Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month / Latinx Heritage Month

file-oct-03-8-35-40-amI have created  a special display of books in the library  in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated nationwide and begins on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico achieved independence on September 16th and Chile on September 18th.
Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated in the United States since 1974, when President Gerald Ford issued a Presidential Proclamation extending Hispanic Heritage Week into a month-long observation. Many people and educational organizations now prefer the term “Latinx Heritage Month,” to include non-Spanish speaking people of Latin America, including Brazilians. Books written or illustrated by Sandra Cisneros, Arthur Dorros, Maya Gonzalez, Tony Johnston, Gary Soto, Pat Mora, and Carmen Tafolla are being shared with the students in their classrooms or during library classes. We highlight several library books in Spanish, as well. By reading these books at Concord Hill, we are active participants in the International Reading Association’s Hispanic American Heritage Read-in program.

Get hooked on books!

With a new school year beginning, I welcome new and returning CHS parents to this blog. Today I want to recommend Common Sense Media as a valuable resource for parenting tips, including ways to foster literacy with your children. This short and sweet video has good, basic ideas; the Common Sense Media website also includes specific book recommendations, as well. (It also includes recommendations for movies and apps; get to know commonsensemedia.org.)


Ten Picture Books About Taking (Good) Risks

It’s time for the annual #pb10for10 Google Community to share favorite picture books. This time around I have highlighted books that feature characters challenged by their own fear or reluctance to take a risk. The risks include trying new food, taking on a physical challenge, or risking engineering failure on the way to ultimate success. Enjoy these books and add to the list through comments! Scroll over the book covers for brief captions. These books are available through amazon.com or your favorite independent booksellers. I have included a bonus title: The OK Book, which I have used in a Makerspace activity with Kindergartners, reminds us that there are plenty of things we are “OK” at — the kids remembered trying the monkey bars and other “firsts” that they risked trying and continue to perfect.

What’s the big idea?

I have created a special display of picture books about people who, sparked by imagination or insatiable curiosity, had big ideas they developed in order to help others. As I explained to our students, big ideas can come from observing nature or from identifying a community need. Big ideas can lead to social justice, new realms of study, artistic breakthroughs, and even new kinds of toys. Here are a few of my favorites. Scroll over the images for captions. These books are available through your local independent bookseller or several online sources.

April 2017 Notes

April is a time for celebrations! It’s School Library Month AND National Poetry Month, and it also features National Robotics Week and Earth Day. Our book displays and read-aloud selections will include titles for those topics. Additional class activities include the following.
Preprimary students have been hearing stories about frogs and insects, in conjunction with their classroom units. Two popular choices are I Don’t Want to Be a Frog, by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt, and The Little Squeegy Bug, by Bill Martin. After hearing the latter story, the students will make their own bugs using our Makerspace resources.

fix it duckPrimary students enjoyed hearing me read Hailstones and Halibut Bones: Adventures in Color, by Mary O’Neill. As I read those poems about different colors, we used the Smartboard to provide complementary images. The students also have heard several humorous, cumulative picture books recently. They especially enjoyed Fix-It Duck by Jez Alborough.

Recent Kindergarten library classes have been devoted to fiction and nonfiction about farm animals and equipment. As you might imagine, the children seemed most fascinated by the manure spreader featured in Fantastic Farm Machines!
underlemonmoonFirst graders have heard picture books set in Mexico, including one of my all-time favorites, Under the Lemon Moon, by Edith Hope Fine. We also watched a short video about a day in the life of a young boy in Mexico; after the video the students compared and contrasted his life with their own.
World Almanac Kids logo

Recent second grade library classes have been devoted to a special state research project. Specifically, the students found visual information and interpreted agricultural and industrial symbols on state maps from the World Almanac for Kids Online. They recorded their findings and interpretations into the books they created in library class using the Book Creator iPad app. The children will record a Seesaw digital portfolio entry about this project.
Third graders have spent library classes this month working on their second video book reviews using the DoInk green screen app. Additionally, the students are revisiting some library and maker skills they have acquired over the past year, reflecting on those skills and earning digital badges. When a student earns a badge I place it in their Seesaw folder. A few sample badges are shown at left.

March 2017 Notes


The Rigamajig House, complete with chimney and well.

During March, several of our library classes were devoted to Maker projects, including the Rigamajig house, shown at right. The house was a schoolwide project and was occupied by a leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day! In addition to maker activities, we still found time to enjoy stories!

Preprimary students enjoyed listening to stories related to transportation. After hearing a story, the children like to select a book and “read” it to one of the library’s plush animals. In the photo at left, a child shares Uni the Unicorn with Harry the Dirty Dog. Harry seems to be enjoying the story!

Primary student correctly selects and drags the mammal image and explains his answer.

Primary students engaged in stories and activities related to their classroom study of mammals. During one class the children used the Smartboard to show me what they knew about mammals. I hope to design additional Smartboard activities for them.

Kindergartners enjoyed hearing stories by Dr. Seuss and began to explore interesting literary characters, starting with Wanda, of Wanda’s Roses. We will discuss story characters and their traits for a few weeks; this concentration complements our earlier exploration of plot and setting.

First grade library classes completed their unit of Australian Aboriginal folktales. We also enjoyed one of my favorite Irish folktales, Fin M’Coul, as retold and illustrated by Tomie DePaola.

Second graders completed the totem poles for the garden and shared their Arctic animal research reports. I was proud to read the informative reports aloud and to display them for the rest of the school community to see. Younger students wondered if the reports could be checked out!

Second-graders’ Arctic animal reports on display in the library
Second graders pose in the garden with their totem poles.

Students wear safety goggles and pull hair back before using the scroll saw.

Lastly, the third graders spent most of our March classes in the Makerspace, where they helped build — and later disassemble — the Rigamajig house. They also have begun using some of our woodworking tools and hope to make something in April. Before leaving for spring break, the students selected books for their next video book trailer.

Students in second- and third-grade continue to use Seesaw to document library/maker class activities. I have created several Maker and Library digital badges that the children can earn by acquiring and mastering basic skills. When a student earns a badge, I will add that badge to his or her Seesaw folder. I expect the digital badges will be incentives for many of our students! Sample digital badges are pictured below.


Kaboom comes to call!

Kaboom visitors in our Makerspace. Photo by Donna Sturtevant

On Tuesday, March 7th, Concord Hill welcomed special visitors from Kaboom, the makers of the wildly popular Rigamajig construction set. Kaboom is a DC-based nonprofit, dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids. They were interested in seeing Rigamajig being used by young students in our Makerspace.

Several Kindergartners and Third Graders came to the Makerspace to chat with the visitors and to work on our current schoolwide building project, a little house that may serve as a leprechaun’s cottage. Mrs. Opdahl and I enjoyed meeting other enthusiastic makers and even provided a couple of suggestions that might make Rigamajig even more flexible.


October 2016 Notes

octoberIt’s autumn, and with the change in season come stories about fall color,  animal migration, and Halloween.

mixitupIn addition to our school-wide topics mentioned above, individual classes have been learning library routines, enjoying story times and maker activities, and sharing their love of books with me. In Preprimary, we have explored colors and basic shapes through picture books, including Perfect Square, by Michael Hall and Mix It Up! by Herve Tuillet. I look forward to planning special Makerspace activities with the Preprimary classroom teachers.

Most Magnificent Thing (A. Spires)

Primary class children have enjoyed picture books that promote curiosity and invention, including What Do You Do With an Idea, by Kobi Yamada, and The Most Magnificent Thing,  by Ashley Spires. I may plan a special Makerspace activity with the classroom teachers that will support their classroom inquiry into boats. One of my book recommendations, Float, by Daniel Miyares, served as a prompt for classroom paper boat building.

Friendshape (A. Rosenthal)
Friendshape (A. Rosenthal)

Kindergarten, like Preprimary, focused on shapes and colors in the classroom. I supported their interest through picture books such as Friendshape, by Amy Kraus Rosenthal. We also are focusing on story plot arcs, which we define as “beginning — middle — end.” After hearing a story, the children describe events that occurred throughout those stages of the book. I am hopeful that understanding literary elements such as plot, setting, and character will enrich the Kindergartners’ own storytelling.

The Elephant's Child (R. Kipling)
The Elephant’s Child (R. Kipling)

First grade library story times are devoted to folktales from around the world. We started our exploration with “pourqoui” tales, also called “why stories.” We imagine that we are children from another time and culture, asking our parents a “why” question, such as, “why does the elephant have a trunk?” The stories I read aloud provide culturally interesting, if not scientifically accurate, answers. We will enjoy some folk tales from India while the students are learning about that country in their classroom.

The Great Ball Game (Bruchac & Roth)

Second graders have been hearing tales and legends of the Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands. One favorite was The Great Ball Game, a pourquoi tales that features lacrosse, the official team sport of Maryland.  This story was retold by Joseph Bruchac, an Abenaki Native American, and illustrated with collages by last year’s visiting author, Susan L. Roth. The illustrated folktales I choose to share with the children provide both visual and textual clues about the specific Native American culture and environment being studied.

Third graders
are busy makers in library class! The children have heard some Norse myths, viewed a short video about Vikings, and will complete additional Viking-related activities. The students are creating Viking longboats out of LEGO bricks or other materials, based on their classroom-based knowledge of the ships. Another library/makerspace activity was based on one of my favorite picture books for our older students, The Matchbox Diary, by Newberry Medalist Paul Fleischman. After hearing the story about a child who learns about her great-grandfather’s immigrant experiences through little mementos he has saved in matchboxes stored in a cigar box, the students decorated their own matchboxes to house their own collections. After I tweeted about the project, we were excited when author Paul Fleischman tweeted back, encouraging the children to develop their collections!



The month ends with Halloween stories for all! Happy Halloween!

A New Makerspace for the New School Year

I am so excited to start building and learning with the students in our new Makerspace! Although a few items remain on our punch list, the space is open for students and staff to enjoy. The colorful floor helps define three main zones: 1) the green construction/studio zone, which includes the green screen studio, wooden blocks, vertical space for marble runs, and the flight lab wind tunnel. The yellow floor indicates the design zone. Dry-erase tabletops provide a wonderful surface for collaboration, and the pinwheel table segments may be separated as needed. The design zone also includes a vertically-mounted dry-erase board and LEGO bricks. The blue floor defines the fabrication/programming zone. This area includes a woodworking bench, textile resources, robots, iPads and laptops. I invite parents to visit the space after the PPP meeting on Friday, September 16th, or at Back-to-School Night on Thursday, September 22nd. Classroom teachers, Mrs. Opdahl, Ms. Kapsch and I will design curricular- or skill-based activities that will put the new space and resources to good use. Scroll over these photographs of the Makerspace and student activities to view captions.

The third graders enjoyed trying several Makerspace activities, including littleBits drawbots, Cubelets, keyword searches with note-taking on the dry-erase tables, Joinks, Rigamajig and LEGOs. Second graders had fun with the flight lab. Preprimary pals created wire and bead sculptures in the green zone.

World Elephant Day

Today is #WorldElephantDay! Celebrate with these books, available in the CHS Library. I can’t recommend Babar, even though it is considered a classic by many. (First, him mom is killed by an elephant hunter. Themes of colonialism, assimilation and power abound, along with other negative stereotypes. Use with caution and a great deal of discussion!)