Summer Challenge To All - Keep Improving

  • News
  • Zachary Hanshaw
  • 5/25/2016

English Language Arts

Summer Reading Challenge

To ensure that West Virginia’s students don’t fall behind while school is out of session, the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) wants your help in encouraging children statewide to keep their academic skills sharp during the summer break through the Summer Learning Reading and Math Challenge.

The WVDE and West Virginia Leaders of Literacy: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading are challenging students to read every day this summer, for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Suggested summer reading goals for students based on grade levels are:

  • K-2 students: 10 books
  • 3-5 students: 8 chapter books
  • 6-12 students: 5 fiction books and 5 non-fiction books.

Students can sign up by going to, and click on Submit your Summer Reading Pledge for a chance to help their school win a one year free site license to one of the following reading improvement programsAchieve3000 (one elementary and one middle school), Capstone Digital's myON, and Reading Horizons (one elementary and one middle school). The five schools with the highest percentage rate of the school's student body/population that "pledge to read" will be the recipients of the awards.

A national study in 1996 found that children lose about two months of learning in math computation skills over a summer. As part of the Summer Math Challenge, resources to engage students in math skill-building activities are provided. The program’s goal is to help kids retain math skills they learned during the previous school year.

Reading and math resources are available on the WVDE Summer Learning Challenge website


The Read Aloud Project-ELA/literacy lessons that engage your K-2 learners

It's never too soon to start learning strong literacy strategies. Your K-2 students may not be reading independently yet, but they can still answer text-dependent questions, learn new vocabulary, and build knowledge.
Using the 80+ Read Aloud Project lessons on, you can help your students engage deeply with popular read-aloud texts and build reading skills they'll use forever.
Don't see a lesson for your favorite book? Create your own Common Core-aligned read-aloud lessons with the Read Aloud Project PD Module which details the development process, includes facilitation materials, and offers examples.


Self-study guide to assist schools in effective implementation of early literacy interventions

REL Southeast has developed a self-study guide to help schools and districts develop and improve their implementation of early literacy interventions. It includes a template for data collection and guiding questions for discussion.


Can Handwriting Make You Smarter? - WSJ from MindShift


Especially For Parents - Literacy Connections

As one way to prevent the “summer slide”, share ideas with parents about reading aloud.

The DO’S of Read-Aloud

The DON’TS of Read-Aloud
Chapter Four from Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook


School Reading UnboundA new project aims to bring e-books to lower-income students (click link to read more)




Arts Integration: A Promising Approach to Improving Early Learning, a new analysis showing that students in Wolf Trap’s Early Childhood STEM Learning through the Arts program gained an additional 26-34 days of math learning, as compared to students in control groups.  The study was funded by a U.S. Department of Education’s Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination grant and examined an experimental program that took place in early childhood classrooms across Fairfax County Public Schools from 2010-2014.   This study helps to support the concept that the arts can be a powerful and effective way to teach young children.  A press release, short video, and related assets are on our website here.  


Picture Books That Teach Counting and Learning Numbers

This is a list of top ten books for teaching countingTeaching with picture books makes learning fun. There are many great picture books that help.


Children’s Books Guide

Counting Kisses: This wonderfully fun story written by Karen Katz (known for her book Over the Moon) is an irresistible tale to read.



Content Areas

Crossing the Midline

Great article about crossing the midline-relates to physical activity breaks. A good primer for those who have not read much about brain research and why we want kids to move and include certain activities.

Why Crossing the Midline Activities Helped this Child Listen to his Teacher Article


STEM is a Social Justice Issue- Message from the US Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning depends upon access to quality experiences in the home, community, and early education programs.  Children are naturally curious from birth, and they are highly capable of engaging in STEM from an early age.  The newest member of the Doggett family shows me this every weekend.  When my grandson, Canyon (9 months), comes over to my house, first he looks for his favorite toys and then scans the room for any new and exciting object I have put out for him.  Last weekend it was a tin bowl and spoon. He thoroughly checked out the spoon and bowl, putting them in his mouth, turning them over and finally banging the spoon on the bowl.  As Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.” The adults in children’s lives are must do more to inspire, support and expand young children’s play and exploration of the world.


These and other ideas were shared at the first ever White House Early STEM Learning Symposium, where we celebrated a broad range of public- and private-sector leaders committed to promoting STEM early learning across the country.  As Pat Kuhl reminded us, a child’s brain is just waiting for playful early experiences, such as those motivated through STEM.  This interaction with adults and other children builds a child’s brain and prepares her for success in school and in life.  Doug Clements remarked on how deep and broad young children’s thinking can be and what a strong predictor early math is for school success.  But the window of opportunity is fleeting, and while all children have the potential for the brain to grow, not all children are afforded the same high-quality experiences. 


Kelcie Blankenship, Pre-K teacher at Marshall STEM/Explorer Academy joined Janet Bock-Hager, the WV Dept. of Education Early Childhood Coordinator, at the Early Learning STEM Symposium. 

  • The Marshall University Early Education STEM Center (MUEE STEM)

The MUEE STEM Center is a service program of the June Harless Center and Marshall University’s College of Education in partnership with Cabell County Schools.  MUEE STEM has partnered with the June Harless CREATE Satellite to provide children with innovative opportunities to use technology.  The MUEE STEM Center focuses on the early childhood years as a unique time in child development, worthy of its own distinctive approach to environmental, inquiry–based, hands-on, concrete learning.

STEM-focused projects at the Marshall STEM Center classroom include:

    • Giga Pan: helps to bring distant communities and people together through images that have so much detail that they are, themselves, the objects of exploration, discovery and wonder.
    • Hear ME Appalachia:  amplifies kids’ voices using media and technology to create a world where kids are heard, acknowledged and understood, giving them the power to inspire social change. 
    • Message from Me:  enables young children to better communicate with families about their daytime activities at school through the use of digital cameras, microphones, email, phone messaging and other technologies. 

Arts and Bots:  is a customized robot designed to integrate robotics into common place arts and crafts materials to make robots that move, talk, and even sense objects. 


We are learning how to support young children’s STEM learning and development in formal programs and at home. We know that families need the  resources that will give them tools to build their kids’ brains.  And we need to provide the better supports for our teachers, program directors and school principals. Children in some programs may spend no more than a few minutes each day in math and science activities.  Our early childhood teacher preparation programs and on-going professional learning need give teachers the language and confidence to support children’s STEM learning.


Much of a developmentally appropriate education includes exploration of the world and neighborhood: field trips to museums, libraries, the zoo, and parks; sand and water play; block building; sequencing activities and work with patterns; and more. We need to enrich these activities through introducing a STEM vocabulary, use more inquiry-based learning, and help teachers tie this learning to STEM principles. 

We are excited that more help is on the way.  Public and private sector groups are providing new resources for children, teachers and parents in multiple formats. Federal agencies are deepening the resources and support they provide for early active STEM learning to include:

  • Funding to support a network of interdisciplinary research teams in exploring how to improve education outcomes for children, especially those from low-income backgrounds and from communities underrepresented in science professions;
  • An ED blog requesting public comment on a series of questions that will inform the development of a new statement on the role of technology in early learning; and
  • New research on ED’s Ready to Learn Program.

Let’s all do more to grow the future scientists, engineers, mathematicians and tech experts for 2030. 


Announcing New Tools for Our Youngest Scientists and Engineers

To support STEM in the early years, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have partnered with Too Small to Fail to create a set of early STEM resources for families and educators. The “Let’s Talk, Read and Sing About STEM!” tip sheets build on the successful “Talk, Read, and Sing Together Every Day!” tip sheets and aim to transform small moments into big opportunities for our littlest innovators. These new tip sheets are filled with ideas for STEM conversations that can take place during everyday routines.




As part of the Technology Showcase, this is a video that addresses Remaking Learning the WVDE produced.