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November 14, 2016

How Storyworks Brought New Life to My Reading Groups

By Julie Ballew
Grades 3–5

    One of my favorite parts of every day is meeting with reading groups. This time gives me a chance to slow down and really learn about my kids as individual readers. I can deepen my understanding of their needs and find the best way to meet them right on the spot. I can also learn about their individual strengths in a way that is often difficult in a whole group setting.

    While small group reading is one of my favorite daily activities, it’s also one that takes up a lot of my planning time. Finding the perfect text for a group and writing plans that will support them but also nudge them forward is no easy task, and we’re multiplying that task by the number of groups we have — 10, in my case. It’s rewarding, empowering work, but it’s also really challenging! Because of the amazing support provided for teachers, Scholastic’s Storyworks magazine has been a game-changer for me this year, and thanks to the highly-engaging texts, I know my students are as happy about it as I am.

    Storyworks is a magazine that is packed with possibility in every single issue. I have used two issues so far with my kids, and we are hooked! Each issue has several nonfiction selections of varying length and covering a wide range of topics. There are also fiction selections, poems, and even infographics. While the resource could easily be used in a whole-group context, I chose to use it with my small groups. Just a few things that I love about the text selections:

    • They are written at or above grade level, so they are perfect for almost all of my small groups.

    • Several of the selections are available in a lower Lexile level online. (More on the online component below.)

    • The average text length is fairly short, so the kids are moving through texts at a reasonable rate, and our deeper comprehension discussions about the whole text happen more often.

    • The pieces are highly engaging. My kids love them and often ask if I have any books on similar topics so they can read more! The September issue had an excellent piece by Lauren Tarshis about the Hindenburg disaster, and the groups that read that text have done an incredible amount of additional research because the text was so interesting to them. (The upcoming issue has an article about Pokémon GO. I can only imagine how excited they’ll be!)

    Obviously, the work of choosing texts is made much easier for many of my groups. The selections are excellent, and I can vary which texts I read with each group depending on the needs of the kids. But what about the planning? Don’t I still have to craft supportive text introductions and come up with discussion questions? Won’t I need to find the key vocabulary and preview words that might impact their comprehension? What about background knowledge? I’ll still need to find a way to activate that so that they can engage with the story. Well, yes. Of course. There is still much work to be done once the text is selected, but oh my goodness, has Storyworks made that easy for us! The teacher’s guide that comes with each issue is really incredible.

    Picture of sample Storyworks teacher's guide

    Click on the image to open a PDF of a sample Storyworks Teacher’s Guide.

    Included in the teacher’s guide are discussion questions for before, during, and after reading. Key vocabulary words are highlighted for you, with various activities you might try to help kids understand them. There are step-by-step guides for close reading of each article, and there are even tips for differentiation. There are also key skills for each article listed at the beginning, so if you know what you want to teach but don’t have a text in mind, this makes it so easy.

    As if the paper teacher’s guide wasn’t enough, they also have an excellent online component!

    You can click here or on the image to get a taste of what is available, but with a Storyworks subscription, you get online access to the entire issue, including past issues. There are vocabulary slide shows with images and videos to accompany the definitions. (What an amazing gift, especially for those of us teaching English language learners!) Kids can log in and read the articles online or have them read aloud. They can also watch behind-the-scenes videos for select articles and even see video interviews with some of the authors. If that’s not enough, you can download a variety of activities for each article if you need some help assessing what you’re teaching them.

    Girl watching vocabulary slideshow on iPad

    It’s very rare that I fall so in love with a packaged resource of any kind, but Storyworks has won me over this year. With so many options for using all or part of the resources included in a subscription, the teacher is not removed from the equation. This isn’t a scripted lesson that must be followed without making it your own. You can choose the exact pieces needed for each child or small group. This is exactly what I’ve done, and my kids are thriving. The best part of all is that small group reading is rapidly becoming their favorite part of each day, too.

    Have you tried Storyworks yet? I'd love to hear about it!

    One of my favorite parts of every day is meeting with reading groups. This time gives me a chance to slow down and really learn about my kids as individual readers. I can deepen my understanding of their needs and find the best way to meet them right on the spot. I can also learn about their individual strengths in a way that is often difficult in a whole group setting.

    While small group reading is one of my favorite daily activities, it’s also one that takes up a lot of my planning time. Finding the perfect text for a group and writing plans that will support them but also nudge them forward is no easy task, and we’re multiplying that task by the number of groups we have — 10, in my case. It’s rewarding, empowering work, but it’s also really challenging! Because of the amazing support provided for teachers, Scholastic’s Storyworks magazine has been a game-changer for me this year, and thanks to the highly-engaging texts, I know my students are as happy about it as I am.

    Storyworks is a magazine that is packed with possibility in every single issue. I have used two issues so far with my kids, and we are hooked! Each issue has several nonfiction selections of varying length and covering a wide range of topics. There are also fiction selections, poems, and even infographics. While the resource could easily be used in a whole-group context, I chose to use it with my small groups. Just a few things that I love about the text selections:

    • They are written at or above grade level, so they are perfect for almost all of my small groups.

    • Several of the selections are available in a lower Lexile level online. (More on the online component below.)

    • The average text length is fairly short, so the kids are moving through texts at a reasonable rate, and our deeper comprehension discussions about the whole text happen more often.

    • The pieces are highly engaging. My kids love them and often ask if I have any books on similar topics so they can read more! The September issue had an excellent piece by Lauren Tarshis about the Hindenburg disaster, and the groups that read that text have done an incredible amount of additional research because the text was so interesting to them. (The upcoming issue has an article about Pokémon GO. I can only imagine how excited they’ll be!)

    Obviously, the work of choosing texts is made much easier for many of my groups. The selections are excellent, and I can vary which texts I read with each group depending on the needs of the kids. But what about the planning? Don’t I still have to craft supportive text introductions and come up with discussion questions? Won’t I need to find the key vocabulary and preview words that might impact their comprehension? What about background knowledge? I’ll still need to find a way to activate that so that they can engage with the story. Well, yes. Of course. There is still much work to be done once the text is selected, but oh my goodness, has Storyworks made that easy for us! The teacher’s guide that comes with each issue is really incredible.

    Picture of sample Storyworks teacher's guide

    Click on the image to open a PDF of a sample Storyworks Teacher’s Guide.

    Included in the teacher’s guide are discussion questions for before, during, and after reading. Key vocabulary words are highlighted for you, with various activities you might try to help kids understand them. There are step-by-step guides for close reading of each article, and there are even tips for differentiation. There are also key skills for each article listed at the beginning, so if you know what you want to teach but don’t have a text in mind, this makes it so easy.

    As if the paper teacher’s guide wasn’t enough, they also have an excellent online component!

    You can click here or on the image to get a taste of what is available, but with a Storyworks subscription, you get online access to the entire issue, including past issues. There are vocabulary slide shows with images and videos to accompany the definitions. (What an amazing gift, especially for those of us teaching English language learners!) Kids can log in and read the articles online or have them read aloud. They can also watch behind-the-scenes videos for select articles and even see video interviews with some of the authors. If that’s not enough, you can download a variety of activities for each article if you need some help assessing what you’re teaching them.

    Girl watching vocabulary slideshow on iPad

    It’s very rare that I fall so in love with a packaged resource of any kind, but Storyworks has won me over this year. With so many options for using all or part of the resources included in a subscription, the teacher is not removed from the equation. This isn’t a scripted lesson that must be followed without making it your own. You can choose the exact pieces needed for each child or small group. This is exactly what I’ve done, and my kids are thriving. The best part of all is that small group reading is rapidly becoming their favorite part of each day, too.

    Have you tried Storyworks yet? I'd love to hear about it!

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