Clifton Park third graders get life lessons

Reading, writing and arithmetic are fundamentals in every classroom, but third graders at Arongen Elementary school in Clifton Park are learning a new spin on the old lessons.

With slumber party read-a-thons, poetry readings and even bank accounts, the 42 students in Meghan Hall and Julie LaGoy's third grade classes have formed a community that fosters learning.

We learn all the ways to connect reading and writing, said third-grade teacher Meghan Hall, whose class held a slumber party read-a-thon Friday, Feb. 15.

Students arrived in pajamas and sprawled out on sleeping bags, surrounded by books, and spent the majority of the day reading everything from fantasy to fiction.

"A lot of kids have gotten hooked on series and authors," said Hall.

Sonya Mastracci, a student at Arongen Elementary, is reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House on the Prairie" series. She said that her class is reading, "to make our challenge and become a better reader and writer."

In order to encourage the students to read, Hall and LaGoy help them set personal goals, based on each student's reading abilities, which determines a certain number of pages for the student to read independently in a specified time frame.

Hall said that, in the beginning, the challenge motivates the student to read, but, in the end, the students start to motivate their classmates and themselves.

"We get so excited to hear the kids talking on Monday morning to each other about how many chapters they were able to read over the weekend or recommending a particular book to their classmates," Hall said.

A slumber party read-a-thon is just one way to inspire children to read, but student's in Hall's and LaGoy's classes also practice writing with writer's notebooks, which the students use like journals, with family photos on the cover and drawings inside, to practice writing short stories and poems.

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