Popsicle Smiles and Sticky Pages

popsicle-stick-clip-art-large-popsicle-png-7pM3Gs-clipart.pngIt’s Vacation!  Why Bother Reading?

There is a ton of research that supports the importance of kids reading over the summer.  According to an article published by the New York State Department of Education (NYSDE): Summer learning loss is devastating!  Researchers have proven that when kids don’t read over the summer it leads to what is called the summer slide.   That means that kids get rusty and forget precious skills that they have spent months learning and practicing.  Reading skills are no exception.  It takes practice to become a fluent reader.

According to the NYSDE’s article, “It is estimated that school summer breaks will cause the average student to lose up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students being disproportionately affected (Cooper, 1996).  Researchers conclude that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years, with nearly one-third of the gap present when children begin school (Alexander, Entwistle & Olsen, 2007).  The body of existing research demonstrates the critical importance that the early development of summer reading habits can play in providing the foundation for later success.”

To read the entire article click on the following link:  Importance of Summer Reading – NYSDE

7 Ways to Make Summer Reading Fun For Your Student!

There are many ways to keep your kids engaged in reading.  Here are few suggestions to get summer reading in without it feeling like homework:

  1. Read with your child! – Studies show that kids will read more when they see their adults reading.  So when you curl up with a book make sure your kids see you and you can enjoy reading together!
  2. Not all books have to have words! – Remember that reading doesn’t have to be just chapter books.  There are plenty of  picture books, non-fiction books, magazines, comic books, digital, and audiobooks that can all support building comprehension skills, vocabulary, and reading fluency.
  3. Get recommendations! – Kids often report that they have a hard time finding books that they like.  If that happens, have them ask a friend to recommend a book.  Your child is much more likely to enjoy something recommended by another kid.
  4. Too Hot?  Go where it’s air-conditioned! – Plan regular trips to the library and make it a fun adventure.  There are summer activities for all age groups planned at our local libraries.  To see Natick’s  summer library schedules go onto their websites:  Morse Library  and Bacon Free Library.
  5. Bookstores are just as fun as playgrounds! – Visit local bookstores for author events and story hours.  Invite a friend to come too!  Make the visit a treat by stopping for an ice cream.  A great idea I read is to give kids a set amount of money (if you can) to buy a book of their choosing.  Suggestion include:  Wellesley BooksBarnes & Noble – Framingham
  6. Get into a friendly competition! – Kids are motivated to race against their friends.  Have a friendly competition with a friend or join a more formal contest like the one put out by Scholastic every year.  To join, go to the following link: Scholastic 2016 Summer Reading Competition
  7. Pack a book to go! – Summer is filled with fun activities.  Vacations, long car rides, camp bus rides, floating on a raft, sitting on the beach…When you pack your backpack, make sure a book is included.  It is a great way to fill the down time, relax, and unwind after a long hot day.

So Many Books So Little Time!


Summer reading should be all about fun and relaxation.  Don’t worry that your child isn’t reading War and Peace this summer.  Let them enjoy whatever book they find engaging.  Summer is a time to just read for sheer enjoyment.  As long as your child is reading, they are reaping the benefits.  Choosing books can be challenging.  How do you know what the correct level is?  How will you know if it’s age appropriate?  What is new and popular?  Here are a few sites that I found that have great information to help you pick summer books you child will enjoy.

Writing Counts Too!

Writing also helps students retain literacy skills.  Given the chance to write about any topic that is interesting encourages kids’ creativity.  Writing outside of an academic classroom allows students to connect to things that speak to them.  Give your student a notebook or journal and a box of colored pencils.  Let them climb a tree, sit in the backyard, or any other place they find enjoyable and let them be creative.  If they are stuck, here are some fun summer writing topics:


SUMMER WRITING IDEAS FOR KIDS–  (imaginationsoup.net)

  1. Create a secret code and write a note to a friend for them to decode.
  2. Write an adventure story about a pet, friend, or sibling.
  3. Cut out words from magazines to write a poem.
  4. Write a story with a friend where you keep taking turns adding to the story.
  5. Rewrite an alternative ending to a story you have already read.
  6. Write letters to friends and family.
  7. Keep a journal about a vacation/trip that you are taking this summer.
  8. Write an “Ultimate How To Guide” for a topic that interest you.
  9. For younger kids, give them stickers to help them create a story.

It doesn’t matter what your child reads or writes as long as they continue to use their literacy skills over the summer.  If they do, they will be in a position to hit the ground running in the fall instead of using precious time to get back up to speed.  So grab a cold popsicle and a package of wipes, settle into your beach chair, and enjoy a good book….just don’t get the pages all sticky!


Jenn Dannin, M.Ed

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Reading Connection Newsletters

Johnson Elementary School’s Reading Connection Newsletter 

Tips for Reading Success

May Newsletter  (A summer full of books)

April Newsletter  (Did you know read-alouds boost imagination?!)

March Newsletter  (Book inspired play)

February Newsletter   (Great reasons to visit your local library)

January 2017 Newsletter  (Plan for creative writing with this month’s Book Picks)

December 2016 Newsletter   (Read between the lines with this month’s Playful Activities

November 2016 Newsletter (Using big words with this month’s Book Pics)

October 2016 Newsletter  (Listen and Understand with this month’s Read Aloud favorites)

September 2016 Newsletter   (Fall into Reading with this month’s Book Pics)





Kris Zides, Literacy Specialist


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Cooking with Kids

    Cooking with kids.jpg         Cooking with kids 2.jpg

Cooking with kids is fun, healthy, and a great learning experience. It is an incredibly valuable, lifelong skill, along with academic skills that involve reading, math, science, and much more. As children grow into adulthood, the job of feeding becomes theirs. We should teach them how to cook at a young age so the transition to adult cook is easy later on and they don’t need to depend on processed foods and take-out meals. Cooking with your kids is a great way to instill healthy eating habits when you discuss what nutritious ingredients should go into your recipe. Healthy foods create healthy bodies, and kids often eat what they make. The end result is the best part of cooking. The feeling of accomplishment in creating an amazing meal with the people you love is extremely rewarding.

Reading the list of ingredients and following directions are great real-life applications in which kids can use their vocabulary and sequencing skills. When children follow directions step by step, or when they add ingredients in the right order, their overall ability to understand information is enhanced. Who knows, they might come up with their own techniques such as folding or blending!

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Math comes into play when you need to measure, count, or estimate ingredients. Quantity, color, texture, shape, and/or sizes are all math concepts. Children can practice fractions with measuring cups and measuring spoons. They can see that a ½ cup is bigger than a ¼ cup. What temperatures make broiling hotter than baking? What is a 13×9 pan? Doubling a recipe requires addition or multiplication skills and halving it requires division. Children can see that math has a practical application in the real world.

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Cooking provides an opportunity for kids to get hands-on experiences with basic science. Children can predict and observe the changes in food ingredients. Mix two ingredients together and, poof, you can see the texture change in an instant. Put the items in the oven for 20 minutes and see how different they look. What better way to explain the states of matter than through watching how water boils or freezes? Imagine how fascinating it is to see how the dough or batter rises and becomes something delicious. Children may even learn some mistakes along the way: too much salt was added, not enough flour, or the wrong timing can cause you to have a less than perfect meal.

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Cooking foods from different parts of the world is a perfect opportunity to talk about the origins and cultural awareness. It is far more interesting to teach kids about the Chinese New Year by making Kung Pao Chicken, Cinco de Mayo by making Mexican quesadillas, Italy by making spaghetti, or France by enjoying the best truffles. Children will remember much more because of the experience they have with you.


The best part of cooking with your child is family bonding. This is the time when you can share your day, stories, or positive memories together. As the saying goes: The family that cooks together stays together. In addition, cooking fosters cooperation and communication among siblings. It’s shocking how brothers and sisters will work together when there’s a batch of cookies at stake. Everyone will benefit from a nutritious, awesome, nourishing, and delicious meal. Your child will feel a great sense of pride and achievement in contributing to the family meals.

As more and more emphasis is placed on eating healthy foods these days, people are eager to embrace this home-cooking lifestyle. So bring the kids into the kitchen and try these top 4 kid-approved and kid-friendly basic recipes that the kids can cook and will love. Three of the recipes were tested and loved by ASAP students. If you would like to share recipes, please send them to me and I will be happy to post them in our school blog. Thank you and happy cooking!

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Fluffy Pancakes



1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar 

1 tablespoon baking powder 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

3/4 teaspoon of salt 

1 1/3 cups milk 

1 egg, lightly beaten 

3 tablespoons vegetable oil 

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Pam cooking spray

Pure Maple Syrup


Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Whisk in the milk, egg, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, and vanilla extract until only a few lumps remain. Let the batter stand for 5 full minutes for extra fluffiness.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat and spray with Pam. When the oil shimmers, slowly pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the hot pan. Cook until bottom is browned, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook until the center of the pancake is set and the other side is browned, about 2 more minutes. Keep warm until serving. Serve with butter and/or Maple Syrup.

Pepperoni Pizza Bagels

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You can be creative with this simple recipe. Let everyone make their own mini pizzas by adding colorful toppings like pineapple, red peppers, and broccoli.


1 package of Thomas’ Plain mini bagels

1 package (6 oz) Hormel Original Pepperoni

1 bag of Kraft shredded Mozzarella Cheese

1 jar of Classico Tomato and Basil Pasta sauce.


Arrange bagels on a baking sheet, cut sides up.

Spoon a thin layer of pasta sauce over each bagel half and sprinkle with cheese.

Place 2 or 3 pepperoni slices on each bagel.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and pepperoni is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Chicken Quesadillas

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Flour Tortillas (12 inches)

Pam Cooking Spray

1 bag of Shredded Mexican Four Cheese Blend

2 Cups of shredded cooked rotissarie chicken

Optional: add diced bell peppers or chopped broccoli


Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with Pam.

Place one tortilla in skillet

Put shredded chicken and cheese on ONE HALF of the tortilla.

Allow cheese to melt.

Fold the other half of the tortilla over the meat and cheese and press firmly. This will create your quesadilla.

Cut into triangles and serve.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Chocolate Chip Cookies are a tried and true family favorite. The tasty combination of the vanilla cookie dough with delicious chunks of chocolate make them a yummy snack any time of the day.


2 ¼ Cups of All purpose flour

¾ Cup of Granulated Sugar

¾ Cup of brown sugar

1 Cup of butter

1 egg

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

2 Cups of Semi sweet chocolate chips


  1. Heat oven to 375 Degrees
  2. Mix sugars, butter, vanilla, and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Roll into teaspoon-sized balls and place on ungrease cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet and enjoy!


Terri Yee, (Title I, Grade 2)



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What level is my child’s book?

Are you curious if your child’s books is an appropriate reading level?  Use Scholastic’s Bookwizard to search for a title and determine it’s DRA level or Grade Level Equivalent.   Click the link below and search either title, author, keyword.


Kris Zides, Literacy Specialist


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Does the amount of “white brain matter” make a difference?

Does the amount of white brain matter in the left temporal lobe correlate to a child’s reading ability?  Check out  How Children Learn to Read from The New Yorker to learn more about the research behind white brain matter.


Kris Zides, Literacy Specialist


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Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!


“For 20 years, the National Education Association has promoted reading across the nation in a Dr. Seuss birthday celebration! It’s traditionally celebrated on March 2, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, for a simple but important reason—Dr. Seuss’s skill with rhyme and whimsical use of nonsense makes his beloved books an effective tool for teaching young children the basic skills they need to be successful readers. When we celebrate Dr. Seuss and reading, we send a clear message to our children–that reading is fun and important!” — NEA.org

This national celebration is not just about one day of reading FUN!  NEA’s Read Across America is about discovering the joys of reading and cultivating good reading habits that will last kids a lifetime!  Here at Johnson School, we are encouraging our students grades K through 4 to participate in the Dr. Seuss Reading Challenge! During the month of March any students who READ while completing 5 of the activities below in a row, will receive a Paw-print Sticker and a Small Prize! Complete ALL of the activities and we will add your picture to the Dr. Seuss READ Wall Of Fame! 

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Click here for a printable version of this Calendar:  Dr. Seuss Reading Challenge

Tips for Reading with Your Children

Developing a love for reading begins at home, and Dr. Seuss’s words and pictures will make it fun for you and your child. Get started with these tips below!

—Taken from  Seussville.com 

  tips_reading_img01.png    Pick a comfortable spot to read in – one with plenty of light.



Make it a routine – whether it’s right before the breakfast, or right before bed,set aside a special time every day.


Give lots of encouragement! Read the words aloud to your child. Point to the pictures. Say the words together. Laugh with your child.




The fun continues after the last page! When you finish a story, ask your child about his/her favorite passages, characters, and illustrations.



Imagine that! Encourage your child to make up another character that might appear in the book. What would it look like? What would it say? What would you call it?


Letters and words are here, there, and everywhere! Dr. Seuss
was a master of words, real and imagined. When you’re driving with your child along a familiar route, read the signs aloud.

Make your next trip to the grocery store an interactive one—read the names of food items aloud with your child. Make up new ones!

Age ranges on Dr. Seuss series are simply a guide that will get you started. Once you see what your child is comfortable with, pick new books as necessary.

Making it FUN

There are so many fun “Seuss” activities and games for you to do at home with your kids! You can find activities, games, crafts, and even recipes in Dr. Seuss’ honor at http://www.seussville.com/parents/



Dr. Seuss Ties In With Our Core Values

At  Johnson School we:

Take care of ourselves

Take care of each other

Take care of the environment

Here are some books to honor Dr. Seuss while challenging third and fourth grade minds:

The Lorax is an excellent book about environmentalism. The Once-ler comes to town with a successful factory, but what will happen to the truffula trees and the animals?  Teachers can incorporate an opinion writing piece deciding whether students think this would have a positive or negative effect on the environment.


Promoting kindness:

Yertle the Turtle reminds us to be grateful for the gifts bestowed upon us and not to be greedy. Yertle the Turtle is a selfish turtle who uses his fellow turtles to expand his kingdom.  While he ignores the pleas of his fellow turtles he ends up at the bottom of the pond in the mud.   



In Bartholomew and the Oobleck, we are reminded that three simple words, “I am sorry” can go a long way.  


Teaching Empathy:

The Sneetches dispute who is better, the Star-Bellied Sneetch or the Plain-Bellied Sneetch.  When they realize that being different is what makes us each special they become friends.



Dr. Seuss Benefits for Older Kids

In addition to the deep topics and discussions that come with them, here are some of the benefits of using Dr. Seuss books even with big kids:

  1. Fluency—many Dr. Seuss books have a fun rhythm and rhyme scheme. They are great for practicing fluency.
  2. Comprehension—There are a ton of comprehension skills and strategies applicable to Dr. Seuss, and many that are on a third grade reading level or higher.
  3. Poetic Elements—Dr. Seuss is the king of alliteration. You will also find onomatopoeia and of course rhyme.
  4. Love of Literature—the books are full of fun words, characters, and fantasy places. It is easy to get wrapped up in a book and want to read more.
  5. Creativity—Dr. Seuss books highlight and encourage creativity. They are great for your out-of-the box thinkers, and well everyone else, too.
  6. Life Lessons—Similar to Aesop’s fables, Dr. Seuss books are chock full of lessons. Lessons about diversity, acceptance, environmentalism, all wrapped up in colorful and inviting pages.
  7. Fun! Face it, Dr. Seuss books are humorous, creative, and fun for kids of all ages.


Adding STEM with Dr. Seuss 

STEM-logo.jpgPair Literacy and Science with these activities:

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish activity:


Lorax activity:

Teach students about the effects of real life oil spills on our environment.  Try this activity at home or in the classroom:


Bartholomew and the Oobleck activity:

*Parents, a fun activity at home to tie in this book is making slime.  Kids and adults love to play with slime.  

Slime instructions:  

Basic Slime. Mix one tablespoon of borax powder with one cup of warm water. Make the mixture in a quart (950 ml) jar. Continue to stir it until the borax is completely dissolved.

For more STEM activities that tie in with Dr. Seuss, we recommend checking out this website: 





Thank you for visiting our Literacy Blog!  

– Elena Capaldi & Elizabeth Falvey, Kindergarten Title One Teachers

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Resolve to Read!


This month our literacy blog will feature some of excellent books and resources for parents to read and utilize.  I’ve selected these particular books because I have personally gained new and very useful knowledge from each of them both as an educator and parent. In the spirit of honesty, it’s the knowledge I gained as a parent from these resources that I channel into my work in the classroom with children.

A quick point before I share the list. Equally important as reading books with children is the gift of seeing YOU read. Talk about what YOU are reading. Make predictions about how YOUR novel might end. Suggest the motive in a mystery. Question the steps you are following in a recipe or criticize assembly directions for that new holiday gift you just can’t quite figure out yet. 

Literacy skills needed in the 21st century don’t end with the ability to read, write and report on a book. Our children and students, regardless of occupation or hobby, must be fluent in visual and digital literacy as well. The lens they experience their world from is simply different and more sophisticated than it was 20, 10 even 5 years ago. All of the selections below touch, in some way, upon the responsibility we have to ensure students are competent to use the amazing technological resources at their disposal – responsibly.

Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease   51jLGLMXBhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

This is the BEST gift you could ever give to a new parent! Trelease speaks to the reader in a way that allows you to not feel bad about all the things you think you don’t or didn’t do to foster a love of reading in your child.  In fact he instills a confidence that it is NEVER too late to implement some of his ideas. He carefully covers the roles mothers, fathers, teachers, families and communities play in developing literate readers. The newest edition of his book addresses the impact our digital world has on reading.

When my oldest son was three I thought all was lost because he didn’t want to sit still next to me on the couch as I read to him. That was it, we had no chance. How would he ever make it kindergarten much less consider college? Jim Trelease taught me that we would survive! My son was getting ALL the benefits of my reading with him while he played with his trucks at my feet — and more than that, it was a MUCH more enjoyable experience for both of us.

The link above offers chapter excerpts and fabulous book lists.


Ted Talks: The Power of Introverts

QUIET, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

FULL DISCLOSURE…I am an introvert.

Susan Cain does a masterful job of dispelling the image of an introvert as someone who never picks their head up, doesn’t like to talk or ever have fun. She distinguishes being shy from being introverted and articulates the attributes introverts have with humor and intelligence.

There is a lot of buzz around collaboration and teamwork. In the private business sector floor plans are redesigned to create openness and accessibility – constant openness and accessibility. Many classrooms are set up to foster group activities and interaction. This is all great stuff! However, some people and students do their best thinking work independently in their own space with time to process and think, really think, about what they are trying to accomplish. We need to make sure we accommodate those needs.

I have attached the link to her Ted Talk on The Power of Introverts, if you have any free time… EVER, to listen to the talk. I am positive you will take away something for yourself, your child, your workplace and your world.



Mindset by Carol Dweck

MINDSET by Carol Dweck a Psychology Professor at Stanford University, explores the intricacies of motivation and success.  She talks about how we as parents and teachers can talk to and create environments for children that encourage confidence and drive in the face of difficulty.

Do you think you can do it if you work hard enough? (GROWTH MINDSET) OR Do you think your successes are, to some extent, predetermined?(FIXED MINDSET).

Click on the link above to listen to her speak about the concept of “not yet”. I love it! How can we send the message to children (and adults) that instead of not mastering something they just haven’t mastered it…yet?


YouTube’s video: The Gift of Failure

A MUST READ…if you are a parent, a teacher or someone who has the slightest interest in human behavior you will not be disappointed with this book.

When onestatic1.squarespace-1.png of my sons was in second grade he left his school folder on the kitchen counter. I briefly debated about what to do. Of course I should bring it to school! He’s only seven and never forgotten anything before. The school even has a special drop off procedure for items like this.

WRONG answer! After reading this book instead of framing my parenting and teaching thoughts with:

YouTube’s video: The Gift of Failure

“What is going to happen to my child – if I don’t help out, come to their rescue or just simply make it easier for them.” I know frame my thoughts with “What will happen to my child if I do help, if I do come to the rescue or if I do just simply make it easier for them?”  

What will happen if I never give them the opportunity to experience failure?


I just finished listening to this on Audible. First, the book itself is amazing. Stocked with real life examples of grit and what it takes to be gritty in life and in the classroom. Angela Duckworth walks you through her research and explains the “grit factor”. I really enjoyed the quizzes included that allow you to determine your own grit factor. Second, I would listen to this while driving. One day I picked up four fourteen year old boys after a high school sports practice. Normally I would turn the radio on when they got in the car but this one time I unintentionally, let the book continue to play. Not one of the boys asked me to turn it off, or made a funny comment or sarcastic remark. In fact, during the ten minute ride home they listened intently as Duckworth discussed grit and the Seattle Seahawks. Maybe that shouldn’t have surprised me…but it did. Since then I leave whatever I am listening to on in the car – you never know when or how lessons can be learned.




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