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NGSS Informational Texts for Second Grade: Seeds Everywhere!

 Posted by on January 25, 2021  Content Recommendations  Comments Off on NGSS Informational Texts for Second Grade: Seeds Everywhere!
Jan 252021
What might happen if a squirrel buries an acorn?

The second grade performance expectation 2-LS2-1 asks students to: “Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.”  In our second grade informational text for this performance expectation, Seeds Everywhere! by Sarah Wassner Flynn, students learn different ways animals spread seeds.  You can access the text here.

After students have read the text, you might interest students in playing this interactive game online where students are challenged to collect seeds that are dispersed in different ways:

> PBD Kids: Seed Racer

This is a great engineering lesson plan that aligns well with the performance expectation.  Students are asked to design a seed that could travel a long distance.  The plan includes videos that show students different ways seeds are dispersed and discuss how the design of the seed is important to the process.

> Project Learning Tree: STEM: Have Seeds, Will Travel

Seeds Everywhere! 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 begin with a phenomenon photo and 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.

Why is Informational Text Reading Comprehension Important?

 Posted by on December 23, 2019  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica, Content Recommendations, Reading Resources, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Why is Informational Text Reading Comprehension Important?
Dec 232019

It sounds like a silly question if you are a teacher.  We know students need to understand what they read, but maybe you haven’t stopped to really think about the question in awhile.  It may seem counterintuitive, but just because your students read fluently doesn’t mean they understand what they read.  This is a dangerous pitfall, because if we hear a student reading fluently, we often assume they are a good reader.

Assessing reading comprehension is further complicated when students who are able to comprehend fiction passages, may not be comprehend informational texts. Literary passages simply do not require the same set of comprehension skills as informational texts.

This issue of comprehending informational texts was identified in 1993 when researchers found “nearly 44 million American adults cannot extract even a single piece of information from a written text if any inference or background knowledge is required” (Levy, 1993). Not much since 1993 has happened to address the issue. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders can only read at or below a basic level according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (The Nation’s Report Card, 2015).  Researchers have even identified a “fourth grade slump” they attribute to issues with comprehending informational text (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006; Chall & Jacobs, 2003; Sanacore & Palumbo, 2009).

It is no surprise success in school, career and society depends on a student’s ability to comprehend informational text (Duke 2004).  But did you know, increasing a child’s ability to comprehend informational text also increases overall reading achievement (Duke, 2004)?  Did you know, reading informational texts increases a child’s background knowledge and background knowledge accounts for as much as 33 percent of the variance in student achievement (Marzano, 2000)?  And did you know, a major predictor of overall student achievement is the ability to use comprehension strategies during content area reading (Duke, 2003b; Hall & Sabey, 2007; Vacca et al., 2009)?  These are some of the reasons why the writers of the Common Core recommend increasing the instructional time spent with informational text during elementary school from 10% to 50% (Coleman, 2011).  Is 50% of your reading instructional time spent with informational texts?  Probably not.  I know as a fourth grade teacher, I didn’t meet this goal for a variety of reasons including not enough access to informational texts and the inability of students to independently read the texts I did have in my classroom.

So, what can you do to help your students with informational text comprehension?  Not only does comprehending informational text require a different set of strategies for students than when reading fiction, it also requires a different set of strategies for teachers:

  • Students need to be proactively taught to identify and understand informational text features first and foremost (Bamford & Kristo, 1998).
  • Students benefit from learning multiple comprehension strategies while they are reading (McKeown et al., 2009).
  • The more informational texts a student reads, the better their ability to comprehend text (Brenner & Hiebert, 2010). 
  • Informational texts should be carefully integrated into the curriculum (Strauss, 2010).
  • Informational texts should be matched to the student’s reading level (Lennon, C. & Burdick, H., 2004).

Frustrated with the lack of informational text resources, we decided to come up with a new solution based on research to help teachers with informational text instruction.  StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way is a library of customizable informational texts written specifically to address the Next Generation Science Standards. StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way helps teachers access and integrate informational texts into their curriculum during ELA or science instructional time. Unique to our resource, texts can be adjusted to a student’s individual reading level, so all students can read the same text. Corresponding comprehension instructions are taught throughout the text and Common Core-aligned quiz questions are provided as well.

We are excited about StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way and will keep you updated on our progress through upcoming blogs. Please visit our website or contact us directly to learn more.

Maps Digital Content

 Posted by on January 17, 2018  Content Recommendations, Social Studies Resources  Comments Off on Maps Digital Content
Jan 172018

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to use social studies manipulatives to foster concept development.

jan1Map Maker Interactive

Create a customized map! Zoom in to a chosen area of the United States. Then select the features you would like to see represented by checking and unchecking boxes. It includes a point tool, line tool, ruler, and icon set.

jan2Landscapes Map Skills

Click on each of the four map skills (compass skills, grid references, symbols and keys, scale) to learn about them and practice what you have learned.


jan3Adventure Island

Learn how to read symbols and a map key to help Kimo navigate Adventure Island.


jan4Reading a Topographical Map

Learn how to read a topographic map of a national park.



Answer questions using a roadmap and a mileage table.

Earthquakes Digital Content

 Posted by on December 12, 2017  Content Recommendations, Science Resources  Comments Off on Earthquakes Digital Content
Dec 122017

Here are four pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to use science manipulatives to foster concept development through visual models.

dec1Earthquake Animations

Learn the basics about earthquakes with these animations.


dec2Earthquakes and Plates

Drag the slider back and forth to explore the relationship between earthquakes and Earth’s plates.


dec4Earthquake Experiment

Discover how different building materials can minimize earthquake damage.


dec51906 San Francisco Earthquake

View photos and footage of the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

Digital Content for STEM

 Posted by on November 16, 2017  Content Recommendations, Science Resources  Comments Off on Digital Content for STEM
Nov 162017

STEM teaching encourages students to solve authentic problems and to collaborate with others to design, build, test, and re-tool until a solution is achieved. A library of content supports this integrated vision of STEM learning with its library design which allows educators to choose content that complements and supports in class hands-on investigations. In this way, educators can integrate technology into instruction in flexible ways to teach foundational STEM skills and to encourage problem solving and group collaboration. The following are concrete examples of digital content from each STEM area.

nov1Science:  Keeping Healthy

Students control Ruby’s actions to determine what effects sleeping, sitting, walking, and running have on Ruby’s heart.


nov2Technology:  Blabberize

Students demonstrate their understanding of a topic by creating an original narrative that is delivered by a talking photograph.

nov3Engineering:  Design A Machine

Students are challenged to build a Rube Goldberg contraption to perform a specific task.


nov4Math:  Valuable Jewels

Students use a balance to discover the weight of five objects by comparing them to one another and by using logic. (You must be a StarrMatica member to access this content.)

How do you use STEM digital content in your classroom?

3-6 ELA Manipulatives

 Posted by on October 12, 2017  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on 3-6 ELA Manipulatives
Oct 122017

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to use ELA manipulatives to help students develop concepts and demonstrate their understanding.

oct1Exploring Onomatopoeia

Create onomatopoetic words to describe each sound you hear.


oct2Persuasion Map

Plan a persuasive essay using this online persuasion map.


oct4Character Trading Cards

Create your own character trading cards.


oct3Myths Brainstorming Machine

Use this Myths Brainstorming Machine to help you write a myth of your own.



Create Your Own Comic Strip

Create your own printable comic strip!

How do you use ELA manipulatives in your classroom?

August Facebook Live Videos

 Posted by on September 14, 2017  Content Recommendations  Comments Off on August Facebook Live Videos
Sep 142017

facebookIf you haven’t joined us yet, set a reminder on your calendar for this Wednesday at 7:15 pm CST to join us for our next Facebook Live Video!  Every week, I go live on Facebook for 5 – 10 minutes to share specific digital content that may be helpful in your classroom.  Past video topics are hyperlinked below:

Discover two interesting alternatives to common math manipulatives

Learn an easy way to differentiate your instruction using digital content

Discover my favorite free online graphing activity

5 Digital Getting to Know You Activities for Back to School Fun!

5 sites that make science come to life!

Take your students time travelingwith five must see Social Studies simulations

3 virtual manipulatives that help students visualize addition concepts

K-2 ELA Manipulatives

 Posted by on September 5, 2017  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on K-2 ELA Manipulatives
Sep 052017

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to use ELA manipulatives to help students develop concepts and demonstrate their understanding.

sept1Foam Phonemes

Shoot letters and word parts into the air.  Then, create words in the sky with what you have chosen.


sept2CVC Maker

Switch word beginnings and endings to create words.



sept3Writing Repeater

Write letters and words with this writing repeater.  Then, play back what you have written.


sept4Flip Book

Create a flip book to demonstrate your knowledge of cause and effect, fact and opinion, summarizing, or sequencing.


sept5Letter and Number Formation

Learn how to write letters and numbers by watching and following examples.

How do you use ELA manipulatives in your classroom?

3-6 Math Manipulatives

 Posted by on August 8, 2017  Content Recommendations, Math Resources  Comments Off on 3-6 Math Manipulatives
Aug 082017

Here are five pieces of digital content a teacher might choose from StarrMatica’s library to use math manipulatives to foster concept development through visual models and problem solving situations.

august 1Number Balance

Use these interactive balances to show the relationship between addition problems or to find the sum to balance and equation.


august 2Create a Graph

Create a bar graph or a pie graph using your own data.


august3Equivalent Fractions on a Number Line

Use this virtual manipulative to create equivalent fractions and see them plotted on a number line.


august 4FDP Bars I
Use these virtual manipulatives to visually compare fractions, decimals, and percents.


august 5Adjustable Function Machine

Click the control panel to set one or two rules for the function machine.  Then place each number in the stream to see the results.


How do you use math manipulatives in your classroom?

May Friday Favorites – Web Tools

 Posted by on May 27, 2017  Content Recommendations  Comments Off on May Friday Favorites – Web Tools
May 272017

makerEach Friday on Facebook and Twitter, we share a curated digital resource from our library that is one of our favorites.  In May, we focused on web tools.  Here’s what we shared:

Zimmer Twins

Create your own animated movie!


Picture Book Maker

Create your own picture book. Choose backgrounds, characters, and objects and add the text of your story.


Printing Press

Use this interactive to design and print newspapers, brochures, flyers, and booklets.


Make Beliefs Comix

Choose your background, characters, and objects, and add text to create our own printable three panel comic.