Yeh Shen, A Chinese Cinderella Story

I have multiple subscriptions to Scholastic magazines. I recently posted my review on Geography Spin. Go read it if you haven’t already! This post is about Storyworks Junior.

Storyworks Junior has several great articles in different genres. It was very difficult to decide which one I should do first with the kids. For several nights now, the kids have been asking whether my husband and I would like to watch their doll show. They usually ask when it was bedtime, so we always said no. This morning, as soon as they woke up, I asked them if they would like to do their doll show. Of course, they said yes. So, I picked a play from the October 2016 issue of Scholastic’s Storyworks Junior: Yeh Shen, A Chinese Cinderella Story. One of the good things about Storyworks Junior is online access to archived issues; even though I haven’t been subscribing since October 2016, I still have access.

Both of them were already familiar with the Cinderella story so they picked out the characters. They decided which Disney dolls would play the characters in Yeh Shen. Katie had read the play so she just explained to Jessica that there’s only one step sister and they didn’t need two dolls for step sisters. After picking out the dolls, they decided on a costume for themselves. They only have one Mulan costume, so one of them became Elena of Avalor instead. Katie said, “let’s pretend that I’m attending a Cinco de Mayo.” Next, we read our lines for practice. Jessica can’t read fluently yet, so I told her the lines and she repeated them. After our practice, I made the video. The finished product is below.

The kids said it was a lot of fun and they would like to do it again. It took us about four hours for just one article. Storyworks Junior comes in 6 issues per year and each issue is 32 pages. I don’t know whether the classroom teachers who have subscriptions are able to go through the whole magazine with their class in two months. The good thing is that if they don’t, the kids get to keep the magazines and can share it with their families for more fun activities at home.

After our first activity using Storyworks Junior, we’re going to try to do all of the plays first. Currently, there are 6 issues available in Storyworks Junior so there’s 6 plays. I think this is great training for the future, for when I plan to ask the kids to write their own play. They are already coming up with impromptu plays (which they call “doll shows”) on their own, but having exposure to plays written by professionals would enhance their play writing skills.

The magazine is marketed to 3rd graders, 2nd-grade readers and struggling readers in the upper grades. However, I think this would be a perfect resource for gifted first graders as well. Most of the kids in my daughter’s first grade gifted class have been reading chapter books but they were reading decodables at school because all first graders are issued the same books, gifted or not. Storyworks Junior would provide highly engaging material to gifted first grade readers. For $7.85 per year per student, this is a great bargain for gifted first grade classes.

The magazine also comes with a teacher’s guide. So far, all of the skills sheets that I have seen in the teacher’s guide are language arts related skills. I have been looking for arts integration into the articles like the coloring sheets that other Scholastic magazines have, but so far, I have found none. The plays could be a lot more fun if there were cutouts for kids to color and pretend to be the characters in the play. However, even without any changes, I think Storyworks Junior is already great for its price. You get more than what you pay for.

Geography Lessons

I recently subscribed to Scholastic’s Geography Spin. I got it as an add-on when I subscribed to Scholastic News Grade 3. It costs $1.09/year (including shipping and handling) which is a great deal considering there are 8 issues per year.  Each issue is 4 pages long. That’s 32 pages per year. But that’s just the start. The best part is that it also comes with online access to the website, which is amazing. The Geography Spin website has a section for the digital version of the issue, video, vocabulary, games, teacher’s guide and printables. It also contains more than a year’s worth of archived issues.

I think Geography Spin is an awesome way to learn about geography. We start our lesson with the vocabulary section. It has a definition (read aloud by the computer) and a picture of each word. After listening to the word and its description, I ask the kids (six and four year old, respectively) what it means in their own words. I want to make sure that they understand these words because it will help them understand the video and the magazine later. Next, we watch the video together. I do not stop when we watch it the first time. But when we watch it for the second time, I stop it from time to time to ask questions to make sure that they comprehend what they are hearing. I also ask questions that are relevant to the video. For example, have you been there? Do you want to go there? What do you think of ……? I ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Sometimes when they do offer their own commentaries, I pause the video so that we can talk more about it. The videos are amazing. It’s quite engaging for me and the kids. It’s also very short – no more than 5 minutes – so it’s great to keep their attention. Plus, it takes us about 20 minutes to watch the video, re-watch it and discuss it, which is just the right amount of time for me.  Afterward, we listen to the magazine. Just like the vocabulary section, the magazine can be read by the computer. I love it because I don’t have to read it aloud. I like to save my voice for discussion. Also, the narrator is very good. It doesn’t sound like a robot at all. It’s probably a human recording. When the kids start to goof off and stop listening, it doesn’t yell either. I just click on a section that the kids missed and starts again. Sometimes, my 6-year old daughter reads the magazine so it’s also great for practicing her nonfiction reading skills. There are some words that are very unusual in fiction so the magazine really helps widen her vocabulary.

From time to time, I pair the lesson with arts and crafts. Arts and crafts always makes the kids happy. Furthermore, I use this time to have my own peace and quiet. They’ll spend at least half an hour working on their art project while I do whatever I want at the same time.

Scholastic's Geography Spin lesson.
Scholastic’s Geography Spin lesson Make Way for Monarchs

I originally got the map below to teach my 6-year old, Katie, about states. I ask Katie to search for a random state each day for two weeks. I also used to ask her which states we had visited, but that became too boring for me. After subscribing to Geography Spin, the map is relevant again and it’s more interesting to study the states when paired with a story and a purpose. I love this map. It’s very colorful as you can see. I can use a dry-erase marker on it and wipe it off after our lesson is done. There are also not a lot of city names which is great for little kids starting to learn geography. It can be quite frustrating to search for a specific location when there are too many details. As an added bonus, it  is also great for hiding children’s fingerprints on the wall. 🙂

Monarch Butterfly Migration Pattern
Monarch Butterfly Migration Pattern

Geography Spin is not just good for learning about geography but also science, reading/listening comprehension and arts integration. For the April/May 2017 issue of Geography Spin, Make Way for Monarchs, I was also able to insert a Bible lesson. When the video talked about how nobody knows how the second generation of monarch butterflies are able to go to the same trees in Mexico that their parents originally came from without being there before, I told the kids that there is somebody who knows and that is Jesus because he’s omniscient. Jesus knows everything.

I think Geography Spin is a must whether your kids are homeschooled or your kids go to a traditional school. If the school does not subscribe to it nor have the budget for it, it is definitely worth sponsoring the whole class for a classroom subscription. It’s quite difficult to find a Geography resource that is as engaging as Geography Spin. Scholastic is offering a free 30-day trial on their website. Check it out here.

Products used for this lesson: