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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!
Teaching Grammar With Storyworks
At Storyworks, we believe the best way to learn grammar is through reading. That’s why we’ve created an approach that allows students to uncover key grammar concepts in the context of our articles and stories. With each issue, they’ll practice a featured grammar skill with our entertaining activities.
Our popular Grammar Cop column, which appears in every issue, focuses on one key grammar skill. Students must correct grammar errors in a delightful short feature on a fun topic. Check out this example from our September 2017 issue: Students practice capitalization while learning fun facts about chewing gum!
Need reinforcement? We've got you covered! For every Grammar Cop column, we offer a supplementary activity sheet online where students can continue practicing the featured skill. Click here for a sample!
For a fun extension activity, have a grammar scavenger hunt! Have students look through the issue of Storyworks, as well as old issues, other magazines, and classroom books, for examples of the grammar skill highlighted in the latest Grammar Cop.
You can also use a Storyworks text as a mentor text to teach a particular grammar skill. One of our teacher BFFs, Kristen Cruikshank, came up with a fantastic grammar lesson based on short fiction from Storyworks. Check it out here!
Do you have a creative method for teaching grammar using Storyworks or Storyworks Jr.? We want to hear from you!
A Hopeful Poem for Difficult Times
When I wrote "Our World Turned to Water," the nonfiction feature for the September issue of Storyworks, I never imagined that when it came out, millions of people would be facing the aftermath of terrible disasters. While this story is about events in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016, I hope you’ll find that the facts and themes will help your students grasp what many Americans have recently experienced, and will inspire your students to want to help in any way they can.
We had asked poet Rebecca Kai Dotlich to write us an original poem to go along with my story. "What We Know" is about the spirit of coming together to overcome any difficult event; whether that be a flood, a hurricane, an earthquake, a wildfire, or a personal problem.
I hope that my article and Rebecca’s poem will provoke a rich discussion in your class.
Download and print the poem here.
Try This Reading Workshop Minilesson on Sensory Details!
Hi, teachers! By now, you're probably settling in to the new school year. If you haven't had a chance to dig into the fantastic narrative nonfiction feature from the September issue of Storyworks Jr. (psst, it's about the Titanic!), we have great news! We've done some of the work for you! I have designed a Reading Workshop minilesson to go along with this riveting story.
Have your students grab their brand-new issue of Storyworks Jr., their Post-It notes, and pencils, and you're ready to go. This lesson is designed to be done after you have already read the article once as a class.
Teaching Point: How to look for details that help you imagine you're in a historical text.
- First, refresh your students' memories on the article. Remind them that you'll be working on ways to understand stories about history. Explain that when you read a historical text, you can put yourself in that time or place and think about what it would feel like to be there. There's someone who can help you with that: the author of the story. The author of a story often includes details that can help you see, hear, feel, and smell what's going on and imagine that you're with the people in the historical event you're reading about.
- Return to the beginning of the article and start reading. Do a think-aloud as you read. Pause to talk about the details that jump out at you and underline them for the class. Talk about how the details make you feel. Read up until "Jack imagined crowds cheering as the ship pulled in."
- Here's an example of a think-aloud: "In a few hours the Titanic would be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean." Wow, I immediately have a picture in my mind. I'm seeing this huge, beautiful ship sitting sadly on the sandy ocean floor with fish swimming by. I think the author wanted to start off making a strong impression. [Continue reading] "More than 1,500 people would be dead. But at 11:00 that evening, April 14, 1912, everything seemed fine." I'm feeling nervous, because I know what's going to happen. The people in the article don't, but I do. [Continue reading] . . . "brightly as diamonds." Look how the author described the sky. I'm seeing the sparkling stars. [Continue Reading] ". . . the hum of the ship's engines." Now I hear what Jack is hearing. [Read rest of section] I just read a lot of details that put me on the Titanic with Jack. I'm looking at "fancy as a room in the finest hotel." I'm seeing a room with a big, luxurious bed with lots of pillows.
- Talk about the details you underlined and how they help you imagine what it must have been like to be on the Titanic. Reiterate that the author included these details on purpose, to help you put yourself in the story. Ask students what other details help them see or feel what it was like to be on the Titanic.
- Have students read the next section, "Too Quiet," and then turn and talk with a partner about which details helped you imagine being there. Hopefully, you'll hear students discussing the fact that the engines stopped and it was "strangely quiet." After students are finished with their turn and talks, bring up this detail and point out that the section header also gives you this sensory detail.
- Wrap up the lesson: Tell students that they can use this strategy while reading about any historical event. Have students return to their reading spots and continue reading the article, marking sensory details with a sticky note.
Of course, you should tailor this lesson to your own needs and to the specific teaching point you want to make. Here are some more ideas for practicing a strategy presented in your minilesson:
- Have students keep reading the same article to practice.
- Have students choose another Storyworks Jr. article to practice the strategy. You might guide them to the other nonfiction selections, such as the paired texts, Word Power, or debate.
- Have students practice the strategy with their independent reading books.
- Or, conversely, you could use a favorite minilesson you already have to teach a strategy, then have students practice it using an article they choose from Storyworks Jr. You can differentiate by distributing the lower-Lexile version of one of our articles to the students who would benefit from it.
Remember, Storyworks Jr. can be flexibly used however it works best for you. One question in the Teacher's Guide could become an idea for a minilesson. Our goal is simple: to provide you with the tools you need to do the invaluable work you do every day, and to make it as easy and joyful as we can. Please feel free to share your Reading Workshop minilesson ideas with us too! Email us at storyworksideabook.scholastic.com.
3 September Stories You Don't Want to Miss
Hi, Storyworks Jr. teachers! Your October/November issue is ready for you, but we know some of you are still working on the September issue. Before you move onto the next issue, here are three stories in our September issue you don't want to miss, according to our beloved teacher advisers!
"Y'all did an awesome job including a fidget spinners debate story in the first issue! My students were so into their responses! I used it as a rapport-building activity during the first week of school and they haven't stopped asking for another article. The next one I plan on showing them is the hamburger/taco paired text!"
-Alejandro Sifuentes, bilingual grade 3 teacher in Round Rock, TX
"My students have already read the paired texts for this month. They loved learning about the history behind hamburgers and tacos, and the articles inspired inquiry surrounding the history of other favorite foods!"
-Lorraine Magee, grade 3 teacher in Natick, MA
"I'm excited to teach the paired nonfiction texts on the history of hamburgers and tacos because the paired texts allow so much flexibility for use, both in wholeclass and small group instruction."
-Mindi Rench, grade 3 teacher in Northbrook, IL
"I am so excited to use "Jesselyn Silva, Tough Girl" in my classroom. I know my students will be inspired by Jesslyn's growth mindset and perseverance!"
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.
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!
Try This Reading Workshop Minilesson on Main Idea!
Happy back to school, teachers! We know that the beginning of the year can be a whirlwind of learning names, settling in, and getting into a classroom rhythm. In all that hubbub, we wanted to do some of the work for you. I have designed a Reading Workshop model minilesson to go along with our September nonfiction feature in Storyworks: "Our World Turned to Water." It's the riveting, inspiring tale of the August 2016 Louisiana flood. Of course, when we decided to run this story we had no idea that by the time it came out, an even more catastrophic storm in Hurricane Harvey would devastate Texas—and parts of Louisiana. We hope you can use this article to build empathy—and provide hope—for the victims of these unprecedented disasters.
Have your students grab their brand new issue of Storyworks, their Post-It notes, and pencil, and you're ready to go. This lesson is designed to be done after you have already read the article once as a class.
Teaching Point: How to look for details to help you find the main idea in a nonfiction text.
- First, refresh your students' memories of the article. Remind them that you'll be working on how to find the main idea of a story using details from the story. These small details often fit together to create an important idea, for a whole story or a chunk of text. Tell your students that you'll be showing them how to look for these details, and how that will help them find the main idea.
- Return to the beginning of the article and start reading. Do a think-aloud as you read. Pause to talk about the details that jump out at you and underline them for the class. Talk about how the details make you feel. Read up until "Thousands of people had lost everything they owned."
- Here's an example of a think-aloud: "Much of the school was damaged, and many people lost their homes." I'm picturing how terrible this must have been for people. [Continue reading] ". . . under 10 feet of water." Wow, that would be way over my head. That would reach my living room ceiling. I'm going to underline that. [Continue reading] ". . . lost everything they owned." This flood devastated many people. It reminds me of what I've been seeing on TV about Texas and Louisiana and how Hurricane Harvey has affected people there.
- Talk about the details you underlined and how you can put them together to come up with a main idea. The main idea here is that a terrible flood turned many people's lived upside down. The flood was much worse than an ordinary one.
- Keep reading, starting with "But that was only one part of the story..." Point out that this sentence implies that there's going to be another important idea. Read the rest of page 4 aloud. Have students underline or mark with a Post-It note any details that popped out at them.
- Then have students turn and talk with their neighbors about what they underlined. Once they've had a minute to talk, you can bring the class back together and talk about what you heard the students discussing. At this point you can describe the second main idea: In this terrible disaster, people acted kindly and helped each other.
- Wrap up the lesson: Recap with your students why it's important to find details that stick out and put them together to create main ideas. Then have students return to their reading spots and read the next part of the article, through the end of "A Rainy Morning." Have them underline details that pop out and then turn and talk with a partner about how they fit together to make main ideas.
Of course, you should tailor this lesson to your own needs and to the specific teaching point you want to make. Here are some more ideas for practicing a strategy presented in your mini lesson:
- Have students keep reading the same article to practice.
- Many of the activity sheets that come with this article could function not solely as individual student worksheets, but as thinking tools, graphic organizers, or anchor charts when projected on the Smartboard—perfect for effective modeling during a mini lesson. You can choose one and project and model a graphic organizer with whole group too.
- You could have students choose another Storyworks article to practice the strategy. You might guide them to the other nonfiction selections, such as the paired texts, Word Power, or debate.
- You could have students practice the strategy with their independent reading books.
- Or, conversely, you could use a favorite minilesson you already have to teach a strategy, then have students practice it using an article they choose from Storyworks. You can differentiate by distributing the lower-Lexile version of one of our articles to the students who would benefit from it.
Remeber, Storyworks can be flexibly used however it works best for you. One question in the Teacher's Guide could become an idea for a mini lesson. Our goal is simple: to provide you with the tools you need to do the invaluable work you do every day, and to make it as easy and joyful as we can. Please feel free to share your Reading Workshop minilesson ideas with us too! Email us at storyworksideabook.scholastic.com.
Freebie Friday: Opinion Writing Activity for Summer Reading
It is with sincere excitement that we help our teachers usher in back-to-school with a Friday Freebie. At Storyworks/Storyworks Jr. HQ, our editors have been in BTS mode since May, when we first began to lovingly plan and prepare our September issues and support materials. As you might imagine, we are nearly jumping out of our seats to get these resources into your classrooms and in front of your new students!
But we are also keenly aware that many of you will need to delay diving into Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. until you've gotten into classroom routines, set expectations, and maybe even begun assessing reading levels. So, we wanted to offer FREE activity sheets on how to write a book review for both Fiction and Nonfiction, from our evergreen activity library. These can be easily used by students as tools to share their favorite summer reading books.
We encourage you to write your own book review and show your students how easy it is. It's also a great writing warm-up to get your kids back into the groove of responding to their reading with writing. This quick and easy activity will surely clear away the summer cobwebs by providing practice with main idea and supporting details and character analysis, with a simple-to-follow template for either fiction or nonfiction that breaks the elements of writing an opinion piece down into smaller chunks. Plus, what a great way to set the tone and expectations for reading and writing in your classrooms this year. This also makes a great sharing activity, with new and old friends making book recommendations to each other for independent reading book selections from your classroom or school library.
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!