Launching Independent Reading with Storia – A Five Step Plan
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
If you’re here reading this blog, chances are you’ve seen the Storia cloud floating around Scholastic’s website, beckoning you to give eReading a try in your classroom. But if you’re anything like me, you’re relieved that your reading workshop is finally getting off the ground — with regular paper books! Now we’re supposed to throw a wrench into this with eReading?! Who has time for this?!
Here comes the part where I tell you that Storia isn’t going to mess up your reading workshop, that it’s going to enhance your students’ reading lives, and how easy it is to make this work. If I were reading this, I’d roll my eyes about now, but bear with me a sec. You see, I started with Storia in my classroom last year, made a few mistakes, and ironed out a lot of the kinks for when I launched Storia in my classroom this year. So, if you’re thinking of giving Storia a try with your students, read on for some tips from the trenches.
Tales of a Storia Rookie
Last March when I first started with Storia in my classroom, I was insanely busy getting the students ready for the state exams. I honestly didn’t have time to become an expert with Storia — but I wanted something to entice my reluctant readers to read more. So I simply downloaded Storia onto a couple of iPads and our classroom computers, showed some of my students the icon on the desktop, and told them, “This is Storia, click on it, pick a book, and read.” That was it — no modeling, no management.
It worked, more or less. The kids figured out how to use Storia in no time, and it was highly motivating, especially for some of my less secure readers. It wasn’t until a month later, however, when the craziness of the standardized tests passed, that I closely looked at how my students were using Storia.
While observing my students, I realized that while using Storia is totally intuitive for children, there were ways I could make Storia more effective as a learning tool. So, I backtracked and re-introduced Storia, this time with a set of management routines, guidelines, and mini-lessons on becoming an expert eReader.
I noticed changes in my students’ eReading almost immediately. They were now transferring their reflective reading behaviors and their deliberate strategy use to their eBooks, while still maintaining their excitement about reading with Storia. The Storia features were enhancing their comprehension, rather than distracting them, and my new management systems meant that my students had greater accountability.
Moral of the story: Storia is easy to use, but it still takes a teacher with a plan to make sure it is used well in the classroom.
Step 1: Get Storia!
Okay, this is the easiest part. Go to the Storia website, click on “Get Storia,” and download it to your iPad, Windows PC, or Android tablet. Then you simply sign in with your Scholastic account info — that’s the email address and password you use for Bookclubs, Printables, or any other Scholastic service you use. Not to worry if you don’t have an account. It’s free and easy to sign up for one.
Do you now have Storia on a device? Then you’re ready for step 2! (Need some technical help? Check out these step-by-step how-to videos about setting up Storia.)
Step 2: Create Bookshelves
Storia bookshelves are analogous to the book baskets in your classroom library. It’s where you put your eBooks with some sort of organizational system so that the students can find their “Just Right” books. eBooks must be assigned to a bookshelf to be accessible to readers.
When you first get started, chances are you won’t have a lot of eBooks yet, so you don’t have to worry about a complicated shelving system. When I began with Storia, I just made two bookshelves: Chapter Books and Picture Books. As my library grew, I started creating more bookshelves to sort the books by genres. When my eBook library gets even bigger, I may even have some leveled shelves, but that’s for the future. Start simple.
On the left are the original bookshelves I created for Storia last spring, and on the right are the bookshelves I'm currently using for Storia in my classroom. This is a work in progress!
Tip: Book shelves do not need to be a child’s name. You can type any shelf name you want into the First Name box. The month and year of birth can be made up — this really doesn’t matter.
For more advice about creating bookshelves, see the Storia Teacher’s Guide.
Step 3: Model Storia
This year, I introduced Storia with a whole-class read aloud. I chose the picture book The Three Questions by Jon Muth, and I projected the eBook from my iPad onto my Smartboard. I simply explained that we’d be reading a book together, like usual, however rather than a paper book, the book is digital. I narrated the process as I opened Storia, chose the appropriate shelf, and opened the eBook.
My students oohed and aahed each step of the way, and soon they were begging to use Storia too. “Storia is a privilege you may earn,” I explained, “so let’s talk about how we use Storia appropriately for independent reading.”
My students were all begging to give Storia a try — and I didn’t want to make them wait for their turn to use Storia independently. (Only five students can use Storia at a time, after all.) So for the first two days, I had students buddy-read using Storia with a partner for ten minutes at a time. This meant that all of the students got to try Storia in a relatively short time before the first “official round” of independent reading began. It also gave the students a friend to share the exciting new experience with — the first time using Storia seems to always involve exclamations of delight and wonder.
My students needed a friend to share their excitement with the first time they use Storia.
Step 4: Manage Storia
I want my students to all have a fair chance to read independently with Storia, but as of now we can only put Storia on five devices at a time. (This is going to change to forty devices in a few months, but for now, the limit is five.) So, I use a rotating sign-out system to make sure that my students all have a turn with Storia. I simply keep a list of my students’ names on a clipboard, and the first five students get to use Storia. As each student finishes their book, they notify the next student on the list, until the entire class has had a chance to read with Storia. Then the cycle starts again.
Charts like this make Storia management routines much easier for my 28 students.
When it is a student’s turn to read with Storia, he “checks out” a Storia device (iPad or laptop, in my classroom) on our Storia Class Reading Log. This allows me to easily track who is currently reading with Storia, which eBooks my students read, and how long each student read with Storia. Students may either read with Storia until they have completely finished one book or for one class period, whichever is longer. That way, students who are reading short picture books may read more than one book in a single period, and chapter book readers may read their eBook to completion over the course of several days.
When a student has finished his turn with Storia, he adds the title and date to the Storia Class Reading Log, and also records the book on his regular personal reading log. I ask students to note eBooks on their reading logs by writing a small “e” before the title.
Step 5: Storia Citizenship
Finally, as with any classroom routine, I want to make sure that Storia is used properly in my classroom — what I call “Storia Citizenship.” Here are my guidelines for being a good Storia Citizen.
Most of these guidelines are common courtesy — nobody appreciates when it’s their turn to use the iPad, only find it with a dead battery because the previous user never plugged it in. Of course, children (and possibly adults) need reminders about these sorts of routines.
“Resetting” their books to the beginning when they finish an eBook is a very important habit, worth modeling. I show my students how to use the page slider in the bottom toolbar to drag the page-selector back to the front cover. This ensures that when the next student goes to read that book, they’ll open the book to the cover rather than the last page.
More Tips for Using Storia
Scholastic has put together a lot of helpful resources about using Storia in the classroom — and Storia is going to keep getting better and more classroom-friendly over the next several months.
The Teacher’s Guide to Using Storia breaks down how to use Storia in the classroom, with sections about differentiated instruction, classroom management for Storia, and much more.
Check out blogger Brent Vasicek’s post from last spring about how he was Experimenting with Storia in his classroom.
Here are teaching guides that accompany many of the Storia eBooks, to make it even easier to use these books in the classroom.
Are you using Storia with your students? Share your tips with us! Do you have Storia questions? Feel free to post your questions below, too, and if I have an answer, I’ll get back to you!