Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.


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.

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


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.

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!)


ISTE2016: Great days in Denver

Doll I made in e-textiles workshop
Doll I made using conductive thread, LED light, and fabric scraps in e-textiles workshop

I was one of over 14,000 lucky teachers, makers, and other educators who descended on Denver for the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference at the end of June. Renowned futurist Michio Kaku‘s opening keynote got us all thinking about the future, and what’s in store as technology evolves in realms as diverse as medicine, education, and space exploration. Among my favorite hands-on sessions was an e-textiles workshop. I hope to bring e-textiles into Concord Hill’s maker curriculum. Robotics and programming demonstrations provided additional opportunities for me to try various coding and fabrication methods. Virtual reality offerings, including the Nearpod “virtual field trips” were plentiful; the apps and devices combine to produce stunning learning experiences that take students beyond the school campus. At the annual Librarians’ Network breakfast meeting, we learned more about the FutureReady program and how librarians are critical to its success. Additionally, keynote speakers Brad Waid and Drew Minock captivated their audience as they described the global impact of social media, and the leadership role librarians should embrace in preparing students for the future. Waid and Minock are known for their,”Two Guys Show” podcast.  My days in Denver were not only about learning; connecting and re-connecting with friends, other makers, and librarians was so much fun — as was attending a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field!

Inspiring words from the Librarians' Breakfast
Inspiring words from the Librarians’ Breakfast

You Go, Girl! True Stories to Inspire Everyone


On the heels of the previous post, here is another “10 for 10” list. Here is a list of ten books I enjoy sharing with my students. They may be used for a Girl Power book club, but they are not just for girls!  These talented, resourceful girls pursued their dreams, perhaps despite overwhelming challenges.


Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by April Chu. This new book describes how Ada, fascinated by mathematical calculation and inventions as a young girl, defied stereotypes of her time to design an early computer and complex algorithms for it. The work she did in the 1840’s involved breaking down complex mathematical problems into a series of simple steps — programming techniques still used today.

Drum Dream Girl

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  This winner of the Pura Belpre Award tells the story of how a Chinese-African-Cuban girl named Millo Castro Zaldarriaga broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers in the 1930’s. The rhythmic text pairs well with the topic of a young percussionist.

Stone Girl, Bone Girl

Stone Girl, Bone Girl: the Story of Mary Anning by Laurence Anholt; illustrated by Sheila Moxley. Here is the story of the girl who discovered important fossils of dinosaurs in early 19th century England. Mary became the inspiration for the familiar tongue-twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore.”

nf2kateshelleyKate Shelley: Bound for Legend by Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Max Ginsburg. This book tells the story of how a brave teenager made a terrifying trek through a storm in 1881 to inform train station agents that the railroad bridge downstream was washed out and men from an earlier train were trapped in the raging river. Her brave actions saved the men and diverted disaster.

nf2soniaSonia Sotomayer: a Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. Bilingual texts tell the story of the girl who dreamed of becoming a judge. Her intelligence and hard work eventually led her to the Supreme Court of the United States, where she became the first Latin American justice.

nf2firebirdFirebird by Misty Copeland; illustrated by Christopher Myers. This poetic story of inspiration may encourage other girls to follow their own dreams. An author’s note provides further information of how Misty Copeland worked hard, following her own dream to be a successful ballerina. Beyond the story: In 2015 Copeland became the first African-American woman to be promoted to Principal Dancer of the American Ballet Theatre.

nf2mejaneMe…Jane by Patrick McDonnell. This simple biography of Jane Goodall focuses on the naturalist’s childhood, when she dreamed of “a life living with, and helping, all animals.” Author’s notes take readers beyond the story to information about Goodall’s continuing story as founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

nf2rubyThe Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles; illustrated by George Ford. First graders love this story of the brave six-year-old girl who became the first African-American child to enter an all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960. This is a fine example of a book that shows students that children can help change the world.

nf2wilmaWilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by David Diaz. This is the story of a young woman who was so determined to overcome a polio-inflicted disability that she became a runner and won three gold medals in the 1960 summer Olympic games. The bright illustrations stand out against sepia-toned photo backgrounds.

nf2malalaMalala: a Brave Girl from Pakistan by Jeanette Winter. Here is the story of Malala Yousafzai, who, at age eleven, began speaking out against the Taliban’s oppressive policies regarding educating females. Despite being shot, Malala continued her activism She is the recipient of many humanitarian awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, of which she is the youngest-ever winner.

Favorite Animal Nonfiction Picture Books


In February the Picture Book 10 for 10 Google+ community turns its attention to nonfiction picture books. Here are ten of my all-time favorite nonfiction books about animals. Most of them can be enjoyed by pre-K students, as well as older children. Author information and summaries are included below.

Emu by Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne. The cover alone is reason for this large book to make the list. This book beautifully introduces readers to a male emu, and shows how he cares for his hatchlings as they avoid dangers of the eucalyptus forest in Australia.

Seahorses by Jennifer Keats Curtis and Chad Wallace. Curtis won the Children’s Choice Book Award in 2015 for Kali’s Story, but I prefer this lovely introduction to seahorses. Wallace’s art complements the text, and the book includes a glossary and list of sources.

Finding Winnie: the True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall. Much has been written about this Caldecott winner. I have found that some preschoolers have difficulty following the timeline or the “story wihtin a story” concept, but for older children who can keep the cast of characters straight, this book is a winner!

Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby. This delightful book uses photographs to document how Pink, the runt of a pig litter, is adopted by an indoor dachshund mother. Pink’s doggie siblings accept him, as well.

Gorillas by Seymour Simon. I could only choose one book by Seymour Simon, and this is it. Simon’s photographs allow children to get a close look at the gorillas, and to learn about their behavior.

About Marsupials: a Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill and John Sill. This is a good sample from the Sills’s series. Simple text and colorful illustrations provide a great introduction to an interesting infraclass of animals.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. This book, winner of the Siebert Medal, uses text and colorful collage illustrations to describe the history of the Puerto Rican Parrots and ongoing efforts to save the birds.

Hello! Hello! by Miriam Schlein and Daniel Kirk. Describes and depicts how various animals greet each other. Currently available only in paperback, with different cover from the one pictured above.

Look Inside an Ant Nest by Megan C. Peterson. From Capstone Press’s Look Inside Animal Homes series, this book gives children a close-up view of an ant colony.

Lucky Dog –Owney, U.S. Rail Mail Mascot by Dirk Wales and Diane Kenna. This book depicts the true story of a stray dog who became a Rail Mail mascot, riding the rails to help deliver U. S. mail from 1888 to 1896. This makes a great read-aloud for students who are learning about the postal system (or dogs).

January 2016 Notes

Well, winter is plodding along, and our special book display features timely offerings. Our January display highlighted books about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with other books with winter themes — including poetry, snowboarding tips, and more.

KnightAndTheDragonPreprimary pals are enjoying hearing stories about castles and the people who live and work within them. Our read-aloud selections included a couple of “oldies but goodies,” Tomie DePaola’s The Knight and the Dragon, and Arnold Lobel’s Giant John. The children also are having fun in the Makerspace, using our Tegu blocks, Duplo bricks, and other building materials.

itsonlystanleyPrimary students were entertained by one of my favorite new picture books, It’s Only StanleyThis picture book by Jon Agee tested the children’s powers of observation, prediction, and inference — and it was very funny, too! We also shared William Steig’s Brave Irene, which sparked a discussion about personal bravery and pride.
bearateKindergartners had only two library classes in January because of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and a snow day. One of their classes featured a new picture book called The Bear Ate Your Sandwich. The children enjoyed listening to the story, as narrated by a dog, of what happened to a child’s missing sandwich. At the end of the story several students had their own ideas of what really happened. When the Kindergartners choose their books to check out, they are finding sight words and telling the stories to their friends with feeling. I love to watch them sharing!

JuniorThunderLordFirst Graders are enjoying folktales from China, in conjunction with their classroom social studies curriculum. The tales I read aloud are notable for their scenic illustrations and young, resourceful protagonists. Two favorite stories are The Junior Thunder Lord, by Laurence Yep, and The Seven Chinese Brothers, by Margaret Mahy. After hearing a story the first graders enjoy looking for books to take home. They also construct in the Makerspace, using Lego bricks and the Strawbees.


alexandriaJanuary library classes for Second Graders were devoted to learning how to find library items using our online catalog, Alexandria. The students first learned about means of access — author, title, subject, or series — then tested the system using iPads. They were rightfully proud when their searches led them to the desired items on the library shelves. The children will continue to hone their Alexandria skills, working individually or in pairs. You may find our Alexandria catalog online here; click on “Researcher” to reach the catalog interface used by our students. They also have experimented with some robotic devices from the Makerspace.

trailer01Coming soon to a YouTube channel near you: our Third Graders‘ book trailers! The students are engaging in some app-smashing as they prepare video book trailers, recommending CHS library books they have read recently. After preparing their reviews using a book review template from, the children will use the DoInk Green Screen iPad app, incorporating book images and video to produce the trailers. I will post the trailers to our YouTube channel, and the students will generate QR codes linked to the videos. These QR codes will be posted in the library, and possibly in other areas of the school. I hope the third graders will repeat the process throughout the year, compiling a collection of recommendations. We will share our first set of trailers at a special third grade library book club “World Premiere Party” in late February.