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Storia Featured
Using Storia to Start a Book Publishing Project

Every May, my students complete a book publishing project that ends with a delectable breakfast and joyous literary celebration where they share their books with a few audiences (other students and obviously families). Sensing their enthusiasm considerably heightens my optimism in this month before summer vacation! There are a few books on Storia that can help a great deal in making this project a success:

Scholastic Children’s Thesaurus: I know I have mentioned this before, but having access to a digital thesaurus makes me ecstatic! After the students plan what they are going to write about, we look at words that can help make their word choice more precise for their intended audience. Instead of just using the word climb, they can use the word ascend, mount, or scale. Instead of using win, students can use triumph or prevail. They can use the highlighting feature to highlight the words they have chosen and perhaps highlight sentences they want to bring their attention to. To make looking up words easy too, an index is included at the end of the book. Besides that, the zoom feature makes it easier for kids to read the book, which is made more possible with eBooks.

Besides that, I always start by modeling quality literature. I focus a great deal on leads because they set the tone for the book. Looking at The 39 Clues #1: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, the book starts off with: “Five minutes before she died, Grace Cahill changed her will. Her lawyer brought out the alternate version, which had been her most guarded secret for seven years. Whether or not she would actually be crazy enough to use it, William McIntyre had never been certain.” This lead creates a negative tone of mystery, intrigue, and suspense. Besides this novel, I also recommend the beginnings from A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Martin because of the unique narration and Paint the Wind by Pam Muñoz Ryan because of the way she crafted her word choice. Antarctica by Walter Dean Myers also is excellent for eliciting mind movies from a nonfiction perspective. Using Storia is good for previewing a variety of books because students do not need to bring a massive stack of books back to their seats. They can highlight words the authors used to set the tone. If a word invigorates them, they can look it up in the dictionary and perhaps use the sticky note feature for a quick reference to keep a list of words they particularly like at the top of the page.

Students can also use books on Storia to preview ways authors introduce characters, create mind movies using words, use figurative language in general, and progress their plot. Using books like Henry’s Freedom Box is something I highly recommend because of the length—students often write books about the same length, sometimes longer, and I can explain plot progression in one mini-lesson.

Now for the book publishing project itself. After students spend two weeks planning an original story, working on it, and sometimes typing it as well, they receive a blank book I purchase through a company called Bare Books. I review the books with the class, making sure their grammar is appropriate. Before I distribute the blank books for them to create their final products, I discuss how authors present their books to the reader—their illustrations, how the first letter in a chapter can be decorative, and how certain excerpts are sometimes in italics or fancy script. Of course there are graphic novels as well, like Goosebumps®: 3 Ghoulish Graphix Tales: Creepy Creatures, for students who may want to create a visual masterpiece themselves. Having the eBook in front of them may inspire them—plus they won’t have to be concerned about the book staying open!

I also like to show how many different authors approach one topic. Since my Storia library boasts a plethora of Titanic-related books, I can model the difference between how the authors approached the same premise while staying true to their style.

The book publishing adventure concludes with a delectable breakfast, often the morning of our annual awards ceremony, which takes place at the end of the day. In 2008, reporter Linnea Brown from our local newspaper, Hernando Today, came to our classroom to speak with my students about their products. This is an ideal project for the end of the year because students can express themselves in creative ways and have a choice of topic/format/genre/illustrations/other text features. If you choose to do a book publishing project with your class, enhancing your lessons with Storia or not, you may contact me through my website, www.jasztalville.com. 

Author Bio: Victoria Jasztal is in her ninth year of teaching fourth grade in rural Brooksville, Florida. She has been working for Scholastic since August 2009, when she became the Grades 3–5 Teacher Advisor, contributing to the Classroom Solutions blog. She has also been a member of Scholastic’s National Advisory Board since August 2010.

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