Editor's notes

Enter to Win a Test-Prep Essential!

By
Aimee Dolan

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!

Our favorite #MyStoryworksMoment Tweets...So Far!

By
Anna Starecheski

Earlier this month, we asked you to join our social media community and share your special moments with Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. All I can say is WOW! It's been such a pleasure seeing your #MyStoryworksMoment tweets, sharing our own, and talking with you! Here are just a few of our favorites:

This tweet from teacher Stacy Musick seriously killed us: So adorable, and so great to see partner reading in action!

LOVE seeing Mrs. Smothers' class working on the readaloud play The Legend of King Midas from Storyworks Jr. There are definitely some future actors in that bunch!

Here's another tweet about King Midas, this time featuring the wonderful students in teacher Renee Johnson's class!

This tweet from Ideabook contributor Kristen Cruikshank made us so happy: Love seeing friends reading and learning together!

We can't overstate how much it makes our day to see your tweets. We're so excited to be in touch with you! Feel free to follow our editors on Twitter:

Use This Story to Teach SEL

By
Kara Corridan

We've been getting a great response to "What Makes Charlie Awesome?" in the February issue of Storyworks Jr., a story about a boy whose physical difference--hands with two fingers each--is by far the least remarkable thing about him. We'd hoped it would serve as a wonderful opportunity to teach acceptance and empathy, and according to the teachers we've heard from, that's exactly what it's done. If you haven't yet used the videos we've offered as learning extensions, please check them out. There's one about Charlie's older brother, Ethan, which was created for Storyworks a few years back, and one filmed last fall when I visited Charlie at his home—have gone a long way with your students. (That's me and Charlie in the photo.) You might want to share these extra facts about Charlie that didn't make it into the story, too:

1. He has no problem with public speaking. At the end of 5th grade, Charlie was asked to give a speech reflecting on how school had changed over the years for him and his classmates. ("It didn't scare me at all.") And this past January, he read an award-winning story he wrote for a Martin Luther King community event. 

2. He's a straight-A student. His favorite subjects are Spanish and Art. He describes it as "very relaxing." Math can be "very stressing" and as for Social Studies, "I don't get the best feeing." What's his impression of middle school? "Honestly, it's kind of a cool experience." 

3. When I asked Charlie to think of one thing that he wishes were different about himself, guess what he said? "I could try to make my hair look better, but that has nothing to do with my hands."

Charlie is truly a one-of-a-kind kid, and we're so glad his story has resonated with your students. Consider it Phase One of our upcoming emphasis on social-emotional learning, which we'll be focusing on in a big way in the 2017-18 school year. You'll hear lots more about this as it gets closer. But in the meantime, tell us: What SEL lessons are you incorporating into your classrooms? And what impact have they had on your students? 

Behind the Scenes: What No One Knows About Our Videos

By
Allison Friedman

If there’s one online resource our teachers can’t get enough of, it’s videos. The most consistent piece of feedback we hear about them is “more, please!”

I’ve been working on Storyworks videos for 3 years now, and can honestly say that we love producing them as much as you and your students love watching them. But believe it or not, putting together a 5-minute video is no small feat!

Here’s a quick glimpse at what went into the Behind the Scenes video for our February 2017 Nonfiction article, “Disaster in Space”:

  • 2: The number of weeks it took to make the video, from beginning to end
  • 9: The number of times we edited the script before we were happy with it
  • 400: The number of photos and video clips our eagle-eyed photo editor Larry Schwartz gathered for us to look at
  • 200: The number of astronaut photos we combed through before finding this perfect image:

  • 30: The approximate number of snacks we consumed while working on this video (and that’s a conservative estimate!)
  • 5: The number of video drafts our incredibly talented (and patient!) video editor, Seth Stein, put together before we settled on the final
  • 12,200: The number of times the video has been viewed so far

Do you have any suggestions for future Storyworks videos? Let us know in the comments!

We Love Teachers!

By
Kara Corridan

Happy Valentine's Day, teachers! You inspire us every day, and we're in constant awe of all that you do. With that in mind, here are just a few of the reasons we love you!

  1. You go the extra mile for your students. We know that you do many, many hours of extra work to ensure that your students are thriving.
  2. You help us make our resources great. We're endlessly grateful for the feedback, critiques, and suggestions you share with us. 
  3. You shape our kids' minds and hearts. It's no newsflash that children look up to their teachers. The compassion and validation you offer means everything to them. 
  4. You're a vital part of our community. We just launched a hashtag, #MyStoryworksMoment, where teachers (and members of our team) can share their moments with Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. The things you're tweeting make us SO happy! We love connecting with you any chance we get.
  5. You're incredibly creative. At least once a week we meet a teacher who is imparting a lesson in a way that is so original and unique and important, and with such love.

We could go on and on...really. Please feel free to share what you love about teaching OR your favorite teachers and colleagues in the comments. Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.!

Share Your #MyStoryworksMoment with Us!

By
Anna Starecheski

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 resourcesWe 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.

Celebrate Black History Month With These Editor's Picks!

In honor of Martin Luther King Day on January 16, and Black History Month in February, we want to highlight some of our favorite Civil Rights-related Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. content from past and present. (Here's your friendly reminder that with a subscription, you can access our archives, with contain many gems like these!) Most of what I’m recommending are plays, which gives your students the chance to step into the shoes of some of the most important figures in this movement.  


For Storyworks Jr. Subscribers:

The Day Mrs. Parks Was Arrested

This month in Storyworks Jr. we’ve got an incredible play about Rosa Parks, whose story features the young preacher Martin Luther King Jr. Make sure to check out our vocabulary slideshow and special Time Machine video, which gives students historical and cultural context by taking them back to the 1950s. Featured skill: cause and effect
NOTE: If you’re a Storyworks subscriber, you can check out a higher-level version of the play that we published a few years back!

 

For Storyworks subscribers:

The Unstoppable Ruby Bridges

Be sure to check out our latest Storyworks play about a brave 6-year-old who helped lead the way to school integration. While you’re poking around our resources, make sure to check out the vocabulary slideshow which can help introduce your students to the Civil Rights vocabulary they’ll encounter in the play. Featured skill: theme

 

Sitting Down for Mr. King

In this Civil Rights-era play, students learn about the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, and how four brave students inspired thousands to “sit down” for equality. Featured skill: how character changes

 

The Daring Escape of Henry Box Brown

This play isn’t directly related to MLK or the civil rights movement of the 20th century, but it has important lessons about our country’s treatment of African Americans. It tells the story of Henry Brown, and the unusual risk he took to escape slavery. Featured skill: inference

 

”Up From Slavery”

This nonfiction article tells the inspiring story of Booker T. Washington, a man who relentlessly pursued an education for himself and other former slaves. The article includes background information about the horrendous conditions of slavery and offers a video about the troubled times Booker lived through, including the Civil War and the difficult Reconstruction era. Featured skill: character traits

 

We hope you find these resources useful. Let us know how you use them in the classroom by commenting below, or emailing me directly at nkouri@scholastic.com.

A Free Storyworks Play: Our Gift to You!

By
Kara Corridan

I'm closing in on my first year as editor of Storyworks Jr., and with the holidays upon us, I'm reflecting on everything I'm grateful for. High on the list is connecting with so many of you who bend over backwards to make learning fun and meaningful for your students. What you do every day, often amid challenging circumstances and shrinking resources, inspires all of us here. As a thank you, we're giving you one of my favorite stories from the Storyworks archives.

 

When I joined the team and dove into the more than 20 years' worth of nonfiction, fiction, plays, debates, poetry, and grammar exercises that have been published in Storyworks, I was blown away by the richness and relevance of the material. And I was slightly embarrassed by how much I was learning. How did I not know there was a deadly molasses flood in Boston nearly 100 years ago? Or that dozens of children died in a freak blizzard in the Great Plains in 1888? (We adapted that story for Storyworks Jr. in our October/November 2016 issue.) 

 

But what really grabbed me was a read-aloud play called "The Daring Escape of Henry Box Brown," originally published in Storyworks more than 15 years ago, and more recently in the January 2016 issue. It's the downright riveting story of a man named Henry Brown who is so desparate to escape slavery in Virginia in 1848 that he gets packed in a crate and shipped to Philadelphia. Henry Brown was in that crate for 27 hours, with only a bottle of water to sustain him, before -- no, I won't give away the ending. We're breaking through the Storyworks paywall and giving this play to all of our Ideabook readers. You can read about Henry Box Brown for yourself, and more to the point, you can share his unforgettable story with your students. It's a powerful way to teach about American history, particularly slavery, and to focus on inference, character, and main idea. Please let me know what your class thinks of it! You can comment below, or email me directly at KCorridan@scholastic.com. 

 

From all of us at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr., we wish you a wonderful, peaceful holiday season!

A Dazzling New Tool: The Vocab Slideshow!

By
Anna Starecheski

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!

 

How Lauren fell in love with a class from Texas

By
Lauren Tarshis

A huge perk of my job is having the chance to connect with so many children and teachers. Almost every week, I Skype with a different class. All of my Skypes are wonderful experiences. But never did I imagine that a 30-minute Skype call with a group of fourth graders from Richmond, Texas could become, for me, a love story.

Teacher Kristin Cruikshank uses Storyworks for reading instruction, and her students read one of my I Survived books in their historical fiction unit. Mrs. Cruikshank wrote to us, and then told me, “Our school is a title one campus full of amazing kids!"

She wasn’t kidding – the kids were amazing. What poise! What smiles! What insightful questions! All day I was aglow thinking about Mrs. Cruikshank and her students.

But it wasn’t until after the call that things took an unusual turn.

I had told the kids that I was going to send each of them my latest I Survived book. I went on Amazon to place the order, and then wrote to Mrs. Cruikshank (I just love that name) telling to expect two boxes – one large, one small.

Three days later, she wrote to me:

“So……I saw two Amazon packages this morning . . There were two packages, one small and one large, just like you said. I opened the small box first and saw ten I Survived books! Then, I opened the large box, and saw an adult size giraffe costume (and no books!) We laughed hysterically as I put on the costume (which was way too small!)”

(It wasn’t until that night that I solved the mystery: My daughter Valerie had put the costume into my Amazon cart as a Halloween possibility. Lesson learned: Carefully examine what’s in your cart before you send books to a school—imagine the horrifying possibilities!)

But the story goes on.

This past week, I was at the Tweens Read festival in Houston. This is a truly extraordinary event organized by the Blue Willow Bookshop. They bring in authors (32 this year) for a day of panel discussions and book signings. This year, more than 2,500 students came, mostly with their teachers and librarians. I had just done my first panel discussion (I must drop names here – the others on the panel: Adam Gidowitz, Jenni Holm, Margarita Engle, Barry Lyga, and Karen Cushman).

I stepped off the stage and THERE was Mrs. Cruikshank, her student teacher Megan, and her amazing students – in the flesh. Seeing them was like being reunited with beloved family members.

And this really is the joy of my work: that an email and a Skype can lead to a picture of an incredible teacher in a giraffe costume, a chance to meet her amazing students in person, and, for me, a heart filled with love and gratitude.

(Footnote: Mrs. Cruikshank brought the giraffe costume to the festival, but I made her keep it!)