Deborah Vlhakes

Crestwell School, Ft. Myers, FL

The Magic Tree House books have transformed my second-grade classroom!

After transferring to a new school, I was fortunate to discover I’d inherited an impressive inventory of Magic Tree House books. Seeing them covering the shelves, depicting Jack and Annie in one suspenseful situation after another, ignited my imagination. I set out to create lesson plans, to spiral my curriculum around their adventures.

Thanks to the Magic Tree House series, my second-grade class now has an innovative, challenging framework that sets the stage for engaging academic learning and cultivates critical-thinking skills. I’ve used these books, both fiction and nonfiction, to meet benchmarks within my curriculum. I created a Magic Tree House–themed “Choice Board” that accommodates the needs of a diverse and differentiated classroom; I made a Jack and Annie Explorers Reader’s Theater, which fosters fluency and vocabulary building; and I found innovative ways, through worksheets, games, and projects based on the Magic Tree House book we’re currently reading, to enhance my Math, Social Studies, and Science centers.

Because almost half my class is composed of international and ELL students, I focus primarily on the first nine Magic Tree House books. Following the books sequentially, especially for English language learners, boosts comprehension and accuracy skills.

First, I assembled a fiction (Literary/Writing center) and nonfiction (Science/Social Studies center) study guide for each book. Next, I constructed a tree house above my “Choice Board” area. Then I gathered the items I’d need to enhance each Magic Tree House experience. For example, a Pteranodon appeared, flying above the tree house, after our first reading of Dinosaurs Before Dark. A castle, with Math center activities inside, became a part of our room’s decor the day after we started reading The Knight at Dawn.

My second graders eagerly immersed themselves in the dynamic, ever-changing environment that surrounded them. Like clockwork, items from the Magic Tree House books began popping up: a pyramid, a pirate ship, a jungle. Jack and Annie became palpable role models. Like them, we try our best and never give up!

The Magic Tree House books have helped me meet teaching standards by keeping my students engaged, curious, and involved. Happy students are eager learners! Every subject benefits from Jack and Annie’s quest for knowledge. For example, in second-grade History, we learn about Egypt. After reading Mummies in the Morning, we consulted The Book of the Dead and mummified each other—canopic jars included! Pirates Past Noon inspired me to create a “map studies” lesson. We became pirates and searched for our treasure box. Afternoon on the Amazon was paired with our Science Habitat unit. Our room transformed into a lush tropical jungle. We composed an original play, wrote rain forest reports with 3-D models, and dressed as our favorite jungle creature on Rain Forest Day!

My students understand that just like the obstacles Jack and Annie Face, learning isn’t always easy. But if pursued with tenacity, patience, and laughter, learning can be fun!