Using in your classroom
Use stories to bring imagination and magic back to reading!
In your classroom, STORYLANDS can be used in a variety of ways, depending on how you teach and the reading abilities of your students.
Using STORYLANDS as a themed unit of work
Group the class for differentiated instruction
Divide the class into three differentiated groups; for example, emergent, early and early-fluent readers. The groupings for your class may not be as wide as this — you may only have emergent, upper-emergent and early readers in your classroom, in which case only use the books that are appropriate for your students.
Choose the STORYLANDS titles you will read in guided reading groups, and make sure you have enough copies for each group.
Group the STORYLANDS titles into the three levels you are using, and place them into marked boxes. Include some titles in the classroom library for free reading as well. Order extra books from the school library on knights and castles and add them to your classroom library.
Introduce the Land
Clinker Castle is a make-believe kingdom where King Hugo, Queen Belva, Prince Axel and Princess Daisy Boo live in a castle. Spike the Dragon lives in a nearby cave. Prince Axel and Princess Daisy Boo are brother and sister, and the King and Queen are their parents. The family rides horses in the forest, dances in the ballroom, and mixes with knights and dragons. They also meet ogres, mermaids and sea monsters.
Show students the map included in the STORYLANDS set, and ask if they can name any features. Let them know that each time they read a STORYLANDS book, they will be able to find something from the book on the map. Start a Clinker Castle word wall beginning with words suggested by the class. What do they know about castles, knights and dragons?
Choose titles to suit each guided reading group — there are books in each set levelled from 1 to 20. The Teaching Guide provides a guided reading lesson plan and follow-up work sheets that deepen understanding and reinforce comprehension.
Encourage free reading
Give students access to a range of STORYLANDS titles. Let them read as many titles as they wish, particularly those that are below their guided reading level. The books are enjoyable to read, and many students will build their background knowledge and reading skills in this way. Students will make text connections, and a classroom community of learners can be fostered.
Ask students to review books and lead the class in deepening their responses. Promote discussions that make connections — between texts; text to text – personal connections; text to self; and text to world connections – finding larger ideas and themes that relate to the real world. This is where you can focus on characters and relationships by asking: What is happening between the characters? How can you tell?
Reinforce core skills
The Literacy Centres focus on a range of skills, including:
- word study — there are Centres on sight words, word families, rhyming words, blends
- comprehension — sequencing and retelling
- writing — words and stories
Many of the literacy centres are self-checking, and most have two photocopiable work sheets — make sure you have plenty of copies to complete. These sheets make it easy to see whether students have understood the activity and mastered the skills needed. They also provide reinforcement and writing practice.
Laminate and set up the 10 Literacy Centres, storing them ready for use. Small groups, pairs or individual students can work on them, while you work with a guided reading group.
Improve reading skills and boost home reading
Children’s reading skills can be improved by hearing a story read aloud by an experienced reader. The STORYLANDS website www.storylands.com.au includes all fiction titles in a read-aloud format, which can be used in a variety of ways. Children can be prompted to read along with the narrator or to listen first and then repeat or simply for the pleasure of being read to.
The five-question quiz after each book reinforces comprehension. The online book can be flipped through numerous times, so that children can find answers in the text, just like with a real book. Once the quiz is complete, children are rewarded for their reading efforts by being able to play a hidden game. But remember, to access each online book, you need to have the access code – found on the inside back cover of each STORYLANDS fiction title.
Of course, a powerful way to use www.storylands.com.au is as a motivator for home reading. Include the family at home into your STORYLANDS theme by allowing children to take the books home as home readers. Parents will catch the buzz too as they read about the same characters and situations that are exciting their child at school. Children can then get online and be rewarded for their reading efforts with an exciting game. The STORYLANDS website is a wonderful way to reinforce the home–school connection.
Reinforce fluency and reading aloud
Integrate drama into each STORYLANDS unit with the levelled Readers’ Theatre titles — one each for emergent, early and early-fluent readers. These books give students a motivating (rather than confronting) opportunity to read aloud. Each script has between six and eight levelled parts, so it is easy to match students to appropriate parts.
Conclude the unit with a performance of a Readers’ Theatre play. Easy-to-make craft activities are included with each Readers’ Theatre title, and masks for all the characters are in the Literacy Centre’s Book — students can bethe characters they have been reading about.
How does STORYLANDS help children to read?
STORYLANDS provides a coherent, meaningful, whole-class experience for the integrated development of core reading skills. The building blocks of reading instruction are embedded in a real reading experience that motivates students to succeed and makes them want to read more.
A key to reading success is the amount of time spent reading — the more you read, the more you improve. Good readers read every day. Vital triggers for frequent reading are motivation and engagement, which are integral elements of STORYLANDS.
Getting the most out of levelled books
Young children have a rich fantasy life. It’s a natural part of the way they play and experience life – from dressing up and make believe play with toys and friends to getting caught up in stories from books, TV and films.
When children come to school they will, hopefully, encounter a wide variety of books – both fiction and nonfiction. Many levelled, reading schemes focus on familiar, everyday topics as they are known experiences. But reading too many of these books may give children a misguided sense that reading only describes what they already know – the familiar. Books about everyday life may seem easier to read than books in the STORYLANDS series because each STORYLAND world is full of unusual places, objects and creatures. But isn’t that what kids love to explore and what they want to know more about? STORYLANDS targets areas of special interest to children in order to promote high levels of active engagement. This exploration of fantasy, role play and story telling is such an important part of the reading experience that we wanted to bring it back to centre stage.
This focus on the everyday in many reading schemes, may also be a reason why so many children give up on reading in favour of more “exciting, fantastical, interactive games”, because reading has not caught their imagination. And reading provides us with so much more than the everyday – reading can open worlds for children to imagine and explore.
Research on comprehension has shown that when children are interested in what they read, comprehension will be much higher. Think of the child who is fascinated with dinosaurs. He can read books about dinosaurs at higher reading levels because of this interest. We, as educators, need to make sure that our focus on levelled books does not come at the price of our students developing a passionate interest in books and reading.
How does STORYLANDS address the building blocks of reading instruction?
The building blocks of reading instruction are:
- phonemic awareness and phonics
- vocabulary and word study
- meaning and comprehension
Phonemic awareness and phonics
Phonemic awareness — the ability to hear sounds in words and phonics, and map them to written words — is a skill that all children need. Instruction is most effective in the first years of school (Kindergarten and Year 1). But phonics instruction is not an entire reading program for beginning readers. Building phonic knowledge, word families and spelling patterns is an integrated part of many of the STORYLANDS lessons.
Vocabulary and word study
Vocabulary development occurs best when it is part of a unit of work where students are likely to meet the new words a number of times. Each STORYLANDS world introduces a wide vocabulary of new content words that are repeated in different books, stories and nonfiction titles. This helps young students to grow their real vocabulary, as they integrate these new words into their speaking, writing and ideas. Entering a STORYLANDS world creates a place for children’s imaginations to grow and thrive as they imagine other places and new possibilities.
Fluent readers read text quickly and accurately, using phrasing and recognising many words automatically. Because fluent readers are not struggling with decoding and word recognition, they can focus on the meaning of the text. Reading fluently aids comprehension and understanding.
Re-reading is a potent way to improve fluency and increase enjoyment, and STORYLANDS books are designed to be read more than once. The stories are strong, humorous, and the illustrations are superb, so children want to return to the books time and again. Each story is also available online in a read-aloud version — students can listen to the storyteller’s intonation and phrasing to improve their own oral reading.
The Readers’ Theatre books at emergent, early and early-fluent levels are powerful tools for building fluency, as students re-read texts in a motivating, fun group activity.
Meaning and comprehension
Getting meaning from text is the main aim of all reading. With 30 fiction titles in each land, children quickly develop a bank of background knowledge about the land and its characters. The beauty of continuing characters means that children can identify with the characters and deepen their understanding. The characters and their relationships will become part of the community of your classroom.
Each book includes three comprehension questions on the last page. These can be used by the student, a helper, parent or yourself to quickly assess the student’s understanding of the text. After reading each fiction title online, children also need to answer a five-question quiz in order to be rewarded with access to the online game.