Articles by Rachel Samuel

Coach Spotlight: Brian Hawkins

In this series we highlight the instructional coaches who take our work to the next level, going into classrooms and out-of-school time (OST) programs to collaborate with the educators using our game-based learning. Our instructional coaches are former educators who are passionate about expanding access to real-world learning experiences, and we’re grateful to have them on the Classroom, Inc. team!

“Classroom, Inc. is an organization that builds culturally responsive programs. The characters in our games are diverse, reflective of the students who use Read to Lead. We provide a culturally responsive ELA program that is helping improve literacy skills, and at the same time, infusing joy, because it’s all interactive.” –Read to Lead Instructional Coach Brian Hawkins 

Brian Hawkins is one of Classroom, Inc.’s newest coaches, but he brings a wealth of knowledge as an educator to the program. He has 10 years of experience as English teacher, and also has a degree as a registered nurse. Though he opted to have a career in nursing, he still wanted to work in education and literacy. After finishing a degree in administration from Columbia University, he applied for a consulting role with Classroom, Inc., helping educators use Read to Lead in their classrooms and out-of-school time programs.

Because Mr. Hawkins has taken a non-traditional career path, he appreciates that Read to Lead offers a customizable approach for teachers based on what they and their students need most. 

Like many coaches, he doesn’t have a standard approach, and enjoys coming in and assessing the needs of each site he works with. For example, one of the ELA teachers he currently works with uses Read to Lead to improve student writing, and he is able to use the in-game lessons and assessments to help students improve their skills in that particular area. 

In addition to growth in measurable academic skills such as reading comprehension, Mr. Hawkins has also seen his students grow in areas of leadership and development of agency. One of his favorite aspects of the program is helping coach the students as they learn how to become citizens outside of the classroom, and plan service projects that benefit their communities.

“One of the things that’s attractive about our program is that there isn’t a lot of pressure on the students or on the educators. Teachers are under so much pressure to have everything standards-based, and every principal needs to know that programs are standards-aligned,” Mr. Hawkins said. “One of the strengths of our program are the service projects where students are put in positions of being the boss to do a PSA or some kind of community service where they are a leader.”

As an Instructional Coach, Mr. Hawkins finds the lessons and games of Read to Lead are a unique type of blended learning he believes every student should have access to.

“Blended learning to me is providing those digital skills that will still be relevant in the future, and there are different definitions of blended learning! Different educators have different ideas about what those definitions are,” Mr. Hawkins said. “But it all has a digital component. Every student needs access to these programs.” 

5 Principles For Building Literacy, Leadership, and Career Readiness Skills


Building literacy and leadership skills, with an emphasis on career readiness, are at the core of the Classroom Inc. mission. To deliver on this mission, the organization launched Read to Lead®, a comprehensive program developed through nearly 30 years of serving students and educators in high needs communities. Read to Lead® is based on five principles that stand out in helping to advance literacy, build leadership skills and equip students for future workplaces.

At the recent Million Words Read Celebration Breakfast, Executive Director Christina Oliver announced and outlined the guiding principles of Classroom Inc. and Read to Lead® that will set the stage for 2020. 

Five Guiding Principles

At the foundation of all learning lies the ability to read and understand. Reading proficiency is the number one predictor of a student’s success in high school, college, and career, which is why ensuring all students are equipped with the necessary skills to be competent readers is critical. Yet, reading is not something that comes naturally to every student. By offering an engaging reading experience within an immersive fictional workplace, Read to Lead® blasts through traditional reading barriers to shape proficient readers.

Apart from just reading, students need to develop skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving. As the world and the workforce become increasingly more complex, providing youth with 21st-century skills will create the foundation for a lifetime of opportunity. Read to Lead® equips students with reading and writing skills they are sure to utilize in the workplace, along with essential skills necessary for successfully navigating the workplace.

Put middle school students into positions of power and leadership, and they will rise to the occasion. Classroom, Inc. intentionally creates characters that reflect the diversity of the communities it works with. Allowing students to see themselves in the characters of the games empowers them to pursue diverse career paths they may not have otherwise considered. Read to Lead® also gives students access to leadership opportunities and the opportunity to see themselves in positions of being able to enact change, a powerful experience that can inspire them.

In order for students to see value in what they are being taught, learning must be relevant. 81% of high school dropouts report that real-world learning opportunities would have improved their chances of staying in school. Read to Lead®Games give students the opportunity to experience over 30 careers, helping them make connections between curriculum and career. It also affords them the opportunity to see a variety of different paths that they could pursue that connect to their interests.

Across the country, a majority of parents and students have reported that they do not get recognized for their achievements, nor do they get celebrated for reaching new levels of success. Within the Read to Lead® platform, students get continual encouragement in the form of badges awarded for reaching certain milestones, and a leaderboard that tracks the number of words they’ve read both individually and as a class, which inspires and motivates them to keep striving for higher levels of excellence. In addition, Classroom Inc. creates moments to honor and student and educator achievements, through events such as the Million Words Read Celebration Breakfast. 

Based on these five guiding principles, Classroom Inc. has developed a platform and a community dedicated to equipping students with skills essential to facing the challenges of the future while keeping them engaged. One facet of this is the Million Words Read Challenge. Building on the success and momentum of the 2019 Million Words Read Challenge, the 2020 edition is set to reach even more students across the country.

Interested in participating in the 2020 Million Words Read Challenge with your students? Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram to stay in the loop!



Reading + Word Exposure = Future Student Success

All educators want nothing more than for their students to be successful. We delight in hearing that our former pupils have been accepted into top-notch colleges, have secured jobs they are passionate about and have grown into productive and upstanding members of society. To this end, we do our best to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead and equip them with the tools they need to successfully navigate the future.

But what exactly do students need to improve their chances of being successful later in life? Believe it or not, they need to read.

Why Is Reading Important?

Reading is important beyond just the fact that it is a critical part of every single facet of life. From instruction manuals to emails, and memos to web pages, literacy is an essential part of life and factors into every workplace environment. 

Besides basic literacy, reading ability is a strong predictor of future success. Chaplin Hall researchers at the University of Chicago found that third-grade reading level was predictive of later life outcomes, including graduation from high school and college enrollment. OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results suggest that “changing and improving students’ reading proficiency could have a strong impact on their opportunities in later life”. It is evident that improving students reading ability can help pave the way for their future success.

Word Exposure Builds Vocabulary

Why is reading such a strong predictor of future success? This has a lot to do with word exposure and vocabulary. Reading is one of the principal ways in which students are exposed to new vocabulary. As students repeatedly encounter new words in different contexts, they build and strengthen their vocabularies, and a small difference in daily reading practices can result in huge differences down the road in terms of vocabulary acquired. 

A mere difference of less than six minutes of daily reading time can result in staggering differences over time. At a third grade level, this difference can translate to over 100,000 more words per year for students who read for 20 minutes daily as compared to 14.6 minutes daily, and at a sixth-grade level, over 200,000 more words per year between students who read 18 minutes vs. 12.6 minutes daily.

This discrepancy is further exacerbated when one considers how socioeconomics plays into vocabulary building. The groundbreaking study by Hart and Risely highlights an incredible 30-million word difference in the number of words children from high-income families compared to children from families on welfare are exposed to during early childhood.

You may be wondering what vocabulary has to do with being successful. The reason is simple. All knowledge is predicated on the vocabulary we have of a particular subject or topic. It forms the foundation for adding more information to our existing bank of knowledge. Ultimately, vocabulary is a strong predictor of student success, because being successful requires the ability to process information. 

How can Read To Lead®️ Help?

Despite all the evidence that reading and word exposure is critical in determining future student success, educators can attest to the fact that many of our students do not spend enough time reading. A study conducted over the 2015-2016 school year found that out of almost 10 million students, more than half spent less than 15 minutes reading per day. Unfortunately, 15 minutes seems to be the threshold at which students start seeing a considerable improvement in their reading achievement.

So how can we get students to push past this barrier? Offering students engaging and creative alternatives to traditional books are one way of encouraging them to spend more time reading. On the gamified platform Read To Lead®️, each episode exposes students to 30 minutes of reading practice, 5,000 words and at least one authentic workplace reading and writing task.

 As educators such as Cathy Rubano and Deja Flynn have found, incorporating Read To Lead®️ into their curriculum motivates their students to dedicate more time to reading and expanding their vocabulary. Getting students to read and engage with the material can be a challenge, but employing tools such as Read To Lead®️ can help. 

With the reading ability and word exposure being such strong predictors of future student success, it is not something we should take lightly. We should be doing all we can to boost students in these aspects, and platforms like Read To Lead®️ are an engaging resource to have in our arsenal of teaching tools.

How are you helping your students improve reading ability and word exposure? Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share your best ideas with fellow educators! If you’re ready to sign up for Read To Lead®️, click here:


Summer is for Fun AND Learning

New York-based educator Niame Traore was once skeptical about incorporating academic components during the summer. However, thanks to programs like Read to Lead (RTL), Ms. Traore is now convinced students can and should be learning any time of the year; it just depends on how the material is presented. 

This summer, Ms. Traore worked with Global Kids, Inc. at The 30th Avenue School (Q300) in Queens reinforcing math and English standards, encouraging global awareness through field trips, improved STEM understanding, and helped her students build leadership skills. The key for Ms. Traore is to use engaging elements like gamification, improv, visual arts, digital media, and leadership workshops.

Summer can be a tricky time to expect students to be enthusiastic about learning in traditional formats. This actually makes summer programs the perfect time to use games to reinforce academics, by showing students how these skills matter in the long term. 

Problem-solving skills are essential for students to discover their voices in an ever-evolving world. Students who understand the connection between decision-making in school and their future careers become more engaged. 

Summer programs also allow for recognition of students who might otherwise be overlooked during the school year. The low-stakes environment allows students to dive into the whole experience without worrying about grades or homework.

RTL excels at teaching students 21st-century skills, including ever-important digital literacy. While RTL is a game that focuses on reading, the more students play, the more comfortable they will become at using technology to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information that requires both cognitive and technical skills. 

Even in classrooms where technology doesn’t allow for one laptop or tablet per person, students can still work on practicing their communication and collaboration skills using the corresponding activities and lesson plans in the program. 

“We didn’t have access to laptops at all, and we only had four tablets to share between 40-50  students. On Mondays and Wednesdays, we offered three different, academically-integrated, social programs, such as RTL, Engineering Everywhere, and Olympic Games. The students were split into groups of 15-20 students and rotated between each program on the hour,” Ms. Traore said. 

“In RTL, students received the opportunity to engage their literacy skills in a fun and innovative way,” continued Ms. Traore. “In response to our limited access to technology, students created 4-5 unique teams, in which they got to choose their members and team name. Each team got a tablet, a username and was tasked to worked through the episodes to successfully complete them.  In order to keep my students engaged and motivated, I would create friendly competitions each week to see which team could complete an episode and share insight on what they had learned. In the end, each student received either lollipops or icees for their participation, regardless of who won. My goal was to try to make reading fun and exciting without them knowing it. By week three, I had some students so enthusiastic asking me if they could borrow the password to go home and play. They were very motivated with the materials provided and as a result encouraged to learn! By the final week of summer camp, students were able to apply what they had learned from the episodes, and create and present wonderful PSAs in the I Can Make A Difference: Civic Engagement PSA Projects. I was so incredibly proud of their progress. From advocating for climate change to bringing awareness to racial justice, the students were able to use skills like “empathy” and “delegation” to create insightful PSAs. ”

The games and activities in RTL are great at building career skills. Students can learn formal language skills for writing and speaking, but RTL also gives students an opportunity to learn context and how to speak to people from a variety of backgrounds and employment levels.

“One team asked about a character in Vital Signs who uses slang and doesn’t speak professionally,” Ms. Traore said. “They recognized that it was inappropriate for the workplace. They were saying ‘I would never hire this person!’ That was a great conversation that led into a discussion about professional development and what it’s like to be a leader in the workforce.”

Using RTL, Ms. Traore’s students were able to see an example of workplace dynamics many of us don’t learn until adulthood. One student was super engaged with the interactions of the people in Vital Signs, including the lingo the characters were using and the tasks she was given as the boss. She questioned why other team members (in the game) weren’t doing work, and Ms. Traore explained that being a leader is about delegation but also being able to take things on, being part of the team.

Summer programs allow students to dig into and master skills they may not have time for during the school year, and allow teachers and trainers to find where students are struggling, help them excel, and praise them for mastery, rather than rushing to the next required lesson.

“I used the leaderboard to incentivize, it was the biggest help for me, and it gave a visual representation of where [students] were at compared to other schools. The students would ask me how they were doing,” Ms. Traore said. “Whenever [students] made it to the Top Three, I printed out the badge from the leaderboard and posted it so they could see their accomplishments.”

If you’re ready to help your students master digital literacy and career skills while having an easy way to monitor their progress and give feedback and encouragement, start using Read to Lead in your classroom or out-of-school time program today!

Million Words Read: Celebrating Read To Lead® Student Success

On September 17, 2019, Classroom Inc. celebrated the success of students and their incredible educators in the Million Words Read Challenge, launched on Read To Lead® in January. The Million Words Read Celebration Breakfast was held with the generous support of a long-term partner, New York Life Foundation, as well as other donors. 

The celebration specifically highlighted the achievements of 1,300 of the 40,000 total students who participated in the challenge to collectively read one million or more words as a class, the equivalent of 12,000 minutes of reading. 

Educator and Student Spotlight

One of the educators whose class became “Student Millionaires” was Ms. Deja Flynn, a teacher from St. Simon Stock School in the Bronx. Ms. Flynn described the Million Words Read Challenge as “a motivator” that helped her students read and comprehend effectively. 

Her student Ashton felt that the challenge “pushed [his] reading and learning skills”, while Melinda reflected on the experience as helping her feel like she could “do something that could change everything to be positive.” Along with their teacher Ms. Flynn, these students were individually recognized at the Celebration Breakfast.

Recognizing Success and Acknowledging Support

For her time, effort and dedication that has had such an incredible impact on the lives of her students, Ms. Flynn was honored with the Educator Excellence Award. None of this would have been possible without the consistent partnership, guidance, and knowledge shared by the New York Life Foundation. 

Their contribution in terms of investment, expertise, and leadership has deepened Classroom Inc.’s impact across the country and exemplifies great philanthropy in action, for which they were presented the Philanthropic Leadership Award. 

Looking to the Future

For the rest of 2019 and 2020, Classroom Inc. is launching a new initiative based on five principles to further the mission of building students’ literacy and leadership skills. The Million Words Read Challenge cannot be a standalone effort but must be considered as part of a larger movement to inspire students to keep reading and keep leading.

Interested in participating in the 2020 Million Words Read Challenge with your students? Follow us on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram to stay in the loop as we announce details this winter!

How to Embed Read To Lead in Your Middle School Curriculum


Are you a middle school teacher looking for immersive ways to teach your students about leadership? Or are you an after-school educator searching for creative and engaging platforms to help students build literacy? Perhaps you want to expose your students to different career paths available to them while cultivating essential 21st-century workforce skills. 

Read To Lead®️ can help with all of these, and more! Here are some ways you can integrate Read To Lead®️ into your curriculum to get students engaged, motivated and building literacy while acquiring important leadership skills.

During the School Day

Read to Lead®️ lends itself perfectly as a supplement to the core curriculum in classes such as English Language Arts, History/ Civics, and Social Studies. Each episode comes with lesson plans, worksheets, discussion questions and projects that educators can easily modify to tie in with their core curriculum. 

Prior to each session’s gameplay, educators can engage their students and set the stage for the content and concepts they will encounter in the session with the mini-lesson.

Post gameplay, educators can also choose to dive deeper into the themes of the topic just completed by engaging students in post-game discussion questions, encouraging collaborative working groups among students, or independent worksheets.

The wide variety of episodes across three interactive game platforms means educators have a wealth of resources to choose from depending on what best meets the needs of their students to enrich units within your existing courses.

Cassandra Iverson of Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy in Elizabeth, NJ uses Read To Lead®️ twice a week with her students, as an integrated part of Social Studies and STEM lessons. Educator Deja Flynn has also found great success in integrating Read to Lead®️ in her classroom to improve literacy and comprehension and develop her students’ leadership skills.



After-school Programs

For educators looking to integrate Read To Lead®️ into after-school programs, the platform offers students the chance to focus on developing their leadership skills and engage in career exploration activities. 

Outside the confines of the classroom, after-school programs can help students bridge the gap between curriculum and career. Read To Lead®️ offers students the chance, sometimes for the first time ever, to see not only the connection between what they learn in school but also the variety of professions available to them.





Ms. Oriana Pantoja’s work with Children’s Aid After-School Program is just one example of how Read To Lead®️ can be embedded into a traditional after-school program. Read to Lead®️ is tied in as part of a literacy component where students of different grade levels focus on achieving different objectives for different grade levels.

The Read To Lead®️ community projects is also an excellent supplement to any after-school program. With their wider community view, they encourage students to expand their horizons and see how their actions can have an impact on others around them. Ms. Erika Whitehead, Director of Instruction for The Catalyst Schools’ Circle Rock Charter School, finds that her students have benefited greatly from the hands-on activities, and applied the skills that they have learned to create positive change in their communities.

Vacation Programs

It is just as important to keep students reading and engaged in their learning over the vacations to avoid reading loss and ensure students are ready to tackle the challenges of returning to school after a break. Read To Lead®️ offers a specially tailored Youth Leadership Summer Program for students to hone their leadership skills in authentic workplace environments.

Offering two immersive workplace programs in the public service and medical industry, the Read to Lead®️ Summer Program helps students build 21st-century skills essential to career readiness. The culminating project transfers their leadership skills into a service-learning project and also ensures that students reduce reading loss over the long break from school.

With just a little careful planning, Read to Lead®️ can easily be integrated into your classroom curriculum for your students to reap a world of benefits. How are you using Read To Lead®️ in your daily school curriculum, as part of an after-school program, or over the vacations? We’d love to hear from you on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram or join our Educator Community for more resources!

Career Exposure in Middle School = Future Career Success


There’s no doubt that almost all of us have been asked (or asked the children around us) “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Answers often include ‘doctor’, ‘teacher’, ‘astronaut’ and ‘firefighter’. But what about other jobs that students could take on in the future, jobs critical to our economy but that usually fall under the radar – accountant, researcher, web developer? The likely reason why children don’t aspire to these jobs is a lack of exposure – children can’t aspire toward careers they know nothing about. 

It is important for students to be aware of the career paths and professional options available to them from an early age. This can have a huge impact on the career choices they make, and even more crucially, early career exposure can be a determinant of future career success.

Why is career exposure in middle school critical to success?

Early exposure to careers is important in guiding children to future career choices. Introducing students in middle school to a wide variety of career options is an excellent way of providing them with the agency in making decisions about careers. For example, research shows that students who do not express STEM-related aspirations at age 10 are unlikely to develop them by the age of 14, giving further credence to the belief that career exposure in middle school has a significant impact on influencing students’ future career choices and pursuits.

In a trend that is gaining traction around the country, more and more school districts are promoting career exploration to younger students. This comes from a place of not only increasing student engagement but also helping them make better-informed decisions about the educational and career paths they would like to pursue in the future. By providing student access to hands-on tools and resources such as Fab Labs, schools cultivate an interest in related careers and enable students to envision themselves stepping into such roles in the future.

As young people spend more time in formal education, it is often the case that they do not have real exposure to the working world until their 20s. It is ever more important in this situation to help students bridge the gap between curriculum and career by offering opportunities for career exploration in school. Helping students see the relevance between their core curriculum and future careers can inspire them to remain engaged and motivate them to strive for success.

How can schools incorporate career exposure as early as middle school?

Apprenticeships and internships are the most obvious ways of generating career exposure, yet this presents challenges at the middle school level. Employers may view middle schoolers as too immature to benefit from being at the workplace, and practical concerns of getting to job sites or legal concerns surrounding child labor come into play. 

Introducing and adopting curriculum directly related to future careers is one way of exposing middle schoolers to jobs they may be pursuing in the future. For example, EiE®, a curriculum program developed by the Museum of Science, Boston, aims to introduce STEM education and spark interest in engineering and related fields among children the K-8 grades.

Technology is another useful tool for career exploration, particularly at the middle school level. Read to Lead®️, provides students with access to three digital learning games in careers relevant to students. Within this immersive platform, students learn more about professional roles such as medical secretary, social media editor, community center director and more (image below). They are also able to see for themselves the relevance of the content and skills they learn in school.


While it may be more challenging for educators to engage in career exploration with middle school students, it is critical in positioning them for future career success. Only by providing our students with the tools, resources, and information to make well-informed decisions about their educational and professional choices, will they be able to seize the opportunities that present themselves in the future.

Ready to help your students explore new careers and learn how to be the BOSS? Sign up for our free literacy and leadership platform, designed for grades 5th-9th!

Essential Elements of a Gamified Learning Platform


Gamification experts Yu-kai Chou and Gabe Zichermann predict that gamification will make a huge impact in the education industry in the coming years and with good reason. Research has revealed that the use of game mechanics improves learner ability to acquire new skills by 40%. Gamification in the classroom can help educators motivate, engage and manage their learners while achieving crucial learning outcomes. Yet, not all gamified learning platforms are created equal – so what are some of the essential elements required for an effective platform.

Foster Enjoyment and Excitement

A major aspect of the success of gamified learning platforms lies in their ability to foster enjoyment and excitement in the learner. Three key elements contribute greatly to this: 1) A challenging, yet achievable objective, 2) Obstacles that the learner needs to overcome to achieve the goal, and 3) Incentives or rewards that motivate participation.


In Read to Lead®️, students become the leader of a community hospital, local newspaper, or community center, where they face different crisis situations in each episode. Students learn to make tough decisions about how best to approach the task at hand while learning what it takes to be the boss (image above).

As students progress through the different episodes in the games, they can check out their stats as a class, and earn different badges that reflect how their class stacks up against other classes (image above). This form of friendly competition can motivate student participation as they work collectively to hit goals like the number of words they read.

Include Human Element and Interaction

Another crucial element of an engaging gamified learning platform is the human connection. Studies have shown that people learn better when they are emotionally invested and are able to form connections between material and personal experience. How this translates into a gamified learning platform is having well-developed characters that learners can interact with.

In all three Read to Lead®️ games, students encounter and interact with a variety of characters of diverse backgrounds (image below). In their role as a leader, students are tasked with making decisions around specific objectives in each episode of gameplay. The immersive format of the platform ensures that learners are fully engaged and invested, improving learning outcomes.

User-focused Game Design

An effective gamified learning platform always puts the learner front and center. Game design is a crucial factor in ensuring that learners achieve their learning objectives, and successful platforms take into account the learner’s journey through the game and ensure multiple routes to achieving the objectives (image below).

Going a step further, Read to Lead®️ employs an adaptive technology that modifies gameplay based on user decisions to ensure that the game remains challenging enough for the learner. The platform also provides learners and educators with instant feedback on their progress, allowing educators to step in and assist, as necessary.

Deliver Quality Content

All of the above elements would be for naught if the content of the platform isn’t academically aligned. Each Read to Lead®️ game not only provides 450 minutes of reading time, and 180,000 potential words, but is also accompanied by 120 hours of supplemental resources in the form of mini-lessons, worksheets and hands-on projects that students can engage in to apply what they’ve learned (image below). 

Each episode focuses on particular 21st Century learning competencies as well as an essential life and career skills (Image below) while tying in with school curriculum in subjects such as ELA, social studies,  and STEM. 


There are certain elements to every successful gamified learning platform, but integrating a platform like Read to Lead®️ into a classroom setting still requires careful thought and planning to ensure students are hitting their learning objectives. With 24/7 support available to educators, you can be sure that you will always be able to make the most of the free resources provided by Read to Lead®️.


Discover the benefits of introducing Read to Lead®️ to your students for yourself. Sign up for free and receive access to three interactive digital learning games, a Digital Educator Toolkit with free printable 21st-century literacy lessons and projects and more!



Motivating Students with Classroom Challenges

Educator Deja Flynn has been teaching grades K-8 for over a decade and currently focuses on middle school students. Like many educators, Ms. Flynn faces challenges in keeping her students motivated to learn and engage with their curriculum. During the school day, she teaches students at St. Simon Stock School, a culturally diverse Catholic school in the South Fordham section of the Bronx. During the summer and afterschool, Ms. Flynn works with Children’s Aid in Harlem

In both of her roles as an educator, Ms. Flynn uses Read to Lead. She’s been using Classroom, Inc. resources since 2005 and has seen strong growth in literacy and comprehension, and improved 21st Century Skills from her students over the years.

Read to Lead helps my students improve their level of their reading and teaches them how to make decisions in the role of a leader,” said Ms. Flynn. “My middle school students learn how to respect their peers and interacting with those around them. The characters in the game are relatable, and the kids can connect with them — and learn from them!”

Ms. Flynn has also noticed her students using
Read to Lead to set themselves up for success outside of the classroom. Her students have started viewing relationships with adults as a way to practice speaking to and interacting with future bosses, as well as responding to a variety of situations. They’re also able to better identify wrong choices, as well as adding a sense of humility to their personalities.


When the Million Words Read Challenge launched in January 2019, Ms. Flynn noticed new levels of motivation in her classroom. The students used the challenge to compete with each other on the amount of words they were reading in Read to Lead, and were motivated — pushing for success even before starting the lessons. She also saw students who didn’t normally pay attention get into the spirit of competition.

“The students are definitely recognizing their successes,” Ms. Flynn said. “One of my students said, ‘I don’t read this many words outside of class.’ [And now,] he’s reading thousands and thousands of words on the platform. His amount of words made him proud, and it’s made a big difference for both of us.”

Reader. Leader. Boss.

Start your students’ Read to Lead experience with an engaging, hands-on project that helps them understand what it means to be the boss.

Read to Lead  was created with busy educators in mind, and the platform makes it easy to use both the gamified and project-based components. 

In the first introductory lesson, What It Takes to Be the Boss, students learn what it takes to be an effective leader. To find the activity, login to Read to Lead. From the homepage, click on “Kick Off” to access the What It Takes to Be the Boss classroom activity. We also included the link here!

This is a great way to start off any Read to Lead journey, regardless of grade level or skill mastery, because the lesson introduces the importance of effective leadership and asks what characteristics make a person a boss.

You’ll introduce the lesson to your students by asking them to provide examples of times in their lives when they’ve been leaders, even in small ways. Before letting the students work, you’ll want to further model the qualities of a boss by discussing the qualities listed on the Common Attributes of Bosses worksheet; this is important because they should understand that positive character traits like being agreeable don’t necessarily translate into being a good leader.

As you pass out the rubric and worksheets for students to write their own cover letters to apply for the leadership position you’ll mention in your intro, make sure  you clearly define expectations for students’ cover letters.

It may be helpful to budget time in this activity to allow students time to think about which two leadership qualities they have that will make them a strong fit for the job before they start writing.

If you’re doing this in a classroom, you can use the letter as an opportunity to reinforce hard skills that your students may be learning in their ELA classes. For example, if they are learning about dependent clauses, or adverbs, have them highlight at least one example of these in their letter. Out-of-classroom leaders can be in communication with teachers and ask their students to do the same thing.

The full activity packet (available here) includes a variety of great wrap-up activities to assess learning. If time permits, try to do all of them, but they could also make great questions/activities of the day to open your classroom and test retention.

What It Takes to Be the Boss is a great activity for a classroom early in the school year, as it allows you to collaborate with the students on the year-long project of being a good leader in the classroom and beyond.