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Junie B. Jones
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2007 Educator of the Year – Paula Henson

Christian Academy of Knoxville in in Knoxville, Tennessee

I have depended on Magic Tree House books to inspire a love for reading, ignite the imagination, and enrich the learning environment in my first grade classroom at the Christian Academy of Knoxville for the past six years. Boys and girls identify with the characters, and are intrigued by the elements of magic and adventure.

I quickly realized the value of Magic Tree House books as teaching tools after my son received Dinosaurs Before Dark as a gift. Never before had he listened with such enthusiasm to a chapter book! I knew I possessed the same ability to “turn my students on” to reading with Magic Tree House books. The results exceeded my expectations! As soon as I began reading the adventures of Jack and Annie, I noticed the change. My first graders began to carry the books everywhere they went, even on the playground! Delighted parents began to see Magic Tree House books at the top of birthday and Christmas lists!

Magic Tree House books provide numerous opportunities to meet objectives across the curriculum. Map skills are sharpened as we track Jack and Annie’s travels across the globe using a world map found in the front of their Magic Tree House Journals. There are activities related to each adventure in their journals, allowing for cross-curriculum instruction in science, social studies, and math.

The Research Guides assist me in creating mini-units on Magic Tree House destinations that allow children to make connections between literature and their world, an important objective in our language arts curriculum. Our Patriotic Day and Plymouth Rock activities grew out of an interest in events we read about in Thanksgiving on Thursday and Revolutionary War on Wednesday. Factual information obtained from reading the accompanying research guides was instrumental in planning these events.

At the end of each year, we celebrate and reflect with a Magic Tree House Grande Finale! Children come in costume depicting their favorite adventure. A contest is held to determine who can correctly identify the books their classmates are representing with the most accuracy. They rotate through “stations” representing Australia , Hawaii , Rattlesnake Flats, and the North Atlantic aboard the Titanic playing games, tasting foods, and learning facts related to the various locations. The Research Guides help provide ideas for activities. For example, I made posters by enlarging pictures from the Titanic Research Guide showing where the ship went down, and how the Titanic radioed for help using Morse Code. I bring a short wave receiver and a Morse Code practice oscillator so that students can send and receive messages from ships at sea. We also have our own version of the Magic Tree House, complete with a rope ladder, The Pennsylvania Book, and a Magic Tree House “Mystery Box” containing the “M” things, the answers to Morgan’s riddles, and many special items for several books. It is always an exciting end to a “magical” year! Mrs. Osborne’s love for writing has created a genuine love for reading in my classroom!

More Great Ideas from 2007

These are a few other great ideas we read about in the 2007 contest entries:

Shari Valencic-Ursel of Venice Elementary School in Venice, Florida introduces students to Jack and Annie through Midnight on the Moon. This book helps her meet curriculum objectives relating to astronomy and gravity, and is a perfect lead-up to their annual class star-gaze! Later in the year, students work together to create a digital slideshow of Jack and Annie’s fictional adventures through the US. They employ Magic Tree House books for models of writing and spelling, and they use online resources for images. At the end of the unit, other classes, friends, and families are invited to view the new adventures.

“Forget Drake and Josh and Johnny Depp. Jack and Annie are the two biggest celebrities in my first grade class!”
— Shari Valencic-Ursel, Venice, FL

Bramlett Micklow from Ford Elementary in Acworth, Georgia creates a cycle of literacy centers surrounding different Magic Tree House titles. In the map skills center students plot a route from their town in Georgia to the story’s location. In the writing center, students keep a journal about their reaction to Jack and Annie’s adventures. In the art center, students paint pictures depicting events from the stories. As a class they construct a large tree, adorning it with construction paper leaves with a title each time a student completes a Magic Tree House book.

“The kids are still talking about it and the class this year wants to know, ‘Are we going to get to do a Magic Tree House?’”
— Bramlett Micklow, Acworth, GA

Susan Ward from Tigerville Elementary in Taylors , South Carolina uses various Magic Tree House books to meet South Carolina state curriculum standards. She uses Twisters on Tuesday to enrich their district-wide weather unit and Thanksgiving on Thursday to meet their social studies goals. During each book study, students help to create a version of Jack’s Journal. In the journal, they record facts, vocabulary words, learn to summarize chapters, and draw educated conclusions.

“This series has become an ‘Adventure’ for me to teach!”
— Susan Ward, Taylors, SC

Valerie Milnes from Devon Aire K-8 Center in Miami , Florida created an entire grade-wide unit based around Tonight on the Titanic. Each classroom took charge in developing an activity that related to one element of the book. Her class created a science experiment that measured the percentage of an iceberg that remains under water. There was also a quiz game to test participant’s Titanic knowledge, and an event in which students dressed in period clothing, strolled the decks, and interviewed each other (in character) about the historical event.

“The interaction with Magic Tree House has sparked an intrinsic interest within my students.”
— Valerie Milnes, Miami, FL

Rita Dean from East Elementary School in Cullman , Alabama employs Magic Tree House books to make an integrated curriculum for her classroom. In math, students create word problems to determine how many years Jack and Annie have traveled, as well as the weight of objects on the moon. In a science unit, she uses Midnight on the Moon to explore various topics relating to the solar system. And in reading, students keep a reader’s response journal as well as graphic organizers to help them compare and contrast new Magic Tree House books with those they have already read.

“Incorporating Magic Tree House books into the classroom creates an integrated curriculum that is incredibly fun to learn.”
— Rita Dean, Cullman, AL