Editor's notes

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!

One More #MyStoryworksMoments Round-up!

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

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.

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!


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!

More Favorite #MyStoryworksMoment Tweets!

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. We just love these visual connections that teachers are posting. It continues to inspire and amaze us to see your beautiful tweets, so keep them coming. Plus we love connecting with you on social media! Here are a few more of our favorites:

Not one but two awesome teachers shared pictures of their classes building real-life popsicle-stick bridges after reading our fiction story "The Popsicle-Stick Bridge" in Storyworks Jr.!

Storyworks adviser Dana Canales of Texas shared some awesome tweets about how she uses Storyworks to prep her students for STAAR assessments! We loved her idea so much that we asked her to turn it into an Ideabook post. Luckily for us, she agreed! Her post is coming soon.

Our beloved Link Ladies shared a snippet of their famous app-style learning: Their students were so excited to read about lucky charms around the world in Grammar Cop that they researched more on their own!


We've already showcased some of our favorite #MyStoryworksMoment tweets, and we're eager to share more with you! 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:

  • 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

Enter to Win a Test-Prep Essential!

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!

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

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?