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Read Along Helps Teacher Establish a Connection Before School Starts

As Grand River Academy students prepared for the first day of school, they were welcomed with a smile and a story before they even entered the classroom.

student reading a book

First-grade teacher Josh Hallows sent out a video of him reading “The Night Before First Grade.” Reading the book led Hallows through a first-day checklist for scholars on the last day of vacation. Is your bag packed? What friends are you looking forward to seeing?

The reading also showed kids what changes they might notice from kindergarten – new classrooms, teachers, and friends, and familiar faces who might have grown noticeably since they departed for summer vacation.
When the scholars arrived for their first day, some even saw their teacher as kind of a YouTube star.

“Parents loved it,” Hallows said. “They said their kids liked it, too. Some of the kids at school they said, ‘Hey I saw the video of you’ and were excited to tell me about it.”

Josh Hallow Grand River

The video read along came about from professional development focused on classroom culture for Hallows, who taught English as a Second Language for five years at an elementary school in South Korea. Grand River Dean of Lower Elementary Amy Pogorzelski gave Hallows and the first-grade team the book and encouraged them to record the reading for students.

“I figured it’d be good to do because it establishes that relationship before they come to school,” Hallows said. “For the first week, I’m always focusing on my relationships with the kids. I think my first three years it was more about the curriculum, and making sure everyone gets their work through and all that. But this year, with the relationships, it makes all that easier.”

Now that he is in his third year at Grand River, Hallows found more of a rhythm and likened his fellow teachers to a “big family.” He has strived to acknowledge students who follow directions as frequently as possible and has learned that behavior charts are as much for teachers recognizing positive acts as they are for students.

Student reading

He was inspired to be a teacher from a couple educators as an elementary student in Columbia, Missouri. His fifth-grade teacher Miss Stanley’s classroom was like a big family that had fun every day. That warm, pleasant atmosphere is one Hallows tries to emulate at Grand River.

“She would joke with us and she'd have fun with us,” he said. “I always kind of looked forward to the lessons. I had role models as a kid that I wanted to be like them. That attracted me to teaching.”
Keep up the excellent work, Mr. Hallows!

About Grand River Academy
Grand River Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Livonia, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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