Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Magazine Match-Up: Which Are Best for Your Class?

Let me be clear:  I am a HUGE proponent of classroom magazines.  You may not find a more vocal advocate.  I think they are wonderful supplements to have in the classroom and, in some cases, I think they'd be better investments for schools than seldom-used textbooks and basal readers.

Magazines are designed to interest children.  They are full of short stories (often by well-known authors), interesting informational texts, pictures, photographs, and lots of other things useful for the classroom.  And, unlike most textbooks and worksheets, they also feature a lot of things that kids enjoy, like contests, quizzes, puzzles, brainteasers, fun facts, etc.

In this day and age, there are just so many children's magazines out there that it can be hard to decide which would be the best investment.  Look no further!  As a person who reviews, collects and enjoys children's magazines, I wanted to create a list of my particular favorites and let you know which may be right for your classroom's needs.

This post will have two parts:  magazines for older students (grades 6-12, and advanced elementary students), magazines for the middle grades (grades 4-8).

Magazines for Older Students

Language Arts/Reading

Read Magazine (Weekly Reader) vs. Scholastic Scope (Scholastic)

My Recommendation:
  • Go with Read if you teach advanced or gifted middle school readers, or high school students.  If you have students who crave real literature, Read is a good place to start.  It covers classic literature (in the form of adapted plays and short stories) and features a lot of great things for people interested in analyzing text and writing responses.  It has more of a literary magazine feel and lots of good reading material for the book lovers and writers in your class.  Reader's theater plays, writing exercises, poems, interviews and short stories galore!  The website also contains e-issues for subscribers.  The material is often challenging, but very rewarding.  You can give it to students to read, or if you don't mind creating your own lessons from the material, you can make some great activities based on each issue.  This is my favorite classroom magazine, hands down.  Highly recommended!
  • Go with Scope if you have advanced elementary students, middle schoolers, or high school students who read below level.  The text is less dense and easier to read.  The centerpiece of each issue is usually related to a popular movie that appeals to students, or something equally engaging.  It has more of a "teen magazine" feel and lots of other features, but focuses on reader's theater plays, short articles and high-interest material.  I think this magazine is your best bet for struggling or reluctant older readers.  The best thing is that Scholastic really produces a lot of free supplemental material for its magazines, so teachers who invest in Scope can find worksheets, related websites and entire lesson plans for each issue!


Scholastic MATH

My Recommendation:
    To my knowledge, Math is the only math magazine designed for teens, but let me rave about it anyway.  Math features the same sort of high-interest teen material you can expect and appreciate from Scholastic magazines, and uses those areas of interest to help kids with math.  This cover, for example, shows a math problem related to the Harry Potter series.  Inside each issue are pop star interviews, movie news, fun facts, puzzles, etc that are used to give students a chance to practice math skills.   Why use a workbook or warm-up book when you have a source like this, in which you can match the skills to whatever you're covering in class?  Highly recommended.


    Odyssey (Carus) vs. Current Science (Weekly Reader) vs. Science World (Scholastic)

    My Recommendation:
    • Go for Current Science or Science World if you have advanced elementary readers or middle schoolers, or even high schoolers.  Both magazines are filled with features like informational articles, experiments, science news, photographs, diagrams, and interesting facts.  Both contain high-interest material for kids and teens, and can easily be used to supplement science lessons.  The only differences are that Current Science contains longer articles at a slightly higher reading level, in my opinion, and Scholastic offers better teaching material (like worksheets and lessons) with Science World.
    • Odyssey is another good science magazine, but I think the other two better lend themselves to teaching opportunities.  Go for Odyssey if you simply want reading material for students who have a particular interest in science, but don't need to be lured in by as many high-interest features.  The reading level is pretty high for this magazine, too.  One thing I do enjoy about Odyssey is that each issue features a short science fiction piece.

    Social Studies and History

    Junior Scholastic (Scholastic) vs. Cobblestone vs. Calliope vs. Dig (all from Carus)

      My Recommendation:
      • The social studies magazines for teens are unique.  Go for Junior Scholastic if you want to emphasize current events.
      • Go for the other magazines if you have the following needs:  Cobblestone focuses on U.S. history, while Calliope focuses on world history.  Dig rounds out the history magazines as one that places an emphasis on archaeology.  It has similarities to Calliope because they both talk about ancient cultures, but Dig deals exclusively with archaeological finds, relics, ancient art and things like that.  All three magazines are great for middle and high school students, and all feature very interesting articles.  My personal favorite is Calliope (world history interests me).  The only downside to Carus' magazines is that their supplemental material (teacher's guides) are no match for Scholastic's.

      Magazines for the Middle Grades

      Language Arts/Reading

      Storyworks vs. Scholastic Scope (both Scholastic) vs. Cricket (Carus)

      My Recommendation:
      • Go for Storyworks, my favorite classroom magazine next to Read, if you have 4-6th graders.  Storyworks is such a rich publication; each issue features poems, grammar practice, writing prompts, interviews, short stories and high-interest articles.  It's a really great investment, especially since Storyworks has an abundance of free supplemental material from Scholastic.  In fact, this magazine has more free worksheets, lesson ideas and the best teacher's guides of any Scholastic publication, which is saying a lot.  Highly recommended!
      • Go for Scope if you like Storyworks, but your readers are a little older or too mature for that magazine.  Scope and Storyworks feature a lot of similar material, but I prefer Storyworks' content and free resources.  Scope suits advanced elementary students and middle schoolers.
      • Go for Cricket if you just want a resource for classroom reading material.  Cricket has a lot of nice illustrations and short stories, but the other two are better suited for lesson plans and activities.

      DynaMath (Scholastic)

      My Recommendation:
      • DynaMath, a version of Math that appeals to younger readers, is great for classrooms.  Just like Math, it takes news, interviews and things that interests kids and turn them into math problems.  Kids enjoy reading the actual content as they solve the problems within the pages.  There are comics, puzzles, photographs and tons of things that make this a good investment.  Plus, as usual, Scholastic has great teacher's guides and free worksheets for each issue.

      Ask (Carus) vs. SuperScience (Scholastic)

      My Recommendation:
      • Go for SuperScience, which has better content and lots of free resources for lesson plans.  SuperScience has lots of science news, high-interest articles, photographs, diagrams, experiments and quizzes to help students learn science.  Each issue comes with a "mystery" to solve, short articles and plenty of material to use for the classroom.  Ask is also a good magazine, but probably better for slightly younger elementary students, struggling readers, or light reading for a classroom library.  I prefer both to National Geographic Kids magazine, which is a good publication, but has a lot of focus on animals whereas the other two are a bit broader in their approach to science.

      Social Studies
      Time for Kids (Time, Inc.) vs. Weekly Reader News (Weekly Reader) vs. Scholastic News (Scholastic)

      My Recommendation:

      •  Go for Scholastic News.  Both Scholastic News  and Weekly Reader News are great current events magazines to keep kids up to date with what's going on in the world.  The deciding factor here is purely the free supplemental material Scholastic always provides, which are easier to use for lesson plans.  Both magazines have a variety of short articles, quizzes and information that make global news accessible to students.  Time for Kids is decent, but I think it's too short and it's supplemental material doesn't compare to Scholastic's.

      I hope this match-up helps you all decide which classroom magazines are best for your students.  Give them a try, and I think they will enhance almost any class! 

      images:  All magazine covers are from their respective official sites.

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