Thursday, February 28, 2013

Roland Smith!

Yesterday our middle school students had a fantastic visit with Pacific Northwest author, Roland Smith! He shared a lifetime of experiences as a zookeeper, wildlife biologist and well-traveled author. Roland had many nuggets of wisdom to share, urging students to write about what they care passionately about, to read (and read some more!), to do thorough research before beginning to write, and to make time daily for the practice of writing - and revision! He also gave them many practical tips that will help them take their bright ideas and life experiences and turn them into full-length books.
In addition to writing numerous adventure fiction books, including an entry in the popular 39 Clues series, Roland's achievements include coordinating the rescue of sea otters following the Exxon Valdez oil spill and spearheading the successful reintroduction of the critically endangered red wolf to the wild (the first time a carnivorous species had been successfully returned to the wild).
Roland kept our students and teachers enthralled throughout the day and we were very happy to welcome him to Open Window School!

Monday, February 25, 2013

March book presentation for 5th grade: published before 1900

The theme for March is books published before or shortly after 1900 (up to about 1910). There are several ways to find these classic books!

1) We have a selection of about 15 titles in the school library for students to borrow. (To see the full list, click on "Open Window School," choose "Copy Categories" in the upper right-hand corner, and choose Pre/Circa-1900 to view the choices. Or just stop by the school library to browse!)

2) The database ProQuest Learning: Literature offers full-text access to tens of thousands of literary works including many full-length novels which may be read on your e-reader or home computer (login information is available on my Sharepoint page in the Database & Research & Homework Information folder).

3) Goodreads has a list of books shelved by readers on the pre-1900 shelf. Bear in mind that classics are best appreciated when the reader is familiar with the historical and cultural contexts, so a bit of parental help with that is great. You can use World Book Online or History Study Center (two databases we subscribe to) to learn about the setting for your book.

4) You may borrow a Nook from the school library. Each one comes loaded with several pre-1900 classics. See the Nook information folder on my Sharepoint page for more information (students must submit a signed Nook permission form).

Of course, you can always ask a friend or relative for a recommendation! One of my personal favorites from this time period is The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Purim Superhero!

Yesterday we hosted Elisabeth Kushner, a Vancouver, BC librarian and author who recently published her first picture book, The Purim Superhero. In three separate sessions, she met with kindergarten and first grade, second and third grades, and fourth grade. Elisabeth taught the students a Purim song (accompanied on the ukulele!), showed them the storyboard she'd blocked out as she planned her book, read from her first draft and let them compare and contrast, described how publishers coordinate the work of authors and illustrators, explained what a long road it is from bright idea to published book, etc.

To prepare for her visit, during library classes we read The Story of Esther by Eric Kimmel (which explains why Jews celebrate Purim) and Purim by Carmen Bredeson (which explains how the holiday is celebrated). Familiarity with the background helped them better understand this charming story about Nate, who wants to dress up as an alien for Purim, and Max, his friend at Hebrew School who tells him he "has" to be a superhero like all the other boys. Nate's dads help him learn from the story of Esther how to be courageous and true to yourself in the face of outside pressure. (You'll have to read the book to find out Nate's clever compromise solution!)

I particularly enjoyed hearing the students' comments; many of them had fascinating and surprising ideas about the various characters. For example, William commented that perhaps Max was showing caring for his friend, worried that he might feel left out as the only boy who wasn't dressed as a superhero. This was a kind and original insight into Max's behavior that had not occurred to me. Mira suggested that perhaps it was Max who was afraid of being the only one dressed differently, hence his desire to get all the other boys to be superheroes. This deeply thoughtful theory about Max's possible motivations was another one I hadn't considered!

It all goes to show much richness is hiding within the 32 slim pages of a picture book when you share it with a group of eager children! Happy Purim to all those who celebrate!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

World Citizen Essay Contest - grades 3-12

I just heard about an essay contest that is a great fit for our students! The World Citizen Essay Contest for 3rd through 12th graders exists "to promote discussion among students, teachers, families, and community members about the ways that individuals can effect positive change in the global community." Interested in entering? Check out the website for more details and submit your entry by March 29, 2013!