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2005 Educator of the Year – Cindy Ventura

Lou Henry Hoover School, Whittier, CA

I have integrated the Magic Tree House series into my third grade Language Arts curriculum for the past 4 years. They are awesome books that third graders enjoy reading. When a teacher notices the gifted child and an English Learner (who is becoming proficient in English), find common ground by discussing Tonight on the Titanic at recess, or boys, who came into the classroom with a negative attitude towards reading, and end up conversing about Night of the Ninjas, a teacher ends up feeling that they must have struck gold. That is the feeling I get when I observe such behavior from my third graders.

My third graders are introduced to the books in September. Most have seen or might have read them in second grade. I tell them that they have to read a minimum of 28 Magic Tree House books by June. Once they complete the series, they get a Magic Tree House Certificate, and an invitation to an ice cream/pizza party in June.

My school has the Reading Counts reading comprehension program by Scholastic. This program helps me to facilitate which third grader comprehends the books, and which third grader needs extra assistance. My third graders that read below grade level, or are still in the process of learning the English language, have the opportunity to read along with the Magic Tree House audio tapes, in the listening center. Later, they meet up with me to discuss the book in full detail. This helps them pass the Reading Counts quiz on the computer.

I differentiate my instruction by giving my G.A.T.E. (Gifted Children) third graders the non-fiction research guides, and have them do oral reports on them. A few years ago, I had a third grader do an oral report on the Titanic. He dressed up as Captain Smith and gave an oral presentation, based on the facts from the Titanic Research Guide book, to the class.

In the spring, I have my students choose their favorite Magic Tree House book, and make a project using the theme of that book. This project is intended for the students and their families to do a project together. Parents have to read the book, their child chose to do the project on, and discuss why their child loved the book so much. I have had parents come up to me saying they have never seen their child so excited over a project, especially one dealing with a book. My third graders get so excited showing off their projects that we display them during our Open House.

Finally, I integrate the series in writing by making my third graders create their own Magic Tree House stories. They get to go on one adventure with Jack and Annie in the tree house. The stories range from serious to silly. A few years ago, I had a student write a story called Twin Towers on Tuesday, and another student wrote Birthday in Bethlehem.

Thank you Mary Pope Osborne for making reading fun!