February 2018

Can’t-Miss Teaching Extras

Keep the learning going with additional videos, book recommendations, discussion starters, and more!

America’s Favorite Hero Dog

Meet one of the most famous soldiers of World War I

Stubby's Diary

In Dog Diaries: Stubby, the dog himself shares the story of his life in a dramatic, first-person format. Perfect for a read-aloud.

Learning Extensions

For even more learning extension options for this story, check out this post on the Storyworks Ideabook for some great ideas!

Working Dogs

Want to learn about a modern working dog? Make your own paired texts with this Word Power featurefrom Storyworks. It’s about a dog named Piper who has a very important job at a Michigan airport.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Sgt. Stubby is coming to the big screen in April! Watch a trailer for “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” here, and find a treasure trove of Stubby info and activities here.

A Different Kind of Vet

Fun fact: According to this article from San Antonio Magazine, when it’s time for military working dogs to retire, lots of families want to adopt them. There’s so much demand, people usually wait for more than a year for a dog to become available!

The Killer Smog

What happens when a deadly smog turns day into night in a major city?

Extend the Learning

For more ideas for how to extend the learning in your classroom, don’t miss this post on the Storyworks Ideabook!


If your students are wondering where Brian’s dog got the name Tarzan, you can explain the famous character to them: Tarzan is a fictional character who was raised in the jungle by monkeys. For some context, you can show them the trailer for Disney’s 1999 movie.

Breaking News

Show your students this newsreel from 1953, a year after the Killer Smog. You can see how London was still struggling with smog in 1953, but that people were coming up with ways to solve the problem.

On the Scene

Along these lines, this fascinating video includes an interview with one of the original researchers assigned to London’s Air Pollution Unit after the Killer Smog. There are some grim moments; please preview it first to ensure it’s appropriate for your students

Air Quality Index Calculator

Show your students the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index Calculator. Simply plug in your zip code and find out the current conditions and what it means for your area. (If you live in a region prone to poor air quality, you might want to check this first, to make sure the results aren’t worrisome to children.)

Foggy Fashion

Students might be interested to know that London’s fog was SO famous that a clothing brand named themselves after it!

The Greatest Invention Ever/ A New Kind of Toilet

How 19th- and 21st-century technologies solved a stinky problem

Famous Toilets for a Penny

In our research, we learned more about what the famous toilets of the 1851 exhibit were like. People were excited to see the first-ever flushing public toilets! For a penny, a guest got a clean seat, a towel, a comb, and a shoe shine.

Surprise Toilets!

Recently, workers digging on the site of the Great Exhibition came upon a structure buried underground. It turned out to be the public toilets! 

A Fatberg?!

Warning: Disgusting content ahead! Some of London’s first sewers, which we discuss in our article, are still in use today. One of these sewers was recently blocked by something called a “fatberg.” Basically, it’s a huge blockage made up of cooking fats and sanitary wipes. It’s the size of a blue whale, weighing as much as 11 double-decker buses!

The First Flush

Although the toilets at the Great Exhibition were the first public flushing toilets, the flush toilet had actually been around for centuries. In fact, the first flush toilet was invented all the way back in 1596! The inventor, Sir John Harington, installed one for Queen Elizabeth I, but the idea didn’t catch on for several hundred years.



A rhino gets a lesson in cooperation from a bold and outspoken bird.

Meaning Behind Names

Your students might be interested to know that Ujiji is the name of a town in Tanzania. And Kifaru means rhino in Swahili!

Rhino and Tickbird

See the rhino and the tickbird in action in this video! Ask your students: Do you think this rhino is acting like Kifaru? How do you think he feels about the tickbirds?

Tree of Life

Fun fact: A monkey bread tree is a nickname for Africa’s baobab tree, also called the Tree of Life. (If you or your students have been to Animal Kingdom at Disney World, you may remember the huge Tree of Life in the middle of the park.) It’s known as the Tree of Life because it stores water in its trunk in the rainy season, bears fruit in the dry season, and can live for up to 500 years!

More on the Tickbird

The tickbird (referred to here as the oxpecker) gets its food from animals other than rhinos! See them hang out on capybaras, hippos, zebras, and more in this great video from BBC.

They Won't Get It...But You Will!

Teachers, this one’s just for you: We couldn’t resist this article from satirical site The Onion: “Rhino, Tickbird Stuck in Dead-End Symbiotic Relationship.”

The Unstoppable Ruby Bridges

This play tells the story of a brave girl’s journey to help change a nation.

Inspiring Courage

Here’s one heartwarming fact to share: Ruby’s courage was so inspiring to people around the U.S. that hundreds of them sent toys, clothes, books, and notes of encouragement. 

Norman Rockwell

Show your students the full version of the Norman Rockwell painting on the last page of our play: The Problem We All Live With. Ask: What do you think the title of the painting means? What is “the problem we all live with”?

A Beautiful Reunion

See Ruby and Mrs. Henry in the flesh in this touching video from Oprah, in which student and teacher are reunited decades later.

Civil Rights Extensions

For more civil rights learning extensions, see this post from the Storyworks Ideabook.

Ruby's Autobiography

To hear Ruby’s story from Ruby herself, your students can read her autobiography, “Through My Eyes.” For an extension project, have students collect five facts from the book that we didn’t include in our play.

Should Plastic Straws Be Banned?

They make drinking easy and fun (slurp!). But they’re also harming animals around the world.

Kid Crusader

There are several anti-straw campaigns, and we were happy to find one started by a kid! Milo Cress started Be Straw Free when he was 9 years old. Check out the website for some great tips on how to reduce straw use!

Mr. Trash Wheel!

The city of Baltimore has come up with a unique way to clean up plastic in their harbor: Meet Mr. Trash Wheel! Mr. Trash Wheel uses water and solar power to collect litter from the water!

Google Classroom Tips

Check out our Ideabook post about using Google Classroom to teach our debates. The post uses a Storyworks article as an example, but all of the advice applies! 

Brothers, Best Pals, Teammates

Noah doesn’t want his brother, Lucas, to miss out on anything just because he’s in a wheelchair.

Triathalon Beginners

To see Noah and Lucas in action, your students can watch this local news clip from 2014, back when they were just starting to do triathlons together. Today the boys are four years older with many triathlons under their belts!

Conner and Cayden

Check out this clip of the brothers who inspired Noah to do triathlons with Lucas: Conner and Cayden Long.

Trying a Tri?

Here’s a fun compare & contrast: the most difficult adult triathlon of all, the Ironman, consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run (AKA a full marathon!). A typical kids’ triathlon for kids ages 6-10 is a 100-yard swim, a 3-mile bike ride, and a ½-mile run. If any of your students are interested in trying out a tri, direct them to this site, which lists races that take place all over the country.

Accessible for All

Noah and Lucas are sponsored by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a group dedicated to making sports accessible to all athletes. Check out Noah and Lucas’s profile here. For an activity, have students pick someone from the list of CAF athletes and write a short report on their chosen athlete.

The Wading Bird of Egypt

In this poem, you’ll learn about the surprising real life relationship between the plover bird and the crocodile.

Audio Version

Did you know that our poems all come in audio format? Check out the audio to the left, and play it for your class as a fun “first read” of this poem. To boost fluency, you can have your students record themselves reciting the poem in pairs, listening back to their recordings and talking about how they could improve.

Eileen Spinelli

Let your students get to know poet and author Eileen Spinelli better by spending time on her site, where she has a great Q&A, a list of her dozens of books, and a Poem of the Month page. (Fun fact: her husband is children’s author Jerry Spinelli!)

The Longest River

Tell your students that the Nile River is the longest river in the world, at 4,100 miles. The entire U.S. is only 2,680 miles wide, which means the Nile would cross the country from west to east and then go back halfway across again! You might show this on a map of the U.S. to drive home the point.

Deadly Crocs

One reason why the plover is so brave: The Nile crocodile is vicious! According to National Geographic, they have a “somewhat deserved reputation as a man-eater,” as up to 200 people are killed by Nile crocodiles each year.

Poetry In The Classroom

Check out this post on the Storyworks Ideabook for some fabulous ideas for incorporating poetry into your classroom!