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.