Storyworks in practice
Text Marking Word Clouds For Visual Learners
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.
More Favorite #MyStoryworksMoment Tweets!
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:
Making Science Connections with Storyworks Jr.
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.
How a Poem Changed a Teacher's Career
I'll be frank: The one part of Storyworks Jr. that gets the most mixed feedback is our poetry. For every teacher who tells us how grateful she is that we include poems in each issue, another tells us it's the part of Storyworks Jr. she uses the least. But we continue to include poems because we believe in their ability to present language and ideas in unique ways, and to help children explore their own voices and emotions. And then every once in a while we learn of the impact a particular poem has had on students, and we know we're on the right path. Here's one such story that deeply moved us.
"Same Hands," the poem we feature in the March/April 2017 issue of Storyworks Jr. as part of a trio of texts about how animals are helped—and hurt—by humans, originally appeared in Storyworks in 2012. Not long ago, I happened to be Googling this poem and came across a teacher's blog post about it. Angie Nesbit of Illinois had written about how she'd taught this poem to her Storyworks students, and asked them to model the poem and create their own. "What happened after this assignment," she wrote, "no teacher could have planned." In her words:
"A student wrote a poem about bullies of the present, and 10 years later. When reading the poem, you could hear a pin drop in the classroom, and there was silence once the poem was over. Throughout the day, I read the poem to all my classes, and it had the same result... silence. I decided I would write back to this student as if I was the bully, and then another class wrote back 10 years later.
I must say, this was one of the most exciting moments in my teaching career, to see how students took this to heart."
Here is the first student's poem (to get the most out of it, be sure to first read "Same Hands"):
And here is the version written by Ms. Nesbit and her class:
We are so gratified to know that a poem that had this kind of influence on students is now being shared with our Storyworks Jr. readers. Tell us: What poem has made a difference in your life, or your classroom?
Where Storyworks Meets SEL
Want to meet a pioneering teacher who's taking Social/Emotional Learning to a whole new level? Introducing Anna Maria Montuori, a fourth-grade teacher in North Babylon, New York. This is her school's first year with a district-wide SEL program, and she's among the teachers who are embracing it wholeheartedly. She's been able to incorporate Storyworks into her initiatives, and we predict you'll be as inspired as we were when she described them to us. I was especially glad to speak to Anna, because Storyworks Jr. will be incorporating SEL into much of our content in the 2017-18 school year, and we'll have a fabulous contest to accompany it. In the meantime, here's what's happening with her class:
They've created Marvelous Me posters, highlighting students unique talents. Anna wasn't sure what kinds of talents her students would come up with, but she was pleased when they listed things like "I'm good at taking care of my baby brother," "I am good at getting a winning hit in baseball," and "I'm good at baking for my mom."
Her students were also inspired by the play in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Storyworks, "Girl, Fighter, Hero." This play tells the story of Sybil Ludington, a teenager who acted as a messenger during the American Revolutionary War. By using the support materials that accompanied the play, Anna and her students talked about Sybil's best traits, which include bravery, cleverness, and resourcefulness.
Those traits were added to the class' Character Tree, on display outside their classroom. It's adorned with construction-paper leaves with admirable qualities such as perseverance, honesty, and self-control. Check it out:
They've coined a new phrase: "put-ups," which are the opposite of put-downs. Students jot down kind things to say about a classmate and tuck it in a pocket on the wall. The put-ups are then shared with the class. It's been gratifying for Anna to see her students identify great qualities about one another, such as "She lets me borrow a pencil when the point on my pencil breaks" and "He cheers me up when I am sad."
And speaking of qualities, every day in February, one of her students would broadcast over the loudspeaker, sharing a few sentences about their "Quality of the Day." Can you just imagine how excited they were to get that airtime?!
Lastly, here's an idea I especially love (particularly since I recently volunteered at my older daughter's middle school, selling half-day snacks, and saw the sometimes upsetting dynamics of lunch-table seating): "Mix It Up at Lunch." This is when students are randomly assigned to tables labeled with character traits, where conversation-starter sentence strips are waiting for them. Questions include "Who is your hero and why?" and "Talk about a time when someone was unkind to you. How did it make you feel?" The idea, of course, is to encourage students to sit with kids they'd not normally sit with and then engage in discussions about their feelings and the proper way to respond in social situations. The main goal is for these discussions to lead to improved behavior—and Anna is seeing firsthand that it's working. "There's been a decrease in problems in my class," she reports.
It makes us so happy to know that teachers see in our resources not only stories that touch on key ELA skills, but strong characters that are easily woven into their SEL initiatives. We'd love to hear what you're doing in your class to foster tolerance, kindness, and acceptance. Please share in the comments!
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!
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:
- Storyworks December 2016/January 2017 infographic
- Storyworks September 2016 infographic
- "3 Ways to Hook Your Reader" handout
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!
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!!
How One ELL Teacher Uses Storyworks Jr.
Editor's note: Meghan De La Rosa of New Jersey is a bilingual teacher for students in grades K-2 and a trusted Storyworks Jr. adviser. We hadn't expected her to use the resource with her 1st-grade English Language Learners, but she did—with great success. Her techniques drive home one key point you all know: Engagement is everything.
I am a bilingual teacher to students in grades K-2. Storyworks, and now Storyworks Jr., has many great resources for teaching English Language Learners. I used the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Storyworks Jr. with two of my 1st graders. I chose the LEGO and Minecraft articles because I knew that if the subject matter was exciting enough, even my 1st grade ELLs would be willing to attempt to read them. And I knew I'd be given the tools to make them accessible. I went on the Storyworks Jr. website, and by going to the "Can't-Miss Teaching Extras" sidebar on the right side of each story page, I was able to find great ideas for activities and videos to help them understand the articles I chose for them. Here's what you get for the LEGO and Minecraft articles in the December 2016/January 2017 issue:
We started by viewing the video about LEGO. They loved watching how LEGO bricks were made, and made great connections to their lives. I was able to pause the video, and explain, in Spanish, anything that they didn’t understand.
We then looked at the Vocabulary Slideshow. This is a fabulous resource: My students were able to learn the new vocabulary, and use the words in sentences, before reading the articles. And the vocabulary itself sparked great conversation and questions.
I knew my students would be excited to read about both LEGO and Minecraft, and in fact they declared the articles “so cool.” I asked them to share what they learned, and I was so pleased to find that they were able to report at least two new facts.
Using Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. articles is a great way to teach ELLs. (Storyworks has even introduced support just for ELLs, including a Spanish version of the debate.) I love that I can use the articles with new vocabulary, visuals, and more, to help my students become better learners. With my students in the lower grades, I find that reading the articles in English, and providing supports in Spanish, gives them the assistance they need. If you aren’t bilingual but have students who would benefit from Spanish instruction, providing visuals and translating simple English vocabulary (with the help of a Spanish-English dictionary or an online program) are great ways for students to make connections to their native language.
Here's the biggest lesson I can share from Storyworks Jr.: When the content is intriguing enough, students will reach and stretch to read it. And they'll comprehend it better, too.
The Context Clue Carousel: A Delightful Vocab Approach
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!
- The Unstoppable Ruby Bridges, the play in the February 2017 issue of Storyworks
- Context Clue Carousel Word Meaning Cards
- Context Clue Carousel Activity Sheet
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!