Genius Teacher Idea

Mari Copeny with 6th grade Social Studies teacher Adriana Thornton

Editor's Note: We were so moved when we heard that 6th-grade ELA teacher Kim Burch of Louisville, Kentucky, and her class had donated school supplies to students in Flint, Michigan, after reading the Scope interview "Little Miss Flint," in which 10-year-old Mari Copeny talks about her efforts to increase awareness about the water crisis and the needs of young people in her hometown. One of Kim's fellow teachers drove up to Flint to hand-deliver the supplies to Mari. 


Reading the Scope Articles

Throughout the year, I wanted to get my students thinking about their how they could be changemakers right now and not wait until they are older to make a difference. After reading and discussing the Scope article "What If This Was Your Water?" and the accompanying interview with Mari Copeny, "Little Miss Flint," my students really connected with Mari's desire to not just help bring clean water to the people of Flint, but also to provide the kids of Flint with other basic necessities. My students decided they wanted to do something to help too.



Getting Inspired

In the Scope interview we learned that Mari had donated backpacks to Flint school kids through the nonprofit Pack Your Back. After some discussion as a class, my students got energized about the idea of donating school supplies to students in Flint and decided that was how they wanted to help. They really took ownership of the project and worked in groups to create letters to send home to parents and guardians explaining the project and requesting money to buy the supplies—even if for just one pen. Then they went shopping.

Shopping for school supplies to donate to students in Flint



Collecting Donations

Over the next few days, donations came pouring into the classroom. I thought we would muster a few notebooks and pencils, but my students blew me away by gathering enough notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, markers, and glue sticks to fill three large boxes!

My students filled up three big boxes with their donated suppies



Connecting with Mari

Seeing the huge load we had gathered, one of my fellow teachers, Adriana Thornton, volunteered to drive six hours from our school in Louisville, Kentucky, all the way to Flint, Michigan, and deliver the boxes to Mari in person! I connected with Mari over Twitter and told her about how my students had been inspired by her, and we arranged to deliver the supplies to her and her mother. Mari and her mother then gave the boxes to Pack Your Back, which dispensed the supplies to kids in Flint who needed them. After the boxes were delivered, I spoke to Mari and thanked her for being such as inspiration, not only to my students, but to me as well. We were only able to connect over the weekend, so my students weren't on the call with me. But my students already feel like they know her!

Mari Copeny with teacher Adriana Thornton after receiving the supplies that my students donated


None of my students had ever been a part of a donation campaign before this, and they got so into it! They were thrilled to connect with Mari, and they were so excited when she tweeted about receiving the boxes—it made them feel like superstars! They felt inspired by Mari and empowered by what they could achieve and their ability to make a difference in other peoples' lives. As we head into the summer, we have been discussing as a class ways that they can find something they are passionate about and use it to take action in their own community. I can't wait to see what they do next!


Kimberly Burch is a 6th grade ELA teacher at Ramsey Middle School in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jennifer Stahl

Editor's note: 7th-grade ELA teacher Jennifer Stahl loves to get her students up and out of their chairs as often as possible. So she has her students practice persuasive writing by creating skits. It's totally genius! Here's how she does it.


I wanted to give my students a creative way to practice persuasive writing using Scope's debates. So I have them write and perform skits to defend their arguments. I like to use this activity in place of an essay as a summative or formative assessment. The activity provides a rare opportunity for students to be creativeand they really sink their teeth into it! I'm always blown away by the originality of their skits and their well-backed arguments.

What you'll need:

  • any Scope debate, such as "Would You Get a Flip Phone?" (September 2017)
  • overhead projector
  • props; for this example, you'll need one flip phone (surely you can dig one up somewhere!) and one smartphone

Key skills:
speaking and listening, defending an argument, text evidence

2 class periods


Day 1: Read and discuss the debate

1. As a class, read and discuss the debate "Would You Get a Flip Phone?"

2. Have students complete the activity on page 11 and do the quiz (available on two levels).

3. Create a chart with two columns—one for "yes" and one for "no"—that you will use to poll students on their response to the question "Would you get a flip phone?"

4. Project the chart for the class and have each student add their name to either the "yes" or the "no" side. (Students do not have to defend their position at this point.)


Day 2: Create and perform skits

1. Project the poll from the previous day. Students will have a chance to change their position at the end of the period.

2. Divide the class into groups and assign half of the groups to defend the "yes" side and half to defend the "no" side. (Some students will be defending a position they don't personally hold.)

3. Have each group spend no more than 20 minutes writing a script to support their assigned argument. They can use Google Docs to work together. The only rules for creating the script are:

  • The skit must defend the argument the group was assigned.
  • Everyone must have a speaking role, even if only one line. (Shy students should tell their group of their comfort level.)
  • All groups must use information from the text to support their arguments.
  • The only props allowed are the two phones and classroom chairs.
  • The skit should be no more than 2 minutes long.



4. Have each group perform their skit for the class. (Students may read from their scripts.)


Here's a clip of one of the skits:


5. After all the groups have performed, have students respond to these reflection questions as a class:


6. In answering the second question, some students may reveal that they have changed their minds. Have those students come up to the projected poll and cross their name off one side and add it to the other side.

7. Tally up the final votes and compare the poll results to the results from the day before.






Jennifer Stahl is a 7th-grade ELA teacher at Forrestdale School in Rumson, New Jersey.

Looking for a fun and engaging reading activity for your reluctant readers? Scope teacher advisor and Scholastic Top Teacher Blogger Mary Blow has just the thing! She has designed a set of activities for students to do before, during, and after reading Lauren Tarshis's riveting new book in the I Survived Series, I Survived the American Revolution, 1776. In this post, Mary explains how she uses the activity in her classroom, incorporating video, a Scope play, and the nonfiction feature in the March issue of Scope.


Go on a Virtual Field Trip with Your Students!

Don't forget to sign up to view a special webcast of Lauren Tarshis' virtual field trip to the Museum of the American Revolution on February 7!

This Halloween, don't miss Scope's telling of the creepy classic The Monkey's Paw. Your students are going to love this thrilling and mysterious play with a cliffhanger ending. That's why we especially love how middle school teacher Teresa Gross brought the play to life in her classroom. Check out how she did it on her blog, and discover more of her stellar classroom ideas @teresagross625.

How do you celebrate Halloween in your classroom? Let us know in the comments below!

Kim O'Bray

Editor's Note: We are so in love with Kim O'Bray's student-led project. After reading about tardigrades in a Scope infographic, Kim's students became fascinated by these microscopic critters. (We totally get why—tardigrades can survive 10 years without food or water!) So Kim turned her students' interest into an opportunity to do independent research and a creative project. We think this is a great activity for the end of the school year.



None of us had ever heard of a tardigrade before we read the infographic "The Amazing Tardigrade" in Scope (September 2015). After completing their contest entries (writing paragraphs arguing that the tardigrade should be the school mascot), my students were clamoring to find out more about this curious creature. So, I grabbed the opportunity and had them do independent research on the tardigrade. They were tasked with discovering anything and everything about tardigrades and then presenting their findings to the class in a creative way. Some students worked alone while others worked in groups, but they all came up with inventive ways to present their research.


What you'll need
Any Scope infographic that sparks students' curiosity, such as "The Amazing Tardigrade" or "The Monster King" (That one's all about roaches. Eek!)

speaking, listening, independent research, using multiple mediums to visually express information

1-2 class periods (time out of class to create presentations will vary)



Tardigrade Fiction

Several students wrote fiction stories about the tardigrade and even illustrated them.



Tardigrade Superhero

Some students created comics featuring the tardigrade as a crime-fighting superhero.



3-D Tardigrade

One group made a 3-D model of a tardigrade using a pillowcase for the body and attaching index cards with factoids to each of the tardigrade's many feet. This model hung in my classroom all year long!



Have your own creative end-of-year project ideas? Tell us about them in the comments below!









Kim O’Bray teaches reading to 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders at Pittsburg Community Middle School in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Editor's Note: We love this Sticky Note Museum activity from 7th-grade ELA teacher Jennifer Stahland not just because it involves a microphone! Jennifer gets her students up and out of their chairs by having them display their answers to Scope's critical-thinking questions on sticky notes around the classroom. Then students use a microphone to present their answers and respond to their classmates. Try this out in your classroom, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!


This activity is always a popular one with my students because it's fun and a little different, and it gives them an opportunity to shine. Each student presents his or her response to a critical-thinking question using a microphone, then passes the mic to another student. My students really enjoy the freedom of running the discussion on their own. I also notice that when students use the mic, they think more carefully about their responses and rest of the class listens more closely and is very engaged. For the activity below, I used the Scope short fiction "Dear Future" from the September 2014 issue of the magazine, but any long Scope text will work just as well.


What You'll Need:

  • any Scope text, such as this one
  • any of Scope's Critical-Thinking Questions, such as these
  • poster board
  • different colored sticky notes
  • microphone

critical thinking, speaking and listening

One class period (60 minutes)


NOTE: Students are very familiar with the text by the time we do this activity because we have read and discussed the text beforehand.


Step 1: Post the questions.

  • Write out each critical-thinking question at the top of a separate sheet of poster board.
  • Hang the poster boards on a wall where students can easily access them.



Step 2: Students answer the questions.

  • Hand out the sticky notes.
  • Have students write the answer to each critical-thinking question on a separate sticky note.
  • I like to have a wide variety of sticky note colors on hand so that students can easily distinguish their answers later.


Here's how one student answered the first question:



Step 3: Students post their answers.

  • Have students place their answers under the appropriate question on the poster boards. (I especially love this part of the activity because it gets kids out of their seats and walking around.)
  • Once all students have posted all of their answers, you should have a colorful wall full of sticky notes!



Step 4: Students lead a "pass the mic" discussion.

  • Kick off the discussion by calling on a student to answer the first question.
  • Let students know that after giving their answer, they will call on and pass the mic to the next person.
  • I like to gather the students near the wall of sticky notes so students can refer to their answers during the discussion if needed.


  • Each student will respond to the previous student's answer by saying "I agree
    because . . . " or "I disagree because . . . "
  • I like to hang up a poster (pictured below) with sentence starters and questions to help students during the discussion.
  • I interject during the discussion only to keep students on track and to get them to expand their answers. For example, I sometimes ask: "Well, why does that matter?" Or: "Can anyone give text evidence for so-and-so's claim?" But they run show!








Jennifer Stahl is a 7th-grade ELA teacher at Forrestdale School in Rumson, New Jersey.

    Editor's note: Do your students get tripped up when it comes to central ideas and supporting details? If so, you will love this idea from Scope advisor and 6th grade ELA teacher Joanne Canizaro.


    What you’ll need:

    Citing text evidence, identifying central idea and supporting details, speaking and listening

    Three class periods (60 minutes each)


    NOTE: By the time we do this lesson, we have already read and discussed the article as a class.


    DAY 1: Respond to the Close-Reading Questions


    • Divide students into small groups and assign each group at least one section of the article. (I sometimes give a group more than one section if the sections are short.)
    • Distribute the Close-Reading Questions to each student. Students will return to these questions on Day 2 for the peer review.

    NOTE: I create my own close-reading questions for this lesson, but you can pull some or all of the questions from Scope's Central Ideas and Details activity and Finding and Using Text Evidence activity.

    • Have each group answer the questions for their assigned section(s).

    Differentiation Tip: Have struggling students write a brief summary of their section before they answer the questions.

    • Have each group present their answers to the class. (This helps the teacher assess whether the groups are on the right track with their answers.)



    DAY 2: Find the central idea and supporting details


    • Reconvene the small groups and pass out the Central Idea and Supporting Details grid
    • Explain to students that they should write the title of their assigned section at the top of the page, the central idea of the section in the middle box, and the supporting details in the surrounding boxes. (If tablets or computers are available, you can create the template as a PowerPoint or Google slide and have students share the slide(s) among the group members so they can work on it together.)
    • Tell students that the supporting details should be arranged in an organized way, such as chronologically, sequentially, etc.

    NOTE: This step may not take an entire class period to complete.

    Here's an example of a filled-out grid:




    DAY 3: Present and peer review


    • Provide each group with a copy of the Presentation Rubric. Students should also have their copy of the text and the Close-Reading Questions from Day 1 in front of them.
    • In section order, have each group present its completed Central Idea and Supporting Details grid. If using paper, use a document camera to project the grid.
    • During each presentation, the rest of the class should assess the presentation according to the Presentation Rubric and check off the close-reading questions as they are answered.
    • After each presentation, invite the rest of the class to ask questions or provide comments or suggestions. Students often have questions about why a particular piece of supporting evidence was chosen. They also like to offer suggestions for other pieces of evidence the group could have used. I encourage students to pose their questions and give their feedback in a respectful and encouraging way, like this:

          I noticed that the box on the right states . . .

          I wonder why you chose to . . .

          We would like to suggest that you . . .

          We reread the section and thought you could . .

    Here's a photo of one student presentation:







    Joanne Canizaro is a Scope advisor and a 6th grade ELA teacher at Hopatcong Middle School in Hopatcong, New Jersey.



    Editor's note: We are delighted by the way 6th-grade teacher and Scope advisor Kathy Walseman uses the Scope answer key to model constructed response! Check it out below—then try it in your classroom!


    I find that modeling constructed responses really helps my students understand how to write these tricky answers. I noticed that Scope's very thorough answer key includes many terrific models. So, I began to share the answers with my students and found that their writing improved immensely.


    What you'll need:

    • any Scope writing prompt (included at the end of most articles), such as this one
    • a Scope answer key (included with every issue of the magazine), such as this one
    • a projection device, such as an Elmo

    writing a topic sentence, supporting a claim, text evidence, organization

    30-40 minutes


    Step 1
    Students write an answer to a Scope writing prompt, such as this one from "War of the Worlds," the play from March 2017 issue of the magazine:


    Step 2
    Copy the answer from the answer key and project it for students to read.


    Step 3
    Have students compare the Scope response to their own.


    Step 4
    Analyze the Scope answer as a class. I have students analyze the topic sentence to see if it restates the prompt and/or can stand alone without the question and highlight text evidence in different colors depending on whether it’s a direct quote or a paraphrase.


    Step 5
    I ask students to write an exit ticket which states something they saw in the Scope example that they’d like to try to do in their next constructed response.






    Kathy Walseman is a Scope advisor and a 6th-grade teacher in Dahlgren, Virginia.


    Editor's Note: Nothing bring us more joy than when a teacher tells us her students read a story in Scope and were inspired to take action. So imagine our excitement when we heard about 6th-grade teacher Angel Barnsback's fabulous awareness campaign project! Read about what Angel's class did, and then scroll down to read Angel's lesson plan which you can use in your own classroom for any global issue that your students are passionate about.


    How My Students Came to Adopt an African Elephant


    Boris Roessler, Zuma Press


    Like your students, my 6th-graders have big hearts and often want to make a difference but don't know how. So it was no surprise that after reading and discussing Scope's incredible story about Ishanga ("Can She Be Saved?" December/January 2017), a baby African elephant who was rescued after her mother was killed by poachers, my students wanted to find out everything they could about how Ishanga was doing today. We went to Scope Online where we found a link to the website of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where Ishanga now lives. My students got so excited when they saw that they could actually adopt Ishanga for a year—and for $50! The class had recently won exactly $50 for a holiday door-decorating competition and had been considering getting a hamster for the classroom. Instead, my students became Ishanga's adoptive parents. The money goes toward the cost of caring for Ishanga. We received a fostering certificate and get frequent updates on Ishanga's health and activities from her keeper's diary.


    My students were so inspired that they wanted to inspire and inform the rest of the 6th-grade class. So they created a series of posters about the problem of wildlife poaching. Students chose a partner and created either an educational or an awareness poster to hang in the classroom. The only requirement I gave them was that they had to correctly use at least 10 of the vocabulary words from the Scope texts.


    Lesson Plan for an Awareness Campaign

    What you'll need:
    Any Scope text that sheds light on a current humanitarian or wildlife problem such as: 

    vocabulary words and definitions that accompany the Scope text, such as these

    vocabulary, gathering information from multiple sources and diverse formats, conducting research, demonstrating understanding of a subject

    one 90-minute period for creating the posters


    Text Marking

    I first had students text mark the Scope paired texts articles about poaching to identify the points they wanted to include in their posters. They used the following symbols:

    • Exclamation mark: connecting to another text or identifying something surprising
    • Eyeball: something eye-opening
    • Thought bubble: something that makes you think
    • Lips: something you would like to discuss


    Further Research

    After reading the paired texts, my students wanted to learn even more about the plight of elephants and other wildlife. So they did additional research using the resources provided at Scope Online, such as the African Wildlife Foundation, through which they discovered that African elephants could become extinct in our lifetime due to poaching.

    AP Images


    Spreading Awareness

    Some students chose to devote their posters to informing other students about the problem of poaching. So they made anti-poaching posters to hang around the classroom for the rest of the 6th-grade to read. They used information from the Scope texts along with the information they gathered from their additional research.



    Finding Solutions

    Other students wanted to devote their posters to presenting solutions to the poaching problem. As with the other posters, they used information from the Scope texts and from their independent research.


    Building Vocabulary

    I instructed my students to incorporate their new vocabulary from the paired texts in their posters.



    My students often encounter an injustice and want to do something to help, but they don't know how to or they think they can't make a difference. By adopting Ishanga, my students were able to see how even a small gesture can have a positive impact. Not only did they help one animal in need, but they also spread awareness and kindled a desire among others to do more. One student is now volunteering at a local animal shelter and another is doing an independent project on the plight of elephants in the circus.







    Angel Barnsback is a 6th-grade ELA teacher at Liberty Middle School in Morganton, North Carolina. She is also a teacher advisor.


    Editor's Note:  6th-grade teacher Mary Blow shares her excellent gallery walk activity, which familiarizes students with the challenging language they will encounter on high-stakes tests, reinforces key skills, and builds testing confidence.


    Many of my students struggle with the academic language on high-stakes exams. So I came up with a gallery walk activity to expose them to this language and to some of the skills they will encounter on state assessments. Students begin by breaking down and answering a series of questions about a Scope text. Each student then becomes an "expert" on two questions and acts as a museum guide during a class gallery walk through all of the questions. Finally, students participate in a peer review. In the example outlined below, I used the short story "Follow the Water" from the September 2016 issue of Scope. Not only is it a great piece of fiction, but it also covers the six main standards that students will encounter on most state exams. However, you can do this activity using any long fiction or nonfiction text in Scope.


    What you'll need:

    inference, text structure, author purpose, point of view, vocabulary

    four class periods, one hour each



    DAY 1

    1. Preparing the questions

    • Prepare 11 questions from the text—one to use as a model and 10 for the students to answer on their own. These questions can be drawn from Scope's support materials for the text you are working with or you can create your own. Here are some examples of questions I created for "Follow the Water." (Download all the questions here.)
    • Make an inference based on text details: Why are Georgie’s dreams important to the story? [RL.6.1]
    • Explore the structure of the text: Consider how the author begins sections 3, 4, 5, and 6. How are the events in the story organized? [RL.6.5]
    • Compare point of view: How does Georgie’s perspective of life on Mars differ from that of her parents? [RL.6.6]
    • Create a poster for each of the 10 questions (or download mine). That is, write each question on its own piece of paper. The posters will be hung around the classroom later, during the gallery walk.
    • Create a student handout: a list of all 10 questions on one piece of paper. Make enough copies to give each student one handout.


    2. Modeling an answer

    • Provide an overview of the activity, explaining to students that each of them will answer 10 questions on their own and then work in a group to become an "expert" on two of the questions.
    • Model annotating and answering a question in the following way:

    Step 1: Define the vocabulary.

    • Clarify any vocabulary words in the questions and annotate their meanings.
    • If there are any unfamiliar words, look them up.

    Step 2: Identify the tasks.

    • Identify the explicit tasks (those that are clearly stated). For example, the question below explicitly asks you to explain how the setting adds to the problem.
    • Identify the implicit tasks (those that are implied). For example, to answer the explicit question below, you must identify the problem (implicit task) before you can explain how the setting contributes to it.  

    Step 3: Write a claim.

    • Write a claim that answers the question. The claim should be based on evidence from the text.



    3. Answering questions individually

    • Give each student a copy of the handout (the list of all 10 questions).
    • Have each student answer all 10 questions on his or her own, following the process that you just modeled.



    4. Working in groups

    • Divide students into five groups of about four students each. (Adjust group size as you see fit; if you have a small class, you may want to have fewer than five groups.)
    • Assign each group two of the 10 questions. (If you have fewer than five groups, you won't assign all of the questions.)
    • Explain to students that they will become experts on the questions they have just been assigned.
    • As a group, students should discuss their responses to both questions. As part of this discussion, students should also explain what in the text led them to their claims—or, putting it another way, what text evidence supports their claims. All group members should take notes during the discussion. This will prepare them for the leadership role they will assume during the gallery walk.
    • At the end of the discussion, all group members should understand the language in the questions, the explicit and implicit tasks required by the questions, what claim or claims can be made in response to the questions, and what text evidence supports that claim/those claims.
    • While students are working, walk around the room to ensure that students are on the right track.

    DIFFERENTIATION TIP! If you have struggling readers, provide them with some sentence starters.



    DAYS 2 and 3

    5. Gallery walk

    • Hang the question posters throughout the room. (Hang posters only for the questions you assigned to the groups.)
    • Divide students into NEW groups so that each group includes at least one "expert" on each question. (An easy way to do this is to start with students in their groups from the day before and then count off the members of each group from 1 to 5. All of the 1’s then form a new group, all of the 2’s another group, etc.)
    • In their new groups, students should proceed through the gallery walk, moving from one question poster to the next and stopping to discuss the answer to each question.
    • At each poster, the expert (or experts) within the group for that particular question should guide the discussion, making sure that the group understands the question and answers it accurately and thoroughly.
    • During the walk, all students should take notes on their handouts. They will use these notes later when they complete their independent written responses.
    • Groups should spend about 5 minutes at each question. Use a timer to keep the groups focused and moving.
    • It takes one class period to go through about five questions, so we devote two days to the gallery walk.

    DIFFERENTIATION TIP! Have each group post their annotated questions from Day 1 beneath the question poster on the wall. This provides a useful visual during the discussion and is especially helpful for students who are slower at taking notes.



    DAY 4

    6. Summative assessment

    • Have each student randomly draw a number from a basket. Each number should correspond to one of the questions from the gallery walk. (I like to use numbered poker chips for the drawing, but you can use slips of paper.) Each student will work independently to write an answer to the question he or she picked.
    • When answering, students must state a claim and support it with at least two pieces of evidence from the text. Tell students that they can refer back to the text as they work and that they can also use their notes from the gallery walk.
    • I give students 10 to 15 minutes in class to complete the task because it simulates a testing environment. But if you want to save classroom time, you can assign this as homework.


    7. Peer review

    • In this step, students will use a rubric to assess each other's written responses. (Here is the rubric that I created.)
    • Give each student one copy of the rubric. Direct students to fill out the top of the rurbric with their name and the number of the question that they wrote an answer for. Students should then pass their rubric and their written response to another member of the group. The student who receives the rubric should write his or her name on the rubric, select a color with which to mark the rubric, and use the rubric to assess his or her peer's work.
    • Have students switch papers one more time so that each student's work is reviewed by two members of the group.
    • The completed rubrics should then be stapled to the written responses and returned to the students who wrote the answers. Invite students to ask their reviewers any questions they have about their scores.
    • Finally, all rubrics should be submitted to you for a final score.



    This activity really builds my students' test-taking confidence. I don’t use test-review workbooks, and I don’t teach to the test. I do, however, take a couple weeks before the test to review how to transfer what students have learned in class to test-taking. This activity is a wonderfully collaborative way do it. One of my students recently said to me, "This was hard, but it was a lot of fun." It's not often that a student has fun while being challenged!





    Mary Blow teaches 6th-grade English at Lowville Academy Middle School in Lowville, New York. Follow Marys fantastic blog!