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Get to Know the StarrMatica Team: Shannon Mc Elroy

 Posted by on January 24, 2020  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica  Comments Off on Get to Know the StarrMatica Team: Shannon Mc Elroy
Jan 242020
 

Since StarrMatica is a teacher-owned company, we would like to introduce one of our team members whose commitment to educational texts helps to make us who we are today. Shannon McElroy is one of our writers who creates comprehension supports and Common Core aligned questions for StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way and for StarrMatica Texts: Social Studies Your Way.

Shannon has a history of writing stories, informational texts, assessment items and learning support materials for kindergarten through college-level students. She loves it all. Creating content for a wide age range keeps her engaged year after year, as well as toggling between Language Arts and Science topics. Her content can be found in standardized assessments, education-based websites, at-home learning products and customized classroom content.

Shannon loves the freedom of researching unusual topics and pursuing an idea further than she had time for as a classroom teacher, “I loved the interaction of being with students in the classroom, but I found myself going home and researching our class material even further on my own. That’s why writing on a topic for a variety of grade levels is so exciting to me. I love the challenge of taking a complicated topic and making it appealing to a younger audience and then on the flip side, diving deep into a simple topic for older students.”

As educational technology has evolved, Shannon has kept pace through developing assessment items for the first-generation computer adaptive testing systems and creating content for cutting-edge interactive computer modules catering to individual learning styles. On the ever-increasing sophistication of technology-based education products, Shannon states, “The technology may change, but the importance of engaging students with exciting content and showing them how to stretch their knowledge and stay curious about the world around them will never change.”

Thank you for all the hard work, Shannon!

StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way

 Posted by on January 15, 2020  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica, Science Resources  Comments Off on StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way
Jan 152020
 

My favorite movie of all time is “The Wizard of Oz.”  As a little girl, I used to dress up like Dorothy and watch a VHS tape of the movie my parents recorded when it aired on television.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know that near the end, Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the Great and Powerful Oz is simply one man with a lot of ingenuity. 

Since StarrMatica is a teacher-owned company nowhere near the size of a large publishing house, you might suspect a wizard behind the curtain scenario.  So, I am writing this post to share with you the amount of time and expertise that goes into creating StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way and to tell you about the team behind our curtain. (The differences that makes us truly unique are bolded below.)

Each Science Your Way text starts with a Next Generation Science Standard.  Our collection of texts is written specifically to address the NGSS and is not a collection retro-fitted to align to the standards.  You’ll realize this difference quickly as you start to read one of the texts.   Each text starts with a phenomenon photo and related question to mirror the beginning of a high quality NGSS lesson.  All our texts are written by children’s authors who each have a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature or Nonfiction Writing.  Our talented authors have won awards for their writing and have written for major publications such as National Geographic Kids.  Several have even taught in the classroom themselves!

Once a text is written it goes through an editing and revision process which includes an executive editor, professional proofreader and a scientific expert.  University professors read each text to ensure alignment to the standard, to check for scientific accuracy and suggest edits to help students avoid common misconceptions about the topic now and in the future. 

Each text is written in two different text structures (cause/effect, problem/solution, descriptive, etc.) Once both texts are in their final forms our author coordinates with our executive editor to create six different reading levels for each text (One above grade level, three at grade level and two below grade level).  That’s twelve different versions of the same text!  These texts are then sent MetaMetrics for official Lexile scoring.  This is one of the features that sets this solution apart.  All students can read the same text at their level. 

Two professional graphic designers assist with the graphics and layout of each text.  Because the texts are informational, we use photographs whenever possible.  Each text has one or two graphics created by our talented designers that are unique to that text such as diagrams, timelines and text boxes.  You might know Common Core standards at several grade levels speak to the importance of illustrations.  In our text customization process, teachers can choose which graphic aids to include in a text, so graphics are an important part of our process.

The final texts are sent to another writer to create our Common Core-aligned comprehension questions and comprehension supports.  This writer has years of ELA assessment writing experience and has worked with major publishers.  She is also another set of proofreading eyes.

Once the questions and comprehension supports are edited and proofread, they are added to a recording script with the texts.  As teachers, we believe there is a lot for students to learn from the way a text is read from pacing to inflection.  This is why we take the extra time and great expense to record audio supports for all of the text a student sees on the screen rather than using an inexpensive auto-reader.  We also think listening to a text should be enjoyable for students.  Afterall, who likes listening to a robot for an extended period of time?

The audio supports are recorded at a studio with a sound engineer and a voice talent with decades of experience.  Two editors are also in each session to listen for accuracy, pacing, pronunciation and inflection.  The finished sound files are each listened to and compared with the script.

Next, the whole set of texts, graphics, questions, supports and audio files are sent to our programmer to work his coding magic.  Finally, each text is tested by our editors, as well as by students and teachers in classrooms.

Whew!  That is just a brief description, so you can have confidence that when you use StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way with your students, you are using a high-quality product designed to integrate with your curriculum. For more information about the research-basis for the texts, check out last month’s post.  And feel free to contact us if you would like more information about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way or any of the steps above that go into creating each text.

Did You Know? Fun Facts for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 3-PS2-3

 Posted by on January 8, 2020  Phenomenon Ideas  Comments Off on Did You Know? Fun Facts for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 3-PS2-3
Jan 082020
 

3-PS2-3 Ask questions to determine cause and effect relationships of electric or magnetic interactions between two objects not in contact with each other.

As we create informational texts for each of the Next Generation Science Standards, there are tons of amazing, interesting, and just plain weird facts we are learning. I thought it would be fun to share some of them with you, so this is the first in a series of posts that tell interesting science facts!

Magnets are also used to protect the health of animals and keep our food safe. Cows that are bred for their meat graze in fields. The fields can have small bits of metal stuck inside the grasses. The debris from the field can be harmful to the cow. It can also hurt people if it gets into the meat. Magnets are passed over a cow’s feed to remove stray metal objects. Farmers also put long, narrow magnets into the feed. The cow eats the magnets, which doesn’t hurt the cow, but it is never something a person should do! Magnets can get stuck in humans and cause a lot of problems. For the cow, as the magnets pass through its digestive tract, magnetic objects are collected. The debris comes out with the cow’s manure instead of getting lodged inside your hamburger! 

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This fun fact and more are found in the text: Amazing Magnets by Michelle Negron Bueno.  Amazing Magnets is found in, StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way, a collection of informational texts written specifically to address every K-5 NGSS Performance Expectation.  All texts in the collection are written at six different Lexile levels, so all students can read the same content at their reading level.  You can find out more about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way here: http://www.starrmatica.com/index.php?/main/texts