Summer Reading Should Foster a Love of Reading, Not Mandate Minutes


#BFC530 is much more than a spark chat on Twitter. It is a community of educators who gather together each morning to share ideas, and, more importantly, to share their enthusiasm for education. Each time I participate I walk away marveling at how inspirational and invigorating this chat is. If you are an educator and have not yet attended #BFC530 I encourage you to give it a try – you won’t be disappointed!

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to moderate this group. Our question was: How does your school engage readers and families in summer reading? For fifteen minutes educators from around the world exchanged ideas about how we can work to use our summer reading programs to encourage, foster, and build a love of reading, not mandate minutes. It was awesome to hear about all of the exciting things schools across the country are doing to encourage reading.

At Ruggles, our summer reading committee is coming together next week to plan how our school will meet this goal. The list below, compiled from our #BFC530 chat yesterday, will surely be a kickoff to our brainstorming efforts! If you have any other ideas you want the committee to consider, please add a comment below. Stay tuned to hear more information about RLS 2015 Summer Readers are Leaders! Information and details will be published soon.

Educators, if you aren’t following the below superstars, make sure you do! I appreciate their ideas and inspiration and I know you will as well! Happy summer reading everyone!

Kick-Off Ideas

  • Book Reviews (sparked by @pvhslmc): In the weeks leading up to the end of school, have each student (and teacher) write a book review about a book they really want to convince someone to read. During the summer, post one review a day on the school blog or Facebook page. Be sure to include a wide range of reading levels.
  • Book Swap (sparked by @rharwood17, @marcihouseman and @boycem3): Students bring in ‘gently used’ books on Monday of the last week of school. They are categorized by level over the course of the week (student/parent volunteers?). On Friday, participating students get to ‘shop’ for a new book. Keep track of how many books students brought in – if they brought in two books, they get to shop for two books.
  • Bookmark (sparked by @shighley): “Readers are Leaders” is written on one side. Let the kids decorate the bookmark during Reader’s Workshop. Students come up with individualized reading goals with their teachers to print on the other side. Bookmarks are laminated and passed out at the summer reading kick-off celebration. Include the dates of all summer reading activities on the bookmark.
  • Partner reading day (Ms. V): Everybody brings in their favorite book they think others should read over the summer. Sharing activities take place in class and across the grade during the day. Students make a ‘wish list’ of the books they hear about throughout the day that they want to read over the summer. At the end of the day, younger grades partner with upper grades outside to share their books and their summer wish list. Popsicles are provided.
  • Spirit Day (Mrs. Cranston): Everyone dresses like their favorite character from a book. Sharing activities take place in class, across the grade and across the school so that children can share their character and work to convince other readers to read their book this summer. Students make a wish list of the books they want to read.

Ideas to Maintain Excitement Through the Summer

  • Bikes and Books (sparked by @laffinteach and @gduralek): Have families donate ‘gently used’ books before the end of the summer. Throughout the summer, choose different spots in town and have families bike to you. Each child who comes gets a new book and a popsicle.
  • #BookaDay: Participate in the #BookaDay challenge. (created by @donlynbooks) (shared by @oonziela)
  • Book Bingo (sparked by @KellerSchool) : Hold a Book Bingo night event on the field. Entry ‘fee’ is three ‘gently used’ books. As you win ‘Bingo’ you get to pick a new book. Families could bring a picnic dinner and have dinner on the field, kids could play on the playground until Bingo starts.
  • Book Clubs (sparked by @mschaefer17@murphysmusings5 and @thatmathlady): Choose a book and hold meetings throughout the summer to meet and discuss.
  • Book Reviews (sparked by @pvhslmc): Have kids (and teachers) write a book review of books they finish that they think other kids should read. Reviews can be posted to the school’s blog or Facebook page.
  • Book Swaps (sparked by @jaybilly2 and @laffinteach): Send students home with a book bag with books from the Book Room. Open the Book Room throughout the summer for children to exchange books. Combine Book Room hours with a picnic lunch on the playground and give out popsicles.
  • Letter Writing (sparked by @jellyrace) : Students write letters to the school about books they are reading. Teacher volunteers write postcards back and suggest a new book title. Students love to get mail!
  • Modeling (sparked by?): Have teachers take a picture of the stack of books they plan to read over the summer. Put all of the pictures together in a slideshow and post to social media or share during your summer reading kick off.
  • Principal’s Pajama Party (sparked by ?): Invite kids to come in to school for a read-a-loud before bed. Gather in the library in pajamas and read a loud some books. Have a book swap during the event.

Resources on Importance of Summer Learning

RLS Readers are Leaders!


When I was growing up, I vividly remember loving to escape into a good book. I would read everywhere – in the car, in the yard, in our treehouse, on my favorite chair, in my room and I especially loved reading with a flashlight after ‘lights out’ under the covers at summer camp! The love of reading I developed as a young girl was due in large part to the read alouds I experienced in elementary school. In 1st grade Miss Matrionni read to us James and the Giant Peach – to this day, every time I see the NYC skyline, I still remember her reading the part of the book when they get stuck on the Empire State Building!

As elementary teachers, one of our goals is to instill a love of reading in the hearts and minds of our students. It was clear from our April Vacation Reading Challenge, that the teachers at RLS are succeeding at that goal! I was transported back to my fondest reading memories as a child with all of the pictures submitted. RLS students read a lot over vacation. They read with their pets, in tents, at restaurants, at the doctor’s office, while doing gymnastics and before bed! They read with siblings, to their moms, to their stuffies, waiting for the Boston Marathon, on planes and in hotels. Best of all though, they enjoyed many fabulous books and used their free times to escape into a good book!

I really enjoyed this reading challenge and am looking forward to announcing the details of our summer reading challenge. If you have ideas you want to share with the group of teachers crafting those challenges, feel free to leave a comment below!

Click here to watch the slideshow of all of the pictures! Thank you for your patience – lesson learned with this challenge: have families post pictures of any challenge like this directly to our Facebook page 😉

Meeting the Needs of All Learners


During the 2014-2015 the Quabbin Regional School District implemented a reinforcement/extension block during the school day. The WINN block, which stands for What I Need Now, is a 30 minute, daily block during which all students K-6 are working in small groups based on individual needs. Some students are working on reinforcing skills, others are practicing new skills while others are working to extend new skills. Groups are flexible depending on the need at that time in the school year.

To make this happen, additional adults are assigned to the grade level to decrease the size of groups during this time. The staff available during this time may include: Intervention Specialist (1), Intervention Tutors (3), Special Education Teacher (1), Paraprofessionals (3). In addition to our grade-level teachers, this additional support allows us to provide children with meaningful reinforcement and extension during this daily block.

For example, 3rd grade has their intervention block from 10:45-11:15 each day. Seven additional adults join the grade level teachers allowing for ten groups for 75 students. Some groups are as small as three so children can get targeted, intense, daily intervention. Other groups, like the math group, are larger with 16 children playing math games to practice the skills currently being worked on in math class. There is also an extension group of 18 children who are participating in a book club.

WINN is a valuable block of time as it serves to meet the needs of all learners across the continuum of learning. Click here to access a presentation that speaks to this initiative in more detail.

How does your school work to meet the needs of all learners?

Socktober: Help Us “Make the World More Awesome”


Today we had our first all school community meeting in which we watched Kid President’s Socktober video for 2014. It began by making a challenge, “Today I want to challenge all of us to use the Internet to do something awesome.” What a great challenge for our digital citizens! Kid President is challenging people all over the world to “be better friends to our neighbors who are homeless” by organizing a world-wide sock drive for Socktober. Last year over 1 million people took action; this year he hopes to reach 2 million.

Kid President is using the power of social media to spread his message and we, at Ruggles Lane, are jumping in to participate! He challenged us to look at our community, and the communities around us, and come up with a plan that will fit our needs. At Ruggles Lane our plan is to assist those in the community of Barre who may need support to get prepared for the winter ahead of us. Our action steps are:

  • Friday, October 17th: Crazy Sock Day to kick off our drive
  • October 17th-October 31st: Clothing drive – We are looking for volunteers to gather and decorate collection boxes. If you would like to help with this part of our drive, please contact Ms. V via email.
  • Week of November 3rd: Laundry week – We are looking for parent volunteers to assist in this effort. We are also hoping to get a local laundromat or dry cleaner to donate their time or their machines. If you would like to help with this part of our drive, please contact Ms. V. via email.
  • Week of November 10th: Prior to donating our items to the Gardner Community Action Committee, we would like to open a store (free of charge) for the residents of Barre. The store will be open from 5-7 each night and families can come in to get needed items. More details will be coming home closer to this time, but please help us to spread the word!
  • Monday, November 17th: All remaining items will be donated to the Gardner Community Action Committee.

This ten year old boy and his father are on a mission to make the world a better place. How will your family help us “to make the world more awesome?” Click here for a pdf of the flyer that went out in backpacks today in case you can help us to spread the word!

World Teachers’ Day: Celebrating My Top Ten

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization sets aside October 5th as World Teachers’ Day. This is an annual celebration “devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the educators of the world.” I want to join with others around the world in appreciating some of the teachers who influenced my development. While I am fortunate that there are many others, this is my top ten!

  • Miss Mastrionni, Grade 1, Franklin Elementary, Westfield, NJ: Thank you for fostering in me a love of reading and an understanding that there is an adventure in each book!
  • Phil Dietterich, Methodist Church, Westfield, NJ: Thank you for instilling in me a love for all things musical.
  • Camp Arcadia, Casco, ME: Thank you for inspiring me to make the world a better place because I have been it.
  • Jim Szeyller, Presbyterian Church, Westfield, NJ: Thank you for challenging me not to believe everything people tell me but to ask questions and to form my opinion.
  • Mr. Grigsby, English and History, Oakwood High School, Oakwood, OH: Thank you for teaching me how to write and for showing me the importance and power of perspective.
  • Mr. Slagel, Physics, Oakwood High School, Oakwood, OH: Thank you for teaching me that hard work, effort and perseverance are the keys to success.
  • Karen Beckwith, Political Science, College of Wooster, Wooster, OH: Thank you for teaching me that hard work, effort and perseverance are the keys to success.
  • Penn GSE: Thank you for teaching me to be guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.
  • Beth Wittcoff, Principal: Thank you for believing in me, helping me to be the best teacher I could be and for teaching me about the power of our words.
  • John D’Auria, Leadership Licensure Program: Thank you for teaching me the importance of culture, the art of listening and the power of the difficult conversation.

Who makes it into your top ten?


“Invest in the future. Invest in teachers.” UNESCO

International Dot Day

Dot (1)

As I turned down the hall to read The Dot by Peter Reynolds to the first class of the day, I looked up and where I once saw a gorgeous window, I saw a dot! I continued down the hall and saw Mrs. Ellis’ bulletin board welcoming “A New Batch of First Graders!” More dots! The cookies were dots! The chocolate chips on the cookies were dots! The Os were no longer Os but were dots! The next bulletin board Wel-gum to First Grade was full of dots instead of gum balls too! I then walked in to Mrs. Cranston’s room and there were dots everywhere! Throughout the day I was amazed at how, because it was International Dot Day, because my perspective changed, I saw dots everywhere!

I shared this with students as I opened my interactive read aloud of The Dot. I went on to share that one of the reasons I wanted to celebrate International Dot Day at Ruggles this year is because it gave me an opportunity to share with students one my favorite books written by one of my favorite authors. The Dot is a story that shares the power we all have to influence someone’s life. In this story it is a teacher who impacts her student allowing her to find the artist inside her. The child then influenced another child creating a chain reaction that each class predicted would continue.

I shared with children that, growing up, I was very fortunate to go away to sleep away camp in Maine. The most enduring lesson I learned there was that it is my job to make the world a better place because I have been it. I take this lesson very seriously and try to live up to it every day. It is why I chose to become a teacher, why I chose to become a Principal, and one of the many reasons why I chose to join this community of learners. I shared with them that each day I think to myself, how can I make the world a better place today because I have been it. I think of one thing that I am going to do that day to live up to this credo and work to make it happen. This past week for example, I had a lunch with a student who had a difficult the day before. I also worked to make a new student feel welcome at Ruggles Lane.

I challenged the students to do the same and asked for their help to make Ruggles Lane the best school on the planet. Each student was challenged to answer this question – How will you make your mark at Ruggles Lane this year? Everyone worked to decorate a dot that has the answer to the question on it. All of the dots will be displayed in the front hallway and students are encouraged to read others ideas. Hopefully, just like in The Dot, we will create a chain reaction at Ruggles too!

Pictures of our bulletin board are coming soon. In the meantime, check out some of the responses to our question:

“I will help the new kid in my class.”

“I will work together with my classmates to improve in our work and get good grades.”

“I will be friends with the new kids.”

“I will make my mark by making good choices and doing well in all my classes.”

“I will greet the new kids with a smile.”

“I will help people when they are stuck.”

“I will help others.”

“I will do a good deed for someone. They can then do a good deed for someone else.”

“I will help the teachers.”

“I will be nice to everyone.”

“I will be a good friend.”

“Being a good friend and helping others.”

“I will be nice to others and make new friends.”

“I will make my mark by working hard.”

“I want to be as kind as I can be.”

“I will stop bullying if I see it.”

“I will help friends if they are struggling.”

“I think I will do National Be Nice to Your Teacher Day.”

I will try my hardest to make people smile each and every day.”

“I am going to behave, be respectful, don’t hit or smack and not argue.”

“We should have a monthly food drive.”

“I will pick up the trash at lunch.”

“I will help little kids and new kids.”

“I will make my mark by helping bullies be better people.”

“I will mark my spot by recycling.”

“I am going to raise money for the school.”

“I am going to get everyone to say please and thank you.”

“I will tell people about friendship and what’s right.”

“I will be friendly to everyone and not exclude anyone.”

“I will share a smile with everyone.”

“I will try to always do my best.”

“I am collecting Box Tops.”

“I will make pictures for everyone.”

“I will donate books to the library.”

“I will work hard every day.”

“I will read to the younger kids.”

“I am not going to litter at the playground.”

“I will sit next to her at lunch and talk.”

“This year I will come up with some fun ideas for my class’ Student Council rep!”

“I will spread peace and kindness throughout my years at RLS and beyond. Stand up and speak up!

They have great ideas and I am looking forward to seeing each and every student “make their mark!”