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 

Classroom Appstravaganza #3

This year we are taking time in the Classroom Appstravaganza series to hi-light the applications that your students are accessing during the school day here at Ben-Hem. This week the Appstravaganza is all about Book Creator.

mzl.xrehjemtWhat really stands out about Book Creator is that it represents a fun but productive way to engage kids with technology. In an age where parents struggle to find productive uses of the screen time that their children demand, Book Creator and applications like it are a welcome addition to the mobile device rotation.

Book Creator does not mince words, it does just what its title would lead you to believe. This is an application that allows children to create, publish, and share books with friends and the world if they like. Book creator is robust enough to allow for multi-media integration yet streamlined and intuitive so that kids can pick up and go with little support from adults.

There are so many ways that this app can be used to engage all children in writing and creative expression. Imaginative stories, writing about their last play date, or documenting their last field trip or vacation are all simple and easy to do. They can publish their tales to the iBooks store for others to read. Knowing that there is an audience who will read their work and listen to their ideas is a powerful motivator for young writers.

Book Creator is available for both Android and iOS devices. There is a free edition that provides all basic functionality and there is a full version that is $4.99 that provides all access to the bells and whistles of Book Creator. The developer’s website has a great blog with all kinds of creative ideas for you and your kids to play with at home.

Overview and Tutorial Video

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

You have questions, we have answers!

Getting the year underway is a major endeavor for everyone. During this time teachers and parents have lots of questions and, at the same time, there is a great deal of information coming from the school. There are lots of ways that parents can access information about Ben-Hem’s ongoing events, programs, etc. Here are a few of the many ways to access information:

  1.  Friday Email
    • Mr. Kelly sends an email to the community every Friday. You can sign up to receive this email using this link.
  2.  Virtual Back Pack
    • The Virtual Back Pack contains all kinds of useful information about Ben-Hem events and projects as well as information about community based organizations and departments.
  3. Ben-Hem Community Calendar
    • The Ben-Hem Community Calendar holds specific dates and times for just about any Ben-Hem related event that takes place within or beyond the building.
  4. Facebook
    • Ben-Hem has a Facebook page and this is a place where you can get information and check out the more day to day happenings at Ben-Hem. It is a great place to get a peak at what goes on during the day. Mr. Kelly liked to post pictures of what school really looks like.
  5.  Twitter
    • Ben-Hem is on Twitter and this is also a place where families and community members can get great information about the school. Our Twitter updates tend to focus more on the day to day happenings at the school. Again, a nice place to get an inside look at Ben-Hem.
  6.  Bobcat’s Blog
    • The Bobcat’s Blog is a great place to catch more detailed information about specific areas of interest or projects going on at Ben-Hem. We have many guest contributors including students and staff.
  7.  Ben-Hem Parent Forum
    • The Ben-Hem Parent Forum is a google group created and facilitated by Ben-Hem parents. This is a great collaborative space to share information, ask questions, and connect with other families within the community. Be sure to check it out.
  8. The Bobcat Bulletin
    • The Bobcat Bulletin is a publication of Ben-Hem’s PTO. This is a great source of information all about the ongoing efforts of the PTO. Parents interested in getting involved with the PTO should certainly check this out.


At Ben-Hem, we value communication and we like to share all about what is happening in this amazing school. The list above provides a host of opportunities for families and community members to connect and get information about the school. Beyond those listed above, every teacher has a web-site where they house classroom and grade level specific information. As always, families and community members are always welcome to call or email any questions or concerns. You can reach the front office at 508.647.6580 and email using the following format, first initial last name@natickps.org (jdoe@natickps.org).

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!