Friday, May 29, 2009

Meet Gary Paulsen!

As part of The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts initiative, our local public library is bringing many notable authors and other speakers to our area. Check out the announcement below from KCLS! Gary Paulsen is very popular with our 4th graders, who read Hatchet every year, as well as with many other students. Don't miss this chance to see him speak!

Meet the Author: Gary Paulsen

Ages 8 and older

The author of Hatchet and over 175 books for children and adults, Paulsen is a master storyteller and has earned enormous acclaim from the children’s book community. In a rare public appearance, he will share stories, experiences and observations in his lively, unpredictable and engaging manner. Gary lives part of the year in Alaska with his wife and dog team.

Mercer Island High School, Wednesday, June 3, 7pm
Program will be held at the Mercer Island High School, 9100 SE 42nd Street.
Books will be for sale at this event.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hot off the press!

At yesterday afternoon's faculty meeting our own 5th grade humanities teacher, Robin Russell, shared an excerpt from her newly published book, Summer Island: A Prince in Peril. Four years in the making, this is an exciting adventure story and ripping good yarn aimed at upper elementary and middle school students. Check out Ms. Russell's website for a chance to read the first chapter and discover some little known facts about our talented teacher!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 22-24: The OWS/Vista Academy Book Fair!

Our annual book fair held at the downtown Bellevue branch of University Book Store will take place from Friday, 5/22-Sunday 5/24 during normal store hours. The school library gets 25% of the sales as store credit. Combined with our 20% educators’ discount, this adds up to a lot of books! Just show your OWS/Vista book fair voucher when you shop for books, gifts, art supplies, stationery and more.

Vouchers have been sent home with students this week and will also be available in the farmhouse, main office and at the bookstore.

At 10:30am on Friday, Ms. Arends will lead the OWS recorders group in a concert at the store. Also, don’t miss beautiful Van Gogh-inspired flowers created by our 2nd graders and Ms. Leggitt that will be on display throughout the duration of the book fair. Thank you for helping to support your school library!

University Book Store (free underground parking, conveniently located near Bellevue Square mall)
990 102nd Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004
Hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Monday, May 18, 2009

Poetry Alive!

On Friday we were fortunate enough to host Poetry Alive! as they put on a great show for grades 2-4. There was much laughter, audience participation and a very high energy level during their 45 minute show.

Based in North Carolina, Poetry Alive! sends dynamic performers all over the country bringing poetry to life for students of all ages. In addition to the many valuable resources you can find on their website, they also feature children's poetry. So if you have a young poet at home, encourage him or her to send a poem in!

Big thanks to KCLS, our local public library system, for sponsoring this wonderful program free of charge. Check out the library website for lots of exciting upcoming programs, including a visit from Gary Paulsen!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Research? Help!

When it comes to research, some people enjoy the thrill of the hunt, while others feel despair. I confess to being one of the former group and I hope I can persuade those of you who are not that it really can be quite enjoyable!

While there are many models for research, one that is particularly user friendly is the Big 6. These six simple steps will lead you systematically from your original question to a polished finished product.

Of course one of the major research questions people often have is where to look for information? Our school library subscribes to several useful databases (see details on the left) that provide safe, efficient access to information. Similarly, you can access many databases and websites screened for K-12 students via our local public library.

What about Wikipedia? It is very popular with many students and their parents, and it is a wonderful experiment in online collaboration as well as sometimes being a useful jumping off point. For example, Wikipedia's footnotes are often a good place to start your search. However, due to hoaxsters, human error and person bias it has its perils as compared to more traditional sources - as many journalists around the world recently learned to their chagrin!

Books remain a wonderful choice for research, particularly since using them -navigating a table of contents, index, etc. - teaches valuable skills about the organization of information that can sometimes be lost in an online environment. Many younger researchers with shakier keyboarding and spelling skills also find books easier to use.

So get out there and have fun researching!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Telling Your Own Stories

This past Friday was Grandparent & Special Friend Day at our school. As I passed through the halls I noticed the great joy the children took in sharing their classrooms, classmates and teachers with the special people in their lives. Many classrooms also had activities that promoted intergenerational sharing - children teaching skills they may have learned from an older relative, children and their guests writing poems about one another, and so on. This reminded me that I wanted to share some resources that will help you share stories in your circle of family and friends.

Many people feel intimidated by the act of storytelling or simply do not know where to begin. I suggest you explore StoryCorps ( an initiative to document and preserve the stories of ordinary Americans. Listening to the audio clips may jog your memory and it will surely remind you of the importance of asking questions of older friends and family members while you still can.

Secondly, I strongly recommend the book Telling Your Own Stories by Donald Davis (Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1993). This small guide by a veteran storyteller will open up a flood of information and reveal new facets even of people you know very well. During a recent family visit, my 12-year-old daughter sat her grandparents down on the sofa, pulled out her Flip camera and our copy of this book, and conducted a series of interviews! Beforehand my parents weren’t sure if they’d have enough to say, but with Davis’s questions as prompts the stories flowed out effortlessly.

Here are some examples from his book:

• Can you remember a time when you tried to cook something and it didn’t turn out?
• Can you remember a time when your first impression of someone turned out to be totally wrong?
• Can you remember a time when you almost won, but not quite?
• Can you take us back home with you for a childhood holiday meal?

Note that these questions aren’t about the big things in life – birth, marriage, death; they elicit responses about the daily texture of life, about smaller incidents that highlight individual personalities, and about all the minor details that in the end aren’t really so minor. The sum of these stories is your unique family heritage. We each have something interesting and valuable to share with those we love.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let books show you the way

People have long made pilgrimages to the locations of beloved books. Most recently Forks has been inundated with tourists from around the world eager to walk the same streets as the characters from the Twilight series!

If you are a lover of classic British children's fiction one of the most delightful books you can read is Joan Bodger's How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books. In the 1950s, Bodger traveled with her husband and two children, Ian and Lucy, around the British Isles. They visited the sites of many of their favorite books from Winnie-the-Pooh to The Wind in the Willows. They walked the same paths as Beatrix Potter and searched for signs of King Arthur and Robin Hood.

How the Heather Looks makes for inspirational armchair travel! If you want to try something similar closer to home, check out the Hannah West mystery series by Linda Johns. Perfect for mid-to-upper elementary and middle school, these are set in various Seattle neighborhoods (start with Hannah West in the Belltown Towers).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Books for boys!

Below are just a few resources to check out if there is a young man in your life whose reading you'd like to encourage. Of course, these resources are perfectly wonderful for girls as well!



  • Guys Write for Guys Read edited by Jon Scieszka (this collection includes many authors who are very popular with boys is a great way to find new reading ideas)
  • Great Books for Boys by Kathleen Odean (a guide for parents)