Genius Teacher Idea

Central Idea or Supporting Detail?

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.


This Trick Will Change the Way You Teach Constructed Response


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.


How a Scope Story Inspired My Class To Take Action

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.


The Test-Readiness Activity You Need

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




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.




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!

Try This Fab Multimedia Activity with Any Scope Play

Editor's Note: Get ready to fall in love with 6th-grade teacher Amy Sylvester's creative multimedia project. After reading, discussing, and analyzing a Scope play, Amy's students turn it into a gorgeous digital flipbook by recording a reading of the play and illustrating it themselves. This fun and collaborative project can be done whether or not you're a 1:1 classroom. It calls for just a few devices and some basic software. Amy and her fellow teacher Matt Mankiewicz collaborated on this project.


I do this project at least three times a year with Scope plays—which are always a big hit in my classroom. I love this project because it builds students' reading confidence and lets them stretch their creative muscles. It's also great fun! For the example project described below, I used the The Tell-Tale Heart (based on the classic Poe story) from the September issue of the magazine.


What you'll need:
any Scope play, such as this one
at least one iPad or computer per group
movie editing software, such as iMovie, or presentation software, such as PowerPoint or Keynote
audio recording software, such as GarageBand

speaking; listening; using multiple mediums, including digital media, to visually express information

5-6 class periods: 3 periods to practice reading the play and create the pictures, and another 2-3 periods to record the play, choose music and sound effects, and put the slideshow together

NOTE: By the time students do this project, they have already read and analyzed the play in class and learned about Edgar Allan Poe. 


1. Divide students into groups and do a practice run

  • Divide the class into groups of 8-10 students. The groups should be big enough so that each student gets at least one part. If there aren't enough parts to go around, some students can take on multiple roles.
  • Have students highlight their role(s) in the magazine so they can follow along easily.
  • Have each group read through the play once or twice for practice. By this point in the unit, they have all read the play 3-5 times before, so they are very familiar with it.
  • As the groups practice reading their roles, circulate around the room offering tips and advice.


2. Record the play

  • Once the students are comfortable reading their parts, they find a quiet spot in the classroom, gather around in a circle, and record a reading of the play.
  • You can use any audio recording software, but I like GarageBand because it's pre-loaded on our iPads. Since we are 1:1, I have all the students record the play on their own devices so that they each have their own recording to refer back to as the create their illustrations. If you are not 1:1, students can record on one device and then share the audio files with the group using Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.
  • The recording sometimes takes two tries to get it right, so this can be a little time consuming.
  • As the groups record, continue circulating around the room to make sure they are on the right track.


3. Create a storyboard

  • Students determine as a group which parts of the play they want to illustrate, considering which elements are most important and which lend themselves best to visual representation.
  • The students create a storyboard on Google Docs (so that it can be shared among the group members), sketching out what each illustration will look like.
  • Review all the completed storyboards and provide feedback to each group to help refine their ideas.
  • Once the storyboards are set, the students divide up the illustrations so that each student creates about three. Each group should end up with about 23 illustrations for a 10-minute recording.
  • I created the below document for groups to keep track of who is creating which illustrations.


4. Create illustrations and add sound effects

  • Students create their illustrations then scan them.
  • I like using iMovie to create the digital flipbook, but you can use any simple movie editing software, or even PowerPoint.
  • Students upload their images and organize them according to their storyboard.
  • At this point students also add music (iMovie has copyright-free music, but students can choose to add their own music too) to enhance the mood of the play. They can also record sound effects for extra pizzazz (such as opening a squeaky door or beating shoes against the floor to simulate clomping horses).


5. Share it out

  • Have each group share their finished product with the rest of the class. (Google Docs is an easy way to do this.)
  • Each group selects one person to talk about the group's work, walking through their process and decisions, and highlighting any challenges they encountered.
  • Because each recording is about 10 minutes long, it's impossible to share them all in class, so I post all the movies on Google Classroom so that students can watch everything on their own time.


6. Peer review

  • Assign students the task of watching 2-3 of the flipbooks and providing feedback to their peers. I think it's important for students to have an opportunity to provide constructive peer feedback. Through this process they also learn how they might approach the project differently next time.


By the end of the unit, even the most reluctant readers have become very confident because they have been so deeply engaged and feel they have ownership over the work. This translates to improved fluency, no matter the students' reading level. I am always surprised by the kids who typically don’t volunteer to read aloud in class but who become very engaged and perform impressively nuanced readings. And there's a part in this project for every student—more technologically inclined students can play a larger role in editing the slideshow and the sound effects, while more artistic students can help think up inventive ways to visualize the story. Even though each group is using the same source material, I'm always astonished by the diversity of the flipbooks that students produce!


Here's an example of a finished project:




Amy Sylvester is a 6th-grade teacher at Golden Hill Elementary School in Fullerton, California. Her fellow Golden Hill teacher Matt Mankiewicz collaborated with her on this project.


Three Easy Ways to Use Subheads


Editor's Note: Teacher Kim Wagner returns to the Scope Ideabook with another WOWZA idea. We are in love with how she uses subheads for summarizing, exploring text structures, and identifying central ideas. So doable! So delightful! Do you have inventive ways that you use subheads in your classroom? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Subheads are often overlooked, but I like to use them to help my struggling readers as well as my on-level readers practice several key skills. I've found that the subheads in Scope's nonfiction articles work especially well for these activities, particularly in longer articles like this one.


Here's how I use subheads to practice summarizing, text structures, and central ideas.

What you'll need:
any Scope nonfiction text with multiple subheads, like this one
a list of the article's subheads in random order

Key skills:
summarizing, text structures, central ideas

15-50 minutes, depending on the text length and skill


1. Summarizing

Before reading the article, have students read all the subheads and write a summary predicting what the article will be about. Read the article as a class, then have students return to their predictions and see how accurate they were. Have students discuss how and why their predictions were or were not accurate.


2. Text Structures

Before reading the article as a class, create a list of all its subheads in random order. Distribute the list to the class and have students organize the subheads according to different text structures: chronological, problem/solution, cause/effect, etc. After you read the article, have students compare their lists to the article's actual structure. Have a discussion about why the author may have structured the article the way that he or she did.


3. Central Ideas

After reading the article, ask students to rewrite all the subheads in their own words. This is a creative way for students to consider the central idea of each section while giving you, the teacher, immediate feedback about their understanding. 


Kim Wagner is a Language Arts teacher at Hendersonville Middle School in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She is also a Scope teacher advisor.

Students Become the Teacher: The Power of "Expert Groups"

Editor's Note: Sixth-grade ELA teacher and Scope advisor Angel Barnsback recently told us about how she uses "expert groups" in her classroom to give students ownership of their learning. After analyzing a text as a class, Angel breaks the class into groups and assigns each group a close-reading question on which the group members will become experts, first learning and then teaching what they learned to their classmates. We were so excited by her brilliant idea that we simply HAD to share it with you IMMEDIATELY. Enjoy!


What I really love about this activity—and why I do it so often—is that it gives students ownership of the knowledge they acquire, which helps them better retain that knowledge. Making students "experts" also gives them a sense of responsibly—to themselves, their group, and the class—to answer their assigned question thoughtfully and thoroughly. My students take this responsibility seriously! And because the activity is done in small groups, students who may be reticent to participate in whole-class discussions have the chance to be engaged in a less intimidating setting.

I usually do this activity with at least one article in each issue of Scope. For the November issue, I had my students become experts on the play This is What Courage Looks Like. Here's how I did it.


What you'll need:
any Scope text that lends itself to close reading, such as this one
close-reading and critical-thinking questions, such as these
vocabulary definitions, such as these
handheld whiteboard or large easel pad

Key skills:
text evidence, key ideas and details, analyzing, synthesizing, vocabulary in context, presenting information

15 minutes to construct answers
15 minutes for all groups to share their answers (about 3 minutes per group)


NOTE: Before I start this activity, we've already analyzed and discussed the text as a class, so students are very familiar with the text.


Step 1: Stuff envelopes.

I like to place the close-reading questions in envelopes, so students don't see the question they'll be answering before they choose it. I place one close-reading question in each envelope along with the definitions of the vocabulary words that appear in the text, to encourage students to use some of these new words in their presentations.



A great way to scaffold the close-reading questions is to add sentence starters and page numbers to direct students to the parts of the text where they can find the answers.



Step 2: Distribute the envelopes.

Divide the class into groups and have one student from each group choose an envelope.


Step 3: Students construct their answers.

Working in groups, students brainstorm the answer to the close-reading question from their envelope. They should use evidence from the text as well as some of their new vocabulary words. They should also make connections to other texts they’ve read, events in the world, or events in their own lives. Students then write their answers on a whiteboard or large notepad. (Students are very familiar with the text at this point, so they'll be flipping right to the evidence that supports their answers.)


Step 4: Students present their answers.

Each group chooses one person to present the group's answer. This student presents the answer to the class, providing text evidence to support the answer as well as explaining how and why the group formed that answer. I encourage students to talk to the class when presenting rather than look at notes. After all, they are experts now!


Step 5: Discuss as a class.

After each group has presented, I invite the rest of the class to comment and add to the answer. The presenting student responds to each comment. This is a great way to assess if the group really thought through its answer.

My students really get into this activity. In fact, one student suggested that every group should get a copy of the other groups' questions to discuss among themselves when they finish their expert group work. He followed up by saying, "That way, we can come to the whole-class discussion fully prepared to contribute." Love these kids!





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

The Text-Evidence Strategy That Changed My Classroom

Editor's note:  Scope teacher advisor Kim Wagner recently shared a WOWSA classroom success story with us. Her students were struggling with how to use text evidence in their writing. Kim knew she needed to try something different—something that would provide them with lots of practice without becoming tedious. And she found just the thing: a writing strategy called R.A.C.E. (restate the question, answer the question, cite the evidence, explain the evidence). Check out her story below!


Scope texts work really well with the R.A.C.E. strategy because they are organized into perfect bite-sized chunks that don’t overwhelm or bore students as they practice the strategy multiple times. For this lesson, I used R.A.C.E. with Scope’s informational text “This Railroad Changed America" from the November issue.


What you'll need:
Any Scope text, such as this one

Key skills:
text evidence, key ideas and details, analyzing, synthesizing

One or two 50-minute class periods, depending on the length of the text


Step 1: Prepare questions

Before class, I prepare one question for each section (or every couple of sections) of the article. The questions are the kind of writing prompts that students will encounter on state assessments. They require students to go into the text and find explicit and implicit textual evidence to support their answer. For example:

  • What challenges did the workers on the Transcontinental Railroad have to contend with? (for sections "Convenience and Safety" and "Difficult Conditions")
  • How did the Transcontinental Railroad serve as a unifying symbol to a country torn apart by the Civil War? (for section “A New Day")


Step 2: Read as a class

We read and discuss the entire article as a class once. (You can also break students into groups to read the text.) This way students become familiar with the content and will be able to concentrate on the writing strategy later.


Step 3: Introduce the R.A.C.E. strategy

I refer to an anchor chart to introduce the R.A.C.E. strategy:

R—Restate the question.

A—Answer the question.

C—Cite evidence to support your answer.

E—Explain how the evidence supports your answer, if needed.

I also show this short video to further reinforce the idea. Then I explain to students that they will practice the strategy after reading each section of the article.


Step 4: Model the strategy

I model the R.A.C.E. strategy step-by-step using one of the questions that I prepared. First, I put the question under a document camera (or display it on the board). Next, we re-read the pertinent section of the article and choose evidence (relevant, sufficient, strong) to support our answer. I then show them how to weave that evidence into a smooth, clear sentence. (I’ve found this is the hardest part.) Once we are satisfied with our answer, we double check that we’ve completed each step of the R.A.C.E. strategy.


Step 5: Work in groups

Once students are comfortable with the strategy and I have watched them using it, I direct students to another section of the article, give them a question, and have them practice R.A.C.E. in groups or pairs. While they are working, I circulate the room and provide feedback.


Step 6: Share the work

Students share their responses under the document camera. (They love this!) As a class, we examine each response and give each group or pair a "star" for something they did well and a "wish" for something they could do next time to make their response even better. Again, we check to make sure each step of the strategy is completed. After teaching this lesson several times, I’ve noticed that this step produces the greatest growth in students’ writing.



Step 7: Work independently

Students read the rest of the article and practice R.A.C.E. on their own. Again, I circulate and provide immediate feedback and encouragement. By this point, students are comfortable with the strategy and are usually eager to show their work under the document camera. This is a vital step—students get to see many different well-structured responses as well as how they can improve their own answers with a little work.



Differentiation Tip: Sentence Starters!
If students are struggling with incorporating the evidence they are citing in their answers, provide them with sentence starters. For example:

According to the author Kristin Lewis, . . .
In the article “This Railroad Changed America,” the author states . . .

For example, the text states . . .


The first time I tried this strategy I was surprised by how quickly my students’ constructed responses improved and how much more sophisticated their responses were. And, after lots of practice, sharing, and discussion, most of my students were able to apply the R.A.C.E. strategy to new texts. R.A.C.E. can be used not only for constructed responses (such as on Scope quizzes) but also any time a student is asked to answer a question, even orally. And that, of course, is a teacher’s ultimate goal—teaching for transfer!


Kim Wagner is a Language Arts teacher at Hendersonville Middle School in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She is also a Scope teacher advisor.

We're In Love With This Poe Unit


Editor’s note: Sixth-grade teacher and Scope advisor Fran Squires explores literary elements, mood, author's craft, and research skills with students with her creative Edgar Allan Poe project.


What you’ll need:


Key skills:

author's craft, character, figurative language, finding text evidence, summarizing, mood, presenting information, listening



4-5 class periods and three weeks of independent work


Each year in the early fall, I do a big unit on Edgar Allan Poe. The highlight is the culminating project which requires students to create a Poe-themed work of art. Students research a Poe story or poem and make a tie or a fascinator (decorative headpiece) representing the work. We kick off the unit by reading "The Raven" and Scope's play The Tell-Tale Heart as a class. The play is a fun and engaging way to delve into Poe's unique style and explore literary elements. I then give students three weeks to work independently on their Poe projects. The unit culminates on Halloween when students present their projects to the class and vote on the most creative one. We also listen to an audio recording of "The Black Cat" while eating Halloween treats.  



Step 1: Choose the work

Have students choose a Poe work that has not been covered in class. I have copies of The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe available in my classroom, but I also encourage students to go to the library to do further reading before they choose a work for their project.

Delphi Classics

Step 2: Research

Over the next three weeks, students read and do independent research on the Poe work of their choice. I check in with students periodically to see that they are making progress and answer any questions they have. This research component is not only an opportunity to learn about Poe's writing, it's also a chance for students to develop their research skills. Here's what I look for in a successful research project:

  • the ability to plan and conduct in-depth research
  • the use of a variety of reputable sources
  • the identification of literary themes and elements, author's craft, and figurative language


In addition to finding their own sources for research, I direct students to these sites:

Differentiation: You can modify the activity for students who need more support. Have them create their projects based on one of the works covered in class and incorporate information from classwork and discussions. You can also have them work in groups rather than independently.


Step 3: Create the art

Students must submit a sketch or a written proposal for three tie or fascinator ideas based on their reading and research. I then work with each student to choose which idea to develop. Their final art should:

  • include at least one quotation from the work
  • include at least two symbols that reflect elements of the work
  • reveal important insights of the work, such as themes, literary elements, and author's craft
  • portray those insights in an original and creative way
  • demonstrate an intellectual curiosity

To demonstrate what I'm looking for, I show the class a piece of artwork that a student made from a prior year.



This fascinator is inspired by “The Raven” and includes the quote “Nevermore, Nevermore.” Behind the double doors is a silhouette of the narrator's lost love, Lenore. The artwork is affixed to a brain symbolizing the fact that the protagonist cannot get the loss of Lenore off his mind.


One of Fran's students models a fascinator inspired by Poe's short story, "The Black Cat."


Step 4: Present

  • I pass out a rubric of the project components for students to refer to as they listen to the presentations.
  • Students present their work to the class by providing a summary, discussing why they chose the work, and explaining the significance of the work as well as the quotes and symbols that they included.
  • After each presentation, we have a brief question and answer session.


This tie represents the acrostic poem “A Valentine.” Poe wrote the poem for a woman who was already married, so he kept his admiration a secret by cleverly disguising her name within the poem. The hearts and eyes on the tie symbolize the reader's search for the name of Poe's secret love: Frances Sargent Osgood.


Step 5: Peer assessment

  • After the presentations are over, the pieces are displayed on tables for students to study further.
  • Students evaluate each other's work according to the rubric.
  • On the back of the rubric, they write down which project was the most successful and why.
  • I tally up the votes and give the student who made the winning project a certificate of creativity and a prize, such as a Poe T-shirt, Poe-themed necklace, or magnetic poetry. The runners-up also get prizes.


A student models a Poe T-shirt prize


Step 6: Listen to "The Black Cat"

For a final bit of fun, I turn down the lights and we listen to Norman George's fantastic reading of “The Black Cat.”  I pass out Halloween-themed goody bags with creepy candies such as "eye of newt" treats.


I love this project because it not only allows students to stretch their creative muscles and build important skills, but it also lets them direct their own learning. Exposure to literature and poetry is always a plus, and this project helps students discover that there’s more to Poe than “The Raven.”


Fran Squires is a Scope teacher advisor and an Advanced Level Language Arts Teacher for 6th grade at Pine View School in Osprey, Florida. She was the NCTE National Language Arts Teacher of the Year for 2014-2015.



Build Reading Stamina With Your Struggling Learners

Editor's note: We LOVE this idea from Lisa King, a middle-school teacher in North Richland Hills, Texas. Students gain a deep understanding of the text while practicing six key reading skills and building reading stamina.


My students struggle with maintaining focus while they are reading and with key reading skills. (Inference is always a particularly tough one.) The following close-reading strategy helps students with comprehension and stamina, and it can be used with any nonfiction text. The basic approach is for students to read each section of the article on their own, then discuss the section as a class. Focusing on one section at a time helps break down the text and makes a long article seem manageable. It also keeps students engaged so they don't lose focus.


What you'll need:

  • any Scope nonfiction, like this one
  • a poster or handout with a list of the reading skills you will cover

Key skills:
inference, summarizing, synthesizing, comprehension, reading for information, context clues

40-minute class period or longer, depending on the size of the class


1. Make a graphic organizer.

Before students start reading, they create a graphic organizer in their notebooks: a grid with one cell for each section of the article. The grid should include:

  • the title of the article at the top of the page
  • the section titles at the tops of the cells


2. Preview the skills.

In my classroom, I have a poster that lists the skills students will be practicing as they read, along with hints and sentence starters. I direct students to the poster and let them know that they will be practicing the following skills:

  • summarizing
  • questioning
  • connecting
  • inferring
  • visualizing
  • predicting


3. Read the article and apply the skills.

  • Students read a section of the article independently. Then they pick a skill to focus on and apply it to the section, writing their response in the grid.
  • They should choose a different skill for each section. If the article has more than six sections, students can double up.


By the time students have finished reading the entire article, they have covered all six skills for every section of the article either on their own or as a class. Students can transfer these skills to use in other classes as well. I love this strategy because not only does it keep students focused, it also allows you to observe their work and thinking process and guide them along as they read.








Lisa King is a secondary reading interventionist and dyslexia teacher who works with 6-8th grade students at Smithfield Middle School in North Richland Hills, Texas.