Friday, November 4, 2016

5th graders promote the Washington Children's Choice Award with Animoto videos!

As part of our annual participation in the Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award, our 5th graders used Animoto to make short video trailers to get Kindergarten through 3rd graders even more excited about voting!

Working in pairs, 5th graders chose a book they especially liked, read and analyzed it (What is the hook? How can we build interest in it?), searched for images using Creative Commons, then crafted a video that suited both the atmosphere of the book and the needs of their audience.

They peer-reviewed their work and then made improvements based on the feedback. (Some sample comments: "The slides go by too fast," "You need to include less big words," and "Make the book title more obvious").

We finished up with a video viewing party to celebrate. Check out their great videos (and read the books too)!

 And two videos by Ms. Richey, our Library Learning Commons Assistant, since we didn't have enough 5th graders to go around!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mock Newbery Challenge!

The Newbery Medal is one of the most prestigious literary awards, given annually to a work that exhibits excellence in writing for young people by a citizen or resident of the US. 
The Mock Newbery is a fun way to get involved in trying to guess the next winner (which will be announced at the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference this January)!

The five titles we're reading are: As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds, The Best Man by Richard Peck, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Regan Barnhill, Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo, and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk.

Each of these titles received starred reviews from four or five professional reviewers and are considered strong contenders. They represent a range of genres and subject matters.
Any OWS student who would like to participate just needs to read two or more of these books. As you finish, let Ms. Simeon or Ms. Richey know. We'll keep track of your progress and record your vote before the winner is announced. Remember, the winner may not be one of these books: the Newbery committee chooses from thousands of eligible titles each year. Sometimes the winner is quite a surprise and sometimes it’s one many had tipped to win. We’ll just have to wait and find out... Ms. Simeon will be tweeting from the ALA conference, so stay tuned!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bobcat Book Bingo!

Last year I challenged students to read their way around the world by reading one book set in or authored by someone from every continent. This school year there's a new challenge: Bobcat Book Bingo!

Even with thousands of new books published each year, it's possible to fall into a rut. This is a fun and easy way to expand your reading horizons.These 5th graders can't wait to get started:

Here's our bulletin board with a few suggested titles:

Want to participate? Just stop by the Library Learning Commons to fill out an entry form and pick up a book (or two or three...). There are 25 different categories to choose from.* Record your books as you go!

The challenge is open to K-8, and parents and staff are welcome to join in. The first person at each grade level to get a BINGO will win a $15 University Book Store gift card!

Happy reading!

*A list of categories in case you're wondering...
  • Graphic novel
  • Translated from another language
  • Published this year
  • Novel in verse
  • Biography or memoir
  • Published before 1990
  • Narrative nonfiction
  • Fantasy or science fiction
  • Mystery or suspense
  • National award winner
  • Wilderness adventure
  • Book that's been made into a movie
  • Scary book
  • Short story collection
  • Set in another country
  • Sports fiction
  • Humorous fiction
  • Book with animal protagonists
  • Realistic fiction
  • On a topic you don't know much about
  • Story set during wartime
  • In a format you don't usually read
  • Realistic book about someone who doesn't look like or live like you
  • Set in the Pacific Northwest
  • Free choice (in the middle)

Monday, June 6, 2016

OWS Bobcats read their way around the world!

In November 2015 I set the Rufus Reads Challenge, inviting our students and staff to read one book set in or written by an author from every continent (Antarctica was optional). Seven months later I am pleased to report that nearly a third of our students took part, reading books from about 50 countries

Big congratulations to this 5th grader, the first person in the whole school to complete the challenge! She's even started her own blog of reviews by and for young people! See her list of fantastic fiction books below.

  • Daughter of Xanadu by Dori Jones Yang (China)
  • Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (Brazil)
  • The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd (England)
  • Lost by Jacqueline Davies (US)
  • The Whale Rider by Witi Tame Ihimaera (New Zealand)
  • The Winter Pony by Iain Lawrence (Antarctica)

Special recognition to this Kindergartner, who was the second person to finish and the first in all of the Lower School! She read so much wonderful nonfiction, she's ready to plan quite the holiday!

  • The Capstone Press One Nation series: Alabama, California, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, and Texas (US)
  • I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakité (Mali)
  • Lost City: The Discovery of Machu Picchu by Ted Lewin (Peru)
  • Not For Parents Australia: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Janine Scott (Australia)
  • Not For Parents Paris: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know by Klay Lamprell (France)
  • The Story of Divaali by Jatinder Nath Verma (India)

Ms. Bonning, one of our newest teachers, was the first staff member to read her way around the world! Check out her incredible list of titles...

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel by Dai Sijie (China)
  • The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (Australia)
  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Netherlands)
  • Twenty Love Poems by Pablo Neruda (Chile)
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (US & Antarctica)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer reading adventures: a suggested book list & selfie challenge

Can you believe summer break is nearly here? Check out some of these great titles! Why not take National Ambassador of Young People's Literature Gene Luen Yang's #ReadingWithoutWalls challenge? Post a selfie with your book on Twitter and Instagram - and tag OWS so we can see what you're reading!

What the World Eats by Faith D'Aluisio - all ages

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Research skills + geography + programming = lots of library fun!

Learning research skills is critical to success in middle school - and life in general! We have no shortage of easy access to information, but being able to evaluate and critically select the information that is most relevant and appropriate for your purpose takes practice.
In library classes, 4th graders created Scratch games after using the CultureGrams database and Capstone's One Nation book series to locate information about a US state. They selected 12 "just right" (not too obvious, not too obscure) facts about their state, wrote them down in their own words, selected their best clues, and put them into Scratch games they programmed themselves. 
This project honed many important skills: research, critical thinking, nonfiction comprehension, and paraphrasing! Our culminating activity was playing one another's games (and leaving complimentary feedback). It was great to have our Head of School and other staff members show up to join in the fun! Follow the link above to try them out yourself!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The power of storytelling: our visit from Donald Davis

Storytelling is an ancient and powerful art, one that long predates our relatively recent experimentation with the written word. Satisfying the universal human need for connection with others, it continues to flourish today. Storytelling is not an exact recitation of memorized lines; the storyteller observes and responds to each audience. No two tellings of the same story are exactly alike.

Donald Davis is legendary in the international storytelling circuit as a master of the craft; someone who vividly shares the particulars of his upbringing in rural North Carolina in a way that has his listeners laughing, crying, and nodding along in recognition, recalling their own family stories. In addition to his many recordings and books, he also runs workshops at many of the festivals where he performs. If you missed him at Open Window this week, or if you'd like to see him again, mark July 22-23 on your calendar for the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival in Federal Way, WA where there will be a great line-up of tellers!
Watching gifted tellers at work (our school has hosted Carmen Agra Deedy, Alton ChungJohn McCutcheon and Antonio Sacre) and engaging in storytelling games is joyful and educational. I've heard professionals - people working in law and business - say that what matters is being able to tell the most persuasive and memorable story. Teachers, politicians, and historians know this to be true as well.

We were incredibly fortunate to be able to host Donald Davis at our school this year. Check out the photos below: the students' faces really say it all!

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Garden of My Imaan: a universal story with contemporary relevance

For our most recent 3rd/4th grade book club we read Farhana Zia's The Garden of My Imaan, a charming work of realistic fiction that covers topics many kids will connect with: dealing with the popular crowd and the mean kid at school, figuring out what religious faith means to you, what to do when some of your friends are growing up a bit more quickly than you are, making a rash decision you later regret...

At the same time, it covers very specific experiences that other readers will be overjoyed to encounter as mirrors to their lives, such as what it feels like to internalize negative messages about a group you belong to and how these feelings, when unexamined, can drive a wedge between you and members of your community; and what it's like to be lumped together with people you actually are quite different from in important ways.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang handles these complexities very well for older readers, but a book like Garden, which makes them accessible to younger students, is a treasure indeed!

One student launched our conversation by asking, "Why are some people mean to Muslims?" Some of the answers these 8-10 year olds generated: "People don't ask questions so they feel uncomfortable and scared," "They think that 'different' means 'wrong'," and "They are insecure about their own lives, so they take it out on other people."

One of our activities was acting out scenes from the book:

Inspired by Aliya's "Dear Allah" letters, they wrote to someone of their choice. One student chose Fumiko Ishioka, director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, a person she admires from having read Hana's Suitcase

For our last meeting, we celebrated with Indian food! The mouth-watering descriptions in the book made this the perfect ending to a great book club! 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Visual literacy in 5th grade

Visual literacy is a critical skill in the 21st century, defined by the Association of College and Research Libraries as follows:
"Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture."
Visual literacy played a major part in helping historian Scott Reynolds Nelson crack the mystery of the historical figure behind the tall tale as revealed in Ain't Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry, the young readers' version of his fantastic work of historical detection, Steel Drivin' Man.

The New York Times' Learning Blog runs a feature called What's Going on in this Picture? to help educators cultivate this skill. During our 5th grade Information Literacy classes we've been using their images to engage in online discussions that not only develop visual literacy, but also help students learn and practice appropriate digital citizenship skills.
Below are a few excerpts from our discussion of the photo above. The online format highlights a strength of technology: it allows all students to have a voice, including those who might be reluctant to speak up in a face-to-face discussion, and those who prefer more time to think before making a contribution. Students can build on one another's responses even after some have moved on to other thoughts. They also see that asking thoughtful questions is in itself a valuable contribution - it's not just about having answers!

"The two people are kind of on a Segway, why?"

"I wonder why one of the guys is barefoot. It looks like that he's either getting ready for a track meet or he's done with the track meet."

"I think that Usain Bolt accidentally tripped on the camera man and when this photo was taken it was probably in London in 2012 because his claim to fame is from the Olympics and the most recent one was in London. and by the clarity of the photo I can tell it was recent."

"Why are his cleats in his hands? Ideas?"

"I think that the camera man had the wheelie thing and was using it to video the athletic guy that was playing the sport. I think this happened after the race/competition/sport, because the athletic-looking person is holding his shoes, meaning he is either about to or just finished a race. He may have been playing on grass, because it looks like he has cleats. I think the man riding was riding because of his legs' positions."

"I think there's some kind of race going on, because the people are really sweaty, and they seem to be putting a lot of effort in. Also, I'm wondering what the big thing attached to the eyes of the guy who seems to be falling. Anyone have an idea?"

"I think the guy that has athletic wear is playing some Olympic sport. I think this because he is wearing Jamaican colors and has Jamaica written on his shirt. I think the other guy is a camera man who is filming the sport, because he has a big camera."

Friday, February 5, 2016

4th graders rescue books!

Two conference sessions - one by school librarian April Bunn at AASL and one by Yong Zhao at NWAIS - inspired our 4th grade Lonely Book project. As Zhao said in another keynote,

“First, a good project has to have an authentic audience, an authentic purpose. When students create anything, it has to matter to someone. It has to touch emotions.” Through project experiences... “students have to learn to understand their own strengths and weaknesses so they can seek partnership with someone else.” Finally... “a project has to help a student understand someone else’s needs.”
First, students talked about how they choose books to read - what makes a book appealing and why? Next, they read sample professional reviews and learned about the typical structure of a book review (a brief plot summary followed by evaluative comments that include a recommended audience). This was new to most of them - and they now have a new way of deciding which books they might want to read as they browse library catalogs or online bookstores.

Second, they selected "lonely books," ones that have not been checked out as much as they deserve, wrote and peer-edited reviews, and designed new covers they thought would be appealing to other students. They then hid the original covers under wrapping paper to make them more tantalizing.

For the final stage of the project, we will read the books and reviews to younger students and ask them to vote on their fate. If a book gets more "no" than "yes" votes, it will be discarded from our collection. Students became very attached to their books - and that fueled their motivation to write engaging reviews and design appealing covers that will encourage their audiences to give them a try.

This project included an authentic audience and purpose, and it required 4th graders to think about the needs and interests of Kindergarten through 3rd graders. The Library Learning Commons was a happy buzz of activity throughout, and emotion has also played a role, as they wait in anticipation to hear the final verdict on the books they chose to promote!