Tales2GoThrough an NEF grant, each student and staff member at Ben-Hem was able to obtain a one-year subscription to Tales2Go! Tales2Go is an award-winning kids’ mobile audio book service that streams thousands of familiar titles to mobile devices and desktops in the classroom and beyond (think Netflix for books). The benefits of listening to audio books include enhanced vocabulary, fluency and listening skills as well as the development of background knowledge. Studies show that when a listening component is added to reading instruction, student achievement increases measurably. Students are able to read at a higher level without having to decode each word on a page, and they hear modeled fluent, expressive reading.

You will need to login as a “school” and fill in the country, state and school name as you log in.  The User ID will be first initial last name for most kids (ie: kstoetzel).  If we have two students with the same first initial and last name, additional letters are added to the first name until a unique id is found.  You will receive specific login information from your child’s classroom teacher.  Password for everyone is “bobcats”. Be sure to bookmark your favorite books for easy access at school and at home.

Tales2Go can be used on a desktop, laptop, iPad, iPhone, iTouch or Android. This means you can use it at home, or on the go! You can find Tales2Go on a desktop or laptop at www.tales2go.com, and find it at the Apple or Google Play app store by searching “Tales2Go.”

Try to listen with your child a few times per week. If you show your child that you like to read, it might excite them to read!  You can include listening into homework time, a bedtime story or on your way to sports practice.

Enjoy Tales2Go and happy listening!

How to Utilize Student Take-Home Licenses 

Raz Kids: A Tool for Building Reading Fluency

Fluency is the ability to read text at an appropriate rate with accuracy and expression. We often explain to students that fluent readers read like they are talking, in a smooth and not choppy manner. We measure fluency regularly because it is an indicator of comprehension. Research tells us that fluent readers have more brain energy available for comprehension, which is the ultimate goal of reading. The less energy a student expends on decoding words, the more energy is available for higher level thinking. Follow this link for a great article on fluency from Reading Rockets, including tips on how to help students who struggle:

Reading Rockets- Fluency

Readers can build fluency by reading and rereading text at their own independent level. With all of the books to choose from, it is difficult to know which books are “just right” for your child. Ideally, your child should be reading books that are not too hard (the most recent research suggests 98% accuracy or higher!). Often students self-select too difficult books that require significant inferential understanding and contain lots of dialogue and tricky words, then become frustrated with reading because it is too hard and the story does not make sense. Reading books that are too hard also causes children to develop bad habits; when a book is too hard, children’s understanding is only at the surface level and they don’t train themselves to think deeply about text.

With that in mind, I encourage you to explore Raz Kids. Raz Kids is a website that provides your child with access to digital books at his or her own independent level. Every elementary student in Natick has a Raz Kids subscription. Students log on and select a just right book within a level chosen by the classroom teacher. Students can listen to the book, record themselves reading the book, and take a quiz on the book. They earn points toward incentives such as the “Raz Rocket” or “Robot Builder” features. The classroom teacher can assign specific books for students to record, see Raz Kids activity, hear recordings, see quiz results, and send messages to students. Raz Kids also has a free app available for iPad, Android, or Kindle Fire. Click here for a brief overview video from Schooltube:

Raz Kids Tutorial

Please feel free to contact me or your child’s classroom teacher if you have any questions about Raz Kids (including login and password) or want suggestions for other just right books.

Kristin Stoetzel
Ben-Hem Reading Specialist

Maintaining “Academic Fitness” over the Summer

Getting and staying fit doesn’t require a massive amount of work. It requires patience and dedication. Walking for 20-30 minutes a day provides huge fitness benefits. If you want to go further and develop greater athletic ability, you must train. You have to slowly increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of the activity in order to make significant gains. Whether a person is working to get fit, or maintain fitness, dedication and perseverance are essential to a healthy life style.

The analogy I am drawing is between fitness and basic academic skills. If we want our children to maintain and extend their academic fitness, we must engage them in training. The summer weeks are critical in maintaining the levels of “fitness” they have achieved this school year. So, what makes for a successful training plan.

  1. Set a goal with your child.
    • Just like us, they like to have a goal. It keeps you/them motivated. Make sure that the goal is realistic and attainable. Setting a goal that you/they will never achieve will only lead to frustration.
  2. Measure progress toward the goal.
    •  If the goal is reading independently for 30 minutes, track their progress daily. Make a graph or a chart that shows how many minutes they are reading each day.
  3. Keep it fun .
    • Read to your child. Listen to them read. Think of funny alternative endings. Read using the voices you imagine the characters to have. There are a million creative ways to do this.
  4. Mix it up .
    • Training can get boring. Doing the same thing over and over again can make the task feel like a chore. Read different types of text. Books, magazines, newspapers, web-sites, blogs, etc. What you are reading is less important than the fact that you are reading. To some extent, reading (like fitness training) is a numbers game. “Time in” is key.
  5. Be a coach.
    • Athletes need coaches. Someone to guide them in their training. They are there to help the athlete understand their strengths and weaknesses. Great coaches support the athlete in understanding their weaknesses and providing them with the tools and strategies they need to convert those deficits into strengths. Encouragement and a “never give up” attitude are key. Students undoubtedly run into difficulty as they train and develop greater academic fitness. When the going gets tough, they will need you there to support and remind them that they can do anything they put their minds to.

To support you with this work, the elementary school principals have compiled a set of tools that you can use with your child/children to maintain academic fitness. We put together a web-site that houses all of the resources. There are podcasts, book lists, and a handful of other resources that will be of great help to you over the summer. The Summer Academics site explains everything so go there and get started!

Check out the Latin and Greek Roots Program

Next week we are launching our Latin and Greek Roots Program. This program aims to engage our Bobcats in exploring language, building academic vocabulary, improving overall reading skills, and having fun participating in a community building program.

The focus of the program is to expose students to and teach the Latin and Greek Roots that are such a huge part of the English language. Each week I will introduce our students to three new Latin and Greek roots and their meanings. I will challenge our Bobcats to think of words they know that contain those roots or to think of new words using those roots. Students will be able to share their words and their meanings on bulletin boards around the school. In sharing what we know, we will all learn and have a good time while we are doing it.

I am really looking forward to growing this program at Ben-Hem and I ask that you take time at home with your children to talk about the roots and play with the language we are sharing with them.

Our first three roots are:

1. Tele: far away, distant

2. Micro: small

3. Scope: watch, view, examine

Think about these roots. Are there words you know that contain them? What do those words mean? If you think of any, share them on our virtual bulletin board. You can also share your words on the bulletin board in the main lobby!

Help me with my Patchwork Reading Quilt!

I walked into Mrs. Briones’ class this morning and found a classroom full of excited learners! I had to find out what was going on so I sat and listened for a while and found out that everyone is completing a Patchwork Reading Quilt. It sounded like so much fun that I asked Mrs. Briones if I could do one too. Fortunately she let me and now I have an assignment to complete with our 4th graders. I will be working on my Patchwork Reading Quilt over the next few months and I could really use your help with finding great books to read. I need to read 22 total so any recommendations would be a great help!

My Patchwork Reading Quilt!

My Patchwork Reading Quilt!