Getting Back to School with English Language Learners

This school year we will be featuring blogs from industry experts who will share thoughts, ideas, and expertise around cross curriculum instruction in the  classroom which will include varied perspectives from teachers, researchers, curriculum specialists and literacy experts.

We will kick off this school year with Steven Rivera-Padilla,  a Bilingual Education Paraprofessional with Hillsborough County Public Schools. He has spent years working with students from various countries and cultural backgrounds to ensure both English language skills and curriculum content is being learned.


End of Summer Blues

By Steven Rivera-Padilla – Guest Blogger

Like many of you, I am gearing up for the start of another amazing school year. With this, a plethora of feelings arise; I like to call this my “end of summer blues”. My emotions range from excited to sad (summer vacation is always difficult to part ways with!) to excited (a fresh start is always a good feeling) and scared (unknown challenges lie ahead tend to play tricks with your mind) to fearlessness (I can overcome any new challenge!). Although my brain entertains all of these emotions these last few days of summer, the one thing I want to ensure is that I start off on the right foot with my special group of students.

Unlike teachers who teach a specialized subject to a specific grade, I have the pleasure of working with ELL (English language learners) students from all three middle school grades. I educate my students throughout their three years of middle school, which allows me to see the growth they make. It is always very gratifying, and it’s also very rewarding to see all they’ve learned over one school year.

Our computer lab is ready to go!
Our computer lab is ready to go!

This group of students has two goals: learn English and learn the curriculum. This isn’t an easy task, folks! Their proficiency in the language directly affects how much of the curriculum they learn, therefore LEARNING English is at the top of the priority list. If we want these students to learn the language as fast as possible, reading is fundamental. We must have them work on gaining vocabulary through reading proficiency.

“If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.”  -Benjamin Franklin

This is where starting off on the right foot comes to play. By establishing a strong groundwork during pre-planning and the first week of school, I can provide personalized literacy and cross-curricular, individualized instruction through myON! I create a fun myON ELL group that meets three to five days a week. We meet during homeroom, study hall, and sometimes during their lunch time.

The first week of school, students learn how to navigate their dashboard, begin and complete project, and being that they’re ELL students, how to use the program’s dictionary tool to look up English words unknown to them in their native language. (As we like to say in the ESOL world, “vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary!”) I give students the liberty to choose books that interest them when they’re not working on a specific project. Heads up, sixth grade boys are especially attracted to the scary and gross book selections… whatever gets them reading!

I will then adjust the individual Lexile levels, create and look for already created projects that will work for each students’ particular needs, and see how some of these projects will work in other classes—yes, talk to your other subject teachers throughout the school year to see what they’re learning, and assign students a project that correlates. The process will become second nature after the initial week and this will allow you to witness the gains students make. This makes my end of the summer blues last just before the school year begins instead of all year long!

Here’s to a fantastic school year full of amazing growth with all your students!



Summer Reading Banner

Summer is just around the corner and so is your summer reading campaign—Get in the Game, Read! And since it can be a challenge to motivate kids to read during the summer months, myON would like to help.

We’ve got all the bases covered with our turnkey summer reading toolkits–On Your Mark, Get Set, Read! for preK-grade 5 and Get in the Game, Read! for grades 6 and up! Both kits contain time-saving customizable templates for letters to parents and families in English and Spanish, login cards, posters, certificates along with many other themed materials to engage students and families and celebrate summer reading fun.

“We will be sending out the summer reading information to our families as well as share the toolkits with our staff because it’s a great motivator for kids. We really do need tools to help keep our kids engaged over the summer since there is so much loss during this time. I think this is one kids will use.”                                                                                                                    Kim Mott, Assistant Principal                                                                         James A Caywood Elementary, KY

Together we can keep kids engaged this summer to maintain their academic edge and avoid the summer slide. To download the entire toolkit, visit our website.


Take Flight with myON This Spring Reading Contest Winner!



The results are in for the 2016 myON Spring Reading Contest, What a World! Take Flight with myON This Spring! The contest ran from March 14th through April 1st and was based on the most time spent reading during the contest period to encourage students to read over spring break and take advantage of the more than 5,000 books on myON.

We would like to congratulate our winning school:

Westside Elementary School in Polk County School District (GA)

myON wants students to achieve lifelong learning success and reading is the foundation of that learning success.

Thoughts from a student…and a parent.

From time to time,  we receive messages and pictures from students and, occasionally, their parents.  We thought we would share our most recent message with you from 8 year old, 2nd grader, Ava.

Hi, my name is Ava. I like myON because it has lots of fun books for children and adults. It’s also a great learning site. One of my favorite books is Faerieground. It’s an amazing book with two best friends who get in a fight. They get trapped in a magical faerie world and one of them turns out to be a faerie! I hope you download the myON app. Take it from me, it’s awesome!

Jess (Ava’s mom):

myON has made a great impact on my daughter and her love of reading. Having access to such a large variety of books has increased her literary interests exponentially, and her writing is just one reflection of the joy that myON books bring her.

Best practices for 21st-century teaching and learning

Best practices for 21st-century teaching and learning

By Lucas Gillespie, John Prchal, Ruben Alejandro and Lydia Withrow on February 17th, 2016

Early education

Ruben Alejandro

To give our students the best possible chance at success in a changing world, when I became superintendent of schools in the summer of 2012, I put together a team of administrators, parents and teachers to create a vision for the district called “Empowering 21st-Century Learners.”

We are making our vision a reality in two ways. I have a strong focus on early learning, and a big part of that is early literacy. We worked with our digital literacy platform to launch an initiative called “Zero to Three: Weslaco Reads,” so kids who are 0–3 can download books and read them for free.

We also teach robotics and STEAM starting in kindergarten, and are now including 3- and 4-year-olds. With the help of an engineer, our youngest students are building a Mars rover — a modular car that they can put together and drive. The rover will have a handle that controls a claw so students can learn by picking up blocks with numbers and letters on them. We will have mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and systems engineers to help build the rover and take it through an obstacle course. As far as I know, nobody in the world is bringing this level of STEAM and robotics to 3- and 4-year-olds.

To read the entire article, click here.

Ruben Alejandro is the Superintendent of Weslaco Independent School District in Texas, where he launched the “Zero to Three: Weslaco Reads” initiative in collaboration with myON.

It May be a Cliche – But it’s True

by  Dr. Timothy Rasinski

We’ve all heard it before in various forms – “The way to become a better reader is to read a lot,” “The more you read, the better reader you will become.”     While some may think that such expressions are too simple and overused, the fact is they contain much truth.

Reading, like many learned skills, requires practice to be mastered.  Learning to drive a car, perfecting a golf swing, or developing the ability to speak publicly requires the learner to not only to understand the nature of what is to be learned but also to practice it to the point of competency.  A strong body of research supports the notion that the act of reading improves a reader’s competence in reading (e.g. Morgan, Mraz, Padak, & Rasinski, 2008).

One of my favorite studies goes back a few years (Postlethwaite & Ross, 1992).   However, the findings seem to be as applicable today as they did back then.  In this very large scale international study, the researchers attempted to identify factors that were associated with high achievement in reading for students in grades 2 and 8.    Two of the top three factors identified had to do amount of reading done by students – Number 3 was volume of reading done in school; and Number 2 was the volume of reading done at home.   The implication from these findings is clear – if we want to improve students’ reading achievement we need to find ways to increase the amount of reading done by students.   The sad reality, though, is that students, in general do not read much.   In his book on helping struggling readers, Allington (2011) reports that the typical elementary reader spends less than 15 minutes per day reading at home.

How can we nurture more reading among students?  For me, access and interest lead the way.    If we want students to read more they need to have easy access to plenty of reading material on a variety of topics.   Many students who live in poverty   do not have such access.  And, if they find it difficult to get their hands on books and other reading materials, it’s unlikely that they will read.

Besides access, there is also the question of precision.   In addition to having lots of reading materials accessible to students, it’s also important to match those materials to the reading levels and interests of students.    For a student who is reading at a second grade level, having access only to books written for 4th and 5th graders will not be helpful.  Similarly, for a child interested in sports, having access to books that deal with topics other than sports may not spur that particular student to read more.

So the challenge for educators is to increase students’ reading.  However, like an onion, when we peel back one layer, other layers or questions appear.    Certainly, two of those questions are:  How do we improve students’ access to reading materials, and how can we sure that those materials reflect a range of reading levels and interests.


Allington, R. (2011). What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (3rd ed).  New York:  Pearson.

Morgan, D., Mraz, M., Padak, N., & Rasinski, T. (2008).   Independent Reading: Practical Strategies for Grades K-3.  New York: Guilford.

Postlethwaite, T.,N  & Ross, K., N. (1992).  Effective Schools in Reading:  Implications for Educational Planners.  The Hague, Netherlands:  International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.


2015 myON Summer Reading Challenge Results!

The results are in for the 2015 myON Summer Reading Challenge, Every Hero has a Story. We are proud to announce the winning school and students who read the most books as a collective campus and individual between May 15th to September 4th 2015.

The myON summer program started in 2012 with 26,000 students reading over the summer. This year over 4.5 million students nationwide read 4,732,169 books over their summer vacation. The summer reading contest was designed to minimize the summer slide while motivating students to discover the magic in reading. Summer break is the perfect opportunity to continue exciting and engaging kids in reading while combating the summer slide.

We would like to congratulate our grand prize winners for total time spent reading!

  • Grade K-5, Elementary Winner: Jade G., PLC Charter Schools (AZ)
  • Grades 6 and up, Middle School/High School Winner: Victoria V., Clayton County (GA)

For all students reading at least 10 books during the challenge, names were put into a drawing to win the iPad Mini. The winner of random drawing is Michael L., Branford Public Schools. Out of the 4.5 millions students 128,000 read 10 books!

“I am overwhelmingly proud of the perseverance of our students for their commitment to literacy and their drive to develop as readers.  I’m equally proud of the commitment that our staff and parents provided to our students this summer so there would be no summer reading lag. Our students love the wide variety of genres available on myON. Accessibility to good literature coupled with supportive adults was the key to our students’ summer reading success!” said Todd Brekhus, president of myON. “It’s great to see so many young people discovering their excitement for reading, especially over the summer,” said Brekhus. “Literacy is the foundation of all academic success.  Each child reading on myON is given the tools to truly personalize their experience, reading what interests them and at a level that challenges them to be a better reader.  Using fun and engaging contests, like Every Hero Has a Story, is another great opportunity to get kids excited about reading.”

Winter Reading Program – Winners Announced!


January 30th marked a major milestone for myON  as we reached our 4 year birthday and earlier in 2015 eclipsed the 5 million student reading on myON. It goes without saying that myON has experienced incredible growth due in large part to amazing educators and students!

We are excited to announce the 2015 Winter Reading Program Winners! This year’s Winter Reading Program began on December 19th and concluded on January 9th! The top schools that spent the most time reading during that time will receive $500!


The top three schools that spent the most time reading* will be awarded the 2015 Winter Reading Program Winners!  Combined, all students read over 12 years of reading in just 21 days! The top three schools receiving the awards:


  • Top School: Komensky Elementary School (Berwyn South School District 100, IL)
  • Runner–Up: Oakman Elementary (Dearborn Public Schools MI)
  • 3rd Place: PS 48 William Wordsworth – (NYC Network 535, NY)

We also created a new category for students to create a 1-2 minute video to explain why you like myON! We are excited to announce that 5th Grader, Lee from Komensky Elementary won the contest and will receive $100. Her video can be seen here!

Stay tuned to for more information on our Spring Reading and Summer Reading Programs!

*Time spent reading was based on enrollment of each school.

Literacy Tools: Using the Journal

Learners love to get feedback from their teachers! Using the Journal in myON’s new Literacy Tools makes it easier than ever to have ongoing discussions more often. Use journaling for a specific purpose or simply to comment on student work. The dialogue will motivate students to think more deeply and encourage more writing. The benefits for educators to be able to “see” what their students are thinking and respond in a thoughtful way are limitless. The Professional Services team welcomes the opportunity to provide a session on integrating the journal and other components of the Literacy Tools to deepen literacy teaching and learning.

myON’s Literacy Toolkit which includes teacher feedback, student annotation and more!

Additionally, myON has recently released the fifth video in our tutorial series focusing on the Literacy Toolkit. This mini-tutorial will help you understand how users can access the various reading tools to improve their understanding of text. To view the video, please click here or watch below.

Our team of facilitators are experts at collaborating with educators about how best to incorporate myON into existing curriculum. After participating in one of our Professional Development sessions, participants can walk out with a plan on how to implement something new the next day. Our hope is that every myON user sees a way that our content and management features can enhance instruction and increase student engagement.

myON is Committed to Good Student Data Practices

Today President Obama announced the New Privacy Protections for the Digital Age and myON is proud to announce that we stand alongside the President in safeguarding the data of our customers, students and families in the classroom and beyond.  myON is committed to ensure that data is safe, will not be sold and that we will not misuse or mishandle student information.

myON has been an active member in the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) for the past five years and was one of the first signatories of the recent Student Privacy Pledge which was co-developed by SIIA and the Future of Privacy Forum to safeguard student data privacy. These commitments are intended to detail ongoing industry practices that meet and go beyond all federal requirements and to encourage service providers to more clearly articulate these practices to further ensure confidence in how they handle student data. (

What are some data and privacy issues which you feel will be key talking points in 2015? Let us know in the comments section!