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September 10, 2015 8 Reasons Magazines Belong in the Classroom By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    I’m a children’s book junkie with a classroom library that reflects my habit. Books are crammed into baskets, stacked onto windowsills, and tucked into closets because hey, you never know which one will be the magic seed that will transform a child into a reader. But as much as I looove books, I think children’s magazines are sometimes an even better reading tool. (Gasp!) Yes, books’ slim, staple-bound, oft-overlooked cousins deserve a serious chunk of shelf space in the classroom. Read on to find out why and how I acquire magazines for my classroom, and which are my faves.

     

    I use a Lucite spinning rack to display the new magazines that arrive each month. Older issues are organized into magazine files. (Cereal boxes make great magazine holders in a pinch! Cover the sides with cutouts or photos of the magazine.)

     

    8 Reasons Magazines Belong in the Classroom

     

    Reason #1 – Authentic Short Texts

    “Short texts” are a classroom staple for shared reading and strategy lessons. But all too often, we need to turn to reading anthologies, “close read” workbooks, or test prep materials to find pared down texts. Magazine articles are perfect authentic texts for mini-lessons and evidence-based discussions. Plus, since these short texts are not crafted with multiple-choice questions in mind, they are often better written.

     

    Reason # 2 – Perfect for “Waiting”

    Waiting is a challenging yet necessary skill for children to learn, and we can give them tools to help them along. A children’s magazine article is the perfect length to fill the time while students wait for an assembly to begin or for everyone to finish an exam. A lightweight magazine is even more portable than a book, plus it’s less distressing if it accidentally lands in a puddle at recess.

     

    Reason #3 – Low Stakes, Low Stress, High Interest

    For some of our most reluctant readers, even the slimmest book can be daunting (not to mention embarrassing if her peers are reading much thicker tomes). A glossy magazine is often more tempting with a lot of visual support and low pressure, short articles.

     

    Reason #4 – Up-to-date Nonfiction

    Almost every classroom library is guilty of harboring some seriously old nonfiction. You know what I’m talking about: that space book that lists Pluto as the ninth planet, etc. Magazines are an inexpensive way to keep current nonfiction on the shelves, particularly about more newsworthy topics.

     

    Reason # 5 – The “You Try It” Part of Mini-Lessons

    I was always stumped about how to manage the part of Reader’s Workshop when I’d send students off from the rug to try the strategy with their own books. Often their independent reading choices didn’t match the topic of the mini-lesson so they couldn’t put the new skill to use right away. Magazines solve that problem; students can pick an article or short story to try the strategy with, and then return to their novel or other reading material afterwards.

     

    Reason #6 – Magazines are Social

    Reading shouldn’t always be a silent, independent activity; we know that the best learning happens when kids are talking. Magazines lend themselves to buddy reading, sharing, and discussing. (How often have you read US Weekly by peering over somebody’s shoulder?)

     

    Reason # 7 – Perfect for the Start of the Year

    Before I open my classroom library and officially launch Reader’s Workshop, my students first read lots of magazines for at least a week. This gives me a chance to figure out the students’ levels, introduce library routines, and build anticipation. Read more about my “limited library” in my post about "Surviving the First Day."

     

    Reason #8 – The Novelty of New Issues

    There’s a renewed interest in reading each month when I pick up the new magazines from my mailbox and share them with my students with some fanfare. I often have to choose names from a hat to decide who gets to read the latest issue first. Anything that creates that sort of reading buzz is a good thing!

     

    Bonus Tip: Catalogs Tempt Too!

    I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I keep a stack of interesting, child-appropriate catalogs in a closet, for use with very resistant readers. I’ve found that for a few students, poring over the pages of an Oriental Trading catalog or a LEGO catalog is the first step to helping them “read” independently for a few extra minutes. After some time with a catalog, a magazine is often the next step towards breaking down reading barriers.

    Puzzles, jokes, and quizzes often hook reluctant readers. Does that count as reading? Sure thing! Plus, they just might be tempted to try an actual article after they finish with the lighter stuff.

     

    How to Get Magazines for the Classroom

    In a perfect world, schools would buy magazine subscriptions for every classroom, but the reality is that you’ll probably be foraging for magazines on your own. Here’s how I’ve managed to get at least six subscriptions every school year without having to open my own wallet.

    DonorsChoose.org is the most important resource for getting “free” stuff for the classroom from generous donors. Every year, I’ve posted a project to request magazines, and every year my project has been funded by generous folks who care about literacy. For more about how I use DonorsChoose.org, see my blog post about my experiences with the site.

    Each year, I also ask parents to either sponsor a subscription for the classroom if they can, or to send in old issues of magazines their children have received. Many are happy to see their used magazines have a second life in the classroom. Some public libraries will also give you old magazines if you explain that they are for a classroom.

    Some children are surprisingly interested in cooking and food magazines, so I also keep a stash of old Gourmet and Cooks Illustrated magazines on hand. Reading recipes counts as reading!

    I save the magazines from year to year, so I now have a hefty collection! Even if you’re just getting started, after a year with six subscriptions you’ll have more than sixty magazines in your classroom for the following year. (Of course, some well-loved magazines will fall apart or disappear; I expect that.)

     

    Which Magazines?

    Of course the age and reading levels of your students will be important factors when choosing magazines. Some of the magazines I subscribe to are “reach” magazines in terms of the level, but the short articles, abundant visual support, and high-interest topics mean that many of my students can manage above their independent reading levels when it comes to magazines.

    Some magazines are more commercial than others, with ads and sponsored content. This doesn’t stop me from subscribing to those magazines, but it is something to be aware of. I keep an eye on content for appropriateness, particularly in the ads. This isn't a complete list of all the kids' mags available, it's just some of the ones that I actually subscribe to for my students.

    ELA and Math Specific

    A great option for magazine articles for your students is Scholastic's great selection of classroom magazines. These shorter leaflet-style magazines allow every student to have their own copy. This is perfect for guided reading lessons, shared reading, and group work. Two of my favorites are Storyworks, a literary magazine with paired fiction and nonfiction in a range of genres, and Dynamath, which has exciting articles that include real-life applications of math.

    Literary and Social Studies Magazines

        

    Science and Nature Magazines

      

    Variety Magazines

      

     

     

    Do you have children’s magazines in your classroom? Which are your favorites? Share your ideas and questions in the comment section below!

     

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Back to School PSAs"

    Two years ago: "4 Classroom Organization Ideas That Really Work"

    Three years ago: "To Spell or Not to Spel? Creating a Just-Right Spelling Program"

    Four years ago: "Poetic Beginnings"

    I’m a children’s book junkie with a classroom library that reflects my habit. Books are crammed into baskets, stacked onto windowsills, and tucked into closets because hey, you never know which one will be the magic seed that will transform a child into a reader. But as much as I looove books, I think children’s magazines are sometimes an even better reading tool. (Gasp!) Yes, books’ slim, staple-bound, oft-overlooked cousins deserve a serious chunk of shelf space in the classroom. Read on to find out why and how I acquire magazines for my classroom, and which are my faves.

     

    I use a Lucite spinning rack to display the new magazines that arrive each month. Older issues are organized into magazine files. (Cereal boxes make great magazine holders in a pinch! Cover the sides with cutouts or photos of the magazine.)

     

    8 Reasons Magazines Belong in the Classroom

     

    Reason #1 – Authentic Short Texts

    “Short texts” are a classroom staple for shared reading and strategy lessons. But all too often, we need to turn to reading anthologies, “close read” workbooks, or test prep materials to find pared down texts. Magazine articles are perfect authentic texts for mini-lessons and evidence-based discussions. Plus, since these short texts are not crafted with multiple-choice questions in mind, they are often better written.

     

    Reason # 2 – Perfect for “Waiting”

    Waiting is a challenging yet necessary skill for children to learn, and we can give them tools to help them along. A children’s magazine article is the perfect length to fill the time while students wait for an assembly to begin or for everyone to finish an exam. A lightweight magazine is even more portable than a book, plus it’s less distressing if it accidentally lands in a puddle at recess.

     

    Reason #3 – Low Stakes, Low Stress, High Interest

    For some of our most reluctant readers, even the slimmest book can be daunting (not to mention embarrassing if her peers are reading much thicker tomes). A glossy magazine is often more tempting with a lot of visual support and low pressure, short articles.

     

    Reason #4 – Up-to-date Nonfiction

    Almost every classroom library is guilty of harboring some seriously old nonfiction. You know what I’m talking about: that space book that lists Pluto as the ninth planet, etc. Magazines are an inexpensive way to keep current nonfiction on the shelves, particularly about more newsworthy topics.

     

    Reason # 5 – The “You Try It” Part of Mini-Lessons

    I was always stumped about how to manage the part of Reader’s Workshop when I’d send students off from the rug to try the strategy with their own books. Often their independent reading choices didn’t match the topic of the mini-lesson so they couldn’t put the new skill to use right away. Magazines solve that problem; students can pick an article or short story to try the strategy with, and then return to their novel or other reading material afterwards.

     

    Reason #6 – Magazines are Social

    Reading shouldn’t always be a silent, independent activity; we know that the best learning happens when kids are talking. Magazines lend themselves to buddy reading, sharing, and discussing. (How often have you read US Weekly by peering over somebody’s shoulder?)

     

    Reason # 7 – Perfect for the Start of the Year

    Before I open my classroom library and officially launch Reader’s Workshop, my students first read lots of magazines for at least a week. This gives me a chance to figure out the students’ levels, introduce library routines, and build anticipation. Read more about my “limited library” in my post about "Surviving the First Day."

     

    Reason #8 – The Novelty of New Issues

    There’s a renewed interest in reading each month when I pick up the new magazines from my mailbox and share them with my students with some fanfare. I often have to choose names from a hat to decide who gets to read the latest issue first. Anything that creates that sort of reading buzz is a good thing!

     

    Bonus Tip: Catalogs Tempt Too!

    I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I keep a stack of interesting, child-appropriate catalogs in a closet, for use with very resistant readers. I’ve found that for a few students, poring over the pages of an Oriental Trading catalog or a LEGO catalog is the first step to helping them “read” independently for a few extra minutes. After some time with a catalog, a magazine is often the next step towards breaking down reading barriers.

    Puzzles, jokes, and quizzes often hook reluctant readers. Does that count as reading? Sure thing! Plus, they just might be tempted to try an actual article after they finish with the lighter stuff.

     

    How to Get Magazines for the Classroom

    In a perfect world, schools would buy magazine subscriptions for every classroom, but the reality is that you’ll probably be foraging for magazines on your own. Here’s how I’ve managed to get at least six subscriptions every school year without having to open my own wallet.

    DonorsChoose.org is the most important resource for getting “free” stuff for the classroom from generous donors. Every year, I’ve posted a project to request magazines, and every year my project has been funded by generous folks who care about literacy. For more about how I use DonorsChoose.org, see my blog post about my experiences with the site.

    Each year, I also ask parents to either sponsor a subscription for the classroom if they can, or to send in old issues of magazines their children have received. Many are happy to see their used magazines have a second life in the classroom. Some public libraries will also give you old magazines if you explain that they are for a classroom.

    Some children are surprisingly interested in cooking and food magazines, so I also keep a stash of old Gourmet and Cooks Illustrated magazines on hand. Reading recipes counts as reading!

    I save the magazines from year to year, so I now have a hefty collection! Even if you’re just getting started, after a year with six subscriptions you’ll have more than sixty magazines in your classroom for the following year. (Of course, some well-loved magazines will fall apart or disappear; I expect that.)

     

    Which Magazines?

    Of course the age and reading levels of your students will be important factors when choosing magazines. Some of the magazines I subscribe to are “reach” magazines in terms of the level, but the short articles, abundant visual support, and high-interest topics mean that many of my students can manage above their independent reading levels when it comes to magazines.

    Some magazines are more commercial than others, with ads and sponsored content. This doesn’t stop me from subscribing to those magazines, but it is something to be aware of. I keep an eye on content for appropriateness, particularly in the ads. This isn't a complete list of all the kids' mags available, it's just some of the ones that I actually subscribe to for my students.

    ELA and Math Specific

    A great option for magazine articles for your students is Scholastic's great selection of classroom magazines. These shorter leaflet-style magazines allow every student to have their own copy. This is perfect for guided reading lessons, shared reading, and group work. Two of my favorites are Storyworks, a literary magazine with paired fiction and nonfiction in a range of genres, and Dynamath, which has exciting articles that include real-life applications of math.

    Literary and Social Studies Magazines

        

    Science and Nature Magazines

      

    Variety Magazines

      

     

     

    Do you have children’s magazines in your classroom? Which are your favorites? Share your ideas and questions in the comment section below!

     

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Back to School PSAs"

    Two years ago: "4 Classroom Organization Ideas That Really Work"

    Three years ago: "To Spell or Not to Spel? Creating a Just-Right Spelling Program"

    Four years ago: "Poetic Beginnings"

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