August 23, 2013

Teaching Informational Text with Magazines

With the Common Core emphasis on teaching informational text, you might be wondering where to find appropriate texts for reading instruction. Most classrooms are overflowing with great children's literature and novels, but many schools lack a good selection of interesting nonfiction texts.

If you enjoy reading magazines yourself, the solution to that problem is right in front of you! As it turns out, children's magazines are a great source of informational texts. The articles are short, interesting, and appropriate for children. They often use a variety of different text structures and text features so they make excellent practice passages for working with nonfiction. In fact, many reading selections on state tests are very close in structure and format to magazine articles.

The challenge is finding enough copies of magazines for your classroom and knowing how to use them effectively. I'd like to share a few of my favorite sources as well as some tips for using them. I'm also going to give away at least one subscription to a children's magazine at the end of this blog post.

Weekly Classroom Magazines
Teaching Informational Text with Magazines - Tips and strategies for using magazines in the classroom and a giveaway of a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids
The most obvious place to look is to find a classroom magazine like Time for Kids and Scholastic News. I preferred Scholastic News and used it every year with my students. It was a great way for students to practice informational text reading and keep up with current events.

Since a new issue arrived almost every week, it was easy to integrate it into my literacy instruction and sometimes into science or social studies. We used it with small guided reading groups and reading mini lessons. It was easy to have students read and respond to the articles with graphic organizers or in journals. Because everyone had a copy of the same text and the magazine belonged to them, they could use highlighters to practice reading strategies and it was easy to discuss together. I also used it for "paired reading" practice as shown in this picture. You may be able to get your school or PTA to fund them since they are quite inexpensive, and if you are a public school teacher in the US, you can get them through DonorsChoose.

Monthly Children's Magazines
Weekly magazines have many advantages and should be a part of any classroom, but they don't have quite the appeal of a traditional magazine like National Geographic for Kids or American Girls. Monthly magazines are larger, more colorful, and have a wider variety of different types of content. Unfortunately, they are also more expensive and only send out a few issues each year, so it takes a while to build up a collection of them. It's also harder to figure out what to do with them because each issue is unique.

How to Obtain Monthly Magazines for Your Classroom
Where can you get these magazines? Here are a few ideas:
  • You can start by asking your school librarian if they have collections of back issues that they will let you check out and bring to your classroom. If you do this, be sure to write down the number of copies of each title and count them at the end of reading class to be sure they have all been returned.
  • Magazine subscriptions are available through Amazon.com, so you can now create a DonorsChoose proposal for a variety of children's magazines. The prices range between $15 and $33 per subscription, so you could request up to 10 different magazines and keep your proposal under $400. Most proposals under $400 are quickly funded.
  • You can ask parents to send in old issues of children's magazines, but make it clear that the magazines must be kid-friendly and are subject to your approval before they can be read in class.
  • Establish a "Classroom Magazine Fund" and ask parents to donate money to help you purchase classroom magazine subscriptions. You can customize and send the letter shown above.
  • Ask parents to donate a magazine subscription to the classroom. See customizable letter above for sample wording.
  • Some airline frequent flyer programs will let you use frequent flyer miles to purchase magazines. Both Delta and American Airlines participate in a program called Mags for Miles, and the current offer includes Sports Illustrated Kids. I've decided to use some of my points to give away a few subscriptions to that magazine. See details below.
Recommended Children's Magazines
The easiest place to look for children's magazines is on Amazon.com. Even if you don't plan to purchase them there, reviews are really helpful. By reading those reviews, I discovered that some magazines are full of advertisements and even include content that's not completely appropriate for that age group. Some of my favorite children's magazines are National Geographic for Kids, Discovery Girls, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and Ranger Rick. The reviews also looked good for Cricket, Ask, and Calliope. What are your favorite magazines? Please share your suggestions with us.

How to Use Monthly Magazines
Monthly magazines are harder to use for instruction because each issue unique. Therefore, the articles aren't particularly good for small group instruction. However, they can be used for partner reading activities or for whole group mini lessons if you have a document camera and can project the article on a Smartboard.

My students also enjoyed reading magazines during our "Magazine Power Hour" which was a special activity each month, often taking place right before holidays when kids were restless. This activity is described in detail in my book, Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide, and there's a nice printable to use with the strategy.  The gist of the idea is that you conduct the activity in place of your regular reading instruction and provide time for students to read magazines for a whole hour. Because that's a long block of time to read, I had my students read their chosen magazine for 15 minutes and then meet with a reading buddy for a brief discussion about what they had read and learned. They repeated this two more times, and at the end they wrote a written reflection about their favorite article.

Sports Illustrated for Kids Giveaway Has Ended

Current Giveaway Ends: None Scheduled
Teaching Informational Text with Magazines - Tips and strategies for using magazines in the classroom. Be sure to enter the giveaway to win one of FIVE subscriptions to Sports Illustrated for Kids!As I mentioned above, some airlines have a "Mags for Miles" program where you can get magazines for free. It just so happens that I have some extra miles from American Airlines, and I'd like to use them to donate a free subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids to a few of my readers. I have enough miles for 3 subscriptions in that account, and I think I can use miles from my Delta account for additional subscriptions. I won't know until I try to place an order, so for now I'm only promising that at least 3 teachers will win.

If you want to win a subscription for your classroom, please enter using the Rafflecopter entry form below. This is a new contest, so if you entered before and didn't win, please enter again. You must complete all of the entries in the Rafflecopter app to be eligible to win. As a word of warning, be careful when you submit your school's address. Use a comma to separate the lines of the address instead of pressing enter or return. Pressing enter or return will cause your entry to be submitted before you finish. If that happens, don't worry! You won't be disqualified. I always contact the winners to verify their names and addresses before I order the magazines. The entry form asks for your school address, but if you win I'll give you the option of having it sent to your home address instead.

By the way, contest is only open to classroom teachers in the US due to mailing restrictions for the magazines, and all winners must be a current subscriber to Candler's Classroom Connections or be willing to be added to my mailing list.

Even if you don't obtain classroom subscriptions of magazines for your classroom, I hope you'll consider letting your students bring them to school and read them from time to time. You'll want to check and approve any magazines students bring from home, of course, because many popular magazines are not appropriate for kids. However, I think you'll find that bringing magazines into your classroom will have a huge impact on your students and their attitudes towards informational text. Happy reading!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 9, 2013

Caring Classrooms Community on DonorsChoose

My friend Francie Kugelman is a DonorsChoose guru! If you read yesterday's guest blog post by Francie here on Corkboard Connections, you'll know exactly what I mean! She wrote a wonderful article about DonorsChoose Communities and how they've inspired her to become a donor as well as a recipient of classroom funding. Francie has received over $50,000 in classroom funding through DonorsChoose, and now she's giving back through her efforts to support other teachers' projects. Her article, Sometimes It Takes a Virtual Village, is just one more way that she's helping others.

Francie has been telling me about DonorsChoose communities for a few months, and when I read her article I understood why she's so excited about them. She knows I've been promoting projects and supporting teachers through my Fund-day Sunday initiative, so joining a DC Community is a logical next step for me.

After I posted the article, I realized that I wanted to do more than join a DonorsChoose Community - I wanted to start one! So that's what I've done! I named the giving page Caring Classrooms because teachers who post projects on DC obviously care about their students, and those who become community members show how much they care by donating. I also set up a Caring Classrooms page on Facebook where teachers can help and support each other, and where I can make announcements about projects that I'm adding to the page.

Would you like to become a member of the Caring Classrooms Community? It's easy! All you need to do is to make a donation, no matter how small, to at least one project on the page. Then "like" the community Facebook page to become an active member of the group. I'd also love it if you would help promote the community to others so we can support the classrooms whose projects are listed there.

Caring Classrooms and Fund-day Sunday
How can you get YOUR project added to my Caring Classrooms giving page? First, become a member by making a small donation to someone else's project that's on the giving page, even if it's only a few dollars. Then like my Teaching Resources Facebook Page and look for the call for projects that goes out on Sunday morning as a part of Fund-day Sunday. The message goes out at 8 a.m. EST and teachers can add their projects links under that post any time during the day on Sunday.

Then on Monday morning, I'll review the projects and choose at least two projects that each receive a donation from me. From now on, I'll also add those projects to my Caring Classrooms page where I can continue to promote them to help them get fully funded. I've decided to limit the number of projects featured on the giving page to no more than ten at one time so we can focus our energies on helping them to get funded. As projects get funded and move to the "Completed Projects" tab, I'll choose new ones to feature on the page.

Please remember that since I'm limiting the number of projects listed on the giving page, I won't be able to add all the projects posted on Fun-day Sunday. We often have over 75 projects posted so it would be impossible to add them all. Also, please don't post projects on my wall at any time other than Sunday because my wall will become swamped with project listings. It's a once-a-week opportunity!

I hope you'll join me in becoming a member of the Caring Classrooms Community on DonorsChoose. Over the years, I received several thousand dollars worth of funding for books and materials, and I felt truly blessed each time a project was funded. Now I'd like to give back by helping others experience the same success. I also love DonorsChoose because it demonstrates the value of both giving and receiving. My students benefited from the generosity of donors, and it inspired them to experience the joy of giving when we adopted a family at Christmas. Remember that your generosity will set a wonderful example and can really make a difference!