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2013 Educator of the Year – Lauryn England

I’ve dreamed of being a teacher since I was in second grade. Almost twenty years later, I am living my dream, teaching a class of second-graders in Nashville, Tennessee.  For my students, traveling with Jack and Annie through the Magic Tree House books allows them to experience the world they would otherwise not be able to. I teach at a high-poverty school where my students face many obstacles in the way of their learning.  In addition to coming to school dirty, hungry, and tired, the biggest challenge is their lack of background knowledge and life experiences, with few having traveled outside Nashville.  As growing readers, their limited vocabulary seriously hindered their ability to read and comprehend texts. After seeing the challenges my students face, I knew the Magic Tree House books would transform our classroom this year.

The books inspired a travel theme in my classroom, complete with maps on the walls, license plates on their cubbies, and lots of books to explore the world around them. Through reading Magic Tree House books during independent, shared, and guided reading, my students have connected with the characters of Jack and Annie as well as their adventures. Incorporating the books into teaching grade-level standards has greatly increased student engagement. Comprehension strategies such as making predictions, inferences, and connections are easily taught through using the books. The fact trackers incorporate the informational text strand of the newly-adopted Common Core State Standards.

Cross-curricular integration of science and social studies standards is seamless using the Magic Tree House books.  Our science unit on space is enriched through the Space research guide and reading Midnight on the Moon.  Although teaching geography and history standards in social studies have been very difficult in the past, reading Polar Bears Past Bedtime, Afternoon on the Amazon, and their corresponding fact trackers have made learning about the seven continents and geographic features much more meaningful for my students.

Our class also has a “time machine” where students can travel through space and time through books, just like Jack and Annie. The students can sit inside, read their favorite books, and actually envision the places they have visited with Jack and Annie. By scanning QR codes inside the time machine with an iPad, they are immediately transported to places such as the pyramids in Egypt, or Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii by viewing 360-degree panorama photographs from the websites www.360cities.net and www.tourwrist.com. By providing as many indirect experiences as possible through books and technology, my students’ vocabulary has expanded, and their ability to read and make connections has improved dramatically.


(Pictured above: the time machine, inside the time machine, and one of the QR codes.)

The Magic Tree House books have completely transformed my classroom this year. The books, coupled with my students’ voracious love of reading have helped increase achievement in all subject areas, and connect them to the surrounding world. Jack and Annie have taught my students that through the power of books, it is possible to go anywhere and do anything, no matter what is happening outside the classroom.