August 23, 2013

Teaching Informational Text with Magazines

Next Magazine Giveaway: Feb. 1st, 2017

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, 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. Delta's program allows you to purchase Sports Illustrated for Kids with points, and I'm going to be using my points to give away at least one subscription to that magazine. See details below.
Recommended Children's Magazines
The easiest place to look for children's magazines is on 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 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 

Current Giveaway Ends: Feb. 1st at Midnight
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 both US Airways and Delta, and I like to use them to donate a free subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids to FIVE of my readers. 

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 5 entries in the Rafflecopter 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 will not be disqualified. I always contact the winners to verify their names and addresses before I order the magazines.

By the way, contest is only open to educators who teach in a US school due to mailing restrictions for the magazines, and all entrants must either 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 20, 2013

Facebook 70,000 Followers Contest

Update: The contest is over and the Teaching Resources Facebook page count is now above 70,000! The first time it happened was 9:28 p.m. EDT on August 20th. Congratulations to Miranda Baranek for being the first to guess the closest time which was 9:35 p.m. Also, the entry form has been removed.

Original Blog Post:
Let's have a quick contest! I noticed that the Teaching Resources Facebook page is getting close to 70,000 followers. Woohoo! Let's see who can predict when the number will first roll over to 70,000. To add an extra kick to the contest, I'll give the winner one item worth up to $20 from my TpT store!

How to Enter
The winner must be a Facebook follower, so if you aren't a follower, please hop over to the Teaching Resources page and give it a quick thumbs up! Next, fill out the entry form at the end of this post with your guess (the date and time) and what you would like me to send you if you win. The form will also record the time you made your guess. The FIRST person to guess the time to the nearest 5 minutes will win! You can wait around to make a guess, but the longer you wait, the less likely you are to be the first person to make the correct guess. By the way, each person may only make ONE guess. Before I announce the winner, I'll sort the data to make sure that the person who won only entered the contest one time. To be fair, I'm going to stop the contest when the number of likes get to 69,990 and then we will just watch to see when it hits the number.

Capturing the Time
I'll need your help with the next part because I might not be on Facebook when it happens. If you happen to be watching the Teaching Resources Facebook page and you see the number go to 70,000, please zoom in on it and do a screen capture. Quickly post the picture and the time to the nearest minute on Facebook under my post about the contest so we'll have a record of it. It may drop down below 70,000 because the number may fluctuate, but we will go with the time it first switched over as long as someone is able to capture it and announce it. I'll try to watch for this, but I'm hoping someone else will see it if I miss it.

Remember that I'm going to award the prize to the first person to correctly guess the time, so the sooner you complete the entry form,the better. In case you are wondering how many page likes Teaching Resources normally gets in a day, it ranges between 50 and 100. So I'm guessing that we'll see 70,000 before the end of the day.

Ready, set, go!

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!

August 8, 2013

Sometimes It Takes a Virtual Village

How DonorsChoose Communities Work
Guest blog post by Francie Kugelman

Laura asked me to tell you about a new and wonderful way to get your projects funded on Many of you know me as the DonorsChoose teacher because I was Laura’s guest for her webinar, How to Fund Your Classroom Projects, where I shared tips and strategies for writing great DonorsChoose proposals and getting your projects funded.

Now, two years later, I am still funding projects with DonorsChoose and I'm back to share about a new way of getting help with funding. I have had 95 projects successfully funded, providing a total of $54,300 in resources for my classroom and school, so I know it really works!

DonorsChoose Communities
Who has been funding my projects? You might be surprised. It is not usually my family, parents of my students, or anyone who lives near me. Instead, I have discovered a wonderful network of teachers who support each other’s projects, called the DonorsChoose Communities. In these communities, supporters have created giving pages where they promote different DonorsChoose projects and help each other get their projects funded.

Some projects are funded quickly, but often it takes a virtual village to get a project funded! No longer am I waiting for the kindness of a corporation or wealthy donor to select my project and fund it entirely. Instead, teachers give $1 to this project, or that project, and the project eventually becomes funded! It is an amazing tax-deductible experience.

Take my latest project for a field trip to the Ocean Institute. 57 different people donated to my project, with many of the donations at $1 each. Bit by bit, dollar by dollar, my entire project was completely funded! Of course many people gave far more than $1, but each dollar helped move us closer towards our goal.

How can you join this network/community of teachers and donors? First, you need to learn a little about how they work. Most active DonorsChoose Communities have two important parts:
  • The giving page on DonorsChoose where supporters actually make their donations 
  • A Facebook page where donors and teachers interact to support each other
Donors Choose Giving Pages
Start by visiting the DonorsChoose Communities section of the site where you'll see dozens of active giving pages. There are too many giving page groups for me to list, but some of my favorite groups are: FaerieFive, Music Makes Our Students Smarter, Western Roundup, Southern Hospitality, #Team37, Kindergarten Rocks, Memories and Milestones, and a brand-new giving page - Send a Smile.

Click on a Community giving page to see how it's set up. Under the basic profile information, you'll see the number of supporters, the number of project requests, the total amount donated, and the number of students impacted. For example, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund has almost 2,000 members that have donated more than a half million dollars impacting over 160,000 students. Click the Supporters link to see the individuals who support the page with their donations; supporters are sometimes referred to as community "members." Anyone can become a "member" of a community by donating as little as $1 to one of the projects shown under the Projects tab! Click the Projects Requested link to see all the projects that still need funding, the $ Raised link to see the projects that have been completed through funding on the page, and the Students tab to see photos of students who were impacted by the projects.

Community Facebook Pages
After someone makes a donation, they officially become a part of the community, but there's no way of interacting with the other members in the community. So the next step is to find the Facebook page that goes with that Community. Many of the active Communities have Facebook pages, and it just takes a little searching to find them. Just type the name of the community in the search engine on Facebook. If you can’t find the community, post a comment here and I will help provide you with the link.

Be sure to "like" the Facebook pages for the Communities you want to join, and then read through the posts to see if there are any funding contests going on. Contests are a way to motivate others to give a dollar to various projects because you might win a great prize, get a tax deduction, and help other teachers get their projects funded too!

How to Have Your Projects Added to a Community Page 
Only the Community page owner can add projects to a giving page, but you can request to have yours added. However, it's best to become involved with the community first by becoming a donor. It doesn't take much - just support a few projects here and there with a small donation to help the cause. When you make your donation, you'll feel great because you helped a teacher and supported a giving page community too. It is a wonderful feeling to be part of an Internet community of caring teachers and donors. By the way, at the end of the year you can print out a summary of all of your tax deductible contributions, so you don’t need to keep track of each of your small donations.

After you have supported a few projects, return to the Facebook page and ask to have your DonorsChoose project added to that community's giving page. Be sure you provide a link to your posted DonorsChoose project. If you are lucky and the giving page is not too full, your project might be added to the community's giving page where it will be seen by anyone who visits that page. Once the project has a small amount of funding left ($70 and less for example), some other donor who might not know about the giving pages often fully completes the project.

Inspired by DonorsChoose Communities
Are you inspired by all of this? Try it out. Many teachers post that they are paying it forward because kind teachers helped them out with a small donation, and now they are helping other teachers out.

My DonorsChoose experience has grown tremendously through the giving pages. I love donating small amounts to help other teachers get their projects funded! What is my favorite tax-deductible charity this year? DonorsChoose, through the giving pages.

This new community of online friends has expanded what once was just supporters of teachers. Now the donors are often teachers helping each other out. It is the idea of it takes a village; we all donate, and help the project become funded. Join our giving community; we welcome you with open hearts, and projects waiting to be funded! Tell them Francie Kugelman sent you!

Note from Laura: Francie's article inspired me to start my own giving page on DonorsChoose! You can learn about the new Caring Classrooms giving page by reading about it here on Corkboard Connections!

Francie Kugelman is a 5th grade teacher in Los Angeles California. She's an active and enthusiastic educator who loves connecting with teachers and sharing ideas. Francie has served as a moderator for Laura's webinars for the past several years, and she was featured in a webinar called How to Fund Your Classroom Projects where she shared strategies for writing an effective proposal and getting it funded. You can view that webinar and download supplementary resources on the Teaching Resources DonorsChoose page