Genius teaching idea

Using QR Codes to Enforce Vocabulary

Thomasine Mastrantoni and Deborah Goldstein, the Link Ladies

Editor's note: Our beloved Link Ladies are back with another super-doable app-style learning activity! We're sure you've seen QR codes everywhere, but if you're anything like us, you may have found them a bit mysterious. Here, the Link Ladies lay out exactly how QR codes work, how you can make them (trust us, it's easy), and why you should use them in your classroom. This activity links QR codes to vocabulary to deepen understanding in a fun way! 

Vocabulary is a great equalizer. One of the best ways to lessen the achievement gap is to increase students' vocabulary. Storyworks does a great job of using bold text to highlight challenging or Tier III vocabulary throughout its nonfiction articles. Front-loading these words will help to increase your student’s comprehension and ability to interact with the text in more complex ways.

The app: Scan

Why we use it: It's an easy way to engage your students in the content before they even see the article. The app is so basic, any student can use it. The website is a simple way to literally link what students know to the text.

Wondering why we should be using QR codes in the classroom? According to, QR codes can give direct and simultaneous access to all students to the same resource with the scan of your device in school or at home. They can hold over 4,000 characters of information and are easy to create. They can also be printed on just about anything. Whether you are sharing a web address or a hidden answer to a class question, QR codes are fun and engaging to use.

Skill Focus:

  • Vocabulary Development
  • Using Context Clues
  • Comprehension

Time: 1 class period

What you’ll need:

Frontloading Vocabulary: BEFORE you read the articles, pull out the bold vocabulary words (as well as any other words you think your students will need to know to fully understand the text). Here's the bolded vocab: lure, cultural, anchorman, dedicated, diversity, rural.
Assign a group of students "vocabulary duty."  For the first time, we chose our most independent learners. As you do this more often, give each student an opportunity to get the vocabulary words ready for the class. These students will be responsible for looking up the definition of each of the vocabulary words and creating the QR codes for the class to interact with. In 1-2-3, these words will be ready for the class. Here's how it works:

Go to

1. Click on "plain text" on the lefthand side of the page.

2. Type the definition of the vocab word in the box.

3. Click on the color you would like the QR code to be. Your QR code is now created!

4. Save your code by clicking on "Download QR code." When it asks you to open a subscriber account, just click "No thanks."

Congratulations: You just created your own QR code! It will then create a .png file that you can save on your desktop or copy & paste into a Word or Google Doc for later.
Once your students have all the QR codes saved, print them out.

Lesson Ideas:

You can now have students interact with the words using the Scan app (note that any scanner app will work, but we like the simplicity of the Scan app).  
Your options are endless! You can choose a vocabulary activity that your students already know with the twist of getting the meaning from the QR code.  Here are some other ideas on how to get your students to interact with the vocabulary words.

  • Put the vocab word on a strip of paper with the QR code at the end. Example:

  • As the students read the article, they can use the codes to help them define the words.
  • Scanning is as simple as point and shoot:
    • Open up the Scan app on your iPad or smartphone
    • Hold the device so you see a square to capture the code. It will vibrate when it captures it. Then it brings you to the vocabulary word’s meaning.
    • Students continue to scan as they come across the new words.
  • Have students create a sentence using the new word.
  • Have them draw a picture that depicts the word’s meaning.
  • Have them list 3-4 synonyms they already know that have the same meaning as the new vocab word.

Once you see how simple the QR code generator is, you'll want to find more uses for it. We also create a code each month that links to the answers for some of the questions from the Teacher Resource page for the article. This is another way to extend a student’s learning and offers additional engaging activities for each article—especially for those students who routinely finish early and need a challenge.
If you want to try using QR codes (without making them yourself), here are QR codes for each of the vocabulary words in the Paired Texts articles. You will see how “linked” your students get and will surely want to start making them yourself.  (answers to the math homework… answers to the pause and think questions in Storyworks Jr… the audio for each page of a picture book… the ideas will keep coming to you.) Enjoy!








Text Marking Word Clouds For Visual Learners

Lisa Shumaker

Editor's note: Lisa Shumaker from St. Charles, Illinois, is one of our secret weapons at Storyworks Jr. She is not only tech-savvy, she is a remarkably gifted teacher. We think your students will love this super-simple but high-impact activity to practice main idea and supporting details. Please share how it works in your classroom this spring.

  • Lesson length: 4 Days
  • Grade: 3
  • Text: "How to Save a Baby Elephant" from the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.
  • Technology: can be as high-tech or low-tech as you want it to be
  • Instruction type: Small group/independent/Partners

Day 1: Pre-Reading

Small group: Begin by introducing key vocabulary in small group by showing students the Vocabulary Slideshow. Have them hunt for the vocabulary words in the text and read them in context to a partner. Next, prompt students to pay close attention to the headline, subhead, and photos on pages 4-5. Ask students to make observations about the photos and draw upon their background knowledge to make predictions about the setting of the story. After that, read through the headings and have students pause to predict what  each section will be about. Finally, set a purpose for reading: “As you go back to your work spaces, listen to the story read aloud and think about how the photographs and images helped you to comprehend the story.”

Independent work: Students go back to their work spaces and complete the vocabulary organizer and watch the video read aloud as their first read.

Day 2: Active Reading

Partner work: In partners, have students complete a “second” read of the text. Have students use text marking to actively engage with the text. Here are the symbols my students use to text mark, courtesy of Upper Elementary Fun:

Set the purpose for reading: “Today as you read the text, use the text marking strategy to practice active reading to enhance your comprehension.” As they read, they should be answering the Pause and Think questions verbally with their partners to monitor comprehension. 

Day 3: Close Read

Small group: To check for comprehension and understanding, have students share their reactions to the text by giving an example of one place in the text they marked and why. Then, establish the purpose of today’s read: “Today when we read, we will be focusing on finding evidence that shows how humans can affect elephants.” Next, conduct a think-aloud by reading the first section of text. “I notice that the authors have used some pretty bold/powerful word choices to describe what poachers do and how they affect elephants.” Model highlighting some of those strong words in the text (ex: killed, illegally, dies, orphans). Inform students that these words help the reader to visualize the negative affect that poachers have on elephants. Have students read through the next section with a partner, reminding them that they are highlighting words that show how poachers affect elephants. Have students share out the words they highlighted.

Partner work: Send pairs of students back to their work spaces to read through the rest of the article highlighting the positive and negative affects humans can have on elephants.

Day 4: Skill Building

Small Group: Begin by setting the purpose for learning: "Today we are going to be working on finding the main idea of this article." Pass out the Main Idea Reading Kit to students. Have students read aloud the definition of main idea provided on the Reading Kit. Next, explain to students that they will be generating word clouds to help them visually represent the main idea of the text. Model for students how to create a word cloud using this website. Have students contribute to the creation of the word cloud by suggesting words that should be included. Below is an example from our lesson:

Lastly, as a small group, use the visual word cloud as an aid to fill in part of the Main Idea Reading Kit. 

Independent Work: Share the link with students so that they can create their own word cloud. Have students import the words they highlighted that show ways humans can positively affect elephants. Students can choose whatever symbol/shape for their word cloud that they feel best represents the main idea of their word cloud.

Have them use their word cloud to independently fill in the remainder of the Reading Kit.

STAAR Test Prep - 5 Days of Nonfiction Fun

Dana Canales

Dana Canales is a relied-upon Storyworks teacher advisor from Spring, Texas. She teaches in a Title 1 school. Dana's voice is so important in our editorial ear, as teachers across the state are preparing for their state assessment all year long, and more rigously in late winter. We love that Dana totally gets that Storyworks can be the "spoonful of sugar" in her regular TEKS lesson planning, and can be used as amped-up STAAR practice too! You've got to check out how she works a recent nonfiction article into 5 days of test-prep for her fourth graders. 

Storyworks has always been a staple of my STAAR preparation. There's no other resource in my classroom that covers every genre tested on our state test here in Texas. What follows is a sample week in my class using the nonfiction article “Disaster in Space” from the February 2017 issue of Storyworks.

Monday: This day is all about vocabulary. Each table of students is given index cards with words from the article. They are to find the word in the text and record the following information on the back of its index card:

  • Page number and the sentence it is found in
  • Recording of any words in the sentence that help them determine a definition
  • Dictionary definition after discussing which definition is correct

I also have incorporated word study by having the students underline the base word and identify prefixes or suffixes as they apply.

When each group is done, they share their results with the class and we clear up any mistakes.  I used Storyworks' vocabulary page to orally quiz them.

Tuesday: I began our reading rotations on this day. Groups 1 and 2 consist of students who struggle in fluency and other skills such as inferencing and main idea. Groups 3 and 4 consist of above-level and gifted students. This day all groups watched the video and read the article independently. I assigned each group a section of the article and students recorded themselves reading it through the Seesaw app. This allows me to listen later to the recordings and take notes on fluency for individual work later.

Wednesday: Main Idea and Supporting Details

Groups 3 and 4 worked in pairs to complete the Storyworks main idea activity and share their answers in group discussion. Groups 1 and 2 used a boxes-and-bullets graphic organizer to identify the main idea and details from a given section of the article.

Today we also used the article as reinforcement of our mentor sentence lesson in writing, which was contractions and possessives. Groups were assigned a section and highlighted all the examples they found and labeled them as contractions or possessive. We had some great student-led discussions!

Thursday: Text Features

Students in groups 1 and 2 discussed the text features with me using the Storyworks questions as a guide. Groups 3 and 4 brainstormed a text feature they would like to have seen in the article and why. These were recorded on a poster so all the group could see and share.

Friday: I used the Storyworks noninteractive quiz on two levels. I love these quizzes as they cover a variety of TEKS and I make the kids find their text evidence by highlighting answers in the article.

Again, this is just a sample week in my classroom, but from now until STAAR, I will be going through the magazine focusing on one genre piece per week focusing on skills my students need to work on and review. I also use the poetry as well as Word Nerd and Grammar Cop as key review and test-prep. We're going to be ready come STAAR time!



Making Science Connections with Storyworks Jr.

Beth Orticelli

Editor's note: See how superstar second-grade teacher Beth O serves up a great curriculum tie-in to her science standards using our Paragraph Power article from the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. It's about an incredible kid named Khloe, who took initiative to help homeless women in her community. Frankly, we never even thought that it could be connected to science! Take a look at this innovative way to use our Paragraph Power article and see if it can work for you.

As we get busier and busier with new curriculum each year, I am always searching for ways to integrate science and social studies into reading and writing.  One article in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. really seemed to tie in to our Next Generation Science Standards for second grade: Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

I made my reading groups a copy of "This Kid is Changing Her City," so that they could easily take it around the room and talk about matching it up to the Engineering Design Process we are starting to learn about. (We have student-made posters for science around the room.) 

After reading about how Khloe, a 9-year old girl, made a difference in her city and possibly beyond, students were searching for that always-important text evidence that would support how she developed her plan.

They could easily relate to the first step of designing something, which is ASK. They were able to locate the proof they needed that Khloe had noticed a problem with homeless women and then asked her mom how she could help them.

Next, she learned about and MODELED strong fabric bags that would last a long time and hold items like soap and socks.

She was also able to EXPLAIN how homeless people might feel just trying to survive. This happened to be exactly the process that we've been talking about in class when we discuss people who make a difference!

Students were eager to point out that at the end, she EVALUATED her idea, realized it was a success, and now wants to make it even bigger by bringing it to Africa. My kids were inspired to think about how they could make a difference.

The best part is always turning around the teaching, and letting students make their own connections to the design process. With use of schema and text evidence, my little second graders were able to read and search the text for what they needed, and our ELA resource offered up the perfect science lesson.


Making Infographics: A New Approach to Reports

Editor's Note: We can always count on superstar teacher Jackie Rabinoff to squeeze every last drop out of her Storyworks subscription, and we love her for it! Her latest lesson takes a new approach to the old-fashioned research report using Storyworks' infographics as mentor texts of sorts. We love this activity because it's research-focused, cooperative, creative, and super-fun! Most importantly, it's simple and doable. Take it away, Jackie!

It is nearly impossible to exhaust all the resources that Storyworks provides. Just when I thought I had examined every nook and cranny of the Storyworks website, I found something new. This time I discovered "Make Your Own Infographic"—a step-by-step activity that will help students craft an infographic about a topic of their choice. It is a reproducible provided every month which can be found with the other Infographic activity sheets. I had been seeking a project that included research and I thought this would be an enjoyable, motivating activity.

First, as a class, we examined many infographics from past issues of Storyworks. I directed the students to take note of what each had in common. I wanted them to notice that these infographics had more pictures than words (hence infographic), were persuasive in nature, and had topics that were unusual yet thought-provoking.

I informed the class they’d be working in groups to design their own infographic. We debated the appropriate group size for this activity and it was decided that three in a group would best fit our needs. I “randomly” clustered them (or so they thought) and it was time to begin. I handed out a brainstorming sheet of open-ended questions I created to help them come up with a topic. I reminded them that our goal was to persuade an audience so the topics needed to be something atypical. I had each group dream up three ideas and label them “first” “second” and “third” choice. I collected the sheets and was able to divide up the choices so each group had different topics.

Next I handed out the “Make Your Own Infographic” worksheet from Storyworks, which served as a step-by-step guide for my students to follow. Using laptops in the classroom and taking several visits to the computer lab, the children conducted research for many days. They gathered as much information as possible before deciding which material would be most suitable for their purposes—something they learned from watching Lauren Tarshis’ behind-the-scenes videos on the Storyworks website! 

After a quest for the perfect accompanying graphics and pictures, the writing and editing process began. Aside from just typical grammar and mechanics, the children had an abundance of practice in summarizing, since they needed to condense information into a small blurb. In addition, the more time spent on the computer, the more adept they became at keyboarding, cutting and pasting, changing font color and size, using spell check, etc…

Lastly, I gave each group a big piece of construction paper and let them create their final product. I displayed the infographics in the hallway and the eye-catching pictures and clever topics caught the attention of all who passed by. Thanks to Storyworks, I now have a cooperative learning, child-centered alternative to the old-fashioned “report.” Take a look at what they came up with below:

An entertaining research project? Sounds like a topic for an infographic!

Use Storyworks to Teach Introduction Writing!

Allie Curtis and Shannon Seigler

Editor's note: Safe to say we are smitten with Allie and Shannon, two ELA instructional geniuses from Florida. They blew us away with their first post to the Ideabook, and they've done it again with this simple gem! Here, they use Storyworks as a mentor text to teach students how to write good introductory paragraphs. Don't be intimidated by all the steps: Allie and Shannon have provided an awesome flipchart to accompany the lesson, so a lot of the work is done for you! Try this lesson with your students and let us know how it goes.

What you'll need:

First, download our flipchart by clicking the link above. Then follow our easy steps!

Step 1: (Flipchart pp. 1-3) Display the hook for three Storyworks articles, asking students if they want to find out more about these topics.

Step 2: (Flipchart p. 4) Explain to students that the introduction of a piece of writing must first hook the reader.

Step 3: (Flipchart pp. 5-7) Lead a discussion about the author's choice in the hooks.

Step 4: (Flipchart p. 8) This goes with the "3 Ways to Hook Your Reader" handout. Explain that there are a lot of great ways to hook the reader and we are going to practice three different ways: Start with a shocking statement; Start with a question; Start with an interesting fact.

Step 5: (Flipchart p. 9) Display the Storyworks infographic from the December 2016/January 2017 issue, "Why You Must Learn to Juggle." Point out the wrting prompt. Remind students that before anything is read or written, we always PAT down the prompt!

Step 6: Guide students to PAT down the prompt. 

  • P: inform
  • A: parents
  • T: explain why you want to take an after-school juggling class.

Step 7: (Flipchart p. 10) Before reading the text, restate the prompt: "I should take an after school juggling class." Explain that this is the controlling idea that will be introduced in the first paragraph, but before any writing takes place you have to read the text to determine what evidence will be used to support the controlling idea.

Step 8: (Flipchart p. 10) Read the infographic with students.

Step 9: (Flipchart p. 10) Work with students to determine what evidence should be used while answering the prompt.

Step 10: (Flipchart p. 11) Using the chosen evidence, model how to hook the reader. Model how to write the three different types of hooks discussed.

Step 11: (Flipchart pp. 12-13) Choose a favorite hook and demonstrate how to combine the hook and the controlling idea with a connecting sentence(s) to form an interesting introduction.

This next section of the lesson can be done on the same day or on another day!

Step 12: (Flipchart p. 14) Time for students to practice! Show them the infographic "Our New National Bug: The Spider."

Step 13: (Flipchart p. 14) Remind students to PAT down the prompt!

  • P: explain/inform
  • A: teacher (teacher is the audience if not noted)
  • T: explain why the spider is a great choice for America's national bug.

Step 14: (Flipchart p. 15) Have students rewrite the prompt: The spider is a great choice for America's national bug. Explain that this is the controlling idea that will be introduced in the first paragraph, but before any writing takes place you have to read the text to determine what evidence will be used to support the controlling idea.

Step 15: Assist students in reading the infographic, instructing them to determine what evidence will be used in their writing.

Step 16: (Flipchart p. 16) Using the evidence students have chosen, they should write an example hook for all three types using the "3 Ways to Hook Your Reader" handout.

Step 17: (Flipchart p. 17) After writing hooks, students will then independently choose their favorite lead and will practice combining the hook and the controlling idea with a connecting sentence/sentences to form an interesting introduction. Assist students as needed. This can be done independently or with a partner. Use our handout if you'd like!

Step 18: (Flipchart p. 18) After students write their introduction, students will turn them in to you. You'll display students’ introductions anonymously, one at a time, and have students randomly read introductions. After an introduction is read, students will vote to determine if they “Love it” and want to read more, or would “Leave it” because it needs a stronger, more exciting hook.

Next steps: Teach students how to flip the introduction to create a conclusion.

Introduction: Hook, Connector, Controlling Idea 

Conclusion: Controlling Idea, Connector, Hook (Ending Thought)

Example introduction: I just learned about a brain-boosting skill that could help me prepare for FSA Math. I’m so excited that I can’t wait to get home to tell you all about the brain-boosting skill of juggling. I am going to use my new knowledge about juggling to convince you that I should take an after-school juggling class!

Example conclusion made by flipping introduction: In conclusion, I definitely should take an after-school juggling class. Juggling will give my brain a much needed boost. With this boost, I just know I’m going to ace FSA Math!

Bonus Extension: Our fourth-grade teachers taught this mini-lesson last week. Then, after a close and careful read of "Disaster in Space" from the February 2017 issue of Storyworks, they provided a writing template (download it here to use with your students!) for students to practice the application of writing an introductory paragraph. The kids did great! 

A Creative New Approach to Character!

Emily Hayden

Editor's note: Emily Hayden is a Literacy Specialist for students in grades 1-4 in Kenilworth, IL. The Storyworks Ideabook crew were thrilled when she reached out to Lauren Tarshis with such a brilliant, doable point of view lesson. This is the type of email we love getting and sharing - which is exactly why the Storyworks Ideabook was born. Her lesson included everything we love: (1) A simple-to-try idea that can work with many stories, (2) a delightful opportunity for engaging classroom discussion about reading, (3) arts and crafts. Give this one a try with your students and share your point of view ideas in the comments. Thanks Emily! 

The Poisonous Duck from the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Storyworks provided a perfect opportunity to introduce point of view to my third graders. 

In this story, two brothers, Thaddeus and Linus, have a verbal exchange that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps us wondering. Thaddeus, ever the wise trickster, is out to use his advanced vocabulary and wild imagination to convince his gullible brother that there is a poisonous duck at the lake.  Linus tries to work around Thaddeus’s tricks by asking question after question about this so-called poisonous duck, “So what does a poisonous duck look like? How does one tell them apart from ordinary ducks?”  The ending shows how two brothers can spend time verbally duking it out, while still admiring each other’s talents.

Here’s how you can this story to develop understanding of point of view:

I  had the students read the story several times, silently and out loud, taking notes about the language, the characters and the plot. After discussing point of view, as part of a formative assessment, I had them fill out a Character Perspective Chart for Thaddeus and Linus. (See  Shanahan, T. and Shanahan S., Character Perspective Charting: Helping Children to Develop a More Complete Conception of Story, The Reading Teacher, May 1997).

A Character Perspective Chart is actually really easy to create and complete: Just make two columns on a piece of paper, put each character’s name on the top, and then fill add rows for each of the following: Setting, Problem, Goal, Attempt, Outcome, Reaction, Theme.  As the students fill in the information from the story according to each character’s point of view, they begin to see how differently the story plays out, depending on the character.  This is a great opportunity to review plot structure, theme, etc. as well as point of view.  It was a challenging but fun activity for the students, and a great way to see how well they understood the story.


Finally, to make use of the students’ visual skills, I had them color in a paper cutout of a human shape, drawing Thaddeus on one side and Linus on the other. Each student then wrote information from the Character Perspective Chart on drawing. They loved using their knowledge of the text to create their own versions of the characters,  as well as adding the information from their chart.

That’s it! Close reading, point of view, and a visual created by each student. Point of view made easy!!

The Context Clue Carousel: A Delightful Vocab Approach

Allie Curtis and Shannon Seigler

Editor's Note: Allie and Shannon, two ELA instructional gurus from Walton County, Florida, use Storyworks in amazing ways. We've been aching for their contribution to the Ideabook, but these ladies are busy. See below for their first installment: a delightful vocabulary approach that will have your students thinking about cotton candy while they learn new vocabulary in context. They've given you all the tools to give it a try in your classrooms—even the cute carousel music!


Materials needed:

Before the lesson: The teacher places each of the Context Clue Carousel Word Meaning Cards around the classroom in separate locations (in order, starting with number 2). 

Step 1

Use the Teacher Model Word Meaning Card to demonstrate finding the bolded word in the text, then reading before, through, and after the sentence containing the vocabulary word. Model by thinking aloud about how to use the context clues to infer the meaning of the unknown word, relying on the text to give the meaning.

Step 2

Divide students into six groups, and assign each group a number between 2 and 7. Give each student the Context Clue Carousel Activity sheet. Each group will begin at the corresponding number Word Meaning Card location they are assigned and rotate clockwise (2 goes to 3, 3 to 4, etc.) At each Word Meaning Card location, groups will work together to use context clues in the play to infer the meaning of each word. Groups will discuss and work together to determine the correct answer on the Context Clue Carousel Activity Sheet.

Step 3

Give each group about 2-3 minutes to determine the meaning of each vocabulary word as it is used in the text.  Explain that each group will listen for the carousel music, which is the signal to rotate to the next Word Meaning Card. *Note: You can find the music we use here.

Step 4

Once all groups have rotated through the six Word Meaning Card locations, the teacher will facilitate discussion about what the students think the text will be about. This is based on their manipulation with vocabulary words within the text.

Step 5

Direct instruction using the Storyworks Vocabulary Slideshow - Teacher will facilitate discussion and direct instruction for each vocabulary word and reveal the correct answer to each word on the “Context Clue Carousel Activity Sheet."

Download a printable version of this post here!


No iPads? No Problem! A Simple Tech Activity

Thomasine Mastrantoni and Deborah Goldstein, the Link Ladies

Editor's Note: Enjoy this 21st-century twist on the old-school "Wanted" poster for a super-fun, easy-to-try approach to help students share their thinking and practice text evidence. The Link Ladies, library media specialists in Harrison, New York, explain how they'll use the paired texts in the February issue of  Storyworks (about unlikely invasive species), offering up a great website and a 5-step lesson for skill-building support. 


Knowing so many districts don’t yet have devices available to students, we want to share with you a fantastic website that can help your students engage with text. Any time we can find ways for kids to express what they understand and use text evidence to “prove it,” we go for it.

The website: Poster My Wall

Why we use it: Poster My Wall is an easy-to-use design website. It allows students to create a response to reading or share their thinking on any topic. Poster My Wall has tons of free templates to choose from. They make responding to text fun and engaging.  

Skill Focus:

  • Citing Text Evidence
  • Comprehension
  • Assessment
  • Fluency


1 class period

What you’ll need:

The set-up:

Go to Create an account for the students to log in to. We have used a simple password for them to access. The site does allow you to create a teacher account for free.


The Lesson:

Read the Storyworks paired text articles "Monster Goldfish" and "Pigs on the Loose."

After reading these two great articles, it is plain to see how even cute animals can sometimes cause trouble. We split up the class into two groups: one focuses on the goldfish and one on the pig. Have students brainstorm and identify evidence from the text that shares how this animal went from being innocuous to a destructive invasive species.
Go to and sign in using the class account you previously set up. Click "Create a Design" and select "New Design" from the dropdown menu.


Click "Blank Canvas" to start from scratch (without using a template), or use the search feature to find a template (and replace text and pictures).


Scroll down and pick any design type. Since we're designing a Wanted poster, we chose "Poster" as our design type. When prompted to choose between landscape and portrait, choose portrait.


We searched in "Browse Backgrounds" for wanted posters.



Use the tool bar along the LEFT side to add features to customize your poster. We added images and text to create the poster. Use the tools on the RIGHT to customize the features (color, font, etc.) that you have added. Students will need to search the internet for an image that depicts the dangerous animal.


When adding text, students should be prompted that the description on the poster should include text evidence that describes the danger these animals pose. They should use descriptive writing and creativity. They can also include text about what people should do to help or prevent the problem.

You can save (blue box in top right) if you made an account, or download (yellow button in top right) for free.  Then you can post to your blogs, websites, or print and display.

This activity takes a simple comprehension activity to the next level. Using a Wanted poster ensures that students can explain why the seemingly harmless "pet" has turned dangerous, how the problem occurred, and how it can be fixed. Finding a “mug shot” for Goldie or Piglet is half the fun, too.

Engage Your Class in the Great Chocolate Milk Debate

Erin Burns

Editor's note: Both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. feature debates in every issue. We try to tackle topics that kids really care about—and the debate from the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Storyworks about whether schools should ban chocolate milk definitely fits the bill! We love seeing creative ways you teach our debates, and we just had to highlight this amazing, effective strategy from New York teacher Erin Burns. The best part: You can use it with any debate.Without further ado, here's Erin's 4-day debate plan:

Day 1

What you'll need:

  • Storyworks magazine
  • Highlighter
  • Pen

Students read the debate aloud. We look through it to see what facts we can pull out to prove both sides of the argument. We highlight the strongest evidence. Together we fill in the "What Do You Think?" activity at the bottom of the page. Students then choose the side they feel most strongly about. At this point we break into teams to design a poster to inform the public. This month we tackled the debate of whether chocolate milk should be banned from schools.

Days 2-3

What you'll need:

  • Poster board or construction paper
  • Markers, rulers, colored pencils, etc.
  • Storyworks magazine (to reference back)

Students will work together to design a poster to represent their argument. We focus on how to best organize information and grab people’s interest. Students begin discussing their phrasing.

Day 4

Students have the opportunity to show their work and share with their classmates. We then hang their posters in the hallway and keep them on display for the month. Students are in a different reading group who are pulled from the class get to hear the debate and look at the posters. They conference with their group and pick the side of the debate that has persuaded them. They must have at least three reasons why they were persuaded. This gives time for both debate teams to reflect on their work and to get feedback on what worked or what didn’t.


I was so impressed with (and amused by) my students' rationale. These quotes, from children who wanted to ban chocolate milk, cracked me up:

“Chocolate milk may be good for your bones, but it will help rot your teeth.”

“16 tsp. of sugar? Do you know what that really looks like? I mean, it’s like drinking mashed up M&Ms!"

And from my students who want chocolate milk to stick around:

“You may take my chocolate milk, but it will make me drink juice, and that has a lot of sugar too—so what’s the difference?”

“It does have sugar, no argument there, but….it has 30% of my daily dose of calcium, and that is sweet!”

The audience that watched the debate and looked at the posters ultimately sided with the group that advocated keeping chocolate milk in schools. They were convinced by the point that everything seems to have sugar in it these days, and at least the milk provided some good nutrients. The "judges" also agreed that if kids knew about the sugar, they could choose it as a treat instead of as a daily drink. And they decided that this group's posters were more visually appealing.

It's so heartening to see how much effort my students put into these activities. And it's fascinating to see the ways they try to convince their peers of their opinion. This is exactly why the Storyworks debate is one of my favorite stories to teach—and there's no debating that!