Wanted: AR Coaches!

tutoringInterested in helping Peabody students become better readers? Have a little time to offer now and then? Sounds like you’d make a perfect AR Coach!

What is AR? Accelerated Reader is an online reading improvement initiative funded by the Peabody PTA and supported by the Peabody faculty. Students read books, then take quizzes on them to assess comprehension, and earn points toward prizes and recognition! Lots more info about AR at Peabody is here.

AR Coach Role: Your main task will be to read with students and help them through the process of taking a quiz online (instructions on how to pull up quizzes will be available in each classroom). The teacher will pair you with the student(s) she needs you to work with that day.

Sign Up: Please click on our Volunteer Spot page to view all of the open volunteer times. You can sign up for as many spots as you like, whenever your schedule allows. Some of the windows of time are long, but please know you are not committing to staying for the entire block of time — this is just the window that the teacher could use your help. We would ask that you plan on staying for at least 20-30 minutes.

IMPORTANT: You must be a Level II or Level III approved volunteer before serving as an AR Coach. If you were Level II or Level III approved last school year (2012-13), then are this year as well. If you’re not sure, please call or visit the school office and ask them to check the volunteer list for your name. Info on the Volunteer Approval process is here.

Feedback: This is a bit of an experiment in mobilizing classroom volunteers at Peabody, so please feel free to email any comments or questions about how it’s going!


Interested in making a more regular commitment? Consider being a STAR Tutor.

Be a STAR at Peabody!


Have you always dreamed of being a star? Peabody’s STAR tutoring program will give you just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for!

Super Tutors Achieving Results (STARs) work with Peabody’s younger students (mostly 2nd & 3rd graders) who are struggling readers to put them on a path to success. We’re looking for Peabody parents and other community members who are willing to commit at least an hour every other week through the end of April. This level of commitment will allow you to form a bond with the students you’re paired with and really make progress with them. (Not ready for this much commitment? Be an AR Coach!)

Tutoring times are available throughout the school day and until 5:00 p.m. for students in the aftercare program. Volunteers do not need any special teaching experience — you’ll mostly just be providing extra one-on-one reading practice with your student — but a brief training session will be provided to acclimate you to the tutoring experience.

STAR Tutoring in the News: Click here to read more about the program in the LampLighter, Cooper-Young’s community newspaper.


Returning STAR Tutors: Please register here.

New STAR Tutors: If you were NOT a STAR tutor during 2012-13, please follow these instructions to be approved as a Level III volunteer through Shelby County Schools and sign up as a STAR tutor:

1. Come to the Peabody office to obtain a Fingerprint ID Form during the school day (8 am – 3 pm). Fill it out and have Principal Melanie Nelson or Optional Coordinator Deirdre Jones sign it.

2. Call the SCS board (416-7600) for a fingerprinting appointment, and take your driver’s license (or other government-issued photo ID) and social security number to your appointment with you.

3. After being fingerprinted, please fill out the STAR Tutoring online registration form. You will be contacted when your name has cleared the approval process and your students have been assigned.

Thank you!

Have other questions? Email Ginger Spickler, volunteer STAR coordinator.

Stand UP (University for Parents) at Peabody!

Starts Tuesday, September 17th, 2013!

gingerBy Ginger Spickler, Peabody parent

During the 2012-2013 school year, I had the good fortune to work with a brand new program in the Memphis area, called Stand UP (University for Parents). My role was to facilitate a discussion among a group of parents at local elementary schools about how they could best support their children in school. It was a tremendously rewarding experience, not only because I got to meet so many incredible parents who were willing to invest time in becoming the best parents they could be, but also because I learned so much myself!

The most shocking thing that we learned was that in the legacy Memphis City Schools, only about 5% of students are currently graduating college-ready. What is “college-ready”? That means that a student will be able to get into college and start college-level courses — not have to waste time and money on remedial classes covering material they should have learned in high school. Five-percent is a sobering statistic — it means that right now, the odds are not good that many of our Peabody Eagles will be ready for college or career by the time they graduate.

So how can we, as Peabody parents, make sure that not only our own children are going to be college-ready, but that every other Peabody student will be as well? The Stand UP course covers exactly that information in detail.

For example:

  • How to know if your child is on track academically

  • How to have an effective parent-teacher conference (and, yes, you should be having them even if you think everything is going fine!)

  • How to build character traits needed for success in school, like responsibility and self-control

  • How to understand what your child’s TCAP scores really mean for their college-readiness

Stand UP is a 10-week course (including the Intro Meeting on Sept. 10 and Graduation on Nov. 19) that will meet from 6:00-7:30 every Tuesday night at Peabody. Child care and class materials are both free.

As a parent, I know exactly how valuable your time is, and that you can’t take this kind of commitment lightly. However, just as our teachers participate in professional development every year to ensure that they are up to the task of educating our children, I believe that we need to be doing “parental development” so that we, as their first and primary teachers, are ready to support them in the most effective ways possible.


Please Note: We will have a special guest at Peabody’s Stand UP Intro Meeting on Sept. 10 — Jonah Edelman, the co-founder and CEO of Stand for Children. Stand for Children is a non-profit working to ensure that all children in our nation, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, a college education. Mr. Edelman is the son of Marian Wright Edelman, a long-time activist for the rights of children and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Let’s show Mr. Edelman that Peabody is a place where parents are committed to the success of every child that walks through our doors!

Accelerated Reader: Go for the “Goal” in the Peabody Reading Olympics!

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 10.13.46 PMThe Winter Olympics are coming up in a few months, so AR is going to take on an Olympics theme at Peabody this year! Accelerated Reader (AR) will go live at Peabody on Tuesday, September 10, following the AR Opening Ceremonies that afternoon.  The rest of that week, our school-wide goal will be to get every student to take at least one quiz to get everyone out of the starting gate at the same time. So encourage your child to train their brain with reading and go for their (AR) goals all year long!

Below is a parent’s guide to AR, so you can help your child truly become a champion reader! (Prizes are listed toward the bottom.)

AR Quick Links:

Home Connect Website
AR BookFinder™

AR is an online reading improvement initiative funded by the Peabody PTA and supported by the Peabody faculty and by YOU! Your child can read a book, then take a quiz on the book to assess how well they understood it, and earn points toward prizes and recognition!


Your child will receive an initial grade level assessment at school, conducted by our librarian, Mr. Malone. This will help you and your child’s teacher know what level books are appropriate for your child to be reading. Keep in mind that many children will read either above or below their actual grade level and the best way to help these students progress is to give them books that are on their level but are still interesting to the student. The reading lists at the end can provide ideas.


Throughout the school year, your child will take comprehension quizzes about AR-approved books. Quizzes for shorter books generally have five multiple-choice questions, while longer books have more. You’ll know your child is reading books in his sweet spot when he is averaging 85%-90% correct on AR quizzes. You can check to see how your child is doing by logging on to the Home Connect website with your child’s AR login information, which his teacher should provide to you.

AR quizzes can only be taken at school. Your child cannot do these quizzes at home. The library will be open after school on Mondays and Thursdays until 3:45 for extra quizzing time, but students must be accompanied by an adult. Please sign in at the office before going to the library with your child.


Any book that has an AR quiz associated with it counts (and there are LOTS — both fiction and non-fiction). You can visit the AR BookFinder™ at www.arbookfind.com to conduct a search of all available books with AR quizzes. Your child can get AR books from home, the Peabody Elementary library, the public library or even his classroom. They can quiz on books they read alone, that you read to them, or a combination of the two. They can even take quizzes on books they read over the summer, as long as they think they can remember enough to answer the questions on the quiz. Books from the Peabody library will be labeled with information about the reading level, point value of the book and quiz #, but this info can also be looked up on the AR BookFinder™ for all other books.


Every book that has an AR Reading Practice Quiz is given a point value. AR points are based on the difficulty of the book and the length of the book. For example, the Berenstain Bears books, which are about 1,000 words long and have an average level of 3.5, are 0.5-point books (which is the minimum point value for any book). Hank the Cowdog, which is about 23,000 words long and has a book level of 4.5, is a 3-point book. Children earn points, or a portion of a book’s points, depending on how well they do on the Reading Practice Quiz. If the point value is not labeled on a book, you can look it up on the AR BookFinder.

Each student will set an AR points goal for each quarter, along with their teacher. This goal should be challenging, but not impossible to reach. If you, as a parent, think that your child’s goal is too hard or too easy, talk with your teacher about it.


Ultimately, we want kids to see reading as its own reward, but let’s face it — sometimes we all need a little motivation to get started. And who knows, in the process of trying to win a prize, your child might just discover a passion for reading that will last a lifetime!

We’ve tried to create a good mix of incentives that will reward both students who meet their own personal goals, and students who excel at each grade level. You can remind students that even kids who don’t have the most points will be eligible for prizes and recognition, so they should focus on doing their own best. Also, the quarterly awards are for that quarter’s points only, so if they get behind in one quarter, they get a fresh start the next.

  • AR Store – At the end of each 9 weeks, students will be allowed to visit the AR store to purchase small prizes with their AR points.

  • Quarterly Recognition & Prizes – All students who meet their quarterly AR goals will be presented with a certificate at honors assemblies. 1st, 2nd & 3rd place point earners in each grade for that quarter will receive plastic medals, and 1st place winners in each grade will also get a $10 gift card. In addition, names of all students who met their quarterly goals will go into a drawing for two $10 gift cards.

  • Mini-Challenges – We will have three short-term Mini-Challenges, and all participants who attain a certain number of points during a given time time period will be entered into the prize drawing. This year’s mini-challenge dates and point requirements are:

    • Fall Break – earn 5 points (KK=read 5 books) between 10/5/13 and 10/17/13

    • Winter Break – earn 10 points (KK=read 10 books) between 12/21/13 and 1/16/13

    • Spring Break – earn 5 points (KK=read 5 books) between 3/8/13 and 3/20/13

  • Year-End Prizes for Points Leaders – At the end of the year (5/9/13 will be last day AR points will count toward year-end totals), engraved medals will be awarded to the top three point-earners in the entire school, along with a $50 gift card for 1st place, a $40 gift card for 2nd place and a $30 gift card for 3rd place.

  • Year-End “Big Ten” Gift Card Drawing – At the end of the year (5/9/13 will be last day AR points will count toward year-end totals), we will hold a drawing for 10 $10 gift cards. For every 10 points a student has earned during the year, their name will be entered into this drawing once. A student can only win one of these gift cards, even if their name is drawn more than once.

You can check your child’s progress online via the Home Connect website (use your child’s AR login information to access this). There is also an AR bulletin board next to the library where students who are meeting their goals and those who are points leaders will be recognized.


Your main job is just to make sure your child is reading at home, ideally at least 30 minutes a day. Students go to the Peabody library weekly and should be bringing their book home, but they don’t have to limit their reading or quiz-taking to books that come from the Peabody library — you can help them find books at home or at the public library to read. Or, you can encourage them to check out their classroom library — most teachers have a good selection of books that kids can borrow. As long as the book shows up in the AR BookFinder, it counts!  If your child reads a book that’s not labeled with the AR codes, you can just send him with the correct AR# as listed on the website or send the correct book title and the child can look up the quiz by title at school.

Your child can even take tests on books you read together, whether they read aloud to you or vice versa. Even older children benefit greatly from being read to — it often allows them to be exposed to literature that is beyond their ability to read on their own. So, read with your child at home and then let him take the test on his own at school — you’ll be amazed at how well your child was listening to you (for once!).

While your child will be given some time in class to take AR quizzes, if they need extra time, you can bring them to the Peabody library after school on Mondays and Thursdays until 3:45 to use the computers in there to quiz. Please sign in at the office first. All children must be accompanied by an adult.


When reading to your child, use character voices, talk about pictures, and try not to read too quickly. She will be tested for comprehension in the AR program, so all of these practices help with comprehension.

If your child is reading independently, you may want to ask a few questions about the book to see if your child read for understanding….or just zipped through it!


7 Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers

Management Strategies for Reading (for struggling readers)

How Do I Help a Struggling Reader?

Read-Aloud and Read-Alone Grade Level Reading Lists (book recommendations)

Favorite Series Books

Summer Reading Lists (by grade level)

Go, Peabody Eagles!  Accelerate your reading!

Meet the New Principal of Peabody Elementary!

photo (92)

Melanie Nelson
New Principal of Peabody Elementary

It came as a surprise to many when Kongsouly Jones, Peabody Elementary’s popular principal for the past seven years, announced in late June that she had taken a job with the district as the instructional leadership director for the Northwest region of the newly merged Shelby County Schools.

But with a new school year quickly approaching, the district had to execute a speedy application and interview process which, according to district officials, immediately brought in numerous strong candidates for the highly desirable position as Peabody’s new principal.

Melanie Nelson, formerly principal of Hawkins Mill Elementary, was announced as Ms. Jones’ successor in mid-July and was at the school building just days later to get to know her facility and staff.

“I’m excited to be a part of Peabody Elementary and the Cooper-Young community,” Nelson said. “Peabody Elementary has a lot of rich academics and culture to offer, and I want to be a part of enhancing these fundamentals for our students.”

Nelson is a native Memphian and attended Spring Hill Elementary and Trezevant High School before going on to college at the University of Tennessee-Martin and graduate school at Freed-Hardeman University. She worked in the Memphis City Schools system for 17 years, as a teacher, an instructional facilitator, an assistant principal, and most recently the principal of Hawkins Mill Elementary. Nelson is married and has a 10-year-old son, who will remain at his current elementary school near their home.

When asked about what she sees as some of Peabody’s current strengths, Nelson mentioned the International Studies photo (93)curriculum, the community garden and the school’s commitment to the Responsive Classroom program.

“Through the Responsive Classroom approach, everyone will see students taking more ownership of their learning goals and behavior expectations because students will be a part of the decision-making process,” said Nelson who was one of the district’s original Responsive Classroom trainers. “I have seen school cultures change just by implementing (Responsive Classroom) practices.”

Jones, the former principal, had overseen a number of changes at Peabody, including the influx of a growing number of Cooper-Young families and the increased community involvement that brought.

“There are a lot of things we’ll all miss about Principal Jones,” said Peabody PTA president Chris Kelley.  “For one, the way she stood at the front door nearly every morning, smiling and welcoming our kids as they entered school. She really embraced the Cooper-Young community, allowing neighborhood parents to play an active role in the education of their children. She also was driven to improve the outcomes of all teachers and children. The promotion she received is a testament to all of these qualities, and I am thankful her new leadership role within the Shelby County system will allow her to share best practices with other administrators.”

While Nelson was quick to point out that she didn’t plan to make any drastic changes immediately, as she wants to get to know the school better first, some things Nelson hopes to focus on in her first year at Peabody are ensuring that all students are strong readers, as well as enhancing the aftercare program with a wider array of offerings, like athletic and music opportunities.

Her request of the community? “Please continue to support the school with your involvement through this transition.” She stressed that she has an open-door policy and is always open to hearing the views of the community.

This article also appears in the Lamplighter, the official newspaper for Cooper-Young.  You can learn some fun facts about our new principal by clicking on this article.  (Fun facts located on the bottom of the piece!)