Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary! D.E.A.R.

bookWhat do Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Otis Spofford, Ribsy, Socks, and Ralph S. Mouse have in common?  They’re celebrating Beverly Cleary’s birthday on April 12th.

April 12th also is National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day.  D.E.A.R. is a reading celebration that encourages families to make reading together on a daily basis a family priority.

Beverly Cleary’s beloved character, Ramona Quimby, is the program’s official spokesperson. Ramona is responsible for spreading the word and the love of reading.  All this came about because Beverly Cleary received many letters from readers who participated in D.E.A.R. at their schools, so she gave the same experience to Ramona in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (link to amazon, book and movie).

The goal of National D.E.A.R. Day is to show families how to make time to drop everything and read.  It’s easy to set up and host your own celebration.   The D.E.A.R. website features information and tools to promote your celebration. There’s also a list of Favorite Read-Aloud Titles for Families of D.E.A.R. Readers

Students get really excited about D.E.A.R. in the classroom: have them read any and all books by Beverly Cleary.  My parents read her books when they were in elementary school, and now Beverly Cleary’s books are published in twenty countries in fourteen languages.  Beverly Cleary’s autobiographies, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet
, fueled my dreams of writing children’s books.

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!  Now, I’m off to read!

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Apr 11, 2016


How AR levels are determined

argenrechallengeMany schools use the Accelerated Reader Program (AR) to guide students’ independent reading.  In essence, children read books and take a computer based AR quiz to earn points.  Points are based on the reading level of the book and the word length.  Points are awarded based on the quiz score.  A student must earn a passing score to receive points for a quiz.

Your child’s AR level is determined by a test called Star Reading.  This test is part of Renaissance Learning’s suite of programs designed to work in conjunction with AR.  Star Reading is a multiple choice test with a fill in the blank format.   Students read a sentence and choose the word that best fits the blank.  The test is self-adjusting because question difficulty varies based on whether students answer correctly.

In essence, Star Reading is a test of vocabulary.  This is appropriate because vocabulary is an excellent predictor of reading ability.  I have found the Star Reading test to be quite accurate for my students.

Observations and Comments:

  1. Most children do not read at grade level.  This makes sense, because grade level is basically a median.  Half the students are above, half the students are below.  The child’s AR level is usually determined by a statistic called independent reading level, which is the level of books a child can comfortably read on his own.
  2. Sometimes parents want their child to read above the assigned AR level, but this can be a mistake.  Children improve by reading books that are fairly easy for them.  If the child is struggling to read the words, he can’t understand the story.  The child will not improve reading comprehension by practicing like this.
  3. The way to move up in AR levels is to read, read, read!  Encourage your child to read everything available at his or her level.  By doing this, your child will pick up new vocabulary words.  The Star Reading score will rise, as will the AR level.

Connection:  You can also help your child build vocabulary by reading aloud.  Choose books that are above your child’s AR level.  Children can listen at a much higher level than they can read themselves.  Your child will naturally absorb new vocabulary.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Mar 7, 2016


Teach Kids about Art with Katie’s Picture Show by James Mayhew

Katie'sPictureShowIntegrate art and literacy with James Mayhew’s terrific books about Katie, a girl who can step inside paintings.  These beautifully illustrated books bring masterpieces to life.

Books in the series, all available at Amazon.com:

Katie’s Picture Show: This is the book that started it all.  Katie visits London’s National Gallery, where five famous masterpieces come to life.

Katie and the Starry Night:  The stars are falling out of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night!  Can Katie save the day, er, night?

Katie Meets The Impressionists: Katie meets Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Katie and the Waterlily Pond: A Magical Journey Through Five Monet Masterpieces: An art competition inspires Katie to step into Monet’s masterpieces.  Can she learn how to create a winning entry?

Katie and the Sunflowers:  Katie explores post-Impressionst masterpieces by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne.

Katie and the Spanish Princess:  This one’s about  the pride of Spain, Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.

Katie and the Bathers: Pointilist art comes alive for Katie.  She cools down with the bathers—but floods the gallery!  What now?

Katie and the British Artists:  Katie has a magical art adventure exploring masterpieces by Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Katie and the Mona Lisa:  Katie tries to cheer La Giaconda up—with disastrous results!

Teaching ideas:

  • Choose a masterpiece and imagine what would happen if Katie stepped into it.
  • Learn more about each masterpiece Katie encounters.
  • Write or discuss alternate adventures for Katie.
  • Write a letter to Katie.  You can suggest topics (requests to become her sidekick, questions, suggestions for new adventures) or you can leave it open-ended.  Students may surprise you with their creativity.
  • Create a Katie’s Picture Show comic book.  Retell sequences from the book or create your own.
  • As a class, prepare a mini-lesson for younger students.  This could involve mini bios on the artists, listing sensory details in the paintings, or fun facts about the masterpieces.  Buddy up with a younger class and reread the book.  Then, partner students and let them present their work to the youngsters.
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Posted in Academics,Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2014


What it’s like to be an elementary school teacher – Part 12

A National Board Certified Teacher explains what an educator’s life is really like.  The series is a value-added collection of Best ClassAntics Posts EVER!  Each post explains something about a teacher’s life and links to ClassAntics posts with relevant teaching tips.

Part Twelve: We know a million ways to get kids to read

Teachers take great pleasure in turning children into lifelong readers.  We employ a million techniques and tricks to hook kids on reading.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Get the Most out of Accelerated Reader (AR)

Many schools use the Accelerated Reader program, which is basically just a huge test bank of quizzes about individual books.  As you can imagine, AR can be pretty dry if the teacher doesn’t spice it up.

New to accelerated reader?  Get started with  How AR levels are determined and How to Print AR Labels.  Check out my thoughts on the AR Report: What Kids are Reading.  I cut through the media hype and explain the real story on kids’ reading habits.  Parents will find it interesting; children’s book authors will find it invaluable.

Looking to make AR more exciting?  Try the Accelerated Reader Genre Challenge.  Also, Encourage Kids to Take AR Vocabulary Tests.  The tests give students excellent practice and encourage them to pay more attention to new vocabulary words.  The tests are plenty exciting if you give students incentives for taking them.

Need to motivate your students?  Try So You Think You Rock? An Accelerated Reader (AR) Game.  The post explains how you can turn progress monitoring into a fun motivational and teambuilding activity for the whole class.

Special Events

Teachers love to create special events that promote reading.  Sometimes, we latch onto existing events.  One good example is National Poetry Month.  In the following two posts, I share printable worksheets with excellent poems (written by my sister!) and thought-provoking questions.

During National Poetry Month, I like to use some of my favorite resources: serious poems, fun poems, and excellent workbooks that teach students how to analyze poetry.

By the way, April is School Library Month.  It’s a good time to thank the school librarian, spend extra time in the library, and do a little community service with A Quick Way to Help the School Librarian.

Another popular literacy holiday is NEA read across America Day.  This year, you might Try a Dr. Seuss-Themed Reading Buddies Session on Read Across America Day.

Special Techniques

Teachers love to help kids improve reading skills.  One of my favorite things to teach is Speed Reading.  This simple technique helps students at every level, in every grade.  I also love to Read aloud to build vocabulary.  Students can listen at a higher reading level than what they read independently, so your read alouds can introduce them to higher-level vocabulary words than students could read on their own.

It’s also fun to use technology, such as the highly effective computer program Ticket to Read.  Even TV has its place.  If you use the closed captioning, you can do a lesson on Watching TV to build reading skills.


Kindles  (and other e-readers) are a great addition to the classroom.  My series on Kids and Kindles shows their many uses and offers tips on bringing them to your classroom.

Favorite Authors and Books

We love to help kids find their new favorite author.  We also love introducing kids to a variety of authors, genres, and resources.

We even build literacy skills through song.  My “Figurative Language with Taylor Swift” lessons are wildly popular in the classroom.  Kids love to apply their knowledge of literary devices to Taylor’s catchy tunes.  Here is the complete series:

·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: You Belong with Me
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Love Story
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Hey Stephen
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Mean
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Speak Now
·         Figurative Language with Taylor Swift: Our Song
·         The Hunger Games: Analyzing “Safe & Sound” by Taylor Swift

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers,What it's like to be a teacher by Corey Green @ May 17, 2013


Try a Dr. Seuss-Themed Reading Buddies Session on Read Across America Day

NEA’s Read Across America Day coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday.  Your students are either the right age for Dr. Seuss—or way too old.  Either way, pair up with another class for a fun Dr. Seuss-themed event.

“Class reading buddies” is a time honored tradition in elementary school.  Typically, a primary class pairs with an intermediate class.  The older kids read aloud to the younger kids.

The two classes can have a great time with a Dr. Seuss-themed session.  Get as many copies of Seuss’s books as you can.  Try the school library, the public library (put BIG labels on these books and keep track of them), and ask families to send in their well-loved Seuss readers.

Pair the kids up however you wish.  There are many options:

  • Randomly
  • By reading level (pair higher-achieving primary readers with higher-achieving intermediate readers)
  • Let the little kids pick their buddy (empowering and interesting—watch them choose someone who looks a lot like themselves)
  • By interest: who wants to read The Cat in the HatOne Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish?

Then start reading!

It’s nice if you have enough computers so kids can take Accelerated Reader (AR) tests.  I would let intermediate kids take the tests, too—assuming they haven’t already in earlier grades.  They should be rewarded with AR points for reading aloud to little kids.

Consider Cat in the Hat themed art activities.  Keep it simple with coloring pages or making bookmarks.  After all, you’ll have up to 60 kids in the room (or split between two rooms.)  Here are templates:

Seussville Printables for Cat in the Hat

PBS Kids Printables

Happy Read Across America Day!

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Fun With Literacy,Holidays by Corey Green @ Feb 28, 2013


Accelerated Reader Genre Challenge

Here is a fun way to encourage your students to select a wider variety of AR reading material.

The Accelerated Reader program makes it very easy to keep track of students’ reading. Student progress is measured by reading level, point value, and percent correct. Kids can read pretty much anything so long as they fit their material within those parameters.

I noticed that my students were staying well within their comfort zones and missing out on the array of genres available to them. I also noticed that students tended to read a lot more fiction than nonfiction. While fiction is fun, nonfiction is increasingly emphasized in standardized testing to reflect its importance in the real world.

I created the AR Genre Challenge. Over the course of a nine week grading period, students had to read from a selected list of genres, but they chose the book. Spaces were reserved for free choice.

I keep track of the Genre Challenge with a class list generated by our grading software. I tape the list to a piece of construction paper and decorate it a little for flair, then label the boxes with genres. Here are some suggestions:

Fiction Nonfiction
Science fiction
Historical fiction
Realistic fiction
Fairy tale
Myth and legend
Free choice
Vehicles (cars, trucks, planes, etc.)
Places (states, countries, regions)
Environments (jungle, desert, etc)
Ancient cultures
Free choice

You can measure progress by book or by point value. There are pros and cons to each system; you have to decide what is best for your class.

How to use AR student records to keep track of the challenge

I use the individual student record function to keep track of the AR Stamp Sheet. The record is great because you can customize the date range so you don’t have to wade through records you’ve already seen. I just keep a note by my computer of when I last checked records so I know where to start this time.

Print (or view) the report after students have left for the school day so you know that you are capturing all tests up to that day. Fill in the chart with the books you can identify by genre. Highlight the titles you can’t easily classify and ask the student about them the next day.

I highly recommend you use one whole-class chart to keep track of the challenge. When I first started this system, I used individual stamp sheets, and the admin took MUCH longer. Plus, it’s good for students to see others making progress.

At the end of the quarter, have a blowout party for students who completed the Genre Challenge.

Happy reading!

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Sep 13, 2012


AR Report: What Kids are Reading

Renaissance Learning’s report on What Kids are Reading has garnered national media attention, much of it focusing on perceived inadequacies among today’s readers.  A National Board Certified Teacher offers a different perspective.

Renaissance Place’s Accelerated Reader program gathers a lot of data when students take AR tests.  Kids rate books and the program counts how often tests are taken.  The results can be interesting…and misleading.  For example, kids almost always pick the top rating, so you can’t place much stock in the stars books receive on the ARBookFind site. Additionally standalone titles of perennial popularity (Charlotte’s Web) do better than really, really popular series.  Kids love Magic Tree House books, but there are so many that they split the vote.

Sometimes the reason for a book’s popularity isn’t what you think.  For example, three of the top books read by third graders (Boom Town, Officer Buckle & Gloria, and Lon Po Po) are in the Harcourt Trophies third grade reader.  Would these books be so popular among AR test takers if they weren’t in the reading textbook?

Reading level can be a misleading thing.  Just because a student is in third grade doesn’t mean she reads only books rated three point something.  A quick glance at the top books for any grade level shows you that reading level is just an average.  For example, third graders love Diary of a Wimpy Kid (5.5), but they also enjoy Green Eggs and Ham (1.5)  Books hovering around grade level are prominent, but so are outliers.

Reading levels run the gamut in every grade, both among the readers and the titles they favor.  That’s why I’m not nuts about assigning kids to a narrow reading level (2.5-3.1 would be a common reading zone for third grade.)  Kids miss out on so much and the reading level is not always an indicator of whether the child can read the book.  It’s an indicator of sentence length, word length, sentences in a paragraph, that sort of thing.

Much has been made in the media about the low average grade level of high school students’ favorite books.  Don’t wig out, America!  There are several forces at work here.  First of all, mostly younger high school kids take AR tests, and mostly kids who are in regular English, not honors are required to earn points.  Honors students read literature and write papers; AR tests rarely figure into the curriculum.   If it does, it’s just an assignment to rack up points for independent reading.  Why not get credit for Twilight under such a system?

A look at AR tests high school kids are taking reads like the bestseller list.  Some of the reading levels may surprise you. For example, The Hunger Games clocks in at 5.3, but anyone who has read it knows the issues, characterization, and depth of the novel go far beyond that.  Besides, how can you knock The Hunger Games for a low reading level when Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is lower, only 4.5?  The low reading levels are indicators of today’s writing style—clear and concise.  Short sentences and paragraphs mean low reading levels.

What differentiates the high school books is topic, not word length and sentence length.  Glass by Ellen Hopkins is considered 3.7 grade level, but would I share that novel-in-verse with my third graders?  It’s way above their comprehension level!

Use the list of What Kids are Reading as it was intended: a way to report usage of AR tests, indicating popularity of certain books.  Don’t think it indicates the end of literacy or a terrible decline in the reading ability of today’s kids.

The report also has interesting essays by some of today’s most famous authors.  Ellen Hopkin’s article about frequently challenged books and what kids should be reading is insightful.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Apr 26, 2012


AR Challenge: March 2, 2012

Read the Most from Coast to Coast!

Here is a neat idea for celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2.  Help set a record for Accelerated Reader quiz taking!

Renaissance Learning is sponsoring the program and offering free kits for teachers.  Click here to register your class and claim your planning kit which includes a poster, student bookmarks, and downloadable support materials.  Register by February 14th to ensure that you receive your materials on time. Get event information here.

For extra fun, all participants will be registered for daylong prize drawings.  You could win an iPad, a signed copy of a book from the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book series by Jeff Kinney, and more.

Teaching Tips

Get ready!  Have students set goals or make book recommendations to each other.  Check out stacks of books from the school library so kids have plenty to read.  If you teach at a school where students have home libraries, ask kids to bring in books to share.

Prepare for state testing!  If March 2 is near your state testing window, you might want to challenge your students to read NONFICTION on March 2nd.  It’s excellent preparation for the test and corrects an imbalance since most students tend to read much more fiction than nonfiction.  If all day of nonfiction is too much for your gang, set a timeframe during which your class reads only nonfiction.  The students will get into it.

Make a day of it!  Set up blankets, have snacks, make forts, and read as much as you can!   It doesn’t all have to be silent reading.  The kids can read in pairs.  Parents can read to the class.  You can read to the class.

Fun data analysis!  Use AR’s reports to show your kids how much they accomplished.

> Print up a word count for your students the day before the event and compare it to their word count after the event.
> Compare class points earned before and after the event.
> See how much fiction versus nonfiction you read during the event.
> Break your class into teams on AR and see which team can read the most.
> Use the quizzes taken report to see which books were most popular that day.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Jan 31, 2012


So You Think You Rock? An Accelerated Reader (AR) Game

My students are always playing games.  Some are more fun than others…

So You Think You Rock?  is a game I invented to complement the Accelerated Reader program.  Actually, my sister invented it one day when she was volunteering in my class.  Here I was, trying to have AR conferences with the kids, which took forever—mostly because they were so slow in coming to talk to me.  Also, the constant coming and going was disruptive.

Then my sister printed up the class progress report and just started calling their scores out.  We jazzed it up by stating whether or not the student rocks.

Example: say it is the second week of the grading period.  You estimate that the student should be at 20% of their goal.  You have a class goal of scoring an average of 85% correct.  Announce it just like this:

John: rocks.  He scored 30% of his goal (students cheer) and has an 89% correct average.  Keep up the good work, John!  (John beams)

Paul: sort of rocks.  Paul, we are very proud of you for earning 45% of your goal.  You must be reading a lot at home!  (students cheer)  However, your average percent correct is 80%.  Could you work on that, please?  We know you can do it!  (students cheer)

George:  Rocks hard!  He has made his Goooooooal!  (Students raise their arms in a triumphant soccer cheer.)  Seriously, George rocked so hard!  Not only did he meet his goal in the first two weeks of the quarter, he has a 98% correct average!  (students cheer)  Have an ARHead, George!  (Airheads candy that I renamed.  Buy about 80 for less than $10 at Sam’s Club.)

Ringo: doesn’t rock.  He has 0% of his goal.  (Students groan)  What have you been doing, Ringo?  You are a Recess Reader until you fix this!  I recommend a Magic Tree House book.  (Grudgingly, Ringo looks for a Magic Tree House book in the class library.)  Ringo, put it in your backpack right now!  You are reading it this weekend!

In about three minutes, you have motivated students, nudged slowpokes to read, and reminded everyone of the existence of the AR program.

My students BEG to play So You Think You Rock!

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Posted in Academics,Accelerated Reader (AR),First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 6, 2010


Teaching Cursive with Muggie Maggie

bookMuggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary
AR Reading level 4.5  1 point
Available at Amazon.com

Cursive may seem outdated compared to typing, texting and tweeting, but it is still an important skill for kids to learn.  If nothing else, they need to be able to read cursive—notes written by parents and teachers, or cursive written by our forefathers in the Declaration of Independence.

Kids are very excited to learn cursive, but sometimes their interest lags after the first few lessons.  You can keep them going by reading to them Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary.

In Muggie Maggie, third-grader Maggie absolutely refuses to learn cursive.  She’s a smart girl, but she gets herself into quite a predicament—with a lot of embarrassment, time spent out of class, and even trips to the principal’s office!

See, Maggie’s teacher has hatched a plan with other teachers and school staff.  She makes Maggie the messenger.  All the messages Maggie deliverers are written in cursive.  Maggie is pretty sure she recognizes her name in the messages.  Maggie has no choice but to learn cursive so she can read the secret messages.

Muggie Maggie is clearly intended for a third-grade audience, but AR (accelerated reader) classifies the reading level is 4.5.  (Many Beverly Cleary books have a reading level above the intended audience’s grade level, as I have described in a different post about this topic.)  Some third-graders will be able to read Muggie Maggie, but I recommend that third-grade teachers read it aloud because it is perfectly suited to their audience.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Reviews,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 25, 2010


Kids Don’t Read Beverly Cleary

bookI’m sorry to tell you a harsh truth: kids don’t read Beverly Cleary books.  Not like they used to, that’s for sure.

The Ramona & Beezus movie was wonderful, but the box office take was disappointing.  (I think it will have a long life as a DVD and Blu-Ray.)  All my students who saw the movie absolutely loved it, but none of them had read the books beforehand.

Kids don’t read Beverly Cleary!  Why?

You and I loved her books as children, but they’re a little old now.  Some elements are dated, particularly the books about Henry Huggins and the early Ramona books.

The main reason kids don’t read Beverly Cleary has to do with AR (Accelerated Reader).  Beverly Cleary’s books are written at a high reading level, according to AR.  (The formula is based on length of sentences, length of words, etc.  I’m not sure about the details because I think it’s top secret.)

For example, Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is clearly written for a third-grade audience.  The book’s reading level is 5.6.   Most kids are not allowed to read above their AR reading level, so they can’t read the Beverly Cleary books when they are at the age the books are aimed for.  By the time kids reach the fifth and sixth grade reading levels, they want to move on to harder and more macho books, like Percy Jackson or Harry Potter.

I think it’s too bad.  Beverly Cleary books are wonderful.  I can’t imagine life without them, actually.

On the other hand, I have to say that in my experience, when kids read above their reading level, comprehension suffers and students rarely actually finish the book.  They just lug it around to look impressive.

Obviously, as a future writer and teacher, I was an advanced reader as a kid.  However, many of my classmates also read Beverly Cleary books.  I have to wonder if more of today’s students would read the books should AR downgrade the reading level.

As a teacher or parent, I hope you will read Beverly Cleary books aloud and recommend them to students who are ready for them.  If you teach fifth and sixth graders, try to push them into Beverly Cleary books.  You know they’ll like them!  You can also recommend the books Beverly Cleary wrote for teens.  My favorite is The Luckiest Girl, but I also loved Fifteen and Sister of the Bride.

A sampling of Beverly Cleary AR reading levels:  (This isn’t all her books.  There are soooo many!)

Ramona Quimby, Age 8: 5.6
Ramona Forever: 4.8
Beezus and Ramona: 4.8
Ramona and Her Father: 5.2
Ramona and Her Mother: 4.8
Ramona’s World: 4.8
Ellen Tebbits: 4.9
Henry Huggins: 4.7
Henry and the Clubhouse: 5.1
Mitch and Amy: 6.2
Emily’s Runaway Imagination: 6.1
A Girl from Yamhill (Beverly Cleary’s Autobiography): 6.5
Fifteen: 5.4
The Luckiest Girl: 5.9

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 21, 2010


The Stories Julian Tells

bookby Ann Cameron
AR book level 3.4  1 point
Available from Amazon.com

I first learned about The Stories Julian Tells because we have an excerpt in our Harcourt reading textbook.  Now, I am a big believer in Julian!  You will be so glad to know that there are many books about Julian.

In The Stories Julian Tells, author Ann Cameron creates a memorable family.  You will love Julian, a nine-year-old with a big imagination and a gift for telling stories.  His little brother Huey is cute as can be.  Julian’s dad is larger-than-life: a strict father who is even funnier and more imaginative than Julian.  Julian’s mom is a wonderful, warm character.

The Stories Julian Tells is an incredibly funny, warm and comforting book.  It makes a wonderful read aloud for the classroom.  However, I think a huge added educational value comes from the author’s rich description and imaginative use of figurative language.

For example, in the first chapter, Julian, Huey and their father make a lemon pudding for Mom: a lemon pudding that tastes like “a night on the sea” and “a whole raft of lemons.”  When dad wakes up from his nap to find that Julian and Huey ate the whole pudding, the boys are in for a whipping and a beating—Julian whips the pudding, and Huey beats the egg whites.  Mom tastes the new pudding—it’s just like a night on the sea and a whole raft of lemons!

My favorite story in the book is called “Because of Figs.”  When Julian was three, his dad gave him a fig tree that would grow up with him.  When the tree grew taller but Julian didn’t, Julian felt left behind.  Naturally, the solution was to eat the fig leaves to help him grow.  (They taste like spinach, so they must be good for you.)  Years later, Julian is bigger but the tree hasn’t grown at all.  Finally, Julian realizes that the leaves belong to the tree.  Now both tree and boy can grow up together.

My students absolutely love The Stories Julian Tells.  They are nuts about the companion books, like Julian, Secret Agent , More Stories Julian Tells, and Julian, Dream Doctor.  There are also great books about other characters in the series, like Gloria (who might be Julian’s best friend) and Huey, Julian’s little brother.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Nov 17, 2010


Molly’s Pilgrim

bookby Barbara Cohen
AR book level 3.0   0.5 points
Available at Amazon.com

Molly’s Pilgrim is a classic that deserves a place in your classroom library.  It can be read any time, but it is particularly poignant in November.

In November, we think of pilgrims as the Puritans landing on Plymouth Rock.  However, Molly’s Pilgrim reminds us that other pilgrims came to this country for religious freedom.

Molly is a young Russian-Jewish immigrant who feels out of place in America.  Molly’s school assignment is to make a Pilgrim doll.  Molly’s clothespin Pilgrim doll resembles her mother rather than a Puritan Pilgrim, teaching her classmates an important lesson about religious freedom in America.

Molly’s Pilgrim was made into an Academy award-winning short movieIt is available on Amazon.com.

Molly’s Pilgrim is great as a read aloud, but if you wanted make it into a unit of study, you might consider buying A Guide for Using Molly’s Pilgrim in the Classroom, from Teacher Created Materials.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Book Reviews,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 13, 2010


Encourage Kids to Take AR Vocabulary Tests

argenrechallengeThe Accelerated Reader program is so much more than comprehension tests about each book.  Many books have vocabulary tests, too.  The vocabulary test has the same quiz number as the regular test.

At our school, AR is set up to offer students the vocabulary test as soon as they complete the reading practice test.  Encourage your students to do the vocabulary tests.  They improve vocabulary and reading comprehension.  If students do enough, you will see an increase in reading level.

Since Accelerated Reader levels are determined by Star Reading, which is a test of vocabulary, the AR vocabulary tests are most directly applicable to raising a student’s Star Reading test score.

You can print labels that list the AR vocabulary words for each book.  Put these in the book cover so students can be sure to notice those words in the text.

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Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR),Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 30, 2010


How to Print AR Labels

Until this summer, I labeled my AR books by looking up the book information and writing the reading level, point value and quiz number in each book.  Students and parents helped with this.  It took forever, and it was easy to make a mistake.

Turns out you can just print the labels.  (I used Avery 5260, 1″ by 2 5/8″, 750 labels in a pack.)  Here’s how to do this from your teacher AR account:

1.  Click on Reports
2.  Select School Management*
3.  Under Quiz Management Reports, click Labels–Book
4.  Select Some (so you can select the quizzes you want)
5.  Click Select Quizzes next to the Some button
6.  Choose your quizzes.  The fastest way to search is “title contains.”
7.  Be sure to add the quizzes to your list.  You can select the quantity of labels you want for each book (nice if you have a class set)
8.  Click Save
9.  Click View Report
10.  Click the Print icon on the pdf
11.  When you print, if it doesn’t line up correctly with your labels, be sure to select None for page scaling.  Mine automatically went to Shrink to Fit, and my labels would not print correctly until I overrode the page scaling.
12.  Stick the labels in your books!

*From the school management menu, you can also click to print the AR Vocabulary lists for books that have a vocabulary test.