January 2018 Notes

Well, we have survived some truly frigid days this month, and we’re not done yet! We have so many wonderful books about winter, and many have been on display for student and teacher use and enjoyment. Additionally, teachers made extensive use of our books and videos about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s a breakdown of other library class goings-on.

Preprimary library class has featured fiction and nonfiction books about winter and hibernation. Winter Wonderland by Jill Esbaum, and Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, are two favorites. The children continue to enjoy building and creating in our mini-makerspace, and they return to the library for their Wednesday afternoon Spanish class, as well.

Primary has undertaken a new content area in the classroom, airplanes, airports, and flight. The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown, is a great book from our library that the classroom teachers will be using in the classroom. We will enjoy a special related library activity using our Smartboard in early February; I also hope to get the children into the Makerspace to experiment with our flight lab.

Kindergarten library classes now revolve around the concept of setting as an important literary element. We feature picture books with text and picture clues that indicate the “where and when” of the story. The picture book versions of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, illustrated by Renee Graef, are popular and appropriate for this unit.

Our First Graders are hearing folktales from China, which complement their classroom unit. One favorite is The Seven Chinese Brothers, written by Margaret Mahy and illustrated by Mou-Sien Tseng. We also enjoyed Tikki Tikki Tembo, written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent. It is quite possible that the latter tale actually originated in Japan, but the version we enjoy with its Chinese setting has been a children’s book favorite for fifty years! I hope a future edition will correct any cultural inaccuracies in this cautionary pourquoi tale.

Second graders spent two library classes making a collaborative I Spy book. Each child assembled his or her page using little artifacts from home and school. They thought of rhyming words and, with a little help from the librarian, wrote the text to accompany their pages. The Book Creator app allowed us to put the pages together; we may add narration, if time permits. I am proud of the students and I know you will enjoy their book! (You may want to scroll over the book and click the full screen option.)

Third graders are engaged in two makerspace-related activities this month. We enjoyed using MakeyMakey invention kits to emulate bongo drums and a piano keyboard. The students applied knowledge they had acquired from Ms. Kapsch’s science unit about circuits, and used alligator clips and conductive materials to override their computer keyboard functions. This video provides an introduction to MakeyMakey. Additionally, after hearing The Matchbox Diary, by Paul Fleischman and Bagram Iboutalline, the students may make their own matchbox diaries to house tangible artifacts connected to special memories.

November/December 2017 Notes

The one disadvantage of seeing classes only once a week is the fact that Thanksgiving and winter break preclude many opportunities for me to read, work, and learn with students. However, we made the most with the time we had together!

Hour of Code photo credit: Mrs. Opdahl

Preprimary library classes featured stories about Thanksgiving, grocery stores, and wild-vs-domestic animals, in keeping with their classroom units. We also devoted one class period during Computer Science Education Week to the Hour of Code. The classroom teachers, Mrs. Opdahl, and I oversaw the children as they learned to code (offline) using our Beebots and some figurines.

Primary library classes included read-aloud selections that focused on the classroom theme of kindness. Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, is a wonderful picture book about generosity, with a bit of magic thrown in. We also enjoyed the classic tale of The Gingerbread Man (by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock), also in conjunction with a classroom activity.

Kindergartners enjoyed hearing the nonfiction picture book, Ivan: the True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, by Katherine Applegate and G. Brian Karas. I hope the children will enjoy Applegate’s Newberry Medal winning novel (The One and Only Ivan) based on Ivan at some point. We also enjoyed Calvin Can’t Fly, accompanied by a discussion of migration and murmuration (see earlier post on this title).

Our first grade library classes featured a pourquoi tale from India (Little Brown Jay, by Elizabeth Claire and Miriam Katin), a funny picture book about goslings “imprinting” on a bear who most definitely is NOT their mother (Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins). We also enjoyed Thank You, Sarah: the Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, by Laurie Halse Anderson and Matt Faulkner.

In November our second grade library classes featured Jerry Pinkney’s illustrated Aesop’s Fables, a special short video about totem poles, and a Thanksgiving story about modern-day pilgrims coming to America. In December the students began learning how to find books in the CHS library independently, using our Alexandria database. We are at the “beginning skill” level at this point, but the children are excited and eager to learn. They have made one Seesaw journal entry about Alexandria, and more will follow as the students become more proficient. If you would like to access our library catalog from home, you may do so here. Maybe your child will show you how things work!

Third graders spent our November library classes completing the design, construction and reflection of their Viking ship project. That project is described on my Makerspace page here. In December the students read biographies and made book trailers by app-smashing Chatterpix, DoInk Green Screen, and their iPad video camera. The finished trailers will be shared with parents via Seesaw, or you may view all of them here. Additionally, when we return in January, the students will make QR codes to affix to the book jackets; these codes will take library users to the online trailers.

I hope all CHS families enjoy a wonderful winter break, and Iet’s all have a literature-enriched 2018!

Little starlings and little darlings

It’s late November, and during my Thanksgiving travel I was entertained by flocks of starlings swooping and soaring as they migrated. This flock motion is called murmuration. Today I mentioned it to my Kindergarten library class, and was delighted to hear that a few of the students recently had seen the same phenomenon. We talked about the word, “murmuration,” and how its meaning differs from two other big seasonal terms, migration and hibernation. I read the picture book, Calvin Can’t Fly: the Story of a Bookworm Birdie, by Jennifer Berne and Keith Bendis. In the story, Calvin is a little starling who prefers reading to flying lessons. When the time comes to migrate, Calvin cannot fly, so his extended family attaches tethers to him, prepared to carry him along. Calvin’s extended periods in the library pay off when he understands that the flock is in danger from a hurricane, and that they must seek shelter. All’s well that ends well, and in Calvin’s case, his joy causes him to jump about, flapping his little wings, until he surprises himself — and his family — by flying. The Kindergartners loved the story (little darlings); I hope they will remember the concept of murmuration. Go from fiction to nonfiction with this 6-minute video of starling murmuration in Scotland, by Cameron Presentations, with music by Gerry Clark.

Murmuration from Cameron Presentations on Vimeo.


Adventures in weeding, Fall 2017

An important part of curating a great school library is the regular weeding of outdated or unused items. This morning while weeding the 600’s (applied sciences in the Dewey classification), I came across a fifty-year old title, Man the Maker: a First History of Tools and Machines, by Anne Jolliffe. (Hawthorn Books, 1967). Although dated by gender stereotypes and its depiction of 1960’s computer technology, I like the book’s mod illustrations and topic. Anne Jolliffe is a trailblazing female animator from Australia who was the talented force behind the animation of Jeremy Hillary Boob in Yellow Submarine, the animated Beatles movie. She also was instrumental in creating the psychedelic “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” sequence in that film.  By the way, I decided to remove the book from the circulating collection, relocating it to my office.

bottom right: Jeremy Hillary Boob, from Yellow Submarine

Thinking about Jolliffe’s achievements reminds me of a new gem of a book about another animator, Mary Blair (1911-1978). Blair, like Joliffe, incorporated unconventional color combinations and styles. Blair worked for many years for Walt Disney Studios, overcoming gender bias in a male-dominated workplace. One of her most lasting designs is the “It’s a Small World” ride, introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair, and enjoyed by millions of visitors to Disney parks. Pocket Full of Colors, by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, illustrated by Brigette Barrager, tells Mary’s story.

October 2017 Notes

It’s October, and our main book display has featured books about autumn leaves, pumpkin-picking, and other seasonal delights. The display recently has given way to Halloween stories.

Preprimary library classes have featured age-appropriate stories about colors, shapes, and fall, to complement the classroom units. After hearing Go, Shapes, Go! by Denise Fleming, the children created shapes in our mini-makerspace using craft sticks to which I had affixed Velcro dots. They also have used Joinks, tegu magnetic blocks, Duplo bricks, and loose parts to make things.

Primary class children are proving to me that they are great listeners, and they like both fiction and nonfiction. In fact, they enjoy telling me whether their book selection is fiction or nonfiction. They also enjoy “reading” their books to our collection of stuffed animals and plush book characters. When time permits, we construct with Duplos in the mini-makerspace.

In Kindergarten library class, we 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. Later this year we will delve into story settings and characters. Understanding and appreciating the power of 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 have 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 long 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, and we will use Seesaw to share reflections on developing library skills and activities.


Second graders have been hearing tales and legends of the Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands. One favorite is The Great Ball Game, a pourquoi tale 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 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.

Additionally, Mrs. Opdahl joined me to co-teach the second graders how to conduct keyword searches using the KidRex search engine on classroom iPads. Our goal is for the students to understand how identification of logical keywords will help them perform efficient and effective online searches at Concord Hill and beyond. I distributed “reference questions” (such as “Who was the 25th President of the United States of America?”) for the students to answer with a partner. They highlighted keywords, performed the KidRex search, and wrote their answers on the Smartboard. The children will share some of our activities and story reflections with their families through the Seesaw app.

Third graders will be documenting library and Makerspace activities using the Seesaw app this year. The one-to-one iPad distribution in the class will facilitate using Seesaw, as well as other apps and websites, including DoInk Green Screen, the KidRex search engine, robot apps, flipgrid, and our online catalog. It’s going to be a busy year! This month they will use some of our library class periods to work in the Makerspace to design, build, and improve a Viking ship using Rigamajig, textiles, and our scroll saw. Mrs. Opdahl and I will co-teach those classes, emphasizing collaborative design and the safe use of tools and materials.

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.