About Cover Story

Cover Story takes middle school students on a guided tour through the universe of Story. Through the process of creating the content for their own magazine in a single school year, students are led, step by step, on a fun, thought-provoking journey of exploration and creation. They write poems, short stories, non-fiction articles, letters, and many other short pieces. They also learn to journal every day by following the creative structure of The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther Von Steuben. Along the way, they study not just a story’s form, but its execution.

Award Winning author Daniel Schwabauer, creator of the One Year Adventure Novel, opens up classic short stories, historic letters and poems, and his own insight into the writing life to reveal the process behind the page.

Your student will write

• creative non-fiction articles
• letters
• poetry

• short stories
• blog posts
• and much more

… and likely enjoy doing it!

Course Philosophy

Reluctant writers like to ask, “What’s the point of writing?” Parents and teachers sometimes answer pragmatically, with statements like, “Writing is an extension of thinking,” or “Writing is a skill that will serve you your whole life,” or “Good writing skills will help you get a better job.”

Mr. S. prefers to answer that question with a question: “What do you think the point of writing should be?” Or, to put it another way, “What do you want to write about?”

The question is not whether or not students should be required to write. The question is why they should care. Cover Story turns the question around and lets students discover the answer.

Students are far more motivated to write when they choose their own subject and goals. Rather than assign topics a child has no interest in, (“Today we’re going to write a five paragraph theme about mollusks! isn’t that great?”) Cover Story allows students the freedom of choosing a theme for their magazine, and a subject for each assignment. This approach gives the structure and guidance they need to understand the principles in each lesson, but allows them to create from passion rather than pressure.

Creating content for their own magazine gives students:

FOCUS: Short-form creative pieces (short stories, letters, poetry, etc.) and frequently changing units keep students engaged in the process of learning.

MOTIVATION: Lessons draw on their own interests.

DEPTH: Cover Story challenges students to think deeply about what they read and write.

PRACTICE: Short-form writing, including entries in a daily journal, helps students to master the basics of writing more quickly. This in turn makes creative writing more and more enjoyable.

FUN: We don’t want to reveal ALL the surprises, but rumor has it that Mr. S. smashes a tomato on-screen, sentences himself (while dressed as a judge), and generally assaults the idea that English is the exclusive domain of the pompous.

HOPE: Short, step-by-step lessons help kids to see constant progress and avoid burnout.

SATISFACTION: Your student will end the year with a greater understanding of writing concepts, new tools to use in writing endeavors, and an impressive array of magazine content.

What Does the Curriculum Include?

INCLUDES: Video lessons (choose between Cloud video streaming and DVDs)Student BookTeacher’s Guide, and The Remarkable Journal of Professor Von Steuben




+ The Journal

Remarkable-Journal-webIncluded in the kit is a copy of The Remarkable Journal of Professor Gunther Von Steuben. This is the book in which students will write journal entries every day. But it is no ordinary book! Copied on its pages are the handwritten notes of Professor Von Steuben himself—a man of mystery, intrigue and profound insight into the nature of the world and its inhabitants. Students are encouraged to complete what Von Steuben began, and answer the questions that linger since his inexplicable disappearance….

Grammar Component

Twelve additional video lessons on grammar are included in the set. The grammar component is optional, and designed to be used as needed to supplement the other instructional materials. Cover Story‘s approach to grammar de-emphasizes memorization of latinate terms and emphasizes true comprehension.

grammar-CDMr. S. teaches the practical application of grammar as a tool for self-expression and a necessary part of communication. Grammar isn’t the point. Story is the point. When students understand how grammar can help them achieve their own goals, even things like direct objects and predicates become more interesting. (No, not a lot more interesting. They are, after all, still direct objects and predicates.)

Sample Lesson

Be sure to watch the sample video lesson on our Sample Lessons page.


• Students create the content for their own magazine
• Taught by an award-winning writer
• No prep workrequired for parent or teacher
• Class is taught for you through video (DVD or Cloud streaming)
• Humorous skits illustrate concepts
• Self-motivating materials
• Step-by-step, easy-to-follow lessons

Cover Story Lesson Planning Aid »
downloadable/printable PDF

Lesson Topics

1 UNIT 1

Tell Me a Story
The Journal of Prof. Gunther Von Steuben
vid-Dan-judge-webPersonally Placed Things
Painted Personally Placed Things
Explosive Words
Wildly Explosive Words
Fightin’ Words
Super Guaco Taco

2  UNIT 2

The Poetry of Poetry
Haiku Too
The Limerick
The Five W’s Everyman
Astounding Strategies
Astounding Outlines
Astounding Paragraphsvid-Dan-balloon-web

3 UNIT 3

Dear Mr. President
Dear Editor
Dear Reader
Short Change
Short Heroes
Short Outlines
Showing Character
Showing Problems
Showing Change
Ramping Up
The Moral of the Story


The First Two Layers
The Third Layer
The Fourth Layer
What You Know
The Truth about Truth
Blog O’Spherevid-Dan-match-candle-web
Steampunk Gun
Cinnamon Popcorn
Going Places

5 UNIT 5

Hard Questions
Inside Your Head
Slice n Dice
Story Patterns
Human Heroes
Dropping Eaves
Dueling Words
What’s a Meta For?
Great Openings
Zap Pow
Parting Words

6 UNIT 6

Found Me a Poem
The Chains of Free Verse
What’s a Ballad?
Ghosts n Heroes
Story Poems
Call to Action
Revising for Theme
Putting it Together


Kinds of Sentences
Subjects and Predicates
Run Ons and Fragments
Parts of Speech
That was Tense
Subject/Verb Agreement
Subject Pronouns
Comma Chameleon
Quotation Marks

Cover Story Lesson Planning Aid » downloadable/printable PDF