Every Student Succeeds: A Link Roundup

Last week, we witnessed the passage of the newest re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act. The legislation’s predecessor, the much-debated and much-criticized No Child Left Behind Act, has officially been supplanted. In the week since the President signed the bill into law, much has already been written in response, and sentiments are mixed. What follows is a (very) short overview of some of the articles and pieces of analysis that we have found most useful in understanding the reception of the new law.

Some positive features of note:

Critics of the law have voiced caution, however, predicting that despite claims to the contrary, few changes to heavy school testing schedules are likely to take place on the ground. Other critics have raised concerns that the new legislation’s vague definitions of state-controlled school evaluation will actually harm already underserved student populations who are most in need of improved educational opportunities.

Want to host an #HourOfCode?

CodingSnippetCalling this week “the largest learning event in history,” the folks at code.org have been hard at work designing Hour of Code tutorials and activities designed to introduce K-12 students and teachers to the world of computer science and coding.

Citing statistics that predict that more than 1 million jobs will be computer science-based by 2022, the organizers of this event (which can take place at any time, not just this week) proclaim the imperative need to integrate CS education opportunities into elementary- and secondary-level STEM instruction.

Beyond the economic factors, however, code.org makes it plain that one of the primary ambitions of Hour of Code activities is to democratize and demystify the world of computers for traditionally underserved groups:

The measure of success of this campaign is not in how much CS students learn – the success is reflected in broad participation across gender and ethnic and socioeconomic groups, and the resulting increase in enrollment and participation we see in CS courses at all grade levels.

To which we add our hearty support and agreement. Code on, everybody!

2015 NAEP Scores Reveal Reading Instruction Changes

The results are in! The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores have been released, and Tom Loveless, a Senior Fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy has published a thoughtful interpretation of the NAEP data that shows discouraging plateaus and declines in student achievement in both reading and math. He cautions against using this data to broadly declare that Common Core implementation has failed to positively affect student achievement, stating, “the CCSS story isn’t over.”

Loveless also points to interesting data that shows that even if the jury is still out on whether CCSS has positively or negatively influenced student learning, the implementation of the standards seems to have had more demonstrable effect on the way teachers have been teaching reading. Teachers are reporting that they have integrated more informational texts into their reading instruction, striking a near-even balance between narrative and informational texts in their curriculum.

Some Brain Hive Updates!

If you’ve visited brainhive.com recently, you’ve probably noticed a couple of changes to the website’s appearance. We’ve been hard at work, updating our site to reflect some of the recent developments at Brain Hive. More changes will be forthcoming, of course, as we continue to update our resources and offerings, but I wanted to briefly point out some of the most exciting new features of our home on the web.

new website

  • If you didn’t already know, in addition to the 10,000+ eBook titles Brain Hive offers for on-demand rental and multi-user purchase on our online platform, we are now proud to offer companion paperbacks for almost all of our eBooks. Stock up your classroom library, establish or supplement your K-5 bookrooms, or purchase digital and/or print titles that will supplement curriculum initiatives in your content area. Want to learn more? Check out the Print and Collections tab at brainhive.com.
  • We’ve significantly beefed up our collection search and preview functionality. Now, you are able to search the entirety of Brain Hive’s digital and print collection, using dynamic filtering tools that will allow you to tailor your search results to fit your unique curricular needs. You are also able to preview each and every title – for free – simply by clicking on the Preview button next to the title you’re interested in.
  • After you’ve found titles that meet your needs, you’re also now able to immediately export the book list you’ve built into an editable document complete with pricing, which you can then submit to your school’s purchasing department for processing. We’re really excited about this feature, as it allows you the freedom to customize your Brain Hive experience from the start.
  • Also, not to worry, all of the account features you’re familiar with on the Brain Hive platform are still going strong! You’re still able to support your students’ digital literacy and stamina with robust eReader tools, customizable collections and theme sets, and another exciting new feature: Reading Groups! Differentiate classroom instruction with themed, leveled reading assignments and literature circles, and foster your students’ critical thinking and writing skills with discussion board functionality.

I encourage you to take a look at the new website, and of course, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to be in touch: by phone at 855-554-4483, or via email at concierge@brainhive.com.

Observe Banned Books Week with Brain Hive!

Banned Books Week, organized by the American Library Association, is a celebration of intellectual freedom in the worlds of education and libraries. This year, the celebration will last from September 27-October 3, and libraries and schools across the country will use this time to foster conversations and lessons that deal with issues of censorship and community values. We here at Brain Hive are very excited about helping students and educators engage in these critical conversations, so we wanted to highlight some of the titles currently available on the platform that have been the subjects of past (and some current) book challenges across the country.

the color purple the awakening The absolutely true Diary of a part-time indian bury my heart at wounded knee always running

  • The Color Purple – Alice Walker (Open Road)
  • The Awakening, and Selected Short Stories – Kate Chopin (Lerner)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown for Young Readers)
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West – Dee Brown (Open Road)
  • Always Running (La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.) – Luis Rodriguez (Open Road)

We hope these titles (along with many other classic and contemporary works of literature that have been the subject of challenges and bans available now on the platform), will help to supplement the work you are doing in your classrooms and libraries next week as you explore the complexities of censorship and intellectual freedom with your students.

Questions? Let us know at concierge@brainhive.com, or by calling us at 855-554-4483.

Brain Hive in the Art Classroom

Since we are continuing to explore ways to integrate authentic, content-driven opportunities for students to practice reading skills across the curriculum, I’m highlighting titles today that can serve to supplement instruction in art classes, while simultaneously fostering interdisciplinary thinking and creativity. Take a look!

Layout 1 An eye for art I am an Artist LIght makes colorsCool paper folding Graffiti Culture   Spicy Hot ImageHistory Paintings

  • Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art – by JH Shapiro, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Charlesbridge) – Explore the power of communal art as you learn the back story behind the formation of the Heidelberg Project, a movement to bring together residents of a Detroit neighborhood in a celebration of public art and community solidarity.
  • An Eye for Art: Focusing on Great Artists and Their Work – presented by the National Gallery of Art (Chicago Review Press) – Introduce students to the enormity of art history with this accessible volume that presents famous artists and important historical movements in short, well-explained vignettes.
  • I Am an Artist – by Patricia Collins, illustrated by Robin Brickman (Millbrook) – Encourage students to begin to think of themselves as artists by emphasizing how important simply looking at and listening to the everyday world is in the process of creating and appreciating art.
  • Light Makes Colors – by Jennifer Boothroyd (Lerner) – Blend art instruction with science lessons by introducing students to light’s role in producing what we perceive as colors.
  • Cool Paper Folding: Creative Activities That Make Math & Science Fun for Kids! – by Anders Hanson & Elissa Mann (ABDO) – Reinforce geometry concepts with these beautiful and challenging origami paper folding activities that require shape visualization and precision.
  • Graffiti Culture – by Liz Gogerly (Lerner) – Discuss the social and political implications of graffiti with your students, while simultaneously learning about the history and tradition of this fascinating, albeit controversial form of public art.
  • Spicy Hot Colors / Colores Picantes – by Sherry Shahan, illustrated by Paula Barragan (August House) – Revel in this book’s bright, raucous illustrations while analyzing the author’s use of rhythmic language and onomatopoeia to convey movement and emotion to her readers.
  • History Paintings – by Valerie Bodden (part of the Brushes With Greatness series from The Creative Company) – Art history can (and arguably, should) play a role in “core” instruction by illustrating historically significant events, illuminating the artistic context for social and political movements, and providing visual counterpoints to abstract concepts or ideas. This series is an excellent resource for planning these types of lessons and units.

Questions or comments? Let us know at concierge@brainhive.com or give us a call at 588-554-4483.

Brain Hive in the (Music) Classroom

When we talk about “reading across the curriculum,” the conversation is often focused on reinforcing literacy skills not only in English or language arts classes, but also in the other “core” subjects: science, social studies, and math. To be sure, this is an immensely important endeavor. Especially when we consider Common Core’s emphasis on exposing students to high-rigor informational texts, it is imperative that students have the opportunity to practice a variety of reading strategies in all of their content-area courses. While we’re at it, however, why don’t we integrate more reading into the rest of the school day as well? In arts classes, extracurriculars, or even PE? Doing so will not only help students continue to hone their reading skills that they practice in “core” subjects, but it will also assist them in understanding the interconnected nature of knowledge and education: an understanding of music is tied up inextricably with culture, history, and even math; similarly, excelling in woodworking and metal arts must come with knowledge of math, science, and historical tradition.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing some blogs that cover ideas for integrating texts into classes outside of the language arts/science/math/social studies “core.” Today, I’ll be highlighting some titles and series available on Brain Hive that can enhance or support what teachers are doing in music classes.

Celebrate FAMILIES of DEEP textsweet music in harlemHey charlestonRHAPSODY IN BLUE Jkt  is the violin for you

  • Emphasize the cultural and communal function and history of music across the world with Celebrate! Connections Among Cultures, by Jan Reynolds (Lee & Low), or with Music Everywhere! by Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon (Charlesbridge).
  • Examine the early days of Jazz with Sweet Music in Harlem, by Debbie Taylor and illustrated by Frank Morrison (Lee & Low), or with Hey Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Colin Bootman (Carolrhoda Picture Books).
  • Take a look at the story behind the music in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, by Anna Harwell Celenza and illustrated by JoAnn E. Kitchell (part of a larger series published by Charlesbridge).
  • Encourage budding musicians to research the history and cultural impact of instruments that interest them with books like Is the Violin For You? by Elaine Landau (part of the Ready to Make Music series, published by Lerner).

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Let us know at concierge@brainhive.com, or give us a call at 855-554-4483.

Brain Hive in the Classroom: Sub Plans

As a teacher, missing a day of school can be a real headache – sometimes literally. I know that while I was in the classroom, there were days when I woke up with a sore throat or a slight fever with a nagging suspicion that it might be harder for me to stay home and rest – what with the need to complete detailed lesson plans for my substitute – than it would be for me to tough it out and go in to teach. To combat this, administrators at my school suggested that all teachers collect materials to place in a Sub Folder: student rosters, explanations of classroom procedures, and a couple of simple, content-aligned, go-to lesson plans that could be used in a pinch by any substitute. Putting these lessons together in advance put my mind at ease, knowing that even in the most unexpected circumstances, I would never have to worry about leaving my sub in the unenviable position of having to come up with a lesson on the fly.

Do you have a similar, “Sub Folder”-type plan in place for when you find yourself having to leave school unexpectedly? If so, why not integrate Brain Hive into it? Several hundred of the books currently available on Brain Hive come with “eSource” materials. These materials include everything from teaching guides to standards-aligned, grade-level appropriate activities and assignments. Leaving instructions for your substitute to use one of the lessons outlined in these materials is a quick way to make sure that you’ll always have a lesson plan in place when you’re not in the classroom, even if you don’t have the time to put one together directly beforehand. Find Brain Hive titles with eSource materials easily by clicking on the “eSource” box in the Advanced Search tools (see below).


Once you have narrowed your search to find books that fit within your curricular content area and the age range of your students using the filtering tools to the left of your search results, click on a couple of titles that you think will be appropriate for your class. To access the eSource materials for the titles you have chosen, expand the “eSource Downloads” section of the Title Details Page for the title, and click on the document(s) you would like to download and print (see below).

eSource 2

Leave instructions for your sub to display the eBook on Brain Hive using an interactive whiteboard, or have students access the title using laptops or mobile devices. Then, using the eSource activities or teaching guides you have assembled in advance, the sub can lead the class successfully through a content-driven lesson in your absence.

Questions or comments? Let us know at concierge@brainhive.com, or by phone at 855-554-4483.

Book Buzz: World Cup Victory!

Still excited about Team USA’s impressive 5-2 victory over Japan in yesterday’s World Cup Final? Then this is a fabulous time to take a look at some of the soccer-themed titles available on Brain Hive now. We have a wide selection of both fiction and non-fiction texts that explore the intricacies of the world’s most popular sport. Consider using some of the non-fiction texts about soccer’s history and notable players as high-interest informational texts to build your students’ skills with reading non-narrative prose, or direct your soccer-inclined readers toward some of our fiction with a “football flavor” to engage them during independent reading. Take a look:

Girls' Soccer goal untitled archenemy

  • Girls’ Soccer – by Alex Monnig (ABDO) – Meet some of the superstars of US Women’s soccer, including many of the players who made this year’s World Cup so exhilarating, like Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, and Megan Rapinoe.
  • Goal! The Fire and Fury of Soccer’s Greatest Moment – by Mark Stewart and Mike Kennedy (Millbrook Press) – Take a tour of soccer’s storied past, where you’ll be introduced to famous players like Pele, Mia Hamm, and David Beckham, and learn about the stories behind some of soccer’s most famous moments throughout history.
  • Keeper – Mal Peet (Candlewick) – A legendary soccer star retells his early years as a player, when he was mentored by a mysterious and mystical soccer master, the Keeper.
  • Archenemy – Paul Hoblin (Darby Creek) – This title, (part of the Counterattack series) tracks the experiences of Addie Williams, star defender for Fraser High School’s soccer team, as she works to balance her personal life with her athletic ambitions.

Hopefully these titles will help you spark the interest of some readers after yesterday’s thrilling World Cup victory. Happy reading!

Questions? Comments? Let us know at concierge@brainhive.com or by phone at 855-554-4483.

Functional Texts on Brain Hive: “How-Tos” and Instructions

Reading and comprehending informational text requires a distinct set of skills that are in some ways very different from the skills that students use to understand literary or narrative texts. Now, it must be noted that “informational text” is a truly broad term, encompassing everything (depending on who you ask) from memoir and biography to calculus textbooks to shopping lists, and consequently, different reading strategies and skills must be employed by readers when they approach this broad spectrum of text types and features.

Functional text – or texts that are written to help readers accomplish discrete, daily tasks – is one category of informational text that students must learn how to strategically comprehend and employ pragmatically. Dictionaries are not read in the same way that novels are, nor is a user manual read in the same way as a textbook. Building student familiarity with a wide variety of functional texts equips them to be proficient users of the information they will encounter in the real world, regardless of format or text appearance.

With this in mind, I’ve assembled a small assortment of some of the functional texts currently available on Brain Hive that you can make use of in your classroom. This small collection comprises just a small piece of functional text: “how-tos” and instructions. Integrate some of these titles into specific content area lesson plans, or use them as a collection as you introduce the principles of functional text reading to your language arts classes.

art of the catapult be a tracker Desserts around the world Hacking Fashion  Plan an Outdoor Party HT_Sewing_Cvr2.inddthe racecar book

  • The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery – William Gurstelle (Chicago Review Press)
  • Be a Tracker – Chris Oxlade (Hungry Tomato)
  • Desserts Around the World – Lee Engfer (Lerner)
  • Hacking Fashion: T-Shirts – Kristin Fontichiaro (Cherry Lake)
  • Plan an Outdoor Party – Eric Braun
  • Learning to Sew – Kathleen Petelinsek
  • The Racecar Book: Build and Race Mousetrap Cars, Dragsters, Tri-Can Haulers & More – Bobby Mercer (Chicago Review Press)

Questions? Comments? Let us know at concierge@brainhive.com or give us a call at 855-554-4483.