Homeschool Posts

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Magic Stories, a review

Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series, have a new program called The Magic Stories for grades 2-3. Available as a pdf download, this collection of magical tales and their accompanying activities are designed to strengthen your child’s reading and writing skills, by practicing reading aloud, vocabulary, comprehension, and story-telling.  I recently had the opportunity to try out and review this set with my 3rd grader.

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The Magic Stories

6 engaging stories that can be viewed on your tablet or printed in black and white

Each illustrated story is about 20 ( or so) pages long comes with:

pages for reading assessment

story “maze” to check comprehension

comprehension questions

conceptual activities (examples: imagining yourself in a character’s place, distinguishing fact from fiction, etc.)

“Naughty 40” word cards and word list

creative writing activity

Titles: The Magic Hole, The Magic Ax, the Magic Joke, the Magic Hotdog, The Magic Boots, and The Magic Box.

The Magic Stories can be purchased individually or as a complete set. After purchase, you’ll receive a receipt in your email with a link to your download page.

How are we using the Magic Stories?

My 8-year-old 3rd grader, Emma, loves these whimsical stories. I have her read aloud a story to me and then she completes the accompanying activities over the course of several days. As we are adding this to our “regularly scheduled” program, we treat it as a fun extra. There isn’t a specific schedule lesson plan for using these, so we’ve been "winging it.” Update: a free pdf with basic instructions on how to implement The Magic Stories has been added to the website.

The Naughty 40

Each story comes with a list of 40 words (the Naughty 40) that your student may find challenging. There are also corresponding cards for the words that you can print on cardstock. Each word card gives the words in bold and then uses it in a simple sentence to help your child to understand its meaning from the context.  There are a number of ways that you might use the Naughty 40 list. I have my daughter read through the list before reading the story to ensure that she knows all the words beforehand. If there is a word that I think she may not know the meaning of, I ask her to use it in a sentence. So far, she has not had any trouble with any of the words (we’ve finished the first two stories), so I’ve not used the cards, but I think they could be an excellent vocabulary building exercise for some students in this age range.

The Magic Story

Each story has a magical element to it. The two stories we have read so far has a traditional story arc with a character encountering a problem and then overcoming that problem in some way.  Sometimes magic is beneficial and sometimes is is a problem. Sometimes magic helps a character learn more about himself and learn that he can be successful without magic. The stories are fun and Emma has enjoyed them.

After Emma has read the challenging words to me, I have her read the story aloud. I print the stories, as she doesn’t like reading on an electronic device. I’ve chosen to print them in “booklet” form on my printer, which greatly cuts down on the amount of ink and paper required. Unfortunately, this also makes the type much smaller. This is not a problem for Emma, but may be for some children this age. I would love it if the publisher added a pdf file that has been formatted for this type of printing to the story package.

The Magic Stories review

The stories are illustrated with black and white line drawings, so they are not ink hogs. We’ve found that the quality of the illustrations varies a bit. The drawing on the cover of The Magic Hole has a preliminary sketch look to it, whereas the interior drawings are fine. The Magic Ax drawings also varied in quality.

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I have found several grammatical and mechanical errors in the stories, including missing commas and inconsistent paragraphing (sometimes two different characters speak in the same paragraph). I’m typically willing to let a typo here and there go, even for a language arts program, but the errors here require a careful edit.

The reading level has been easy for Emma and the length of the stories has not been an issue. Children who are not yet reading fluently or who struggle with the Naughty 40 list for a story may find that they need to take the story in parts or the parent may decide to take turns reading a page a time.  Each story also comes with a “running record” sheet with an excerpt from the story that will allow you to assess how your child’s reading skills are improving. You can download these as a free resource from the site, which is a great way to see if the reading level is a good fit for your child.


The Activities

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The story maze will take your child through a series of true false questions to see if she remembers important details from the story. If she gets off track with an incorrect answer, the maze will guide her back so she can get back on track. Emma likes this activity, but says that she needs to hide the paths with her hands, because it is easy to “cheat” and see which answer will take you on the correct path. Not sure how to fix that issue? Maybe some sticky notes to lift as flaps would work (though it would require some prior prep and lots of sticky notes).

We do the comprehension and conceptual questions mostly orally to reduce writing fatigue. This also allows us to discuss the story. There is no answer key provided, so you will need to read the stories with your child or on your own (if you child is reading them silently). I would love to see a full answer key. Even though I’m having Emma read the stories to me, I’m a busy homeschool mom; I forget stuff. An answer key and teaching notes would save me time and would reduce frustration.

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Emma really loves the creative writing exercises. The student is given a couple of different prompts to choose from, and they have been fun. We have found that the quantity of writing is little beyond what my daughter can manage, but scribing for her and having her draw pictures has solved that problem. For The Magic Hole, she wrote a sequel in which the Magic Hole appeared in her own house!

What do we think of The Magic Stories?

Overall, I like the idea of this program, but I feel it needs some refinements. Further edits and an answer key would be welcome additions. The comprehension/conceptual questions are engaging and creative writing prompts can be fun.

Allsaid & Dunn would like to offer you a discount on The Magic Stories! Enter following code in the coupon box when you check out to get 25% off: raisingreaders


Want to see what other Crew members thought of this program?


The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
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2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the suggestion for the Answer Key! There is now one available under the Free Resources section at www.themagicstories.com We will be carefully reviewing the stories for grammatical and mechanical errors :)

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