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Best books for summer reading

On the final day of summer break last year, my daughter devoured Caddie Woodlawn. Last week I wrote about the techniques I use to encourage my children to read. This week, I am sharing a list of our favorite books. Some of them are award-winners—but even better—all of them win the approval of my three unforgiving children. So pull out the hammock, spread out a blanket, or puff up a beanbag. These books are sure to draw you in! 0–2 years Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle Drummer Hoff, Barbara Emberly and Ed Emberly The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, Bill Martin Jr. Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper Good Night, Gorilla, Peggy Rathmann Quick as a Cricket, Audrey Wood Piggies, Audrey and Don Wood
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Spring into Action contest winners

Over the past month, we have been running a Spring into Action contest for Imagine Learning teachers and school site experts. Teachers were asked to try our new Action Areas™ tool, and then tell us how it worked to enter a contest for an iPad mini. We are happy to see that thousands of teachers are now using the Action Areas tool! Drum roll, please . . . . The new owners of an iPad mini are: Kasi Davis, a site expert from Asbell Elementary Raquel Jaeger, a teacher from Whittier Elementary   Congratulations to our winners! Winning an iPad is awesome, but knowing how to use the Action Areas tool is pretty great too. Teachers love the Action Areas tool because it pinpoints which skills students are struggling with and provides resources (printouts and activities) for immediate intervention. By grouping students together who are having trouble in the same area, the tool also forms instant intervention groups. So the Action Areas tool simplifies intervention. And simplified intervention means more happy teachers and more kids on track. Happy day.
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Jump into summer reading

One afternoon in June, I found my girls just like this. They had abandoned their water party for front porch reading. While summer is a perfect time for children to relax and enjoy travel and other activities, it can also be a time for young minds to become idle. This period of learning loss has been referred to as the "summer slide." But the only summer slide we want Imagine Learning students to experience is having fun on a slip-n-slide. So let's talk about summer reading! I have fond memories of childhood summertime reading. My sisters and I would read on a blanket under our large backyard tree, sprawled out on wet towels poolside, or in our gently swinging hammock. Since I recently inherited most of my mom’s large children’s book collection, my children are now reading the same books as I did. And many of the pages are spotted with evidence of summers past—greasy sunscreen fingerprints, dog-eared pages, and the occasional water spot. So how do you create a summer of reading? The first step to encouraging a summer full of reading is to get kids to make a summer reading goal. Children can decide how many books, pages, or minutes they want to read. Involve children in this process so they begin with excitement. Most libraries offer a summer reading challenge and often include an incentive for completing the challenge. But if your local library doesn't offer a summer reading program, you can always create your own.
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10 tips to help kids develop a love of reading

When I was six, I learned to read. The first book I remember reading was about a detective who loved pancakes. I haven’t stopped reading since. My family is a reading family. I remember first reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my mom. That wizardly series quickly expanded and bonded my immediate and extended family. We had Halloween parties themed after Harry Potter, we went to the midnight releases of new books, and we cried together through the final book. When my family goes on a road trip, we each take a bag of books. I remember one long drive where my grandmother was listening to a Clive Cussler novel while I read my own book. I became quite practiced at tuning out outside distraction on that drive! When I was thirteen, I converted my best friend to reading simply because that was one of my favorite pastimes; now I've converted my husband as well. He recently told his mother how he has read thirteen books in the past thirteen months (she was very impressed). However, with the growth of technology in our daily lives, our younger generation has many options for entertainment. With so many demands on their attention and so little time in the day, recreational reading seems to fall to the wayside. As a hobby that offers more than just a way to pass the time, here are some tips to get your kids to read. If you would like some tips specifically for teens, this article is a good source for ideas.
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5 simple teacher appreciation ideas for kids

My mom is one of those amazing people who have chosen to be a middle school math and science teacher. After teaching for the last 22 years, she is retiring at the end of May. I may be biased, but she is truly a remarkable teacher. She works long hours, voluntarily tutors students before and after school, and insists on testing with explanation-type questions as opposed to multiple choice questions because she feels it is a better way to assess student understanding. This means she frequently brings home large stacks of papers to correct. I have seen how she worries about certain students and continually seeks to find new and better teaching methods. She tirelessly reaches out to parents and does an excellent job at communicating with them. And she even remains calm when working with the frazzled and sometimes mean you-must-be-doing-something-wrong-because-my-child-is-failing-math parents. She amazes me! Perhaps because I grew up observing what it takes to be a fantastic teacher, I have made a consistent effort to show gratitude and appreciation to the teachers of my own children throughout each school year.
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6 ways to teach with technology

Our post on post-literacy got me thinking about some ways to use technology as a tool in the classroom. Here are some ideas on using technology with your middle/high school students. These suggestions could both engage your students as well as introduce tech-savvy skills they don’t have yet. 1. Google it. If students have a question, join them in researching it online. Show them the best way to phrase their search with keywords. Google has a search engine specifically for research called “Google Scholar.” Direct your students to this for googling scholarly articles online. SweetSearch is another search engine created especially for teachers and students to use in research. It only searches on credible websites that have been reviewed by the experts of SweetSearch. 2. Analyze sources. Teach students how to recognize which websites/authors/publications are more reliable sources than others. Many teachers find that when assigning research to students, their bibliographies tend to be full of mostly Internet sources that aren't always accurate. Students are going to use the Internet, so show them where to go. Have them look at publishing companies, the author’s credentials, and the date of the information. This article shows some great questions to ask as you are analyzing the reliability of a source. A good example of showing how irreliable sources can look reliable would be to show your students The Onion. While the site looks very legitimate, it is completely satirical in content and would not be a reliable source for any research paper.
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Imagine Learning Values: Obsess over customers

  The Imagine Learning Values are showcased on a wall in the Imaginarium. At Imagine Learning, we believe in a central set of values that guide our decisions at every level. The first of these values is Obsess Over Customers. We believe providing solutions to our customers’ problems is the lifeblood of our business. And right at the core of this excellent customer service is our relationship with each partner. We are constantly identifying market problems so that we know exactly what kinds of solutions our customers will value most. We go above and beyond by creating a positive emotional experience for our customers. This sounds good and all, but what does this mean in the everyday hustle and bustle of Imagine Learning’s hardworking corporate team?
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A post-literate age?

Have you ever heard the phrase “post-literate age?” I personally had never heard the concept before reading Christopher Doyle’s article in Education Week. The idea in general, however, is not foreign to me. The discussion regarding society moving away from literacy to more simplified technological mediums is a very prevalent and controversial topic. In the article, Doyle focuses on how his students turn to books less and less. He says, “Books, long idealized as foundational shapers of intellect, no longer mold young people's minds. While continuing to tout their merits, educators marginalize books and have not come to grips with the book's declining role in society. Over the last few years, my high school students' facility for print culture has atrophied markedly.” To the older generation, this is a concern. We learned our skills and knowledge from textbooks. It was the focal point of our learning. Because it is how we are used to education, we are concerned when our younger generation seems to disregard those important tools.
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Imagine Learning schools in Washington receive ELA Award

Christensen Elementary is one of seven Imagine Learning schools to receive the Washington State Board of Education Language Acquisition Award. The Washington State Board of Education recently awarded seven Imagine Learning schools with the first-ever English Language Acquisition Award. The schools to receive the award are Abraham Lincoln Elementary, Sheridan Elementary, Northeast Elementary, Central Ave Elementary, Christensen Elementary, Elmhurst Elementary, and Cascadia Elementary. The board created the new award because they recognized a need for an English language learner (ELL) focus, and they wanted to recognize schools whose ELL students are making the greatest progress toward the goal of becoming proficient in English, which is a major factor for students becoming college-ready. Award winning schools were selected based on the assessment of ELL students using the Washington English Language Proficiency Assessment (WELPA). The top five percent of achieving schools were recognized for their achievement. Students in Washington schools speak 187 languages. And Washington is not alone—the English language learner (ELL) population is the fastest growing subgroup nationwide. “Language acquisition is an indicator of school success and deserves to be acknowledged,” explained Board Chair Dr. Kristina Mayer. “We want to shine the light on what is working so it can be replicated across the state. The board will work with OSPI and other partners to support award-winning schools in sharing their strategies and best practices.”
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Integrating technology in Kent, Washington

Dedicated leaders in Kent, Washington are working together to ensure students receive an education that prepares them to be successful in a global workforce. When students come to school in Kent, they don’t have to “power down.” Instead, they have access to technology throughout the school day. As part of their digital instruction program, several Kent schools use Imagine Learning to differentiate instruction for students, supporting English language learners, struggling readers, and early childhood learners. Kent School District Superintendent Dr. Edward Lee Vargas says with the support of government, civic, and religious leaders they have been able to move beyond a digital school system to a digital community. In addition to implementing digital learning in schools, Dr. Vargas and his dedicated team put computerized kiosks with broadband capacity out into the community, hoping to provide resources for students, parents, and community members alike. The kiosks are being installed in places where they can be easily accessed, like grocery stores and high-density housing. “It’s been a series of partnerships that have created the capacity to be able to have these programs come alive,” said Vargas. Education is a top priority for Washington legislators who support the tremendous educational efforts in Kent. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan and Senator Joe Fain are dedicated to giving students the technological tools they need to be successful. “It’s really the key to helping them success in the 21st century,” said Sen. Fain. Watch the video below to see how leaders from Washington's political, technological, and educational sectors are working together to create a technology-based approach to learning in their schools—and their community. Kent School District—where technology is being maximized for school children & the community from Imagine Learning on Vimeo.
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