Monday, February 28, 2011

K-5 Students Celebrate 1 Million Books Read

Students at New York City’s Harlem Success Academy had a big reason for celebrating last week. The banner unveiled in the school auditorium that day tells it all: 1,000,000 Books Read!

“Our scholars and their families have been reading up storm,” said Eva Moskowitz, CEO and founder of the schools that comprise the Success Charter Network. Scholars at those schools have been reading and logging books read outside the classroom since 2006 -- and the one-millionth book was logged earlier this month.

“Our goal is that all our scholars love reading, think deeply about the books they read, and are able to debate topics,” added Moskowitz.

As part of the celebration, three fifth graders presented mini-essays about books that had the most impact on them. Individual honors were awarded to other scholars for “Going Beyond Z,” which refers to a phrase from Dr. Seuss's On Beyond Zebra. In that book, Seuss urges young readers to think what possibilities may lie beyond the letter “z” if they work hard enough, are creative enough, and are open to what might not immediately meet the eye.

The reading program at SCN schools gradually increases scholars’ reading stamina, according to Moskowitz. For example, kindergartners read 10 minutes a day at the beginning of the school year and eventually work their way to 30 minutes of independent reading. Fifth graders begin reading 30 minutes a day and ultimately read for one hour at a time on their own.

Harlem Success Academy 1, located at 34 West 118th Street, is the flagship school of the Success Charter Network. It is the number one public charter school in New York City and has been ranked in the top one percent of all public schools in New York State for two consecutive years. Excellence in education and inspiring children to love learning are the mandates of the Success Academies. They believe other schools can accomplish their goals by
--- focusing on ensuring children love to read by helping them choose the right books for their level and interest;
--- focusing on comprehension and critical thinking;
--- using data to individually assess students’ progress;
--- informing parents of their children’s progress and partnering with parents to have them play a key role in their children’s education; and
--- setting high expectations for everyone in the school -- teachers, students, parents, and administration.

“There is nothing more important than reading,” stated Moskowitz. “By far, making reading our top priority is the best bang for the buck that we see in our schools.”


These articles from the Education World archive share stories of principals whose students are achieving reading success because of programs put in place in their schools.

Getting Kids to Read by Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize
Educators know that children who read and are read to are more likely to become life-long readers. That's why many schools are using reading incentives -- from reading honor rolls to "prize patrols" -- to encourage kids. And they're reading more as a result.

Principals' Feats Fuel Fabulous Reading
What would students do to see a principal camp on the roof, become a human sundae, kiss a pig, or get slimed? Turns out they will do a great deal -- of reading! Many principal are capitalizing on students' desire to see them do wacky stunts and build reading skills.

Principals Make Reading a School-Wide Goal
Students pledge to read thousands of pages. First- and fifth-graders buddy up for reading. Those events and others are part of school-wide reading programs at two Minnesota schools. Included: Additional activities help make reading a school-wide goal.

Reading Fun
Are you looking for a special project that will excite your students about reading? You’ve come to the right place! On this page, we have gathered dozens of Education World articles that offer unique lessons and ideas for teachers of reading at all levels. Make every week Book Week with these fun and "novel" reading lesson ideas.

Red Carpet Readers
It was "A Night at the Oscars" and many of the students and nearly all staff members donned formal attire for the event that highlighted the connection between reading and the silver screen. The celebration was the latest take on the school's annual "Family Reading Night," and its theme was created by the students themselves.

School Makes ‘Community Read’ Its Own
A local library’s community reading program has given rise to a month-long family reading program at Meadow Glens Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois. The program, which is focused on family literacy, has been a big success.

Program Hauls In Huge Catch of Reading
Challenged to create a program that encouraged young students to read in school as well as at home, Betsy Lepak created "Hooked on Books." Classes kept track of every book they read in exchange for the privilege of caring for two fish in a bowl.

Literacy Efforts Over the Long Haul
When staff members at one Maryland school discovered that students' reading scores weren't improving as hoped, they took action to motivate the students to read and to get parents involved. A continuous focus on literacy is helping the school make the grade.

‘Reading Buddies’ Pair Up for Literacy
A "Reading Buddies" program at an Illinois school pairs education students from North Central College (NCC) with fourth and fifth graders. Each twosome reads an assigned book and works together to create a final project to share with the entire group.

‘Together We Can’ Motto Spurs Columbia Elementary's Success
Columbia Elementary School's motto is "Together We Can!" Together principal Lori Musser and staff members have adopted initiatives such as after-school clubs and intensive reading instruction to help students achieve.

Principals’ Classrooms Visits Help Build Better Readers
When principals and literacy coaches understand what students are learning and teachers are teaching -- and participate in literacy lessons -- they set a positive tone for the school that can lead to improvement in reading, says author and educator Dr. Beth Whitaker.

Photos courtesy of Success Charter Network

Monday, February 21, 2011

School Wellness Policies Are Making a Difference

Valentine’s Day parties looked a bit different this year in New Canaan (Connecticut) Schools. In the past, the party menu would have included cupcakes and brownies, but this year carrot sticks, fruit slices, and other healthful treats were the snacks of choice.

The change in menu is all part of the district’s new Wellness policy, which aims to ensure that students are getting the same messages about nutrition and physically active lifestyles from the lunchroom to the classroom as well as in the gym and at home.

“There's a call in this to everyone who works in the system to be role models," Deputy Superintendent Mary Kolek told the New Canaan Patch. “We made this commitment because experts and experience tell us that sound nutrition and physical fitness are important factors connected to readiness for learning and other school and life activities.” [read more]

Aside from party choices, the cafeteria menus in town have changed, too. Lunch is prepared fresh each day and local produce is used whenever possible. In the gym, elementary students are learning the basics of yoga, and all high school gym classes begin with stretching exercises aimed at improving flexibility and reducing the potential for injury.

Wherever possible, New Canaan’s efforts involve local community groups, businesses, and the town’s recreation department. An “Open Gym” is held each Sunday at the high school.

The state of Connecticut requires all districts to provide student fitness test results on a yearly basis, but New Canaan’s wellness plan calls for those results to be sent home in order to educate parents, too. The FitnessGrams sent home to parents of students in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10 report the child’s fitness in four areas: aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscular strength, and muscular endurance.


FitnessGrams are also sent home to students as part of the wellness program at Friendship Elementary School in Buford, Georgia. Principal Berry Walton hopes his school’s program will eventually become the program of choice in all the district's schools.

The fact that Georgia has the second-highest childhood obesity rate in the country -- about 24 percent of third-graders are obese -- was one of the motivating factors behind the program. “Our goals are to focus on childhood obesity, nutrition, and academic performance,” Walton told the local school board this month. [read more]

Friendship Elementary’s program was developed last summer by a school-wide committee that researched best programs and practices. The program includes opportunities for the staff to get fit; about 20 staff members work out with a fitness trainer twice a week. And Pilates balls have replaced desk chairs in some classrooms. Such “active sitting” helps develop muscles and keep students alert and focused, Walton explained.


  • Principals Launch School-Wide Wellness Programs
  • Schools Where Wellness Is a Way of Life
  • Wellness Policies Promote Healthy Choices
  • Some Schools Replace Desk Chairs With Ball Chairs
  • Teachers Trade Space, Traditional Fixtures for Fitness
  • Monday, February 14, 2011

    Schools to Shine Spotlight on Reading
    On Read Across America Day, March 2

                There are so many books that you find ’round here.
                Don’t know which one to choose – I’m confused, I fear.
                The shelves are really full – the message is clear
                Just Read It! Just Read It!
    This Just Read It! video parody of Michael Jackson’s Beat It! was created by students and staff at Indian Pines Elementary School in Lake Worth, Florida. I'm sure you will agree that this video display of the students’ collective enthusiasm for reading is contagious -- and especially timely too, since Read Across America Day is just around the corner.

    Each year on March 2 (which also happens to be Dr. Seuss's birthday), students across America share their love of reading with special events and activities. Sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), 2011 marks the 13th year for Read Across America festivities. The NEA provides plenty of resources, including certificates, poems, and booklists to help schools plan special celebrations. Perhaps all the students in your school can gather to take the Reader’s Oath. Or maybe you will plan special activities, such as these offered on the Read Across America website:

  • Have your mayor, school board, or legislators issue a proclamation. You can use this sample proclamation or create your own.
  • Ask your local radio disc jockey to read or even broadcast from your school.
  • Invite parents and students to don their pajamas and snuggle up and read in an overnight readathon.
  • Put reading on parade or hold a book lovers' ball.
  • Invite local authors and illustrators and showcase their books and characters in style.
  • Contact your local sports team for guest readers and invite high school marching bands to welcome your students.

    Whatever you do, don’t miss this opportunity to put the spotlight on reading in your school!


    Reading Fun
    Are you looking for a special project that will excite your students about reading? On this page, we have gathered dozens of Education World articles that offer unique lessons and ideas for teachers of reading at all levels. Make every week Book Week with these fun and "novel" reading lesson ideas.
  • Monday, February 7, 2011

    School Videos Share Inspiring Student Stories

    If you look beyond the headline-making news stories on the major TV networks, you’ll often find inspiring clips about ordinary people in all walks of life who do extraordinary things. But if you’re looking to be truly inspired, the video library on the SchoolTube Web site reveals more inspiration than the major networks could hope to generate.


    At Taylor High School in Katy, Texas, the Best Buddies program is enhancing the lives of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities by pairing them with their peers from the general education population. Buddies hang out outside of school by enjoying movies, sporting events, bike riding, and more. In addition, special activities -- including parties and an annual poinsettia sale -- provide opportunities for Best Buddies to connect as a group.

    Students who serve as buddies say they get more from the program than they could possibly give their special buddies.

    “My friendship with [my Best Buddy] Nick is a lot different than most of my other friendships,” says Jacqueline Jones, a student participant in the program. “He has taught me a lot about how to see life in a different light. It’s really encouraging to see how much he loves his life.”

    Indeed, Best Buddies is changing the lives of all its participants. It teaches the value of friendship and an appreciation for all people no matter their appearance or abilities.

    The Best Buddies program at Taylor is part of the international Best Buddies organization.


    Madison Pixley proves that what some might see as a disability doesn’t need to be that at all. In spite of being born with just one arm, Madison doesn’t think about her arm at all -- especially when she is on the court with her volleyball teammates at Dexter (Missouri) High School.

    “I’m just like any other 15-year-old girl,” says Madison. “I go through all the same experiences as everyone else.”

    Madison’s parents have never treated Madison’s arm as a disability either. “She can do anything that anybody else can do,” says her father, who happens to be the school’s football coach. “She may do some things a little bit differently, but she acts the same, she is a popular kid, she has a good attitude, she’s athletic.”

    Madison proves one good arm is enough every time she takes the court. Her activities and interests off the court are worthy of note, too. She was recently awarded the Make a Difference Challenge Award for her work at an area camp for children who have hand deformities. In addition, her “Give a Helping Hand” effort raised $4,000 to ensure that kids in need will be able to attend the Shriner Hospital-sponsored Hand Camp next summer. [read more]


    The Community Blood Center (CBC) in Kansas City provides 580 units of blood each day to 70 area hospitals. And 20 percent of that blood is contributed at blood drives held at area high schools.

    A recent blood drive at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kansas, helped restock the Center’s supply, according to the video.

    One hour of a student’s time can save lives in our community, a CBC spokersperson said. “We consider a three-day supply to be a good supply, and we usually hover around a one-day supply,” she added. "About 60 percent of the population is eligible to give, but only about five percent do."

    “I always give every time the blood drive comes around,” one student said. “I think it’s a really good thing to do. It saves lives. It’s part of your civic duty.”

    In order to encourage high schools to participate, the CBC has created a High School Blood Drive Planning Guide and instituted a Gallon Grad Program that recognizes students who give blood eight times before they graduate. Before a student can participate, his or her parents must complete a Blood Donor Parent Consent Form.