Michelle Scott meets Mary Pope Osborne in New York City.

Michelle Scott

1st Grade, North Star Elementary School
Hockessin, DE


For eight years, I have given my first grade students authentic reading and writing practice using the Magic Tree House series to host a Tree House Challenge. I begin the challenge by reading Dinosaurs Before Dark. I model the daily use of a journal, which addresses the Common Core Standards. For example, after reading Chapter 4, children draw a detailed setting with at least ten labels.
CC1RL1.7: Use illustrations and details in the story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

After a child has completed the book, they perform an A.F.T.E.R. project chosen by the child or the teacher based on each child’s educational needs.

A = Accuracy. The child chooses five words that they are having difficulty decoding. They decode the words with a teacher, incorporating all the phonics skills they have learned.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

F = Fluency. Using their Magic Tree House book, the student reads with fluency and expression for one minute, then graphs the number of words read and evaluates the amount of expression used. The student does this two more times. Students are thrilled to watch their fluency increase with each reading.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.4. Read grade-level text orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings.

T = Test for Comprehension. Children go to the Magic Tree House website and take the test on the website.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.1.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

E = Expanding Vocabulary. The child chooses words from the story that they don’t know the meaning of. They look up each word in a dictionary, writing the definition and printing a picture to include in their journal.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.4 Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.

R = Research. Having read a Magic Tree House book, the child selects a related topic to research. Using many avenues for their research (the corresponding Fact Tracker, a dictionary, computer, iPad), the child records five facts s/he has learned in their journal.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.5 Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.

At the end of our challenge is a party. Each child creates a diorama featuring one of the first twenty books. On the day of the celebration, they come to school dressed as Jack or Annie, ready to celebrate. They rotate through stations (all aligned with the Common Core), and then we enjoy a Magic Tree House cake! For example, at one station, the children look at a list of character traits that depict Jack (studious), Annie (adventurous), or both (helpful). They place the character traits in the correct section of a huge Venn diagram.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.1.3 Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

At the end of the year, when we list our top ten memories, the Magic Tree House Challenge tops the list of most children in my class!