Friday, May 27, 2011

First Grade Author's Celebration

First grade students and their families celebrated today a year spent in reading and writing for our students. In the last several weeks students were busily finishing their animal research, fairy tales and their poetry. Animal research started right after spring vacation. Winter the dolphin had been studied in first grade after being brought to the attention of students and teachers by one of our first graders- Cecily. This led to the bottlenose dolphin being the animal that we all started with in our research studies. Students were read various books, articles and watched videos and listened to the sounds of the dolphin on the National Geographic site on the internet for children. We shared that researchers can use these various modalities to learn about their subject. Some students had first hand knowledge of their animals and we acknowledged that primary research was also a powerful way to learn. As students shared some of their background knowledge we checked together to confirm the facts with a book, article or by using one of the internet research site. Students learned the features of nonfiction books that help readers gain knowledge. It was impressive to see students using the table of contents, index and glossary as they conducted their individual research. Each student after our study of the bottlenose dolphin was able to choose the animals that they wanted to study. Students had an opportunity to share their research on a regular basis at the beginning of our lesson. Often other students would become interested in an animal after listening to one of their classmates share. Gwen our librarian, was vital to this project and she gathered a myriad of books about animals. She also led a lesson in alphabetical order in the library. This was useful not only for selecting books but connected to our format for our published book. The information was published an an alphabet book format. Students wrote their final draft, illustrated their information and created a table of contents and cover for their books. After brainstorming possible titles for their book, each student chose one that felt just right.
For our author's celebration, each student shared one page from their research book and one page from their poetry book Students have been writing poetry all year. Catalina inspired the students with her teaching of an acrostic animal poem. First she wrote a group poem in each first grade class. Then each student picked an animal and using the acrostic format started with the animal's name in Spanish. The poems turned out beautifully.
Students practiced reading their selections and doing final editing during the week of the celebration. The day before was our dress rehearsal and all students became comfortable with the format for the morning. Friday morning May 27, we began our celebration with a circle with students and teachers in each class, holding hands and sharing a squeeze. The sharing of research and poetry went beautifully for students and their families. After the formal sharing, students and families ate snacks that related to books read in first grade this year such as Blueberries for Sal. Students had the opportunity to read all of their published books to their families while they shared in a snack. A wonderful celebration of reading, and all aspects of writing was had by all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Third Grade Study of Immigration and Ellis Island

Third grade students prepared for their visit to Ellis Island in various ways. I had the opportunity to become involved in two different ways. Students had the opportunity to examine artifacts from Ellis Island and then to choose in small groups a particular artifact to study. It was exciting to see the scrutiny and conversation occurring as students tried to determine the purpose of a particular artifact. Researching different internet sites helped illuminate some artifacts. An example is when a document had a language other than English. The group thought the language might be Russian. Utilizing a translation program helped to confirm their theory.
The book At Ellis Island A History in Many Voices was read in small groups. Discussion was vibrant as students read about the experiences of children traveling to Ellis Island and their observations of their stay there. Some of the students wrote their own guide to Ellis Island to serve as a resource for children who were going through that experience there.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Philadelphia Book Festival

This year the Philadelphia Book Festival will feature a day long celebration of children's and young adult literature on Saturday April 16th at The Free Library. This link has all of the information about the week long festival and the details about Saturday's events.

The following is a list from The Free Library web site, of just a few of the events happening during the morning of April 16. There are numerous author readings for children of all ages performances for the whole family.
Bryan Collier | Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 10:00AM
Story Hour Room

Bryan Collier—the award-winning illustrator of more than 10 children’s picture books—combines collage with watercolor techniques to “stunningly beautiful” effect, writes one reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times. His first book, Uptown, garnered him both the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and he went on to illustrate the Caldecott Honor books Rosa and Martin’s Big Words, and the Coretta Scott King Honor books Freedom River and Visiting Langston. He most recently won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Dave the Potter, the story of a slave living in 1800s South Carolina who was a little-known—and exceptionally talented—artist and poet.

(There is a really good interview about Bryan Collier on the following website. You can also watch a video interview with Bryan Collier as he discusses how he went about illustrating his books. ).

Supported by the Margaret S. Halloran Family Literacy Programming Series
Zine Scene Workshop with Katie Haegele Photo Zine Scene Workshop with Katie Haegele
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 10:00AM
Teen Zone: Room 108

Writer and zinester Katie Haegele will teach workshop participants to make their own handmade magazine, also known as a zine. Find out about the history of underground publishing and look at examples of different kinds of zines—from black-and-white photocopied manifestos to letterpress-printed, hand-bound mini books. Then make two of your own small zines—one that folds into a booklet with information and resources for zinesters and one of your own design, using a typewriter, clip art, stencils, stamps, and illustrations from old books and magazines.

Materials will be provided. Suggested for ages 10 and up; children under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult. Group size will be limited to 15 people on a first come, first served basis.
Philly Squeeze Photo Philly Squeeze
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 10:00AM
PIFA Franco-Fun Stage

Philly Squeeze, an all-ages accordion ensemble, meets weekly to play accordion arrangements from a wide variety of “party in a box” music across all genres. To celebrate the French theme of the 2011 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, Philly Squeeze will play classic French pieces, mostly "musette" style, sprinkled with some Parisian Swing Jazz a la Django Reinhardt, some modern pieces by the French composer Yann Tiersen, and some earlier Celtic-inspired pieces from the Cape Breton region of France.

Presented in collaboration with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts
Teddy Bear Picnic Photo Teddy Bear Picnic
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 10:15AM
Shakespeare Park Stage

Join Corduroy and the Berenstain Bears Parents for songs, stories, and a snack in the park!

Storybook friends will be on-site from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, April 16, to meet fans and pose for photos!
Sonia Lynn Sadler | Seeds of Change Photo Sonia Lynn Sadler | Seeds of Change
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 11:00AM
Story Hour Room

Sonia Lynn Sadler is the winner of the 2011 John Steptoe New Talent Award, given by the Coretta Scott King selection committee to promising new authors and illustrators. A former fashion designer, Sadler’s artwork has appeared in the Washington Post and Essence, and she is the illustrator two previous children’s books, The Goat Goes to Town and Ma Dear’s Old Green House. Written by Jen Cullerton Johnston, Seeds of Change is the picture book biography of Wangari Maathi, a Kenyan environmentalist and political activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. “Sadler's beautiful scratchboard illustrations incise white contoured line into saturated landscapes of lush green leaf patterns, brilliant-hued textiles and undulating, stylized hills” writes a reviewer for Kirkus, calling the book “vibrant and accomplished.”

Supported by the Margaret S. Halloran Family Literacy Programming Series
Paint the Story with Madeline Photo Paint the Story with Madeline
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 11:00AM
PIFA Franco-Fun Stage

Join Free Library of Philadelphia children’s librarian Elizabeth Corbett and storybook character Madeline for a chance to let your inner artist roam free! Listen as Ms. Corbett reads Madeline’s story aloud, and then create your own original painting based on the exciting tale. All materials will be provided, and Ms. Corbett will offer her expertise on what to include in the painting should a young illustrator need inspiration.

Presented in collaboration with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts
Mighty Writers Comics Workshop
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 11:00AM
Teen Zone: Room 108

Join the ranks of the Mighty Comic Artists! Learn techniques for crafting a narrative, pacing, story-boarding, and page layout in a special comics workshop presented by Philadelphia's own Mighty Writers. Design your own comic individually or in small groups. For children ages 9-12. Space is limited to 15 – 20 comic artists on a first come, first seated basis.

Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, helps kids learn that writing with clarity leads to a lifetime of success. Their free writing programs help students (ages 7-17) develop reading and writing skills they need to advance through school and succeed afterward. They offer a daily Afterschool Program, long- and short-term Writing Workshops, a weekly Teen Writers Lounge, and an SAT Preparatory course. Visit them online at
Chris Van Allsburg | Queen of the Falls Photo Chris Van Allsburg | Queen of the Falls
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 11:00AM
Festival Main Stage

The author and illustrator of the popular children’s picture books Jumanji and The Polar Express—both of which were adapted into successful major motion pictures—Chris Van Allsburg is the winner of two Caldecott Medals, the National Book Award, and the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children’s literature. A reviewer for the New York Times Book Review describes his work as featuring “a beautiful simplicity of design, balance, texture, and a subtle intelligence beyond the call of illustration.” Van Allsburg’s new book follows a retired 62-year-old charm school teacher as she endeavors to be the first person to go over Niagra Falls in a wooden barrel.
The Franklin Institute Traveling Science Show: Silly Science Photo The Franklin Institute Traveling Science Show: Silly Science
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 11:15AM
Shakespeare Park Stage

The traveling scientists from The Franklin Institute proudly present Silly Science. These demonstrations are sure to bring a smile to your face as we explore the funny and often unpredictable side of science.

Presented by The Philadelphia Science Festival

The 39 Clues: Vespers Rising with co-authors Jude Watson, Peter Lerangis, and Gordon Korman Photo The 39 Clues: Vespers Rising with co-authors Jude Watson, Peter Lerangis, and Gordon Korman
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 12:00PM
Teen Zone: Room 108

A no. 1 New York Times bestselling series with more than 8.5 million copies in print, The 39 Clues combines 10 books with collectible cards and online games to form a multimedia adventure in which readers can participate to win prizes. In the story, siblings Amy and Dan Cahill compete with other members of the Cahill family in a race to discover the 39 Clues that will lead to ultimate power. Vespers Rising begins a new second series of books that pits the Cahill family against the mysterious Vesper family, who seek to use the Clues for their own nefarious purposes.

Three authors of the 39 Clues series—Jude Watson, Peter Lerangis, and Gordon Korman—will appear at this event.

Jude Watson is the author of the 2008 National Book Award-winner for Young People’s Literature, What I Saw and How I Lied, and more than fifty other novels, including titles in the Star Wars Jedi Apprentice, Last of the Jedi, and Jedi Quest series. Peter Lerangis is a prolific author of children’s and young adult novels, including Smiler’s Bones and the Watchers, Spy X, and Antarctica series, as well as a number of screenplay novelizations. Gordon Korman’s dozens of young adult novels include Zoobreak, Swindle, and Son of the Mob, as well as the On the Run series and the Island, Everest, Dive, and Kidnapped trilogies.
Storybook Parade Photo Storybook Parade
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 12:15PM
Shakespeare Park Stage

This year's Storybook Parade--hosted by 6ABC's Tamala Edwards--will feature fan favorites Madeline, Toot and Puddle, Corduroy Bear, the Berenstain Bear Parents, Lilly, Curious George, and the Mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

Storybook friends will be at the Festival from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, April 16, to meet fans and pose for photos!
ArtsPower National Touring Theater presents Harry the Dirty Dog Musical Photo ArtsPower National Touring Theater presents Harry the Dirty Dog Musical
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 1:00PM
Festival Main Stage

For more than 25 years, ArtsPower has presented outstanding children’s theater designed to entertain, stimulate, and educate. Traveling across the country, they have reached an audience of nearly nine million people in 47 states with their musicals and dramas based on children’s books. Author Lois Lowry endorses, “I give ArtsPower my personal, individual standing ovation.” Their new musical, based on the classic book by Gene Zion, features an original Broadway-style score and follows the iconic little white dog with black spots as he gets dirtier and dirtier in his attempts to avoid taking a bath.

Supported by the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Sundays on Stage program
The Give & Take Jugglers Photo The Give & Take Jugglers
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 1:00PM
Shakespeare Park Stage

Enjoy some good old-fashioned entertainment with the Give and Take Jugglers as they mix comedy with fantastic juggling routines and live calliope music for a performance that is reminiscent of vaudeville and circus acts. They have been entertaining the Philadelphia area for more than 30 years to high praise, with the Ephrata Performing Arts Center commending “their combination of clown-like antics mixed with a hip wit and knowledge of current events, the adults giggling along with their children.” Karen Heller, of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, “These bosses with the hot tosses are full-time all-balls-in-the-air professional entertainers.”

In addition to this scheduled performance, the Give and Take Jugglers will be strolling the Festival Grounds from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. amazing and entertaining visitors with their fun and funny feats.

Presented in collaboration with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts
French Comeback Photo
These are just a few of the events being held on Saturday April 16. You will be able to see the full day schedule on The Free Library Website.
I am looking forward to attending this festival and hope to see many of you there.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Literacy at San Francisco Friends School

San Francisco Friends School is a creative, vibrant community set in the Mission district of San Francisco. I spent a wonderful Monday on March 14, 2011, visiting this school and observing classes. The school was originally a Levi Strauss factory and has been transformed into a beautiful space for learning. The staff and students are committed to supporting the Mission neighborhood through community service and learning projects.
There were many connections in the philosophy of learning between our two schools. A strong emphasis on literacy and employing strategies as one reads and writes. I observed students making connections, looking for the big idea, exploring the elements of story structure and questioning. Poetry was being read and written in many of the classrooms. Artistic, musical and dramatic expression is often connected to literacy. Students in the Lower School are helped with their print and cursive skills using the same method that we use- Handwriting Without Tears and the spelling program is also the same- The Sitton Spelling and Word Skills program. Fourth grade students cement their knowledge of cursive by publishing all of their writing using cursive. This is an idea that will be interesting to explore at our school- thinking about when publication of student writing using cursive is most effective. The Quaker testament of Simplicity is discussed and written about in all of the classrooms. I had the opportunity to read student journals that reflected an individual interpretation of how Simplicity can affect their lives.
Last year some of the teachers and administrators from San Francisco Friends visited Abington Friends and observed in our classrooms. I was able to see some of our philosophy reflected in their school. I am looking forward to sharing my reflections with teachers here and continuing this tradition of sharing great ideas that make us all more thoughtful and effective teachers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Author David Schwartz's Visit Culminates Math Day

How Much is a Million? is David's Schwartz first published book for children. Since its publication in 1985, this book has delighted and intrigued all of its young readers.
David Schwartz shared his experiences as a child with students during his visit. In first, second and third grade he stumped his teachers with his" why" questions such as, "How many grains of sand are there in a handful of sand?"
I'm sure that David's teachers found it no surprise when his passion for inquiry and discovery combined with a love for reading and math created his career trajectory as a children's book author.
Teachers and Gwen our librarian, have been reading David's books to students in preparation for Math Day and David Schwartz's visit. Many of our students have also been reading his books at home. It was wonderful to listen and watch our students' participation in the sharing of his books. Their thinking about mathematical issues in nature and the world around us is impressive. Even our prekindergarten students were enthusiastic participants.
David Schwartz's love of reading and writing shone throughout his presentation. In Lower School, students and teachers share this love.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reading The Skirt with Third Graders

"After stepping off the bus, Miata Ramirez turned around and gasped, "Ay!" With this intriguing first sentence from the book The Skirt, third graders are pulled into the story and Miata's problem. She has left her folklorico skirt on the bus after she and her best friend Ana have moved from seat to seat in order to escape a few of the boys who are being a nuisance. Miata has been rehearsing the folklorico with her dance troupe for months and will be performing it on Sunday. As she left it on the bus on Friday she is very worried about how to get this skirt that has a lot of meaning for her mother back. Her mother wore this skirt as a girl in Mexico and is looking forward to seeing Miata perform in it.
Students have made connections to Miata and her tendency to forget and lose things. They also have made connections to her family life and the way her parents and younger brother celebrate the end of the work week, the way she cooks with her mother and watches out for her younger brother. We have also discussed how Miata's friend Rodolfo can at times bother her and other times be a great friend. Many students have shared similar experiences with friends and siblings. There are many opportunities to make predictions as to how Miata will solve her problem. Students are mixed as to whether an adult will find out that Miata has lost her special skirt and help her or whether Miata and her friends will solve the problem.
Everyone reading this book is looking forward to our next session of reading.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Amelia Earhart Pioneer of the Sky

Amelia Earhart is a fascinating woman for these second graders to read, write and talk about. Even as a child, Amelia was daring and adventurous. She built a wooden roller coaster with her sister Muriel, and while Amelia loved going down this slightly rickety structure her sister was scared. Students talked about when they feel adventurous and daring in their lives and when they are more cautious. Amelia is remembered for being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and other daring feats flying. Along with this passion of hers, she also showed compassion to others. She worked as a nurses aide in Canada helping wounded soldiers during World War 1. She thought she might want to be a doctor and enrolled in Columbia University. She realized while in college that she needed to follow her dream of flying. Daniel, Noah V, Michelle, Sarah, Ava, Charlotte, Sophie, Ella, Alani and Noah P. have been eager contributors to discussion, making connections, posting queries, and writing. I think that they would all agree that the contributions that Amelia Earhart made to the world during her time continue to inspire all today.