Teach this now
Digital Classroom Collaboration with Padlet!
Editor's note: Our much-loved Link Ladies are back with a game-changing nugget of app-style learning wisdom! Here, they explore Padlet, a digital collaborative canvas. As with any Link Ladies-approved app, Padlet is free and simple to use. Plus, it makes reacting to a text super-fun! Try it in your classroom and be sure to let us know how it goes!
Imagine having your whole class of 25 students share what they are thinking simultaneously… sounds like a recipe for classroom chaos, right? Not with Padlet. This app allows every student to do just that. Reading responses, collaboration, and quick assessments at your fingertips. Seeing everyone’s thoughts instantly in one place—a teacher’s dream. And get this… students love it!
The App: Padlet will become one of your all time favorites. A padlet is a digital collaborative canvas. You can post text, pictures, videos, upload documents, share websites or just have a place to keep ongoing lists. Padlets are simple to create, simple for students to use, and having all of your students’ ideas in one place will make it simple for you to use as a check in or an assessment.
Why We Use It: Padlet is a great way to get your students responding to text in an online collaborative space. Since the web address is personalized, students can easily access the padlet anywhere—even at home. With a few clicks and personalizations, your padlet is ready to have students share their thinking. The site is live, so students get to see their peer’s responses in real-time. Another huge part of getting students engaged with their work is this real-time collaboration.
Skill Focus: Collaboration with peers on reading responses; opinion and evidence based thinking
Time: 1 class period (once you teach them how to use the app, you can make it a homework assignment or a center that they can complete independently)
What You'll Need:
- Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. article (or other text)
- iPads with Padlet app (FREE in the app store) OR a computer with www.padlet.com
- A great imagination
First, set up your Padlet: Set up your first padlet before class (it takes 5 mins flat). You do have to set up a padlet account, but it is easy and free. Simply go to padlet.com and sign up. Now you are ready to create your first padlet. Choose Make a Padlet from your Dashboard.
Padlet guides you through the steps to personalize your padlet. At any time, you can click the setting wheel to change or edit your padlet. Start by changing the title and description to reflect what your padlet will be about. We often put our writing prompt or instructions in the description—this makes sure it is visible for students at all times.
Choose how the posts will appear on the screen. There are three layout choices: Freeform (posts will appear wherever you click on the screen—caution, sometimes posts will overlap with others), grid (posts will appear next to each other in a grid format—we find this the easiest to use), and stream (posts will appear in a list). Then, make it engaging! Choose an image that matches your prompt to make the padlet engaging and connected to the learning task/topic.
You can personalize the web address to make it something easy for your students to remember.As you can see, your user name is always the start of the web address. You can add something simple like “garbage” for your students to make it easy to remember.
Next, choose your privacy settings. You want anyone with the link (your students) to be able to write on the padlet. You can keep it secret, but allow anyone with the link to collaborate OR you can make it public.
Now it is time to have students post. You can share your created padlet in various ways. You can use a QR code and have them scan and link directly to the page, post the link on your website or in Google Classroom for easy access, or Have them type in the URL on the app.
The Lesson: We use padlet to respond to text all the time. This time we wanted to focus on how to read and extract information from an infographic. Since it’s springtime and we are thinking about being outside, we used the newest infographic "No More Garbage?" from the May/June Storyworks issue.
Discuss how and why an infographic can be used to relay LOTS of information in a succinct and engaging way. We also had a brief discussion about what statistics are and how they can be used to convey information and WOW a reader at the same time.
Give the students a copy of Storyworks Magazine. Talk with them about how to read an infographic. It is not linear. You do not have to read it in order. Information flows in different ways. After students read the infographic, we asked them to choose TWO of the amazing WOW facts and post them to the collaborative padlet. Students were then challenged to come up with ONE solution that they could do to help reduce the amount of garbage.
If this is your first time using padlet, discuss with your students the idea of real-time collaboration. As they are adding their ideas to the page, so are all of their peers—simultaneously. Some students will need a reminder to focus on their own posts first, then check out what their friends are thinking.
When they access the website, students either double-click or click on the + (bottom right corner of screen) which allows them to start a new post. They can type their response to the reading prompt (which we have in our description at the top). To differentiate, you can have students who finish quickly search the web and then add an image to their post. This image should support the ideas expressed in their writing.
To view a padlet that our 3rd graders collaborated on, click here.
Padlet can be used in so many different ways. Keep your eyes peeled for our next Ideabook post on how to use Padlet to reflect on your Storyworks school year. THIS idea will make the Storyworks team Jump for Joy!
ELA Meets STEAM in This Fun Roller Coaster Extension
Editor's note: Ann and Sandy are beloved Storyworks Jr. teacher advisers, and we were so thrilled when they told us about a fun learning extension they came up with for the May/June Paired Texts. After reading the paired texts about the history and future of roller coasters, students design and pitch their own roller coaster ideas! This activity has it all: fun, skill-building, cooperative learning, and a connection to STEAM! The best part: Ann and Sandy have provided you with everything you need to make it happen in your classroom!
Pitch a Park!
When students interact with a high-interest text, it’s easy to capitalize on their curiosity. Since roller coasters are so intriguing, we decided to go beyond the text and give students a chance to design and pitch their own idea for a roller coaster. This activity follows a close reading of Scream Machines and Want More Thrills? from the May/June issue of Storyworks Jr.
Time: 5 days, working in pairs
Task: Students will be roller coaster engineers. They will draw an original coaster idea including structure, safety features, and theme or special effects. Once completed, students will “pitch” their roller coaster to the class as if they were selling their idea to the owners of Six Flags (or any nearby amusement park).
Student Guidelines: The requirements for student work are that their roller coaster must be fun, safe and have a theme. Pitch should include all of the vocabulary words from the two texts. Direct students to use what they have learned from the articles, their own experience and on websites provided to develop their plan.
1. Read both articles with students. Complete any comprehension activities provided from Storyworks Jr.
2. Introduce the project, distribute the graphic organizer, and share links for research. We posted the project description and links on our Google Classroom. For a list of resources, see below.
3. Give students time to explore resources and sketch their ideas on the graphic organizer.
4. Give students time to finalize their roller coaster plans and draw them on posterboard or large presentation paper. Use markers to make it bold.
5. Use the opinion writing graphic organizer and OREO paragraph planner to guide them in writing their presentation. Links to the graphic organizers from Scholastic are included in the resources below.
6. Use Opinion Words and Phrases page from Scholastic to help students make their writing flow. A mentor text from the Six Flags website that describes a roller coaster is included as a model.
7. Allow students to type their essays and attach it to their poster.
8. Have students present their design to the class, pitching it as if they're speaking directly to the park owners.
Optional assessment: Students can complete their own Glow & Grow, or have the class vote on best coaster, best presentation, best theme, etc.
Materials: Graphic organizers for planning, plenty of paper for sketches plus poster paper and markers for final design and presentation, Glow & Grow, computers for accessing information and publishing.
- Amusement Park Physics
- Funderstanding Roller Coasters
- Build your own coaster
- Kingda-Ka webpage; writing example
- National Geographic Kids roller coaster video playlist
Graphic organizers/planning documents:
- Pitch a Park graphic organizer for planning
- Opinion Words and Phrases
- Opinion writing planner
- OREO paragraph Planner
- Glow and Grow
Extensions with STEAM
Roller coasters inspire excitement in third graders, but they are a great application of scientific principles of force and motion as well. They lend themselves well to STEAM exploration in the classroom. Marble Runs, Knex and classroom STEAM materials can be used for roller coaster engineering and design in the classroom.
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.
Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
Fluency and Fun with a Readaloud Play Puppet Show
Editor's note: Alison Chaplar came into our world via Twitter, and we are so happy to have met her! When she tweeted about her students creating movies of one of our plays in Storyworks Jr., complete with puppets, we knew we had to have this genius idea for the Ideabook. This strategy is a refreshing approach to the read-aloud play, and we hope you'll be inspired to try it in your classroom!
There is no shortage of great articles in Storyworks Jr. Each week I skim through the magazine wondering which story my students would most relate to. When I saw the play of The Tortoise and the Hare in the March/April issue, I thought, my students would love acting this out! And they did! They loved the play so much that one student suggested we create a movie.
We are pretty tech-savvy in our room, so I gave the students the task of finding the best way to record the movie. We were down to two choices: Toontastic or iMovie. The kids decided to go with iMovie because we had more options to create the characters. From there the students took off. They gave me the task of finding character images online for the puppets. The groups voted on the backgrounds they wanted to use for each scene and we came to a group consensus. The students had so much fun picking their characters and coloring them to match their own individual personalities. After a day of rehearsing, decorating the characters, and finishing the scenery, they couldn’t wait to begin recording.
The recording went great! (Though it was a bit of a challenge for the other groups to control their energy while they waited their turn to record.) We set up a mini recording studio using a box, a ruler, oak tag and play-doh. The kids really enjoyed reading their parts and setting up the studio for each scene. When we were done recording each scene I helped the groups to add our video clips into iMovie to create our featured films! Not sure what we enjoyed more—creating our movies or watching them on the smartboard.
We are definitely looking forward to creating more movies in the future with our Storyworks Jr. stories. Take a look at what we came up with for this project by watching one group's movie here!
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.
Storyworks Has The ELL Resources You Need
About a year ago, one of our beloved advisers, a wonderful fourth-grade teacher from New Jersey, reached out to me with a generous offer: She wanted to share her ideas and strategies for helping the English language learners in her classroom. She inspired me to explore what we could do at Storyworks to help you support your students who are acquiring English.
Fast-forward a year, and I'm happy to draw your attention to the resources we've developed.
1. Vocabulary Slideshows
I've discovered that "make it visual" is a mantra for supporting ELLs—and our Vocabulary Slideshows not only match words with images, they're also a fabulous way to boost pronunciation and fluency.
2. Questions for English Language Learners
Our nonfiction feature and paired texts come with Questions for English Language Learners. They include yes/no, either/or, and short-answer questions, as well as prompts to discuss words and idioms that could be challenging for English learners.
3. Spanish-Language Debate
And did you know that you can now download a version of our debate in Spanish? With more than 75 percent of ELLs coming from Spanish-speaking homes, this version can be a great bridge to reading the debate in English, or for sending home to discuss with parents.
4. Tips for ELL Students
Be sure to check out the Teacher's Guide for Tips for ELL Students. We help you find the idioms, language structures, and cultural references in a feature that could be stumbling blocks for English learners.
Finally, many of the Storyworks differentiation offerings lend themselves to supporting your ELLs. These include our lower-Lexile versions of articles, audio versions, and lower-level activity sheets.
As with so much in Storyworks, these resources started with an idea from a dedicated teacher just like you. I'd love to hear how they're working and what we can do to make them even better. Drop me a line anytime at RLeon@Scholastic.com!
Poetry Support at the Ready!
We are passionate about poetry and make sure we provide at least one poem in every issue of both Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. Many of you find it essential and use the poems faithfully with every issue. Others provide a more targeted poetry focus as part of test-prep season. And still others teach it seasonally during April's National Poetry Month. However you use our poems, these four simple ideas can be right for any classroom. Enjoy!
Four amazingly easy ways to use the poems in Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.:
Idea 1: Create a poetry collection, combining all poems from this year's Storyworks or Storyworks Jr. issues into a booklet as a take-home gift.
Idea 2: Practice makes perfect with the easy-to-use "Write Your Own Poem" activity that comes with every poem in Storyworks Jr. Using this activity sheet, your students can write their own poems in the style of the poem in that issue. Here's the one for our May/June poem, A Slash of Blue by Emily Dickinson. For Storyworks subscribers, most Storyworks poems come with an activity as well! Check out this one for the March/April poem, Just Before April Came by Carl Sandburg.
Idea 3: Put up all of the poems from this year's issues on your classroom wall and let students vote on their favorite. For a great math extension, you can make a bar graph with the results of the vote.
Idea 4: Get comfy and have a poetry listening day! We include audio for all poems in Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. Listening to them as a class can be a wonderful end of day or transition activity during the last few weeks of National Poetry Month. You can even host a class discussion after each poem.
Teach Earth Day With Storyworks and Storyworks Jr.
Earth Day is on April 22nd, and if you're in search of a great lesson, we've got you covered! We've gathered our favorite Earth Day-friendly articles from this years' issues of Storyworks and Storyworks Jr. and have suggested some mini-lessons to go along with them. Happy Earth Day, from us to you!
In this fun debate from the February 2017 issue, students will learn the surprising ways in which helium balloons are not so environmentally-friendly. But does the fun outweigh the harm? Use this teacher's fun and simple debate lesson plan along with this debate!
This paired text from the February 2017 issue is sure to blow your students' minds! Two texts explore two unlikely invasive species: goldfish and wild pigs. These stories are exciting to read, while teaching an important lesson about the environment. For a fun extension activity, have students research invasive species in your area.
This bite-size nonfiction piece from the October/November 2016 issue covers an incredible kid named Mikaila Ulmer, who was disturbed by the plight of bees in the world today. Mikaila has created a business selling lemonade while raising money and awareness. She uses local honey in her lemonade, and a portion of the profits go to saving the bees. Your students are sure to be inspired by Mikaila's mission! For a learning extension, do some research with your students and find out which local plants in your area are best for bees. You could even plant some at your school!
The feature nonfiction from the September 2016 issue is about one of the most well-known and destructive invasive species: the Burmese python. These huge snakes live in the Florida everglades and gobble up everything in their paths. We predict that your students will be fascinated by these slithery creatures. For extra fun, watch this video about invasive species created by our colleagues at Action magazine!
Do you have a successful Earth Day lesson we should know about? Tell us about it in the comments below!
A Text Features Game to Boost Engagement
Editor's note: Superstar coaches, Allie and Shannon, are back with another winner of an activity: Tabletop Twitter! As soon as you tell your students the name of this activity, we predict they'll be excited! This activity has students previewing text features while "tweeting" their thoughts, comments, and questions. It's fun for kids, and gets them thinking about the text before diving in for a first read. Check out how Mrs. Tiffany Spiva's fourth grade superstars rocked this strategy! Let us know how it works in your classroom!
Tabletop Twitter is a great strategy for getting all students to interact with text and it gives them a chance to share their thoughts about what they've read. It's a different way of getting kids interacting with text and one another, and it gives us insight into how kids are thinking about and looking at text. We like using the strategy with infographics and text features the most because it gives a fun and engaging purpose for looking at text features. The kids love it because the hashtag format is in their comfort zone and makes them feel like what they're doing is "cool," not just "school"!
How to get started: Cut or copy and glue images or short excerpts from your article onto individual large pieces of bulletin board paper or chart paper. Place the pieces of chart paper around the room in separate locations.
How to choose the text/images: The selection of images or excerpts you choose is key to getting the most interaction and reaction from your students. The selection should be something that evokes emotion or thinking from your students so they will be motivated to write down their thoughts, reactions, and questions.We loved using the thought-provoking sidebars, pictures, and captions like this one in the March/April issue of Storyworks: The Amazing History of American Television.
How to introduce the strategy to students: Discuss what we know about “twitter” and how to tweet. Explain the process so students fully understand: They are to write a comment/question in 140 characters or less, using a hashtag symbol (#) when appropriate. Put a 140-character statement on the board so students have a sense of the length. Set a timer for 2 or 3 minutes and let students know when the timer rings the twitter time is up! Remind students: “Writing is right, but talking is taboo!”
How it works: The students will read the excerpt or caption of a picture, then silently “tweet” their thoughts and/or reactions. The teacher is moving from table to table re-tweeting and/or writing comments or responding to something already written. When the timer goes off, the students move to the next table and repeat until each student has “tweeted” about each excerpt/image. Students read each other’s “tweets” and respond back to each other by posing a question or comment.
The “tweets” will be posted, so after reflection—and any time during the unit study or lesson sequence—students can return and add more thoughts. Consider this low-tech form of social media a perfect way to build a base of knowledge!
Boost Opinion and Persuasive Writing with a Debate
Editor's note: We know that kids tend to get very passionate about our debates, and superstar 2nd grade teacher Beth O's students really took it to a whole new level! We love Beth's simple two-day approach to the debate in the March/April issue of Storyworks Jr. It's one that students have strong feelings about: Should You Always Get a Trophy? We hope it will work well in your classroom!
My class loves to debate. After all, who doesn’t love trying to prove their point or get their way, kids and adults alike! My second graders have been working on Opinion Writing, and I thought that the article, "Should You Always Get a Trophy," would be a subject that they had a lot of background knowledge about and also some strong opinions.
This was a two-day project. On the first day, and before previewing the article, I had students sit (on top of their desks for more exciting and active engagement) and have a whole-class discussion about their experiences with trophies. What kind of sports are you in? Who has received a trophy before? How do you feel when someone else gets a trophy but you don’t? How do you feel when everyone gets a “participation” trophy? Do you think you should get a trophy, even if you’re in last place? Students were encouraged to support their answers using the word "because" to add their thoughts. They even used language like “I respectfully disagree with ____, because...!” Since most kids have had experience with this, their feelings were so strong about this topic!
Next, students were given a large copy of the article, so that they could take notes that support both sides. Excitement was building, because most students already knew which side they would want to be on for our big debate! They read the article independently, and then shared what they thought they should highlight together.
Next, students wrote their ideas on the Storyworks Jr. printable, What Do You Think, that utilized both text evidence and ideas from their own schema, proving their point for tomorrow’s big debate.
They chose what side they would be on, and we even had a team huddle and cheer as we prepared for Day 2.
After we practiced our debate strategies, we sat on opposite sides of the room. I stressed to the kids that they should not be a “conversation stealer” and try letting all teammates get a chance to share their point of view. They did a great job of using text evidence and their own personal thoughts. I even had class leaders emerge and ask others to step down to let a quiet classmate get a chance to speak!
The team who debated on the side of “everyone gets a trophy” even had nice, shiny trophy props to try to persuade the other side!
Needless to say, these kids had a blast with this debate! Storyworks Jr. debates are a great way to get kids excited about sharing their opinions while also building speaking and listening skills. My kids are so excited to see what the next Storyworks Jr. debate will be!