Learning Extensions (Adventures!)
Volcanic Learning Extensions
We knew that Lauren Tarshis's gripping story "Mountain of Fire," about the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, would be a home-run for Storyworks Jr. readers. The science of volcanoes is fascinating, and their power is breathtaking. Keep your students engaged with the learning extensions below, and as always, let us know if you came up with any great extensions for one of our stories!
TO READ: An in-depth account of the eruption of Mount St. Helens
TO DO: A timeline
This fantastic book by Patricia Lauber goes into great detail telling the story of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, from the warning signs to the slow return of wildlife to the area. This will appeal to science- and history-minded students alike, with its vivid photographs and diagrams.
LEARNING TASK: Have students create a colorful timeline poster of the events leading up to and following the eruption of Mount St. Helens.
TO WATCH: A mesmerizing video of lava
TO DO: A creative writing assignment
LEARNING TASK: After watching the video, have students write creatively about the spectacle of a volcano. They can write a poem, a paragraph, or even make a list of similes and metaphors describing volcanoes or lava.
TO EXPLORE: A fact-filled infographic
TO DO: A research project
This easy-to-read infographic shares some fun, unexpected facts about volcanoes.
LEARNING TASK: Go over the infographic as a class, discussing which facts students found the most surprising or interesting. Then have students work in pairs or small groups to research volcanoes further, using your school's library, the internet, or any other sources you may have. Each pair or group should come up with at least one new fact about volcanoes that they found surprising. For an extra extension, these facts could be compiled into a binder or on a bulletin board.
TO STUDY: A visual display of various volcanic rocks
TO DO: A hands-on nature exploration
This website has great photographs of all the different types of igneous rocks. In our article we mention pumice, but there are many more fascinating types!
LEARNING TASK: If appropriate for where your school is located, have students explore outside and look for rocks they think might be volcanic. Your students might be surprised to be able to find examples right in their backyard, so to speak. For more urban environments, remember that granite is an igneous rock!
We hope these extensions inspire your students, and if you tried any of them out, let us know by emailing us or tweeting with the hashtag #StoryworksJr!
Delightful Dog-themed Learning Extensions
We can only imagine how dog-obsessed your students have been since reading Storyworks’s September paired texts, “The Amazing History of Dogs.” These two fascinating articles go back 35,000 years to explain where dogs came from and how they became our best friends. To further feed your students’ canine curiosity, here are four learning extension ideas:
TO DO: Make an illustrated doggie dictionary
As our paired texts explain, dogs understand us better than pretty much any other creature. This fun, photo-packed National Geographic helps us understand them in return, translating all their woofs and wags into human speak.
LEARNING TASK: Have students choose ten dog gestures or behaviors from the book and make their own dog dictionary. They should draw out each gesture or behavior, then explain what it means.
TO WATCH: A video about military working dogs
TO DO: Make a poster
A perennial Storyworks favorite, this nonfiction video explores the fascinating world of elite soldier dogs. Students will learn all about the history of dogs in warfare, the rigorous training process military dogs go through today, and the remarkable life-saving feats they perform.
LEARNING TASK: Invite students to make a poster to recruit new dogs to the military. Their posters should include information about what makes dogs such valuable soldiers.
TO DO: Write a narrative-nonfiction story
If you’re a longtime Storyworks subscriber, you’ll know that we LOVE author Roland Smith. (In fact, we’re featuring his story “The Space Rock” in our upcoming December/January issue!) This fascinating narrative-nonfiction book tells the story of Lewis and Clark’s famous journey from the point of view of one of their key companions: their Newfoundland dog, Seaman.
LEARNING TASK: Ask students to research another famous dog from history, then write a short story from that dog’s perspective, using Smith’s book as a model.
TO WATCH: A video about dog intelligence
TO DO: Write a paragraph
This comprehensive-yet-accessible video delves deep into the subject of doggie genius, tapping scientists and dog experts to reveal just how smart our canine companions really are.
LEARNING TASK: Have students choose a section from the video that they found especially interesting. Then have them use the information from that section to write an additional paragraph for the Storyworks feature. They should explain where in the Storyworks articles they think their new paragraph belongs.
We hope these extensions keep the learning going in your classroom! As always, if you found a winning learning extension connected to one of our articles, we want to hear about it! Email us at email@example.com.
Help Your Students Celebrate Their Differences
Hi, teachers! We're thrilled to share with you a fantastic social-emotional learning opportunity available to all 4th grade students in the U.S. A wonderful organization called Don't Hide it, Flaunt It! (DHIFI) has teamed up with Scholastic for its National Kids Flaunt Essay Contest. DHIFI encourages kids and adults alike to celebrate—to flaunt!—what makes them different and awesome. Meg Zucker, who runs DHIFI, is a dear friend to us here at Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. We've featured her sons, Ethan and Charlie, in both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. Meg, Ethan, and Charlie all have a condition called ectrodactyly, and they are missing most of their fingers and toes. And yet all of them have full lives, with lots of friends and lots of passions.
Our readers have responded to our articles about Ethan and Charlie in a big way! We heard from many teachers and students that these articles helped to build empathy and encouraged students to be proud of what makes them different, whether it's a visible difference like the Zuckers', an invisible difference like having a food allergy, or even a positive difference, like being a twin.
You'll find all the details about the contest here, including the essays from last year's winners. Be sure to show your students the fantastic video introducing the contest, too. The deadline to enter is November 3. We hope your students will be inspired to enter. Good luck to your students!
Four Engaging Titanic Learning Extensions
We know that when it comes to super-engaging topics, Titanic is always near the top of the list. That's why we were so excited to feature Lauren Tarshis's wonderful "Into the Dark Water" in our September issue of Storyworks Jr. It's the story of the sinking of the Titanic, focusing on one survivor: 17-year-old Jack Thayer. It's a truly gripping tale, and we had a feeling your students might come out of it hungry to learn more about this fascinating, tragic historical event. With that in mind, here are four extension ideas to keep the learning going in your classroom!
TO READ: a historical fiction book
TO DO: a genre study
If you're not familiar with the I Survived series, written by our very own Lauren Tarshis, consider this a perfect introduction! This immersive series brings young readers into historical events with suspenseful, rich historical fiction narratives. "I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912" is one of our favorites, and we're betting your students will be riveted.
LEARNING TASK: Use this as an opportunity to compare and contrast historical fiction with narrative nonfiction. Make sure your students understand the difference by having them write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the article in Storyworks Jr. with the I Survived book, or hold a class discussion.
TO EXPLORE: an interactive website
TO DO: write a paragraph
National Geographic Kids has a great page on their site about the Titanic, where students will find facts about the ship and have the opportunity to click through to other related articles.
LEARNING TASK: Have students pick out two facts from the site that resonated with them. Ask: How did those facts help you better understand the Titanic? Students can respond in a short paragraph.
TO RESEARCH: facts about the Titanic
TO DO: create a newspaper page about the disaster
Top teaching blogger Genia Connell has put together a fabulous lesson plan for digging deeper into the Titanic. After reading our article in Storyworks Jr. and perhaps visiting the library to find some more information about the disaster, students will create a newspaper front page about the event. This lesson plan is super fun, and comes with reproducibles and detailed instructions!
LEARNING TASK: Students will assume the roles of journalists, editors, and survivors and create newspaper stories about the sinking of the Titanic.
TO READ: a comprehensive book of facts about the Titanic
TO DO: make a poster
This is the definitive informational book about the Titanic! Your Titanic-obsessed students are sure to devour this book, which includes facts, photos, quizzes, survivor stories, and more.
LEARNING TASK: Have students pick out one aspect of the ship that they learned about in this book and make a poster to inform their classmates. This could be the building of the ship, myths about the ship...the possibilities are endless!
We hope these Titanic learning extensions inspire you and your students—and for more fun facts, don't forget to check out the Can't-Miss Teaching Extras on the right side of the story page. If you have a fabulous learning extension for this or any other story, we want to hear about it!
Get Crafty for a Cause with Important Nonfiction!
Our goal is to provide your students with important stories that inspire them to share their learning and extend it in new ways. One story has done just that, and we couldn't be more thrilled! The paired texts "How to Save a Baby Elephant" and "Can Drones Stop Animal Killers?" (featured in the May/June 2017 issue of Storyworks and the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr.) touched many classrooms and we loved hearing from so many teachers. But Tara Rogic's and Elaine Miller's classes from Franklin Lakes, NJ, took this to new heights.
Spurred into action after learning about the horrors of poaching, you won't believe the amazing creative writing, fundraising, public speaking and crafty extenstion activities they were able to achieve. All sparked by a great story! We had to share it with you. It's the perfect mid-summer inspiration to get you excited about our new stories and all the extensions you can create this year!
First, the students determined their mission and goal: to raise funds for Air Shepherd, the organization that uses drones to stop poachers.
Activity 1: The students had to raise awareness of their cause. They decided to create a carnival-like booth for their school's annual "Backyard Bash." They advertised their booth all over school for weeks. They even held a whole-school assembly where they showed a Powerpoint presentation they created about poaching and Air Shepherd!
Activity 2: The kids wrote a fable about poaching—what a great creative writing project! Read their adorable fable here—trust me, you don't want to miss it! Yet another awesome way to bring ELA skills into this learning experience.
Activity 3: The next step was to plan their booth. They created a spinning wheel with different traits of elephants, like strength, hope, harmony, and family. People could pay for a spin of the wheel and win a good luck stone that matches the trait they spun. (Of course, these enterprising students came up with a way to maximize their profit—after the carnival, they sold all the rest of the good luck stones at school!)
Activity 4: The booth was a huge success! In addition to the spinning wheel where people could win good luck stones, they also sold elephant charms that could be made into jewelry at a jewelry-making station. They even raffled off a gorgeous quilt that tells the story of their fable (that's in the photo above). All in all, the students raised $618 for Air Shepherd! And since our ultimate goal is to inspire learning journeys in your students, we couldn't be more proud of them!
If you're a Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. subscriber and you worry you missed your chance to teach this incredible story, you're in luck: With your subscription, you get full online access to stories and resources from our archives.
Has your class been inspired by a story in Storyworks or Storyworks Jr.? Email us, we'd love to hear about it!
3 Learning Extension Activities for Teaching WWII
I'll just say it: I love this play! With every issue, I put together a list of learning extensions for a selected piece from the magazine. This issue, it was a no-brainer: I selected When Girls Ruled Baseball by Lauren Tarshis. Our goal is to open doors of curiosity in your students' minds, and I think this play will do just that. There's something to explore for most every kid: World War II for those who are obsessed with "I Survived the Nazi Invasion," baseball for the sports-lovers, read-aloud play fun for the budding actors, PLUS strong female characters and a fascinating story. Here are a few ideas for how to keep the learning going on these subjects. Feel free to share your own ideas for this play or any other content in Storyworks Jr. Email us at StoryworksJr@scholastic.com or comment below!
TO WATCH: a fun, informative animated video about Title IX
TO DO: Have a class discussion
This video from TED-Ed sums up Title IX for your students. (Heads up that there is some difficult language, but the video spells it out pretty well.)
LEARNING TASK: After watching the video, bring students together for a class discussion about gender in sports. We predict the discussion will be fascinating! Kick it off by asking the boys and girls whether they're interested in sports and whether they've been encouraged to play sports by parents, teachers, and coaches. You can also ask about famous male and female athletes and what it's like for women today to be in sports today.
TO READ: an immersive book for kids about World War II
TO DO: A small-group enrichment project
This book by Richard Panchyk covers many aspects of World War II in a way that kids can understand. It also features plenty of hands-on activities! This book will really appeal to the history- or World War II-obsessed in your class.
LEARNING TASK: For students who are really interested in World War II, give them this book and have them pick out one activity to do as a group.
TO WATCH: An educational video featuring an actual girls' league player
TO DO: A creative writing exercise
This video from BBC is a real gem: It features Mary Pratt, who played on the Rockford Peaches during World War II. She talks vividly about her experiences playing baseball, from the songs they sang to the injuries they sustained.
LEARNING TASK: After hearing Mary's story, have students write a short essay from the point of view of Georgia from our play at age 90.
If you like this post, be sure to check out the "Can't-Miss Teaching Extras" on the Storyworks Jr. website. For most articles, plays, and stories, we offer a curated list of tips, extensions, fun facts, and more on the righthand side of the story page. We've got some great ones for When Girls Ruled Baseball, including a video about Rosie the Riveter, a biography of Joe DiMaggio, a blog post by me about my grandmother's World War II experience, and more!
4 Resources About the Internment of Japanese Americans
Storyworks’s May/June feature nonfiction article, “Behind the Wire Fence,” tells the story of Bill Hiroshi Shishima—an 11-year-old American boy of Japanese descent who, along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans, was forced to live in an internment camp during World War II.
This may be the first time your students are learning about Japanese American internment, and they will likely have many questions about this dark period in our country’s history. Here are four extension ideas to help them explore the topic further on their own:
TO EXPLORE: An online exhibition about Japanese American internment
TO DO: Create a mini exhibition
Smithsonian’s “A More Perfect Union” website walks students through the history of Japanese American internment using rich primary documents and artifacts: pictures of the duffle bags families used to carry their belongings, pencil sketches of the camps, copies of camp school books, and more.
LEARNING TASK: Ask students to choose five of the primary documents and/or artifacts from the website and put together their own mini exhibition. For each item, they should write a caption in their own words using information from the Smithsonian site.
Note: Several of the photos in the exhibition contain a derogatory term for people of Japanese descent. Please preview the site material before deciding which sections to share with your students.
TO WATCH: Video interviews with Bill Shishima
TO DO: Write a letter
Densho, an organization that collects oral histories by Japanese Americans, features a series of fascinating video interviews with Bill Shishima on its website. (NOTE: To view this content on the Densho organization’s website, you must log in as firstname.lastname@example.org and use the password guest.) We suggest students watch the clips in which Bill discusses life at Heart Mountain:
- “Memories of the train ride to Heart Mountain”
- “Attending school in camp”
- “Coping with unpleasant living conditions in camp”
LEARNING TASK: Ask students to imagine they are a young Bill Shishima, and write a letter to friends back home about what life is like in an internment camp.
TO EXPLORE: A photo slideshow
TO DO: A text features exercise
These haunting, rarely seen photos from the time of Japanese internment will captivate your students.
LEARNING TASK: Have students choose three photographs that they believe would have been good additions to the Storyworks article. For each one, they should write a short paragraph about what the photograph adds to their understanding of the article.
TO READ: A first-person account of life at Heart Mountain
TO DO: A small-group discussion
Norman Mineta was only 10 years old when, like Bill Shishima, he was forced to live at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. His engaging account of his experience both echoes Bill Shishima’s and offers a different perspective.
LEARNING TASK: Have students answer the “Think About It” questions at the bottom of each section. Then arrange them in groups of three or four to discuss their answers.
The Best Reading Extension for "Escape From Alcatraz"
Now that the year's final issue of Storyworks Jr. is in classrooms, we're in major fact-finding mode. We're doing class visits and Skypes and sending out questionnaires and surveys, and one of our most important questions is: What story did your students love the most? And a clear winner has emerged: "Escape from Alcatraz," our December/January nonfiction feature.
The praise this story has generated is incredible. (Some students also found it scary, and we do not take that lightly.) As one example, here's an email that I got from a principal in New York:
I just had to share that at dismissal time today, I had several third graders come see me with persuasive letters, all asking to go to Alcatraz on a field trip. Here are some quotes to make you smile:
“We have learned so much about Alcatraz and we have to see it to believe what we have read.”
“We’ll all pitch in the money and our parents will buy us train tickets.”
“Can we PLEEEEASE go to the famous San Francisco prison Alcatraz?”
“If you let us go we will write you a book and tell you all about it when we get back.”
Your article made a difference for these learners!
Maybe the highest praise came from the third grader I met during a class visit in New Jersey: For spring break, her family was planning to go to Disneyland. But after reading our story, she begged her parents to take her to Alcatraz—and last I heard, they were trying to rearrange their itinerary to make it happen!
I could relate. I was going to California for my own family's spring break, and only because of the Alcatraz story, my daughters, 8 and 11, wanted to visit the prison during our two days in San Francisco. (They had a choice between a day tour or the potentially creepy night tour: "Night tour!" "Night tour!") Here I am with my third grader on Alcatraz Island, with San Francisco a mile away in the distance. Our tour guide mentioned that inmates could see and, depending on the way the winds blew, even hear everything they were missing in the beautiful city, which made their imprisonment even more torturous.
And if you're familiar with our story, you'll surely recognize the photo up top: It's of the fake head inmate Frank Morris created to fool the prison guards while he escaped from his cell. Visiting Alcatraz was a highlight of our vacation, and the ultimate learning extension.
If you've got fans of "Escape From Alcatraz" in your class, be sure to check out other perfect opportunities to keep the learning going. This post by our advisor Beth O. is about a clever way to "visit" the prison. And our Can't-Miss Teaching Extras have links to videos and extra facts that'll open more doors for your students.
Powerful Slavery and Civil War Learning Extensions
Storyworks’s most recent nonfiction feature will introduce your students to one of our favorite historical heroes: Robert Smalls. During the Civil War, desperate to free his family from slavery, Smalls risked his life to commandeer a Southern ship and steer it towards freedom.
This thrilling story is a perfect jumping-off point to further learning about slavery in America and the Civil War. Here are a few resources to get you and your students started:
TO DO: Small-group discussion
We’ve already raved on this blog about the “You Choose: History” books, which let kids navigate their own way through historical events. In the Civil War installment, they’ll have to choose between three main paths: joining the Union Army, joining the Confederate army, or remaining a civilian.
LEARNING TASK: Divide students into groups of three and assign each one a different path through the book. After they’ve each read through their particular storyline, have them come together as a group to share what they read with each other.
TO DO: A newspaper article
With an engaging historical-fiction narrative, fact-packed photo slideshows, and fascinating primary documents, this multimedia site leads students through the harrowing journey of an escaped slave: from the hardships of life on a plantation, through the dangerous journey north, to the bittersweet reality of reaching freedom.
LEARNING TASK: Have students imagine they are a mid-1800s Northern newspaper reporter and write an article about a former slave who just escaped to freedom. They should include at least five details from the website in their articles.
TO DO: A compare-and-contrast essay
This short video offers a brief overview of the life of Frederick Douglass, another former slave who, like Robert Smalls, escaped to freedom and became a respected political leader.
LEARNING TASK: After you watch the video as a class, have students research Frederick Douglass independently online. Then have them write a short essay comparing Douglass’s life story with that of Robert Smalls.
TO DO: A KWLH Chart
Written in an engaging question-and-answer format, this simple yet informative book addresses a range of questions children may have about slavery—everything from “Why did slavery start in America?” to “What would you eat?”
LEARNING TASK: Before students read the book, have them complete the top two boxes of this KWLH chart. After they’ve finished reading, have them complete the bottom two boxes.
We hope these learning extensions spark even more curiosity in your students! As always, let us know if you found any awesome learning extensions of your own!
4 Powerful Resources About Poaching
We are so excited about our trio of texts in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. We've got a nonfiction feature about a baby elephant who was rescued after her mother was killed by poachers, an informational text about how drones are being used to stop poaching, and a beautiful poem about humans' complicated relationship with elephants. We hope that these texts inspire your students to learn more about the problem of poaching, and we want to help you guide them on that journey. Here are four powerful extensions to keep the learning going on this complex topic.
TO RESEARCH: A website about other endangered species
TO DO: A research project
This page on the WWF website allows you to click around and learn about other endangered animals. The page for each species has a lot of info, so you may need to guide students through the site.
LEARNING TASK: Divide students into groups and have each group pick an animal (preferably not elephants or rhinos, since that's what we cover in our articles) from the website. Each group should prepare a presentation about their chosen animal: What are the threats facing them? Are these threats caused by humans? What are humans doing to help them? What else can be done?
TO READ: A book about a rhino—written by kids!
TO DO: A creative writing assignment.
This remarkable book, "One Special Rhino: The Story of Andatu," was written by a fifth grade class in Brooklyn, NY. The children tell the story of Andatu, the only Sumatran rhino to be born in captivity.
LEARNING TASK: The children wrote this book from the point of view of Andatu. Have your students write a similar story from the point of view of Ishanga, the elephant featured in our story.
TO WATCH: A delightful video about elephant communication
TO DO: A class discussion
This video of elephants at play, overlaid with the voice of elephant biologist Joyce Poole, is absolutely adorable. It also demonstrates how elephants communicate with one another.
LEARNING TASK: Lead a class discussion about what students noticed while watching the video. Ask: How do elephants communicate? How does it compare to how we communicate as humans? How did watching this video help you understand elephants?
TO EXPLORE: An infographic about the differences between Asian and African elephants
TO DO: A compare and contrast activity
This site is a good starting point to see the differences between Asian and African elephants, but we encourage you to explore many photos of Asian and African elephants so that your students can really see the difference!
LEARNING TASK: Once students have been familizarized with the differences and similarities between Asian and African elephants, have them do a compare and contrast activity. They can do a Venn diagram, draw pictures, or write a short paragraph.
We hope that these extensions keep the learning going in your classroom, and as always, let us know if you came up with any genius learning extensions while working on the March/April issue with your students!