visual excitment of reading and learning happening every day. Happy tweeting!

Ms. Taddeo's tweet just blew us away—we love when teachers make creative connections to STREAM with our content! After reading the article Mountain of Fire in Storyworks, her students created their own volanoes!

Ms. Caceres shared this sweet photo of some of her readers enjoying the fiction story from Storyworks Jr., The Big One. Seeing happy kids engaged in reading our content just makes our day!

Teacher adviser Jackie Rabinoff shared this great pic of her students reading The Box That Changed America from Storyworks. Gotta love seeing students so engaged that they don't even ham it up for the camera!

We're so excited to be in touch with you! Feel free to follow our editors on Twitter:

  • Lauren Tarshis, editor of Storyworks@laurenTarshis
  • Allison Friedman, associate editor of Storyworks@alli_friedman
  • Kara Corridan, editor of Storyworks Jr.@kcorridan
  • Anna Starecheski, assistant editor of Storyworks Jr.@annastarecheski
  • Rebecca Leon, education editor for Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.@RebeccaLeon12
  • Aimee Dolan, director of teacher outreach for all of our ELA mags: @Dolan_AS

My Personal Connection to Our WWII Read-Aloud Play

By
Anna Starecheski

My paternal grandmother Irene in her WAVES uniform

After every issue of Storyworks Jr. has been sent off to the printer, Executive Editor Kara Corridan and I sit down and brainstorm for our "Can't-Miss Teaching Extras." (Unfamiliar with those? With most stories in Storyworks Jr., we offer a curated list of teaching tips, fun facts, and learning extensions. They're listed in a column on the righthand side of the story page. Check them out!)

Our May/June play is When Girls Ruled Baseball by Lauren Tarshis, which is about one of the special roles women took on during World War II: that of pro baseball players. When we were discussing Teaching Extras, Kara suggested we research other roles of women in World War II, from their work in munitions factories to women who served in the Armed Forces. "My grandmother served in World War II," I offered. And thus, this Ideabook post was born!

I invite you to read my story and perhaps share it with your students—along with your own experiences! Do you have relatives who fought in World War II? Share their stories! The people who came of age during World War II are elderly now, and all my relatives who fought have passed away. It's important to keep telling their stories, so that we can keep this history alive for kids growing up today, for whom World War II seems like ancient history. I've included some discussion questions at the end of this post so you can keep the conversation going with your students.

A recruiting poster for the WAVES

When we think about women in World War II, we often think of Rosie the Riveter, of women working in factories while the men were away. (Be sure to check out our awesome video for great info on and powerful footage of women in the workforce during the war.) But many people might not know that women were also called upon to serve in the Armed Forces. The Navy was one branch of the military that welcomed women. Well, "welcomed" may be a strong word. Unsurprisingly, not everyone was on board with bringing women into the military.

Nevertheless, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, was created in 1942. Its primary purpose was to place women in shore establishments to free up more men for sea duty. This meant that no WAVES served in combat—they ranged from doctors and engineers to administrative and clerical roles. They took jobs previously held by men, so that those men could go and fight at sea. At the height of the program, there were more than 86,000 women in the WAVES.

A photograph of my grandmother before her days in the WAVES

In 1945, my grandmother, Irene Anderson, was 21 years old. She was a quiet Swedish girl, the daughter of immigrants, living in Ridgway, Pennsylvania. When she found out that the WAVES were recruiting, she was eager to sign up. To be honest, I don't know much about my grandma's early life. She was always very mysterious and shy, and I never got the nerve to ask her all the questions I wanted to. When someone is as quiet and unforthcoming as my grandma was, you find yourself not wanting to pry too much. So I'm really not sure why a young woman who had never lived away from home would sign up to join the military. Maybe she craved adventure. Maybe she wanted to serve her country. Whatever the reason, she enlisted and was trained at Hunter College (now Lehman College) in the Bronx. 

She served from 1945-1946. She was in charge of a WAVES barracks at the Patuxent Naval Air Station in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. She handed out bedding and made sure toilet paper and cleaning supplies were in stock. Nothing fancy, but she was proud to serve. After the war ended, a young seaman named Edward Starecheski arrived at Patuxent to be discharged. His barracks was within sight of my grandmother's, and they saw each other in what I imagine was a time-stopping, super-romantic movie moment. Before long, they fell in love. They got married on the base with a military preacher and had a one-night honeymoon.

My grandma had entered the war as Irene Anderson, and would leave it as Irene Starecheski. After the war ended, the WAVES were quickly demobilized. Just as the female factory workers were shooed back into their homes, the women of the WAVES were thanked for their service and encouraged to go back to their civilian lives as wives and mothers. My grandparents moved to a tiny apartment in Philadelphia and started a quiet postwar life.

After the war, my grandparents lived in the second-floor apartment of this little house in West Philadelphia (now a taco shop). 

I wish I knew more about my grandma's experience in the WAVES. I'm proud that she was one of the brave, adventurous women who signed up to take a traditionally male role in such a brutal war. There's so much complexity, so many layers to World War II history, and it's important to remember the roles women held. From pro baseball players, to munitions factory workers, to military personnel like my grandmother.

Here are some discussion questions to raise with your students when learning about women in World War II:

  • Why do you think women were forced back into their roles as housewives after the war ended?
  • How are things different for women today? 
  • Do you have any family members who served in World War II or other wars?
  • Are there any family members who have experiences you'd like to know more about?
  • Why do you think it's important to talk to the older people in our lives and learn about their experiences?

Teach Earth Day With Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.

By
Anna Starecheski

Earth Day is on April 22nd, and if you're in search of a great lesson, we've got you covered! We've gathered our favorite Earth Day-friendly articles from this years' issues of Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. and have suggested some mini-lessons to go along with them. Happy Earth Day, from us to you!

Storyworks

Should Helium Balloons Be Banned?

In this fun debate from the February 2017 issue, students will learn the surprising ways in which helium balloons are not so environmentally-friendly. But does the fun outweigh the harm? Use this teacher's fun and simple debate lesson plan along with this debate!

Monster Goldfish/Pigs on the Loose

This paired text from the February 2017 issue is sure to blow your students' minds! Two texts explore two unlikely invasive species: goldfish and wild pigs. These stories are exciting to read, while teaching an important lesson about the environment. For a fun extension activity, have students research invasive species in your area. 

Storyworks Jr.

The Girl Who's Saving the Bees

This bite-size nonfiction piece from the October/November 2016 issue covers an incredible kid named Mikaila Ulmer, who was disturbed by the plight of bees in the world today. Mikaila has created a business selling lemonade while raising money and awareness. She uses local honey in her lemonade, and a portion of the profits go to saving the bees. Your students are sure to be inspired by Mikaila's mission! For a learning extension, do some research with your students and find out which local plants in your area are best for bees. You could even plant some at your school! 

The Snake That's Eating Florida

The feature nonfiction from the September 2016 issue is about one of the most well-known and destructive invasive species: the Burmese python. These huge snakes live in the Florida everglades and gobble up everything in their paths. We predict that your students will be fascinated by these slithery creatures. For extra fun, watch this video about invasive species created by our colleagues at Action magazine!

 

Do you have a successful Earth Day lesson we should know about? Tell us about it in the comments below!