Now Online: Story

storyThis is a wonderful book: generous in its ideas, rich in its examples, and humble in the simplicity of its approach.
—Linda Rief

This book will encourage teachers to restore the study of story to its rightful place in the curriculum.
—Kelly Gallagher

Teaching reading and writing strategies is essential, but in Story: Still the Heart of Literacy Learning, Katie Egan Cunningham reminds us that when we bridge strategy with the power of story, we deepen literacy learning and foster authentic engagement.

This inspiring book shows you how to honor students’ identities and interests through story selection, expertly find stories from a wide variety of sources and genres, and incorporate the power of stories into your teaching of reading, writing, and classroom conversations.

You’ll get specific ways to build a classroom library that reflects our diverse society through rich, purposeful, and varied texts. The practical toolkit at the end of each chapter and annotated bibliography of texts, videos, songs, and websites will help you implement the book’s central ideas in your classroom.

Preview the entire book online now!

Add comment October 5th, 2015

In the Schoolyard: Where Do I Sit?

The weather might be getting cooler, but it’s still a great time to take your class outdoors! Here are some tips from Herb Broda on finding the best seat in the house — or out of the house. Herb is the author of Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning and Moving the Classroom Outdoors.

When is the best time for outdoor learning? Any month will work, but the start of the school year is ideal!

“But, what should I do first?” I strongly encourage folks to begin by locating a suitable staging area near the school. I like to call it the “Teaching/Meeting Area.”

The teaching/ meeting area is more than just a location—it’s a powerful classroom management tool. Rather than just running out the door and scattering on the lawn, students know that they are to move directly to the meeting area where they will sit, hear directions for the activity or receive materials—actually experience an introduction to a lesson just as they would indoors.

As you plan the outdoor meeting area, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it close to the building. The less walking time the better. The longer the walk to the teaching/meeting area, the longer it will take to bring everyone back on task.
  2. Be aware of distractions and student traffic patterns. Avoid nearby playground equipment and walking routes that students and adults typically use.
  3. Be aware of sun and shade. If you know there will be a certain time of day when the space will get heavy usage, try to find a spot that may be a bit sheltered from the sun

The best news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on an outdoor meeting area! Here are a few basic ideas:

Logs provide ideal seating material! They are inexpensive or free, very easily obtained, and readily moved. Logs placed vertically will accommodate varying student heights and, by including several log diameters, most any size posterior can also be accommodated!
Probably the major downside to using logs is that they are destined to disappear! Especially in damp areas, logs will rot in a few years and will need to be replaced. Contact a local nature center to learn what types of trees are most rot resistant in your area. Some teachers have also noted that logs may attract nests of insects, so inspect and replace is a good policy.


Although replacement will be necessary, a rotting log beautifully turns into a teaching tool when its useful life as a seat is over. Just lay the log on its side near your outdoor learning area and let students watch how the log becomes a habitat for tiny critters, and eventually enriches the soil.

Rocks and Boulders
Rocks and stones are certainly durable, but also heavy! Before installing a rock or boulder seating area you need to be very sure that your location will not need to be changed.

Another potential down side of rock seating is the difficulty of trimming around the rocks if they are in a grassy area. Logs can be easily rolled aside for mowing, but rocks require manual trimming or things can look overgrown by mid-summer.

No need to spend a lot of money on benches. Just make sure that they are sturdy and safe. One Wisconsin school just used one long sturdy bench as its teaching meeting area. You can also position logs horizontally, or as supports for boards to create a bench.

Flexible and Cheap!
It’s best to use the same location for your meeting area, but you don’t have to have fixed seating in place. Students can carry old stadium cushions to the outdoor teaching/meeting area. Put out a general call for cushions and you may receive more than you need! Another option is to take gallon freezer bags and stuff them with rags or paper– a throwback to the sit-upons made popular by Girl Scouts. Some companies make bags larger than one gallon, which makes it easier to accommodate bigger students.

A school in Michigan contacted a local home improvement store and received a classroom set of plastic pails. The buckets can be inverted to create seating, and also provide a handy way to carry materials outside.


A word about commercial seating products
An internet search for “outdoor seating” will yield thousands of options! The only limit is your budget! If you decide to invest in commercial seating, I would encourage the use of tables that also provide seating. Many schools have utilized sturdy picnic tables, some of which are convertible from bench to picnic table. A sturdy table/seat that is weather resistant and tough enough to last for many years will be expensive. I encourage schools to use inexpensive items like logs or simple benches until you are certain where you want to permanently place the meeting area.

For further information: Chapter Two, “Enhancing the Schoolyard for Outdoor Learning”, from Moving the Classroom Outdoors (Stenhouse Publishers) has additional information and pictures relating to setting up an outdoor teaching/meeting space.

Add comment September 21st, 2015

Live Twitter chat with Terry Thompson

In case you missed our live Twitter chat with Terry Thompson, author of the new book The Construction Zone, here is your chance to catch up. The chat was hosted by Franki Sibberson and covered everything you need to know about scaffolding. Preview some of the Tweets below, or you can read the full chat on Storify.


Add comment September 15th, 2015

What they are saying about…

Here is what some influential bloggers and reviewers have written recently about our books. Visit their sites for more PD recommendations and teaching tips!

Teacher’s Toolbox highly recommends Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker and calls it “a powerful resource to have in your teacher’s toolbox as you use Number Talks with your students”:

Read the full review

The 8th-grade teacher behind New England States blog calls Teaching Arguments a “win-win” for the way Jennifer Fletcher “gives [students] the tools to not only criticize a writer’s logic and word choice, but to read more like writers—a payoff in English as well as social studies, science, math, and I-don’t-care-what-subject-you-throw-at-me”:

Read the full review

Stenhouse author Stacey Shubitz describes Sharing the Blue Crayon as a book that “inspired [her] as both an educator and a person.” She adds, “[Mary Anne] Buckley provides suggestions and choices rather than one way of teaching students social and emotional skills”:

Read the full review

Midwest Book Review agrees that Sharing the Blue Crayon is “a pick for any education collection” describing it as “a unique survey that integrates emotional with literary objectives and uses concrete suggestions to help teachers see solid results”:

Read the full review

Add comment September 4th, 2015

Live Twitter chat with the authors of Power Up!

Join us on Monday, August 31, starting at 9 p.m. EST for a live Twitter chat with Diana Neebe and Jen Roberts, authors of the recent book Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning. Diana and Jen will be online to answer your questions about using technology in the classroom, including time management, assessment, and lots of useful tips for all of your technology concerns! Come and join us and share your ideas!

After the chat we will raffle off 3 copies of the book. Follow #PowerUpEd to join the conversation!

Add comment August 28th, 2015

Author conversation: Well Played

The authors of Well Played sat down with us recently to talk about how puzzles and games are not just fillers and not just a way to practice math. Combined with the teacher’s questioning and assessment, real math learning happens, classroom talk is enhanced, and students become “co-teachers” who support each other. Listen to this conversation with Linda Dacey, Karen Gartland, and Jayne Bamford Lynch and then head over to the Stenhouse website to preview the book online!

Add comment August 25th, 2015

In History Class, Writing Means Thinking

Sarah Cooper is back this week with a post that examines how writing can help students clarify their thinking and bring them closer to the historical event they are writing about. Sarah is the author of Making History Mine and has been a regular contributor to the Stenhouse Blog.

Cooper author photo bigger resolutionIn History Class, Writing Means Thinking

By Sarah Cooper

This summer I’ve written ten response papers for two history graduate classes, a process that has sometimes felt like walking through molasses.

Here are some questions that ran through my head:

  • Do I care about the topic?
  • Is my thesis clear?
  • Am I supporting the thesis with evidence?
  • Am I paraphrasing enough not to plagiarize?
  • Do the topic sentences support the thesis?
  • Is this paragraph too long?
  • Is my writing any good?

Needless to say, I’ve become newly empathetic toward my students as writers.

I’ve remembered how difficult it can be to synthesize information, especially in anticipation of someone else reading and evaluating my writing. Is this argument original enough? Am I incorporating the information accurately, giving enough weight to each source?

I’ve realized that assignment length can dictate depth of thought. A paper with a maximum of 1,200 words required more sustained analysis than one of 800 words. The longer length also meant I could take byways that seemed less plausible in the shorter papers.

Writing these essays has also helped clarify my thinking. Reading through margin annotations to refresh my memory of a text is one thing, but pulling together these annotations into a cohesive argument is another.

What surprised me most, though, was something I knew long ago but had somehow forgotten:

The act of writing made the readings more interesting.

Here’s an example: In reading about John F. Kennedy’s foreign policy, I initially found the suspense of the Cuban Missile Crisis much more interesting than the disastrous missteps of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

But then I started creating a thesis about what the Bay of Pigs showed about the Kennedy presidency – and realized that the debacle could be considered a case study for how presidents learn on the job. For the importance of surrounding oneself with advisors who offer conflicting opinions. And for what strength can look like: admitting we are wrong and fixing our mistakes the next time.

Writing about the readings forced me to connect personally with them, to find a place where my interest in psychology and leadership coincided with historical events. And suddenly the history became more memorable.

Implications for Teaching

Especially for middle schoolers, engaging with history can mean an acrostic, pair-and-share presentation or diagram just as easily as it can mean a serious written piece.

In my desire to make history exciting for students, sometimes I think I’ve given short shrift to the power of writing to ignite such excitement. I certainly ask students to write – but I had forgotten that writing can be an example of Seymour Papert’s “hard fun.”

There’s an alchemy to putting words on the page, as UCLA history professor Lynn Hunt says in an excellent piece about writing and radishes: “Something ineffable happens when you write down a thought. You think something you did not know you could or would think and it leads you to another thought almost unbidden.”

This is the magic I’ve felt this summer, much as it made my brain hurt. And this is the magic I’d like my students to feel when writing about history.

How do you encourage your students to find the personal connection in their own analytical writing?

Add comment August 13th, 2015

Comparisons: A Little Bit More Older

In this fun guest post from Tracy Zager, you can follow along as her daughter tries to figure out just how much older some of her friends are, and as she does, you can get an excellent insight into how Tracy guides her mathematical thinking. Tracy’s new book Becoming The Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had will be published in 2016.

Ask any elementary school teacher, and she or he will tell you that comparison problems are much harder for most kids than operations with other actions. For example, fourth-grade-teacher Jennifer Clerkin Muhammad asked her students to draw a picture of this problem from Investigations:

Darlene picked 7 apples. Juan picked 4 times as many apples. How many apples did Juan pick?

Her students are pros at representations and skillful multipliers, but we saw a lot of this:

apples unsure

Kids who were used to thinking of multiplication as either groups, arrays, or repeated addition had some productive, furrowed-brow time ahead of them. How can you represent comparisons? How is this multiplication? How do you draw the 4?

Then they started to get somewhere.

apples groups

apples array

With each representation they discussed, Jen asked the excellent question:

“Where do we see the 4 times as many in this representation?”

Seriously. Jot that one down. It’s a keeper.

Jen and her class played with a series of problems involving multiplicative comparison, (height, quantity, distance, etc.). For each problem, she asked student to create a representation. And then she’d choose a few to discuss, asking, “Where is the ______ times as ______ in this representation?” Lightbulbs were going off everywhere as students broadened and deepened their understanding of multiplication.

Teachers often see the same struggle with comparison situations that can be thought of as subtraction or missing addend problems, like:

Marta has 4 stuffed animals. Kenny has 9 stuffed animals. How many more stuffed animals does Kenny have than Marta?

If kids have been taught “subtract means take away” or “minus means count backwards,” then this problem doesn’t fit the mold. And if kids have been taught keyword strategies, they’re likely to hear “more,” pluck those numbers, and add them together.

Knowing this as I do, I jump on opportunities to explore comparison problems with my own kids. I want them to have a fuller sense of the operations from the beginning, rather than developing too-narrow definitions that have to be broadened later. So, subtract doesn’t mean take away in our house. They’re not synonyms. I actually don’t worry about defining the operations at all: we just play around with lots of different types of problems, and I trust that my kids can make sense of them.

Yesterday, I was talking with Daphne about a neighbor visiting tomorrow. Our neighbor has a little girl, whom I’ll call Katrina. She’s about 2. We also have more awesome girls who live across the street. Let’s call them Lily, 15, and Gloria, 13. Gloria helps out once a week, and my girls idolize her. Here’s how the conversation kicked off:

Me: “If Katrina’s mother comes over to help me on Sunday, could you play with Katrina for a bit so her mom and I can work?”

Daphne: “Yes!!! We love playing with her. And she loves us. She cries when she has to leave us. We’re her best friends.”

Me: “I think Katrina feels the way about you and Maya that you and Maya feel about Lily and Gloria. It’s fun to hang out with older kids. You learn a little about what’s coming for you.”

Daphne: “Yeah. But for Katrina, Lily and Gloria would be TOO old. Like, she’d think they were grown-ups because they’re SO much older than she is. We’re older than Katrina, but we’re less older than Lily and Gloria are.”

So there’s my opportunity. She was comparing already. With a little nudge, I could encourage her to quantify and mathematize this situation. I thought I’d start with the simplest numbers so she could think about meaning first.

Me: “How much older are you than Katrina?”

Daphne: “I think she’s 2. So…”

There was a pretty good pause.

Daphne: “Are we counting on here?”

That’s paydirt.

Me: “What do you think?”

Daphne: “I think so. Because I want to know how many MORE. So, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I’m 4 years older than she is. Yeah. That makes sense.”

Me: “OK. So how many years older is Maya than Katrina?”

Daphne: “6.”

Me: “You didn’t count on that time. What did you do?”

Daphne: “Well, I knew that I was 4 years older than Katrina, and Maya is 2 years older than me, so 4, 5, 6. Because Maya is OLDER than me, I knew they had to be farther.”

Me: “What do you mean farther?”

Daphne: “Like, it had to be more. I was starting with 4, and then it had to be more farther apart.”

Me: “Oh! So you were trying to figure out whether to go 2 more or 2 fewer?”

Daphne: “Yeah. And it had to be 2 more, because Maya’s more older than Katrina than I am. I mean, I’m older than Katrina, and Maya’s older than me, so she’s more older than Katrina than I am. It had to be 2 MORE.”

Hot damn!

Daphne’s life might have been easier right here if she had some tools she doesn’t have yet. I’m thinking about number lines, symbols, and a shared mathematical vocabulary including words like distance or difference. Those tools might help her keep track and facilitate communicating her thinking to somebody else. But I love that we were able to have this conversation without those tools, while driving in the car where I couldn’t even see her gestures. Her thinking is there, and clear. The tools will come as a relief later on, when the problems are more complicated.

We kept going.

Me: “OK. So you’re 4 years older than Katrina and Maya’s 6 years older than Katrina. I wonder how that compares to Gloria? Is she about the same amount older than you two as you two are older than Katrina?”

Daphne: “Well, she’s 13. This is gonna be hard.”

Long pause.

Daphne: “She’s 7 years older than me.”

Me: “How’d you figure that out?”

Daphne: “I went 6. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.” She held up her fingers to show me.

Me: “So how much older is Gloria than Maya?”

Daphne: “Umm…so Maya’s 8…umm…5. She’s 5 years older than Maya.”

Me: “How do you know?”

Daphne: “Because Maya’s 2 years older than me, so it’s 2 closer.”

This is the kind of problem where kids lose track of their thinking easily. Do we add or subtract that 2? In the last problem, she’d added. This time she subtracted. And she knew why!

When I glanced at Daphne in the rear view mirror, she had this awesome look on her face. She was looking out the window, but not seeing what was outside because she was so deep in thought. I wish I could have peeked inside her mind, and seen what she was seeing. Because, to use Jen’s question, where do we see the 2 years older? How did she see it? There was no time to ask, because she was onto pulling it all together.

Daphne: “So, Gloria’s a little bit more older than us than we are older than Katrina, because Gloria is 5 and 7 years older, and we’re 4 and 6 years older. But it’s pretty close.”

We pulled into the school parking lot on that one.

In our family, we count and manipulate objects all the time. Counting more abstract units like years, though, gives me a chance to open the kids’ thinking a little bit. In this conversation, Daphne was both counting and comparing years. Tough stuff, but oh so good.

(This post first appeared on Tracy Zager’s blog.)

Add comment August 11th, 2015

Profiles in Effective PD Initiatives: Perfect Pairs

We continue our series on effective PD initiatives with a case study from Pasadena, California, where teachers used Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Books to Teach Life Science, K-2 to thoughtfully integrate science and literacy lessons in their classrooms.

By Holly Holland

Perfect PairsThe Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards encourage a balance of informational and literary texts in K–5 classrooms and expect teachers to help develop students’ literacy skills through learning science. However, many elementary teachers are more comfortable with fiction than nonfiction resources and often lack extensive background in science.

As both the library coordinator and scientist-in-residence at Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Academy in Pasadena, California, Mavonwe Banerdt knew she was in a unique position to help teachers thoughtfully integrate science and literacy lessons. When district elementary literacy specialist Alyson Beecher suggested that they focus professional development on Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Books to Teach Life Science, K–2 (Stenhouse, 2014), Banerdt said it took about five minutes to determine that the book was “perfect for what I wanted to do.” Authors Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley “go into each standard and what it’s trying to accomplish,” Banerdt said. “They talk about how, over a period of time, teachers can use fiction and nonfiction, how pairing fiction and nonfiction [with science] is great because you can reach the kids who are into each. But I feel the book has an additional bonus in that it presents a bridge from the ideas in the classroom to the real world around us.”

Perfect Pairs starts each lesson with a Wonder Statement, which is designed to address an NGSS Performance Expectation, and follows with a Learning Goal, which details the knowledge students should gain from the lesson. Matching appropriate fiction and nonfiction books to the science concepts enables students to investigate and reflect using experiments and engaging activities, as well as Wonder Journals, Science Dialogues, and Science Circles.

During the 2014–15 school year, Banerdt and Beecher began modeling demonstration lessons from the book for teachers in kindergarten through second grade. They chose three of the lessons for each grade level, trying to match the focus of the lesson to what Jackson’s STEM teacher had planned for weekly science pullout labs. Because about 80 percent of Jackson’s dual-language instruction is in Spanish and the Perfect Pairs lessons were in English, Banerdt and Beecher provided additional vocabulary study and made sure to include both oral and written language activities and extensions. For example, to help English language learners with limited vocabulary, they made color-coded cards that the children could use to match the correct words for animal parts to corresponding pictures. They also found a short video and played quick games to help students who had never visited a beach understand how hermit crabs move.

“We knew the authors had great lessons, but we had to make adaptations to our situation and students,” Beecher said. “Part of it was helping teachers think differently about how they use a book and integrate stories into the classroom curriculum, that it can be really tied into your goals. Then looking at science standards and how they can use stories, writing, collages, and physical activities to help reinforce those concepts.”

Beecher and Banerdt had only one class period, not the full week of classes the authors intended to develop each lesson. So the regular classroom teachers helped to prepare students by reading aloud one of the paired books prior to the demonstration lessons. For a second-grade lesson about how wind, water, and animals disperse seeds, teachers read Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler and Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith. They also used discussions, dramatizations, art, and writing to deepen students’ understanding of the science and reading concepts.

“There are a number of great ideas in the book and one was to print out examples of burrs,” Beecher wrote in one of her blog posts about the sessions at “This was especially important for our students who are English language learners. Since we were unsure how familiar they were with the concept of burrs getting stuck on their socks and shoes, the visual examples helped. The students loved looking at pieces of Velcro and learning that it was invented by Georges de Mestral, who was inspired after a walk through the woods.”

Because they had to shorten the Perfect Pairs lessons, Beecher and Banerdt weren’t sure if the students would retain crucial information. They were thrilled when the school’s STEM teacher reported that students were so well prepared for science lab sessions that they could move more quickly through the content. For example, first graders who had engaged in a lesson about how an animal’s body parts help it to survive could richly contribute to the conversation about that topic.

“That was the defining moment when the school really bought in. Once they see it in action, they want to be part of it,” Beecher said. “We’ve definitely showed people this [high-level instruction] is possible and how exciting it can be.”

In addition, because scheduled parent visits to Jackson coincided with the demonstration lessons, many prospective families got to see the impact of the Perfect Pairs instructional approach. School and district administrators also observed some classes and later shared the ideas with other schools. Beecher invited faculty at other schools to see demonstration lessons at Jackson, and several have asked her to work with their staff during the coming school year.

Banerdt also discussed the professional development initiative at Jackson with elementary librarians throughout the Pasadena school district. One librarian obtained a grant to purchase copies of Perfect Pairs for every teacher in her school. Now Banerdt and Beecher are eagerly awaiting the grades 3–5 edition of Perfect Pairs that Stewart and Chesley are currently writing.

Stewart said she has been pleasantly surprised by the way librarians around the country have responded to the book. Recognizing that many elementary schools have limited classroom time for science instruction, they have seized the chance to help teachers integrate children’s literature with science concepts.

“I think one reason the librarian community has sort of embraced it is because they trust my reputation,” said Stewart, the author of more than 180 books about science. “I think it’s showing that Perfect Pairs has an appeal beyond the audience [of classroom teachers] it was intended for.”

Banerdt agreed. She bought additional copies of Perfect Pairs to share with Jackson’s staff, and plans to use funds from a STEM grant to buy many of the fiction and nonfiction resources the authors recommend pairing with science texts. She encouraged other educators to be open-minded about the careful choices Stewart and Chesley have made. For example, she said she initially thought some of the recommended poems were too sophisticated for second graders but saw in practice that the selections were just right. By contrast, Swimmy by Leo Lionni seemed too simple for first graders, yet it proved a perfect match for a lesson about how animals protect themselves. Banerdt said she considered the alternate fiction and nonfiction sources that the authors included with each lesson but ended up believing that the primary pairings were best.

“I just thought it was a remarkable book, how accessible it is for any teacher,” Banerdt said. “It has so many ideas and is so well researched. In California, lots of teachers are struggling with how to work with the Common Core and NGSS, and that piece is laid out crystal clear.”

Add comment August 6th, 2015

In production

OK, I admit it: we, at Stenhouse, get a tiny bit giddy when we see a new book cover design. And then we get even more giddy when after long, long months of work, we get to hold and read the finished product. I think the only person happier than us at that point is the author.

Last week we received two cover designs for two upcoming books by Ralph Fletcher and Paula Bourque. We are sharing them here because they are beautiful and because we think you’ll be excited to hold these two gems in your hand soon! To sign up to be notified when the books arrive in our warehouse, visit our website!



Close Writing  approved cover

Add comment August 3rd, 2015

Previous Posts

New From Stenhouse

Most Recent Posts

Stenhouse Author Sites




Classroom Blogs