The Magic Stories™ is a delightful tool for teaching reading comprehension and vocabulary, and it also provides unusual ideas for creative writing. This is a set of six stories (one book per story), each with a set of vocabulary cards and a set of activity pages. All components are provided as downloadable PDFs. You can buy individual books, but since the entire set is very inexpensive, you might prefer to just get the set. Additional, free files that can be downloaded include instructions, assessments, answer keys for the exercise pages, and record-keeping pages.
The stories, all written by Kenneth Hodkinson, are The Magic Hole, The Magic Ax, The Magic Joke, The Magic Hotdog, The Magic Boots, and The Magic Box. They are imaginative, outlandish, and unpredictable, rather than about magical spells and such. Some of the stories have moral messages, such as those conveyed by Aesop's Fables.
While The Magic Stories website says the stories are written for students in second and third grade, with the exception of the first story, I noticed that they are actually written at a higher level. I checked the readability of a portion of The Magic Joke (Book 3) with an online tool and it gave a readability level of fifth grade. I suspect this might be because the author frequently uses long, complex sentences and he sometimes introduces unusual vocabulary. Even if the reading is a little difficult, you can still use these with second or third graders as long as you take time to familiarize children with new words ahead of time as I describe in the next paragraph. Personally, I would recommend the series for grades two through four.
The books are supposed to be used in sequence. You begin the study of each book by using flashcards to introduce the “Naughty Forty” words that will show up in the story. (You will need to print out and cut these cards apart.) These Naught Forty words are a mixture of sight words and challenging phonetic words. Children will have heard many of the words even if they haven’t yet encountered them in print. However, a few words, such as brooches and indecisive, might be unfamiliar to even fourth and fifth graders. The flashcards introduce each word and use it in a sentence. There are free “Pre/Post Naughty Forty Flashcards Sight Word Assessment Worksheets” that you can use to determine how well your student knows the words before and after working through each book. Introducing or reviewing these words in advance will make it easier for your child when they try to read the story on their own.
Although the readers are intended to be used for independent reading, I might read the story aloud to a second or third grader before expecting them to read it on their own. (The stories are delightful and are perfect for reading aloud!) The books average about 20 pages each, and they each have a few black-and-white illustrations.
After reading a story, children can use the five activity pages for that book. Each set of activity pages has the same components. First is an unusual maze that serves as a clever way to check on reading comprehension. The mazes pose statements about what happened in the story. Children decide if each statement is true or false, then head in one of two directions based on each answer. There are about 20 such statements on each maze, so this is a challenging exercise. I think children will find it more fun to complete than typical questions on a worksheet. The second and third activity pages have statements for students to complete that explain events in the story. The fourth page challenges students to use their imaginations to answer some questions. The fifth page has story starters or suggestions for other types of writing that are spinoffs from the story. You might assist younger children with the writing activities, or you might use some of them orally.
The Magic Stories is a refreshingly different reading resource that I think can be used with children from second grade through about fourth grade. This combination of entertaining stories and creative activities is a great way to help students develop language-arts skills.