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

May 2016 Notes

May seems to be flying by! The special book display features books about the Chesapeake Bay. Soon we proudly will display the bird books written and compiled by our Preprimary class.

Big news: our summer reading lists have been posted on our website. Each list was recently revised to include some new favorites. The list for incoming first graders includes a long list of picture books that may be enjoyed by children of all ages. You may find these books at your public library, local bookstores, and on our store. Here are quick links to the lists by grades:

Highlights of our May library classes follow.

SqueegyBug2Preprimary students are hearing fiction and nonfiction books about birds. I hope to share some books about insects, as well. I predict they will enjoy two special books by Eric Carle that featured built-in digital effects — specifically, the clicking sound produced by The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, and the lights produced by insects at the end of The Very Lonely Firefly. Additionally, I hope we will have time to hear The Little Squeegy Bug, by Bill Martin, Jr., which may inspire the children to create their own squeegy bugs in our Makerspace. They will have fun using loose parts from our Tinker Trays to make their little bugs.

Prince NautilusPrimary library classes will round out the year with some very special fairy tales by local author Laura Krauss Melmed. The fairy tales are longer than the typical picture book choices for the Primary class, and I am eager to see how engaged the children will be throughout the story. They certainly have increased their listening span over the course of the school year, which is one of my goals for them. The story of Prince Nautilus includes  an enchanted prince, a perilous quest, and two sisters, one of whom seems to do all the work. Most of the children made a spot-on literary connection to Cinderella, and they all enjoy helping me complete stories with “they lived happily ever after!”

nana-in-the-city-coverKindergarten story time choices complement the classroom exploration of cities. One of my favorites is Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo. This book features a city-dwelling grandmother who helps her grandchild learn not to be afraid in a city full of noises and so many people. We also will enjoy some very funny picture books by Robert Munsch during the last few weeks of school.

DaulaireGreekMythsIn first grade library class, we are enjoying a few Greek myths before the school year ends. I will read selections from D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, Rockwell’s The Robber Baby, Mary Pope Osborne’s Favorite Greek Myths, and Hutton’s individual picture book retellings of the tales of Persephone and of Theseus and the Minotaur. I hope we can experience at least one of our remaining library classes outdoors!

john_henrySecond graders will round out their year of library classes by hearing some humorous  American tall tales. The John Henry tale, as presented by Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney, is a personal favorite. Before adjourning for the year, the children will share feedback about their favorite books.We will compile a list of their choices to share with next year’s second graders.

Third graders have completed their weeks-long unit on circuits, which Mrs. Opdahl and I co-taught. The students applied their knowledge of parallel circuits to make LED-equipped Mother’s Day cards. Scroll over the images to see captions. The children also completed their Scratch programming unit described in my April post and invited their former teachers to play their finished games. We also had time to invent with our Makey Makey kits. The library was a temporary concert hall as banana bongos and aluminum foil pianos produced music when the students designed and completed circuits that allowed the fruit and other random conductive materials to highjack computer keyboards. Scroll over the images in the following photo gallery to see captions of our third grade makers at work.

During one class we will set up obstacle courses for our Dash, Ollie and Sphero robots to maneuver using iPad and iPhone apps. Sometimes our learning looks an awful lot like play, but then again, play is learning — whether acquiring and using cognitive skills to drive a robot through a maze, or improving social skills through collaboration. The following video was produced by Sphero, and shows that little bot in action.

April 2016 Notes

April is School Library Month AND National Poetry Month. I will share poetry with the students during at least one  library classes.
My GardenPreprimary students have been hearing stories about garden plants, in conjunction with their classroom unit. Two new favorites are My Garden, by Kevin Henkes, and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal.

fix it duckPrimary students 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!
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.
scratchThird graders have spent library classes this month working on their Scratch programming projects. Mrs. Opdahl and I are co-teaching this unit. The students are working in teams to create online games that represent some of their favorite memories from their years at Concord Hill. When the coding and debugging are complete, we will start a special Maker unit on circuits.

Little Charmers, Revisited

bracelet copyI think it’s time to update this post from 2009 with some new additions. Enjoy these short novels with your children! April 2016

Are you looking for a read-aloud that won’t take months to read to your child? In this post I recommend what I call “little charmers,” gentle stories told in 120 pages or less. These are not raucous or irreverent adventure stories; rather, they are the kinds of books grandparents will enjoy reading to their grandchildren. In fact, a couple of the selections may be older than some of our CHS grandparents! The plots are linear and the characters are allowed to develop and grow, in spite of the shortness of the books. Rich vocabulary combined with simple illustrations make these great read-alouds for bedtime.

BuriedBonesMysteryThe Buried Bones Mystery (Vol. 1 of the Clubhouse Mysteries) by Sharon M. Draper, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson). Here is a great introduction to chapter book mysteries, written by a five-time Coretta Scott King award winner. Ziggy and his friends Rico, Rashawn, and Jerome dig a hole in Ziggy’s yard to bury their secret treasures. When the boys try to hide their treasures, however, they uncover a box of bones and are swept up in a mystery — who could have buried that box of bones behind their clubhouse?

FortunatelyFortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young. What should be a quick errand for a loving, responsible father — running out to get some milk for his children’s breakfast cereal — turns into a series of outrageous events that he describes to the children upon his return. CHS First grade teacher Mrs. Crain also enjoys this rollicking tall tale.

LuluLulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith. This nifty cautionary tale begins when Lulu, a spoiled child accustomed to getting her way, has a tantrum because her parents will not allow her to have a Brontosaurus as a pet. Lulu undertakes a search for one anyway, not knowing that the Brontosaurus she finds wants her for a pet, as well!

TheStormThe Storm (Vol. 1 of the Lighthouse Family series), by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Preston McDaniels. Pandora the cat and Sebold the dog both live in isolation, she in a lighthouse, he on his boat at sea. A storm brings the two together, and eventually they learn that families can come in many different configurations. This is one of my new favorites!

whippingboyThe Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman, illustrated by Peter Sis. This Newberry Medal winner is full of adventure and mistaken identity as spoiled Prince Brat and his whipping boy Jemmy, who appear to have nothing in common, are abducted and learn to empathize and appreciate each other.

catwingsCatwings, by Ursula LeGuin, illustrated by S. D. Schindler. Four young cats born with wings leave their dangerous alley in the city in search of a safe place to live. They encounter dangers in the countryside, as well, but finally meet two children with kind hands. This little book is the first volume in the Catwings series.

dragonMy Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Ruth C. Gannett. Mother and daughter combined talents to create this first volume of a delightful trilogy. A young boy determines to rescue a poor baby dragon who is being used by a group of lazy wild animals to ferry them across the river on Wild Island. Many children enjoy looking at the frontispiece map throughout the story.

cricketwinterCricket Winter, by Felice Holman, illustrated by Robyn Thomas. A little boy exchanges Morse code messages with the cricket that lives in his house and together they trap the rat that has been plaguing the boy’s father and the cricket’s friends.

batpoetThe Bat-Poet, by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. A bat who can’t sleep days makes up poems about the woodland creatures he now perceives for the first time. This slender volume may inspire young poets to write poems based on their own observations.

abelAbel’s Island, by William Steig. Castaway on an uninhabited island, Abel, a very civilized mouse, finds his resourcefulness and endurance tested to the limit as he struggles to survive and return to his home.

jennycatJenny and the Cat Club, by Esther Holden Averill. First published in 1944, this book introduces readers to Jenny Linsky, a black cat who lives in New York City, and her adventures with the neighborhood cats who belong to the Cat Club.

sarahplainSarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlin. When their father invites a mail-order bride to come to live with them in their prairie home, Caleb and Anna are captivated by her and hope that she will stay. Winner of the Newberry Medal.

keycollectThe Key Collection, by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Yangshook Choi. A ten-year-old boy in the Midwest misses his Chinese grandmother, who always lived next door until her health caused her to move. Currently out of print, this book is available from used book dealers and the CHS library.

fireworkThe Firework-Maker’s Daughter, by Phillip Pullman, illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher. In a country far to the east, Chulak and his talking white elephant Hamlet help Lila seek the Royal Sulphur from the sacred volcano so that she can become a master maker of fireworks like her father. The author of the complex and challenging “His Dark Materials” trilogy wrote this short gem of a quest story for young listeners.

jackplankJack Plank Tells Tales, by Natalie Babbitt. When a pirate ship falls on hard times, Jack Plank is let go because he is not very good at plundering. He moves into a boarding house and begins to look for work. Unfortunately, Jack is not well suited to be a farmer, baker, fortune-teller, fisherman, barber, goldsmith, actor, or musician, each for a different reason. Jack’s efforts to find his calling, and his explanations to the other boarders, make for a very engaging read-aloud. (At 128 pages, this book exceeds my original 120-page limit, but it’s too good to miss!)

March 2016 Notes

Finally — March is here, and this librarian’s hopes for warmer weather are coming true! We have two special book displays. The first display, shown above, highlights picture book biographies of young people who followed their dreams, never giving up, and if not changing the world, at least making it a little more interesting. I will be sharing many of these titles with our students in library class. The second display, shown below, features books that our third graders read for their February book trailer project. Each book now includes a QR code on the cover; scanning the code with a mobile device will bring up the student book trailer on YouTube. Both  displays were admired by special visitors at the Admissions Coffee for parents of newly-accepted children, Mrs. Ruina’s Kindergarten Teacher roundtable group, and by our next Head of School, James Carroll.

AnnieWildAnimalsThis month, Preprimary children have enjoyed books centered around a couple of their classroom units. When they were comparing and contrasting wild and domestic animals in the classroom, I read one of my favorite Jan Brett books to them. Annie and the Wild Animals follows the tale of a child whose pet cat has wandered away into the woods. Annie puts out corn cakes in hopes of attracting a new furry little friend, but instead attracts a slew of wild animals, including a moose, wildcat, wolf, stag, and a big bear. The children explained to me why those animals would not make good pets, and we all were relieved when Annie’s cat returned at the end of the story — with three little kittens. I showed the children how Jan Brett often puts little clues in the borders surrounding the illustrations, IfIBuiltACarand the children used those hints to make story predictions.
We will enjoy several transportation-related picture books (both fiction and nonfiction) as the class spends time on that unit. Favorites include Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built a Car and Seymour Simon’s Trains. We will make toy vehicles in the Makerspace using recycled items and our imaginations.

andthedishThe Primary class has extended its exploration of maps, and I continue to support the unit by highlighting books that include maps during our weekly classes. I will show the children examples of books that feature frontispiece maps, including picture books, chapter book fiction, and nonfiction. One favorite is And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon, by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. This funny story involves familiar nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters on a trek to retrieve the runaways, using maps along the way. We only will have two read-aloud sessions this month.

HortonWho Kindergarteners are having fun learning about Dr. Seuss in their classroom, and they are hearing many books by that late, great author. In library classlorax I read Horton Hears a Who. We will incorporate technology into library class as we use the ChatterPix Kids iPad app for a special project related toThe Lorax. The children’s 3rd grade reading buddies and Mrs Opdahl will help with this project; be on the lookout for a Seesaw entry when we finish.

First graders are hearing some hilarious Aboriginal folktales in library class. FlyingEmuThese stories tend to be cautionary tales — stories passed down from one generation of Australia’s indigenous people to the next as warnings against certain behaviors (e.g. getting to close to the crocodiles or being a braggart). emuMany of the stories feature the exotic flora and fauna of the land down under. My main source for these stories is The Flying Emu and Other Australian Stories, a collection of Aboriginal tales written down by Sally Morgan. I also hope to find time to share a new nonfiction picture book, Emu, by Claire Saxby and Graham Byrne.

Photo Mar 10, 2 33 58 PM (Small)Second grade
library classes included a little work in the school’s rain garden this month. The students helped me deadhead plants, clean up the garden for spring, and look for signs of new growth. Mrs. Opdahl and the classroom teachers will join us for a lesson in safe searching on the Internet using KidRex. kidrex2The students will use iPads and KidRex to answer questions I created for them, such as, “Do jaguars eat turtles?” “What is Concord Hill School’s phone number?” and “What is the capital of Argentina?” This lesson will be an importScrambledStatesant crossover between the information literacy and digital citizenship goals the faculty share for the children. We also will have time for a story and a special DVD that I enjoy showing before spring break. The Scrambled States of America, based on Laurie Keller’s picture book of the same name, provides a rollicking preview to the state research the students will undertake in April.

scratchOur third grade library classes in March are devoted to Scratch programming. Mrs. Opdahl will lead these special coding sessions, and I will support the learning. The students’ coding skills, combined with what they will learn in next month’s special Makerspace classes on circuitry, will lead to a fantastic end-of-the-year project. The project will be based on their favorite Concord Hill memories; details to follow.

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).

February 2016 Notes

Our special display this month is devoted to books about winter. The display is pictured in the header, above. Two new favorites are Snow Day! by Lester Laminack and Adam Gustavson, and Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky. The latter title is a picture book featuring the lovable characters from the Toys Go Out chapter book series. I hope you enjoyed some family read-alouds during this winter’s snow days!

Pdinosaursreprimary pals are enjoying hearing stories about animals that hibernate and stories of animal friendships. One of our favorite titles is Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. We recently have begun to explore books about dinosaurs, and will enjoy both fiction and nonfiction books on that topic. Many of the children were surprised to learn that dinosaurs hatched from eggs, and we thought of other animals that hatch from eggs. The children also are having fun in the Makerspace, using our Tegu blocks, DUPLO and LEGO bricks, Joinks, and other building materials.

The Primary class is exploring maps and cartography in AsTheCrowFliesthe classroom, so we will be  sharing atlases and other sources of  maps in library class. A recent article I found on the PBS Parents website asked: In a GPS world, where synthesized voices tell us when to turn to get from point A to point B, do kids really need to learn how to read a map? Absolutely. While many skills have become obsolete in the digital age, map reading remains an important tool for building children’s spatial reasoning skills and helping them make sense of our world. (Kris, Debra F. Rosie“Why Children Still Need to Read (and Draw) Maps.” PBS Parents: Expert Tips & Advice Jan. 2016. <>) I always have loved maps, and I will enjoy sharing maps and books that foster the children’s spatial thinking and visualization. One picture book, As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps, by Gail Hartman, contrasts surface views with aerial views of different animals’ maps.  This month we also read and discussed a Valentine’s Day story and Rosie Revere, Engineer, one of my favorite picture books for young makers.

darkandstormy03Recently, our Kindergarten library classes have been devoted to an exploration of setting as an important story element. The students excitedly identified favorite stories when I merely described the setting, e.g., the Plaza Hotel in New York,  “an old house in Paris that was covered with vines,” and “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.” They are learning to identify the “where and when” of a story using picture clues and text I read aloud. The picture books inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series are particularly useful for discussing setting — the illustrations and text work together to transport the listener to the Wisconsin woods of long ago. SpecialDeliveryWe also will hear a couple of stories that support the classroom exploration of postal service, including Special Delivery, by Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell. When the children 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!

In First grade library class, students enjoyed read-aloud picture book selections that prompted discussions about HenryAndKiteDragonempathy. Henry and the Kite Dragon is a beautifully illustrated story that chronicles an event that occurred in New York City in the 1920’s. Henry, a young Chinese-American boy, and his friends who live in Chinatown have a series of conflicts with the young Italian-Americans of the adjacent block. The Italian-American kids  keep throwing rocks at the grand Chinese kites that are guided by Henry’s friend to chase pigeons in the sky. Henry and his friends do not know that those pigeons are pets of the Italian-Americans, and that the kites traumatize the birds. Eventually the groups learn more about each other’s culture and  hobbies, and find a solution to the kite-pigeon situation. beafriendAnother selection that fosters empathy is a new book by Salina Yoon entitled Be A Friend. This story introduces us to Dennis, a boy who does not talk, but acts out his imagination through mime. Although he seems happy most of the time, sometimes he is lonely. The first graders liked how a girl named Joy “caught” Dennis’s imaginary ball and became his friend. We all saw how friends can communicate in many ways — even without talking. Some of the students tried miming, as well!

Second graders have continued using Alexandria to find library items, and they have shared their thoughts about the new skill using the Seesaw app. In support of the classroom curriculum, we watched a short video about a 100-year old totem pole that had been restored and placed in a museum for children to explore. After watching the video we discussed different types of artifacts, why they are preserved, and what we might learn from them. We also have had some opportunities to make miniature totem poles and invent things with Cubelets and littleBits. (Scroll over images below for captions.)

The Third graders have worked long and hard on their book trailers, and the completed videos have been uploaded to our YouTube channel. You may view the videos  on my blog here. The students will use the Seesaw app to document their progress and to reflect on their finished trailers. At the end of the month we will view all the finished trailers at our World Premier Party, complete with red carpet and special treats. (Scroll over images below for captions.)

Recently the third grade teachers brought their students down to the Makerspace to conduct a 20-minute maker challenge. The challenge: construct a model of the Jamestown fort based on what you have learned in class. Here are some photos I took of the class at work. (Please note: because safety is the top priority in our Makerspace activities, children who were snipping wire or cutting craft sticks wore safety goggles.)

File Feb 19, 11 06 14 AM
20-Minute Maker Challenge: Make a model of the Jamestown fort based on what you have learned.


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.