Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Mrs. Wetherell

Happy Hanukkah 2011

Last rotation of 2011

Even though it was the last week, classes were still in session and learning continued in the library this rotation.

Fifth graders continued with their lotus diagram of Lewis and Clark. New print sources were introduced as well as specific sites on the Internet. Students researched uniform topics as well as self selected topics relating to the expedition. Afterwards students selected books for track out.

Fourth grades either completed Polar, the Titanic Bear and learning about primary sources OR we brainstormed topics related to North Carolina. After student prioritized the topics, we downloaded a lotus diagram and saved it to a word document used to place information when studying different topics. The topics the students chose were: Symbols, Coastal plains region, Pirates, Lighthouses, Piedmont region, Famous NC people, Mountain region and Famous NC places. A work in progress!

Third graders finished print sources on Helen Keller and all but two classes viewed the Helen Keller DVD which showed her life (animated) from 2 -7 years old. Primary sources were shown at the end of the DVD which we discussed. Students took notes from viewing the DVD and placed the information on a section of a lotus diagram. It will all come together within 6 rotations of media special.

Second graders continued their journey through listening to Bill Peet books. Most classes listened to the selection titled, Merle, the high flying squirrel. Merle was certainly afraid to try anything new! We discussed some of our own fears after sharing our thoughts about what Mr. Peet's message in the book really was about. We connected this book with Melanie Watts', Scaredy Squirrel, which was similar and even more humorous!

First graders shared their thoughts on the holidays, Elf on a Shelf, and some of the traditions that happen with their own family. We followed up with Dav Pilney's, Dragon's Merry Christmas, It's Christmas David and Olivia helps at Christmas. We truly enjoyed media special this week and had a wonderful time chosing books for track out.

Kindergartners listened to a cajun folk tale titled, Why alligator hates dog, by J. J. Reneaux. It is a pourquoi tale which is a "why" story. The kindergarteners were all wide eyed and transfixed in the story. We followed up with our song...I have a book for you and made book selections. If time permitted we read either Olivia helps at Christmas or It's Christmas David!

Learning never stops and I try to make it as fun as possible. I want all students to develop a love of books as well as become life long readers. Sometimes just sharing a story is educational and worthwhile to accomplish the above objectives. Maybe if you haven't included storytime during your daily routine, it would be a great time to begin during track out.

Happy reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

photo source:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What did we learn this rotation?

All huskies were engaged in learning in the library this past rotation.

Fifth graders revisited their notes taken during the Lewis and Clark DVD. We brainstormed who was instrumental in making the expedition successful. After brainstorming we chose five topics or individuals to include on our Lotus Diagram. We took our notes to the computer, downloaded a Lotus Diagram to a word document and begin to fill in important events and information. Since we have just begun, this will be a work in progress for a while. Lotus Diagram was found on this site.

Fourth graders were introduced to primary/secondary sources. I chose Polar, the Titanic Bear as the focus story.
and What a facinating story! We will visit the online encyclopedia to view the photographs and information given at the time when Daisy Spedden boarded the Titanic.

Third graders were introduced to Helen Keller, who became blind and deaf at the age of 18 months old. We discussed how people can overcome certain obstacles in life. Some obstacles are much bigger than others. After winter break we will visit this Web site:

Second graders learned about Bill Peet, author and illustrator of more than 30 books for children which have been praised by parents, teachers, librarians, and children because they make reading fun and teach positive values. During his 27 year career making animated films, Bill Peet became Walt Disney's greatest storyman. (
We read Big Bad Bruce and the message we took from this story is to treat others the way you want to be treated. Next week we will be reading The Whingdingdilly. Some classes have listened to this story and have made connections to Big Bad Bruce. However, the message they have learned is to be happy with who you are.

First graders were introduced to Tomie dePaola. We learned a little about his life and his passion for drawing. He has written both fiction and non fiction for children. His most famous book, a folktale, is about Strega Nona. However, I read aloud Bill and Pete this week about a crocodile who is beginning school and his best friend is his toothbrush, Pete....ask your child about this:-)

Kindergarteners were introduced to folk tales and how they were handed down from generation to generation. We began with Verna Aardema's, Borreguita and Coyote. What a smart little lamb! We learned where the folk tales are located in the library (398.2) and sang a song to help us remember the call number on the spine label. and

(To the tune of "The farmer in the dell")

I have a book for you,
I have a book for you,
If you want a folk tale,
Choose 398.2.

If time permitted we played a game of telephone to show how words/stories change by telling them over and over.

Happy reading and Happy Holiday preparation!

Mrs. Wetherell

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Books to be thankful for....(Thanksgiving Themed Books)

The Pilgrim's First Thanksgiving by Ann McGovern

Thanksgiving Is For Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland

On The Mayflower by Kate Waters

Pilgrim Children Had Many Chores by Gina Lems Tardif

Did You Know? by Sandi Hill

Sarah Morton's Day by Kate Waters

Samuel Eaton's Day by Kate Waters

Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters

Feeling Thankful by Shelley Rotner

Story of the First Thanksgiving by Elaine Raphael

One Little Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims by B.G. Hennessy

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

Alligator Arrived With Apples : A Potluck Alphabet Feast by Crescent Dragonwagon

Story of Thanksgiving by Nancy Skarmeas

Thanksgiving by Alana Willoughby

The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story by Laura Melmed First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward

Thanksgiving Is… by Louise Borden

First Thanksgiving by Garnet Jackson

If You Sailed on the Mayflower by Ann McGovern

Off to Plymouth Rock by Dandi Daley MacKall

Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross

Thanksgiving Day by Gail Gibbons

Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast by Kate Waters

Daily Life in the Pilgrim Colony 1636 by Paul Erickson

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas

The Wampanoags by Alice Flanagan

Corn is Maize by Aliki

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Judith Schachner

Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner

Homes in the Wildreness: A Pilgrim's Journal of Plymouth Plantation in 1620 by William Bradford (edited by Margaret Wise Brown)

Gobble: The Complete Book of Thanksgiving Words by Lynda Graham Barber

Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols by Edna Barth

Colonial Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in the New World by Laurie Carlson

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Are you striving to do your best?

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Steve Prefontaine

What is your best? Where are you giving less than your best? Is there anywhere in your life are you sacrificing your gift?

Steve Roland Prefontaine, nicknamed Pre, (January 25, 1951 – May 30, 1975) was an American long distance runner. Prefontaine is considered to be among the greatest and most inspirational runners of the modern era by many of his fans, both during his lifetime and to this day.

Prefontaine helped inspire a running boom in the 1970s along with contemporaries Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers. Born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon, Prefontaine was primarily a long distance runner who once held the American record in the five distance track events from the 2000 meters to the 10,000 meters. Prefontaine had one leg longer than the other (a common condition that does not affect running speed), and due to this he was told to give up on his dream of being the fastest runner on earth. He is known for his extremely aggressive “front-running” racing style and for always believing in giving a full effort. Prefontaine died at the age of 24 in a car accident.

In some U.S. schools, librarians are no longer saying, ‘Shh!’

In some U.S. schools, librarians are no longer saying, ‘Shh!’

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Poem of Thanksgiving (adapted)

I am thankful
For the teenager
Who is complaining about doing dishes
Because it means she is at home,
Not on the streets.

For the taxes I pay
Because it means
I am employed.

For the mess to clean after a party
Because it means I have
Been surrounded by friends

For the clothes that fit a little too snug
Because it means I have enough to eat.

For my shadow that watches me work
Because it means
I am out in the sunshine.

For a lawn that needs mowing,
Windows that need cleaning,
And gutters that need fixing
Because it means I have a home.

For all the complaining I hear about the government
Because it means
We have freedom of speech.

For the parking spot
I find at the far end of the parking lot
Because it means I am capable of walking,
And I have been blessed with transportation.

For my huge heating bill
Because it means I am warm.

For the lady behind me in church
Who sings off key
Because it means I can hear.

For the pile of laundry and ironing
Because it means
I have clothes to wear.

For weariness and aching muscles
At the end of the day
Because it means
I am capable of working.

For the alarm that goes off
In the early morning hours
Because it means I am alive.

And finally, for too much e-mail
Because it means
I have friend who is thinking of me.

Poem Kindly sent by Annick Morris

Friday, November 18, 2011

Family Buccaneer Night at the Book Fair

Avast mateys! Many pirates were on deck at last night's book fair. It was a huge success and I wish to thank all those involved. If you were not able to attend, or if you had to leave because the lines were sooooo long, you can purchase through next Wednesday (November 23) from 9:30 - 3:30. We are not open before school because our registers are cleared each afternoon and we cannot open until our registers have money and keys.

On a happier, more efficient note, we are already planning for next year's book fair and how to serve you better. Any suggestions are welcome. For a hint into next year's theme, you'll just have to wait my lords and my ladies....:)

Thanks again,

Captain Wetherell

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein - Book Trailer

One of the books featured in our Scholastic Book Fair. Hope to see you Thursday, Novmeber 17 at 6:30pm for Family Buccaneer Night at the Book Fair...Aarrggghhh!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Favorite "Autumn" Book...

This book is written by Chris Van Allsburg. You would probably recognize his most famous book titled, The Polar Express. He is both the author and illustrator. Most of his books have twists and are very mysterious and strange, such as another book he wrote and illustrated titled, Jumanji. This is the book review of The Widow's Broom taken from

Some of Minna Shaw's neighbors don't trust her clever broom. "It's dangerous," they say. "It's a wicked, wicked thing." Minna disagrees. She appreciates the broom's help around the house. She enjoys its quiet company. It seems perfectly innocent and hard-working to her. But one day two children get a well-deserved thrashing from the broom. For her neighbors, this is proof of the broom's evil spirit. Minna is obliged to give up her dear companion.

Chris Van Allsburg, master of the mysterious, brings this supernatural tale to life with moody and memorable pictures that will haunt readers long after the book's covers are closed.

Not so Scary Stories

Five Little Pumpkins by Iris Van Rynbach
Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley
Halloween Bugs: A Trick-Or-Treat Pop-Up by David A. Carter
Halloween Night by Arden Druce
Halloween Puzzles by Helene Hovanec
Halloween Sky Ride by Elizabeth Spurr
Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve by Mary Pope Osborne
I Spy Spooky Night by Jean Marzollo
In the Haunted House by Eve Bunting
Inside a House That Is Haunted: A Rebus Read-Along Story by Alyssa Satin
It's Halloween! by Jack Prelutsky
Jan Pienkowski's Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski
Miss Fiona's Stupendous Pumpkin Pies by Mark Kimball Moulton
Mrs. McMurphy's Pumpkin by Rick Walton
Peek-a-Boooo! by Marie Torres Cimarusti
Pigs Go to Market - Halloween Fun with Math and Shopping by Amy Axelrod
Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming
Pumpkin Hill by Elizabeth Spurr
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting
Shake Dem Halloween Bones! by Mike Reed
Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler
Tell Me a Scary Story by Carl Reiner
Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'connell
The Bumpy Little Pumpkin by Margery Cuyler

The Legend of Spookley, the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
The Night Before Halloween by Natasha Wing
The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz
Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White
Trick or Treat Countdown by Patricia Hubbard
Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman
Bugs That Go Bump in the Night by David A. Carter
Dragon's Halloween by Dav Pilkey

Others include:

Creepy Monsters, Sleepy Monsters by Jane Yolen
The 13 Nights of Halloween by Guy Vasilovich
Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane
Never Kick a Ghost and Other Silly Chillers by Judy Sierra
The House that Drac Built by Judy Sierra
What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen? by Nick Sharratt

Friday, October 21, 2011

I love track out!

This was me before track out......

After tracking out, I enjoyed the mountains near Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain and Boone, NC. These are a few of the photos I took. The photo with the farm reminds me of Sleepy Hollow which also reminds me of Halloween. I will be posting some books that are a little scary for those parents that want to enjoy this time of year without giving your children nightmares. Stay tuned.....

Wow, I am so glad I had three weeks to energize, paint, do laundry, wash the dog, clean the carpets, go to class, travel, blog, visit friends, go to two doctors, get my teeth cleaned (no cavities) look for squash racquets, book my son's trip for Thanksgiving, decorate for Halloween, oh...and find out my daughter needs a tonsilectomy on November 10th....oh well, such is life:-) Hope your track out was relaxing and productive...only 8 more weeks till we track out again!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

WOW! What a powerful message...

A voracious reader from age three, Adora Svitak's first serious foray into writing -- at age five -- was limited only by her handwriting and spelling. (Her astonishing verbal abilities already matched that of young adults over twice her age.) As her official bio says, her breakthrough would soon come "in the form of a used Dell laptop her mother bought her." At age seven, she typed out over 250,000 words -- poetry, short stories, observations about the world -- in a single year.
Svitak has since fashioned her beyond-her-years wordsmithing into an inspiring campaign for literacy -- speaking across the country to both adults and kids. She is author of Flying Fingers, a book on learning.

"A tiny literary giant."
Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America

Above And Beyond

I love this clip! This is what we should be fostering in schools today...innovation, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration from many individuals; not just held captive in one room, one class, one teacher. (Created through collaboration by members of Partnership for 21st Century Skills and the talented folks at FableVision.)

Pete the Cat - I Love My White Shoes - Live Telling

September 30th! Track Out....

What a last week we have had in the media center. For a breakdown, here goes...

Most Third Grade classes listened to Dogku, by Andrew Clements. We discussed poems and some of the formats, especially Haiku. After enjoying the story we discussed Acrostic poems and how they were supposed to be the easiest or most simple to write. I introduced the telephone "cell phone" poem. Of course the students got all excited about this format and wanted to explore...part of my plan. They began to write their own poems using the formats we discussed. They chose the type and title or focus of their poem and shared with the class.

Most Fourth grade classes continued to dig up interesting facts about Roald Dahl using his official site and place the information into an acrostic poem format, remembering that each word or phrase needed to support the topic...Roald Dahl.

Most Fifth graders finished viewing National Geographic's, Lewis and Clark Expedition. They were taking notes (part of research) about the challenges and unbelieveable events that led to the exploration of a western passage. We will take these notes and begin to organize them in a logical way when we return.

Most Kindergarten classes enjoyed meeting Pete the Cat. We explored You Tube for the author and illustrator who put on a live concert at a library. The students danced, read and followed along with the story. How much fun is reading! See above post...

Most First grade classes completed the story Max's Dragon where we listened for rhyming words embedded in the story...They became so excited when they heard the rhyming words and couldn't wait to share their knowledge.

Most Second grade classes listened to the book written by Patricia Polacco titled,
Appelemondo. Appelemando lives in a very drab, uninteresting village. For him, dreaming is a way of life. Whenever the boy dreams, his four friends can actually see them. They drift up from the top of his head in paintbox colors and, at one point, literally change their somber world.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thunder Cake!

The second graders have been reading personal narratives written by Patricia Polacco. This week our focus was on discussing fears we have and how we overcome our fears or are in the process of overcoming things we are afraid of. Patricia was extremely afraid of thunderstorms and her grandmother distracted her by gathering ingredients for making "thunder cake." Between reading about thunder cake and my daughter telling me she was going to thaw her wedding cake from last year, I decided to make Patricia Polacco's, Thunder Cake. Delicious! Below is the recipe from Patricia Polacco's official website:

Thunder Cake!

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together one at a time:
1 cup shortening
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, separated
( blend yolks in. Beat whites until they are stiff, then fold in.)

1 cup cold water
1/3 cup pureed tomatoes

Sift together:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup dry cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture. Bake in two greased and floured 8
1/2 inch pans at 350 degrees for
35 to 40 minutes. Frost with chocolate butter frosting. Top with


Happy First Anniversary to my daughter and her husband

Heather and Andrew at Carolina Inn, Chapel Hill, NC with UNC mascot, Rameses. September 25, 2010

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rotation Week "6"

Yes! We have just completed another rotation of classes! What a great past six days. Let me share with you what the students have completed.

Kindergarteners enjoyed two of Eric Carle's read alouds titled, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle and

The Very Lonely Firefly. I began storytime with the lights off and I taught them a "scary" fingerplay called Creep Them. We left the lights off as I explained to them about fireflies are not actually flies, but soft bellied beetles. We shared stories about going out at dusk at the beginning of summer and catching fireflies. Scientists still don't know what causes their "cold organ" to glow. We learned this from the author's note at the beginning of the book as well as using a non fiction text to look at photographs of real lightning bugs. We truly enjoyed the story and at the end the fireflies' bellies lit up! This was why I wanted to keep the lights off so the students could see them very clearly. We continued to read The very clumsy click beetle, saw photographs of a real click beetle and followed up with a game of sorting fiction books and nonfiction books.

First graders enjoyed another dragon story about a little girl who finds an egg which hatches into a (you guessed it), dragon! The title of the book is Raising Dragons. Afterwards we divided up into two groups and played a game called Fact or Fiction. I tried desperately to try to trick the students into believing dragons were real, but they were too smart for me.

Second graders viewed a DVD titled Rechenka's Eggs, by Patricia Polacco. What a beautiful heartwarming story. After the story, Patricia Polacco demonstrated how to make pysanky eggs while talking about her grandmother who taught her years ago how to make these Ukrainian decorated eggs.

Third grade students discussed fix up strategies while reading. In other words, what do you do when you come to a word you don't know? They certainly have some ideas to help them now. To practice these strategies I read a book by Jon Scieszka titled, Baloney (Henry P.) Many of the words are foreign, however by using picture support, context clues, activating prior knowledge, listening to me read ahead as well as listening to the sounds within the words or words within words, they were able to decode fairly easily.

Fourth graders completed the condensed version of Danny the Champion of the World. We are now prepared to go to the computers this coming week to learn more about Roald Dahl's childhood, school years and life as a very famous author.

Fifth graders enjoyed another selection from Guys Write for Guys Read. I read Andy Griffiths' (Not the Andy on TV Land with Barney and Opey)selection titled, My Dad is better than your Dad! We continued to work on our Interactive PowerPoint Slides about Lewis and Clark, finding locations of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean, North Carolina, drawing the Mississippi River on the slide (talk about fine motor skills), Pennsylvania, Missouri, and the city of St. Louis. The reason we are filling in with these points of interest is they directly correlate with the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another "rotation" in the Library

Wow! It's hard to believe another rotation of 36 classes has come through the library over the past six days. We have morning circulation up and running with help from our fifth grade student volunteers who has so generously given their time to shelve books, help students find books, check in books, check out books, place books on the cart and deliver books and materials to teachers. I don't know what I would do without them!

...On to what we have learned in media specials the past "rotation."

Fifth graders have listened to another selection from Guys Write for Guys Read, compiled by Jon Scieszka. We enjoyed Jack Prelutsky's, A Day at the Zoo. Afterwards we just learned how to insert a map to use as an interactive map for our Lewis and Clark expedition. We will be adding to the map as we learn more about Lewis and Clark, Sacajawea, the Corps of Discovery and Seaman. (More in later posts. This is a major process.)

Fourth graders have listened to an extract from Roald Dahl and all but one class has finished the VERY condensed version of Danny, the Champion of the World, in the Roald Dahl Treasury. Tuesday, September 13 would have been Roald Dahl's 95th birthday if he was still with us today. We celebrated with a trivia question for a Peach Award (based on the book James and the Giant Peach. It was published in the states 50 years ago this year. We will be focusing on going to his website and reading about his childhood and testing our knowledge about many of the books he has written.

Third graders have focused on using the online search stations and searching independently for their books on the shelves. We are becoming more and more independent in the media center as well as looking for good fit books. There is more to this rather than looking up titles or subjects. We have learned how to look for reading levels, nonfiction and fiction titles as well as genres. To begin our lesson we read, Bob the Alien learns the Dewey Decimal Classification System.

Second graders have learned about meteors, which are not falling stars, but rocks/iron particles that are in space and can come very close to earth. We read Meteor, by Patricia Polacco and learned a true meteor landed on her farm in Michigan where it serves as her grandmother's headstone. There will be a meteor shower in October 8th and December 13th. You might want to watch for these as a family and begin a tradition.

Students in the first grade learned about dragons. They are mythological creatures. We also read about Komodo dragons (nonfiction) that live on the island of Komodo. They are called dragons because of their appearance, "fire colored tongue" and fierceness. We also discussed pets such as bearded dragons. Afterwards we enjoyed a funny chapter book titled, A friend for Dragon by Dav Pilkney. Dragon wants a friend so badly, and snake takes advantage of Dragon by playing a trick on him. We laughed until we had tears in our eyes.

Kindergarten students continue to check out from the "E" neighborhood. We have read more books by Eric Carle and have learned many finger plays. I am so amazed at how fast and how much they learn. They are very well behaved which is a reflection on their parents. Thank you for all you do to teach your children about responsibility, respect, and good listening skills. It really makes my job so easy and we have so much fun! This is a goal of mine so students will grow to love coming to the library, checking out books, reading, and becoming lifetime users and 21st century learners.

Happy Reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years ago...

I remember this day as I had just accepted a new position at a brand new school in New Jersey. It was on a Tuesday, a beautiful early September day without a cloud in the sky. Several of the student's parents would not make it back to pick them up from school because they worked in one of the World Trade Centers.

Thank goodness my husband was not traveling since he was able to collect our three children from school and bring them home. For the next week you could still see smoke, dust, etc. rising from lower Manhattan.

Let's not forget those that lost their lives in New York, Washington D. C., or Pennsylvania that day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Harvest Moon 2011

On September 11 and 12 this year we will be able to experience the Harvest Moon. I used to believe it was the first full moon "after" fall. However, after reading several reputable sources, I have learned it is the full moon that happens "closest" to the autumnal equinox.


Mrs. Wetherell

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Check out my voicethread posting

I have to get MUCH better than this...ha, ha

August 24...Another cycle of learning

Changes are evident in the school library as you can see from the picture. Students who visit the media center have become more independent this year when checking out books. We have stations set up so students can self check out which frees me to help others. It isn't perfect yet, but the students love the freedom in taking charge of their own learning, selecting items, checking out and reading to self. I have noticed when allowing the students more time to self select their good fit books, it results in a "better" book selection (sometimes). They are not rushed and appear to be happier. They are helping others find books and offering recommendations on their own. I really believe we do "foster intellectual development" through the media program implemented at our school.

This past week the fourth and fifth graders learned to utilize the Follett Destiny Catalog to find books using Lexile levels which informs them of books they may have not considered before.

Third grade was introduced to the catagories in the non-fiction section where they learned how books are arranged in the library. This was an eye opener since most of them only explored the same sections of the media center. It's like they discovered a whole new land!

Second graders learned about autobiographies, biographies and collective biographies. We followed up with an autobiography about Patricia Polacco, titled Firetalking. Several selections will be read aloud to the students in the coming weeks along with a visit to her author website.

First graders continued to hear read alouds by Jack Gantos about Rotten Ralph and continued to search for "good fit" books. They may choose one good fit book and one any type book. This can be challenging at times, but we will continue to focus on learning.

Kinders have been introduced to Eric Carle by hearing an old favorite, The Very Busy Spider. I paired it with a nonfiction book about spiders so we could compare the two types of text and purposes for reading. We are just beginning to go to the shelves and select books for check out. Up until now the kinders selected books from tables to learn the routine of book check out. What a great group of students! I look forward to seeing them everyday. They are so much fun.

Enjoy the rest of the week.

Happy Reading,

Mrs. Wetherell


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hey, libraries are not just for checking out books!

Volume 27, Number 3
May/June 2011
Eight Tech Trends for Librarians (and Teachers too!)


If the Dewey decimal system is the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of school libraries comes up, it’s time to reboot.

The school library—and the job of the librarian—have both morphed into something that most adults these days would hardly recognize. Helping kids find books to read is only part of the job, say those on the profession’s leading edge. Today, a major mission of the librarian, aka media specialist, is to teach students digital literacy by showing them how to use the Internet to efficiently find, organize, and share information with peers. Here are some of the tools librarians are using to make their jobs easier and more relevant to students as they address this expansion of their role.
• Digital Catalogues: Books are going digital and so are librarians. Software like Follett's Destiny is making it easier for students to find and check out books within their school’s collection. And, these software products can include social bookmarking technology—in which notes about a book are shared and responded to online as part of learning activities. All the Mankato (Minn.) Area public schools use such software, says Doug Johnson, the district’s media and technology director. “Combining reading and learning using social media is the most exciting thing that is happening in [school] libraries,” he says.

• Virtual Libraries: Librarians are creating their own virtual libraries—web pages with lots of links to student-friendly online resources. The resources include subject-specific links, suggestions for useful research and organization tools, as well as information about copyright-related issues. Joyce Valenza, award-winning librarian at Springfield Township High School, near Philadelphia, uses free (right) to maintain the Springfield Township High School Virtual Library.

• Online Research Guides: Valenza also uses a paid software called LibGuides to provide links to databases and subject-specific “pathfinders,” or groups of hyperlinks pertaining to the same subject, like the visual arts, for student research.

• E-Books: Some schools have arrangements with e-book distributors, like Overdrive, for books that are not yet widely available. Librarians are also pointing students to Project Gutenberg or Google Books for free access to older texts that are now in the public domain, such as A Tale of Two Cities.

• Online Alternatives to Books: For readers and non-readers alike, librarians are pointing students toward non-traditional outlets to encourage both reading and the pursuit of further learning. “Kids really are more visual today,” observes Wendy Stephens, noting the popularity of the Dorling-Kindersley books with their rich, 3-D graphics. Stephens, the librarian at Buckhorn High School in New Market, Ala., encourages her students to explore graphic novel databases, including those for Japanese Manga. She’s also directing her students to mobile storytelling applications like 3:15 Stories (right), where students can read and listen to the initial 10 minutes of a mystery novel to whet their appetite, which then “unlocks” a two-minute video revealing the ending. Librarians are also showing kids how to use online timeline tools like Google news timeline,, Dipity, and applets in archives, for example ProQuest's Historical Newspapers.

• Note-taking Tools: A big challenge for kids is keeping long, digitally-sourced projects organized and librarians are helping with this, too. Subscription-based Noodle Tools remains a popular note-taking tool. On her library website, Valenza includes pathfinders leading to organizational tools, such as Evernote, and mind-mapping applications, like Glinkr (below), to sort project thoughts.

• Dashboards: What if your whole academic life could be organized on a single page? Librarians are raving about “dashboards”—a personal gateway to all of a student’s digitized academics, including their digital bookmarks for useful articles and applications. One is NetVibes, used in an award winning library-English department project at Creekview High School in Canton, Ga., in which 10th grade students customized their own gateways using such a dashboard.

• Reboot complete.

Dave Saltman is a writer and teacher in the Los Angeles area, and a contributor to Spotlight on Technology in Education (Harvard Education Press, 2011).

We will need lots more money to catch up to this article! However, 21st century learning takes place everyday at Highcroft.

Happy Reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Is your book a "good fit?"

This week teachers asked me to teach the "good fit" book lesson. This is taken from The Daily 5 reading philosophy from real life teaching sisters Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. I explain that choosing books are just like choosing shoes. They have to be a good fit! After the lesson students choose books based on the acronym "I PICK". After much discussion students decide on their purpose for reading. Next they must choose a book that is interesting to them. However, this can be a daunting and time consuming process. Students are then guided on how to find a book that may appear interesting to them by looking at the cover and following through by reading about the book on the back cover or inside flap. Once the students believe this to be a book that is interesting to them specifically, he/she must open the book to see if they can read most of the words so they can understand or comprehend the text. Students need a great deal of support to be successful in choosing good fit books independently.
The success of choosing good fit books is to have enough books on hand in classroom libraries and in the school library media center. This is why it is so important to have a healthy book budget and a school that backs the media center in providing current and popular books for students to select.

Ten skills every student needs...

What students should learn in school is at the forefront of the education reform debates taking place across the U.S. and elsewhere.

Ed-tech stakeholders for years have been touting the need for students to learn so-called “21st century skills” such as problem solving, critical thinking, and media literacy to prepare for the new global, digital economy, while others are calling for students to have strong math and science skills.

All of these skills are important—but what do educators and other school stakeholders think are the most important skills?

We recently asked our readers: “If you could choose only one, what’s the skill you’d like every student to learn?”

Perhaps surprisingly, while many readers did cite critical thinking as a skill every student needs, another skill was listed nearly twice as much as all other responses combined.

Need a hint? It’s a skill every student has needed since the days of the one-room schoolhouse: the ability to read.

Being able to read, though the most popular response, was certainly not the only one. Another skill that could be considered the most forward-thinking response is having “global empathy.”

Based on the number and quality of responses we received for each suggested skill, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 skills our readers believe every student needs. What do you think of these responses? What skills would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

According to readers, every student to be able to (in no particular order):

1. Read

“Would it not be reading? Even reading is required for math, which is very important, of course. But I have read recently of residents in poor African nations who are taught to read and are simply buoyed in other areas by their ability to read. It becomes an instant confidence builder.” —June Weis, consultant, SREB Educational Technology Cooperative

“I’d like every student to know how to read—to read deeply, and to truly understand each word. By reading, we can improve our knowledge. I speak from my own experience in studying English online. Now I want to help others to understand that.” –Cata

“If you can read, you can learn to do anything.” —Candace Kavey

“To read well. Reading is the first step to good writing. In order to learn social studies, science, and math, you need to know how to read. Reading is the gateway to all knowledge.” —Krista Bethke

for the rest of the article go to:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do you glog?

Here is my latest "glog" about my dog. I am using this example to show younger students in the media center what a glog is and how it is used. There are many drawbacks for me to use this popular 21st century site. One, every student must have an account. Secondly, it takes sooooo long for the screens to load. Case in point; I waited forever to load a video to show on my glog. After one hour and only 87% completed, it timed out. I couldn't have 25 students waiting around for something to load. Finally, everyone wants my help IMMEDIATELY! I also have to give students time to check out books. If I could only work with a few students at a time it would be more effective, but far less efficient. Anyway...try it out with the family. What a great alternative to game night and think about all the literacy skills (and memories) you can share...Enjoy!

Mrs. Wetherell

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Week of August 1, 2011

I am so excited to be back this year when all our huskies are in school together on a single track! I enjoyed a 4 week break this summer which I haven't had in over 4 years when we converted to a year round calendar. Being a specialist is a little different since I did not track out, but now I can....yeah!!!! I also observed students and parents were a little more excited to get back into the swing of things this year.

Our first week was a busy week and the students were so attentive, polite, and followed directions extremely well (Thanks parents). I introduced the students to Buddy, (see earlier post) and he, in turn, introduced the students to the Highcroft Media Center. Afterwards we listened to a selected read aloud specifically chosen for each grade level (see below). We discussed the "Shelf of Shame" and how we had more books damaged and lost this past year which was more than any other year at we pledged to take care of our library books this year and treat them like friends....good friends....very good friends.

We also learned media specials would change weekly since we are on a 6 day rotation. We discussed how to remember our library special and if we had difficulty we could leave our books at school to read so they would always be there when needed. We discussed rules and the code of conduct in the media center since it is so large and we have to be extremely responsible.

This coming week our kindergarteners will begin their first full week of school so it will be an exciting time....I will be teaching 6 classes a day plus taking care of a very large faculty and stay tuned and see what happens during our media specials through reading this blog....enjoy your weekend everyone and....

Happy Reading,
Mrs. Wetherell

*Books read to students this week:
5th grade: Jon Scieszka's, Guys Write for Guys Read ("Brothers"* excerpt)
4th grade: 17 Things I am not allowed to do anymore by Jenny Offill
3rd grade: Mind Your Manners, B. B. Wolf by JudySierra
2nd grade: Patricia Polacco's, Thank you, Mr. Falker
1st grade: Back to School for Rotten Ralph, by Jack Gantos

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Welcome Back Husky Families!

Highcroft’s 17,000 volume library serves as a resource for great books and an entry point to information from around the world. Our huskies are engaged in learning - whether researching on one of our 32 media computers, curled up with a favorite book, listening to a read aloud, or locating materials for classroom projects.
In addition to being a vital classroom resource, the library is a place where students explore subjects that interest them beyond curricular expectations. The collection is a learning collection; the nonfiction materials are up-to-date, relevant, and developed with a constant eye to current curriculum.

Above all, the library nurtures curiosity and imagination through quality fiction and nonfiction, integrating technology, and by emphasizing a life-long love of reading.

Happy Reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Sunday, June 26, 2011

New site I just learned about...

The site is titled, In fifth grade specials we discussed Ben Carson's life and I wanted a follow up. I couldn't have asked for anything better than this video I just discovered about what inspired him to become a neurosurgeon.

Mrs. Wetherell

Friday, June 24, 2011

So much going on....

We have been very busy ending the school year. Jim Arnosky has come and gone, but his books and songs will forever be in the minds of those students and teachers who had the opportunity to experience his presentation on May 23. I am so happy we were able to have such an accomplished author, illustrator, musician, wildlife watcher and just all around great person come and visit our school.

Highcroft will also convert to a single track, year round school this coming year. All huskies will run on track 4. I have to say I am very pleased with this decision. I can actually track out like other teachers and students and enjoy time with my family. All work and no play makes one grumpy.

The library blog will continue next school year. But most importantly, the library will continue to focus on helping students find good fit books and experience read alouds which supports the curriculum.

Enjoy your next few weeks. See you on July 28 during Meet the Teacher time. Remember August 1 is the first day of school for grades 1-5. (Kindergarten is staggered throughout the week.)

Happy Reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Friday, April 15, 2011

Week of April 11, 2011

It's School Library Month and National Poetry Month. We had lots going on in the library this week. Every day we had a library trivia question to begin our day. The questions were asked during morning announcements. The first five classrooms that answered the library trivia question of the day correctly were rewarded with a shout out and a Library Trivia Award placed on their classroom door for bragging rights (just for the week). Because of the multi tracks, field trips, etc., several classes were completing different lessons. Track one viewed the Jim Arnosky DVD about the differences between the American crocodile and the American alligator complete with a drawing lesson from Jim (see earlier post). Track three fifth grade explored poetry online with experiencing different poetry makers. We also explored several types of poetry (Haiku, Cinquain, and Concrete or shape poems as some people call them). Track three, third grade worked on building their bibliographies for their Famous Person research paper. Track one, third grade learned about plagiarism and copyright violation through listing to the book titled, When Marion Copied, by Brook Berg. We discussed how to summarize and what is known as common knowledge.

Thursday was "poem in my pocket" day where everyone had to have a poem available ready to read to anyone who asked. Several students checked out poetry books and utilized morning circulation to check out books as well as find and copy a favorite poem. I had a kindergarten class surprise me with a reading of their poem they had selected for the day. It put a smile on my face. Another fun filled week at school!

Happy reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Week of April 4, 2011

Track Four tracked out and Track One returned so many of our lessons are repeats. Several classes begin their library visits with the Manatee text set (see below). Third Grade students either continued to work on their Famous Person Biography Research Paper or just began with a cooking lesson. We created Bio Stew (by Judy Freeman). All ingredients were necessary to construct the perfect recipe for writing a biography....mmmmmm goooood!

Track three K-2 classes viewed a Reading Rainbow DVD titled, Ocean Life. This was a follow up to the manatee lesson from the week before. We listened to the book, Sam the sea cow, by Francine Jacobs. This is a true story about a manatee who was very curious which got him into trouble. We also learned about the environment where the manatees live. Many creatures were introduced to the students. Several students made connections to their experiences at the beach.

Happy reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Week of March 28, 2011

This week the classes explored text sets beginning with Jim Arnosky's book titled, Slow down for manatees. This book was inspired by true events. Did you know the most common danger manatees encounter are the sharp blades of boat propellers? This book relates the story of a manatee who was injured by being hit by a boat. Fishermen who spotted the manatee contacted the nearby aquarium to help the injured manatee. After being rescued, divers who examined the manatee discovered a wonderful surprise. She was carrying a calf. And so it was that this gorgeous, huge, once free manatee gave birth to her little one in a small tank. After healing, mother and calf were released back into the wild. Luckily, there are many people dedicated to rescuing injured manatees and who also respect their natural habitat. Signs were placed everywhere in shallow waters to warn boaters to SLOW DOWN for Manatees.

After listening to this wonderful story, we learned some amazing facts about manatees from a nonfiction book titled, Manatees. Some of the facts we learned were: they are vegetarians, they can grow to be about 10 feet long, they are mammals, they eat mangrove leaves, baby manatees stay with their mother for about 2 years, male manatees are called bulls, females are called cows, and baby manatees are called calves. Manatees can communicate by squealing and chirping. The elephant is their closest relative and the manatees are an endangered species. Only about 1400 manatees are alive in southern Florida.

Many people vacation in Florida including several families from our school. Don't forget when visiting and possibly boating in Florida to slow down for manatees.

Happy reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Does your school use Accelerated Reader?

The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader

January 24th, 2010 | Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist

Accelerated Reader™ (AR) is a simple software concept that was at the right time (late 1980s) and right place (public schools during a transition from whole language to phonics instruction) that has simply grown into an educational monolith. From an economic standpoint, simple often is best and AR is a publisher’s dream come true. Renaissance Learning, Inc.(RLI) is publicly traded on the NASDAQ exchange under the ticker symbol RLRN and makes a bit more than pocket change off of its flagship product, AR. As is the case with many monoliths, detractors trying to chip away at its monopolistic control of library collections, computer labs, and school budgets are many. Following are short summaries of the most common arguments made by researchers, teachers, parents, and students as to why using AR is counterproductive. Hence, The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader. But first, for the uninitiated, is a brief overview of the AR system.

What is Accelerated Reader?

From the Renaissance Learning website, A Parent’s Guide to Accelerated Reader™, we get a concise overview of this program: “AR is a computer program that helps teachers manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Your child picks a book at his own level and reads it at his own pace. When finished, your child takes a short quiz on the computer. (Passing the quiz is an indication that your child understood what was read.) AR gives both children and teachers feedback based on the quiz results, which the teacher then uses to help your child set goals and direct ongoing reading practice.”

How is the Student’s Reading Level Determined?

Renaissance Learning sells its STAR Reading™ test to partner with the AR program. The STAR test is a ten minute computer-based reading assessment that adjusts levels of difficulty to student responses. Among other diagnostic information, the test establishes a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) reading range for the student.

How are AR Books Selected?

Students are encouraged (or required by some teachers) to select books within their ZPD that also match their age/interest level. AR books have short multiple choice quizzes and have been assigned a readability level (ATOS). Renaissance Learning provides conversion scales to the Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) test and the Lexile Framework, so that teachers and librarians who use these readability formulae will still be able to use the AR program. Additionally, Renaissance Learning provides a search tool to find the ATOS level.

What are the Quizzes? What is the Student and Teacher Feedback?

AR quizzes are taken on computers, ostensibly under teacher or librarian supervision. They consist of multiple choice questions, most of which are at the “recall” level. Students must score 80% or above on these short tests to pass and receive point credit for their readings. When students take AR quizzes, they enter information into a database that teachers can access via password. The TOPS Report (The Opportunity to Praise Students) reports quiz results after each quiz* is taken.
Both teachers and students have access to the following from the database:
• Name of the book, the author, the number of pages in the book
• ATOS readability level
• Percentage score earned by the student from the multiple choice quiz
• The number of points earned by students who pass the quiz. AR points are computed based on the difficulty of the book (ATOS readability level) and the length of the book (number of words).

*Quizzes are also available on textbooks, supplemental materials, and magazines. Most are in the form of reading practice quizzes, although some are curriculum-based with multiple subjects. Magazine quizzes are available for old magazines as well as on a subscription basis for new magazines. The subscription quizzes include three of the Time for Kids series magazines, Cobblestone, and Kids Discover.

What about the Reading Incentives?

“Renaissance Learning does not require or advocate the use of incentives with the assessment, although it is a common misperception.” However, most educators who use AR have found the program to be highly conducive to a rewards-based reading incentive program.


Book Selection
1. Using AR tends to limit reading selection to its own books. Teachers who use the AR program tend to limit students to AR selections because these have the quizzes to maintain accountability for the students’ independent reading. Although much is made by Renaissance Learning of the motivational benefits of allowing students free choice of reading materials, their selection is actually limited. Currently, AR has over 100,000 books in its database; however, that is but a fraction of the books available for juvenile and adolescent readers.

2. Using AR tends to limit reading selection to a narrow band of readability. A concerned mom recently blogs about her experience with her sixth grade daughter (Lady L) who happens to read a few years beyond her grade level:
I’m not trying to be a whining, complaining parent here. I’m simply trying to highlight a problem. At our public library, there are bookmarks in the youth department that list suggested books for students in each grade (K-12th). We picked up an 8th grade bookmark to get ideas for Lady L’s acceptable reading-leveled book. Found a book. Looked up the reading level and found that it was a 4.5 (not anywhere near the 8.7-10.7 my daughter needed).

3. Using AR tends to discriminate against small publishing companies and unpopular authors. Additionally, valid concerns exist about the appropriateness of a private company effectively dictating the materials which children within the program may read. Although teachers may create custom quizzes for reading material not already in the Accelerated Reader system, the reality is that teachers will not have the time nor inclination to do so in order to assess whether an individual student has read a book that is not already in the system. Thus, the ability for a student to explore books which are neither currently commercially popular nor part of major book lists is severely restricted in reality by the Accelerated Reader program.
In fact, many teachers are inadvertently complicit in this discrimination as they require students to read only books that are in the AR database. Many teachers include the TOPS Report as a part of the students’ reading or English-language arts grade, thus mandating student participation in AR.

4. Using AR tends to encourage some students to read books that most teachers and parents would consider inappropriate for certain age levels. Although Renaissance Learning is careful to throw the burden of book approval onto the shoulders of teachers and parents, students get more points for reading and passing quizzes on higher reading levels and longer books. Although an interest level is provided as is a brief synopsis/cautionary warning on the AR site, students often simply select books by the title, cover, availability, or point value. Thus, a fourth grader might wind up “reading” Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (4.7 ATOS readability level) and a sixth grader might plow through Camus’ The Stranger (6.2 ATOS readability level). Hardly appropriate reading material for these grade levels! Content is not considered in the AR point system and students are, of course, reading for those points.

Reader Response

5. Using AR tends to induce a student mindset that “reading is a chore,” and “a job that has to be done.”
“As a teacher and a mom of 4, I do NOT like AR. As a parent, I watched my very smart 9 year old work the system. He continually read books very much below his ability NOT because he likes reading them, but because he could read them quickly and get points. Other books that he told me he really wanted to read, he didn’t either because they were longer and would take “too long to read” or they weren’t on the AR list. I finally told him to stop with the AR stuff, took him to the bookstore and spent an hour with him finding books he would enjoy. We have never looked back and I will fight wholeheartedly if anyone tries to tell any of my kids they ‘have’ to participate in AR.”

6. Using AR tends to replace the intrinsic rewards of reading with extrinsic rewards.
AR rewards children for doing something that is already pleasant: self-selected reading. Substantial research shows that rewarding an intrinsically pleasant activity sends the message that the activity is not pleasant, and that nobody would do it without a bribe. AR might be convincing children that reading is not pleasant. No studies have been done to see if this is true.
Stephen Krashen Posted by Stephen Krashen on December 17, 2009 at 10:40pm
Again, Renaissance Learning does not endorse prizes for points; however, its overall point system certainly is rewards-based.

7. Using AR tends to foster student and/or teacher competitiveness, which can push students to read books at their frustrational reading level or create problems among students. In some situations, this competitiveness can lead to hard feelings or outright ostracism. Students mock other students for not earning enough points, or “making us lose a class pizza party.” Here are two recent blog postings by moms who happen to be educators:

My son is a voracious reader, but AR had him in tears more than once. I had to encourage him to NOT participate in AR (which meant that his class didn’t get the stuffed cougar promised as a reward to the class with the most AR points!) in order to protect that love. He took a hit for his non-participation in school (he started reading books off the list and not getting points for them) but it preserved his love of reading. In my estimation, this love of reading will take him further in the long run. Stupid that he had to choose between school and what was best for his reading life.
As an educator, it concerns me when I see students being punished with reading, as can be the case when I visit sites on a Friday afternoon, a day many grade levels offer students “Fun Friday” activities. Students who’ve completed their class and homework assignments for the week and have had no behavioral problems get to sign-in for fun activities. One teacher volunteers to monitor those who did not earn a Fun Friday, including students who did not meet their AR requirement for the week – and as a result, will be punished with staying in the non-FF room to read.

8. Using AR tends to turn off some students to independent reading. Countless posts on blogs point to the negative impact of this program on future reading. From my own survey of sixty blogs, using the “accelerated reading” search term, negative comments and/or associations with the AR program far outweigh positive ones in the blogosphere. Of course there are those who credit AR for developing them into life-long readers; however, would other independent reading programs have accomplished the same mission? In Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide, he cites a few studies that demonstrate that after exiting an AR program, students actually read less than non-AR students.

9. Using AR tends to turn some students into cheaters. Many students skim read, read only book summaries, share books and answers with classmates, select books that have been made into movies that they have already seen, or use web cheat sites or forums to pass the quizzes without reading the books. Pervasive among many students seems to be the attitude that one has to learn how to beat the AR system, like one uses cheat sites and codes to beat video games. Both are on the computer and detached from human to human codes of conduct. Students who would never dream of cheating on a teacher-constructed test will cheat on AR because “it’s dumb” or “everyone does it.”
In order to take Accelerated Reader tests without any reading at all, many students use sites such as Sparknotes to read chapter summaries. Other websites offer the answers to Accelerated Reader tests. Students regularly trade answers on Renaissance Learning has filed lawsuits against some of the offending websites and successfully closed them down after a short time. An AR cheat site is currently the ninth Google™ listing on the first page for the “accelerated reader” search term.
AR is Reductive

10. Using AR tends to supplant portions of established reading programs. In my experience, teachers who use AR spend less time on direct reading instruction. Some teachers even consider AR to be solid reading instruction. However, AR does not teach reading; AR tests reading. The expectation of many teachers is that students are learning to read on their own or are dutifully practicing the reading strategies that their teachers have taught them.

11. Using AR tends to train students to accumulate facts and trivia as they read in order to answer the multiple choice recall questions. Students receive no extrinsic “rewards” for making inferences, connections, interpretations, or conclusions as they read. Reading is reduced to a lower higher order thinking process. Students read to gain the gist of characterizations and plots. The Florida Center for Reading Research noted the lack of assessment of “inferential or critical thinking skills” as weaknesses of the software.

12. Using AR tends to takes up significant instructional time. Students have to wait their turn to take quizzes on the classroom computer(s) or the teacher has to march the class down to the library or computer lab to allow the students to do so.
The incentives schools develop with the AR program also take away from instructional time. One parent details her frustrations with the program:
When the librarian tallies up all of the people who have passed a book (not a goal, but just ONE book), everybody gets a chance to come to the library to select a prize (these are dollar store purchases to include child-like toys and snacks). The English teachers are asked to send the students when the coupons come (a disruption of classroom time). The reason for this is to send a clear message to the students who did not pass a book. It is to make them feel bad, I presume. Tell me how this fits into anything that looks like motivation. This includes students who took a quiz the day before coupons were made and distributed who now have to sit in class while all of their classmates go down to collect a prize.

13. Using AR tends to reduce the amount of time that teachers spend doing “read-alouds” and teaching class novels. Jim Trelease, chief advocate of the “read-aloud” was an early advocate of AR, even keynoting three national conferences for AR. However, in his sixth edition of his popular The Read-Aloud Handbook, Trelease turns quite critical. AR teachers tend teach fewer core novels and to limit class discussions because of the time considerations or because a discussion would give away AR quiz answers. Besides, the computer can ask the questions instead.

14. Using AR tends to make reading into an isolated academic task. With each student reading a different book, the social nature of reading is minimized. Research on juvenile and adolescent readers emphasizes the importance of the book communities in developing a love for reading. Fewer Literature Circles with small groups sharing the same book and discussing chapter by chapter, fewer Book Clubs focused on Harry Potter or Twilight novels, fewer class Book Talks, and fewer oral book reports (well, maybe AR does have some value here )

15. Using AR tends to drains resources that could certainly be used for other educational priorities. The program is not cheap. As librarians are losing their jobs in the current economic downturn, the pressure to build up the AR library collection grows. For each $15 hardback purchase, there is an additional cost of close to $3 for the AR quiz. This amounts to a de facto 20% tax on library acquisitions. Another way to look at this is that a school library able to purchase 300 new books a year will only be able to purchase 250 because of the AR program. AR costs that library and those students 50 books per year.

16. Using AR tends to minimize the teaching and instructional practice in diagnostically-based reading strategies. The STAR Test is hardly diagnostic in terms of the full spectrum of reading skills, despite its flimsy claims to point out potential reading issues in the teacher reports. AR neither assesses, nor teaches phonemic awareness, decoding/word attack, syllabication, vocabulary, or reading comprehension strategies.

17. Using AR tends to limit differentiated instruction. Students are not grouped by ability or skill deficits with AR. The teacher does not spend additional time with remedial students for AR. Students do not receive different instruction according to their abilities. Worse yet, many teachers wrongly perceive AR as differentiated instruction because all of their students are reading books at their own reading levels. Again, there is no reading instruction in AR.

Research Base

18. Although a plethora of research studies involving AR are cited on the Renaissance Learning website, the research base is questionable at best. Few of the AR studies meet the strict research criteria of the Institute of Education Services What Works Clearinghouse. Control groups are always the sticky point when evaluating reading programs. The AR program is no exception.
Stephen Krashen summarizes the research findings regarding AR as follows:
Accelerated Reader consists of four elements: (1) books, (2) reading time, (3) tests, and, usually, (4) prizes. Because there is clear evidence that factors (1) and (2) are effective in encouraging reading and promoting literacy development (Krashen, 1993), the obvious study that needs to be done is to compare the effects of all four factors with (1) and (2) only.

After reviewing the research on Accelerated Reader, I have concluded that this has yet to be done: Accelerated Reader studies usually compare Accelerated Reader to doing nothing, and the few attempts to do the needed comparison have been flawed (Krashen, 2004) See for more analysis.

According to the United States Department of Education Institute for Educational Sciences (IES What Works Clearinghouse, August 2010), Accelerated Reader™ was found to have no discernible effects on reading fluency or comprehension for adolescent learners.

The writer of this article, Mark Pennington is an MA reading specialist and educational author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies.

I am so happy Highcroft decided not to implement the AR program, and now I have validation not to implement it anytime soon.

Happy "INTRINSIC" reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Turtle in the Sea, by Jim Arnosky

This week in the library students were introduced to the sea turtle habitat by listening to Jim Arnosky's book titled, Turtle in the Sea.

Turtle in the Sea follows a mother sea turtle as she is coming to shore to lay her eggs. This mother has been through a lot and the book focuses not so much on her egg laying, but on her previous adventures which brought her to the shore. She has been caught in nets, attacked by a shark, plowed under a boat and had her shell cracked. This mother sea turtle has led a very amazing life and now the circle of life is continuing by the laying of these eggs. Soon, there will be new baby turtles to explore the great blue sea.

We paired this fiction book with two nonfiction books. The first was a journal a mother had written to her daughter titled, Turtle Summer. She was part of a turtle rescue volunteer that searched for turtle nests and marked them so others will know not to disturb which is a federal offense! Real photographs of turtle nests, eggs and loggerhead hatchlings were present. The students were amazed at the facts which were presented in this book. After learning about the turtle nests we read a short book titled, Carolina's story. This is a fantastic book about a sea turtle who washed up on the beach. She was rescued, treated for turtle flu and released after four months at the turtle hospital . Simple text and great photographs made for an exciting ending to our learning about sea turtles. I followed up with a short presentation on how to draw a sea turtle. We learned this was just a fun drawing, not a scientific sketch. Most students wanted to check out books on sea turtles. The library is such an exciting place to be!

Happy reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Jim Arnosky Books

In the media center we have been reading as many Jim Arnosky books as we possibly can to prepare for his visit in May. I have also been pairing his books with other books to engage the students in learning all we can about specific animals and their habitats.

Last week we watched Jim Arnosky's DVD which was included in his book titled, Crocodile Safari. We learned several bits of information from viewing his DVD. First, many people do not know we have American Crocodiles which live in the southern most section of Florida. They are tannish in color, do not have distinctive necks as alligators do, their eyes are not as buggy as as alligator eyes, and their teeth stick out from their mouths which is more visible. We paired this book with Babies in the Bayou, also written by Jim Arnosky. We learned what a bayou was, how it is pronounced, and also alligator moms really protect their young unlike most reptiles. We finished up by learning how to draw a crocodile in the mangroves. Jim can really sketch fast! Next week we will learn about sea turtles.

Happy reading,

Mrs. Wetherell

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What does a good library tell you about a school?

“Your library is your portrait.” - Holbrook Jackson

Had I any say in the decision, my grandsons would never attend a school that did not have a good library program.* You can tell a lot about a school's philosophy of education - in practice, not just in lip service - by what sort of library it supports.
A school with a *good library:
1. Believes that education is about teaching kids how to ask and answer questions, not just know the "right" answers.
2. Believes that asking questions is a sign of intelligence, not stupidity.
3. Believes that kids should have access to a diversity of topics and points-of-view and be taught the skills to make informed opinions of their own.
4. Believes that kids' personal interests are legitimate areas of investigation.
5. Believes that it is as important to create kids who want to read as to simply create kids who can read.
6. Believes that access to good fiction collections helps kids meet developmental tasks and reading fiction can foster empathy.
7. Believes that kids should be content creators and content sharers as well as content consumers.
8. Believes that it is important to have more research skills than simply being able to Google a topic - and that it is important to have a professional who helps kids master those skills.
9. Believes that edited, quality commercial sources of information should be available to all kids regardless of economic level.
10. Believes that technology use in education is about creativity, problem-solving and communications.
11. Believes that the classroom is not the only place learning occurs.
12. Believes that kids, like adults, sometimes need a "third place" where they feel welcome, comfortable and productive.
It's in times of budget cuts that a school's true values come starkly into focus. Which kind of school do you want your children or grandchildren to attend? With what kind of school do you wish to be affiliated as an educator?
* Good = professional and support staff, adequate materials, articulated curriculum, pleasant physical plant, up-to-date technology.

Taken from Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson