New Middle School Non-fiction Program Teaches Reading and Writing Through Profiles of Contemporary Figures

Designed to meet common core state standards in language arts, On the Record helps students read critically, Write passionately and build resilience

New York, NY — May 2, 2012 — Scholastic (NASDAQ: SCHL), the global children’s publishing, education and media company, today announced the release of a new non-fiction language arts program that uses profiles of contemporary figures – from astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson to author Sherman Alexie to basketball star Lebron James – to help middle school students learn to read critically, write with passion, and meet the high expectations of the Common Core State Standards. The new program, On the Record, introduces students to complex texts that help them tackle many of the social and emotional issues that adolescents face and to write passionately about their personal experiences, while building higher order critical reading skills necessary for success in college and career.

On the Record brings together the research and experience of two esteemed authors and academic advisors:

  1. Erin Gruwell: The inspiration for the 2007 film Freedom Writers, Ms. Gruwell is an educator best known for taking a chance on a classroom full of kids in Long Beach, CA, who had been raised in a world of poverty and street violence and seemed destined for failure. She threw her old curriculum out the window and built a new one around the stories of people whose struggles her kids could relate to, including Anne Frank and Zlata Filipovic (dubbed the "Anne Frank of Sarajevo"). Her students eventually turned journal entries into the bestselling book The Freedom Writer's Diary. Through her Freedom Writers Foundation, and now through On the Record, Gruwell helps educators replicate the successes she had as a teacher in classrooms across the country.
  2. Dr. Alfred Tatum: A professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Dr. Tatum is an expert in using text to inspire disengaged students. He speaks frequently about the need for texts that are provocative and relevant, stories that speak to the essential questions of students’ lives. And his research points to the importance of kids writing about their lives, not just to develop skills, but as a process of self-discovery and a means of empowerment. Dr. Tatum developed four learning platforms – Define Self, Become Resilient, Engage Others and Build Capacity – that anchor the On the Record instructional model and provide context for students to chart their own development as readers, writers and individuals.

 At the core of the On the Record program are 12 books containing 24 paired stories about contemporary figures: athletes and activists, adventures and writers, prisoners and politicians. Some of the people are famous, others quietly brilliant. Each of them is on a quest of some kind – to survive disasters, to stake out a place in the world, or to find a voice and tell a story. In the pages of these books, students will be inspired to read, to write, and to shape their own quests for meaningful lives by hearing about the struggles and accomplishments of others before them. Through the instructional path, students will learn to put their own voices "on the record."

"What Erin Gruwell and Alfred Tatum have taught us is that the stories of inspiring people can go a long way toward empowering even the most disengaged students to become critical readers and writers and to take charge of their learning," said Greg Worrell, President of the Scholastic Classroom and Community Group. "On the Record not only supports students, but also helps educators implement rigorous reading, deep writing, and critical thought, all of which are at the heart of the Common Core State Standards. Through these stories of struggle and perseverance, students can recognize their own strengths as they use reading and writing to put their voices on the record."

On the Record allows students to engage in multiple learning experiences by being a part of a social network—with whole class and small group work—and also allows for self-reflection and self-expression. The program offers extensive practice in close reading of complex text, extended writing, and building higher-order thinking, all essential skills for college and career readiness.

On the Record includes:

  • Class sets of 12 contemporary Paired Profiles that foster higher-order thinking and critical thought, essential elements of the Common Core State Standards. Profiles and primary source documents take each theme deeper while also extending student learning along the complex text continuum.
  • Stretch Texts provide opportunity for students to further their study with more challenging texts that are rigorous, complex, and authentic.
  • Extended research, media, writing activities and projects all cultivate higher-order thinking and learning beyond the text.
  • The flexible implementation model can be used with core textbooks or as part of individualized ELA curriculum.

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Alexandra Wladich
Scholastic Inc.