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Leveled Texts

 Posted by on February 26, 2020  Reading Resources, Science Resources  Comments Off on Leveled Texts
Feb 262020
 

In my second year of teaching fourth grade, my science curriculum had a unit on plants. In an effort to integrate my English Language Arts and Science instruction, I wanted my students to read an informational text about plants during our small group guided reading time (In our district, guided reading was a time when students with similar reading abilities met in small groups to read and discuss a leveled book and receive more individualized reading instruction.)

So, I headed down to our guided reading library intent on finding a leveled text about plants for each of my guided reading groups.  However, I was met with not one book about plants in the entire library.  In an effort to be respectful of your time, I’ll spare you the details about the hours I spent in the coming days combing through our school library, area libraries, our local AEA catalog, online sites and resource catalogs and still could not find what I needed.  I found books at a few levels, but not at the levels all of my kids could read independently.  The books I did find were about plants, yet didn’t cover the same content from title to title.  Then there was the problem of needing multiple copies for everyone in the group.  I have to admit, I finally just gave up on the idea and read my kids a text aloud in addition to round robin reading from our old textbook.

This is one of the experiences that lead me to the development of StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way.  Through our research, I’ve found I am far from alone in my quest for science informational texts aligned to my curriculum that all my students could read.  In our latest survey about science informational texts, many teachers responded they were having issues finding appropriate informational texts for the Next Generation Science Standards:

“Most science books are nonfiction and that can be harder to read especially for lower readers.”

“I read difficult text to students and reword text so they understand.”

“Finding resources already integrated together are a challenge. It is up to me to find appropriate text that aligns with science and try to figure out which standards align.”

“I struggle with finding the texts I need due to lack of time to search.  I also struggle with finding the texts I need to match what I am teaching.”

StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way helps teachers with these struggles by providing informational texts written specifically for each Next Generation Science Standard Performance Expectation.  All students can access the texts online at their specific Lexile level.  This innovation means all students can independently read the same text with the same content. 

One of the criticisms of leveled texts presented in labeled bins in a classroom is that children may feel labeled as a good reader or a struggling reader by their designated level.  Our texts help to address this concern.  Since teachers are choosing the Lexile level of StarrMatica’s texts behind the scenes, the level is never displayed for the child and the content of the text is the same for each level.  So, a student doesn’t know there are multiple levels of the text read in his/her classroom.

Another criticism of leveled texts is how much a child’s reading choices are limited by the books available in his/her school at his/her designated level.  This criticism speaks to me as a former fourth grade teacher.  I had access to sets of leveled readers at our school, but there are only so many books and so many copies of each we could afford.  Having sets of texts about the same topic, all aligned to my curriculum and that all of my students could read independently would have been a game changer in my room.

If your school doesn’t ascribe to book leveling or guided reading, you still may be interested in choosing different Lexile levels or different text structures based on how the text will be used with your students.  If you are reading as a class, maybe you want to choose the highest level because, you will have an ability to discuss vocabulary and to address student questions.  If you are reading in small groups, maybe you want to have half of a group read the text written as a problem/solution piece and half of the group read the text as a descriptive piece before discussing the similarities and differences between the two sets.  You might also be interested in additional customization options to allow you to turn on and off voiceovers to read the text aloud, to choose ELA standards, and to select graphics.

You can visit http://www.starrmatica.com/index.php?/main/texts to learn more about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way.  Send me an email with questions or just share your classroom struggles and triumphs with informational texts.  I would love to hear what is and isn’t working for you!

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.

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?

January Friday Favorites – Science Resources

 Posted by on February 1, 2017  Content Recommendations, Science Resources  Comments Off on January Friday Favorites – Science Resources
Feb 012017
 

moleculariumEach Friday on Facebook and Twitter, we share a curated digital resource from our library that is one of our favorites.  In January, we focused on science resources.  Here’s what we shared:

Molecularium

Great resource for introducing students to atoms and molecules.

http://nanospace.molecularium.com/

Career Town

Explore career town to learn about job possibilities.

http://vacareerview.org/k5/play-it/career-town/main.cfm

Goldburger to Go

Design a Rube Goldberg machine!

http://pbskids.org/zoom/games/goldburgertogo/rubegame.html

Lab Hazards

Can you identify all of the lab hazards?

http://www.interactivesolutions.co.uk/games/flashGames/labhazards.swf

November Friday Favorites – Science Resources

 Posted by on December 1, 2016  Content Recommendations, Science Resources  Comments Off on November Friday Favorites – Science Resources
Dec 012016
 

classifyingEach Friday on Facebook and Twitter, we share a curated digital resource from our library that is one of our favorites.  In November, we focused on science resources.  Here’s what we shared:

Classifying Life

Classify three organisms using a tool with seven steps.

http://www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/assets/swf/1/classify-life/class.swf

Moon Phases

Students explore the phases of the moon with a split screen that simultaneously shows the view from Earth and the moon orbiting around our planet.

http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/Labs/LunarPhases/lunar_phase3.swf

Forces of Wonder

Forces of Wonder Challenge the might and power of the world’s strongest man! Drag and drop items onto Stronginsky to learn about the forces of compression, bending, torsion, and tension.

https://wonderville.org/app/asset/forces-of-wonder

Science Detectives: Training Room Escape

Use scientific processes to find your way out of a dark room.

https://askabiologist.asu.edu/sites/default/files/TrainingRoom/TrainingRoomEscapeGame.swf