Teaching Informational Text with Magazines

Next Magazine Giveaway: Feb. 1st, 2017

With the Common Core emphasis on teaching informational text, you might be wondering where to find appropriate texts for reading instruction. Most classrooms are overflowing with great children’s literature and novels, but many schools lack a good selection of interesting nonfiction texts.

If you enjoy reading magazines yourself, the solution to that problem is right in front of you! As it turns out, children’s magazines are a great source of informational texts. The articles are short, interesting, and appropriate for children. They often use a variety of different text structures and text features so they make excellent practice passages for working with nonfiction. In fact, many reading selections on state tests are very close in structure and format to magazine articles.

The challenge is finding enough copies of magazines for your classroom and knowing how to use them effectively. I’d like to share a few of my favorite sources as well as some tips for using them. I’m also going to give away at least one subscription to a children’s magazine at the end of this blog post.

Weekly Classroom Magazines
Teaching Informational Text with Magazines - Tips and strategies for using magazines in the classroom and a giveaway of a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids
The most obvious place to look is to find a classroom magazine like Time for Kids and Scholastic News. I preferred Scholastic News and used it every year with my students. It was a great way for students to practice informational text reading and keep up with current events.

Since a new issue arrived almost every week, it was easy to integrate it into my literacy instruction and sometimes into science or social studies. We used it with small guided reading groups and reading mini lessons. It was easy to have students read and respond to the articles with graphic organizers or in journals. Because everyone had a copy of the same text and the magazine belonged to them, they could use highlighters to practice reading strategies and it was easy to discuss together. I also used it for “paired reading” practice as shown in this picture. You may be able to get your school or PTA to fund them since they are quite inexpensive, and if you are a public school teacher in the US, you can get them through DonorsChoose.

Monthly Children’s Magazines
Weekly magazines have many advantages and should be a part of any classroom, but they don’t have quite the appeal of a traditional magazine like National Geographic for Kids or American Girls. Monthly magazines are larger, more colorful, and have a wider variety of different types of content. Unfortunately, they are also more expensive and only send out a few issues each year, so it takes a while to build up a collection of them. It’s also harder to figure out what to do with them because each issue is unique.

How to Obtain Monthly Magazines for Your Classroom
Where can you get these magazines? Here are a few ideas:

  • You can start by asking your school librarian if they have collections of back issues that they will let you check out and bring to your classroom. If you do this, be sure to write down the number of copies of each title and count them at the end of reading class to be sure they have all been returned.
  • Magazine subscriptions are available through Amazon.com, so you can now create a DonorsChoose proposal for a variety of children’s magazines. The prices range between $15 and $33 per subscription, so you could request up to 10 different magazines and keep your proposal under $400. Most proposals under $400 are quickly funded.
  • You can ask parents to send in old issues of children’s magazines, but make it clear that the magazines must be kid-friendly and are subject to your approval before they can be read in class.
  • Establish a “Classroom Magazine Fund” and ask parents to donate money to help you purchase classroom magazine subscriptions. You can customize and send the letter shown above.
  • Ask parents to donate a magazine subscription to the classroom. See customizable letter above for sample wording.
  • Some airline frequent flyer programs will let you use frequent flyer miles to purchase magazines. Delta’s program allows you to purchase Sports Illustrated for Kids with points, and I’m going to be using my points to give away at least one subscription to that magazine. See details below.

Recommended Children’s Magazines

The easiest place to look for children’s magazines is on Amazon.com. Even if you don’t plan to purchase them there, reviews are really helpful. By reading those reviews, I discovered that some magazines are full of advertisements and even include content that’s not completely appropriate for that age group. Some of my favorite children’s magazines are National Geographic for Kids, Discovery Girls, Sports Illustrated for Kids, and Ranger Rick. The reviews also looked good for Cricket, Ask, and Calliope. What are your favorite magazines? Please share your suggestions with us.

How to Use Monthly Magazines
Monthly magazines are harder to use for instruction because each issue unique. Therefore, the articles aren’t particularly good for small group instruction. However, they can be used for partner reading activities or for whole group mini lessons if you have a document camera and can project the article on a Smartboard.

My students also enjoyed reading magazines during our “Magazine Power Hour” which was a special activity each month, often taking place right before holidays when kids were restless. This activity is described in detail in Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide, and there’s a nice printable to use with the strategy.  The gist of the idea is that you conduct the activity in place of your regular reading instruction and provide time for students to read magazines for a whole hour. Because that’s a long block of time to read, I had my students read their chosen magazine for 15 minutes and then meet with a reading buddy for a brief discussion about what they had read and learned. They repeated this two more times, and at the end they wrote a written reflection about their favorite article.

Sports Illustrated for Kids Giveaway 
Current Giveaway Ends: Feb. 1st at Midnight

Teaching Informational Text with Magazines - Tips and strategies for using magazines in the classroom. Be sure to enter the giveaway to win one of FIVE subscriptions to Sports Illustrated for Kids!As I mentioned above, some airlines have a “Mags for Miles” program where you can get magazines for free. It just so happens that I have some extra miles from both US Airways and Delta, and I like to use them to donate a free subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids to FIVE of my readers. 

If you want to win a subscription for your classroom, please enter using the Rafflecopter entry form below. This is a new contest, so if you entered before and didn’t win, please enter again. You must complete all 5 entries in the Rafflecopter to be eligible to win. As a word of warning, be careful when you submit your school’s address. Use a comma to separate the lines of the address instead of pressing enter or return. Pressing enter or return will cause your entry to be submitted before you finish. If that happens, don’t worry! You will not be disqualified. I always contact the winners to verify their names and addresses before I order the magazines.

By the way, contest is only open to educators who teach in a US school due to mailing restrictions for the magazines, and all entrants must either be a current subscriber to Candler’s Classroom Connections or be willing to be added to my mailing list.

Even if you don’t obtain classroom subscriptions of magazines for your classroom, I hope you’ll consider letting your students bring them to school and read them from time to time. You’ll want to check and approve any magazines students bring from home, of course, because many popular magazines are not appropriate for kids. However, I think you’ll find that bringing magazines into your classroom will have a huge impact on your students and their attitudes towards informational text. Happy reading!

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