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Oh, the places these kids will go
Teachers Incorporate Read Across America week into creative learning opportunities
Riverbend Elementary third-grader Christian Bauer joins the parade of students dressed as their favorite characters from books as they parade through the school’s hallways Friday afternoon.

Some of literature’s most beloved characters jumped off the pages and into the hallways of Riverbend Elementary School on Friday afternoon.

To cap off Read Across America Week, students and teachers dressed up as their favorite characters, including a few residents of Dr. Seuss’ infamous town of Whoville and “The Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe.”

The parade was a way for students to let off steam after completing the statewide writing test, a standardized evaluation of their writing skills.

“Reading and writing goes hand in hand, even with second-language learners,” said language arts teacher Michelle Taylor. “The more they read and comprehend, the better writer they become.”

The school’s higher enrollment of students who learn English as their second rather than primary language calls for more intensive work from teachers to make sure they keep up with their peers.

But Riverbend Elementary has shown marked improvement over the years on the writing test, Taylor said. The school was third in the Hall County district last year for test scores, with 86 percent of students passing.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress with English-language learners,” she said.

School superintendent Will Schofield also got in on the reading celebration, visiting kindergarten students on Friday morning to read from Dr. Suess’ “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” said media specialist Emily Nichols.

“(Students) laugh and they giggle and they have a good time with it,” said Nichols, mentioning the students either purchased or made their parade costumes at home.

Most elementary students in Hall County and Gainesville City schools participated in Read Across America week, but Tuesday and Wednesday’s snow days forced many events to be rescheduled. On March 17, 40 National Honor Society students from Flowery Branch High School will read to Spout Springs Elementary students.

The students joined more than 40 million expected to participate nationwide in the reading celebration, which was launched 13 years ago by the National Education Association. Last Tuesday, also the birthday of Theodor Giesel — better known as Dr. Seuss — is nationally recognized as Read Across America Day.

Both March’s state writing test and the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test in April is wearing students out by drilling them with preparation, Taylor said.

That’s when creative teaching methods come into play. She helped her fifth- and fourth-graders pen their own rap songs about how they prepared for the writing test. Next week they’ll be treated to a movie in class to decompress before CRCT prep begins.

“You don’t try to drill and kill them because they do get absolutely worn out,” she said. “You can still learn by having fun. What I don’t want the kids to do is memorize.”